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June 3, 2008 / Marco

Nokia E61i Cell Phone Review: Part 2 the Hardware Saga Continues with the Keyboard

In the first part of the Nokia E61i review I talked about how the handset looks and what it has to offer. Here I’m going to bring some of its hardware components into light.

Nokia E61i Cell Phone Review: Part 3

Hardware quirks and what Nokia should learn

Nokia currently ships the light “Travel Charger AC-5” with many handsets, particularly with many Nseries smartphones. However, the E61i comes with the big “Travel Charger AC-4”, and I can’t tell why. The AC-4 is twice bigger than the AC-5, and for a 150-g handset this is a clear downside. The same is true regarding the E61i’s USB cable and included headset. They’re not bigger than their Nseries counterparts; however, they follow Nokia’s old proprietary connection interface, meaning both of them use the same socket and that Nokia hasn’t designed a macro/micro USB port for the E61i. By the same token, take into account the fact that the E61i has just one rather mediocre speaker, depriving its owners of stereo audio playback.

Remember one of the questions I asked in the first part of this review? “Are Eseries handsets capable of replacing Nseries smartphones for conventional/non-business-oriented users?” As far as the E61i and its hardware specs are concerned, the answer to this question is a resounding “no”. Nokia tries to target business-oriented handset users with its Eseries smartphones, but in so doing it misses two important points:

  • Businesspeople and executives aren’t robots – they need to be entertained with their beloved handsets, too. Apart from the expensive E90, no other Eseries handsets are so-called media-centric devices. A proprietary/cheap headset and a single speaker make a nice handset like the E61i rather uninteresting. Worst of all, the E61i doesn’t support the A2DP profile, and this is enough to force you to keep your stereo Bluetooth headset home.
  • Unlike what Nokia strategists might think, many non-business-oriented people are truly interested in Eseries devices. I for one would have purchased a device like Nokia E61i if it only had two speakers and a2DP support. The 2MP camera is good for the E61i, though.

My point is that such a nice cellular phone with a fabulous QWERTY keyboard shouldn’t have been designed with such average hardware specs, and that Nokia should lend more Nseries media-related features to upcoming Eseries devices. At any rate, let’s focus on the keyboard a bit.

When typing becomes a breeze

The E61i has four rows of keys: IMG: Nokia E61i keyboard. The first row from the top contains the following keys:

  • Q, W, E, R, T, Y

They also serve the second purpose of typing punctuation marks and some numbers when combined with a key called “Function”. The Function key is located on the leftmost side of the fourth row from the top. For instance, if you press Function once followed by “W”, you’ll type an “at sign” (@). If you press Function twice, all subsequent keys which have associated numbers and punctuation marks type a mark or a number unless you press the Function key twice more. This combo gives you the following punctuation marks and numbers for the first row of keys:

  • !, @, €, 1, 2, 3, *, +, =, ?

Similarly, the second row from the top contains the following keys:

  • a/”, &/s, d//, f/4, g/5, h/6, j/#, k/(, l/), CLEAR

Here I’ve made use of “Slash” (/) to indicate that the Function key can be used to type a punctuation mark or a number when pressed in combination with one of these keys. Also, “g/5” has a raised dot to help with easier tactile identification, and the last key in this row is the familiar “clear” key — known as the “C” key. The third row contains the following keys:

  • Z, x, c, v/7, b/8, n/9, m/0, ó/-, Ä/’, ENTER

How can we type capital letters, you might ask. The fourth and final row contains two keys called “Edit” which act as the SHIFT key. When pressed once before a letter, it gets typed in uppercase, and when pressed twice, all subsequent characters are typed in uppercase till SHIFT is pressed twice to return the typing status to lowercase. This last row also has a key called “Chr”. When pressed, it brings up the familiar list of symbols. The keys found in this row are:

  • Function, SHIFT, ,/;, ./:, SPACE BAR, ARING, Control, SHIFT, CHR

To type “semicolon” (;) rather than “comma” (,) you should press SHIFT (not Function) before “comma” (,), and this is also true about “dot” and “colon”. Note that the SPACE bar is a bit bigger than its adjacent keys. One final note: to lock or unlock the keyboard press the left selection key (Key 1) followed by the Function key.

Useful hot keys

The advantage of a QWERTY keyboard is that you can perform important actions without resorting to menus. These are:

  • Activate/deactivate Bluetooth: Function+Control,
  • Activate Infrared: Function+Chr,
  • Select text, SHIFT+Up, Down, Left or Right,
  • Copy text, Control+C,
  • Cut text: Control+X,
  • Undo the last editing action: Control+Z,
  • Paste text: Control+V.

Admittedly, switching from a keypad to a QWERTY keyboard isn’t as easy as one might think in the beginning because the keys are considerably smaller than their counterparts on a PC keyboard, and this requires some getting-used-to; nevertheless, the more you use it the faster you become accustomed to it.

Few notes for screen reader users

If you use TALKS on the E61i, note that the TALKS key is the “Chr” key, so you should press “Chr” twice to bring up the list of symbols upon composing a message. Also, if you press the dedicated hot key to enable or disable Bluetooth or infrared, you’ll hear nothing; whereas if you press the copy/cut/undo hot keys, TALKS will announce a proper message. If you press Control+V to paste text, TALKS will speak the last pasted phrase.

Stay tuned for more E61i review articles …

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Angie M / Jun 8 2008 7:40 pm

    I wish Nokia would come out with something like my Moto Q, which has a QWERTY keyboard, stereo speakers, A2DP support, and a 2MP camera. It doesn’t have a dedicated headphone jack, but it at least uses micro USB. I just recently migrated to the N82, but I think I’m going to add a line to my cell plan so I can use both phones. (I know I could swap out the sim card, but I need more minutes anyway…)

  2. Amir / Jun 9 2008 12:20 am

    Angie, the upcoming Nokia E71 is most probably the answer to your suggested feature additions. At this time we don’t know much about this handset, but it’ll become available this summer. I know that it would have a 3MP camera, a QWERTY keyboard, HSDPA support, a built-in GPS receiver, and an FM radio. If it provides stereo speakers and A2DP support, I’ll most definitely purchase it!

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