The Nokia N series has been a little bit hit or miss lately, but the company's E series of business smartphones has consistently delivered winners, and it looks like Nokia has another solid player on its hands. The Nokia E72 is the successor to the Nokia E71/E71x and offers such upgrades as a faster processor, more memory, a better camera, and not to mention free voice-guided navigation thanks to the company's recent Ovi Maps announcement. On top of all that, the E72 continues in the tradition of its predecessor with its sleek design and strong messaging capabilities.
Of course, we would have liked to see more improvements to the user interface but in all, it gets the job done. Instead, the biggest hurdle for the E72 will be its price tag. The Nokia E72 is being sold unlocked for $419 (though you can find it for less online), which may sway customers to go with another powerful messaging (and subsidized) device like the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700. That said, for those who can afford it and for the die-hard Nokia fans, the E72 will not disappoint.
Nokia's latest E series models, including the E71x and the Nokia E75, are really well built and beautifully designed handsets and the Nokia E72 is no exception. The smartphone measures 4.48 inches tall by 2.34 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick and weighs 4.51 ounces, making it slightly taller, wider, and heavier than its predecessor. However, the extra size isn't a detriment. The E72 still has a very slender frame so it's comfortable to cradle in one hand while on a phone call and it's actually thinner than the E71x, so you can slip this right into a pocket or bag with no problem. Also, don't mistake its slightness for weakness. The E72 is a very sturdy phone with a nice steel backplate and edges.
The E72 features a 2.36-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) display that supports up to 16.7 million colors. It's clear and bright enough and features a light-sensing technology that adjusts the display's brightness based on your surroundings. That said, when compared with some of the competing products with higher-resolution screens, such as the BlackBerry Bold 9700, the E72's display falls a bit flat. Another aspect of the phone that falls a bit short is the user interface.
Like the E75, the E72 runs Symbian OS 9.3 on the S60 3rd Edition platform with Feature Pack 2. Now, this is an upgrade from the E71 so anyone coming from this device will notice more-modern-looking menus and icons and smoother transitions. The UI is pretty straightforward and gets the job done, but the problem is that there's been very little change in the way of enhancing the phone's functionality. The iPhone OS, Android, and WebOS have all brought about changes to improve the user experience, whether it be for multitasking, customization, or ease of use. We know that Symbian and Nokia are working on overhauling the OS; we just hope it doesn't take too long.
Coming back to the E72, Nokia did make some slight changes to the physical controls, resulting in easier one-handed navigation. You still get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and shortcuts to your Home screen, Calendar, Contacts, and Inbox, but the latter are now raised above the rest of the buttons, so they're a breeze to press without accidentally hitting an adjacent key. In the center of the array is a directional keypad with a center select button that also doubles as an optical trackpad (Nokia calls it the Optical Navi key). Similar to the BlackBerry Bold and the Samsung Omnia, this allows you to navigate through menus or move a mouse-like cursor on a Web page by swiping your finger on the trackpad. Unfortunately, the outer ring of the D pad really restricts the movement of your thumb, so we didn't find any particular advantage of using the trackpad. In fact, we turned the feature off in the Settings menu (where you can also adjust the Navi key's sensitivity or turn on vibrating feedback) and just used the traditional D-pad.
The E72's full QWERTY keyboard is a delight to use. The buttons aren't particularly wide, but they do have nice domed shape and provide a nice tactile feedback that isn't too clicky or too squishy. The number keys are located in the center of the keyboard and highlighted by gray shading on top of the black buttons. The E72's keyboard also offers more shortcuts for symbols and features, so you don't always have to dig through menus to access them.
Other features of the Nokia E72's design include a Micro-USB port and a microSD expansion slot on the left side, a power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the device, and a volume rocker and a voice command button on the right. The power connector is located on the bottom and on back.
The Nokia E72 comes packaged with a healthy set of accessories, including an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 4GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, a soft cleaning cloth, a carrying case and strap, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The Nokia E72 brings a number of upgrades over the E71, which we'll discuss throughout this section, but messaging remains the main highlight of the phone. The E72 supports a wide range of e-mail protocols, including POP3, IMAP4, Microsoft Exchange, ActiveSync, Nokia Messaging, Mail for Exchange, and IBM Lotus Notes. The Nokia Messaging app, which can handle up to 10 personal accounts, allows for push delivery as long as it's supported by your network. There's also support for HTML e-mail, attachment viewing, search, and filters.
A setup wizard on the phone will help you configure all your accounts to the smartphone. For Web-based accounts, such as Gmail and Windows Love, it's a simple matter of plugging in your log-in ID and password, and the E72 should be able to retrieve the rest of the settings for you. The entire process of connecting our Gmail account to our review unit only took a couple of minutes, and we received and sent messages with no problem. We also hooked up our Outlook account using Mail for Exchange; it requires you to know a bit more information, such as your server address, but in our experience, the setup was easy and smooth and all our in-box folders were transferred to the phone. In addition to e-mail, you can sync your Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks. Nokia's mobile VPN client is also included on the phone if you want to tap into your company's Intranet.