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Nokia E70: Hands On

by Josh Rubin in Tech on 18 July 2006

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It took a week, but I'm now in love with my Nokia E70. I have always been a fan of the butterfly form-factor, but out of the box the new version of Nokia's S60 software felt as convoluted as Windows. After reconfiguring the menus, installing some great applications, finding an acceptable theme and getting it to sync with my MacBook Pro, I feel all moved in and totally at home. This mobile phone is a powerhouse—tons of memory, great camera, hi speed data (including WiFi) and a robust email client.

The E70 is not yet available here in the U.S. so I resorted to the world's largest international mobile phone marketplace, eBay. The handset I purchased was delivered directly from Hong Kong and therefore has the Asian localization of the S60 software. I'm not yet sure how different this build is from the European and pending American versions, but I'm sure there's some variance between regions. Getting the basics set-up was a breeze thanks to Nokia's settings via SMS tool which promptly delivered the correct Internet and picture messaging settings for my carrier, T-mobile. The next step was to get the phone working with iSync on my Mac—it's not yet officially supported but can still be done by installing the Nova Media iSync plugin or hacking iSync yourself—either seems to work properly to get Address Book and iCal to sync with the phone.

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Once all my content was there the next step was to make the UI easier to look at—the default color and style theme is way too corporate for me. A couple quick Google searches reveal numerous sites for downloading themes, but finding one to my liking was a bit tricky. I finally found this clean and simple gray theme, which I downloaded and installed. The fact of the matter is that I'd prefer to design my own theme which is doable with the Nokia Theme Studio, I'll just have to steal my bookkeeper's PC because it's not Mac compatible. The S60 software also supports a lot of customization to the menu structures. Once I changed the folder structure and switched to a list view I felt more comfortable (see above).

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The E70 comes with Real Player, Adobe Reader and Flash Player, but there are a few more applications I can't live without. Foremost is Google Local Mobile which supports all the same look-up and mapping features as the Web version. I then added Shozu which easily uploads photos to Flickr, and Widsets which is an excellent Web / mobile tool for getting different content on the handset. The browser on this handset is pretty fantastic, though. Pages render quickly, scrolling around a large page is facilitated with a mini navigator view, and moving forward and back between viewed pages is handled with a thumbnail viewer so you can move quickly without having to wait for pages to load (right). What's also great is the ability to use WiFi networks for data transfer whenever they're available.

Obviously I like this phone, but there are still a few bugs that need to be worked out. The biggest of which is that it doesn't seem to be compatible with the Bluetooth kit in my car, which is a problem for hands-free use. Another is the messaging application, which seems to hang and misbehave when there is no network coverage available. Speaking of network access, it won't connect properly to encrypted WiFi networks, so for now I just hop on to the open ones. Smaller, but still frustrating is that the address book will only show entries with last name first—there's a setting to change this but it doesn't work. All of this should be worked out sometime soon and available in a software update at a Nokia Experience Center (more of which are scheduled to open this year).

Blurry photos of the device in-hand after the jump.

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