If you ever thought to yourself that you’d love to see Nokia produce a successor to the brick-sized Nokia 9000 Communicator that Val Kilmer used in The Saint, your wishes have been granted in the just-announced Nokia E7. At the Nokia World 2010 London keynote today, Nokia officially announced the E7, among other phones, as the modern-day re-imagining of the phone that Nokia says was essentially the world’s first “smartphone.” Packed with a snazzy new display that makes colors pop, an all-aluminum body, and a keyboard that’s sure to make long emails a breeze, the Nokia E7 is being touted as the Symbian^3 handset for customers that wear suits more often than not. And, seeing as how we’re here in London, we thought we’d get some hands-on time with the E7 for your viewing pleasure.
Nokia made sure to let the keynote audience know that the Finns were the first to market with a true smartphone. After admitting that the mobile phone giant was in a tough spot as far as smartphones are concerned, Nokia reminded us all that the 9000 Communicator was the world’s first “smartphone.” The Communicator fuels our nostalgia for the simpler days, but it also sets the stage for the E7 – a smartphone that the Espoo is positioning as the device that will, once again, carve out a name for Nokia in the enterprise smartphone space. The E7 specs-sheet features a 4-inch AMOLED CBD (ClearBlackDisplay) display, 8-megapixel camera (with dual-LED flash), 16GB of onboard storage, penta-band 3G support (850/900/1700/1900/2100Mhz), WiFi (B/G/N), GPS, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth 3.0, 3.5mm headphone jack, and an HDMI-out port for porting 720p HD video and audio to your TV. The E7 is powered by the new Symbian^3 platform, and promises to change S60 critics’ perception of what Symbian can do. But, does the Nokia E7 live up to its feature-set?
We took the new Symbian^3 handset for a spin, and we came away with mixed feelings. We should preface our analysis by saying that the E7 software is not yet final, and so isn’t exactly as polished as we’d like. The E7 is like the bigger brother to the Nokia N8, but lacks the Carl Zeiss optics that makes the N8 so great – the E7 is basically an N8 with a larger display and a QWERTY keyboard. Still, final software or not, the E7 is a bit of a confusing device. The screen slides upwards and outwards, forcing you to work on a tilted display. The battery is sealed within its aluminum casing, like the iPhone that Nokia made sure to diss at every chance in their morning keynote. The screen slides up in an such an awkward fashion that we were repeatedly convinced that our next screen-sliding attempt would end up with the E7 slipping out of our hands and hitting the floor. That said, there are more redeeming qualities than not.
The Nokia E7 is beautiful. Nokia has always crafted fantastic hardware, and that’s really not up for debate. The E7 feels like it’s made from a single piece of aluminum – solid, smooth, slick. The slider mechanism — which is actually really more like a “flip” mechanism — is precise and solid. The keyboard is likewise a joy to use. The keys don’t offer too much in the way of contours, but they are spaced perfectly apart and click with just the right amount of feedback. The camera is decent, considering there are no Carl Zeiss optics nor a physical shutter. And, the CBD touchscreen is simply amazing – colors pop and the blacks are as deep as any other AMOLED display we’ve ever seen. And, when you fire up the music player and flick through your songs, you can see how the 60fps refresh rate makes scrolling pictures and lists look amazingly smooth. The HDMI port is also a bonus for anyone that needs to output video to a TV. The hardware is really, really good.
It’s just too bad that the software was not up to par. Screen-sliding animations were too slow to compete with Android or iPhone. Button presses would either be super responsive, or completely unresponsive, depending on how the demo unit was feeling at any given moment. The menu-based user interface also takes away from the “modern” smartphone feel of the E7, which is really too bad, because the hardware rocks (awkward slider notwithstanding). In the end, the E7 could be a fantastic device, if software issues are worked out and you take a liking to Symbian^3. We just can’t help wondering what it wold be like to run Android on the E7.
We’ll have a more extensive review of the E7 in the near future, so make sure to keep checking IntoMobile!
Check out the Nokia E7 hands-on video and photo gallery below.