Review: Nokia E72 front-facing QWERTY smartphone
The Nokia E71/E71x was at the top of my top three Symbian devices of all time and had a form factor that couldn’t be beat. My wife actually has adopted the E71 as her primary smartphone and absolutely loves it. There were only a few issues I had with the E71/E71x and it seemed Nokia was going to fix most of those with the Nokia E72. I have been using an evaluation E72 for a couple of weeks and find that some of the things I wanted to see improved were improved, but the update wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped for. Then again, the device is very reasonably priced and is still a very compelling smartphone that should appeal to many of you.
Improvements from the E71/E71x to the E72
A couple of the pain points in the E71 were the 2.5mm headset jack, problematic 3.2 megapixel camera (mostly fixed with latest firmware update), lack of microUSB charging, and older S60 Feature operating system. The Nokia E72 has a standard 3.5mm headset jack, good 5 megapixel camera, microUSB charging, and S60 Feature Pack 2 and more as listed in the specifications below. So on paper, the E72 is clearly superior to the E71 and in actuality it is for the most part. However, the E71 was the sleekest, sexiest smartphone around and the E72 loses a bit of this with a slightly cheaper feel to it. It still feels good in your hand and is sexy, but there is something about the E71 that makes it feel better. There are other major improvements in the E72 (described below) that make it a much better device than the E71 so it is definitely an upgrade to consider if you liked the E71.
My biggest gripe now with the E72 is the display resolution and fonts. I have been spoiled by some fantastic high resolution displays on the N97 mini, N900, and Google Nexus One and now it is tough to go back to a device with a 320×240 QVGA display. I understand this is an operating system limitation so there wasn’t much Nokia could have done and kept it a S60 3rd Edition device. Sorry, I was misinformed and didn’t do enough research to know this is not a limitation.
In the box
The Nokia E72 comes in a fairly standard compact Nokia box along with a battery (BP-4L), A/C charger, USB cable, wired stereo headset, lanyard, pouch, User Guide, Quick Start Guide, and some other small pamphlets.
- Intel ARM 11 600 MHz processor (E71 had 369 MHz processor)
- Symbian OS 9.3 with S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2
- 250 MB of free user disk space
- 2.36 inch 320×240 pixel resolution QVGA display
- Optical trackball
- 5 megapixel camera
- microSD card slot with included 4GB card
- 802.11 b/g WiFi
- Bluetooth 2.0
- A-GPS receiver
- FM radio with RDS support
- 3.5 mm headset jack
- microUSB port for syncing and charging
- Front facing QWERTY keyboard
- BP-4L 1500 mAh battery
- Dimensions of 4.48 x 2.34 x 0.39 inches and 4.51 ounces
In terms of specifications, nothing at all is lost when moving from the E71 to the E72 and you actually gain quite a bit with the faster processor, better camera, about double the available onboard storage space, 3.5mm headset jack, and more. You also gain the optical trackpad and if you don’t like how it works you can always disable the touch part of it and use it as a standard trackball. The torch key is extremely handy for walking around in the dark (it turns the super bright flash into an LED flashlight) and the E72 also has an accelerometer. The better Nokia Messaging client is installed by default along with much better icons.
Around the hardware
The QWERTY keyboard is the most prominent feature on the front of the E72 and is mostly the same as the E71 with some minor improvements and one downgrade. I like that Nokia has included more alternative characters on the keys so you don’t have to access the Symbol screen as often. For example, we now have equals, left and right parenthesis, Bluetooth, and ringer off capability. You will find that the space bar has been significantly reduced in width though to make room for a couple more keys. Most people think of BlackBerry devices as the king of front-facing QWERTY keyboards, but I think the E72 is much better with keys for @, question mark, period, and comma without having to first press an alternate button. I also like that a press and hold on keys with alternate characters enters the alternate character with no secondary key press.
Above the keyboard you will find the same 8 hardware buttons as found on the E71, only slightly larger. They are made larger by having a smaller area below the QWERTY keyboard. These keys are for left and right soft keys, send and end functions, home, calendar, contacts, and email. Pressing the home key also jumps to the menu/launcher. The directional pad is about the same, but it also has the capability for optical navigation by sliding your finger across the center action button. I actually turned this off since I spent too much time moving to places unintentionally.
The display is the same QVGA quality as the E71 and is one of the most disappointing aspects for me personally after having used several devices with high resolution displays. I understand this is an OS issue, but look forward to the day of higher res screens on Eseries devices.
On the top you will find the power button and 3.5mm headset jack. The speaker from the E71 has been moved around to the back next to the camera. The charging port is on the bottom of the E72.
There are three buttons on the right side for volume up and down and voice command activation. On the upper left side you will find covers for the microUSB port and microSD card slot.
The 5 megapixel camera is centered on the upper back and protrudes out more than the one on the E71. There is no self-portrait mirror on the E72. The speaker is to the left of the camera and sounds decent with the camera spacing helping noise bounce off tables too. The back cover is one of those things that makes the E72 feel a bit cheaper than the E71 with a single center bottom latch. I know this is me probably being picky, but the back tends to move in and out on the sides when pressed. The E71 back is rock solid and even after a year with the device is still doesn’t move at all and was very well designed.
Thankfully, Nokia used that same, wonderful 1500 mAh battery in the E72 so get ready for a few days of life with this bad boy.
Unlike the glossy plastic on the E72, Nokia used a nice matte black plastic for areas not made of metal and the plastic feels quite durable and of high quality.
Thoughts on using the device daily
The software is a bit better (it is Feature Pack 2) than what we saw on the E71 with cool transitions and some other optimizations. I love the E72 home/standby screen with very useful notifications, email status, and more that can be customized a bit for your liking. This is a heavy messaging device and the home/standby screen is optimized for you to communicate.
The E72 is preloaded with a plethora of applications such as Quickoffice, Home Media uPNP utility, a couple games, Ovi Maps, scanner software, and more. Ovi Maps 3 rocks on the E72 and is definitely something to consider now that you get free navigation for life. There is no Nokia Podcasting application or Internet Radio application for some odd reason.
I enjoyed using the E72 with its sleek form factor and good keyboard, but found the lack of threaded SMS and some other key applications I have grown to use a bit frustrating. I am also used to larger, higher resolution displays now and felt quite cramped using the E72.
Conclusion, price and availability
The Nokia E72 can be found on various online sites, including Nokia USA for around $350. This is an unlocked GSM device that has support for AT&T 3G data networks and will work over EDGE on T-Mobile. As I mentioned above, one thing to remember is you get free Ovi Maps navigation on the E72 so you can use the E72 to replace an in-car GPS navigation system.
I think the E72 is a great device, but no longer really appeals to me in 2010. I would have jumped all over this last year, but have been spoiled by devices like the N900, N97 mini, BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Google Nexus One. The price is quite good for a completely SIM-unlocked, contract free phone though so you might want to consider it. I never used it long enough to experience any issues, but have read of some software issues with the device.