Nokia E73 Mode (T-Mobile) review: Nokia E73 Mode (T-Mobile)

Nokia E73 Mode (T-Mobile)

Bonnie Cha

Bonnie Cha

Former Editor

Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.

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8 min read

Nokia and T-Mobile are proving to be quite a pair when it comes to delivering smartphones at an affordable price. First, there was the Nokia Nuron and now there's the Nokia E73 Mode. The E73 Mode is a QWERTY messaging smartphone that will be available starting June 16 for just $69.99 with a two-year contract and after a mail-in rebate. Nokia is calling the smartphone a "work and life solution" and for the price, you're getting a great range of features, not to mention an extremely sexy design and outstanding keyboard. It's not without issues, but overall, we think it's an outstanding messaging device for an incredible price, providing a nice alternative to the more expensive RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 and cheaper but also cheaper-feeling RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 and T-Mobile Dash 3G.


Nokia E73 Mode (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Nokia E73 Mode features a sleek, sexy design and an excellent QWERTY keyboard. It offers great messaging capabilities and the full range of wireless options. Ovi Maps provides free turn-by-turn navigation.

The Bad

User interface is a bit clunky. Smartphone can be sluggish, and onboard memory was an issue. The E73 has a lower-resolution display than others.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia E73 Mode is an outstanding value, offering T-Mobile customers a sleek and feature-packed messaging smartphone for a very affordable price.

The Nokia E73 Mode's design is quite similar to the E72, not that we have any complaints, since we loved the E72's form factor. The E73 is incredibly sleek at 4.5 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, making it easy to slip into a pants pocket and comfortable to hold as a phone and messaging device. It's relatively light at 4.5 ounces but it has a very solid construction and feels like a device worth more than $70.

The Nokia E73 Mode has a very sleek and sexy design.

The smartphone's display measures 2.4 inches diagonally and supports 16 million colors with a 320x240 resolution. The size is on par with the one on BlackBerry Bold 9700, but it's not quite as sharp (the Bold's screen is 480x360) so images and text don't look quite as smooth on the E73 as the Bold. Still, it's clear and vibrant, but tends to wash out slightly in bright sunlight.

Like a number of Nokia's latest smartphones, the E73 Mode lets you switch your home screen between two modes: personal and work. You can customize each mode with which apps you want accessible from the home screen, with the idea that you'll have work apps front and center in work mode, and more fun apps, such as the music player and photo gallery, in personal mode, so you can better balance your life. Whether one can really "turn off" work mode is probably up to the individual, but nice a sentiment by Nokia.

As for the general user interface, the Symbian-based E73 runs on the S60 platform so the experience is much like the E72. The UI isn't particularly pretty, looking rather old actually, and requires some extra steps when navigating within an app, but it's fairly intuitive.

Below the screen, you get a number of navigation controls, including Talk and End keys, two soft buttons, four shortcuts (home, contacts, calendar, and messages), and a combination optical trackpad/D-pad that Nokia calls the Optical Navi key. As we noted in our E72 review, the outer ring surrounding the trackpad restricts movement so it makes it a little difficult to move the onscreen cursor and navigate through the menus with ease. We should also note a long press of the Home key will bring up a list of all your open applications, so you can switch between them. To close an app, you much choose Options and then Exit.

The E73 Mode's QWERTY keyboard is one of the best we've used in a long time.

The E73 Mode's QWERTY keyboard is, in a word, excellent. The rectangular buttons are a good size and have a nice domed shape, making them easy to press. The numbers share space with the letter keys in the middle of the keyboard. Though Nokia chose to highlight them in black against a dark gray background, they're actually not that hard to see. It's really one of the best physical keyboards we've used in recent memory, as we were able to type messages quickly and with little error.

On the left spine, there's a Micro-USB port and a microSD expansion slot, both protected by an attached cover. Meanwhile, you will find a volume rocker and a voice command button on the right side, and a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button on top. The camera and flash are, as usual, found on back.

The E73 also has a front-facing camera, but don't think this is in response to the HTC Evo 4G and iPhone 4. Most Nokia smartphones have had front-facing cameras and video conferencing capabilities long before these two phones put it on people's radars. Though the interest hasn't necessarily been there in the past, you can, in fact, make video calls with the E73 with an app, such as Fring, which is available through the Nokia Ovi Store.

T-Mobile packages the Nokia E73 Mode with an AC adapter, a car charger, a USB cable, a 4GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, a soft protective case, and reference material. For more add ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.

Nokia bills the E73 Mode as a mobile to balance work and life, and the smartphone has a pretty well-rounded feature set, though we'd say it skews a little more to mobile professionals than consumers, particularly with the messaging capabilities. The smartphone offers Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support (e-mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks) as well as IBM Lotus Notes and comes with a mobile VPN client if you need to tap into your company's intranet. The Nokia Messaging app can also handle as many as 10 personal accounts, including POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP, and comes with push deliver, an attachment viewer, search, filters, and HTML support. In addition to e-mail, T-Mobile bundles the E73 with a handful of instant messaging clients and social networking apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

As a phone, the E73 offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice dialing, conference calling, speed dial, VoIP calls, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory and the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. Each phone book entry can hold numerous numbers, e-mail addresses, job title, and other information.

Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, and 3G are all available. The E73's Nokia MiniMap browser is decent. You can open multiple windows, subscribe to Web feeds, keyword search, and Flash support. Web pages can also be displayed in overview mode or full screen. Given the smartphone's smaller screen, we found ourselves using the page overview a lot to move to the part of the site we wanted to see, since otherwise there's a lot of scrolling involved in full screen view. Also, like the phone's user interface in general, performing certain tasks, like opening a new page, requires a couple of extra steps.

The E73 Mode is equipped with A-GPS and like Nokia's latest smartphones it comes with free turn-by-turn navigation courtesy of Ovi Maps. You can get directions whether you're online or offline since all the maps are preloaded, unlike Google Maps and TeleNav GPS Navigator (both are available on the phone as alternatives or supplements to Ovi Maps), which need a data connection. Also, Nokia uses a hybrid vector mapping technology that helps maps redraw quickly and gives you the ability to zoom in and out of maps with little delay. Ovi Maps also provides walking directions as well as weather and event information for your current location and includes Lonely Planet City Guides.

Like the Nuron, the Ovi Store is also preloaded on the E73 Mode, where you can browse and download free and paid apps, audio, video, themes, games, and more. Again, T-Mobile is simplifying the process of purchasing apps by letting you bill purchases to your monthly statement or via credit card. This streamlined process definitely makes it easier to get apps, but the Ovi Store isn't particularly easy to navigate or search. Also, don't expect to find much in the audio and video section. It's not a true music store and, unfortunately, Nokia's Music Store isn't available in the United States.

The built-in media player supports AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, AMR-NB, WMA files, though, and it has shuffle and repeat modes, playlist creation, a built-in equalizer, and displays album art. There's also an FM radio, but you must use the included headset to listen since it holds the FM transmitter. For videos, the RealPlayer can play back MP4, AVC/H.264, WMV, RV, and H.263/3GPP codecs.

It was difficult to get a clear shot with the E73's camera.

Of course, you can record your own videos and snap photos with the E73's 5-megapixel camera. The camera has a CMOS censor with auto focus and 5X digital zoom. In addition, there's an LED flash, which doubles as a super-bright flashlight, and standard editing options. In video mode, the camera can record VGA video at 15 frames per second.

Picture quality wasn't the greatest. Despite trying to hold the phone as steady as possible, it was sometimes difficult to get a clear shot, as you can see from the image above. This didn't happen on every occasion, but we can say that it happened more often than we liked. When we were able to get a clean shot, the photos looked quite nice and had good color. Video quality was satisfactory for a camera phone, but could get murky in action shots.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 900/1700/2100) Nokia E73 Mode in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was mostly good. On our side of the conversation, audio was great. Voices sounded rich and with plenty of volume and little to no background noise. However, friends didn't have quite the same experience. Some said they could hear some static while another said that the ends of our sentences got cut off, but the problems weren't so bad that they couldn't carry on with the phone call.

Speakerphone quality was quite decent. There was a slight hollowness, but overall, we were happy with how calls sounded and there was enough volume that we could hold conversations in louder environments. We were also able to pair the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth Headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones with no problem.

T-Mobile's 3G network provided mostly reliable coverage throughout Manhattan, though there were several occasions that it reverted to EDGE. When on 3G, the speeds were great; CNET's full site loaded in 15 seconds while CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 5 seconds and 4 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos loaded almost instantaneously and played back without interruption. Quality wasn't the best and the smaller screen size is a strain on the eyes, but it's fine for short sessions. We loaded up a couple of MP4 videos as well, and they played back beautifully on the E73, and thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack, we were able to plug-in our Bose On-Ear headphones and listen to tunes in comfort and with great sound.

In terms of general performance, the E73 isn't a powerhouse. There were slight delays when launching apps, and working in multiple programs was limited by the available memory (250MB internal). On more than one occasion, we got the following alert when trying to open a Web page, "Memory full. Close some applications and try again," so remember to exit out of apps when you're done.

The Nokia E73 Mode ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 13 hours (2G)/6 hours (3G) and up to 16 days of standby time (2G). The E73 met its rated talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the E73 has a digital SAR rating of 1.07 watts per kilogram


Nokia E73 Mode (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 7
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