Monday, September 24, 2007

Stephen Fry likes the E90!!

If anyone doesn't know him, he's Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster and has appeared in numerous films and TV series, written books and is an all round clever chap. Anyhow, he's just started a blog writing about tech devices and his first post is a comparison of 'iphone killers'. Even if you don't agree with him, it is a highly entertaining read...

Here Fry comment about Nokia E90:
I have owned at least one of every Communicator since the brand arrived in the shape of the 9000 in … well it must be over ten years ago because I had one when I was making the film Wilde in 1996. I remember being upbraided for having it poke out of the top of my velvet jacket in one of the courtroom scenes …

What a breakthrough it was (the phone, not the film). Black and white originally, but with some very advanced features for the time. I was recording silly high quality ring tones at a time when everyone else was monotimbral, monophonic and tinkly. It was big, but it was powerful and a wonder to use. The 9 series line (running an operating system called GEOS) was slowly upgraded with the 9110 and I think another (the 9200?) until the more modern, Symbian 9500, and 9300/9300i, the latter two without camera, but smaller and neater.

And today (almost literally today) comes the E90 Communicator, a brick dressed in Symbian S60 cothes. The “E” designation is revealing. Nokia have had a dismal few years in which hardware design has faltered appallingly (my dear, have you seen the E61 and E61i? possibly the ugliest objects ever designed by man. Simply disgusting to look upon, handle or use) but another arm seems to have branched out with better design. The N95 is beautiful, really lovely and very powerful. Shame that it uses a standard telephone keypad, the N series are really multimedia toys for adolescents, aimed I would guess at the Sony Ericsson K and W series. And then there is the wholly gorgeous 8600 Luna, an indulgent chocolate-box of a mobile phone. As they say in Australia, “ideal for gift-giving interstate or overseas.”

The E series models use an especially clunky and unsightly family of icons (rather like Vodafone’s dreadful offering. If you want to uglify a Blackberry 8100 or 8800, a hard thing to do, use the proprietary V’fone theme set. Yuk. They impose it on all their badged phones and it smells). In the E61s which are so fuck-off ugly that you stretch your eyes and wonder at who on earth is running Nokia, the addition of an ugly GUI is enough to tip the whole thing over the edge. Not just an repellent concrete house, but one filled with disgusting furniture. In the case of the E90 Communicator, you have a rather pleasing house (I know, I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, de gustibus etc. but take it from Mother, the E90 is pleasing in exactly the way the E61 isn’t) which somehow exonerates the UI. The E90 is thick-as-a-brick, expensive (ex-contract as an offline purchase it’s well over £600. Or maybe they just saw me coming) and yet …

I really, really do. I can’t explain why. It’s the same UI, pointlessly (at first glance) doubled on both screens. No SMS threading (for God’s sake!) Yet something about the layout and something about the feel (the actual object is really strong and has a satisfyingly robust heft) pleases me and draws me to it. Functionally it works a lot more easily than the UIQ devices, on which I have so reluctantly been forced to spit. It’s hopeless with a Mac, but with a little smart to-ing and fro-ing you can transfer address books from a Mac-synced SmartPhone to the Communicator via Bluetooth, or you can bite the bullet and run the Nokia PC Suite on a PC, virtual or otherwise. (If you’re going virtual, then do upgrade to the latest version of Parallels - they are eventually starting to get USB connections right).

God knows this is NO iPhone killer. But unlike the iPhone it does have something approaching a manageable filing system, Bluetooth that works, GPS, quick text entry via a keyboard (Steve Jobs here you are wrong, much as it grieves me to say it - more below), the ability to save and move around attachments, to download applications and to create documents. The battery life is hours better than on a UIQ Sony Ericsson, the response is quicker than a UIQ Sony Ericsson too (but then the response you get from a dead walrus is better than that of a UIQ Sony Ericsson) and quicker than that of an iPhone in some arenas. All in all a Good Product. I’ve been using it solidly for two days now (in harness with an iPhone and a BB 8800) and it has that indefinable quality that marks out a device one knows one could live with. The ancient Nokia virtues from way back are there – the power button that when swiftly depressed offers profile changes as well as switch-off, the network controls, auto redialing, straightforward navigation and good old infrared (bless). To this have been added the 3.2MP camera, a videocalling second camera, amusing 3D ringtones (the only concession to teenage silliness) good WiFi (though still only 802.11b and g), USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 2.0. Yes, I like it, but – as I say – iPhone killer it isn’t. Which brings us on to the big beast.

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