Saturday, 11 February 2012

Nokia E63 vs E72 - a kind of review

I want to like the E72, I really do. I like the look, I like the slimmer feel and reading the specs things like the Camera, faster CPU and faster 3G really looked attractive.

But after using the E63 the 'advance' just isn't an advance. What follows is my thoughts on this, and a kind of review of the E72. This is not something written by the arse licking reviewers who I can only hope were paid to talk up the E72 (because the other alternatives are they're incompetent or blind).

I started out with a regular plain old phone and a PDA (palm OS) which I'd used for some years. I initially began looking for a smartphone in the budget area because I couldn't find a single thing which matched the Diary / ToDo / Memo system on the PDA but wanted more out of my phone (such as better Bluetooth, Email, basic WWW and just to see what's the fuzz)

I picked up an E63 because it was cheap and discovered that I really liked it.

The more I used it the more I discovered that it was a great tool for communications. It was the first phone I owned which allowed me to access Email and do some WWW as well as services like Twitter and Facebook (as well as posts to blogger). I was tempted to try something more powerful and bought an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy GIO) and was so disappointed by many of the missing features and inferior rendering of pages for reading and display of fonts (despite double the screen size) I sold it.

This started me thinking of what might be a little better than my E63?  Reading and research revealed that the E72 was a likely candidate.

After buying the E72 and using it for 6 months I like it, but I found there were just so many features which stood out as inferior on the E72 compared to the E63. I picked up the E63 again and started using it to find that quite a many of the features which added value to me were not as well handled on the E72 (not to meniont that some were just plain missing).

Why is this here?

I guess that partially because I'm conflicted about keeping the "flagship" E72 and partially because I know others make this choice (based on reading forums) and partially because I'm an IT person and find these win / loose issues to be both unnecessary and symptomatic of development today.

The E72 is not a bad phone, it ticks many boxes in the highly desirable categories for a smart phone. I feel that the problem with the phone is that it would appear that it was developed by a committee.  A group of non-communicative pointy haired managers who don't have a clue and think in bullet point objectives rather than holistic views of the phone meeting needs of the buyers.

Tick the boxes

The  phone has GPS (which works nicely), free off-line maps (which means that you can still navigate out where there is no phone signal, something that few seem to be able to grasp the importance of), a great camera with auto-focus (but ho hum video).

What I really like about the E-Series Nokia phones is that they come bundled and integrated to do exactly what I wanted and more. This is in stark contrast to the iPhone which really doesn't make a good phone until after you've started personalizing it with apps. To this point in time I have not really found any apps which I seriously want on my phone that in real use make it more functional for me (save Evernote)

To wit the things I want in my phone are:
  • good phone call quality (shock) [E63 = pass E72 = pass]
  • good texting capablity [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass, but don't expect predictive text]
  • email [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass just]
  • good bluetooth integration (for headset in the car) [both pass flying colours]
  • physical buttons which allow me to operate the phone quickly and effectively without looking at it [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass just]
  • good battery life [E63 = 1.5 days solid use E72 = 2.5 days solid use]
  • the ability for the phone to speak out the contents of SMS or Email (essential when you are driving and can't put your glasses on) [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = fail annoyingly]
  • Calendar and Todo [both pass]
  • basic WWW interaction (I use a notebook when I get more serious) [both pass]
  • good camera with AutoFocus to enable me to photograph business cards and documents and read QR codes [E63 = poor E72 = pass  flying colours]
The Nokia E-Series does this for me out of the box like no other phone yet.

Note: if you are the sort of person who has
  • no greater expectation of a phone than to make phone calls
  • like spending money
  • are unable to come to grips with predictive text
  • are technologically out of depth in a puddle
  • really, make no use of email on the phone, but want a phone that says it does email so you can impress your friends that you're not some sort of technology laggard
  • just want a handy camera on your phone
  • never use the phone in any other place other than a quiet car or quiet room or office
then the E72 may well be the better choice for you. If you tick all (or most of) those above bullet points then you won't find it annoying.

Annoying?

Well, stuff like it has a fast internet connection speed but as the browser is crippled by low memory and crashes the phone on any substantial pages (where the speed helps) you just find that its not a phone for internet anyway (in which case the levels of access provided in the E63 are sufficient).

The exception to this is that the E72 makes quite a good tether device for your laptop.

This review is aimed at people who use their phones for (in order of priority)
  1. things to make phone calls with
  2. sending SMS with more than 4 words in them
  3. sending emails (and often edit them, you know cut n paste stuff)
  4. a basic diary
  5. facebook and other social media
  6. checking RSS and some web pages (such as moible pages or low intensity ones like the weather)
  7. listen to music on your phone and online

the quick summary

If you want a great camera and a GPS which has basic telephony, a reasonable 3G data speed but a memory limited browser get the E72. Seriously the smaller your expectation set the less you'll be pissed off with this phone. Definately DO not get this phone after you've had an E71 or E63 ... you'll either want to toss it, you will toss it or you'll be conflicted about it.

The changes to 'look and feel' of the OS (meaning what you muddle around in to get to your apps if you don't have them assigned to a shortcut key or off the home screen) are more about the sort of visual changes you saw when moving from Win2000 to XP but with none of the underlying advantages in that change. So essentially the 'freshen-up' of the look and feel is about putting makeup on. Well it works for the stage and theater too.

Every day I use the E72 I find myself struggling with (against?) its lack of functional predictive text and the munged up methods of the 'new' email client. Seriously that email client is strange. It looks good and seems like it should be better but just can't cope with the real world of usage.

But I want more...

If you want a great value for money phone which brings with it a number of modern features such as
  • email
  • basic www access
  • very useful functions for visually impaired people
  • maps
  • basic camera
  • can tolerate slow 3G data but WiFi is good
and don't want to get shit off with stupid things as mentioned above (and below), then get the E63 and save yourself the hair pulling.

As one who does a lot of texting on my phone I often sit in wonder at the people who can't grasp the benefits of predictive text. On small keyboards (where you can't touch type) you're essentially "all thumbs". So having an assistant built into the phone to help you with things really helps. I don't want to have to press ' for dont and I don't want to have to press shift so that i dont type i when I mean I.

Definitely like the predictive text on the E63 better than that on the E72. The E72 is so bad that its debatable whether it provides much benefits than hassle. Combined with the much slower switching in and out of it makes it even less attractive to use it. The E63 you press Ctl then press space. These do not need to be pressed together, but sequentially. Thus you can switch in and out with one hand. On the E72 not only do you have to press Ctl (and hold it) then press space but it may need at least two goes at it before the E72 gets the point. Same with copy and paste. Far easier on the E63

EMAIL

Then there is email. While it looks more glamorous, it essentialy is slower to use in as many ways as its easier to use. For instance shortcut key forwarding and reply is nice as is its nice grouping of days for when you are handling many days of email on the phone. Also nice is the background sending of sms and emails, saving you waiting around at the screen while you observe its dispatch. But the problem comes with HTML email. Many called for HTML email to be supported, which Nokia addressed in this client. Unfortunately it resulted in very slow load times and made reading the mail quite annoying. The E63 on the other hand had a more steam-driven looking client which essentialy is much faster to use and allow the HTML mails to be loaded as a separate action.

I prefer this for a number of reasons.

1) many times a html mail is simply junk mail. Opening it up in the plain text mode prevents any malicious links from being parser by the HTML parser. So they never know you got the mail and never know that your email is valid (phishing)

2) most people who send me HTML email just fluff up their emails with Bling formatting and fonts and stationary that is normally of zero importance to me and also of zero value to the content, Perhaps its good to entertain the budgie but in many ways I'm a pragmatic person rather than a flowery ornate one. Anyway if there is something critical in there then I can load the email in the HTML reader with a click if I want to.

3) reading longer email is a nicer experience when its in the plain text view. I can move around easier in the page with a single click being down a screen rather than down a line. I tend to read in screens rather than lines.

So when its all said and done the designers of the E72 seemed to act and think as if they were accessing a much larger device than they were. They seemed to act as if they didn't need to make effective use of the resources available and to think efficiently. That was a mistake as the phone does have limited resources (in screen size, processor and memory). Handled effectively they could have really maximized the existing applications and other really leveraged off the outstanding things on the phone (such as the great camera and the high speed connectivity that it has).

Instead through E72 stands out as a failure and a cluster of unrealized opportunity. To this day there is no QWERTY phone on the market which combines all the features of the E72, and sadly there probably never will be

Discussion


In 2011 the GSMArena phone user survey summarised what people in the world do with their phones as:


With the size of the text demonstating the importance of that point. This more or less matches what I do with my phone. So if you're not aligned that way then much of this won't really relate to you.

I would say that the only thing done better on the E72 is
  • the camera (great for its , 
  • the torch light (cameras LED flash)
  • the slim feel
  • 50% better battery life (2 days vs 1.5)
  • notification flashing light
  • built in GPS with orientation and compas
The important thing here is to consider are these features worth the trade off in other functionality lost compared to what the E63 offers.

Physically the phones are quite similar, with the E63 being a bit 'thicker' feeling than the E72. Height, width and weight are almost identical.

I have put together a list of what I find to be the plusses and minuses of these two phones features here. So you can have a gander at that and see what criteria I have evaluated it with and how I've ranked them.

The good points of the E72

Basically I like the great camera on the E72, which is the equal of even the iPhone 4S and easily beats a cheap digicam and inbuilt GPS (both have maps).

Its well made (despite criticisms of the battery hatch which I concur with) and feels nice in the hand. The notification light is excellent, brilliant (literally). Battery life is better

The built in browser has some nice additional features over the E63 (if you're one to remember short cut keys).

The bad points

  • the miserable (nay crap) predictive text (the E63 is a class leader in that area!!),
  • lack of proper IMAP implementation (forcing you to either sign up with Nokia Messaging or do polling email),
  • miserable volume of hands free speaker phone
  • miserable audibility mumbling of the reading of SMS to me (saves me putting my glasses on) {the voice for reading on the E72 is either a joke or an insult}
The entire phone reeks of inconsistency (especially if you have prior experience and expectations. For instance:

Home screen Email notifications keep bloody popping up with (0) {meaning no unread } rather than going away when the mail is read ... even when you 'hide' the notification it bloody well pops back up there again.


Unless of course that Account is on  Nokia Messaging (god I hate those bastards)

Then in the now ruined messaging app where once Emails and SMS and MMS would sit in a unified manner (as it continues to do in the E63) the idiot who developed this munged it up so that read or unread mails are all colour coded yellow ... like what's the bloody point?



The E63 actually only colours the unread messages as Yellow and as soon as you've read it the envelope opens up and the colour changes to white. Its unbelieveable that they chose to tinker with what was working and broke it.

FOOLS

Next the Messaging main window now no longer puts an * on the 'inbox' which has unread messages. So when you go to the Messaging view you will only see this * for the SMS / MMS inbox, not any of the Email inboxes. Again, this was how it was on the E63 - which was both convenient and helpful

FOOLS

Its like noone who worked on this had ever worked on making the most of a user interface ... they were just into making the icons look more colourful and '3D' ish.

Wankers

I could go on and on about inconsistencies in this interface (next cab off the rank would be the Address book which has been crippled, probably followed by the menu system).

So it comes down to the camera faster 3G and faster CPU of the E72 VS the usablity and integrated nature of the E63 - Am I willing to forgoe the usability of the phone as a communications device for the great camera and the inbuilt GPS?

Physical appearance

There's no shortage of pictures of these two phones on the net, so if you're after better examples than this I encourage you to have a google around. But for the purposes of this discussion I thought I'd make this image by putting both phones face down on my flatbed scanner and scanning them.

In this way its pretty clear to everyone that the relative sizes are pretty darn close.


From the above its clear that there is bugger all difference in the phones dimensions (well the E72 is a bit thinner so it slips into your pocket better, but that's also true of how much easier it slips back out when you bend over) they are the same weight.

Personally I prefer the look of the E63 but the thinner physical size of the E72

Keyboards

Anyone who is attracted to these phones probably likes them because they have realy QWERTY keyboards. While similar there is something which comes out with use here, or if you're looking for it and especially if you move from one to the other.

Yes, the keyboards are slightly different sizes.

Perhaps it doesn't leap out at you looking at the images, but when you see that the E72 has that large chrome border left and right of the keyboard and is also starting lower and ending higher up ... you don't see it at first, it becomes obvious when you think about it too.

To make this clearer I used Photoshop to overlay one over the other ... since the scales are the same it was pretty straight forward to do this.



So you can see that not only are each of the keys on the E72 a wee bit smaller, but are of course also closer together.

This may not seem like much, but to put a perspective on this, many people do not like using laptop keyboards which are 95% of the size of a "standard" keyboard. That 5% makes enough difference for anyone who can type that they feel it takes time to get used to it. Those with smaller hands may come to prefer the 95% size (I know I do) ... but on phones like this I don't think anyone has fingers that small ...

So if you are used to typing on the keyboard of the E63 then the E72 feels a wee bit more cramped. Not something you really want when you already have a cramped keyboard, more so when you find that the predicative text on the E72 just plain sucks. This sucks so much clearly it was Nokia's weapon to drive away customers who like using it. I mean its bad. Don't use it.

[edit: over time with the E72 I have come to like its keyboard tactile feel, but prefer the location of buttons from the E63 ... so perhaps that's just a matter of experience]

Then there are other usability issues. For instance, lets take a look at the buttons on the phone above the keyboard.

Premise - seeing with your fingers; AKA Tactile Feel

Many phone users (or infact many users of machines in general) prefer to be able to operate things without actually looking at what they are operating.
  • When playing games do you look at your controls?
  • Do you want to have to look where the gear stick or brake pedals are when you drive your car?
I'm one who likes to be able to pull my phone out and answer it without looking at it like reading a book. This is a thing which makes the E63 distinct (and better) from the E72.

On both phones you have 4 buttons around the outside of the navigation / select button. These are (on the top row) context dependent and are within applications "options" and "exit". The buttons on the lower row are the dedicated (unchanging) phone buttons: "call" and "hangup"

Buttons are handy things, they're designed to be pressed. Even touchscreen phones like the iPhone have some dedicated buttons.



Its good to have a button where you know it should be so that you can use it when you need it without bothering to look for it.

I mean do you look at the pedals in your car when you drive? Do you look at your alarm clock before you hit it into snooze?

So if you intend to use the phone without looking at it (or just use it quickly), then its really helpful to have buttons that you can feel ... know by their shape where you are on the surface.

I'd like to look again more carefully at this section of the E63 and the E73 and express more clearly what I feel after having used both.


E63

The Buttons are raised and tactile. They have good shapes, and are easy to find and feel. As well they are located and separated by zone well.

This makes it easier to use the phone without taking your eye off what you're doing. You can feel exactly where the hangup button is. The answer button may or may not be so significant depending if you've programed the phone to "press any key to answer". You can easily press left and right select and not accidentally press mail or home.

However on the E72 things look different


There is a stylish totally flat brushed alloy surface which has no feel about its surface at all. Sure it contributes to having the phone look , but not to feel. Really you just can't feel them easily at all. It looks rather like a late 1980's Stereo amp in look ... but has no tactile feel.

The really weird thing is, this navigation area takes up more space than on the E63 and in turn eats up into the keyboard size, yet isn't as easy to feel or operate the buttons as it is on the E63.

The layout on the E63 ... give good physical separation to the buttons and gives divides the four pres-sable areas well for fingers to find and press. It has two press-able areas on each side and two in the middle (see the red dots).



The raised areas and shapes of the surrounding buttons both makes it clear where the corners are and also leads the finger to the middle area (which is bounded by the navigation ring). This makes pressing buttons easier and more accurate. Sides = Top and Bottom : Middle Left and Right

Essentially on the E72 the spots you can press are more compressed and complex. On the sides we have three areas (see the orange dots) and while overall there are still 4 press-able areas each side of the navigation button they are physically distinct easily (note how the red dots make this confusion obvious):



Along the side there is 3 places to press without any clear tacticle feeling to guide your finger. I'm often hitting home when trying to hit left select and often hitting email when wanting right select.

Its annoying.  After a couple of months with the phone I can say I'm still hitting the wrong thing unless I'm looking at it - and what is the point of needing to look at it?

Despite this issue high points however do go to the prominence of the "notification light" on the E72, which sticks out like prawns eyes in comparison to that of the E63, which is often also a little distracting because of the reflective coating put on the navigation ring (dunno what moron thought that was a good idea).

Given that the E72 is intended to be a communications tool for those on the go there are just so many little things which make it less of a "hey this is great" user experience in switching from the E63 (which was always at least half the price of) to the E72.

As somone who on the go likes to quickly operate my phone without looking at it I find that the E72 just isn't as good as the E63 ... or infact the E71 which went before it.

So if you're actually a busy person who wants to have a communications tool that does phone calls, sms, mms and email as well as has great predective text. I strongly suggest the E63 is the go.

If your the sort of person for who a phone is a fashion accessory then the E72 is without equal in QWERTY phones. Its just beautifully styled. It even has a nice reflective backing which acts as a mirror to give you something to look at yourself in.

Well, given that Nokia still make and sell the E63 which says lots (as does some web searching over the bugs it had, although mostly sorted out recently).

Especially if you use a bluetooth headset when driving, the tactile feel of the keys on the E63 makes pressing the button for voice dialing (top right) a peach.

If it wasn't for how bloody good the camera was I just don't think I'd keep this phone (the E72). Even given that I'm still considering "why" right now.

Its just that as I have an good example of an E72 (bought second hand) at the moment (and they're discontinued) I just don't want to do anything rash like sell it: only to realise "ohh ... but"

Finally I have a bunch of points clustered together on a Google doc which forms a matrix of the points which are important to me and thus how I can 'logically' rank the two phones.

I worked out what features I liked and wanted to have which were on both phones (or in some cases absent on the E63, such as where the blue graph is at 0) and then ranked them in two stages.

  1. score of 1 - 10 for the success of each feature
  2. weighting of 1 - 5 on the importance of each feature to me
This gave me the following graph. As you can see there are some overlaps and some differences.


This may help you also to determine if your preferences lay in the E63's function set or in the E72.

The devils are in the details as always, so if you are interested in maybe doing this for yourself then tThe spread sheet can be found here.

You may need to have a good and honest think about the relative importances and it may even be that this shifts from time to time.

My weighted scoring method put the E63 at 68% suited to me and the E72 at 63% suited to me. Which is pretty neck and neck. The graph however shows the discrepancy between the features and where strengths and weaknesses of each lie (within the context of my weighting system, YMMV so do your own).

Hope this helps someone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I ditched iPhone 4, and sweared not to use ANY touchscreen phone, and all this in favor of my 3 year old E63.

Using E63 is like using a DSLR (with lots of quick tactile buttons) against a touchscreen cheap cameras, where in you have to always looks at it in order to operate it.

Though the phone is getting old, I am still waiting for a fit replacement.