Nokia E5 Smartphone Review

The Nokia E5 is a non-touchscreen smartphone with a split personality, bringing business features to the social networking crowd.  It’s an interesting idea but are the features let down by lack of touch?  Let’s find out.

The E5 is a candy-bar phones with a 320 x 240 2.4″ screen above an alphanumeric keyboard.  Separating the two is Nokia’s trademark arrangement of softkeys, four-way rocker and answer / reject keys.  There are also two additonal keys for “home” and “email” in the middle.  The phone is 11.5 cm by 6 cm by 13 cm (ish) and weighs in at 126g according to the specs.  Consequently, it feels solid in the hand and appears to be built to the usual Nokia high standards.  I found the “chalk white” colour of this model attractive and a change from the fingerprint prone glossy finishes.  The E5 is available in four other colours.

Earlier on I referred to the split personality of the phone.  Fundamentally, there are two modes, one called Business and one called Personal.  Each mode can be configured independently so that, for example, you can have a serious workplace view with corporate greys and a sensible background in the Business mode but wild colours and a risque image for your Personal mode.

With regard to the basic functions of a phone, everything that you’d expect is there.  Call quality was good and the contacts database was comprehensive with lots of fields.  It’s possible to sync with Ovi Contacts, storing your contacts on the Internet and making it easier to switch between Nokia phones.

Email-wise, Nokia provides connectors to Exchange, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and generic POP3 / IMAP accounts.  Unfortunately, it only seems to be the email components provided by these services – it didn’t seem to be possible to pull contact or diary information.

With regards to media, the E5 comes with a radio, music player, video player, the ubiquitous camera and a podcatcher, which I was pleasantly pleased to see. There’s also a Facebook client which is quite usable and you can easily see what your friends have been up to and respond to them.  YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster and hi5 apps are also installed for your pleasure.

On the business side, QuickOffice provides the requisite Microsoft Office compatibility and there’s also a .pdf viewer from Adobe.  There are other apps such notes and unit converters.

There’s a whole section devoted to Ovi Maps, which is a basically a GPS with maps and navigations.  I didn’t severely tax it during the test but it appeared to be competent enough with directions and didn’t get me lost.

Other useful features are the wizards that take you through the steps to, say, setup email accounts or connect to WiFi.  However, if you do make a mistake, such as a mistype which you don’t notice during the wizard, can be difficult to correct because there are just so many settings scattered across different areas.  Case in point, if you want to delete an email account, it’s not in the email app, it’s in Control Panel, Settings, General, Email.

Surfing the web…..not so good.  If you’re on a website such as the BBC, where the content is specially formatted for mobile devices, it works fine.  Going to a general web site, such as GNC, it makes an fair attempt to render the page and there’s a kind of zoom view that allows you to see where on the overall page you are. Not great but not bad for such a small screen.  Surprisingly, you can have multiple web pages open at the same time and you can switch between them quite easily.

Acknowledging that people sometimes use their smartphones as torches, you can actually toggle the camera flash by holding down the space bar in the Home screen. Great feature which I hope other manufacturers copy!

The battery life was good – I used the phone for a couple of days and never had to the charge the battery which I thought was pretty good.  Obviously the smaller screen helps and it has a fair sized battery (1200 mAh).

There are loads of other features that I simply didn’t have time to play with fully – Home page customisation, chat, push-to-talk, the ovi store, downloading apps, 5 megapixel camera.  There is a lot to this phone.

In terms of money, in the UK it seems to be selling on contract for about £15 month on a two year contract or £200 on pay-as-you-go, which is probably where it needs to be priced to have any chance of success.

Overall, this is a competent phone with plenty of features at a mid-range price. The business and personal modes are a nice touch and give it some differentiation. However, I wonder where a non-touchscreen smartphone fits into the world of iPhone and Android, especially when trying to appeal to the social networking crowd.  To me, it just feels out of date. Anyway, if you are looking for a non-touchscreen smartphone, the E5 packs plenty of features and is definitely worth considering for the apps, connectivity and ovi maps GPS at a fair price.

Thanks to Nokia for the loan of the phone.

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