All About Symbian - Nokia (S60) and Sony Ericsson (UIQ) smartphones unwrapped

Old 22-02-2007, 12:39 PM
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The E90 Communicator - Previewed!

Rafe Blandford looks in detail at the Nokia E90 Communicator. A legend reborn? It's undoubtedly feature packed and technically impressive - but is there still a market for the qwerty clamshell form factor? Rafe and Steve include plenty of hands-on observations, photos and screenshots of this, Nokia's upcoming flagship.

Read on in the full article.

Old 22-02-2007, 01:04 PM
SymFranco SymFranco is offline
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May I have the honour of posting the 1st comment?

Many thanks, Rafe & Steve, for the excellent and well balanced first-hand review.
As a Psioneer, I did miss on the Communicator 9500/9300 generation, as they were lacking too much of the Psion 5mx functionality.
Now the E90 is ever further away in that respect, quite likely dumber in its OS... but it looks like a much better "Communicator"!
I will probably buy one, and use it happily for the use its name implies, while hoping that the recent rumours about a super-portable Apple Macbook Pro prove true by the end of this year.

May be there is (some) peace looming in the future on the Psion vs Communicator debate, by hoping that truer "computing" platforms might be offered again in super-portable form factors.
Granted, the efficiency of the original Epoc OS will be missed, and the "Robinson Crusoe" experience of mobile computing on a small Psion will not be replaced by more modern platforms, much as I am an devote Apple cult member.
Recognising that "Communicators" are not meant to be mini laptops, but that they are also, if not first and foremost, phones, will help cast them in a rosier light.
And, as far as phones go, the E90 looks an impressive one!

Congratulations again for the excellent job,

Regards, F

Old 22-02-2007, 06:17 PM
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My thoughts are this. I've loved the communicators and have had both the 9500 and 9300. Unfortunately I personally think that series 60 is not as friendly as other platforms for business users. I think in term of PIM functions, the blackberries, WM5, and even UIQ have got S60 beat. I hate having to edit to see all the notes on contact information and I dislike the calendar because again you have to edit if the calendar information is long (although this is fixed when I use Papyrus). I really do not like the fact that you can't sync contact categories. This is true of UIQ as well, but at least it is easier IMO to create and add new categories. You just go to the unfiled folders and file each one accordingly. If Nokia is to use S60 as basis for all it's phones in the future, than it must improve on the PIM functionality, especially for business users.

I have the N93i and it is a fantastic phone for what it does, unfortunately I have to keep a blackberry around just in case I need it for business use. The s60 platform, again IMO, should only be used in the Nokia N-series of phones and not for serious business users.

Old 23-02-2007, 04:21 AM
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Thumbs up

Personally it addresses my user needs and solves the dilemma I had with N95. N95 is as (if not more) full-featured converged smartphone but lack decent qwerty keyboard and battery life due to its small size. I don't mind the E90's size and weight (still fit in my big pockets/hands).
Now compared to my current E61, E90 adds a seemingly very good camera (as N73, that's quite incredible) and the killer 800pixel width internal screen.
I don't know about you, web browsing is quite comfortable on the E61, but I gave up editing/visualing word/powerpoint/excel files as there is no way to get a good overall page/slide/sheet idea of the result, I hope that with E90's 800x352 internal screen, this will become possible. Maybe you've already sent the E90 back to Nokia, but I would love to see screenshot of Quickoffice on the E90 internal screen.
Thanks for great preview!

Old 23-02-2007, 04:28 AM
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I have spoken my piece in the forumon the shocking lack of PIM category syncing in S60 3rd and this device once again underlines the question as to whether Nokia really gets what Business users wants, or is it just making a matador pass at the job. That one remains unfixed.

But also, to the writers Rafe and Steve, you said:

However you are going to be hard pressed to make this particular from factor any smaller or lighter without sacrificing a great deal of usability
I would diagree with this. We could easily look to Symbian ex-partner Sony Ericsson's M600i for outstanding example a small, highly tactile keybaord, packed in a smaller space. That keybaord is proven for speed, accuracy and durability - works well one or two handed and is designed for a mobile environment.

Surely Nokia could have taken a tilt at that? Llicence that SE keyboard, or make something like it, add a few keys and the directional pad and you probably take at least a quarter of the bulk off the device, maybe even a third. Much smaller device, you've actually created value beyond the past and injected the same mass-relevance to this clamshell category that the E61 did to its own format.

But instead, we get this device, unnecesarily large - and therefore heavy. The E90 looks like a decent device for what it is: arguably a yesterday type device with a few modern do-dads tacked on. But too bound by the size, concept and framework of the past 9xxxx devices, rather than driving them forward.

Adding a GPS chip and 3MP camera in a PDA is not exactly an earth shattering step - Win mobile has beaten that one to death for years already. But changing the dimensions of usability and size, on the other hand, would be hugely useful and creative.

Some may say I'm being harsh, but for the high price Nokia are charging, the expectations should be equally high - and they should be located in the next decacade, not the pastone.

Also, if done well enough, and sized right, then this device that one might have normally expect to be only "niche" appeal, could suddenly take on relevance for the mass market, without losing its value to the initial niche.

Isnt that what marketing and product development is all about? Or should we yet again sit around and wait for Apple jump in and do the obvious, then claim it is an "innovator", while the incumbents have sat around fat dumb, happy and not really trying? Just a question.

I really like Nokia, but too often their ambition and creativity seem to be AWOL, yet they have all the tools and resources. I dont get it.

Last edited by skagen; 23-02-2007 at 04:47 AM.

Old 23-02-2007, 01:25 PM
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shago - what I meant by the form factor comment was in reference to the clamshell design. Yes the M600 is smaller but its a different type of device (compare it with the E61i). The clamshell form factor is about the only one you can sit on a desk / knee etc and type on effectively. Everything else is in the hand. For longer data entry sessions having the phone sit on the desk makes a lot of sense.

In effect the E61i is the device you describe, but in changing it you lose some of the unique attributes of the E90. I do think Nokia could look at some other form factors (e.g. a slide out keyboard as on the HTC Vox), but they would be additions to the range not a replacement.

But yes I agree its not for everyone. A lot of people would do fine with the M600 or E61 or any number of Windows Mobile tumboard devices.
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Old 23-02-2007, 11:11 AM
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Large is Good!

Skagen -I think you may have miss intepreted Rafe's point about keyboard size. I think he was talking about full qwerty keyboards with individual keys as opposed to thumboards/composites such as M600i.

Of course Nokia could have made the device smaller with a multi tap keyboard or thumboard - and they have - it's called the E61!

The whole point of the device is it's size - yes it needs to be large for the keyboard but this also enables it to have a much larger screen. If you reduce the keyboard the screen would have to get smaller (unless you want a really odd form factor ) and you end up with a clamshell that it neither one thing or another.

Yes it's aimed a niche market but so are (arguably) all smartphones to some extent as no smartphone by definition of it's size and form factor can 'do it all' (what's the right size for some is too small or big for others).

Personally I don't think Nokia are looking backwards with this device at all.
In fact I think this device is in it's infancy -

Let me explain - having owned a variety of Psions, UIQ, 9500 devices but with the loss of my 9500 last year and the end of S80 in sight I didn't want to move to a S60 numeric keypad/thumboard device and strayed to a WM5 TyTN, directly because of the form factor (a qwerty keyboard that wasn't available on any new symbian devices last year) and the fact that WM5 is more of a business and power users OS than S60. (Mostly because it is still more PDA centric bias than S60's phone centric bias).

Like most commentators here I think the S60 interface and PIM functionality is too simple for a keyboarded N90. The N90 (and S60) needs to grow up to support the form factor to it's full capability. Hopefully (as long as the N90 does well) S60 will be developed in this direction and the functionality added for later versions. But I get the feeling that the device is a little under utilised/not pushed to it's full potential in the current release.

It does have new ideas/functionality, not just the 'tacked on' GPS and camera (which will be much better than any of the notoriously bad WM5 cameras!) most notably the fully functional front screen which is not replicated in any other smartphone or OS (even the new WM6 clamshells only have small 'window' displays on the covers ).

I won't be getting one soon (mostly as I have a year to go on my current contract and have now invested time and money in WM5 programs). By that time I may well be tempted by the N90i or N91. Although by that may be more than a year away in the shops) but then the competition and WM6 may have caught up?

Either way certainly a cool device and exciting times!

Know your limits - and double them!

Last edited by Jago; 23-02-2007 at 11:15 AM.

Old 23-02-2007, 11:26 AM
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please could you tell which WM5/6 device has 3G, HSDPA, GPS & 3MP camera in small package (e.g. size of N95 or even E90).

Old 23-02-2007, 11:54 AM
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Jah - I agree! You won't find many WM5/6 devices with 3MP cameras they have been stuck on 2mp for ages

Also the WM5 brigade have had trouble with their comms chips not playing nicely! (HTC trinity and TyTn both have GPS chipsets but only some operators versions of Trinity have them enabled because of problems with the 3g radio).

Also possibly because of the fact that WM is more aimed at (the behind the telecomms times) US market HSDPA and 3G generally is only just catching on!
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Last edited by Jago; 23-02-2007 at 12:01 PM.

Old 23-02-2007, 12:17 PM
tkao2025 tkao2025 is offline
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I have to agree with skagen....yes there are no WM5 devices right now that have the spec of E90, but the Tytn came very close to having all the functionality and power. The point here is that they could have made it into a smaller package and if the arguement here is that becuase of all the functionality, you won't be able to put into a smaller package than we all better be getting pants with big pockets....I think skagen's point was that they could have put in a M600i like keyboard into the size of the N95, which has almost identical specs of the E90, without the keyboard.

Forget about the biggest gripe is that they can fit all this into a phone, but can't have the most basic and proper PIM sync/function built into the software. That's why I question Nokia's ability to compete with business users.

Old 23-02-2007, 01:01 PM
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SymFranco said: May be there is (some) peace looming in the future on the Psion vs Communicator debate
The issue is the debate itself. It's started on the wrong footing. The Psion vs Communicator debate is entirely pointless. No one in these days would seriously consider a Psion as an alternative for a Symbian v7 or v9.x phone. You'd be nuts if you did. So there is no "vs"="versus". Instead, it's a hypothetical "and". The debate should instead focus on the merits and issues of keeping a Psion 5mx/Revo along with an E90/E61/P990/M600 etc.
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Old 23-02-2007, 01:11 PM
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tkao2025 - PIM functionality I agree on - S60 has always been cut down (specifically to suite one handed & small screen phone use which wasn't exected to have large PIM requirements)

But your wrong on form factor I don't want smaller phones that always compromise on screen real estate and usability for power/business tasks. Editing documents, seeing a lot of calendar info or emails on a page is more important to me than slipping the device into my trouser pockets.

There's plenty of smaller form factor devices out there and not enough large ones like the E90, Toshiba G900, I-mate ulitmate 7150 or even (bordering into UMPC territory but still WM5/6) the HTC Athena/X7500).

Maybe we should start a protect the qwerty clamshells movement
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Old 23-02-2007, 01:52 PM
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I do find it amusing when people say things along the lines of "Nokia really screwed up with the XXX. It should have had A, B and C instead of E, F and G". It always seems hugely egotistical. As if they believe Nokia should be designing devices exclusively for them and no-one else.

Did you ever consider that Nokia had other people in mind when they designed the E90 and that the E90 is the absolute perfect device for those people?

Perhaps, rather than criticising what has been produced because it doesn't meet your exacting specifications, you should go away and design your perfect device, come back here with specs/prototypes for Rafe and Co to review and then we can all criticise it because it isn't what we wanted.


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Old 23-02-2007, 02:25 PM
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PIM functionality

A great device! But I cannot understand either, why Nokia can put so much stuff into the device and cannot at the same time include a decent PIM therein.

Times have changes and now it no longer is enough to have a PIM functionality on board. Business people like me expect that with the business device like e90 they will be able to take their Outlook (or whatever other PIM they use) out of the office. And it seems, they can't!

It is far beyound my comprehension, how e.g. E61 can be called a business device, while one cannot see notes attached to the tasks in Outlook on the device...

That is why a number of my colleagues decided not go for e61. Others decided not to go for 9300 or 9500 because they supported Outlook synchronisation so poorly! They all chose blackberries (although they can much less than the nokias, but they allow you to have your outlook with you anywhere) or WM5.

Despite that I have been a convinced Nokia and Communicator fan for years now, I am constantly tempted by WM5/6 devices. Not because they are smaller etc. But because they offer far better synchronisation with a PC than the nokias. So far, I resisted, but if the E series does not catch up the right direction - which is seemless integration with PC and Outlook - I think I will finally give up.

I already decided that I would by the E90, but after having read the review, doubts arose in me. Shall I spend almost EUR 1k and suffer another two years or more with a poor PIM, which does not help me save my time... Maybe it is time that I switched to WM6 instead...

Old 23-02-2007, 02:44 PM
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Re: PIM sync. Basic PIM syncing is PERFECT in the Symbian OS world these days. In the last week all my PIM data has gone from E70 to N93 to E90 to N95, with no hitches whatsoever.

What you mean, of course, is that the subtleties of Outlook's data structure, such as task notes and categories, aren't synced over. And I fully support the idea that Nokia might improve their S60 apps to embrace these. Especially for the E90, the ultimate 'business' device.

Re: Martin and Psions. Come on, the whole point about the rise and rise of convergence and the success of smartphones is that people DON'T want to carry around two boxes. With the aforementioned PIM improvements and the E90 hardware, I think Nokia would have got just about 'there'.

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