Nokia E60 Preview: The Candybar With Almost Everything?

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Announced at Symbian's recent Smartphone Show, the Nokia E60 Business Smartphone looked to be the dullest of the lot, a standard candybar phone with all the usual bells and whistles. But it looks like a little corker. Ewan Spence finds out more.

Nokia E60“Here it is then” as Michael Bergen from Forum Nokia hands me one of the early Nokia E60 Business Smartphones. And it got a well-deserved double take for two reasons.

The first is that we’ve still come to expect our Series 60 devices to have a certain amount of bulk to them. Not the E60. What we’ve got here is probably going to be the mid-tier phone that gets handed to every single businessman the world over – in much the same way as the Nokia 6230 is just now. The other thought is also to do with the styling. I could have sworn Michael had handed me a remote control for the projector in the Illuminati Conference Room.

Yes we’re talking a phone here from a designer that has no idea what a curve is. The E60 is a nice, boxy, silver phone that looks as basic as, well, the 6230. But with Symbian OS v9.1 and Series 60 3rd Edition under the hood, there’s a lot going on that’s going to blow the minds of someone used to a business phone. We’re talking a wolf in sheep’s clothing here.

Nokia E60But let’s stay with the styling for a moment – for once there aren’t any swoops or graceful curves here. The E60’s styling seems to have come from a remote control from the early nineties. And this is a good thing. If there’s one area Nokia always get pulled up on then it’s pulling some funky design trick at the final stage to make a phone different. Which might be all well and good for the latest style phone, but that’s not what is needed in an enterprise device. Functionality over form should rule the day, and I’m glad to say that in this case it’s true.

While the above might be getting your average Symbian Series 60 fan excited, there are two caveats that are going to stop the E60 appealing to everyone. The first is the lack of a camera. With the same logic that applied to the Nokia 9300, the E60 (and the similarly enterprise-focused E61) will not ship with a camera). It’s not a huge loss to the businessman, so while we might all scoff at its non-appearance, the lack of a camera actually becomes a selling point, with the E60 being one of the few smartphones allowed in security-conscious companies. Unlike the 9300 though, the E60 will ship with Wi-Fi as a connectivity option alongside the more traditional WCDMA, EDGE and Triband GSM.

We’ll dig deeper into the software as the E60 approaches release, suffice to say that it’s the third version of Series 60. But I am going to talk about one feature here, and that’s the rotate screen option.

Nokia E60The screen on the E60 is gorgeous, which is as it should be. It’s a similar physical size to the Series 60 screens you’ll have been familiar with before, except that it’s double the pixel resolution. Before this, everything was pretty much fixed at 176 x 208 pixels. The E60’s display is 352 x 408 pixels. While the main screens still seem very similar to previous Series 60 devices, we’ve got more icons shown in the launcher (four rows of three as opposed to three by three previously) but what really drew my attention was the “Rotate screen” option. At the moment it turns the screen 90 degrees clockwise, and while that might seem strange, for reading long emails, word documents and ebooks, the landscape orientation is not only a popular choice, but incredibly comfortable. It also explains the two raised rubber strips in the middle of the keypad which help you hold the device in rotated mode. The designer couldn’t help but have one funky thing somewhere (must be a Nokia rule – Rafe). About the only thing I’d point out is that I hope an option to rotate the other way is also present, for left handed users out there.

And that’s about it for anything fancy. The lack of anything radically new doesn’t mean it’s a bad phone – in fact, entirely the opposite. It means that all the features that everyone has been working with for the last few years are now pretty much standardised and expected by the power users. The big shock is going to come when someone is handed this standard looking phone and discovers just what his Office IT manager has given him. Over the air push email through Visto or Blackberry Connect to name two; a full web browser; MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel support; diary and contacts manager; VoIP, Push to Talk and other SIP services; over 70MB on the internal flash disk for storage…

No individual is going to put this phone top of their wish list, but I’m pretty sure this is the one we’ll see in every office, on every street. Nokia and Symbian, welcome to the mid-range.