Review: Nokia E60
The one thing you really can't (generally) accuse Nokia of is conservative smartphone design. Quite apart from the outrageous specifications and gymnastics of the Nseries, especially the N93, even their 'business' devices are very differently styled. So, we have a trio of Eseries smartphones (plus the more recent E50 - which AAS is going to be reviewing in the next week or so - and the leaked-but-not-quite-announced-yet Communicator successor), all with very similar internals but very different form factors.
There's the landscape-screened E61 with permanent qwerty keyboard and the folding E70, with camera and twin keyboards, both of which are strong contenders in their own right. So what's so special about the E60, with neither qwerty input, camera or gimmicks? The unique selling point is that there aren't any gimmicks. It's the full S60 3rd Edition experience but in the plainest, most traditional 'boring' form factor possible - no curves, no sliding bits, no cameras, no hinges. The E60 looks like a phone, acts like one and will hopefully be as reliable as that 6 year old Nokia 'dumb' phone that's been kicking around in your glove compartment - there's simply almost nothing to go wrong. And the absence of a camera will endear it to many companies, worried over security.
My initial impression was that Nokia had made no effort to shave off extra bulk - by modern standards there's quite a bit of real estate that's wasted - and this is backed up by the more recent release of the E50, which is leaner all round. Yet there's a certain industrial feel to the E60 that's attractive in a 'does what it says on the tin' functional sense.
There are few surprises on the hardware front, with Nokia plumping for the conservative choices of DV RS-MMC expansion card, 'old' style charging socket and BL-5C battery. Three buttons on the left hand side control up/down volume and voice recording/control. The joystick is a pleasant surprise in that it's shrouded in rubber and quite superb to use, without a doubt the best smartphone/PDA joystick I've ever used. That apart, it's left to acres of silver aluminium and plastic to deliver the plainest S60 3rd Edition experience possible. The first genuinely mugger-proof smartphone?
As with the rest of the Eseries, the E60 has the full Symbian/Nokia Office Suite (though rumour has it that future Eseries devices will have a different Office suite again), the new Web browser, of course, and Wi-Fi, absolutely essential for a business device these days, for both fast web surfing and Voice over IP functions. I can see businesses going for the E60 in a fairly big way, integrating it into a company Voice over IP solution, presumably saving money in the long run.
The last incarnation of Symbian's own Office suite? Still quite sufficient for most users...
As with the identically-equipped E70, the screen is amazingly crisp and bright, at 352 by 416 pixels, despite not being physically any larger than an average phone display. And as with the E70, you can run all the applications in landscape mode, should it be any more convenient, such as when viewing Office documents or, more likely, browsing using the Web browser. Here the switch between screen modes is done in software, with a 'Rotate' utility on the opening menu. As with all S60 smartphones, the first 12 application slots are shortcutted to the number pad, which means that you can switch screen modes from the menu with a single press of the '0' key (or whatever it ends up corresponding to after you've finished customising!)
In portrait and landscape modes, although actual rotation is via the 'Rotate' utility shown...
The S60 3rd Edition platform will be familiar to most readers, with quite adequate PIM apps, Calendar, Contacts and the like, allied with cutting edge multimedia, including MPEG4 video and AAC audio (though you do have to buy your own stereo headset). As one of Nokia's business devices, they've made sure it's compatible with all the leading push email systems in use in the corporate world, and they've also not been stingy with the general software package. Downloads for Nokia's Eseries on Nokia's web site include a year's subscription to the popular WorldMate travel aid and a licensed Zip archive utility.
We've often mentioned Nokia's OpenSourced 'love it or hate it' Web browser on AllAboutSymbian and it's arguably better here than on any previous device, with the extra high resolution screen, Wi-Fi for decent page loading times and even handy backlit ridges embedded in the main keypad to make it really easy to hold and use the E60 in landscape mode. It's worth noting that you have to go back to the main application menu to make the switch though - you can't toggle to landscape mode from within each application.
Nokia have been getting better and better at providing new users with a good experience, and the E60 features the full S60 3rd Edition Help and Tutorial systems. I doubt many people will bother to sit down with the manual (a shame, but I'm being realistic here), so these systems at least make sure the basics are all covered on-device.
My review E60 had the very latest, optimised firmware and came with over 21MB of free RAM at boot-up, which in practice is plenty for a device that doesn't have to worry about a camera or RAM-hungry photo editing, and I had no memory problems during the review period, thankfully.
The E60's 'monolith' styling isn't immediately attractive, but look past that and there's a seriously powerful smartphone here just waiting to be unleashed in the right hands.
12 December 2006
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at