I really, really needed a new phone. I missed my good-old. gun-metal, chick-magnet Nokia 7610 Supernova, which decided to swim in the washing machine. It was a slider phone, with great features. Most of all, I missed Opera Mini and mobile web. So I got this new phone from HotSpot in Ashok Vihar, about which I will be making a blog post soon (which means “in the next three months”) . Also, if you notice in the pictures which follow, my E63 is red in color. It is how I publicly display my love for Manchester United. And hatred for Chelsea (the E63 is also available in Blue).
Er, this may seem like a long post (it is). So if you want, you can skip to various parts of the review: Design, Camera, Operating System and Software, Security, Connectivity, Music, Battery Life and the final summary.
Network: 2G and 3G (with UMTS)
Dimensions: 113 x 59 x 18 mm
Screen: TFT, 16 Million Colors, 320 x 240 Screen Resolution
Storage Memory: 120MB Internal, 1GB MicroSD card included, Supports upto 16GB
Processor: ARM 11 369 Mhz Processor
Camera: 2MP, 1600 x 1200 resolution
Video Recording: QVGA at 15 frames per second
Battery: Lithium-Ion 1500 mAh (BP-4L)
Price: Rs 10,500
Once you hold it, you get a nice feeling of power with the E63. The buttons are ergonomically placed, and the spacebar is convenient to use. It also doubles up at a flashlight key! Only problem is the function key and the shift key are at the bottom right corner of the phone, and those with large thumbs will end up pressing both sometimes. The keys are rubbery to feel, which is good. The call buttons are large, and so are the soft keys. The D-pad is also easy to use. Three out of the four one-touch buttons you see can be programmed to do anything (other than cook food), irrespective of what the icons on them suggest. A short press and a long press have different functions. The screen is also quite large with a weird resolution of 320 x 240. This may be a drawback, as you’ll find it hard to search for games and themes (speaking of themes, I did find an excellent brushed-metal theme). On the other hand, the screen is very bright, a treat to watch videos on. The keyboard is really well laid out. A few minutes of practice, and you’re good to go. A problem I faced was the absence of the _underscore_ key, which should be an important part of any business device because of the plain fact that many e-mail addresses contain underscores. It can only be accessed by the Character key, which spawns open a menu.
Moving on the the back of the phone, we see the camera lens, the flash and reflecting mirror. The case is also really easy to remove – the slide that black slider upwards, and tada! The SIM card is a little difficult to push through, though.
On the sides, is a port for a hot-swappable memory card, and a port for connecting the mini-USB cable (which isn’t proprietary).
The camera is a huge disappointment. I didn’t expect any dSLR-type quality, but the 2 megapixel camera is utterly worthless. It gives mediocre pictures even in very bright sunshine. The flash looks powerful, but the quality of the image itself cannot be improved. Looks like Nokia didn’t think that business guys would need a camera. Video recording is pathetic. Lets just not talk about it.
Operating System and Software
The phone runs Nokia’s very own Symbian OS (3rd Generation) with Feature Pack 1. Symbian OS seamlessly handles all the applications. Multitasking is an added bonus. There are some problems, though. You cannot disable the camera sounds, and even the flash. There is a “Flash Off” option, but doesn’t seem to work.
The E63 comes pre-loaded with some Tetris game called GlobalBloxx. But the games are not important – its the software. You have a licensed version of QuickOffice (with Word, Excel and Powerpoint support). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the new Office 07 extentions (*.***x), but reportedly does so with a free update, which is a whopping 6 MB and will set AirTel users back by a whopping thirty-seven bucks. There’s also this superb call manager called Advanced Call Manager, which handles all your calls and rejects the ones you don’t want. It also has an inbuilt answering machine! The E-mail set up wizard is really easy, and you’re hooked up with your mailbox in about five minutes. It supports a large number of e-mail providers and has pre-configured settings for all. You can also key in setting for your e-mail provider if it is not listed. New mail, missed calls, and text message notifications appear on the homescreen itself. So you can see who the message is from without reading it.
You all know how Symbian is. Many feel it is slow and lags dreadfully, but that is because it often doesn’t have any adequate hardware to do well. Symbian ran quite perfectly on my E63 (which has a 369 Mhz processor). But the main problem with all those third-party apps any Symbian user installs (and loves) is that they all need to pass through an application-signing test. Certain functions the app needs to access can be granted easily and any developer can self-sign them. But some of those advanced APIs which software use require mandatory signing. This is done to prevent viruses spreading in your phone and wreaking havoc. But it only turns out to be plain irritating. If you’re a bhakt of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and everything on your phone (except the OS, of course) is pirated, then you’re in for a disappointment. You. Cannot. Install. Those. Cracked. Applications.
Of course, there are ways where you can sign the apps yourself, and they’ll be specific to your IMEI. But zat is hacking, isn’t it? A post on that coming soon. I promise. No! Seriously.
You know Opera Mini? You don’t? And you own a Java-enabled phone? Throw it away.
You know Opera Mini? Good. In my E63, a single press of the spacebar triggered of a series of spaces for no clear reason. So I cannot type properly in Opera Mini. The original Symbian browser is pretty good, but nothing can beat Opera Mini’s eye candy. I have to, unfortunately, switch to the normal text editing mode. However, typing messages and e-mails in Nokia’s inbuilt applications are a treat. Predictive text accurately guesses which word you’re going to type almost every time, saving you much hassle. The spelling correction is superb too, letting you add words to the phone’s dictionary. You can even tell the phone to read you messages in your inbox.
Since a business person (or any of us, for that matter) is concerned about privacy, Nokia has done a decent job of it. You can set the time for an automatic keypad lock or even a phone lock. In case of theft (or pesky people), a predefined SMS sent to your phone will lock it immediately, rendering the user unable to access any data at all. There’s even an encryption feature which will encrypt your memory card and/or phone memory with a key. Surprisingly, however, there isn’t any antivirus bundled! This is surprising, since it is a business phone. And there’s also that Symbian Signed limitation mentioned above.
Call connectivity was good. The call quality was not bad at all, though there was initially some lag while answering calls, but its fixed now. WLAN works pretty well. The OS allows you to use a WLAN access point for any application that demands a web connection. Rejoice, Skype customers! And a special pat-in-the-back to those Fring fans too! I still haven’t tried 3G, though. You know why.
In one word: disappointing. The music quality is seriously not good at all. Symbian’s Music Player tries its best by adding some standard settings such as an equalizer, loudness and stereo widening, but the problem here is the hardware itself. The loudspeaker is not very loud, so you can forget playing your favourite track to your friends and expect them to catch every syllable. I tried Hotel California by Eagles and Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin, both of which have some excellent guitar work. The instruments are not clearly audible over the speaker, though this improves considerably over the bundled earphones. The earphones are decent, but not good enough. They are strictly fro call purposes. However, Nokia has provided a standard 3.5mm jack, so you can use those $400 Bose headsets (yeah, you bought the cheap ones) with the phone.
(A note here. The best music quality in a phone I’ve ever seen is that of the iPhone and Nokia’s N91. Yeah, that old fat phone which is now obsolete.)
This is the big one. The E63 has a standard Li-Ion 1500 mAh BP-4L battery, which supplements the business phone. Businessmen always on the move will need their device always ready, and the E63 does just that with its battery. I had installed iON Batter Timer, and it displayed about two days till the battery discharge, which is quite good. It is definitely made for people on the go. In the real world, the phone managed about eighty hours with full brightness while I was playing Java games, browsing the web on Opera Mini (not on Wi-Fi, though), and listening to music via the bundled earphones.
The E63 is an excellent cheap business phone for those who don’t want to disconnect from the outside world. An ergonomic keyboard, bright screen, excellent battery life and the good ol’ Symbian help as well. Social network fanboys will be addicted too. But if you’re looking for decent music quality or a decent point-and-shoot camera, avoid.
Detailed Ratings (Out of 10)
Features: 9 (a mark cut for poor camera and no GPS)
Security: 8 (two marks go down for the absence of an antivirus solution)
Value for Money: 10 (You cannot get such a device at Rs 10, 500!)
Battery Life: 9 (Very Good, but could have been better)
Overall Rating (Out of 10): 8.8/10 (Superb!)
Also, do tell me how the new look is. iNove had become too old.