Nokia may be ditching its Symbian mobile phone operating system and switching to Windows Phone 7 for future, high-end smartphones, but the struggling Finnish company remains intent on pushing Symbian smartphones. The business-orientated E6 smartphone is its latest creation, and although it has excellent hardware, highlighted by a fantastic keyboard, the E6 is let down by clunky software.
Nokia E6: Design and display
The Nokia E6 is very well designed and feels every bit the premium product. Nokia says the E6 has been designed using "premium materials" including glass and stainless steel, and the result is a phone that is both comfortable to hold and attractive to look at. The E6 measures just 10.5mm thick and weighs a relatively light 133g. We are particularly fond of the stainless steel band along the edges, and the aluminium battery cover, which is both easy to remove and sturdy. Unfortunately, the thin D-pad feels a little awkward, and the home, calendar, mail and contact buttons are positioned very close together. This makes them hard to press, especially if you have large thumbs.
The best feature of the Nokia E6's design is its full QWERTY keyboard. The keys provide great tactility, are comfortable to press and are well laid out. We particularly like the fact that the question mark, comma and full stop symbols have their own dedicated key, meaning you don't have to use the shift or sym keys to type them. Our only complaint is the fact that the keys on the left and right sides are quite close to the edge of the phone, which can slow down typing.
The Nokia E6 combines the full QWERTY keyboard with a capacitive touch screen display. However, at just 2.4in in size, it’s a little cramped. Thankfully, the screen is responsive to touch and the presence of haptic feedback (a vibration whenever the screen is pressed) is a welcome inclusion. It also possesses reasonably good viewing angles, and is not too tough to see in direct sunlight, which will suit anyone using the phone outdoors. The impressive resolution of 640x480 provides a crisp image, though text can sometimes be hard to read due to the small size of the screen.
Nokia E6: Software and performance
The Nokia E6 is one of the first smartphones to ship with the latest version of Symbian, called Anna. Nokia has touted new icons and usability enhancements to the platform including improved text input, a faster Web browser and the latest version of Ovi Maps, which provides full turn-by-turn navigation for no extra cost.
The main improvement around Symbian Anna centres on performance and the home screen. The widget-based home screen has been improved, and although not as completely flexible as an Android phone, the changes are mostly positive. There are four home screens available by default, with the option of a fifth, and each screen is now broken into two parts. On the left are fixed time/date, profile and notification widgets (which can't be edited), and on the right are three fixed boxes for widgets. You can't edit the size of the widgets, and setting them up initially is a pain due to the fact that you have to be on the screen in question to add a widget. However, there is no doubt this is an improvement over earlier versions of Symbian.
Also improved is the Nokia E6's performance. The Symbian Anna platform feels much more responsive all round, from opening and closing applications, to simply swiping between home screens. There is still slight lag, and we saw the loading symbol way too many times for our liking, but the Nokia E6 is definitely better in this regard than earlier models.
The Nokia E6's Web browser is also an improvement over previous Symbian phones, but still lags well behind the competition. Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platforms represent huge steps forward over Symbian when it comes to mobile Web browsing, and the E6 is sadly no different. That being said, it is much snappier and generally easier to use than past Nokia phones, including the flagship N8 and the E7.
Perhaps the best inclusion on the Nokia E6 (and all Symbian phones) is Ovi Maps, which provides full turn-by-turn navigation for no extra cost. Often costing up to $100 on rival platforms, this function works well and is a great free inclusion, but the E6's small screen size is simply not ideal for navigation and text can be hard to read.
The E Series has traditionally been Nokia's business range, and the E6 is no different. Nokia touts enterprise grade security with hardware accelerated encryption, and new e-mail features such as full meeting request support. The Nokia E6 also provides access to Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Communicator Mobile and Microsoft SharePoint services for corporate users.
Nokia E6: Battery life and other features
Nokia may lag behind its competition when it comes to software, but there is no doubting the hardware on its phone is usually of a very good quality. The same can be said about its cameras: the Nokia E6 has an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash that takes very good quality photos. Excellent colour reproduction and minimal image noise are highlights, though the lack of autofocus is disappointing, as is the fact there is no physical camera shutter key. The camera also records 720p HD video. Both photos and videos can be stored on the E6's 8GB of internal memory, or the top mounted microSD card slot.
Although not an advertised feature (as it was on both the Nokia N8 and the E7), the Nokia E6 is also capable of USB On-The-Go connectivity, which allows the connection of USB flash drives. You'll need to purchase a compatible USB OTG cable (not included) at an extra cost, however. The Nokia E6 is also cable of video out via the 3.5mm jack at the top of the phone (again via an optional video cable) but the lack of HDMI-out is a disappointment.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Nokia E6 is its exceptional battery life. The E6 often lasted up to three days during testing, which is a huge improvement on most rival smartphones that need to be charged daily. At the very least, most users will be able to get two full days of use out of the E6 before it requires recharging.
The Nokia E6 is available in black through Allphones, Vodafone and Optus, and in black and silver models through TeleChoice and Crazy John's. The E6 will also eventually be available through Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and "other smaller carriers".