Nokia E72 Review

nokia e72 review

Nokia E72

“Nokia’s E72 teases with a design that would make most BlackBerry owners drool and dated software that made us cringe.”
  • Extremely attractive design
  • BMW build quality
  • Rock-solid voice quality and reception
  • Fast-loading browser
  • Above-average camera
  • Responsive navigation
  • Antiquated S60 interface
  • Optical trackpad not useful
  • Awkward camera bulge
  • Clumsy browser
  • Hard-to-use microSD slot

Introduction

Look at the E72 and you’ll like it. Handle the E72 and you’ll love it. Nokia’s $419 (unlocked, no contract) E72 follows in the footsteps of the lovable E71 with a rock-solid steel chassis built for the businessman. It also hides a hideous and complex operating system in sore need of an update, but it’s still worth a definite look for S60 devotees and those who don’t demand iPhone-like ease of use.

Features

Although it can’t quite compete with the likes of the do-it-all N97, Nokia’s E72 includes an enviable feature set tailored for the business professional. That means a full QWERTY keyboard, QVGA (320 x 480) display, 3.5G HSDPA modem that can push up to 10.2Mbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, A-GPS, FM tuner, voice-command capability, and a 5.0-megapixel camera with flash.

Like most of Nokia’s late-model smartphones, the E72 uses Symbian OS 9.3, with Nokia’s S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 (also known as S60 3.2.3), as a user interface.

Design

At first glance, you might mistake the E72 for any of one of the more pedestrian BlackBerry models, but get closer, and Nokia’s attention to detail immediately sets it apart as something different. It’s as much a tool as a work of art. Bright chrome runs around the edges in broad strips, loops around buttons and the speaker in subtle accents, and carries over to a magnificent rear battery cover that could double as a mirror if it weren’t corrugated with fine, etched pinstripes, like the ones you might find on a Zippo lighter or flask. If BlackBerrys are built for a suit pocket, the E72 is meant for a tuxedo, taking class up yet another notch. The only mar on this otherwise gorgeous design would be the rear camera, which bulges out significantly, ruining the otherwise clean look a bit.

The screen and keyboard occupy about the same space up front, with a jumble of Nokia-specific keys (including hard shortcuts to calendar, e-mail and contacts) filling in the middle. The center directional pad on the E72 departs from previous models by working in two ways: You can either press the raised edges, or drag a finger lightly across the black middle key, which works as an optical trackpad. Nokia calls it the “Navi Key.”

The right-hand side has separate volume up and down keys, along with a voice key for access to applications and contacts without typing (more on that later). The other side has a sealed-up microUSB port, and one of the most deeply recessed and therefore hard-to-use microSD slots we’ve ever found (unless you have long nails, you’ll need a key or pen to pop cards in and out). Up top, you’ll find a centered power button and standard 3.5mm stereo jack for headphones. The bottom offers another tiny charging port for accepting the pin-sized connector from Nokia’s charger, but fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to use it because E72 can also charge from USB, just not as quickly.

Build Quality

Nothing exudes strength quite like steel, and the E72 has been absolutely wrapped in it. From the edges to the rear battery cover, the E72 feels industrial-grade, with a weight and solid feel that even the iPhone cannot match. Like a cobblestone, we found ourselves idly handling it even when we had absolutely no use for it. This is what a device you’ll carry with you every day should feel like.

Accessories

Nokia’s comprehensive E72 box includes the usual headset, charger and data cable, along with quite a few unexpected extras. For instance, you’ll find a black microfiber cloth for keeping the phone smudge-free (good luck with that), two extra pairs of ear gels for the headphones, a lanyard, and even a sleek leather case. All in all, it’s one of the more comprehensive cell phone packages we’ve ever had a chance to unwrap.

Operating System and General Usage

There’s no getting around the fact that the E72 feels old as soon as soon as the screen flickers to life. The S60 3rd Edition user interface has been kicking around with various “feature packs” as upgrades since 2005, and wears every year of age worse than Cher without makeup. While the snappy 600Mhz processor lets it zip through the icons with reckless abandon, the menus look cheap, pixelated, and just generally outdated.

Looking old might be excusable if S60 actually worked very well, but instead it feels like among the most complex and obtuse operating systems out there. Want to change how long it takes to power of the screen when idle? Go to menu, control panel, settings, general, personalization, display. Six menu levels to reach one very basic setting. There’s really just no excuse for a phone to work this way in 2010.

The jumble of Nokia buttons between screen and keyboard can also get confusing. You have hard call and end-call keys on the bottom row, home, calendar, contacts and e-mail shortcuts above, then soft right and left selection keys above that correspond to on-screen prompts. This must have been what Steve Jobs was fed up with when he designed the iPhone. Throw in the Navi Key button in the middle, and you’re looking at an awfully intimidating interface until you get it all nailed down. In its defense, those four shortcut buttons can be reprogrammed to open anything with both a short and long touch, which makes access to commonly used features lightning fast if you care to program and memorize them all.

And about that Navi Key: the optical trackpad doesn’t work nearly as well as we had hoped. Because the edges of the directional pad form a shallow box around it, you can only make very short gestures on it before the ridges around the edges interrupt your swipe. Even with sensitivity cranked to max, we found it hard to navigate more than one tile in any direction on the application menu, without grossly exaggerated (and imprecise) swipes. This basically negated its entire purpose, and after using the directional buttons long enough, we opted to simply turn Navi Key off.

The voice command button on the side promises to end these navigation woes by simply saying what you need to access, like “contacts.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Nearly all of the commands we tried were met with “no results found,” leaving us to mainly give up on this lame feature.

Browser

Although might expect such an antiquated operating system to drag along on Web browsing, the Nokia browser actually showed considerable pep. It loaded the Yahoo! Mobile in eight seconds where the iPhone 3G took 16, and DigitalTrends.com in 33 seconds where the iPhone 3G took a minute and seven seconds (both using the same AT&T 3G SIM). That said, the using a mini arrow and directional pad to navigate feels incredibly clumsy, and the browser doesn’t render pages anywhere near as nicely as an iPhone, Palm Pre or Android device does.

Keyboard

The keyboard on the E72 rivals even the best out there, like BlackBerry’s Bold 9700. Each key has a pillowy bulge that makes it easier to peck, gives a nice snappy return, and generally feels very solid. We found ourselves typing at full speed in no time, and have few doubt that this sturdy keyboard will hold up well to wear and tear.

Call Quality

Inbound and outbound sound quality were both outstanding on the Nokia. We gave it the ultimate test: our hard-of-hearing grandmother on her birthday. Without any prompting, she commented on how clear we came across, and other callers reported “landline-like” quality. As a business phone, both factors highly recommend the E72.

Battery Life

Nokia reports battery life of 12.5 hours talk time and 20.5 days on standby. While we weren’t able to scientifically validate these claims, our anecdotal observations about battery life during testing line up quite well with these expectations. This thing runs lean on the juice, and we love it.

Camera

Say what you will about the bulge that goes with Nokia’s 5-megapixel shooter, but it produces nice pictures… when it focuses properly. We found that most snaps from camera had outstanding clarity and improved color accuracy from the E71, but the autofocus function seemed quite flaky, especially when dealing with close-up subjects. We wish Nokia would release a firmware update to fix the somewhat hit or miss quality to the camera, which would make it a real winner.

Conclusion

Why, oh why, can’t Nokia get over S60? The E72 is like a Porsche 911 Turbo with the interior of a 1995 Chevy Lumina. Even though everything “works,” we just have a hard time getting over the crummy cloth seats, hard plastic shifter and manual windows while we’re driving it. If you can look past the many shortcomings of S60, the E72 makes a perfectly usable and downright attractive phone, but Nokia needs to do some serious thinking on its software before going head to head with the likes of Apple, Google and Palm.

Highs:

  • Extremely attractive design
  • BMW build quality
  • Rock-solid voice quality and reception
  • Fast-loading browser
  • Above-average camera
  • Responsive navigation

Lows:

  • Antiquated S60 interface
  • Optical trackpad not useful
  • Awkward camera bulge
  • Clumsy browser
  • Hard-to-use microSD slot

Editors' Recommendations