If you're looking for a messaging phone that's shaped more like a traditional handset than most BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices, Nokia's E55 might fit the bill. A candybar smart phone with a hybrid alphanumeric/Qwerty keypad and powerful on-board messaging features, it's available for around £250 SIM-free.
At 9mm thick, the E55 is extremely slim -- it's probably one of the slimmest smart phones currently on the market -- and its tall and narrow profile makes it look rather elegant. At first glance, the E55 doesn't look all that different to a number of Nokia's other candybar handsets. Look closer, though, and you'll notice one of its more unusual features: a hybrid keypad.
Most of the keys on the keypad are marked with two letters. You tap once on the key to input the first letter and tap twice to input the second. Alternatively, you can just turn on predictive text and use the keyboard as you would a standard mobile keypad, tapping once for each letter and letting the predictive text engine work out what word you're trying to type. The second method works best, simply because Nokia's text engine is so good. After some practice, we found texting with the E55's keypad significantly faster than using a standard mobile keypad, although not quite as fast as using a full Qwerty keyboard.
Familiar user interface
The E55 runs the Series 60 3rd Edition operating system, so the user interface will be almost instantly familiar to anyone who's used a recent Nokia handset. By default, the home screen is set up to show the number of new emails, and your calendar entries, along with a number of shortcuts to other functions. These are all customisable, so you can easily change the default layout to something that better suits your style.
Although the E55 is primarily aimed at business users, it's got something of a split personality, as you can quickly swap between pre-defined work and leisure profiles using an icon on the homescreen. These profiles can even be set to work with different email accounts, which is handy.
The rest of the user interface may be less jazzy than that of the iPhone or , but at least the grid layout is easy to navigate, and Nokia includes a number of useful apps, such as Quickoffice for viewing and editing work documents, and a slick Web browser that supports some Flash content. There's also a neat feature whereby the handset reads out your SMS messages and emails using a Stephen Hawking-style, synthesised voice.