Forget all that touchscreen mania. If you like a good old-fashioned keyboard, the Nokia E75 is for you. Not only does it have a standard alphanumeric keypad but a full Qwerty keypad slides out from underneath. This is a business phone, but it's also got a split personality, with the ability to rock two home screens -- one for home and one for work.
You can pick up the E75 from free on a £35-per-month contract on several networks, or for £330 with a pay-as-you-go deal on O2.
The E75 plays it cool in the looks department, resembling one of Nokia's classic candybar phones at first glance. But trapped within its 14mm-thick body lurks a full, slide-out Qwerty keyboard, which springs out enthusiastically when you need to get stuck into some serious messaging. Our black sample wouldn't raise any eyebrows in a business meeting, but the E75 also comes in a flashy all-over red colour if you want to make a statement.
We were impressed that Nokia has managed to pack a full keyboard into such a compact phone, but there's positive and negative sides to this feature. On the plus side, the keys are reasonably large and they gave a soft click when pressed. But we don't like how there's no space between them, except for a bar down the middle that divides the keyboard between G and H. Also, there aren't any number keys on the Qwerty keyboard. If you want to write numbers, you'll have to press the shift key or do some hand gymnastics to reach the numbers on the standard phone keypad.
The phone keypad also has flat keys that click softly. There's no space between them but they're a good size, and we don't think anyone would have much trouble with them.
The festival of buttons continues with four shortcut
keys to access features like the calendar, a five-way function key, and the
usual four call, cancel and function keys. There's also a camera
button, volume buttons and the rarely-spotted mute button on the side.
Work to live, live to
The E75's user interface will be no surprise to anyone who's ever used a Nokia -- the company's stuck with the old familiar. The homepage shows the number of new emails, calendar entries and a range of shortcuts, and it's all customisable. The user interface is starting to look slightly dated following the jazzy innovations we've seen from the iPhone and LG, but, depending on your stance, it may be a case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
There are, however, a couple of new things happening on the E75's homescreen. It can switch between two modes: the 'work you' and the 'play you', if you will. You can set up separate email accounts, for example, on the two home screens, so you won't see those pesky work emails pop up while you're trying to chillax. And your 'play' homescreen defaults to showing more entertainment shortcuts, like the music player, rather than the boring old calendar with its constant work-related reminders. Staff meeting? No thanks, we've got tunes to rock.
We had no trouble setting up a Gmail email address, although you have to configure it online if you want to use subfolders, and then you're limited to ten. We were happy to see the Nokia Messaging service that supports this feature is free with the purchase of the phone.
The E75 also features Nokia Maps, but, disappointingly, the maps near us were oddly labelled with minor street names, rather than major thoroughfares, and the app didn't successfully find major tourist destinations nearby. We'd suggest that you install Google Maps instead. Nokia Maps does offer turn-by-turn navigation for walking and driving, which Google Maps doesn't, but you'll have to pay to subscribe to it.
Connecting to Wi-Fi is straightforward thanks to the E75's wireless scanner, although it isn't as effortless as with a BlackBerry or iPhone. As is typical with Nokia phones, there were a few hiccups each time we opened a new application that uses an Internet connection -- the phone never seemed quite happy to settle on Wi-Fi or 3G. But, once we were connected, pages loaded promptly and looked decent on the E75's 16 million colour, QVGA screen.
At 61mm (2.4 inches), the screen, although not the largest, is fine for watching videos. Nokia PC Suite, the desktop syncing software, did an okay job of converting and transferring our test videos. It managed to convert our MP4 and WMV test files into good-looking, smooth videos that were easy to find on the handset, but it couldn't handle our AVI file. Be sure to update to the latest version of PC Suite, because it's still very much a work in progress and each update tends to be a major leap forward.
Syncing calendar entries and other tasks, like backing up the phone's contents, tend to work well with PC Suite, but you're out of luck if you have a Mac: it requires a PC. Syncing is speedy over the included micro USB cable, and we were thrilled to see that this phone also charges while syncing -- a great feature that's missing from some Nokia handsets. Battery life is also decent, with the charge still going strong after a day of testing.
There's also a version of the Ovi Store app for the E75, which we were prompted to download when we visited store.ovi.com in the browser. There's still not a huge amount of content on there, considering how many great apps exist for the E75's Symbian S60 operating system, but, once it's found its feet, it should become a good source for getting more stuff for your phone. Once that happens, having the Ovi Store app will be much more useful than having to visit it in the browser, like with some other Nokia phones.
The E75's 3.2-megapixel camera does a good job of capturing clear photos very quickly, with only a moment's delay between pressing the dedicated camera button and snapping the photo. Colours are slightly washed out, but we'd be more than happy to depend on the E75 for the occasional snapshot.
It also has an LED photo light for darker conditions, a tiny mirror for self-portraits, and a good range of image options, such as a self-timer. There's a secondary camera for video calls and even more self-portraits, and the E75 will shoot VGA-quality video at 30 frames per second.
There's also an FM radio and media player, which you can enjoy via the very welcome standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
With the E75, Nokia has created another sound E-series workhorse that looks and feels like it's ready to get down to serious business. The keys might be too closely packed for some users, but, if they suit your sausage fingers, this phone packs a heap of easy-to-use features into a well-made, compact package.
BlackBerry is still the king of business phones thanks to its domination of enterprise-level push email, but the E75 could be a good choice if you want to stick with the Nokia user interface that you know and love, and crave the choice of both a keyboard and a number pad.
Edited by Charles Kloet