Nokia E72: a great and incredibly annoying phone

I’ve been using a Nokia E72 smartphone for six months now and with the recent release of the new iPhone 4 I have some thoughts on what makes it a great phone and what makes it incredibly annoying.

The great things about the E72 are mostly in hardware, though there are a few software features that are pretty compelling.

  1. It has a terrific hardware qwerty keyboard, which means you can text while flying a light plane under electricity pylons without taking your eyes off the terrified onlookers.
  2. It has excellent battery life measured in days rather than hours and the battery is removable, meaning you can fiddle with the compartment cover at moments of tension, thus dislodging the battery and switching off the phone without realising, so you fail to answer when your wife calls, and she spends an hour standing on a wet railway platform.
  3. The 5 megapixel camera produces decent results in good light and it will print over wifi to a networked printer, making it the next best thing to a Polaroid camera on home turf. And no shake and wait either.
  4. The OVI Maps turn by turn navigation, which comes free with Nokia smartphones, is superb. This phone has replaced my wife for all navigation-related activities and yet provides sufficient ambiguity to allow for petty and concentration-sapping arguments in heavy traffic and at dangerous junctions. As satnav goes it’s just about perfect.
  5. Add to this apps like Joikuspot, which turns the phone into a Mifi-like wifi hotspot, Skype, which can use the front facing camera for some much-needed nasal hair time, and the built-in office software–email, Documents to Go, an app that converts text in images to text in, well, text–and the E72 is a powerful and useful tool.

I like this phone a lot. It is powerful, well made, and, running the latest version of the Symbian OS, solid and dependable. It’s not as flexible as the iPhone, and the layers and layers of menus and pages you have to navigate to do anything out of the ordinary remind me horribly of Windows 3.1, but as a communication device it works very well. Texting and emailing are far too easy, and it can make calls and everything. What really lets it down though is the software for sharing the data with a PC, and for installing updates and apps.

iTunes comes in for a lot of stick for being bloated, buggy, and restrictive. Even so, iTunes is a smooth highway compared to the ploughed field that is Nokia’s confusing and over complicated Ovisuite. Fortunately I only need that for updating the phone software. With the help of a phone-specific plugin, the Mac’s in-built syncing service, iSync, takes care of calendars and addresses over Bluetooth, while Nokia’s excellent Multimedia Transfer software deals with music, photos and the rest.