Like Saul, my conversion happened on the road.
I was on my way to a meeting and needed to constantly check my e-mail as well as keep my instant messaging (IM) accounts online when it hit me, like the Biblical blinding light, that the Nokia E71 is the best mobile Internet device I’ve used.
It isn’t just the ease by which the device is able to use multiple Internet access points—from various wi-fi hot spots with different security settings to HSPA —it is also the dependability of the device in keeping that connection.
In the two weeks that I was asked to test an E71 review unit, I’ve never experienced having difficulty going online and staying there.
When I was asked by Nokia to test the E71, I was a rabid Sony Ericsson fan boy. But a decade of using Sony Ericsson phones was no match with just a fortnight with the E71. By the end of the test, I had decided to shift to an Eseries device later this year.
The biggest adjustment when shifting phone brands is the keypad layout. The adjustment is made harder when shifting from the regular keypad to a full QWERTY.
But I came to the E71 from the Sony Ericsson P1i and the keypad adjustment was very minimal. It was, in fact, an improvement and quite unlike my initial adjustment from the K750i to the P1i, whose rocking dual QWERTY keypad takes a long time to get used to.
Searching for contacts to insert into messages is also such a user-friendly experience with the E71 and its S60 relatives compared to the annoying way searching names is done in the P1i and its UIQ 3 siblings, a dying and orphaned brood of a handful of mainly Sony Ericsson smartphones.
The P1i takes the first and last names as a single string and when you start typing a contact’s name, it searches for it last name first. This makes texting cumbersome and slow, especially when you are sending a message to someone who shares a last name with several of your contacts (typically a relative).
There’s no such nonsense in the E71.
My initial impression was that the E71, albeit thinner than most phones, was too wide to be handy. It was an impression that was immediately debunked hours after using the device. You eventually get used to its flatness.
The phone comes with integrated assisted GPS and Nokia Maps. I wasn’t able play with it but I did install my preferred Google Maps and My Location worked with it. The feature plots your location on the map and indicates it with a blue dot. It’s listed to work with Google Latitude, although the service isn’t available in the Philippines just yet.
The phone also comes with an integrated 3.2 megapixel camera. It has an FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity and all the features you’d expect from a relatively modern multi-media phone.
But you don’t buy the phone for its camera are any of these extras. You buy an E71 because, save possibly for the Blackberry, it is the best mobile Internet and messaging device in the market.
The phone has built-in support for mobile e-mail that’s easy to set up. But after running the built-in e-mail client for the first time, I decided I liked GMail for mobile application more so I proceeded to install and use it instead. The Gmail application is not only easy to set up and use, it allows you to manage multiple GMail accounts as well as e-mails run by Google Apps for Business.
While the built-in browser does the job, I always prefer Opera Mini and so proceeded to download and use it for the entire run of the test.
I also installed Fring, an application that allows you to connect to your IM and VOIP accounts, including GTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype and several others.
These three—GMail for mobile application, Opera Mini and Fring—comprise my troika of essential digital mobile applications and with the E71, I have all the things I need to be truly on the go.