Software

Review: Nokia E71 business class smartphone

The unlocked Nokia E71 is a sleek, stylish smartphone with business-class features. But, the E71's steep price tag and seriously limited support for Microsoft Exchange are two strikes against it. In this Product Spotlight, Bill Detwiler rates the Nokia E71's other standout business features and limitations.

The unlocked Nokia E71 is a sleek, stylish smartphone with business-class features. But, the E71's steep price tag and seriously limited support for Microsoft Exchange are two strikes against it.

Specifications

  • Cellular: WCDMA (UMTS) and GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • Symbian S60 OS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11g)
  • 2.36-inch 320x240 QVGA display
  • 3.2 megapixel camera
  • 110MB internal memory
  • microSD memory card slot (up to 8GB)
  • MicroUSB connector
  • 2.5 mm AV connector
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP stereo audio
  • Integrated GPS
  • POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 e-mail support
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 2.2 in x 0.4 in x 4.5 in
  • Weight: 4.4 oz
  • Lithium polymer battery
  • Talk time: Up to 4.5 hours
  • Standby time: Up to 20 days
  • Cost: $300 - $450 (US)
  • Additional information
  • For a closer look check out the TechRepublic Nokia E71 Photo Gallery

Who is it for?

The Nokia E71 is designed for business professionals looking for a stylish, unlocked phone that's a messaging-centric device. Unfortunately, the E71 is impractical for most Exchange users as the device does not support Exchange account folders other than the Inbox.

What problem does it solve?

Most smartphones fall into one of two categories -- business or consumer. Business phones are often bulky and rather drab, but they provide strong corporate messaging features and support for business applications. Consumer devices usually have robust multimedia features and a stylish design but are light on those pesky work-centric functions.

This division leads many to choose a phone that's great for work, but not perfect for their personal life. Or, choose a phone that's perfect for their personal life, but only passable for work. Others may just give up trying to find a single device and carry two phones. With the E71, Nokia has tried to solve this dilemma by putting the features of a business phone in a stylish package.

Standout features

  • Size - Unlike the bulky AT&T Tilt, the Nokia E71 feels right at home in a coat or pants pocket. So long phone holster.
  • Stylish design - Despite being a magnet for fingerprints and smudges, the E71's metal exterior gives the device a sleek, sophisticated look. The E71 is a big improvement over the E61i.
  • QWERTY keyboard - Despite the recent improvement in touchscreen keyboards, I still prefer physical keys for heavy e-mailing and text messaging. The E71's keyboard is slightly smaller than other Nokia Eseries phones (like the E61i and new E63), but I still found it easy to use -- even with my large fingers.
  • Battery life - My biggest complaint about most business smartphones is their abysmal battery life. When testing the AT&T Tilt, I was lucky to get more than 8-10 hours of battery life under average e-mail, IM, Web browsing activity. Sister site CNET lists the E71 as having up to 4.5 hours of talk time and up to 20 days of standby time. During my testing, I routinely got 2-3 days of battery life with average e-mail, IM, and Web browsing activity.

What's wrong?

  • No support for Exchange folders - To synchronize the E71, and other S60 devices, with Microsoft Exchange, Nokia uses a custom application called Mail for Exchange. This application synchronizes your Exchange inbox, calendar, and contacts with the phone. Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, Mail for Exchange only synchronizes the top-level inbox folder. It provides no support for subfolders within the inbox. Most Exchange/Outlook users, that I know, have dozens of inbox subfolders. I have over 50 folders, in to which I sort my mail through a series of rules. I really like the E71 but this failure makes the device a nonstarter for me.
  • Confusing menu structure - The E71's home screen is intuitive and easy to navigate, but the multiple menu and settings screens are not. It took my nearly 20 minutes to figure out how to connect the E71 to a WLAN and using that connection to synchronize my e-mail.
  • Non-standard headphone jack - The E71 uses a 2.5mm headphone jack. This may be standard on phones, but most headphones designed for portable audio require a 3.5mm jack. This limits the E71's usefulness as a multimedia device. Nokia seems to have acknowledged this shortcoming and added a 3.5mm audio jack to the more consumer-oriented E63.
  • Expensive - As of this writing, Nokia sold the unlocked E71 for $359 (US) on their site. Other retailers, like Best Buy, Amazon, and CompUSA offer the E71 for between $300 and $450. No US carriers offer the phone, but at CTIA 2009, AT&T announced that they would carry Nokia's new E71x, which is basically the E71 locked to AT&T's network and with a few additional AT&T-specific services. AT&T sells the E71x for $99 with a two-year contract and mail-in rebate.

Competitive products

Bottom line for businesses

The thin, stylish E71 is one the best looking business-class smartphones on the market. It has a solid QWERTY keyboard, a nice display, decent camera (in bright light), and great battery life. But, Nokia's failure to fully support Microsoft Exchange and the steep price tag will make the E71 a hopeless case for many business users.

User rating

Have you used the Nokia E71? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the Nokia E71 or another smartphone in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

2 comments
Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The thin, stylish E71 is one the best looking business-class smartphones on the market. It has a solid QWERTY keyboard, a nice display, decent camera (in bright light), and great battery life. You can read my full review here: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/products/?p=439 But, Nokia?s failure to fully support Microsoft Exchange is a nonstarter for me. What's your must-have feature on a business smartphone?

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

AT&T has indeed started carrying the E71x. My company was just given one to try out and compare to the Blackjack II during our trial period with AT&T (the 30-day guarantee). I didn't realize that there wasn't support for other Mail folders, and that will probably be a nonstarter for us as well. Thanks for the info!