Review: Nokia E62

Released only through Cingular, the E62 brings many of the features offered by the Motorola Q to the GSM audience. However, unlike the Q, the E62 uses the Symbian OS with the S60 user interface, and it therefore is more phone-centric. At about 0.5 inches thick, this is one of the new generation of slim devices hitting the market. In addition to GSM support, the E62 includes EDGE and Bluetooth.

The Nokia E62 is a smartphone now being offered by Cingular Wireless in the U.S.

The E62 is close in design to the Nokia E61 that's sold in Europe, but with a few key differences. The E61 has support for the European 3G networks, while the E62 does not support any 3G. The E61 has Wi-Fi, while the E62 doesn't. On the brighter side, the E62 dispenses with the proprietary Nokia "Pop Port" for audio and USB, substituting standard mini-USB and 2.5mm audio connectors. Otherwise, the devices are identical in design and specs.

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On a side note, this review departs from my usual format a bit. Instead of providing detailed discussion of every one of the device's specs, I'll be highlighting only the most important elements, leaving the rest of the details in the spec sheet, and thus saving me from having to find yet another new way of saying "this device uses flash memory."

Design and construction

The casing of the E62 is mostly metal, with plastic trim around the docking connector and ear-piece. It feels quite rugged in its construction, and the aluminum skin has a brushed feel that gives it traction.

There are very few controls on the sides of the case--almost everything is up front, and all the ports are on the bottom.


Left to right: power, audio, infrared, mini-USB.

As a business-oriented device, the E62 omits a camera, leaving the back blank other than the latch for the battery compartment. The SIM card resides inside, next to the battery in a position where it can't be removed without also removing the battery.

The keyboard uses squared keys, plastic backed with rubber, with a noticeable but not overpowering backlight.

 

 Hardware overview
Processor: 235 MHz TI OMAP
Operating System: Symbian 9.1 with Series 60 3.0 interface
Display: 320 x 240 pixel transmissive/reflective LCD
Memory: Approximately 80 MB user-available flash memory
Size & Weight 4.6 inches long x 2.7 inches wide x 0.6 inches thick; 5.1 ounces
Expansion: Single miniSD slot
Docking: Mini-USB port for sync; DC charging jack
Communication: Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; Bluetooth 1.2
Audio: 2.5mm headphone jack; speakerphone; ear-piece & microphone
Battery: 1500 milliamp-hour removable/replaceable Lithium Ion battery
Input: 39-key thumb keyboard; three re-mappable application buttons
Other: Java/J2ME compatibility

Processor
Subjective performance from the 235 MHz TI processor seemed a bit slower than some of the other devices I've used, particularly the Palm Treos and the Blackberry. Of course, both of those other devices had faster 312 MHz processors, but there shouldn't be a significant performance difference, other than what is attributable to the operating system.

Operating system
Despite running on Series 60, which is traditionally seen as more of a feature-phone OS, the E62 has a distinctly businesslike focus. The E62 skips over more than a few games or toys, and instead has an office suite including a word processor, spreadsheet, and a full web browser, among other things.

I've actually never had extensive time with any other Series 60 device, so the E62 was my first real introduction. The main part of the OS is divided into two areas: what could loosely be called the application launcher, and a kind of "Today screen" equivalent which shows your schedule and a short rundown of commonly used applications.

My biggest points of friction with the OS are the interface and software. The default interface on the E62 has a "soft" feel, by which I mean there's very few clearly defined visual elements. Mainly you get icons floating on a gray background, with very little sense of organization or cohesion to the interface. This makes it fairly unintuitive as compared to most other OSes. For instance, you can only open the web browser from the "today" screen, not from the application launcher or a button; different UI elements are used in different areas, with no overall cohesive style; and the lack of clearly defined areas and divisions make navigation confusing. I don't know if this is the interface for all S60 devices, but if it's not, Nokia make a pretty bad decision on what custom skin to use.

While the E62 comes with a solid suite of pre-loaded software, there's not a large base of what you would call third-party productivity apps. Most of the software available for Series 60 is games and various "knickknack" applications such as currency converters, stopwatches, etcetera. Until recently, S60 has never been a business platform, so there wasn't a lot of demand for such programs.

A lot has been made about the new web browser used on the E62. So much, in fact, that a lot of people are saying it's the best mobile web browser available. I'll say this: it's excellent if your main goal is to see a web page rendered the way it would be on a desktop. Based on Apple's Safari technology, it works by rendering large pages as if they were being seen on a desktop, then having the user scroll around with the aid of a little mouse cursor on the screen. You use this cursor to indicate how you want to scroll, as well as clicking on links.

 

But after awhile all that panning and zooming can get rather irritating. All the more so because this wondrous browser completely forgets a few simple things like a fit-to-screen mode. If you want to be able to browse regular sites without scrolling, you'll have to download and install a third-party browser for Series 60, like NetFront or Opera Mobile.

In the end, while the default browser is nice for some things, it's not the slam-dunk it's sometimes made out to be. If it had multiple viewing options, I'd be a lot more impressed. It does, at a minimum, make the transition to mobile web pages without bobbling.

Size and weight
The E62 is similar in class to the iPAQ hw6900 series and most of the current BlackBerry devices: a broad and thin device that looks more like a handheld than it does a phone. It's clearly data-oriented rather than voice, though it of course has the capability for the latter.


Left to right: Nokia E62, i-mate JAQ, HP iPAQ hw6925.

Expansion
According to Nokia, the E62 can accept miniSD cards up to 2 GB in size. It's unclear whether this is an absolute limit or simply the upper range of cards that are officially tested, though it may be a moot question, since 4 GB miniSD cards seem virtually non-existent.

Docking
The E62 thankfully drops Nokia's proprietary "Pop Port," which is used on some models for audio and USB connectivity. Instead, the device uses an ordinary mini-USB port for data, DC barrel connector for power, and 2.5mm headset/headphone jack for audio. A cradle is possible, but would have to be supplied by a third party.

Communication
The E62 uses the common and increasingly unexciting combination of Bluetooth and quad-band GSM/EDGE. Cellular RF performance was quite adequate, though very few high-end smartphones fall below that threshold. The device does not support the Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, or A2DP, out of the box, meaning no Bluetooth headphones without third-party software.

Unfortunately, without either Wi-Fi or 3G, users of the E62 are left without any fast wireless options at all, not even with an expansion card.

Audio With a reasonably standard 2.5mm jack for headsets and stereo headphones, the E62 is comparably equipped to many other smartphone and featurephone devices for audio capabilities.

Battery
Nokia advertises up to 7 hours of talk time with the E62, which I would find to be a reasonable statement. While actual times vary depending on signal strength and other factors, maximum talk time was relatively consistent in this range. Of course, this measurement is with the device's LCD backlight turned off to conserve power. To use the device for web browsing or other Internet applications would yield in the range of 4 hours.

The E62 does have amazing standby time. With minimal use, it can run over a week on a single charge, though as with any device, as soon as you start making calls, that figure drops precipitously.

Input
While it's not the best thumb keyboard I've seen, the E62 is more than suitable for regular input. The keys have a slight tenancy to wiggle, making it a little more difficult to press them, but not critically so. Spacing is adequate, as is tactile response and key travel. While it's not one of the best thumb keyboards I've seen, it's also far from the worst.

Conclusion
During my time with it, I haven't really seen a lot that would convince me to choose the Nokia E62 over similarly priced devices like the T-Mobile Dash or Motorola Q. Or for that matter, for a business user to choose it over a normal Blackberry.

I suppose that the E62 has some appeal for those who no longer want to use the Garnet-based Palm Treos, while avoiding anything with the name Microsoft on it. But considering such a niche market, I don't see it making a big splash in the U.S., particularly without either Wi-Fi or 3G.

Pros:

  • Good screen
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • No high-speed networking
  • Little software and support
  • Few advantages over competition

Bottom line:
An acceptable but unremarkable device, with an operating system not well supported this side of the Atlantic.

Visit Brighthand.com for more mobile device news and reviews.

This was last published in November 2006

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