Around this time of the year, my mobile contract comes up for renewal. For a gadget freak like me that means shopping for a new phone. I could have gone for a sim-only contract and cut costs a little, but with so many shiny new toys available every year where’s the fun in that? I did consider keeping my beloved E51 because I really really liked it, but the E71 was just too darn shiny.
Wired magazine called the E71 an “iPhone killer“, but that really doesn’t do it justice. In fact, except for being roughly the same size, it’s pretty much the opposite of Apple’s offering. It has a physical keyboard, it runs an OS that was designed for mobile phones, and it’s software is an open platform.
I considered three options this year. Windows Mobile is not for me, which leaves Android, iPhone and Symbian based phones. Both the iPhone and T-Mobile’s G1 are only available with expensive contracts here in The Netherlands. Contracts that include unlimited data. But the thing is that I don’t actually use 3G all that much. I mostly work from my home, and most of my friends, family and clients let me tap into their wifi when I’m there. So I don’t really need a data plan. That leaves Symbian.
The E71 is simply Nokia’s highest end smartphone that’s still pocketable. Very much so in fact. It’s incredibly flat and exceptionally well-built. When you consider the built-in GPS, the abundance of communication protocols it supports and the snappy performance, this thing is truly a engineering marvel. It’s probably less than half the volume of its older brother, the E61.
The cheaper alternative: E63
The soon to be available E63 will share many of it’s characteristics, but it doesn’t come with any extras. I could have lived with the lack of GPS and the slightly larger size, but after buying an aftermarket data cable, protective cover and memory card the price would have been the same (with my contract, your mileage may vary).
I remember trying an LG Viewty last year and really hating the onscreen keyboard. I tried typing on the G1 and the iPhone, but both of them were no match for a full, albeit small, querty keyboard. On the E71, typing is very easy for me, especially since I have small hands and can easily press the right tiny button.
As a user, moving from an E51 to an E71 is more of an evolution that a revolution. Symbian has learned a few neat tricks, and the keyboard lets me make better use of them. I would have liked to try something new and found the G1 in particular hard to dismiss. But the incredible dimensions, the feature set and the relatively low price made the E71 simply too good a deal to pass up. I do fully expect to fall for a G2 or G3 next year though. Android is an amazing platform, but I just don’t like the current handset very much. At least not enough to make me buy a flat-fee data contract I’m not going to be using.