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14 May 2009

E-mail on the go

If you like working your fingers on an e-mail while on the go, the Nokia E63 may just be the phone for you.

By CHONG JINN XIUNG

LIKE it or not, e-mail has become the most pervasive method to stay in touch be it for work or leisure.

For most, it’s hard to resist the urge to quickly check e-mail messages whenever we are in a WiFi hotspot.

Nokia is hoping to make it really easy for you with its E63, a business centric phone that will cater to your e-mail needs.

Looks

Lightweight and modest looking, the E63 is a compact candybar phone that weighs 126g. The outer plastic casing comes in two colours — Ultramarine Blue and Ruby Red.

Our review unit is the Ultramarine Blue which while still attractive to the eye, was a bit too conservative for my taste.

The E63 looks near identical to the Nokia E71, though it has no side buttons for controlling the volume or voice recording.

A 2.36in screen (320 x 240-pixel resolution) provides ample space for viewing e-mail, text messages and browsing the Web.

The front panel of the device is largely dominated by a compact Qwerty keypad that should come in handy for heavy SMS and e-mail users.

The Qwerty keyboard also doubles up as a number pad as several keys at the centre can be used to dial numbers when on the home screen, which felt a little weird.

Despite the rather cramped appearance, the keypad is surprisingly soft yet comfortable to type on. One benefit I can see in having a full Qwerty keypad is that it’s quicker to type symbols, just like on a regular keyboard.

Still, the keys are placed quite closely together so expect to make typos from time to time.

There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve for adjusting to the keys on the E63 as I had to constantly eye the keypad to make sure my fingers were hitting the right keys.

Even after spending sometime with it, I’m still not able to type without making mistakes. I have a feeling that users with larger fingers will have problems with the keypad.

Anyway, I still find that I could thumb type faster on a regular keypad with T9 text input while making fewer mistakes.

Above the keypad are the usual call and hang up buttons along with a few useful shortcut keys like the home, calendar, phonebook and text message.

These buttons are great for quickly accessing common functions easily and there’s even one to turn on the LED so that it can be used as a flashlight.

If there is one design flaw in the phone’s button placement it has to be the call hang up button that doubles up as the on/off switch.

If you press the button for too long, it will display the profile menu which also makes it very easy to accidentally turn the phone off.

Another issue that bugs me is that the lack of a side button to adjust the volume — instead you have to hold the function key while pressing up or down on the directional pad to adjust the volume.

This makes it inconvenient to adjust the volume, say, during a call.

Functionality

As a mobile phone, the E63 has decent voice call quality and the speakerphone function is easily accessible and sufficiently loud to be heard while driving.

Users familiar with the Symbian OS should feel right at home with the E63. On top of being able to install Symbian applications on the phone, it has all the familiar features of a smartphone.

The home screen serves as the main interface, housing important shortcuts for sending text messages, web browsing and notifying you of new e-mail messages.

If you like to keep your work and private life separate, the E63 has a handy feature that gives you the option to customise a home screen for each.

For instance, you can have shortcuts for your e-mail and business contacts on your work home screen, and songs and games on the other.

E-mail is certainly the E63’s forte, as it uses the Nokia Messaging application, which you can download for free off email.nokia.com.

It is relatively easy to set up an e-mail account on the E63, as all you need is your e-mail address, password and you are good to go.

While I was able to get my Yahoo! and Ovi mail up and running, I ran into trouble with my Gmail account which was troubling since it’s my main account. But after a few tries, I managed to connect to it.

The Nokia Messaging interface is clean, simple and easy to use. Upon launching it, you will be shown all your active e-mail accounts, of which you can have up to ten.

The app functions like a full fledged e-mail client where you can compose a message and add pictures or files attachments.

Also, Nokia Messaging is highly customisable as you can preset it not to fetch e-mail while roaming, set limits on file attachments and such.

One cool feature of Nokia Messaging is that you can set it to retrieve e-mail only during office hours if you don’t wish to be bothered after working hours.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the E63 has a rather long battery life.

I used it for two days straight with occasional web browsing and voice calls and the phone still retained half of its charge.

Definitely useful for long days out of the office and you wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to stay in touch.

Other features

The E63 comes with lots of other goodies that will come in handy for the typical business user.

You have two options for getting on the Net — WiFi and 3G connection.

The surfing speed was consistent when we tested the phone with a WiFi connection.

And as most websites have a mobile version, they were easy to view and navigate on the phone although you lose out on the full experience.

Moving on, the E63 doesn’t have an internal GPS, so you can’t use it to navigate. This is understandable as it doesn’t have a big enough screen for you to view maps comfortably while driving.

The phone has 10MB of built-in memory which is minuscule by today’s standards but you can easily expand it with a microSD card.

The phone has a 2-megapixel camera and it comes as no surprise that it cannot hold a candle to newer models though it still gets the job done.

Also, the LED flash doesn’t in anyway help in taking pictures in the dark. Although I could see my subjects clearly but the photos turned out awfully greenish when shot with the flash.

Video recording doesn’t fare any better but it still looks relatively smooth when compared with other camera phones.

Also, the E63 really isn’t a great music player. The speakers sound pretty awful so you are better off using earphones.

I certainly don’t see the E63 functioning as your primary music player, so it’s probably best to stick to a dedicated player.

Conclusion

The Nokia E63 is a mixed bag of goodies that does some things right and under performs in other areas.

Also, it’s a matter of preference whether you like or dislike the Qwerty keyboard.

For some, a regular keypad with T9 text inputis still the best way to type on a phone.

Possibly the biggest plus point of the E63 is that you can check your e-mail on the go as Nokia Messaging makes it easy to configure your e-mail accounts and stay in touch.

However, other additional features like the built-in camera and music player are just unremarkable.

Overall, the E63 is specifically designed for business users and mainly caters for those who use e-mail and SMS a lot.

Plus, for RM1,080 you are getting a decent phone with WiFi connectivity and a good e-mail client.

Pros: Excellent e-mail client; decent Qwerty keypad; WiFi connectivity; cheap.

Cons: Camera is average; speakers not good enough for music; lacks volume control buttons.

Nokia E63

(Nokia)

3G smartphone

Operating System: Symbian OS 9.2

Display: 2.36in QVGA LCD (320 x 240 pixels)

Camera: 2megapixels

Connectivity: GSM 900/1800/1900, EDGE, Bluetooth, WiFi 802.11b/g

Messaging: SMS, MMS, e-mail

Internal Memory: 110MB

Expansion slot: MicroSD

Stand-by/ Talk time: 480 hours/4 hours 40 minutes

Other features: Music player, organiser, stopwatch, calendar, voice recorder, Adobe PDF reader, Quickoffice

Dimensions (W x D x H):113 x 59 x 13mm

Weight: 126g

Website: www.nokia.com.my

Price: RM1,080

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