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Nokia E70 smart phone
World-beating design let down by bugs?
The web browser
A special circle of Hell needs to be created for the souls behind Nokia's new web browser. This is the fruit of the decision to develop an alternative to Opera Mobile based on the KHTML engine used by KDE's Konquerer and Apple's Safari. The kindest thing to say is that it makes for a great demo, showing off stamp-sized portions of full web pages in their glorious colour.
But it's strictly for show. Web, as the browser's called, may as well have been designed by people who have spent the past few years in a time capsule, having only partial descriptions of the web fed through to them in an ancient and forgotten language, with no Rosetta Stone to help.
The decision to show a viewport onto a page, rather than formatting the page so it's one vertical column, makes for an immensely frustrating experience. It's like being on a boat in a storm - the user is constantly lining up the column to be read in a horizontal plane - a fiddly experience. And even then it truncates the text of many popular sites horizontally, obliging more scrolling.
The decision to navigate in two planes also robs it of the one navigation method that's become a de facto standard. Using the small screen approach taken by the Opera and NetFront browsers: a down key takes you through a screen at a time, while a left or right highlights the link. Nokia's designers also had the brainwave to keep a cursor on screen visible all the time. Nor, incredibly, are there any shortcut keys.
This browser also sucks up all available memory from the phone - quite an achievement considering the E70 has 48MB of RAM. (Not 80MB, as early stated) Three or four pages into a session, the browser runs out of memory.
A full catalog of bad design decisions is beyond the scope of this review - we could have mentioned the oversized bookmark font, and the RSS folder that can't be deleted, for example. And salvation in the shape of native browsers from Opera and NetFront will surely arrive soon. But one wonders not only what kind of quality control Nokia employs these days, but also what kind of strategic 'thinking' permitted Web to be released at all.
Our E70 was tested on three UK 2G networks: T-Mobile, Vodafone and O2. Radio reception was excellent. Unfortunately, we didn't test it on a 3G network, so didn't have the opportunity to test video calling. And no UK networks yet support Push To Talk, so the walkie talkie button went unused too.
Battery life, which for many of you is the one performance figure that really counts, is outstanding. On 2G networks, Nokia quotes a maximum talktime of over seven hours, and almost two weeks' standby time. We comfortably achieved over five hours' talktime. The bright screen drains the battery considerably, and, as you'd expect, Wi-Fi is the killer. Nevertheless, with heavy WLAN usage, the E70 comfortably sailed through two days' use.
Given the radical new architecture under the hood - Symbian OS 9.1 is a real-time kernel that runs the radio stacks - application response time was generally satisfactory in comparison to earlier Series 60 phones. That's a spectacular achievement.
However, there's some tweaking to do. Switching between applications resulted in partial screen repaints, with rectangles blanked out - a familiar S60 symptom.