T-Mobile Nokia E73 Mode: The Review
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. There were a few areas for improvement in the E71, namely 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 guard by the solid rumors of the Nokia E73 Mode and was very pleased when Nokia sent an evaluation unit for me to try out last week. The E73 Mode is essentially a Nokia E72 with support for T-Mobile USA’s 1700 MHz 3G data network and as a long time T-Mobile customer I couldn’t be happier.
Improvements from the E71/E71x to the E73 ModeA 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 Pack 1 operating system. The Nokia E73 Mode 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.
My biggest gripe now with the E73 Mode is the display resolution and fonts. I have been spoiled by some fantastic high resolution displays on the N97 mini, N900, and HTC EVO 4G and now it is tough to go back to a device with a 320×240 QVGA display. Actually, it is more of an issue with the fonts than the resolution, but I cannot find a way to update to less pixelated fonts. The device is so responsive and functional that I am willing to overlook the display resolution/font issue.
Improvements from the E72 to the E73 ModeAt first glance it may look like the E73 Mode is simply a T-Mobile USA branded Nokia E72, but there are actually some design differences that I personally find make the E73 Mode even better than the E72. Check out the image below, credit goes to All About Symbian, and you can see the E73 Mode has a slightly curved QWERTY keyboard that helps match the way your thumbs rotate. You will also find a rather significant change in hardware button layout with the E73 Mode have them all along two extended bars rather than buttons centered making them smaller on the E72. The E73 Mode also a bit more metal below the QWERTY keyboard and IMHO it feels more solid than the E72 and much more like the E71 construction we have all come to love.
Internally, the E73 Mode also has some differences in radio frequencies with support for T-Mobile’s 1700 MHz 3G band and support for UMA WiFi calling (separate post coming that will discuss this in detail).
In the boxThe Nokia E73 Mode comes in a typical T-Mobile package rather than the sleek Nokia packages I have been used to lately. Nokia and T-Mobile also did not skimp out on the contents and give you everything you need to turn the E73 Mode into your only smartphone. You will find all the following inside the retail box:
- Nokia E73
- Nokia High Efficiency Charger AC-10U
- Mobile Charger DC-6
- Nokia MicroUSB data cable CA-101D
- Nokia Headset WH-205
- Pouch CP-384
- Guides and pamphlets
- T-Mobile Getting Started Guide
- T-Mobile Tips & Tricks
- T-Mobile Terms & Conditions
- T-Mobile SIM card
- Recycle bag
- ARM 11 600 MHz processor
- S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 (3.2.3)
- Quad band GSM/EDGE with 850/900/1800/1900 MHz support
- Tri band WCDMA with 900/1700/2100 MHz support
- 2.36 inch 320×240 pixel resolution QVGA display
- 250 MB of free user disk space
- microSD card slot for expanded memory (4GB card included)
- Bluetooth 2.0 with over 10 profiles supported
- Integrated GPS with A-GPS
- Integrated FM radio with RDS
- 5 megapixel camera with LED flash
- Optical trackball
- 3.5mm headset jack
- BP-4L 1500 mAh battery
- Dimensions of 4.48 x 2.30 x 0.40 inches and 4.5 ounces
Around the hardwareThe QWERTY keyboard is the most prominent feature on the front of the E73 Mode and as I mentioned above I think it is better even than the E72 layout. Compared to BlackBerry devices and other QWERTY smartphones I have tried I especially like that Nokia has included direct keys for entering @, ?, !, period, and comma. A Ctrl key is also present so you can do simple things like Ctrl-C for copy, Ctrl-V for paste, etc. If you press and hold on keys with alternate characters then the alternate character will be entered. I find the E73 Mode keyboard to be much more functional than a BlackBerry keyboard and if text entry and messaging are your focus I highly recommend you check this device out.
You will also find you can quickly toggle Bluetooth, the LED flash as a flashlight, and silent profile by simply pressing and holding the Sym, space, and Ctrl buttons.
Above the keyboard you will find 8 hardware buttons and as shown in the image above they have a much different arrangement than the E72. These keys are for left and right soft keys, send and end functions, home, calendar, contacts, and email. I like that Nokia made the send and end keys green and red since it is easier to differentiate what they are used for. Pressing the home key also jumps to the menu/launcher. The directional pad is also an optical touchpad so you can slide your finger or thumb across it to control navigation. I haven’t fully gotten used to it yet and turned it off for a few days where it works as a traditional directional pad.
The display is the same QVGA quality as the E71/E71x/E72 and is one of the disappointing aspects for me personally after having used several devices with high resolution displays. I am not saying it is horrible by any means, but I have been spoiled lately so it does take some getting used to. The support for 16+ million colors is nice and image do look pretty good on the display.
On the top you will find the power button and 3.5mm headset jack. There is nothing at all on the bottom of the E73 Mode and unlike the E72 there is no option to use the older Nokia charging port to charge up the device as all charging takes place through the microUSB port.
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 E73 Mode. The speaker is to the left of the camera and sounds decent with the camera spacing away from the back helping noise bounce off tables too. The back cover is metal and has a slightly textured feel to it. It is solidly installed and feels great in your hand.
Thankfully, Nokia used that same, wonderful 1500 mAh battery in the E71/E71x/E72 so get ready for a few days of life with this bad boy.
Unlike the glossy plastic on the E71, Nokia used a nice matte black plastic for areas not made of metal and the plastic feels quite durable and of high quality.
The E73 Mode feels great in your hand and after using so many large, touch interface devices lately I have to say it is a bit of a breath of fresh air to come back to the E73 Mode with its slim, extremely pocketable form factor and rock solid design and construction. With a cost of just $70 I am thinking I may even need to pick up a couple of these bad boys.
SoftwareI enjoy using the latest Feature Pack interface with smooth transitions, customizable folder structure, and amazing standby screen and notifications support. Everything is zippy and flows nicely when navigating the E73 Mode.
The E73 Mode is preloaded with a ton of applications such as Quickoffice (full version with new document creation capability), Visual Voicemail, Ovi Maps, Nokia Messaging (with support for Gmail, Exchange, Lotus Notes Traveler, and more), Nokia Podcasting, Multiscanner (capture business cards and turn them into contacts), Ovi Files, some enterprise software (encryption, Intranet, MDM Client), Printer utility, and more. There is no Internet Radio application loaded out of the box.
Unlike AT&T and their load of crap installed on the E71x, T-Mobile does a great job minimizing junk and includes some helpful apps too. You will find a visual voicemail utility, audio postcard application, Instant Messaging application (powered by OZ with support for AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and MySpace IM), TeleNav GPS Navigator version 5.5, Where application, and selected game demos (Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Guitar Hero, Block Breaker, The Sims 3, Collapse Chaos, and Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man. The nice thing about the E73 Mode is that most of these can be removed from your device, unlike the major pain it was to be able to just remove a few from the AT&T E71x. I was unable to remove Block Breaker and The Sims 3, but Where, TeleNav, Millionaire, and Guitar Hero were easily removed. If you later decide you do want these games a hard reset will bring them back onto the device, except for TeleNav.
Thoughts on using the device dailyPhone call quality has been good on some of the newer smartphones I have been using, but honestly you really cannot beat a Nokia when it comes to phone calls and the active noise cancellation technology on the E73 Mode is impressive. All calls sounded crystal clear and were outstanding, even in speakerphone mode with the single speaker on the back. Bluetooth profile support is excellent on the E73 Mode and calls over headsets were also outstanding, with voice dialing fully supported. This is especially important now in Washington State where it is a primary offense to hold your phone to your head and make calls so wireless or cabled headset are required.
Also, you cannot beat Nokia for RF reception and I saw full bars on the E73 Mode for most all of the time I have been evaluating the device. In addition, you can always make calls via WiFi when the cellular signal is weak.
I love the customizability and 3rd party application support of S60. The first application I recommend everyone with a Symbian S60 device purchase is Gravity. I find the alpha versions to work pretty well and have the latest loaded on the E73 Mode with support for Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, and Foursquare all in a single application. This is OUTSTANDING and I could probably get by on the E73 Mode with Gravity, Nokia Messaging, and Ovi Maps as my only applications.
The one aspect of messaging that I was really hoping was improved was the support for threaded text messaging. Unfortunately, Nokia did nothing to fix this and thus you are left with a disconnected text messaging experience on a phone that is highly focused on messaging. I would love to see an updated Nokia Messaging client that supports threaded SMS and am looking for an application that might fill this need.
Conclusion, price and availabilityThe Nokia E73 Mode is available from T-Mobile USA for only $69.99 with a 2-year contract and minimum voice/data plan. The unsubsidized full cost may be the same as the Nokia Nuron since the subsidized cost is the same and that is just $179.99. The E73 Mode is locked to T-Mobile and will not work with AT&T’s 3G data network. Even at the full Even More Plus (non-subsidy) I think $179.99 for this device is an awesome deal that I will be taking advantage of.
If you are looking for the latest and greatest smartphone then you may be a bit disappointed with the E73 Mode since it is using an older OS than iPhone, Android, and webOS. However, I personally found it to be quite refreshing since everything flew on the device and the standby/home screen is extremely useful and powerful. I was able to fly around with the keyboard and hardware buttons and the rock solid slim form factor is one of the best EVER on a smartphone. I think when people enter a T-Mobile store and see this stacked up next to the BlackBerry QWERTY devices they will choose this beauty. I personally think the E73 Mode is better than a BlackBerry with a more functional keyboard, solid operating system, good multimedia support, and thousands of available apps in the Ovi Store.