The good, bad, and too much ugly of the AT&T Nokia E71x
As I posted earlier today, I found the AT&T Nokia E71x in stock at a local Federal Way, Washington, store. I bought the HTC Fuze back in late Fall and wasn’t eligible for an upgrade discount and didn’t want to try to get an early upgrade since I wasn’t sure about the device. Thus, I paid the $299.99 price, plus about $34 in tax. I love my unlocked Nokia E71 (see my full review) for the most part and was excited to see what some of the improvements might be in the E71x. After spending several hours with the device, I am afraid I may be returning it very soon since I have been spoiled by the features of the SIM-unlocked E71 device. I do think that new S60 users will find the E71x to be a very attractive messaging device at $100 or even for 1 penny at Amazon, but us power users will most likely be disappointed.
Thoughts on the hardware
The E71x is physically the exact same as the E71, except for the black color compared to the gray/silver color of the unlocked E71. One minor difference is that the E71x keyboard has a bit more texture than the E71 so your fingers stick just a bit more on the keyboard. There is still the 2.5mm headset jack, single mono speaker, microUSB port, standard Nokia charging port, and 3.2 megapixel camera. It seems there is no FM radio in the E71x. So at first glance, it looked like the E71x was going to be as good as the E71. However, there are some major software differences that really make the unlocked NAM E71 the better choice for S60 buyers, but let’s start off on a positive note shall we?
What’s good about the E71x compared to the E71?
The E71x is the first S60 device with the TeleNav-based GPS navigation software preloaded. The software is branded AT&T Navigator and you get a 30-day trial when you buy the E71x. It is a subscription service that costs about $10/month. While it is debatable whether or not this type of service is a good choice, remember that you can just purchase one month at a time with no contract if you only travel once in a while. I am posting a more in-depth article and video on AT&T Navigator on the E71x soon too so stay tuned for a deeper look at it. Amazingly, the GPS receiver was able to get a fix within just 1-2 seconds on the E71x. I also downloaded Google Maps and found a fix was obtained in just about that same blazing speed so kudos to Nokia and AT&T with the GPS receiver strength.
The device seems to be very snappy and as I was installing apps I was seeing almost 100 MB of available on board memory for application storage. This value looks to be a bit more than the E71 and may help the device to fly around and be zippy.
The camera does not appear to have any purple tint and takes pretty decent photos. As you can see in my image gallery, the E71 actually took purple tinted photos at first, but then started taking good quality photos. It seems as if there is a memory caching issue causing the purple tint or something and the E71 NAM may actually work just fine after waiting a couple of seconds. I did nothing, but close the camera application and restart it to go from purple to clear photos with the E71 NAM and have no idea what is going on with it.
Quickoffice is included as well, but the Office 2007 support requires an upgrade. Many of the other standard apps are found on the E71x too, such as Adobe PDF, Notes, Clock, Converter II, RealPlayer, and more.
Major disappointments for me
No contact search: One function on the E71 that you can experience on Windows Mobile phones is the ability to just start typing away on the keyboard and have your contact smart filtered. This is EXTREMELY useful and I use it every day, yet this capability is not an option on the E71x.
No support for Nokia Email; When you select to setup your email you are given an option for Xpress Mail and Mail for Exchange. Selecting Xpress Mail takes you through a wizard that just ends up creating an inbox in the standard, lame Nokia Messaging application. I popped my SIM back into my unlocked E71 and started getting constant text messages from 1111302000 and it turns out it is related to Xpress Mail. With only 200 text messages this can be an issue so I deleted that account and service. Selecting MFE takes you to the download for the MFE application that then ends up as an inbox in Nokia Messaging. MFE is fine, but the lack of support for the new Nokia Messaging/Email client is not good. The Nokia Email/Messaging client is very good and makes email bearable on the Eseries devices. I even went to the Nokia Email site and download the setup utility only to find out it just creates yet another folder in the Inbox of the limited Nokia Messaging client. This actually works like a champ! You need to go to the Nokia Email site on a PC and send the install link via SMS to get the install to work properly though.
Where the heck is my cool Month view? Nokia did a good job finally making some improvements in the Calendar application on the E71 with the appointments dynamically scrolling up and down on the right of the month view calendar. On the E71x all you see is a larger month view of the calendar that makes the device look like a BlackBerry with the DOS look and feel to PIM apps again.
No Mode switcher or Home screen apps: I don’t use the Mode switch capability much, but along with this utility comes the functionality to select Home screen applications. You can choose to show up to 17 different types of data on your E71 Home screen, including E-mail notifications, music player controls, search, and more. You do not get to customize the Home screen on the E71x except for the bottom left and right soft keys and shortcut bar apps.
No Download! utility: I have complained about the Download! utility in the past being inconsistent and rather limited. However, there were some good apps in there and it is the precursor to the Ovi Store. Without Download! even being available on the E71x, I have to wonder if we will see the Ovi Store on the device when the store launches next month and I am beginning to doubt it.
No support for Nokia Podcasting application: OK, I might be a minority here and this one may be a bit picky, but I LOVE the Nokia podcatcher and use my S60 devices all the time to download and listen to podcasts. This application is not on the E71x and after transferring the install file to the device it refuses to install. With every application you load you see a pop-up stating “Checking certificate validity” and with Podcasting you then get an error that it cannot install. It seems that AT&T doesn’t want you downloading podcast files over the air on the E71x.
No one-touch hardware customization: On the E71 you can setup your hardware buttons to launch different applications and perform different functions. There is no such utility/setting on the E71x and you are stuck with the default apps. The press and hold capability on the E71 makes you much more efficient. Also, you cannot control the one-button email function.
Where are the Nokia Ovi services?: I didn’t see any supported Ovi services on the E71x, including the lack of Share on Ovi found on the E71. Nokia Maps is not present and there is no FM Radio on the device that I could find.
If all these limits (compared to the E71) weren’t present then I probably could accept the E71x with the bloatware. Here is a list of what AT&T includes on the E71x out-of-the box:
- AT&T Navigator (actually a nice service/application)
- Yellow Pages
- Monopoly trial
- Mobile Banking trial
- Brain Challenge trial
- WPT Hold Em trial
- My-Cast Weather trial
- Collapse! Chaos trial
- Wiki Mobile (doesn’t seem to be a trial and useful)
- MobiTV (subscription service)
- OZ Instant Messaging client (be aware this uses your allowable text messages)
- XM Radio (subscription service)
- MusicID (subscription service Shazam application)
- Cellular Video (subscription service)
- mSpot Remix
Hyperlinks to the following are present and unchangeable:
- GPS apps
- Shop games
- Shop apps
- Mail for Exchange
- Xpress Mail
- Music apps
I understand that AT&T wants to make money on their subscription services, but please allow owners to at least be able to move these icons to a custom folder. I always create a Junk or Stuff folder on my S60 devices and put utilities and apps I never use in there. The only two icons I have found the ability to move are MEdiaMall and Cellular Video. You can move most of the rest of them, but only within the root folder or folder where they can be found. You cannot move or even uninstall the trial games and apps found in the Games & Apps folder so that is one cluttered mess. Thankfully you can move out apps you install yourself and Quickoffice so you can pretty much forget about this folder.
More experiences with the E71x
I loaded up JoikuSpot Light to check on the ability to tether the E71x and it worked just fine. I understand there is an additional $30 charge that AT&T may charge you if you tether often so be aware of this additional fee.
I didn’t yet try any VoIP apps so I can’t comment on whether or not those work.
Some closing thoughts for now
While I like the black color and improved camera performance and want to be as supportive as I can of Nokia devices being available on US carriers, I just don’t think I can compromise so much and keep the E71x. I have 13 more days to make my final decision, but key things like the Contact search, Nokia Podcasting, customizable Home/Standby screen, and lack of support for Nokia Email is just too much for me.
As much as I want to support this device I cannot really recommend it for those who read this site. I suppose it will be OK for new users, but they may also be expecting things like threaded SMS and the ability to use the device without being beaten down by AT&T services and demos. I recommend you look for a NAM E71 and skip the E71x. Even better, you may want to hold out for the E75 NAM when it is released. I find myself using the E75 more than the E71 due to the fantastic Nokia Messaging application and MFE integration, along with the larger QWERTY keyboard.