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Devices

Goodbye to the E63

MIR-E63-23Thursday was time to say goodbye to the Nokia E63 – a pre-release unit the excellent folk at WOM blessed us with on announcement day… and I’m going to be sad to see it go.

Although less capable than its E71 older sibling, with a 2MP fixed-focus camera and no internal GPS, it’s going to be priced 40% lower than the E71 (expect it to be slightly more expensive than that at first, but to quickly settle to that price point) and these compromises feel right for a lower-cost unit – the camera in particular is no great loss as, despite what the specs might suggest, the E71’s camera struggled in anything other than ideal conditions.  Consumers should find this new model free on even low monthly tariffs and businesses will be able to afford large-scale deployments.

And whilst the best bits of the E71 have been retained – it’s diminutive size, huge 1500mAh battery and bright screen – some of the additions are really what make this phone.  The revised keyboard layout is excellent for messaging applications giving much more rapid access to common symbols and punctuation.  The keys are also now made from plastic with a slightly rubberised feel giving a better typing speed and less errors.  A 3.5mm headphone jack is offered for the first time in a business ‘E’-series phone (although the plug that blocks the hole when not in use is rubbish) and I found the torch feature of the LED camera flash useful surprisingly useful, as will anyone who’s used a phone screen to illuminate the bedroom as you creep in trying not to wake your partner after a long night drinking / blogging / consulting on social media.

Some commentators have criticised the plastic shell as being inferior to the E71’s case, but that’s not really the whole story… Whilst it is slightly thicker than the E71 the front has a solid metallic finish and the back has a soft-touch effect which felt pleasant in the hand, provided good grip and after heavy use looked better than the E71’s metal finish which became smeared and discoloured.  The choices of deep red or dark blue aren’t in line with the monotone grey uniform Blackberry devices in this class wear, but this is an improvement… a mass market business device that’s sober enough to get the nod from the boss, yet looks good on the desk.  Nokia have done amazing things at this price point.

Power users and execs are still likely to prefer the E71 if they’re choosing a Symbian device in this class, but if you mostly want calling and messaging or just one that’s a bit harder wearing, I’d pick this.  Even better, I’d keep watching the Nokia stable as the best bits creep into other models across the range.

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Having been very impressed with the hardware and build quality of the E63 I have to mention the software… It’s S60 3rd edition which will be familiar to current E-series users, but feels increasingly out-dated.  When configured with 3rd party products or Nokia’s add-ons it becomes a competent smartphone – Mail for Exchange provides push-mail with calendar / contacts sync, Opera Mini reasonable mobile browsing and PsiLoc Connect manages data access – but in nearly every aspect S60 ‘raw’ just isn’t good enough.  The built-in IMAP e-mail was awful 3 years ago and remains so…  I’m not sure how much longer buyers (other than Symbian enthusiasts) will tolerate such a poor ‘out of the box’ experience.

By Ben Smith

Ben is an expert on enterprise mobility and wireless data products. He has been a regular contributor to Mobile Industry Review since 2007 and is also editor of Wireless Worker.

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