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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.
If you're looking for a little more personal interaction, the E72 can do that, too, as it's a very capable phone. It offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling (up to six participants), speed dial, voice dialing, VoIP calls, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is limited only by the available memory, and the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts. Each entry has room for multiple numbers, an e-mail address, home and work addresses, a Web URL, and so forth. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, group ID, or a custom ringtone. Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, file transfer, object push, audio video remote control, basic printing, and more.
The Nokia E72 is compatible with AT&T's 3G network (850/1,900/2,100MHz) and can support downlink speeds of up to 10.2Mbps and uplink speeds of up to 2Mbps. Of course, speed is dependent on the network and if you do happen to fall out of a coverage area, Wi-Fi is also onboard.
The browsing experience on the E72 is quite good, as Nokia's MiniMap Web browser is very competent. There are various display options, such as page overview and full screen. With a long press, you can bring up a mini map of the site where you more easily move to a point on the page and then zoom in, reducing the need for excessive scrolling and panning. You can switch between multiple windows, search for keywords within a page, and subscribe to Web feeds. It offers Flash support and you can even watch full YouTube clips (not just mobile versions) from within the browser.
The Nokia E72 has integrated GPS/A-GPS and ships with a compass and an updated Nokia Maps 3.0. As before, the app offers navigation tools, such as satellite and hybrid maps, and pedestrian and bicycle modes. It used to be that in order to get real-time voice-guided directions, you had to sign up for a monthly or yearly license but just recently, Nokia announced that it will offer Ovi Maps with Navigation for free on all its GPS-enabled smartphones. Sure enough, when we first started up our E72, it asked if we wanted to check for any software updates and after clicking yes, it found the new Ovi Maps app. It downloaded with no problem and got voice-guided navigation with text-to-speech functionality, as well as access to other content like weather forecasts, We'll be doing a more in-depth analysis of the app in our full review of the Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition, but you can get a snapshot of our experience in the Performance section below.
The E72 comes with plenty of other apps for productivity and beyond. Under the Office folder, you'll find the Quickoffice suite for creating, viewing, and editing Microsoft Office documents; a PDF reader; a ZIP manager; a business card scanner; a file manager; a dictionary; a calculator; and more. There are also a few games loaded on the device, including Tetris and Sims 3. Nokia's Ovi Store is open for business where you can find plenty of other free and paid apps for download.
Beyond games, the smartphone provides other avenues of entertainment. The built-in media player supports MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, and AMR-NB files. The music player could really use an update in the interface department, but it does offer the basics, as well as on-the-fly playlist creation and a built-in equalizer. There's also support for podcasts and the phone offers Internet radio and an FM tuner. The included Real Player can play back MP4, WMV, RV, and H.263/3GPP video files. The E72 offers about double the internal memory of the E71 at 250MB and the microSD expansion slot has been tested to accommodate up 16GB cards.
Another upgraded feature is the camera. The E72 gets a bump from 3.2 megapixels to 5 megapixels and comes with an LED flash, a CMOS sensor, autofocus, and up to 5x digital zoom. Like a number of Nokia's other high-end smartphones, the camera options are plentiful with settings for image quality, various shooting modes, including panorama, and color tone. The camera can also record VGA quality video at 15 frames per second with up to 10x digital video zoom but fewer editing options.
Picture quality was passable but not the greatest. The camera had the most problems with indoor shots. Though the objects in the photo were clear, the flash was a bit too harsh and turning off the flash only resulted in a dim picture. In addition, we had some initial problems figuring out how to call up the camera options menu, so the interface wasn't too intuitive.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900; HSDPA 850/1,900/2,100) Nokia E72 in New York using AT&T service and call quality was quite good. The audio was very clear on our end with little to no background noise or voice distortion. The volume can get plenty loud, which we found out the unfortunate way, after experimenting with the various audio levels and then getting blasted by our caller at the highest setting. Friends said the sound quality was good on their end. However, one caller said that he was very aware of when we moved the phone even the slightest bit or did something in the background, as if the movements were being amplified. Though it wasn't a complete distraction or a reason to end the call, he said it was rather noticeable.
Speakerphone quality could be better. Audio sounded a bit hollow and it was a bit difficult to hear the conversation in louder environments, even with the speakerphone volume at its highest. We had no problem pairing the E72 with a Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
AT&T's provided reliable and speedy coverage as we used the device throughout Manhattan during our testing period. CNET's full site loaded 23 seconds, and CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 8 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively. YouTube clips took just a couple of minutes to buffer but played back smoothly. With the added 3.5mm headphone jack, we were able to plug in our Bose On-Ear headphones and enjoy our tunes comfortably and with full sound.
The Nokia E72 is quite a snappy device, thanks in part to a faster 600MHz processor (compared with the E71's 369MHz processor). We were able to use multiple applications without negatively affecting the overall performance. You can call up all your open apps with a long-press of the Home button or by pressing the left soft key when you're actually working in an app, which is great for multitasking, but we wish there was an easier way to kill all running apps.
The phone's GPS consistently found our position in 2 minutes or less, even in the deep urban canyons of Manhattan. However, on more than one occasion, the positioning was a couple of blocks off. We weren't able to test Ovi Maps Navigation in the car, but we took it for a foot test around the city. The app provided accurate directions, but what's really impressive is that you can work with the maps even if you're offline. Since maps are preloaded, you don't need a data connection and the map redraw rates are much faster, something that always bugged us about Google Maps for Mobile. Again, we'll dive deeper into Ovi Maps in our Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition review.
The E72 has a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 12.5 hours and up to 20.5 days of standby time. E72 failed to meet its lofty goal of 12.5 hours, delivering just 6 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests. Generally speaking, however, 6 hours is pretty much on par with a number of other smartphones today. According to FCC radiation tests, the E72 has a digital SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.