At first glance, the E70 looks rather like any other candybar form factor mobile phone, albeit a touch bigger and chunkier at 117 by 53 by 22 millimetres and with a carrying weight of 127 grams. That's hardly surprising for a phone that sells itself on its business savyy, where having a super-slim form factor is less of a concern than whether you'll be able to synchronise to your e-mail client.
The main physical feature of the E70 that separates it from the candybar herd is the flip out thumbpad that rests behind and underneath the main dialling pad; you flip the dialling pad to the "top" of the phone, and it reveals a small split QWERTY keyboard underneath. At the same time you do that, the perspective on the 352 x 416 pixel screen flips from a vertical to horizontal perspective, indicating the correct way to hold the E70 when using the keyboard.
In exactly the same style as the Nokia E61, the E70 features an astonishingly small joystick selector just underneath the screen.
The E70 features a single 2-megapixel camera, and while it's 3G capable, the lack of a second camera means it's only recommended for video calls for the exceptionally shy/ugly/one-sided conversationalists -- delete where applicable.
The E70 is a tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900) and 3G capable phone with connectivity options for Bluetooth, wireless LAN, USB and infrared. For the truly connection-crazed types, it can even manage 802.11g, Bluetooth, USB and infrared at the same time, according to Nokia's specifications, although we struggled to come up with a scenario where that was even possible, let alone desirable.
On an operating system side it runs on Symbian OS 9.1 with 64MB of internal memory and support for miniSD cards to expand that out. One minor quirk here is that the slot for the miniSD cards sits underneath the battery cover, which could make changing cards a touch on the difficult side. The single camera on the E70 is a 2-megapixel model that's also capable of video recording, although as previously noted you won't be making too many interactive video calls with it.
Applications that the E70 supports include push e-mail -- and yes, BlackBerry Connect is amongst your options -- as well as push-to-talk, instant messaging, VoIP calls via WiFi as well as what you'd think of as "normal" phone functions, such as SMS, MMS and music playback. As always with Nokia phones, PC connectivity is via the provided PC Suite software.
From a basic phone performance viewpoint we were happy enough with the E70's performance during our test period. Nokia rates the E70's battery life on a per-network basis (GSM or 3G), and given the roaming nature of most mobile users that means that the battery life could vary quite a bit. Talk time is rated from 3-7 hours -- depending on the network and whether you're using the VoIP capabilities -- and standby time is anywhere from five to fourteen days. In our testing in a mixed mode environment we averaged five days between recharges on a moderate usage pattern, which is acceptable for a phone with this feature set.
There's definitely a market for a BlackBerry-style phone without the inconvenience of the BlackBerry form factor, and the E70 fits the bill quite well. Like Nokia's other faux 'Berries, we're not taken with the joystick which has a tendency to overclick when you're scrolling down lists, although we were surprised at how generally easy the keyboard is to use for most typing functions. The single exception to this is if you need lots of shift key usage. While there are shift keys on both sides of the keyboard, getting your fingers around hitting shift and another key still requires lots of dexterity, and in our case plenty of knuckle-cracking noises.
The E70 fits in a good space for those wanting Blackberry style business features but who don't want an obvious brick making bad creases in their jacket pockets or lumps in their handbags.