I have to be bluntly honest, when I received the Nokia E7 for trial from the good folks at Nokia Levant, I really tried to be objective but no matter how I spun it around, I couldn’t. See, I already owned the Nokia N8 and I had purchased an HTC Desire Z about 4 weeks earlier, both of which I had been using constantly and loving to bits. Before making the Desire Z purchase, I had considered waiting for the E7 to see if it would fit my needs but eventually bypassed that and got the Z regardless. Every moment then that I tried to use the E7, comparisons between both handsets were fusing through my head and I couldn’t stop them. After all, I don’t look at mobile technology as separate isles, but as an integral part of my daily life, and when you’re that passionate about something, try as you might, you will never be objective.
The moment I held the E7 in my hand, there was this familiar tingle of a Nokia-made design that I knew all too well. It felt great, well “great” is an understatement, really. Then I flipped open the keyboard and gasped. This is how slider keyboards are supposed to be built. That small moment between the keyboard closed and open is like being in the presence of something grand: impeccable engineering. It could not get any better and I knew that the E7 stems from the same league of greatness as the legendary E71.
I glanced at my Desire Z with its weird hinge design and I admit, for a brief moment, I doubted my purchase. As solid as the hinge on mine is, it just doesn’t cut it as you still have to be very careful while carrying it. In comparison, owners of the E7 will never have to worry about that. The E7 reaches that utopic state of sturdiness while still being a big handset with a large touchscreen: something not many devices can pride themselves in achieving.
Then I turned the E7 on and the moment the homescreen came into view, with it’s awesome dark blue wallpaper, I understood what “Clear Black Display” meant: just wonderful colors, even more wonderful than my Nokia N8. By comparison, the Desire Z’s S-LCD is OK. It’s not bad but it just doesn’t have the impressive effect of CBD with dark colors. It also fails miserably in sunlight, a letdown in sunny Lebanon.
The Qwerty annoyed me at first because of the placement of some of the keys, but I eventually got used to it. One aspect however, was always flawless: the keys design. They are well spaced, nicely shaped and sized, and the tactile feedback and travel when pushing them is amazingly smooth.
See, I took my time explaining my first moments with the E7 because that’s how far the good impressions lasted. As soon as I turned it on and started trying to set up my Nokia Ovi Account, things went downhill, alarmingly fast.
The first Nokia E7 unit I received gave me one of the most excruciating experiences with a Nokia or Symbian device, ever. 3 (yes that’s three) Restore procedures in less than 4 hours were necessary to get it to a working state and even then, it was losing battery bars faster than gambling money disappears in Las Vegas and the QWERTY keyboard wasn’t lighting up at all, making the device unusable in any remotely dark environment. The replacement unit had none of these flaws, but suffice it to say, by the second Restore process on the first unit, I was holding my Desire Z and swearing never to doubt its purchase again.
Symbian, Oh Ye Flawed Wonder!
I have been a Symbian power user for over 4 years and I know all the ins and outs of the system. I may even know them a bit too well, as I almost never question the logic behind some of the weirdest quirks. Having used Android mainly for 2 months opened my eyes to these, as I started noticing a lot more annoyances than I usually do. For example, why do we have to set up the access point for the Ovi Store in the Web Browser? Why don’t my Facebook and Twitter friends sync natively with my Contacts? Why can’t I easily turn WiFi or Data off even if an application is using the connection? Why does the arrow down move fields in the Web browser or in any application but not in the Ovi Store’s sign in page? Where are all the useful widgets, like connectivity toggles, bandwidth consumption meters, weather, currency changes…?
Quirks aside, Symbian currently remains one of the most robust OSes. With less RAM and processor speed, the E7 never hiccups while my Desire Z does at times. Android is a hungry OS and any upping in specs gives a noticeable improvement, while Symbian chirps happily with very basic hardware. Ovi Maps still outshines Google Maps by inexorably long strides in Lebanon, and Symbian’s data consumption is the lowest I have seen on any OS to date. Plus, when you know how to set up your Symbian device, there’s a good chance you will end up with a handset you can enjoy.
The E7, Or The Communicator That Failed Its Purpose
- The E7 and communicators in general have always attracted professionals. Were are the professional applications for Symbian, like for lawyers, engineers, designers, doctors, pharmacists…?
- Devices with Qwertys are always regarded as adequate for highly productive people. What does the E7 have to show, in terms of productivity solutions? A passable email client that still has glitches with Gmail, a ridiculous Calendar and Contacts applications that sync miserably with Ovi, and… that’s it. Where are the Tasks and To Do apps that sync with desktop clients, where is the decent multiple Calendar with color coding and better categories? How about Dropbox, Evernote, Springpad, `/8*Google Reader? And why is there still not even a half decent eBook platform supporting Symbian?
- The E7′s camera lacks AutoFocus, making it useless for professionals who want to take a close up image of a document or a business card. This feature obviously exists in the Nokia N8 and the HTC Desire Z.
- The only selling point for the E7 is the Qwerty. How will that fair when you realize that the competition is offering a lot of Qwerty devices, like the HTC Desire Z, the Motorola Milestone 2, LG Optimus Q, Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro?
- The E7 doesn’t have any software advantages over the N8 that I can find. Eseries have long had a few features to differentiate them from Nseries, like the ability to edit QuickOffice documents for free, out of the box. However, with the latest firmware update to the N8, this feature was added to all N8 devices, making it a moot point for the E7.
Lately, Nokia has been focusing on showing the oodles of new games in the Ovi Store that have taken advantage of the graphics processors in Symbian^3 devices. Big Whoop! E7 buyers won’t regard gaming as a major activity, nor HDMI-out and multimedia capabilities, two aspects where Symbian and the Ovi Store really excel now.
By comparison, N8 buyers will look for exactly those two features and these are the customers who will be satisfied. In addition, the major selling point for the N8, its camera, is still unequaled in the competition, giving it an edge for anyone interested in quality mobile photography. So Qwerty aside, everything the E7 does, the N8 can do and that while adding a wonderful camera on top, a microSD card slot and FM transmitter, being cheaper, more pocketable and less prone to damage because of its one piece design.
Just A Sexy Brick
The E7 is a wonderfully engineered device, and if I was looking for a metallic brick to caress and stare lovingly at all day long, it would perfectly fit the bill. However, when I decided to plunge down several hundred dollars, I was looking for a device that would help me stay productive while on the move as well as access services and applications for my profession without the need for a computer. That, my friends, would be the device that makes me “really feel that I have everything I need in my pocket“, my beloved HTC Desire Z.