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Nokia E90 Review Part III

10th August 2007

< Part II

Long term test >

Click here to see our video review

Nokia E90 Software: First impressions

The Nokia E90 is a Symbian Series 60 phone rather than having the Symbian Series 80 operating system of the 9500. It's a simpler operating system, but it does has some advantages of being more "mainstream".

The welcome screen on the E90 is the same on the internal and external displays.

 Nokia E90 welcome screen

The main menu has a distinctive S60 feel about it too..

 Nokia E90 menu

For comparison, the Nokia 9500 was somewhat different:

 Nokia 9500 interface

It's certainly smarter than the old 9210i too:

 Nokia 9210i interface

Nokia E90 User Interface

On the surface, the E90 looks much more glossy. Underneath the software operates in a typical S60 way using just two softkeys and the controller pad, whereas the 9500 used a more PC-style user interface.

 Nokia E90 menu structure

 Nokia E90 menus (external display) The user interface on the internal display and external display is very consistent. People used to other S60 devices will adapt to the E90 very easily, users of the old 9500/9300/9300i devices will probably miss the old menu structure.

Although for simple applications the S60 interface is fine, for more complex ones (such as web browsing) the limitations become clear. However, the E90's interface is very responsive and indeed all software operations are much quicker that on the old 9500.

Don't underestimate the importance of consistency and the usefulness of the external display on the E90. The 9500 was pretty useless until you opened it up, but here the E90 gives to access to the full range of features on both displays. And anyone who has struggled with the inconsistent flip open/flip closed interface on the Sony Ericsson P990i will appreciate the ease of use this bring.

Compare the same web browser menus on the Nokia 9500 (below) and you'll see the difference - the 9500 works just like a PC and it comes with a dedicated menu button on the keypad. Keyboard shortcuts are also well labelled.. again, if you're downscaling from a laptop then the 9500 will have a more familiar environment that has been somewhat lost on the E90.

 Nokia 9500 menus

What's more, the Nokia 770 and N800 use an interface that's closer the the 9500 than the E90:

 Nokia 770 menus

Nokia E90 mapping

The Nokia E90 downloads maps as it goes, which is a free-of-charge service except for the data costs involved. The E90 "swoops" down on your position when you start the maps application, presumably to give it some time to connect to the network and download anything it needs.

 Nokia E90 maps

Mapping on the external display is substantially similar, it is essentially just a smaller view window on the mapping appliction.

Navigation on the Nokia E90 Communicator is a chargeable option. For example, a licence for the Navigation software for Western Europe at the time of writing is:

  • 7 days = 6.00 (9 approx)
  • 30 days = 6.72 (10 approx)
  • 1 year = 60.50 (90 approx)
  • 3 years = 67.22 (100 approx)

This may seem expensive, but if you have a TomTom then a new set of maps for Western Europe is around 100/140 so there's an expensive there too.

 Nokia E90 navigation

The Navigation application works on both the internal and external displays. In the picture above, the map is at maximum zoom. You can tell that the E90's Navigation application lacks the ease-of-use of a dedicated unit such as a TomTom. And because the E90 doesn't have a touchscreen, it is almost impossible to use while on the move. However, the voice commands are very good and overall it's not a bad application to have on your phone, although you really will need some sort of cradle to mount it on.

Nokia E90 Multimedia

As you'd expect, the Nokia E90 has both audio and video playback capabilities. The audio player is pretty straightforward to use, again the function is identical whether the phone is open or closed. One drawback is that the E90 could be a little louder, however there's a standard jack plug for attaching headphones (supplied in the box) or you could plug it into a set of speakers.

 Nokia E90 Music Player

The video player plays back MP4, 3GP, MPEG-4, RV, RA and AMR formats. We found that poor quality originals (especially anything "shaky") played back poorly, but in the main video playback for most clips was pretty good. Shown below are a 3GP clip from the BBC, and a clip from Superman at the Internet Archive (specifically this version). One of the two clips shows an evil villain.. we'll let you decide which is which!

 Nokia E90 playing videos

You can see a clip of the Nokia E90 playing the movie below. Note that the Internet Archive's Moving Image Collection has plenty of free movie downloads suitable for playback on the E90.

The wide screen on the inside of the E90 makes it ideal for playing back videos.. it's too wide in many respects. It's also quite convenient to have the E90 open on a desk or table when it's playing back, something that's trickier to do with other phones.


Other applications

The Nokia E90 Communicator has several other applications in addition to the ones we've seen, including a set of office applications called QuickOffice which allow you to work with Microsoft Office files, an email client plus interesting gadgets such as a barcode scanner. Of course, the E90 comes with a comprehensive set of personal information management tools too. Below are some screenshots, we hope to cover the rest of the applications at a later date.

One interesting feature with the Nokia E90 is the ability to update the software using the Nokia PC Suite. Although other phones have had this for a while, this is the first time the end user has been able to update their Communicator software in this way.

 Nokia E90 Screenshots

< Part II

Long term test > 

Click here to see our video review

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