Review: Nokia E72 front-facing QWERTY smartphone

NokiaE7201The 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.

Specifications

  • 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.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Specs: 4
  • Form factor: 5
  • Customizability: 4.5
  • User interface: 4
  • App support: 3.5

Overall: 4/5

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Pros

  • Sleek, slim, solid hardware with full QWERTY keyboard
  • Good qualità camera
  • Solid RF reception and phone call functionality/quality
  • Responsive, snappy performance
  • Lots of onboard memory

Cons

  • Low resolution, smaller display
  • No threaded SMS client
  • Limited application support

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23 Comments to Review: Nokia E72 front-facing QWERTY smartphone

Jon
February 19, 2010

It isn’t an OS issue. S60 supports multiple resolution (inc. square screens). In fact the older N90, E70, N80 and E60 had far higher resolution screens than this. And let’s not forget the E90.

I love Symbian OS, but I do hope the next batch of E-series phones (E55 and E72 successors) will feature 320×480 screens at the very least. We know that Nokia already have at least one modern S40 phone (6260 slide) with 320×480 screen so they are slowly getting there.

Matthew Miller
February 19, 2010

Thanks for the comment Jon. I was told before that it was an OS thing, but it seems that person may have been wrong. It doesn’t look like it is an Eseries issue either so why the heck didn’t they upgrade the E72 display then? Nokia makes me wonder way too often.

covenant
February 19, 2010

Anyone have a solution to my problem…I have an e71x and I just got my e72. I spent several hours yesterday trying to get the e72 to read my contact list on my sim card.

mcv007
February 19, 2010

i used to have an E71 then switched to a Bold II and i TOTALLY miss the E71. Compared to BB the e71 excels in SMS messaging, calendar, and keyboard. i hate it when you have to press the ALT key on the BB to use PERIOD or COMMA. the press and hold feature of e71 is my favorite especially when you have to use numbers. the only thing i didn’t like about e71 was the email feature which was more of a PULL function and the PUSH email was slow and not as easy on the BB or Windows. But overall e71 is great from its form factor, build quality, keyboard, and especially browser (BB Browser SUCKS).

Lee
February 19, 2010

Anybody seriously considering purchasing the E72, logicbuy.com has it for 314.99!

aamir
February 19, 2010

is it just me or do i not see an ir port on the e72…? is the optical trackpad really that useful and worth the upgrade? I have seen e72 sold on dell.com for around 275 now and it seems really tempting… @covenant: i dont if it is any different on e72 but on e71 to copy sim contacts go into sim directory, mark all and then copy them to phonebook…

Keith
February 20, 2010

Even if the screen resolution thing is an OS limitation, it only is because they made it that way; its perfectly in their power to fix it. I think folks give Nokia a free pass on that one too often. Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS don’t have this limitation.

nsumner
February 21, 2010

I have the E72 and my speakerphone and ringer volume is well pathetic at best.

It seems to me the E72 speakerphone is extremely extremely quite. Can anybody confirm this or do I have a defective unit?

[...] Nokia E72 Review [...]

Kevin Wright
February 22, 2010

You can fix the loose back panel in two different ways.

First is a couple tiny dots of blutack in each edge if you rarely remove the battery.

Second way is to bend the sides inwards slightly although this is not as rock solid as using blutack.

That you should have to do this is more evidence of Nokias increasingly “don’t care” attitude IMO but at least it helps.

Kev

[...] Nokia E72 Review [...]

JM
February 27, 2010

I noticed something that is rarely mentioned in reviews. Typing quickly results in missed keystrokes. This is not a result of me missing the key entirely or tapping the wrong key. It simply ignores some letters if I type as quickly as I do on my 9700, Touch Pro2, and even the Nexus One’s on-screen keyboard. The E71 did this too. Is there a reason Nokia has the device set to do this?

geo
March 4, 2010

this is an awful phone…. :(

Harsh
May 11, 2010

Very slow fon..takes a hell lot of time to search a contact..used just for 2 months and sold away..didnt expected this from NOKIA:(

[...] the camera, headset jack, charging port, and display resolution. Nokia updated most of these in the Nokia E72, but it was still a device with support for foreign and AT&T 3G networks. I was caught off [...]

kienmid
September 7, 2010

I also miss some character when typing fast. who know how to fix that?

Ananth
October 2, 2010

I’ve been reviewing this phone for a while…here are my observations:

  1. The keys in the QWERTY board are very congested that you may sometimes get pain in your hands holding it right side to type.
  2. The audio quality is par below the standards. The loud speaker is a disappointment. You can hardly hear if you switched on the loud speaker.
  3. The phone hangs or goes inactive if you switched between applications or games that are processor intensive. You have to restart the phone. Dont be surprised if you had to remove the battery for the restart.
  4. The phone’s push mail is not the regular push mail technology. It uses Nokia’s instant messaging technology. This means you have to get registered with their services to use the IMAP.
  5. A very sluggish processor if you loaded many (atleast 4 to5 ) applications and games. Its not fast enough in some areas like menu switching, etc.
  6. Overall, this phone is good if you used it for just calls, video, music and internet radio. Though the sound quality of the calls are very poor I would say that the music is played good.
  7. The optical navi key is of no use. You dont need that for any reason.

  8. Conclusion – A very costly phone for the features it has. You can get these in a normal multimedia phone. The 5MP camera with LED flash is a addon bonus for this phone. Otherwise, dont even think of this phone. You are better off with E71.

[...] Nokia E72 Review [...]

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