We've seen slider smart phones before, but really only in the form of larger, full QWERTY devices (i.e., Cingular 8525, UTStarcom XV6700) rather than the compact cell phone variety, such as the LG Chocolate. Like flip phones, this is one design area where smart phone manufacturers have yet to really dive in, but Nokia's willing to take the plunge.
First introduced at the 3GSM World Congress, the Nokia E65 is a slim slider phone for mobile professionals who value voice capabilities over messaging. (E-mail fanatics and power users should take a look at the Nokia E62 and Nokia E70 instead.) It offers a range of phone features, such as one-touch conference calling and VoIP support, and has good call quality and solid battery talk time. Despite its sleek and sexy profile, there are some downsides to the phone's small size, as the navigation controls are cramped and frustrating to use. However, in the end, we think it's worth the extra effort. The quadband GSM Nokia E65 has not been picked up by a U.S. carrier, so you will have to purchase an unlocked version for a pricey $490.
What can we say about the Nokia E65 except that it's absolutely gorgeous. From its silver-and-mocha casing to its slim-and-trim profile, the E65 is a stunning and elegant smart phone--two words that aren't usually associated with these business-centric devices. The slider phone is compact and lightweight (4.1x1.9x0.6 inches; 4.0 ounces), making it comfortable to hold in the hand and cradle against your ear during a call. Plus, it features a soft casing that feels like leather, and it not only makes the phone easy to grip but adds a touch of luxury to the handset.
There's a 2.2-inch diagonal TFT screen that displays 16.7 million colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. It has a slightly lower resolution than its sibling, the E70, so we noticed colors weren't as bright and text and images weren't as sharp. Still, it's a nice display and we could still read it in direct sunlight. You can adjust the intensity of the backlight and customize the screen with different themes.
The Nokia E65 doesn't have a touch screen, so you can navigate the phone's menus and launch applications with the controls beneath the display and the shortcut buttons on the right side. There are four keys on the right: a voice recorder launcher, an edit key that lets you choose the text input type, and volume up/down buttons. The volume controls have raised bumps so they're easier to press by feel, especially while on a call, but the other two buttons do not, so you'll have to pay closer attention when trying to access them. Actually, all four buttons are pretty small and close to each other, so it's going to be difficult regardless.
Unfortunately, the same affliction plagues the navigation array on the front of the device. This is the one pitfall of the E65's compact design. First, there's an outer ring of controls that consist of two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, a Main Menu shortcut, and a clear key. Inside that circle (err, rectangle), you'll find shortcuts for conference calling, Web access, your Contacts list, muting and unmuting a call, and a four-way navigation toggle with a center select key. This is all well and good, but the first set of mentioned keys are squeezed onto sliver-like bars (see image below), which made it entirely too easy to accidentally press the inner controls with your thumb. We had a similar experience with the toggle. It required a concentrated effort to touch just the edge of the directional keypad to scroll up and down or left and right, while trying to avoid the much larger center select key.
The beauty of the Nokia E series is that there is a model to suit the particular needs of most mobile professionals. The QWERTY keyboard-equipped Nokia E62 and the Nokia E70 clearly focus on messaging, and while the Nokia E65 offers similar e-mail functionality, it concentrates more on the voice features, hence the cell phone-like design and voice-specific controls. The E65 is a quadband world phone, allowing for use overseas, and has a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, speed dial, and VoIP support. Of course, some of the more cool phone features, such as video calls, are not available here in the United States, as we're a bit behind our European and Asian counterparts. The address book is only limited by the available memory (about 50MB internal memory; the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) and each entry allows for multiple phone numbers, e-mail, Web, and physical addresses, birthday, notes and more. For caller ID purposes, you can attach a photo, or assign a group ID or one of 41 ringtones.
The Nokia E65 is stacked with wireless options: Bluetooth 1.2, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), and infrared. You can use the Bluetooth to connect to wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and keyboards, to transfer contacts and files, and for dial-up networking. In addition, you can pair the smart phone with a Bluetooth GPS receiver (additional purchase) and take advantage of the pre-installed navigation app on the E65 to get maps and directions right on your device. The only items on our wish list are support for the A2DP profile for use with stereo Bluetooth headsets and support for the U.S. 3G networks. Connecting to the Web was a snap. The phone has a Wi-Fi finder and it had no problem finding and connecting to our test access point. On a related note, the E65's has a full HTML Web browser.
Like all of the E series, the Nokia E65 runs the third edition of the S60 platform on the Symbian operating system. The interface is user-friendly, and all applications and utilities are organized by appropriate category. An app called QuickOffice lets you view Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents. It optimizes the pages for the phone's screen, so you don't have to scroll all over the place to read text. There are also some nice shortcuts to jump to the top or bottom of the page to reduce the up-and-down scrolling, and a search function. Unfortunately, unlike the Nokia E70, you have to upgrade the preloaded copy of QuickOffice to get any editing capabilities, which was a bummer. We loaded all three file types and a PDF on a microSD card, and had no problems opening them on the E65. Also, for professionals who often give presentations on the road, there's a Screen Export function that allows you to display the E65's screen via a compatible projector.
There is also a new business utility on the E65 that we haven't seen on previous models called the Nokia Team Suite. Here you can create "teams" and define members, conference call numbers, conference call PINs, and Web pages, so you can find all the information in one place--very convenient if you're got regular team conference calls. The smart phone also has Adobe Reader and Zip Manager. Other productivity apps and PIM tools include a calculator, a notepad, a measurement converter, a clock, a printer utility, a download agent, and the aforementioned navigation app.
As we've already mentioned, without a full QWERTY keyboard, the Nokia E65 isn't the best smart phone for messaging, but that doesn't mean it's devoid of such capabilities. The phone works with POP3, IMAP, and SMTP accounts, and comes with a full attachment viewer. You can get real-time message delivery through a number of push e-mail solutions, including Intellisync Wireless E-mail, BlackBerry Connect, GoodLink, Visto, and Seven Always-On Mail. There's also a mobile VPN client so that you can securely tap into your corporate server. The E65 also supports instant, text, and multimedia messaging.
The smart phone has a built-in music player with support for MP3, RealAudio, and AAC music files. You can sort songs by artist, album, genre, or composer. In addition, you have the ability to create playlists right on the device, set songs on Random or Repeat mode, and tweak the sound settings via the built-in equalizer. For videos, RealPlayer is onboard and is compatible with MPEG-4 and 3GPP formats. There's also an image viewer for JPEG, BMP, BNG, and GIF files.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE/UMTS) Nokia E65 in San Francisco using T-Mobile and Cingular service, and call quality was great. We had no problems carrying on conversations, and our callers reported clear audio and said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. We even caught one of our friends while she was at a hockey game, and she said she could hear us perfectly, even over the action and the crowd--very impressive. The speakerphone was also good, though quality diminished slightly on our end and voices sounded a bit far away. We had no problems pairing the E65 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
Overall performance was satisfactory, although as we've noticed with other Nokia E series phones, there is a bit of a dip in response time when opening Office documents and switching between apps. We're just talking about a few seconds, so it's nothing that'll prevent you from working. Multimedia performance was OK. Again, the phone's speakers did a weak job with music playback; songs sounded hollow and lacked richness. Watching video was actually decent. Picture and audio were mostly synchronized, and though there was some slight pixilation, it was better than other smart phones we've seen.
The Nokia E65 is rated for 6 hours of talk time and up to 11 days of standby time. In our battery tests, we were able to get 7 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the E65 has a digital SAR rating of 0.74 watts per kilogram.