Mobile email. Depending on your point of view – and the demands of your boss – it’s either the oil that keeps your working day afloat or the bane of your life. Either way, for many of us, it is here to stay.
Nokia knows this and just like others has been building support for mobile email into its handsets for a considerable time. But the E61 is a step up the ladder. Part of the company’s new E series of devices, aimed squarely at mobile professionals, the E61 is the first handset from Nokia to sport a 320 x 240 pixel wide format screen, and the first to have a QWERTY keyboard built into its front fascia.
We’ve seen other sophisticated business focussed devices from Nokia. The 9xxx series of Communicators and Smartphones were around in the days when Windows Mobile was barely a twinkling in Microsoft’s eye. The fold-out keyboards on a small number of devices, such as the 6822 that Lars reviewed here last September offers an alternative take on a keyboard and that format has also been used for an E series handset – the E70.
I have chosen to look at the E61 rather than others in Nokia’s E series because of its obvious resemblance to the BlackBerry and to make comparisons between the devices. Can the E61 give the BlackBerry a run for its money? I’m inclined to say it most certainly can on all three major fronts: hardware, software and general features.
Looking at the hardware first, Nokia has chosen to go for a mini joystick for moving around the screen, and this works very well indeed. Unlike the scroll wheel of a BlackBerry it allows for horizontal as well as vertical movement and with a simple ‘press to select’ mechanism it is easy to get around within and between applications.
Its location, under the screen and in the centre of the front fascia, means it can be used with either left or right thumb when the E61 is held in a hand and with a finger when the E61 is laying on a desk, making it rather more flexible than the BlackBerry scroll wheel.
The QWERTY keyboard is made up of large keys which are raised a long way from their surrounding casing. They are easy to hit one-handed or two-thumbed depending on whether you are holding the E61 in one or two hands. There is no ‘£’ sign on the keyboard, but a ‘Chr’ key on the bottom right of the keyboard calls up a character matrix which includes this symbol, and remembers the last symbol you used, even after the E61 has been powered down, so it is a dual key press to get a ‘£’ into any text.