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Review of GSM/UMTS-smartphone Nokia E63
Even though originally it was labeled as the E72, this phone was designed as an entry-level QWERTY device, hence a new name. All in all, it takes enterprise devices one step closer to the mass market, just like the E71 did not to so ago. When we were going over the Nokia E71’s positioning, we said a lot about this Nokia’s latest tendency and how they were implementing it. Therefore, I see no point in repeating myself here all over again – you learn all this and a little more in our dedicated article.
Every gear of the Nokia E63 is dedicated to only one thing – cost reduction. Even with the E71 already out there, it has all it takes to garner some interest all thanks to its quite appealing price. So, how can one make some modern phone’s price tag lose so much weight? Let’s start with the sales package – throw out the wrist strap, carrying case, USB data cable, software CD (since all essential applications can be downloaded), and memory card. Then we get to the casing – let’s dump all top-grade materials, especially metal, we need only plastic here. And now the final touch – cut both bundled GPS and Infrared modules (although we couldn’t care less about the latter, the former function could be more than useful here).
So as not to make things look grim, the maker has throw in one year of subscription for Files on Ovi service that allows storing up to 1 Gb of user data on Ovi’s servers. The good thing about this service is that it’s accessible both from PC and mobile phone. On the other hand, Files on Ovi is also available separately for 9.99 USD a month (or 79.99 USD a year), however the wrist is that this package offers ten times more storage space – whole 10 Gb.
However, the question is what this cost reduction craze is all about? Does Nokia really want to slash the E63’s price to the point when it becomes a really appealing option for the mass market, or their intentions aren’t this primitive? The reason, in my opinion, is on the surface – this 200 Euro price tag gives the E63 green light as an enterprise device, which many companies and carriers will show interest in. While the Nokia E71 is purchased primarily for personal use, the E63 is geared more towards business-savvy users. The price tag is this phone’s main trump card, as it retains all key options of the senior offering, including WiFi and yet retails for a hundred Euros less.
On top of that, Nokia have tried to please both ordinary users and enterprises – while its price and feature pack suggest it’s a business-ready phone, the wealth of available colors indicates that the E63 isn’t a one trick pony and isn’t all about business.
On balance, the E63 serves as a more affordable alternative to the Nokia E71 for those who couldn’t care less about the sales package and would rather prefer to have a full-fledged thumbboard-armed device on their hands, than some candy-bar in a padded box. As a rule, these people prefer using solutions like this as their secondary phones, and the Nokia E63 seems to have the potential to fit right into their pockets. So, will become sought-after? Actually, it depends what you mean by this. Apparently, it will never get close to the sales of the Nokia E71 on carrier-free markets, such as Russia – more often than not consumers will sway towards the E71 as a more visually appealing option. On these markets, the E63 is worth a look only if you are after a secondary phone or price/quality ratio. But very few consumers actually use these two criteria as the guidelines when choosing a new handset. When it comes to carrier-driven regions, the E63 suddenly becomes a viable solution thanks to package deals that will be offered to numerous companies. The price gap between the E63 and E71 won’t go anywhere and will always revolve around 1.7:1 ratio, meaning that if the E63 goes for 200 Euro, the E71 is available for 330 Euro. However, it’s worth mentioning that the bottom line for the E71’s price as far as it’s current sales package goes, makes around 285 Euro, and it will be reached in around 7-8 months time (by the end of its life cycle); plus the next Eseries offering will have to deal with the E71’s success, since they will have to coexist for around 4-5 months. Apart from a lighter price tag, the E71 will be offering a wider array of color schemes (I believe it’ll be black and pink, but they might go for even more extravagant hues).
It turns out that while the E63 acts as a cheap alternative to the Nokia N71, it’s pretty much meaningless at that – if anything, it’s a case of Nokia trying to cover the entire segment by offering both the most affordable phone an a reasonably priced solution with more features on offer. Nevertheless, given how scarce QWERTY-smartphones are, the E63-E71 duo may well become a success, with a large portion of credit going to the latter, despite its heftier price tag.
The E63’s styling as well as size and weight point at the fact that Nokia have been really struggling to lend it a distinguishable E71-esque feel. It measures up at 113x59x13 mm (against the Nokia E71’s 114x57x10 mm) and weighs 126 grams (which is only one measly gram lighter than the E71). However as far as the tactile experience goes, it doesn’t feel as good as the E71 in the hand largely because of its thicker profile, plus there is a small glitch with the keypad, but more on this later.
The Nokia E63 comes in a choice of two colors - Ruby Red, Ultramarine Blue.
As for the quality of the E63’s materials, we didn’t have any niggles with them – it’s decked out into soft-touch plastic that won’t wear out after several weeks of use, which is definitely good news. As far as the build quality goes, everything seems fine at a glance. Now, remove the back cover to discover a very quirky lock – sitting on the top is a small slot, which is where you insert the hook, then shut the lid closed and push the lock switch down to fix the back cover. So far so good, so why did I mention that it only looks good at a glance? That’s because the battery itself feels somewhat loose in the slot – it won’t fall out of the phone, make no mistake about that, but if you simply shake the E63, you’ll hear it rattle inside the battery compartment.
The left-hand side houses the microSD memory card slot and microUSB connector (both sealed by rubber flaps). Perched at the base of the E63 is the lanyard eyelet and a standard 2mm charger socket. The top end of the handset is occupied by 3.5 mm audio jack.
Topping the display is ambient light sensor that handles the backlight levels of the phone’s keypad and display. Around back is the 2 Mpix camera lens.
The E63 utilizes a 2.36-inch QVGA display (320x240 pixels, 48x36mm), capable of up to 16 million colors. It manages to output a pretty decent picture quality-wise that remains readable in various environments (it doesn’t fade away in the sun at that, all thanks to the mirror underlayer).
The E63’s display is significantly smaller than that of the Nokia E61i, basically it may be the turn-off feature for some. But in my opinion, it’s not that hard to get used to this screen, since it’s not touch-sensitive and after all, most other today’s phones boast similar diagonals and resolution.
On balance, the E63 packs in a likable display and we are pretty much content with it. It can accommodate up to 8 text and 3 service lines (with some modes allowing for up to 14 text lines).
To be frank, it’s very easy for me to see how the E63’s thumbboard fares against that of the Nokia E71 solely because I have been using the latter as my primary phone for quite a while now. And there is a lot to talk about, actually. First and foremost, the E63’s lower key row has been expanded with two new buttons, meaning that it looks much more like the Nokia E61i layout-wise. While the E63’s buttons are larger than those found on the E71 and in theory should be easier to tap, in practice they are not. The fact of the matter is that the Nokia E63’s suffers from its casing’s thickness – you’ll certainly feel it when texting with it single-handedly. It isn’t much of a glitch, though, as it will only take you a couple days to get used to. However, the E71 was much more pleasant to type with, although it wasn’t faster by any means.
Another point I would like to cover is that back in my review of the Nokia E71 I complained about it being inferior to the E61i in terms of keypad ergonomics. But after several weeks of use I have finally come to grips with it and what is more, I don’t feel all that comfortable with the E61i anymore. It turns out it’s not about letdowns in ergonomics as much as personal preferences and habits.
The “Space” key has gotten smaller; while at the standby screen it actives the flashlight.
All keys are lit in white, however the backlight distribution leaves much to be desired – it seems the first row of keys gets most of the light, while all other buttons have been given short shrift. So far, it’s our biggest gripe with the E63’s keypad.
Now for the functional buttons. The E63’s trademark feature is a 4-button setup (including the Menu button) that allows for one-click access to the calendar, phonebook and mail applications. On top of that there are actually two ways to press each of these keys – long-press and a short click. This way, with a short press you will jump into the phonebook’s general list of entries, the mailbox or monthly view of calendar. However when you tap and hold these keys, you will be able to create a new contact, entry in calendar or email. Punching these keys one more time will get you back to the main menu.
Furthermore, you can even reprogram these buttons to access custom applications or features.
The E63’s navigation button is pretty comfortable to use; also it has a service LED built inside. The good thing about it is that it is fully customizable – you can setup event notifications and other options. Unfortunately there is no way to disable it during night time (since it glows a little too bright in the dark).
The handset utilizes a 1500 mAh Li-Pol battery (BP-4L), as opposed to the Nokia N82’s 1050 mAh cell. The E63 is rated for 10.5 hours of talk time (GSM) and 20 days of standby. Music time – up to 18 hours.
The handset’s battery life averaged 4 days in our tests, when we used the E63 for about two hours of calls, a dozen or two snaps, several minutes of video, and around an hour of music/radio. It takes the E63 around 1.5 hours to charge from empty to full.
If you forgo EDGE/GPRS data completely, the E63 will offer you even longer hours. Basically, with average use you will get a minimum 4 days use out of it.
Below is our chart of battery times we managed to squeeze out of the E63:
The device comes equipped with 111 Mb of RAM, after first launch you will get around 74 Mb of free memory at your disposal, which is enough for running a dozen applications and browsing “heavy” web-pages – the word “slow-down” is definitely not in the E63’s vocabulary.
The user almost has 110 Mb of storage available, where any data can be stored.
The E63 deals with microSD memory cards (hot-swappable), the phone comes packaged with a 2Gb unit. There are no restrictions as far as memory card’s size is concerned – our handset easily identified a 8Gb card.
Thanks to its beefed up memory and a faster CPU (ARM11 running at 369 Mhz, against the E61i’s ARM9 and its 220 Mhz), the E63’s performance has almost doubled compared to the E61i. You can literally soar through all applications and menusalso the handset can have more applications running in the background.
USB. Using the USB settings you can choose one of the following modes:
The E63’s data transfer speeds top out at 2 Mb/s.
Bluetooth. The phone comes with Bluetooth v2.0, with support for EDR. The following profiles are supported:
The top speed you can get with the E63’s Bluetooth connection is around 100 Kb/s. We also tested its A2DP profile in pair with the Sony Ericsson DS970 headset, which worked just fine – we managed our play list, skipped within tracks and adjusted volume seamlessly, however we couldn’t make current track’s title show up on the headset’s display.
Wi-Fi. This handset comes armed with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 g) support. All security standards are supported, including WEP , WPA , WPA 2, with other advanced settings available. Unlike the NSeries, the E63 doesn’t support Universal PnP (UPnP). Although, it boasts the WiFi Wizard, which can search and tap into available networks in the background mode.
The E63 comes armed with a no-frills 2 Mpix camera module with a LED flash, yet without autofocus, that can take passable images when shooting in decent light conditions. To be frank, the E71’s camera isn’t even close to dazzling either, so on this front the E63 isn’t too far behind the senior offering. But it’s worth mentioning that the E71 supports VGA video recording, whereas with the E63 you will have to make do with QVGA resolution.
The ESeries devices have always been worlds apart from other S60-powered devices in the way of software. Some apps and options that were tested on these phones in the first place are now becoming par for the course in the rest of the company’s portfolio, but some still remain the trademark features of the ESeries. This way, the Nokia E63 sports a unique phonebook, calendar and some other features that are very different from those generic applications built into S60 3rd edition FP1. Let’s see what new feats and abilities the E63 brings to the table.
The desktop mode has been revamped a little – now at the bottom there are three icons standing for missed calls, messages and voice mail. If there are no events at hand, the corresponding icon will vanish. Clicking on each thumbnail will make a pop-up with extra information appear on the screen.
Mode. In a nutshell, it’s a mobile version of the latest PC craze – virtual desktops. That is, you make up a couple of screens, where various themes, pictures, applications, plug-ins and other essentials are housed/used. And then you can swap between them in one touch, so that it’s always easy to jump between your setup for work with mail and notifications brought up on the main screen and the home setup with a different theme applied (without your company’s logo or colors) and player controls lined up on the screen instead of email notifications. It takes the E63 around 6-7 seconds to jump between modes.
Phonebook. While at the standby screen you can type in any letter from the thumbboard and the phone will instantly look-up all contacts in the phonebook that have with this letter in either first or last names. Unfortunately, this kind of search works only for contacts in English (even in localized phones).
Contact groups have been given a major boost too – now you can submit a number for voice conferences, a password and also a PIN-code. Enterprise users, who use conference calls a lot, will surely appreciate this new ability. Plus you can select a ring tone for any contact group in the E63 (but not a picture, regrettably).
With groups you can also make use of “Call to many” feature, which will allow the E63 to set up a conference call on its own; on top of that the handset allows for bulk mailing.
Regrettably, there are no other views available for the phonebook – for instance, you can’t make the E63 show contacts coupled with at least one phone number. At the same time it allows calling up a drop-out menu by selecting a contact and pressing the navigation button right – it’ll let you make a call or send a message without leaving the phonebook menu. On top of that this list is context-sensitive, meaning that its options will change depending on what types of phone numbers are available for the contact in question.
The roster of fields you get to fill when creating or editing a contact hasn’t changed much, but the E63 manages to offer a better address field setup and also BlackBerry PIN as a default option.
Calendar. The Calendar application hasn’t changed a bit since its last iteration; in fact the only thing that’s different is its layout, when the E63 shows both the calendar and events scheduled for the current day. In case there are too many entries, the E63 will show only their total number with no extra information. When using the weekly view of calendar, all events are displayed just like in MS Outlook, plus there are some pop-up tips scattered across the screen. All in all, while pleasant, none of these changes are groundbreaking.
Voice Aid. While this feature’s name probably doesn’t say much, I find it pretty interesting and useful. For instance, it will allow you to handle the E63 when driving and so that you have only one free hand – simply assign this feat to one of the shortcut buttons, and there you go, you can either make the handset read out the call log, or pick an entry in the phonebook without even looking at it. In the latter case all entries get grouped up by the first letter of their names – by pressing the navi-key left or right you will switch between these categories (ABC, DEF, etc) and punching it up and down will scroll through the list, while the phone will be reading out all contacts you hover upon.
Message Reader is available with other S60 devices too – this application does pretty much what its name says, it reads messages aloud.
Clock – using this feature you will make the E63 tell you what time it is now.
Dialer – this application has been carried over from previous ESeries devices and basically it stems from handsfree car-kits – it allows you to scroll through a list with digits while the handset is reading them out aloud, so that you can dial a number without looking at the display at all.
Voice dial. There has been a lot of fuss around the E63’s official description on Nokia’s site, specifically around this line - Speaker dependent and speaker independent voice dialing (SDND, SIND). Someone suggested that the handset featured recordable voice tags, just like on old phones. But I have to disappoint him and everyone who believed in this – the E61 runs with the system that can adjust to your voice and keeps improving on the go. Although some think this intelligent system doesn’t really work (and the truth is, it almost never finds the right name at first), in fact it takes the E63 around a week to come to grips with your voice and pronunciation and reduce the number of errors.
Data encyption. Another change of note – the E63’s ability to encrypt data both on the memory card (microSD of any size) and the handset’s internal memory. And this saves you a whole lot of trouble should you smartphone end up in some villain's hands, who does know how to break a standard password. On the other hand, if you forget the password yourself, you won’t be able to recover the data, which will be a pity, but all systems of this kind have this glitch.
Office tools. Enterprise users will surely appreciate the E63’s Intranet application, which comprises the settings of VPN-client.
As far as office tools go, the E63 is no revolution – it has had its mail client improved, the phonebook has been tweaked here and there too, along with some other applications. Microsoft Office documents are still handled by QuickOffice, which is a pity (although many will be content with what it has to offer). Also there is a ZIP archiver and PDF reading tool. The Search 4.0 app can be linked directly on the main screen.
Themes – the E63 comes equipped with four themes. None of them is particularly flashy, which is good, but our only complain is about the way all icons and thumbnails look – they are quite bizarre, you’d be much better off replacing them with a custom pack.
Files on OVI. This online service allows storing your data on OVI servers and accessing it either from your mobile phone or PC. Every owner of the Nokia E63 gets 1 Gb of space for a year, which isn’t all that much, but we can’t say it won’t be enough for your daily needs.
While their software and hardware departments are next to identical, the E63 is somewhat bigger, doesn’t have GPS, comes boxed with very few accessories and features no metallic accents. But on balance it’s an interesting option considering who little they ask for it.
Call quality was never an issue with the E63, as it easily lived up to our expectations of a Nokia-branded phone. Ring tones sounded quite loud and we were happy with them even in noisy environments. The vibro alert was of moderate strength.
Nokia E63 is set to land in most European countries in the coming weeks and will retail for around 200 Euro, which sets it apart from other similarly geared phones that normally go for a tad more. Although you could compare it to some phones with slide-out thumbboards, such as the LG KS360, the truth of the matter is that the E63 is second to none in this segment when it comes to functionality (albeit it’s 50-60 Euro steeper).
It also has got a couple of drawbacks, such as a really poor sales package that doesn’t even include a USB data cable or a memory card, meaning that you’ll have to shell out some more money to get everything in gear. On top of that, its battery feels a bit loose and the keypad ergonomics isn’t stellar either (but like we said it’s nothing to worry about). But all things considered it’s a decent addition to the best selling Nokia E71, although even despite a lighter price tag it is very unlikely to repeat the E71’s success. If you are in the market for an affordable QWERTY device, then the E63 is definitely the way to go, however there isn’t much choice to begin with.
Published 20 November 2008
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