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One of Nokia’s most successful handsets of the years gone by is the 6610i, which offered a very modest set of features in a very understated design, making it the choice of entry-level executives in the city. As time passed and cameras leaped megapixel counts, the 6610i lost it’s charm, but there was nothing in Nokia’s portfolio that could have been considered a worthy successor. While Motorola and Samsung went on the Atkins diet, Nokia just went in the opposite direction with fat and sluggish phones that just turned me off.
I haven’t liked a Nokia phone for it’s design and speed in years. After the 7650, I burnt my fingers with the 6600 and have never used a Nokia since, always preferring Samsung and, lately, Motorola. But when I got the E50, it looked at me in a way that no phone has ever looked at me before. I was in love all over again.
The E50 has evolved from the 6610 and it retains the top-heavy and narrow-bottom design. The phone is very slim. This is in fact the slimmest Series 60 smartphone that Nokia has in its catalog, and will remain the slimmest till the N76 rolls out.
I love the way it fit in my hand. The positioning of the keys and the screen and all that was just right. I’m not a huge fan of joy sticks, thanks to the uncomfortable designs of most phones such as the 3250, but I really think they got it right with the E50’s joystick. With sufficient room around it, the usage was simply.
The keys are well sized, but they do feel a little flimsy, and I expect them to lose their coating very soon. Even then, the tactile feedback is good and overall I was quite satisfied. However, I can’t say the same about the Menu and 'C' keys which are small and set inside the 'yes', 'no' and the two soft keys. I had to nail-type these keys, which is not good because it makes it difficult to use the phone without looking at it.
At first, I thought the E50 removed the 'pencil' or 'ABC' key that’s used to cut/copy/paste text in S60, but I found it on the side. This seems really strange, but after using it, I figured it makes sense because it’s used as a modifier key to select text, and this arrangement is more convenient.
Mostly the phone is made of steel. Be careful with the rear battery cover, you may just end up cutting yourself with it! The side trims are rubbery. It comes in a silver/gray combo and also a fully black one, that’s very Nseries Music Edition-like. I prefer the more business-class silver/gray combo, though.
If I could just choose one thing that I singularly lust in this phone, it’s the display. The phone isn’t too big, so the display is also not unusually large, but it still is proper QVGA (240x320), so it looks so, so crisp and fine, I was sold right there. The new Series 60 3rd Edition UI really shines on this display, allowing the most use of features like font-smoothing and scaling. There were times when I’d just stare at the beauty of each element on the screen — be it text, an icon or the background art!
It comes with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the display brightness based on the surrounding light. Even in bright sunlight, the display wasn’t entirely unreadable. A little turning is required to get the glare away, but that’s it.
Tech and Software
The E50 has almost every technology support to help you stay connected, barring WiFi. The quad-band GSM phone supports GPRS, EDGE and even 3G, though it doesn’t have a secondary video call camera.
Local connectivity is taken care of by Bluetooth, IrDA and USB (via pop-port). Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR is present, but there’s no A2DP, which is one reason why I’m not rushing to buy the phone. The lack of WiFi is a bit disappointing for such a capable smartphone, but it’s price justifies it.
Other than the widely available set of S60 3rd Edition applications, the E50 comes with the wonderful web browser that is the third reason why I’d simply want to run and buy this phone. Even over a normal, cheap WAP connection, this browser shows the full X/HTML web and even implements a fair bit of AJAX. I even logged in to our Tech 2.0 CMS and my WordPress blog to post stories. I love this browser.
Ironically, one of the only problems I faced with the phone was also with the browser. After browsing a small number of pages (say around five pages or so), the phone beeped with an "Insufficient memory" message. The phone has around 70mb of internal memory, and still with no applications running (or installed), I can’t browse more than five pages without quitting the browser? Yeah, the pages I loaded were pretty media-heavy, but even then. Memory expansion is handled with a microSD memory card slot, hot-swappable.
This E-series phone has a plentiful suite of enterprise features with support for a myriad of email systems such as ActiveSync for Microsoft Exchange, BlackBerry, Nokia’s Intellisync Wireless Email. There’s also the usual POP3/IMAP email client. And with such a beautiful browser, almost no web-based email service is out of reach. After installing the Gmail app, I don’t think there’s any bit of email (or spam) that you won’t be able to receive.
There’s also a Team Suite application bundled that makes it easy to collaborate with people in your team and/or organization. With the selected people, you can initiate conference calls, broadcast messages and create push-to-talk sessions.
It comes with an office documents viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), a zip opener, and the official Adobe Reader.
Despite the fact that this is an E-series phone, the E50 has a fair share of multimedia goodness in it. MP3/AAC/RealAudio playback and 3GP/MPEG-4/RealVideo playback, all in decent sound quality.
The headset works okay, but there’s no 3.5mm jack adapter like the Nseries phones. If inclined, you can get an N-series adapter and use it with this phone — it’s Pop port anyway. The built-in speaker of the E50 isn’t exactly awesome sounding, nor is it too loud. Even the 3250 sounds a whole lot better.
The 1.3 megapixel camera in the E50 is average quality. 1.3 megapixels itself is a turn-off for most people looking to buy a new phone, and the fact that it isn’t so good is even more of a objector. Low light performance is way below average. There’s no LED flash on this phone to help it out.
The phone does video recording also, but only in MMS-quality, making it good only for sending MMS clips instead of actually recording and archiving video.
The rated battery life of the E50 stands around over 6 hours of talk time or 9 days of stand by. With just about an hour of talk time and a decent amount of GPRS usage, I wasn’t able to make the phone last more than two and a half days. Because of the new style charger, I was unable to recharge the phone in my car. Maybe I should get myself one of those adapters and keep it in the car.
This can be another reason why I haven’t bought this phone yet. With my Samsung E880, I get over 4 days of stand by with concise talk, but of course the E50 is a smartphone with a bigger screen.
The E50 is the cheapest S60 3rd Edition smartphone available at Rs. 13,000. With a very sedate design, a great screen and a good set of software and connectivity options, the phone won me over, but the average camera and battery performance keeps me from buying it.