Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Nokia E61 Smartphone

This morning, I've got some business on Sand Hill Road. 3000 Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, to be exact. Entrepreneurs know this address well, as there is a large clump of VC's in the circle here, spread among four buildings, and it's pretty hard to miss this cluster when doing your VC roadshow.

I'm having breakfast at the Sundeck Restaurant (smack dab in the center of the circle) and the place certainly is a magnet for the VC power breakfast. Today I recognize a GP from Mohr Davidow Ventures, but this blog is no place for name-dropping. MDV (who funded 2 of my startups) is actually on the opposite side of Sand Hill Road, but the eats at the Sundeck are pretty good, and the view/vibe is nice. The tables are covered in brown paper, and ample pencils are supplied at the table, alongside the salt and pepper, for back-of-the-envelope calculations and impromptu architecture diagrams. Certainly appropriate for the environment.

However, my trusty Apple Powerbook laptop fails to find a wireless Internet signal. That is not appropriate for the environment. I thought this place, of all the places in the world, would certainly have a strong WiFi signal for the VC elite to enjoy while chowing down and passing WiFi-enabled geek devices around the table. Enter my new phone, the Nokia E61, to the rescue.

I replaced my old Motorola V551 mobile phone (antenna sucked) with this new Nokia E61 smartphone earlier this summer. Bought an Unlocked one on eBay for $388. The phone is really built for Europe (with 3G WCDMA frequencies that match Europe - why can't we all just get along?), but it supports Cingular's EDGE service - good enough for my needs. It connects to any WiFi (802.11b/g) WLAN as well, and can even switch between WiFi and Cingular's EDGE network automatically (though it is a bit buggy).

Today, the phone allows me to connect to the Internet from my Powerbook, wirelessly through Bluetooth to the phone, which forwards my packets through the Cingular EDGE network automatically. How did we ever survive without all this technology? :-) Somewhat pokey, but it gets the job done nicely in a pinch, and costs no money with my Unlimited data package from Cingular.

What I like about it:

  • Based on Symbian OS 9.1 S60 3rd Edition (now that's a mouthful). It's a real and decent operating system that can multitask real applications. This version has had a number of security enhancements which, unfortunately, broke compatibility with many of the existing Symbian applications. This will be fixed over time, as developers retool for this new version. Be patient.

  • The quality of voice calls is excellent (as you would expect from Nokia) and the antenna/reception is much better than my old phone.

  • Speakerphone works great and I've never had anyone complain about the quality heard on their end.

  • Connectivity to many standards, including GSM, IR, USB, Bluetooth, EDGE, EGPRS, GPRS, 802.11, WCDMA, UMTS, Mini-SD, and a partridge in a pear tree.

  • Google Maps for Mobile is awesome on the device.

  • Runs Java J2ME applications great.

  • Has a nice QWERTY keyboard.

  • Includes goodies like support for Blackberry Connect and Microsoft ActiveSync, but I haven't tried those.

  • The built-in Web Browser is pretty darn good, rendering most every web site I visit correctly. Main complaint is that it doesn't remember what I have typed into web forms.

  • Synchronizes with the Mac Powerbook perfectly using iSync (after I tweaked a config file on the Mac). Handles Calendar, Tasks, and Address Book.

  • Good expandability through the Mini-SD card allowed me to use a 2GB card to hold lots of MP3 music (which can easily be used for ringtones), documents, and photos.

  • Color screen is bright and perfectly acceptable.

  • Includes basic support for reading AND editing Microsoft Office applications, like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. They work OK, but you really wouldn't want to use them unless you really HAD to use them.

  • Adobe Acrobat has a native reader for PDF documents as well. Works great, but I've had it barf on large PDF files, so there is some more work to do here.


What I don't like about it:

  • Using Dreamhost to hold my IMAP email Inbox causes the device's email application to not get new mail automatically and hang occasionally. Don't know if this is Dreamhost's fault or Nokia's fault.

  • I have 1,800 contacts in my Address Book and sync them all to the phone. As such, the Contacts application takes a long time to bring up an entry. OK. It's really only about six seconds, but it feels like an eternity when you're looking for an important number while someone waits on the phone...

  • When receiving calls, the caller-id is sometimes matched to a phone number in my Contacts with the name nicely displayed on the screen, and other times it is not and all I get is the number. It's very annoying to not know who is calling.

  • Call times are not displayed anywhere while I am on a call. Nor can I find call times listed in their Log application for calls dialed or calls received. I must be missing something, as this is a pretty basic mobile phone feature...

  • Battery life is really good - until you start using WiFi. Keep your charger handy if you intend to use your 802.11 connection frequently.

  • Fonts for the phone numbers in the Contacts application are way too small for my feeble, old eyes. You've got the screen space - make the numbers bigger, or the font selectable.

  • It would be nice if the synchronization process could sync my Mac Address Book Groups with the Nokia E61 Contacts Groups.

  • Also, synchronizing All-day Calendar entries look like All-day busy meetings that last from 12:00am-11:59pm on the phone. Not really the same thing.

  • Finally, it doesn't sync Notes through iSync.


I really like the phone and have been pleased with most aspects of it. Check out the most excellent blog on the Nokia E-Series devices. I just learned about Calcium - A Better Calculator for the Nokia E61 there (thank goodness - the built in one sucks) and this Automatic Key Lock Application.

Cingular will be releasing the Nokia E62 version shortly, which has no WiFi/WLAN or support for European 3G/WCDMA, but does officially support their network.

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70 comments:

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  2. [...] Register « Nokia E61 Smartphone The VC Syndication Two-Step » [...]

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  3. [...] I’ve had quite a few people write to me in response to my post about the Nokia E61 Smartphone. Some have asked how I got it to work with iSync on my Apple Mac OS X system. Here’s what I did. It works for me, but you should exercise extreme caution whenever mucking with stuff like this (up-to-date backups of everything, etc). [...]

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  4. [...] New firmware has been released for my Nokia E61 smartphone. Symbian Freak has a good list of what’s new and changed. And, the best part is that you can upgrade the firware yourself using their PC Suite and your USB cable. Great instructions located at the E-Series Blog. [...]

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  5. [...] Previously, I’ve talked about how my Nokia E61 smartphone does not seem to work correctly with the IMAP IDLE support offered by my Dreamhost email server. I contacted Dreamhost support about this, and they tell me that it’s not their fault. It must be a bug in the Nokia E61 IMAP client. [...]

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  6. [...] I’ve talked about how my Nokia E61 smartphone does not seem to work correctly with the IMAP IDLE support offered by my Dreamhost email server. I [...]

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  7. [...] firmware has been released for my Nokia E61 smartphone. Symbian Freak has a good list of what’s new and changed. And, the best part is that you can [...]

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  8. [...] I’ve had quite a few people write to me in response to my post about the Nokia E61 Smartphone. Some have asked how I got it to work with iSync on my Apple Mac OS X system. Here’s what I [...]

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  9. [...] , Golfing , Mobile , Software Leave a Comment Found on my favorite blog about the Nokia E61, E-Series, is a pointer to a free program to capture screenshots of the smartphone to a file. Get [...]

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  10. [...] me, I get my Mobile Internet access through my Cingular service via my Nokia E61 smartphone. A bit slow today, but more than enough bandwidth for activities I need while riding the train. [...]

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