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Nokia E6 Symbian Anna Smartphone
Nokia’s E71 and E72 have been big landmarks for the Finish mobile giant as they helped cement the company’s stand in the business phone segment and gave rivals like BlackBerry a run for their money. While the E72 still remains a good buy, Nokia have had to move on with the changing trends in the mobile space and with everyone adopting touch screen, that was the next logical step. The E6 falls in this newly popularised category called 'Touch and Type', which consists of a touchscreen and until now, a full QWERTY keypad.The actual definition of this concept is somewhat skewed as one could even consider devices like the Motorola MILESTONE or HTC Desire Z as touch and type as they fetaure slide out keyapds and touchscreens.
Nokia’s latest smartphone promises the same functionality and ergonomics of the E71 and E72 but with a touch screen flavor and Symbian’s latest Anna operating system. Let’s see how well all of this comes together.
Design and Build Quality
We already had a hands-on with the E6 a while back but now we will take a closer look. Starting with the build and design, Nokia gets full marks in this area. The E6 just looks and feels expensive (even though it's not) and sophisticated. The combination of high quality plastic, stainless steel and chrome trim blend very well to give you a very stylish handset that’s sure to turn heads when you whip it out of your pocket. It’s quite slim as well at just 10.5mm but it feels heavy (133g) and that’s mainly due to the battery.
Continuing the E72's legacy
The display is a tad bigger than the E72 at 2.46-inches and the resolution is doubled at 640 x 480. The capacitive touchscreen features a Gorilla glass display and can produce 16M colors thereby giving you a very sharp and crisp image. This puts the pixel count at 326ppi which is the same as the Retina Display on the iPhone 4. The screen doesn't have any oliophobic coating so finger prints remain a problem. The good thing is that it’s a lot easier to clean, a few good wipes on your shirt and all the smudges disappear.
Nokia has gotten rid of the two ‘Option’ buttons on either side since you can now simply touch the screen to access them. The D-pad is still present and actually comes in handy at times but for the most bit, I found myself using the touch screen more often as it’s quicker. The keypad is similar to the previous models with some slight alterations like a larger space bar. The feed back of the keys are very good and each one is distinguishable from the other so you’ll seldom find yourself hitting the wrong one. There’s quite a bit of unused place at the bottom where the microphone is and I think Nokia could have shifted it a little lower like the E72 thereby giving them more room up top for a larger screen perhaps.
The 3.5mm headphone jack didn't work quite well for us
All the ports and connectors are concealed behind plastic flaps. This helps keep out dirt and grime and maintains the elegant look. The power button, 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-SD card slot are placed on the top while the micro-USB charging port goes on the left. On the right, we have a volume rocker that’s backlit along with the voice command button in between. Just below is the slider to lock/unlock the screen. There is no dedicated camera shutter button though. Nokia has added a thin-pin charging port and the charger comes with that connector.
The stainless steel plate covering the back is plain and smooth without any texture. The SIM card fits into a tray which slides into a groove inside the phone. The speaker grill, dual-LED flash and 8MP camera is placed together on a little raised strip of plastic. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the build and design of the phone. Nokia has done a great job in this department.
The E6 ships with Symbian Anna, which brings with it much needed improvements over Symbian^3. The first noticeable difference is the snappier response and a new set of icons. We have four home screens by default with the ability to add one more. If you don’t require any of them, you can just as easily delete them. To add a shortcut or rearrange them, simply long press on any one of them and and then you can move them around or delete them. The process feels a bit clunky as compared to iOS or Android though.
On the home screen, there's a new notification system on the upper right hand corner. Tapping this area once brings up a little shortcut Window giving you access to the Connectivity menu, SIM card status, Alarm and USB mode, if the phone is plugged in. This system works well and is similar to Android's notification bar. The split-screen keyboard is another new feature in Anna but it's not accesible due to the physical QWERTY keypad.
The new icon set looks modern and fresh
Flipping through the home screen is pretty quick for most of the time but now and again, S60’s legacy rears its ugly head and there are slight jerks and lags when opening the main menu or even applications. The animations aren’t as fluid as, say iOS or Gingerbread - it seems Anna needs a bit more work. The screen also offers haptic feedback so it feels like you’re pressing a physical button. I personally don’t like this and you can disable it in the Profiles menu.
Backlight is even across the board
The ambient light sensor does a god job of adjusting the backlight of the screen and the keypad. If the keypad is not used for a while, the light fades away rather than just going off which is nice touch. The back-lighting is also even across the entire keypad and the buttons above. There’s a little light near the USB port to let you know that the phone is connected to the PC. However there’s no notification light for missed calls, unread messages or if you’re charging through the adapter.
This may be a business phone but the E6 packs in good multimedia features as well. The new music player offers a Cover Flow like view for the albums or you can simply browse through all the songs in a list fashion. The three main controls, Next, Play and Previous are super sized and placed on the right so it’s easy to use with your thumb. Sadly, there’s no way to control the player without unlocking the device. You can add a widget to the desktop that gives you basic control.
Audio quality is really good with 'Loudness' enabled
Audio quality through the bundled headset is average at best and even with the foam padding doesn’t sit well in your ears. There aren’t any music controls on the headset, just one button for answering calls. The E6’s true potential can only be realized by using a better pair of earphones and with the EP630, it sounds way better. Nokia have kept the ‘Loudness’ and ‘Stereo Widening’ options from earlier S60 versions which make a huge difference. Music sounded the best with the equalizer set to off and ‘Loudness’ enabled.
720p videos playback smoothly
The default video player handles all major video codecs like DivX, MP4, VC-1, RM, H.264 and even containers like MKV and AVI are read just fine except for MOV and FLV. The player easily handles 720p files without breaking a sweat. We couldn’t playback the audio portion of the 720p AVI and MKV files we tested for some reason. Other than that HD MP4 files play just fine. This is very good news since there aren’t any third party video players available in the Ovi store, so if the video doesn’t work, you’re pretty much stuck unless you convert it.
1080p videos don’t play, only the audio does which is nothing against the E6. I mean there’s only so much a 680MHz processor can handle. Anna is a lot more optimised compared to Android in this respect. You would typically need a minimum of 800MHz to play 720p video smoothly on Android where as the E6 is able to that on a much slower CPU, which is quite remarkable.
I had a peculiar problem with the 3.5mm headphone jack though. Whether using the stock earphone or any other for that matter, if the plug shifts even slightly, the sound cuts off from the left earphone. This is especially annoying when you're walking with the phone in your pants pocket - the music keeps cutting out intermittently. I'm not sure if anyone else is facing this problem and even Nokia doesn’t seem to acknowledge such a fault so it's probably just my review unit.
The E6 complies with the current standards and supports 3G and EDGE data connections. We also have Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi ‘n’. The USB 2.0 port supports USB On-the-go just like the N8 but you’ll have to buy the adapter separately. The 3.5mm audio jack doubles as the TV-out port with the right cable. FM Radio is also present with RDS support for those who care. The new browser does a good job of rendering web pages but due to the size of the screen, the text is microscopic. Double tapping makes it readable but not ideal due to the high resolution. Thankfully pinch-to-zoom comes to the rescue.
The new browser works well but only lets you use three tabs
You can configure multiple mail boxes right from GMail, Yahoo, etc to even your office accounts provided you have the POP address. One nice feature is that you can have different mail widgets for each inbox so you can see multiple accounts at the same time. The Ovi store is still a bit sparse but basic apps like Opera Mobile, Nimbuzz, WatsApp are present but a lot are still missing. Communicator app is a corporate IM that links to Microsoft Office communication server.
The YouTube app isn’t really an app but merely a link to the YouTube page. Ovi Social gives you access to Twitter and Facebook with an accompanying widget giving you updates right on the home screen. ‘Here and Now’ is another browser-based link that uses the GPS to give you information about your surroundings like restaurants, shops, etc. Nokia also includes a trial version of Psiloc World Traveller app. There is no chat application pre-installed although you can download the app by Nokia through the Ovi store. I decided to stick with Nimbuzz.
Call quality is not a problem here. The earpiece is loud enough even for noisy environments and I didn’t experience any dropped calls. The bundled headset may not be very good for music but does a good enough job for voice calls.
Other than the social apps, there are plenty of productivity apps as well - after all this is a business phone. Nokia has a folder called Office where we start off with a File manager that gives you full access to the phone's internal 8GB memory and your memory card. There’s a dictionary, notes and a full version of Quick Office. Not only can you read popular document formats but also create and mail them right from your phone.
Lots of productivity apps
Zip lets you create archives or even open them. Adobe Reader is bundled along as well for reading PDFs. Thanks to the high resolution screen, text is very easy to read once zoomed in with no pixelation at all. Other applications include a message reader, calculator, recorder, Intranet and Calender. We also have F-Secure anti-virus bundled that runs in the background scanning for possible threats. JoikuSpot lets you turn your E6 into a Wi-Fi hotspot so other devices can share your 3G or EDGE connection.
The camera is an 8MP fixed focus which means forget about good macro shots. Objects that are placed at a distance look good so it’s decent for a wide landscape shot but anything up close is not a pretty picture. The dual LED flash, while powerful, ends up ruining the shot if the object is close by as it appears out of focus and over exposed. It also cannot capture a lot of detail. Once you’ve captured the image you have an option to edit it, delete it or share it.
Plenty of options to play around with
You have plenty of options to play around with here. You can crop, resize,rotate, add a clipart, draw, add bubble text, frame,etc. You can also add some finishing touches by adjusting the color, brightness, saturation, hue before sharing it. The process is simple but it’s laggy and not very smooth. The quality of the front facing camera is not too great since it’s just VGA.
Pictures look good but lack detail
The E6 can record video in 720p (H.264) MP4 format at 25fps. The captured video is quite smooth and image stabilization helps. You’ll notice intermittent jerks in the frame rate but overall it's not bad. The video editor lets you string together multiple videos, add transitions, etc. It’s a little clunky and not as smooth as iMovie but it gets the job done.
The E6 is fitted with a 1500mAh Li-Ion battery, which gives you a full two days of heavy usage. This includes phone calls, music playback, Nimbuzz, Social and GMail running in the background and surfing over EDGE as well. This is one area where Nokia continues to deliver time and again. It's not surprising actually since a 1500mAh battery can easily power a Galaxy S for a day of heavy usage, so a phone with half the screen size and a slower processor will give you a better battery life.
For a street price of Rs.17,999, Nokia’s E6 offers tremendous value that makes it a very good buy for anyone looking for a smart yet trendy QWERTY phone. The touch screen is just an added bonus. Considering its predecessor, the E72, was launched above 20K, this is really aggressive pricing from Nokia. For this money, you get a stylish handset with great build quality, excellent keypad, responsive high resolution screen, good battery life and a host of social and productivity apps bundled along. It could have been a lot better though if Nokia hadn’t meddled with the camera. Its predecessor had an auto-focus camera, so why go back to a fixed focus? I thought Nokia was smart enough to understand that just upping the mega-pixel count does not mean better picture quality.
Also, in my personal opinion, they could have shifted the keypad a little lower, gotten rid of the D-pad and put in a larger portrait screen, something similar to the LG Optimus Pro.The phone also feels a little heavy if you have the habit of keeping it in your shirt pocket. Symbian Anna is a welcome improvement over Symbian ^3 but it still needs some work. It’s quicker than before but not as smooth as say iOS or Gingerbread.