Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Weeks With The Nokia E6

Here I am again with another mobile phone review. Who'd have thought, right? This time it's the E6 - Nokia's latest E-series phone with touchscreen and QWERTY. I'd been salivating over this one since the first time I saw pictures of it online, so, many, MANY thanks to WOMWorld/Nokia for sending me this trial unit :)
Within four days of my first conversation with Paul at WOMWorld/Nokia, the E6 was in my hands. Such excitement! Even the courier delivery guy received a great big smile. So eager was I to unbox the phone, that all plans of an unboxing video went out the window.
To my delight, I'd been given the black E6. Upon opening the box, the first thing that caught my attention was the keypad. 'There are several other QWERTY phones available in the market, what's so great about this one?', you might ask. It's different. Different from the E5, the E72, and the E71 before it. Maybe it's the shape of each key. Maybe it's the gentle curvature of the keypad. Or maybe I'm just smitten.
Then I switched the phone on. Ah! The screen! So bright! More vibrant than my C7, I noticed. Also, you can't help appreciating the new Anna icons. I think it's the uniformity of size that makes them so pleasing to the eye. I turned the phone over, marveling at its thinness, reveling in the feel of the smooth metal. Sleek, yet sturdy. I saw the nick on the bottom edge of the phone, inflicted by a careless user before me. I stretched my thumb first over the keypad, then over the screen, realizing instantly that it would be comfortable for single-handed use as well. The overall size of the phone was just right. The weight seemed good, too. I don't like phones that are particularly light. This is definitely one of the most good-looking handsets available today.. after my C7, of course :P
And so began my brief affair with the E6.
To start off, as I'd said in my earlier review of the Nokia C7, I'd rather not put up fancy photos of the phone with in-depth technical descriptions. There are far more professional blogs for that. This time, however, I've included a few screenshots where appropriate. I've always wanted to type out a blog post using a phone with a comfortable QWERTY (I've no idea why, but anyway, most of this post has been written whilst waiting to pick my daughter up outside her school), so here goes..
Setting up
The E6, like the C7, comes without USB On-The-Go and TV-Out cables. Surprisingly, there was no pouch either. Oh well. I did like the idea of having five home screens to play around with initially, but after a day or two, I brought it down to three. Scrolling through five home screens was rather impractical for me, but I guess it would be useful to others.
The display, though small, is beautiful to look at. Bright and crisp, with vivid colors, photos look amazing on this screen. Screen visibility outdoors is pretty good.
The E6 allows six widgets per home screen, out of which three are customizable. Anna continues in the Symbian tradition of adding shortcuts in groups of four. The lower left portion of the screen is widget-less and is reserved for the improved notifications widget. So, no matter which screen you're on, you'll always see your alerts for messages/missed calls. I use the word 'improved' because the widget on my C7 is always visible, even when there's nothing to notify you of. The widget on the E6 however, disappears after you've cleared all notifications.

I had no problems with the responsiveness of the touchscreen. It was also nice to have the home screen move along with your finger-swipe - the Anna improvement. I did, however, have a few problems with accuracy (particularly in the browser) and ended up using the D-pad sometimes, because the screen is that small. But it isn't really that much of an issue, I'm just used to the larger screen on my C7, I guess.
At times, the font was too small to read, again, mainly in the browser. Luckily, the E6 comes with a Font Magnifier. After I increased the size to 110% I had no problems, for the most part.. :)
The following screenshots should explain what I'm talking about. They're a couple of hours apart, and I had made no changes to the font magnification. Yet, there was a noticeable difference in font size which sorted itself out on reboot.

While on the topic of font size, here's a screenshot of the app I used the most -Gravity! Only three tweets visible per screen (at a font size I found comfortable).
The screen lock slider on the right seems to be a bit too close to the volume buttons. I found myself accidentally trying to slide the lower button of the volume rocker, on many occasions.
The 'call' and 'end call' buttons on this phone are white, not green and red on most other Nokia phones. I found that a bit odd. Not sure I like it too much.
Call clarity is excellent. Speaker volume is good too. Had a few problems with the proximity sensor and calls getting muted, but after a couple of calls you get the hang of how the phone needs to be held against your ear. Surprising, because I'm quite familiar with this issue on my C7. I didn't think I'd have a problem with this phone's proximity sensor, but I guess I was mistaken.
Keyboard and messaging
The keypad is different from the other Nokia QWERTY keypads (as seen on the E71, E72, E5) in that it's slightly curved, which, I think, makes it more comfortable to type with. Another thing I liked was the shape of the keys - slightly different from the others.
Having used this phone exclusively, for the last two weeks, I can say that the keyboard is very comfortable to use. Typing is a pleasure. I had no trouble shifting from the full touch C7 I've been using for over six months, to the hardware keyboard of the E6. The touch-QWERTY combination makes the good ol' copy/paste routine so very easy.
I've always had a love-hate relationship with Nokia's email app, even with my earlier phones. For some reason, mail just refuses to sync for me. I thought I wouldn't have a problem with the E6, being an E-series device and all, but I was wrong. This time around, I had difficulties sending email from the phone. One particularly stubborn email message required a phone restart before it was sent successfully. However, when it decided to work, it did so perfectly, downloading .doc files which I could view with theQuickOffice suite that comes preloaded.
The E6 comes preloaded with a few apps, for instance, JoikuSpot, which worked like a charm. My only regret is I didn't figure out how to use it sooner!
The new web browser is a big improvement. In the two weeks that I used the E6, I didn't feel the need to install Opera, so that's saying a lot. :)
Social seems to be unfriendly as ever. No improvements there. None that I saw, at least. I could be wrong here. It isn't my favorite app, so I didn't spend too much time with it.
The AccuWeather widget is supposed to work on the E6, according to Nokia's website, but it didn't work on the unit I had. I tried uninstalling/reinstalling it four times at least, before giving up.
Ovi Store is completely and utterly useless. I haven't been able to install a single app using it. The search feature works erratically. I had to install all the apps I wanted to try out via the desktop.
As for the other apps I tried to install - some worked, others didn't. For eg.,SportsTracker wasn't compatible, but Endomondo installed and worked perfectly, no errors at all. However, on running the app I was faced with a display like this:
I'm not sure if this is normal because I've never used the app before, but I wonder why its designers would use just a portion of the screen. Odd.
Gravity worked flawlessly. No complaints there. :) WhatsApp worked perfectly too.
Sadly, Molome wasn't compatible. Neither was Angry Birds.
Fruit Ninja installed without error, but for some reason the 'slashing' wasn't too accurate.
On the whole, there weren't too many compatible apps to choose from, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time before all these incompatibilities are sorted out.
What can I say about the camera? EDoF -- you either love it, or you hate it. I hate it. Again, and I'm repeating myself here, I'd gladly sacrifice a few megapixels for an auto-focus camera. But if you're not too fussy, the camera should serve you well. Here are some unedited samples:

If it's a solidly built QWERTY you want, the E6 is definitely recommended. The battery life is truly amazing. Even after pretty heavy GPRS usage, I found that daily charging wasn't necessary.
And what is a love affair without its ups and downs? On the downside, there's a definite lag everytime you start an app, and the infamous spinning circle makes its appearance while the app loads up. But I was able to launch 25 apps before I got an 'out of memory' message. So, not too bad, I'd say. The screen size is rather small, if you're used to a larger full touchscreen, but E71/E72 users shouldn't have problems with it. The EDoF camera will never satisfy me, however, I'm told it is much better than some non-Nokia phones available today.
To be honest, I think I would have bought the E6 instead, had it been available when I bought my C7. Sure, I've complained about the screen size, but that's only because I've been spoiled by the C7. I'd have been upgrading from the E66 which had a similarly sized screen, so I don't think it would have been much of a problem.
So, on the whole, for me, certainly an affair to remember.

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