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Review of Nokia E7
Live photos of Nokia E7
Nokia has got a rich history of devices created for corporate users. Nokia created the concept of communicator and produced first such devices. The last classical communicator in the usual form factor was Nokia E90. It featured lots of compromise solutions as compared to its predecessors but remained a real communicator. In 2009 Nokia suddenly decided to discontinue development of such devices and switch to the new form factor of side slider. The first representative of this class was Nokia N97 and the company wanted to make it a flagship and the most advanced and fashionable phone. It was an attempt to create a phone both for corporate users and the mass market. Also it was a weapon against iPhone that was rapidly gaining popularity back then. They put a touchscreen and a QWERTY keypad against iPhone's excellent screen Ц two input methods were supposed to crush the competitor. But Nokia didn't take a few things into account. Firstly, the size of the phone is not relevant for corporate users Ц they are ready to put up with the size but they want a near perfect keypad for typing. Secondly, this kind of users will always go for the best and the display quality is the first thing you notice and the Nokia N97 display was way behind iPhone.
Any attempt to create a universal phone to suit everyone is risky. The Nokia N97 attempt failed: many corporate users simply ignored the release of the device while few remained loyal to the brand and purchased it only to get disappointed. I've got about three hundred letters in my mailbox from people around the world who say that purchasing this phone was a mistake and they will never again buy a similar Nokia phone. The promises Nokia made about this phone turned out to be very far from the actual user experience. A bit later Nokia's vice president Anssi Vanjoki admitted that the phone was a flop Ц it had great hardware but a lot of problems with software. The initial high sales only made the users disappointed in their choice and guess what phone did they migrate to? Hint Ц it wasn't a Nokia. Nokia N97 made it clear that the company would choose a different vector of development.
What did Nokia do? They dropped this form factor which was associated only with their products and did not have any direct competition. The next step was to choose the same form factor other manufacturers like HTC used for corporate users i.e. they moved to the market segment densely populated with other players, strong ones. I can hardly comprehend this chain of events. The company left a market with hardly any competition, sales are guaranteed, buyers are loyal and the only thing they would have to do is renew the phone family every once in a while. But the company left voluntarily and started to produce same phones as everyone else. It's a strange choice of policy.
The loyalty of corporate users cannot last and it was gone after Nokia N90. It was the last successor of the 9000 series. That's why some people buy a few of N90 to keep using their favorite phone for another 5-6 years. Today it is almost impossible to find one of them but die-hard fans manage to get them from any country where it is still available and keep as a treasure. They understand that this phone is morally and technically obsolete but they buy nevertheless just for the handy keypad which for them is a tool. This is the corporate segment that has the most loyal Nokia customers who are quite conservative and are not looking for latest tech and body colors. It was easy to lose this audience since Nokia did it on their own.
In 2010 the air inside Nokia was filled with enthusiasm Ц in the beginning of the year a new strategy was adopted that took into account all the mistakes made before. Same Anssi Vanjoki chose not to just update Symbian but to create a series of next gen devices, catch up with the competitors and give the users what they had been waiting from Nokia for a long time. The huge company took the direction to success. There were endless meetings and presentations inside Nokia and the employees knew that Nokia had awakened and will strike down all those who tried to take their market. But besides an idea they needed a plan how to realize it and Nokia became a hostage of their own bureaucratic apparatus Ц the company was too clumsy and lacked a charismatic leader. As a result they were always procrastinating releases and lacked proper stable software. The company announced Nokia N8 even though it wasn't yet ready Ц the management went against the developers. Then they postponed the release several times. This phone was available everywhere by the end of the year and in order to launch the sales on time they pushed the release in five cities first. The number of Nokia N8 handsets in major retailers' stocks was very small. The story of this phone is directly connected to the today's subject Ц Nokia E7.
Nokia was expecting that Nokia N8 wouldn't just be a best-seller but that it would crush the market. A metal body, a 12 MP camera, updated OS and the lowest start price Ц the company has never before asked so little for a flagship. The idea was that the successors would compensate for the little profit of Nokia N8. Nokia C7 was expected to sell thanks to the design which would cost a little extra, while Nokia E7 was meant to become the metal phone for the corporate users who cannot be scared by the price tag. This was how the company planned to compensate the low Nokia N8 price.
Then a series of events followed that destroyed these plans even before Nokia E7 was released. Firstly, Nokia N8 sales were low, catastrophically low. They were not as bad as the sales of Nokia N97 Ц thanks to the ads campaign in the first moths the phone had significant sales. But then the owners started to reports restarts, crashes and screen issues. One issue after another became known to the public. The release of Nokia C7, the second of the family, only made things worse: it also crashed (it has practically same hardware except for the camera). The corollary was obvious Ц these are not just private cases Ц this is Symbian^3. The sales of all phones plummeted and have been staying low since. It was the first sign of the enormous problems of Nokia Ц for the first time in the history of the company it was so far behind the competitors. The company cut the prices: in the beginning of 2011 the price for Nokia N8 went down by 20%, Nokia C7 got cheaper by a third and has been going down but the sales still wouldn't go up. Nokia tried to carefully raise the price for Nokia N8 to the previous level but the partners refused to buy it and the price went down again.
So, you can get the picture: there is practically no Symbian^3 sales as such, retailers are selling phones cheaper than they buy them just to get rid of them. And at this moment Nokia E7 is released with an extra price to compensate for the low price for Nokia N8 according to the initial plan which no one cared to amend.
The Russian market illustrates the situation perfectly Ц it is one of the top priority markets for Nokia, one of the top three markets to be precise. The company has put the price tag of R30,000 (≈$1080) for Nokia E7 at the launch of sales. At the same moment Nokia C7 cost R14,000 (≈$500) and Nokia N8 R18,000 (≈$650). So they practically asked another И300 for the keypad in E7. Is it an adequate offer? By no means. For the first month of sales the company sold a few hundreds of handsets while thousands were expected. Ads, aggressive promotion Ц nothing helped. Then they did the only right thing they cut the price down to R24.999 (≈$900). But even at the lowered price the model remains unattractive and it has got nothing against the depreciating Nokia N8 (today it costs about R16,000/$570).
The targeting at the corporate segment has failed due to the fact that businessmen are not ready to buy the QWERTY phones of the company designed to suit the mass audience in order to produce most profit. This is the old strategy giving unforeseen results Ц the mass market does not understand why the business model costs more, well, actually people don't even understand that it is a business model. The general impression of the phone can be described as: an outrageously expensive Nokia N8 with a QWERTY keypad. Nokia has made a major positioning mistake and they failed to amend the strategy when the market suggested so.
Who can buy this phone? Except for die-hard Nokia fans I cannot really think of any other group of people. Back in 2009 there were lots of Nokia smartphones in the business lounges of airports Ц today they all use Apple iPhone. I haven't seen anyone with a Nokia E7 Ц not a single time. This phone is a monument to ignoring the market needs and destroying what has been built over many years. The purchase of this phone is either spontaneous or made by a collector of Nokia phones. I cannot name any other reasons to buy it.
Nokia E7 looks a lot like Nokia N8 they are different in size but it's only noticeable when the phones are next to each other.
The main criticism concerning Nokia N97 was the quality of materials used: the plastic wears off very quickly and the slider mechanism gets loose. So the company decided to make Nokia E7 very solid: metal body, the switches on the sides are also metal (the lock switch on the left side and the volume rocker on the right). Surprisingly, the company did not care to provide the users with a manual on how to open the slider and the handset is completely symmetrical. It should be intuitively easy to slide a phone open but apparently the Nokia E7 designers thought differently.
For many people opening the phone is quite a challenge. Once, I have been dining with a friend of mine, gave her Nokia E7 and asked her to slide it open. It took her over a minute to open it. Then I tested a few more people and now I have a collection of over a ten videos of people struggling to open Nokia E7 Ц it takes usually from 30 to 60 seconds to learn how to do it. Some might say that those people were not very brilliant but I would retort that no one has to pass a qualification exam to use Nokia E7. The phone should open as easily as possible. Or at least it opening shouldn't be an issue for a user.
However, if you have used similar phones you will have no problems with opening Nokia E7. The excessively tight sliding mechanism is a downside Ц you shouldn't try and open the phone with only one hand Ц you can easily drop it and even if you are strong enough it would still not be easy. Opening it with two hands will also increase the life time of the mechanism.
Another fact that tells us that this phone was targeted at the mass audience is the variety of available colors: Dark grey, Silver white, Blue, Green, Orange.
The handset's dimensions are: 123.7 x 62.4 x 13.6 mm / 4.87 x 2.46 x 0.53 in, weight 176 g / 6.2 oz. this is bigger and heavier than most modern phones but this does not cause any discomfort. Though, I think, some people might find the weight to be excessive.
They made a non-removable battery to make the phone even more solid. This is a moot solution though by means of a screw driver you can take the battery out anyway but it's not really handy if you are used to carrying a spare battery.
On the left side there is a metal switch that locks the screen. The mechanism is very solid. If you press and hold it you activate the flashlight. And on the right side there is a metal volume rocker. A bit above it there is the SIM card slot Ц such an unusual design is dictated by the non-removable back panel. If you change the SIM card the phone will restart automatically. Also on the right side there is the camera button.
Under the screen you find the Menu button that has a light indicator that flashes when you have missed calls or SMS. On the top side there is the power button, an HDMI slot protected with a lid, a microUSB slot and a 3.5mm audio jack.
On the back panel we find the speaker, a double LED flash and the eye of an 8MPix camera with no lid.
The screen is typical of Nokia and offers 4" in 640х360 resolution with 16 million colors and is covered with glass (special plastic as in X6). It is AMOLED and boasts the layer for outdoors operation (polarization filter). This technology is labelled ClearBlack Display, but in fact an AMOLED screen from Samsung was added a polarization filter to improve performance in the sun. The screen offers good parameters, but it is not the best. Samsung Galaxy S2 is superior despite the larger physical size.
Traditionally for Nokia we have no manual brightness adjustment and you have to rely on an external sensor (all Samsung models combine a sensor with manual settings). In Nokia E7 you can choose the brightness level for the sensor, but you cannot influence its operation. For example, when you enter a dark lit room the phone will decrease the brightness of the screen. This system has been deployed in some models and there were no complaints about it.
The screen in this model coincides with that of Nokia N8 apart from the size and polarization filter. If you want to read about the comparison between screens in Nokia N8 and rival models then follow this link.
All in all it is a balanced screen, albeit not offering the top resolution or color reproduction. Apple iPhone 4 boasts better resolution and similar size, while Samsung Galaxy S/S2 has superior resolution, color reproduction and brightness. Importantly for Nokia all screens look similar in the eyes of users.
This full sized QWERTY keypad differs considerably from previous Nokia models as it has 4 rows of keys (3 rows of 11 buttons and the lower one of 9 for the combined total of 42 buttons). For example, Nokia N97 has only 33 keys and the navigation button. More numerous buttons allow for better localization, but it is still not adequate.
The first reason is a perennial inability of Nokia to implement a one touch language switch. In Nokia E7 you have to press arrow up and SYM buttons at the same time and then select the required language from the pop-up list. It is logical that all other models in the world feature one touch switch without any confirmation or selection. You will require a third party software to do it with Nokia E7.
The second explanation for unsuccessful localization is the use of the same color for both alphabets, while additional symbols are yellow. In Nokia N97 it was not so vivid, but in this case you can easily get irritated.
As a user of Nokia N97 and several QWERTY models from other manufacturers I quickly adapted to the life under Nokia E7. To my mind symbols are slightly removed to the left, which creates initial discomfort, but you can move on. The general ergonomics is decent. If you have large fingers then the top row of buttons will be not comfortable and you can occasionally press the side of the phone instead of a particular button.
The back light is white and offers good visibility under different conditions.
The phone has 350 MB of memory for ordinary apps or user data. The amount of inbuilt memory is 16 GB without the cards support.
It also boasts 256 MB of RAM (Nokia N97 Mini had only 128 MB), which is a giant leap forward for Nokia and had to boost the speed operation and stability for the model. The speed is indeed fine, but stability leaves much to be desired. This parameter is better than in other Nokia handsets, but there is still room for improvement in comparison with rival offerings.
In the box you can find connectors for external USB storage. Insert such a storage device to copy data from it to the internal memory or play a file. This device is visible as another drive in the file manager.
When you connect a USB storage all active apps saved in the general memory (different from the phone's memory) are paused to be resumed when you are through with this work (not all applications can remember their status). Accordingly, if you need apps with constant network connection or status install them into the phone's memory.
The phone has a 1200 mAh BL-4D battery (almost identical with that of Nokia N8, but its operation time is lower in several modes). The manufacturer claims up to 430 hours on standby and from 5 to 9 hours of talktime (UMTS/GSM).
The model boasts new architecture, which coupled with Symbian^3 offers superior operation times in all modes. Nokia mentions the following parameters:
I sincerely like long operation times in all modes. Nokia engineers did a good job in this respect and we must be very grateful to them. In S60 segment this model is a clear winner in terms of energy saving capabilities, which is a huge advantage. For the market in general this parameter is hardly a record breaking, because Apple iPhone 4 offers 10 hours of video playback and 40 hours of music playback. They are comparable, but screens are way different.
On the downside we have to say that on average the phone goes strong for no more than 2 days. In comparison with rivals offering only one day it is a decent result. Major energy consumer is the desktop with widgets, which are power hungry as any other data transfer excluding WiFi. Web surfing requires a lot of power too. If you look at the operation time it becomes clear why ARM11 has only 680 MHz. This compromise was necessary for better operation times. The full charging is 2 hours.
USB. In USB settings one can choose one of 3 modes:
Data transfer speed reaches 5.5 Mbps. When the USB cable is connected the phone starts charging.
Bluetooth. The model boasts version 3.0. During the data transfer to other devices, which support the technology WiFi 802.11 n is employed and theoretically transfer speeds reach 24 Mbps. We tried the transfer of a 1 GB file from the phone to Nokia C7 and back. The speed was 10 Mbps at a distance of 3 meters between devices.
The phone supports various profiles, for example, Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, SIM Access, A2DP. Operation with headsets is standard and raises no questions.
WiFi. 802.11 b/g/n is supported, but it is not the first handset with such capabilities. Everything works smoothly. WiFi search wizard and an appropriate widget (I consider it to be rather convenient) complete the line-up.
Camera is one of key elements for business models. Saving pennies on the camera in ≈7 was pretty silly. The model is not appropriate for business users or those who take pictures from time to time. It is pointless to listen to Nokia E7 fans, who take pains to achieve any result while taking pictures of texts with the zoom. Any camera must be easy to use. Take it from the pocket, point and shoot. Everything else is a compromise.
The model features an 8 MP camera without the autofocus, which is identical to that of Nokia C6-01. Surprisingly, Nokia decided to ditch the autofocus in pursuit of more megapixels. They would better install a 5 MP camera with the autofocus instead of what we have here. The quality is passable on a bright day from a distance. Close range shots are difficult to get (everything further than half a meter is awful), text shots are ridiculous, while the flash cannot help much. For Symbian camera was always of importance, but here we have something different. To my mind, it is a big disadvantage as the camera is less than acceptable. Judge by samples yourself.
Comparison of photos with those of Samsung Galaxy S2:
Video. Recording offers the resolution of 720p (25 fps and H.264 codec). The quality is average.
All capabilities of Symbian^3 were fully described in the review. There is no point in repetition, so read the review to learn everything about the OS.
There is only one speaker, but it is loud and clear. Ringtones can be easily heard from pockets. I like tremolo of the vibro, but the majority will find it weak. There are no complaints about the connection quality.
Now let's move to the main points. First of all I have to mention that I tested a commercial model with all updates and patches installed. Moreover, I even went to the service centre where I was told that the phone was fine. Why did I go there first of all? Without any additional software (only later on I installed Gravity) my handset was slow and reloaded all the time and to unlock it I had to wait for no less than 10 seconds. Engineers said that the memory was clogged by junk, which was not true as memory was almost completely free. Even the complete reload of the phone could not help with these issues. The record of Nokia E7 was three loads an hour. I tried to use E7 as my main phone for more than a week. My friends were surprised by this dedication and masochism. When I said that I was writing a review they offered condolences. The pinnacle of suffering was when the phone froze during the incoming call preventing me from answering. Then I understood that the trouble was created by a Bluetooth headset produced by another company. When I disconnected it the issue was solved for a brief period, but then it started again. It is the least stable Symbian smartphone I have ever had on my hands. To make sure it was not just bad luck I tried another phone from a different batch and used it in Spain, Germany and Bulgaria, but the song remained the same. The model has too many bugs.
Business users will not find the phone desirable as its camera is not good enough. You cannot take a photo of a text. If you have skilful hands and can stay motionless for a long period then something can be done, but it is way cumbersome.
The next trouble is with the browser. It is inadequate and cannot compete with Android or iOS. The browser in this model is just primitive. Even the Anna update I downloaded could not prevent the browser from being slow and vulnerable to sudden freezes, which affect the phone too. By the way, Anna still does not have a separate button to change languages on the virtual keypad. I cannot understand why Nokia programmers cannot fix this problem.
Another disadvantage of Nokia E7 is that it closes the line-up of business models on Symbian with this form factor. Everything else will be based on Windows Phone 7. Symbian^3 will receive minimum support, what is clear from the number of "innovations" in Anna and plans for Belle. We cannot expect that all updates and patches will do away with key bugs.
The initial price of the model was 495 Euros. It has no sales to boast and it will just gather dust on store shelves. Consumers simply ignore the phone. One of the reasons is that the CEO of Nokia publicly mentioned that all Symbian solutions are weak, which impacted the entire lineup. Nokia N8 costs much less, so the current model is overpriced. If you need a QWERTY keypad look for a couple of Android solutions you can snap up for much less. Such products are not popular, but Nokia somehow missed the point.
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Published 09 August 2011
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