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Featuring a 4" touchscreen and large slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the Nokia E7 is the latest "Communicator" device from Nokia, following on from the E90 launched in 2007.
Nokia unashamedly say that this is a BIG phone, but then Communicator users have always been happy with this because it has meant that they have a bigger keyboard and screen. The old E90 weighed a massive 210 grams which was certainly one of the heaviest devices on the market, the new E7 offers similar functionality while trimming off 20% of the weight, coming in at 176 grams and measuring 124 x 62 x 14mm.
Although the display is now an attractive 4" "ClearBlack" AMOLED touchscreen panel, one immediately obvious thing is that the resolution has dropped to 640 x 360 pixels from 800 x 352 pixels on the E90. The wide display was one of the best features of the old E90, and 800 pixels or more is what you would expect from a high-end smartphone these days. Many Communicator users will be put off by this apparent downgrade.
This is a Symbian^3 smartphone, so the full range of Symbian^3 applications should be available to it, unlike the old E90 where there was only a limited subset. One of the problems with running Symbian applications on the E90 was the unusual format of the display.. so it looks like there could be an advantage in the more standard 640 x 360 panel after all.
Unlike the E90, there is no secondary display.. but touchscreen phones are much more common than they were in 2007, so this is no surprise. The keyboard is elegantly laid out and is reminiscent of the one found on the old 9210i, with a clear layout and good spacing between the keys. The slider mechanism has a sort-of-hinge, so the E7 can be opened up and left on a desk and used like a tiny laptop.
On the back of the E7 is an 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash and 720p HD video capture. Videos can be played back through the familiar 3.5mm AV connector or via an optional HDMI adaptor. While we are on the subject of multimedia, the E7 also comes with an FM radio and a multimedia player that can support most major formats including MP3, AAC, Windows Media and Flash Video.
The E7 is a business category phone though, so it comes with options that consumer-only devices usually don't, including VPN capabilities (from next year), advanced integration with Microsoft Exchange, and a security suite from F-Secure to track, lock and wipe missing devices. The E7 also comes with a version of QuickOffice and various other productivity tools.
As with most recent Nokia smartphones, the E7 comes with GPS and Ovi Maps Navigation, and a full set of social networking applications. Of course, all the basics are here such as a web browser too.
This is a 3.5G device supporting HSDPA downloads of up to 10.2 Mbps and HSUPA uploads of up to 2 Mbps. As this is a Communicator class device then there's no surprise to see that it has WiFi, and in this case it supports the faster 802.11n protocol in addition to 802.11 b and g. The Nokia E7 also supports Bluetooth 3.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity, and unlike the old E90, the E7 can be charged through the USB port.
Nokia say that the large 1200 mAh battery can power the E7 for up to 5 hours talktime on 3G and 20 days standby time, which is certainly adequate for a 3G phone, although using WiFi and GPS will eat into this.
On paper this looks like a great device, but the problem is that launching a Communicator every three years is not a good way to keep customers happy. Many people who bought the E90 after its 2007 launch will already have upgraded to another phone, and there's a good chance that it will be something other than a Nokia. Many potential customers may also think that Symbian is a dead-end platform and would sooner use something more upscale, but we are still waiting for the launch of Nokia's new MeeGo platform and the replacement for the N900.
Despite our reservations, this does look like an excellent device that should appeal to tech savvy consumers as well as businesses. Nokia say that the E7 should be available during Q4 2010 in Dark Grey, Silver White, Green, Blue and Orange colour schemes at around €500 before tax and subsidy.
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