Nokia has taken last year's E61 to the guillotine and, after a few simple strikes, has returned with one of the most attractive smartphones on the market at this time. Interestingly, this is where the smartphone market is finding the battle-lines drawn. The list of available specifications has become somewhat stagnant, and with Apple teasing the competition with the super-desirable iPhone, everyone else has been forced to play dress ups to catch the eye of fashion hungry business types.
In this regard Nokia has travelled down a more conventional path with its. Devoid of the glossy piano-black casings of the , the E71 has a striking stainless steel finish, and avoids being the magnet for fingerprints most mobile phones tend to be these days. At only 10mm thick, the E71 is also one of the most portable smartphones available.
The most obvious concern for such a taut, trim business phone is how to pack a full QWERTY keyboard onto a device that still travels well in your pants pocket. Nokia has found a decent middle ground with its 37-button pad. Each of the keys is raised with a gentle pyramid shape distinguishing them from their neighbours. These keys are tiny, and miss-hits were a common occurrence for us during testing, but the more time we spent with the E71 the better we got. We had more trouble with the five-way navigation button where hitting the menu buttons to the sides by mistake opens new applications and menus and does become very tedious.
On-screen the latest Series 60 home screen and menus seems like a step back in time; the simplified graphics immediately reminded us of using Windows 3.11. This is obviously a deliberate move by Nokia to sacrifice visual flare for speedy performance, and as you'll read later, this trade off pays off.
As a combination of hardware and software, Nokia's E71 is one of the best featured smartphones we've seen this year. Indeed, smartphone hardware advancement is reaching a plateau with most of the phones in this category featuring a very similar combination of HSDPA data speeds, Wi-Fi and A-GPS connectivity.
Where the E71 really impresses is the raft of included software tools. Like Windows Mobile, Nokia's Symbian Series 60 operating platform has enticed hundreds of developers to create a wide variety of interesting and useful third-party applications, but all too often this software is tucked away on the internet. Browsing the pre-installed software on the E71 is a very pleasant experience with discoveries like pre-programmed voice-commands, a business card scanner,, Windows Live and Yahoo Go messaging clients, a dictionary, measurement converter, plus several more.
In regards to enterprise specific features, the E71 has all the major bases covered including support for Microsoft Exchange for syncing email, contacts and calendars with Microsoft Outlook, plus the ability to access the virtual private networks (VPN) set up in your office. Similar to trends in other major smartphone operating systems, Series 60 now supports automatic retrieval of personal settings from your remote mailbox service, meaning that when you set up a new email address you only have to punch in your address and password and the E71 takes care of the rest.