Nokia E55 review
Nokia's Eseries gets a powerful addition with a Qwerty-keyboard style candybar handset
Verdict: With a Qwerty-style keypad, the Nokia E55 delivers a powerful and attractive smartphone package, with great communications and connectivity, whether using Wi-Fi or high-speed HSPA mobile networks.
Packed with quality features in an attractive, slimline package, the E55 is good for both work and downtime. And if you prefer a regular numberpad, Nokia offers an E52 alternative
Price: From free with contract; £299 SIM free
Pros: Qwerty keypad, high-quality build with responsive buttonry, excellent business and messaging functionality, WiFi and HSPA high-speed data connectivity, excellent battery life, A-GPS with Maps software, good quality music player with 3.5mm standard headphone socket.
Cons: Qwerty keypad may not suit all users, camera is OK but limited, supplied headset is mediocre, video capture is average, back cover is a little flimsy
Design: At 9.9mm thin, this classic candybar is an elegantly stylish handset, with brushed metal edging surrounding the Qwerty keypad and screen, giving it a high-quality look and feel.
Operating System: S60 3rd Edition 2.3
More Info: Nokia website
Nokia’s Eseries smartphones are primarily geared up to appeal to business users, but the sharp, classic looks of the E55, combined with a clever Qwerty keyboard layout and a heavyweight smartphone feature count mean it’s likely to generate plenty of mainstream consumer interest too.
Measuring just 9.9mm thin, the E55 is one of the slimmest smartphones around. It doesn’t do any touchscreen tricks, running instead on the Symbian S60 3rd Edition feature pack 2 smartphone platform we’ve seen on plenty of Nokia Nseries and Eseries devices.
But its regular candybar design offers an attention-grabbing twist – a numberpad that’s formatted for Qwerty keyboard text input. It’s a hybrid alternative to the familiar BlackBerry-style full keyboard that Nokia has used on previous Eseries models, such as the E63, E71 and E61; two letters are assigned per key to most of the first three rows of buttons, while additional keyboard-style symbol buttons are located on the remaining keys. It’s aimed squarely at users for whom messaging is an important feature, with the E55 providing extensive email, VoIP, IM, text and other communication options for business or social users.
A successor to the E51, the E55 has an impressive feature count, offering Wi-Fi in addition to HSPA 3G data connectivity (providing download rates of up to 10.2Mbps or uploading at 2Mbps), A-GPS, plus a full complement of multimedia functionality, a 3.2-megapixel camera, plus access to online entertainment and other services. Nokia also offers a similar model, the E52, which has a regular keyboard instead of the Qwerty variety.
Design and usability
Despite its slimline profile, the E55 is a solidly built handset. It’s stylishly designed with brushed metal edging around the Qwerty keypad and metal bodywork. Available in either black or silver colour schemes, it’s a sleek looking device and at 95g feels great in-hand or in-pocket.
The screen is a lovely, bright 2.4-inch, 16-million colour QVGA (320x240 pixels) display, appearing large against the phone’s 116.5(h) x 49(w) x 9.9(d) mm bodywork. A secondary video call camera sits above the display, while under the screen is a very responsive navigation D-pad. This is flanked by typical Eseries One-touch key buttonry – for home, calendar, and email, plus back button. A short click takes you to the relevant features, while long presses of each respectively show a list of open apps, open up a new meeting entry, or create a new e-mail.
It’s comfortable to use set up; the numberpad too is well arranged and doesn’t feel squashed, despite four rows of five buttons spread across it.
We’ve seen this sort of ‘doubling up’ semi-Qwerty keyboard before on other mobiles, notably the BlackBerry Pearl. Users of other full Qwerty devices should have no problem adjusting to the layout, though fast texters will have to rewire their thought-to-typing processes. Lined up like a Qwerty keyboard, it uses either predictive text to work out what you’re typing, and suggesting words before you finish, or you can go manual – tapping once for the first letter on the key or twice for the second. The keyboard buttons have an impressively responsive action, too.
Powered by S60 3.2.3, the user interface will be familiar to anyone who’s used a Nokia smartphone. The homescreen offers plenty of personalisation options; a row of six feature shortcut icons on the display can be changed to whatever takes your fancy – there are over 70 feature and app options to choose from, plus any bookmarks you store. Further activity info is displayed onscreen, from calendar info and message notifications to Wi-Fi status and music player details.
One neat Eseries feature is a Mode shortcut button, which can switch your standby screen between separate customisable ‘business’ or ‘personal’ screens, with different shortcuts, apps and info displayed - handy for those who’re after a work/life balance on their phone.
Inside the menu system, it’s a typical S60 icon based grid of options, with further sub-menu grids of icons to explore. There’s plenty of business-friendly functionality –messaging and communication being at the core. Its email is easy to set up and operate, with web-based (POP3/IMAP) email account configuration requiring simply account name and password for the Nokia Messaging app to do its stuff.
Business email can be set up too, and naturally, corporate push email is supported, with Mail for Exchange enabling users to sync email, contacts, calendar entries, and tasks with your Microsoft Exchange Server account, plus there’s support for Lotus Notes Traveller. Multiple email accounts can be used on the E55, and easily switched between and managed. HTML email is supported too, and email is rendered well on the phone. The phone’s accelerometer, which auto rotates screen orientation in the browser and some media functions, also enables you to view emails full-screen in landscape mode.
The E55 also supports Windows Live Messenger instant messaging, and Ovi Contacts. Users can set up the phone for internet VoIP calling.
The Nokia full internet browser supports Flash Lite and, with fast Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity, is speedy around websites. Pages render well, and – although it’s not got that iPhone slickness – Nokia now includes optional customizable toolbar and keypad shortcut options, such as for reloading and bookmarks, to make it easier to navigate.
There’s a serious amount of personal information management and productivity tools onboard too. A huge amount of contact info can be input, plus there’s all the usual S60 calendar, notes and voice recorder functionality, plus voice control options, convertor, calculator and suchlike. In addition, a full Quickoffice software package is pre-loaded, enabling you to view and edit documents in standard file formats including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint – and also to create your own new documents. There’s also an Adobe PDF reader, plus Psiloc’s excellent World Traveller info and weather update app.
But it’s not all business. The E55 is kitted out with fine S60 music player software. There’s 100MB of onboard memory, plus a 2GB MicroSD card in-box to store content (cards up to 16GB are supported). The player software is hassle free with a straightforward control user interface. The supplied headset is fairly average quality, producing an ordinary audio performance with a tinny edge. However, there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone socket on top of the phone, so you can easily upgrade sound quality by plugging your own better quality ear-gear. It can sound very pleasing if you do.
A tidy FM radio function is included too, plus an app for finding buying tunes via Nokia’s online Music Store service. It also has an oddly inaccurate voice activated Music Search function for tunes on the phone.
Typical S60 video options including a Video Centre app for accessing a wide selection of video streaming and download services. The phone supports MP4, H.264, WMV, RV, Flash Video, and H.263 file formats, and RealPlayer software is pre-loaded. Playback is smooth and looks great in landscape full screen mode – though the screen size isn’t the largest around.
Imaging isn’t a big priority, but the E55 has a decent enough 3.2-megapixel snapper. It’s fixed focus snap and shooter, though it takes an acceptably detailed image for this grade of camera, and colours look rich. Its UI is similar to other Nokia smartphones, so it’s user-friendly with a reasonable amount of settings options – including a neatly done accelerometer-aided panorama shooting mode. It has an LED flash that improves low light illumination at short range.
Video capture is reasonable mobile phone quality, shooting at maximum VGA resolution at up 15 frames per second; it looks a bit stilted on playback but is OK. Photos and video can be uploaded online to content sharing services including Vox, Ovi and Flickr.
Images can also be ‘geo-tagged’ with embedded location data, thanks to the onboard A-GPS technology. Users can later view where shots have been taken on suitably enabled mapping applications or services.
Nokia’s Maps software is supplied on the phone, with maps of the UK and Ireland embedded on the in-box MicroSD. The A-GPS system works very well, locking on to satellites in moments. It’s accurate and responsive, with an electronic compass also keeping 2D or 3D maps in easy to follow orientation. Mapping and route finding info is provided, as well as searches for places of interest and addresses, and mapping info appears quickly and is easy to use. The app can also be used for fully-fledged voice-guided Sat Nav – although you only get a 10-day trial of this out of the box after which you can subscribe for a license.
Nokia has attended to the potential power requirements including a large capacity 1500mAh battery pack, and this can deliver an exceptional battery performance. Nokia reckons it’ll last up to 696 hours (29 days) in standby, or 6 hours talktime in 3G coverage (8 in GSM-only). With so much functionality and the variety of ways to use it, individual power consumption experience will differ, but its power performance certainly outdoes any other smartphones we’ve handled.
If you feel comfortable with the Qwerty keyboard layout, this Eseries handset has a huge amount going for it as both a business and consumer handset. It has a heavyweight rundown of useful communication features and a strong entertainment line-up too, hitting many smartphone functionality sweet spots. It looks and feels great in hand too. Another winner for Nokia’s Eseries portfolio.