TechSutra

iPhone 3G Vs Nokia E71 Review

Though there have been many phones which have been positioned as iPhone killers most of them have been spectacular failures like Blackberry Storm. That's what happens when companies imitate rather than innovate and base their device on the misplaced belief that adding a touch screen is all that is needed to compete against the iPhone. Nokia hasn't fallen into that trap and has continued to improve their stellar E series and E71 is the best smartphone Nokia has ever produced. So how does the E71 fare against the iPhone? Let us look at a feature comparison. iPhone Versus E71

Feature E71 iPhone Winner
Browsing Experience Decent. Excellent iPhone
User Interface Slightly Cluttered Well designed iPhone
Features Many Unlimited Potential as it seems to have a solid SDK and developer support. E71
Battery Removable Battery Non removable Battery E71
Applications and Games Many feature rich applications but many are poorly designed Wide choice of well designed applications and games iPhone
Application Store None iTunes Store iPhone
Keyboard Physical Onscreen Tie
Openness Quite open. Any application can be installed Closed. Only Apple approved applications E71
FM Radio Yes No E71
Java Yes No E71
GPS Yes Yes Tie
Playing Music Most formats supported but user experience is not great All major formats supported. Great user experience iPhone
Maps Inbuilt and Google Maps Only Google maps. No caching. Utility is much reduced on a slow network E71
Shoot Video Yes No E71
Screen size and resolution 2.36\" 320x240 3.5\" 480x320 iPhone
Storage Hot swappable memory card upto 8GB 8GB or 16GB iPhone
MMS Yes No E71
Availability Freely available unlocked Mostly available through only carriers and is locked. E71
Tethering Yes Not officially supported E71
Call quality Excellent Moderate E71
Speaker Loud and Clear Moderately loud and clear E71
Headphone Jack Non Standard Standard iPhone
Camera 3.2 MegaPixel Autofocus. LED flash 2 MegaPixel. Fixed focus E71
Storing and Accessing Non Music Files Comes with an inbuilt file manager No file manager E71
Office Applications Quickoffice No office applications. But mail attachments can be viewed E71

If you look at the table above E71 has come out on top 15 times and iPhone has managed to do it 8 times and there are  2 ties. On the surface it looks like E71 thrashes the iPhone.  But it is not so. The reason is that the features in which iPhone has come out on top are the heavily used ones. Browsing, Playing Music etc. The bigger and better screen allows the iPhone to offer a much better experience while watching videos and browsing. The importance and convenience of having a standard headphone jack cannot be stressed enough.  While there are plethora of applications for S60 (the OS on E71), much of it is difficult to find as there is no application store. Lack of an application store and lack of reviews make it difficult for a user to find new applications. In fact, touch screen is not the biggest change that apple has brought to the cellphone industry. It is the introduction of an application store.

One of the nagging doubts about the iPhone when it first launched was whether the onscreen keyboard would be any good. Though it takes some time to getting used to, typing onscreen is not difficult compared to having a physical keyboard and is often easier due to the keyboard changing according to context.( for example there is a .com button available when you are entering a URL in Safari). Those who are heavy uses of the keyboard on other smartphones may find the virtual  keyboard difficult and may find it hard to achieve the typing speed they are used to.

Apple is a company which takes pride in making its devices smaller and slimmer. (iPod nano, Macbook Air). But surprisingly in this department E71 beats iPhone hands down. It weighs less and is smaller than the iPhone in every dimension.

One area where  Nokia shines is call quality. No other manufacturer including Apple has managed to better Nokia in this department. Signal reception and call quality of most nokia phones is outstanding and E71 doesn't disappoint us.  This is one area where the iPhone need to improve. There are several other annoyances with iPhone: lack of copy paste and inability to forward SMS. If you are someone who  is very fond of forwarding SMS'es then iPhone is going to frustrate and disappoint you. On the other hand if you care more about music, iPhone is going to delight you and E71 will frustrate you.

Nokia Maps included in the E71 is brilliant. This is one are in which the E71 beats the iPhone hands down. Since the map data is in the system, you don't need network access to use it. This makes it really fast. Also it features turn-by-turn navigation, voice guidance, traffic feeds and dynamic re-routing which almost makes it a good replacement for an independent GPS device. The Maps included in the iPhone is a toy in comparison.

As you can see both the devices are not perfect. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. But if you are in the market for a smartphone then these two are among the best devices available right now.

For the E71 to beat the iPhone a touch screen won't be necessary but that would be a welcome addition. What is needed is an overhaul of the user interface to make it simpler and better designed. Most options in E71 are buried deep in different menus which makes it difficult to access it and remember it. Nokia's prowess lies in its hardware - Exemplary build quality and performance. But it is time to put thought and effort into the software as well because that's where the next wave of innovation will be and that's what the users will demand. A parallel to this would be GMail vs everyone else. At first people flocked to the service because of the storage offered which outclassed the competition(2GB versus 10MB). But then people stuck to the service and the service attracted even more users because of the fast, efficient and minimal but beautiful user interface. In fact if you ask any GMail user, why he/she uses the service, storage may well be the least popular option. The user interface and search are what makes GMail popular. Yahoo and Hotmail thought that the storage is what mattered and raised the limits but that was not enough to stem the flow. Likewise the touchscreen and the big screen were what drove people towards iPhone. Once they started using it, the user interface and the applications are what makes them loyal and happy users. So just making a touch screen phone won't guarantee success. The needs and expectations of the users have changed.

You can buy an unlocked E71 from Amazon.com

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