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The Revenge of the BlackBerry killers?

Putting the Nokia E61i and Motorola Q9H head to head

Sending a message

Similarly, the Q9 beat the E61i hands down for speed in sending a text message, as you perform the same steps from the Home screen as you do sending a message (in fact you need just one extra keystroke). In this situation it had an added advantage, with a superbly implemented text recognition system. I'm disappointed to see that Nokia refuses to implement a list of recent text recipients (regular Motorola and Sony Ericsson phones have featured this for ages), but some serious thought needs to be done here, Nokia. On a one-handed interface with just two softkeys (one of which is used to go back, or cancel an operation), it's logical to force the user to go through a number of steps to "Add recipient...", and so on. On a richer QWERTY interface it makes no sense at all.

Nokia E61i

And the 9300i? It's now showing its age, taking far longer than either of the newcomers to bring up a new window. However the speed of the contact book search, the task-optimized "CBT" buttons along the side of the screen, and the name completion, make texting a breeze.

Motorola 9/10, Nokia 4/10; Ye Olde Communicator: 7/10

Call quality

As you'd expect, Nokia's call quality is first class. While the Motorola exhibited some distortion where there's poor reception (for example, on O2 in my kitchen) it's a marked improvement on previous Windows Mobile devices I've used. As it should be, given Motorola's pedigree in radio engineering. Both phones performed creditably on Loudspeaker. Only with calls over Bluetooth was the Nokia advantage really apparent.

One annoyance of the Q9 was that it seems to spend an inordinately long time telling you the call has finished, and the dialog isn't particularly clear that you have in fact hung up. Here our control phone walked away with the laurels, however, as its long, thin design has allowed the engineers to build in the best possible internal antenna.

Motorola 7/10, Nokia 9/10; Ye Olde Communicator: 10/10

Keyboard and Usability

The keyboard has to be the most improved part of the Q9 over last year's original Q. It has a firm, clicky action in comparison to the squidgy feel of the E61i. It's the best of any BlackBerry-type device I've used. As several reviewers have pointed out, the E61i introduces a quite unnecessary design flaw to the range: the left softkey is so squidgy it often doesn't press first time.

Both BlackBerry clones suffer from eccentric Capitalitis, too. You can never quite tell when entering text into a field whether the phone will decide to capitalise the first letter. Of course this isn't a problem on the "control" phone, the ancient communicator.

The use of a one-handed interface also means that both the E61i and Q9 are harder work than they should be. Windows Mobile menu options are numerically numbered, which is ideal for numeric keypad phones (except when the numbers change depending on context, as they do, infuriatingly, in Opera). The ancient 9300i supported multiple levels of zoom, giving it an advantage over the two more modern devices: and for advanced users, almost every menu option has a shortcut key. The BlackBerry clones could certainly use some work.

Curiously, both BlackBerry-style devices shared a similar annoyance. Motorola's manual advises you to use the "Hang Up" key to cancel menu options. But if you hold this a fraction of a second too long - and it's quite sensitive - the phone turns off. I experienced similar behaviour with the E61i, as the on/off key doubles as a profile switcher and keypad lock. Over a month this happened perhaps half a dozen times with each device.

Text entry:Motorola 6/10, Nokia 4/10; Ye Olde Communicator: 7/10

Task management (basics):Motorola 7/10; Nokia 4/10; Ye Olde Communicator: 8/10

Task management (advanced): Motorola 5/10; Nokia 5/10; Ye Olde Communicator: 7/10

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