Nokia E6 review: The E spirit

GSMArena team, 08 July 2011.

Ovi Store for Symbian

Symbian is still one of the most popular smartphone OSes in the world but its application store is pretty barren compared to the two juggernauts, the iOS App Store and Android's Market.

The company has refreshed their Ovi store interface to make it more user-friendly for Symbian^3 and it's what you get on Anna too. And while the UI is indeed very handy to use, the number of apps is somewhat of a problem.

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Symbian Anna borrows the Ovi store from Symbian^3

The default screen shows a list of featured apps or you can browse the apps available in the Ovi Store by categories – Applications, Games, Audio and Video content, Personalization; or by collections – Summer Gift of Games, Chat Collection, Apps Start Kit, Travel, Tools for Professionals and Apps for Kids are the collections available at the time of this writing.

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The number of apps is increasing too

Your account profile keeps record of all the apps you have installed under My stuff. You can now also select where games and apps should be installed and where audio and video should go. That’s nice – we wish Android had that right from the start.

Free GPS navigation

The Nokia E6 comes with a built-in GPS receiver, which managed to get a satellite lock from a cold start (A-GPS turned off) in a little under two minutes. You also have A-GPS for getting a faster lock or use Cell-ID/Wi-Fi positioning if you don’t need the accuracy.

As you probably know since the start of the year Nokia made their Ovi Maps navigation free for all their smartphones, which naturally includes the E6. The voice guidance is currently available in over 70 countries and over 40 different languages, with even traffic information for more than 10 of those.

In addition, Nokia did a pretty decent job of the Ovi Maps application itself, blessing it with a cool, touch-friendly interface, as well as nice features such as the Lonely Planet city guide, HRS hotels and the Michelin restaurant guide. There's also an Event guide that lists all that’s happening within a 3km range of your position.

With Ovi Maps 3.06 you get three different view modes including satellite and terrain maps. Those however do need an internet connection. The more regular 2D and 3D view modes are also at hand and can be used with preloaded maps. Pinch zooming and downloading maps straight to the phone via Wi-Fi work like a charm here.

Updating Ovi Maps if it doesn’t come with the latest version out of the box is quite worthwhile.

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Ovi Maps gives you free lifetime voice-guided navigation over the excellent Navteq maps

The route planning algorithm is also rather easy to customize to best suit your preferences. Toll roads and motorways can be avoided and so can tunnels and ferries. Routes can be set to either fastest or shortest.

Ovi Maps is also usable for pedestrian navigation or you can switch the GPS receiver off and use the phone as a hand-held map.

Final words

It's been almost two years since the E72 was keen to stress it was business as usual for the Eseries. It now seems like an eternity. A few iPhone versions and Android releases later, the business is not what it used to be and Nokia have been learning it the hard way. Tablets are all over the place, dual-core’s in charge and even BlackBerry want a piece of the touchscreen pie.

What about the Eseries? Well, they’ve been trying to adapt. The neat and reliable E5 is the younger, friendlier face of the Eseries, affordable and social. The E7 is the usual solid job, which, under different circumstances, could’ve been a flagship to fear and respect. Nokia have been trying to keep up with the rest to the best of their ability. Symbian Anna lifts their game and some of their recent phones look to win back some of the lost pride.

The E6 is called to take over from the E72, connect the dots between the past and the present. The Eseries spirit is so intact it leaves a major upgrade somewhat in the shade. The screen makes quite a difference - mostly for the bump in resolution, less so for actually being a touchscreen.

We should note though, that the latest Symbian Anna helps appreciate the QWERTY/touchscreen combo. And the improved media package makes the E6 a better entertainer than its Eseries predecessors. The new Symbian browser is another point in favor. It’s the browser too – along with text editors – that makes the D-pad a credible addition to the multi-touch enabled capacitive touchscreen.

Keyboard and touchscreen is a combination that works and one that Nokia has already tried in the sweet little X3-02 Touch and Type. It’s not alien to a smartphone context either: from olden-day PocketPCs to messenger droids in the bar form factor.

Even RIM are giving it a try with the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900. We’re looking forward to yet another chapter of the Eseries rivalry with BlackBerry when the Bold Touch is released this September. The latest RIM invention is based on the BlackBerry OS 7.0, runs on a 1.2GHz processor (double the clock speed of the E6), has the same high-res touchscreen but slightly bigger and an optical trackpad.

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900
BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The HTC ChaCha should be in the picture too, though it’s not exactly a threat – it targets a younger demographic than the E6, and falls in a lower price bracket. The Facebook-experience HTC ChaCha runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sense on top. It’s got an inferior HVGA display a few things missing, including a document editor and free voice-guided navigation.

HTC ChaCha
HTC ChaCha

Another recent Android messenger is Samsung's Galaxy Pro B7510. It’s probably in the same league as the HTC ChaCha, obviously cheaper running Android v.2.2 Froyo.

Samsung Galaxy Pro B7510
Samsung Galaxy Pro B7510

Looks like a two-horse race – we’re not sure we can count the Motorola Pro, which is due later this year. With a proper 3” touchscreen, it’s almost a different from factor.

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Nokia E6 next to Nokia E71

Anyway, it was time for the Eseries to move on and Nokia couldn’t have done better than the E6. With phones like the N8, N9 and the X7, Nokia is busy showing us they still have it in them. The E6 has nothing to be ashamed of in this company. Is this enough for it to hope to leave a footprint the size of the E71? Probably not. No one knows that better than Nokia themselves. They deal with the message rather than kill the messenger.