I was offered the chance to test out a Nokia E90 (aka the newest Nokia Communicator) for two weeks. As I’m a gadget hound, I jumped at the opportunity and here are my thoughts. Be forewarned that I used the E90 in place of my usual E70. Many of the criticisms found in this post have to do with comparisons between my E70 and the E90. Right off the bat I noticed that the keys on the E90 felt less “clicky” than the keys on my E70. I personally love responsive keys on a tiny keyboard, otherwise I can’t really touch type. The hinges on the E90 are a bit strange, and they grew on my slightly by the end of the two weeks. However, I would have loved to have a 45 degree angled mode between completely open and 90 degrees.
The screen was nice and bright, but often too bright at night. I tried adjusting the brightness and having the screen brightness auto-adjust with the light sensor, all to no avail. Also impeding proper usage of the E90 in the dark is the very dimly backlit keyboard in the fully open qwerty mode. My E70 has keys that are much more brightly backlit than the E90 when open. As far as I could find there was no way to increase the keyboard backlight’s brightness; it supported either on or off. Another usability annoyance for me were the two select buttons (they look like blue parentheses up to the right of the screen in the photo above). The select buttons are difficult to reach while thumb typing on the qwerty keyboard. On the E70 those buttons are on the screen in the middle and are very easy to access without any reach or stretch.
One happy feature of the E90 is the strong vibrator. It makes my E70 seem positively wimpy, and I have missed calls on my E70 in silent mode since switching back a few days ago. The four-way joysticks on both the outside and inside of the E90 work significantly better than on my E70. Coverage of 3G (UMTS) seems to be very similar to the antenna strength on my E70.
Now let me discuss current mobile apps for the Nokia E90. On my E70 I use the built in email app. The E90’s email app is very similar, though it is more pleasant to use on the interior widescreen than the outer screen. Web browsing still requires usage of the built in Nokia browser, as Opera doesn’t support the E90 as of the time of this review. Shozu supposedly supports the E90, but I tried installing it three times without success. The crash error message on the E90 that I had with many apps — “KERN EXEC 3” — is at least different than the usual “Out of Memory” error on my E70. I couldn’t upgrade to a newer firmware on the E90 because I didn’t have access to any Windows machines during my two week trial, so perhaps some of the bugs have been ironed out. The music player on the E90 is much better software-wise than the aging one on the E70. Annoyingly enough the E90 uses a 2.5mm connector instead of the standard 3.5mm mini jack connector on most commercial headphones. Yes, I use my cell as my mp3 player, when 2 and 4 GB cellphone memory cards are so cheap why shouldn’t I?
What I did enjoy was trying out Nokia Maps 2.0 with the E90’s built in GPS. It took a little while to lock to satellite, as GPS does in many gadgets, but once synced worked wonderfully. I used the search feature while walking to a new destination, subway stops were well marked, and switching between street/satellite/mixed/3d views was seamless. Saving screenshots of maps to the photo gallery was a snap. Map data is cached every time you search, so you use less and less of your data connection as time goes on. The only part of the whole experience that I found a bit lacking was the difficulty in saving a location. Location tagging/saving/sharing is in the works for the next version of Nokia Maps. In conclusion I have to say that I wish all the apps on the E90 were as compelling as Nokia Maps. The E90 is just not the best phone for me. It is too large and unwieldy compared to my past phones. I will continue on my quest for a replacement for my E70, which I will have had for two years in October. Next up I hope to test the E70’s replacement, the non-flip over candy-bar style Nokia E71.