Nokia has announced a range of new e-series phones today that start to blur the lines between business and lifestyle use. The e90 is the company's latest version of its Communicator handset that has been around in different forms for a fair few years, so what makes it think that it has the answer now? We were given access to the new handset at a small launch event in central London.
Before we start, there is no getting around it, the Nokia e90 Communicator, no matter what Nokia are keen to say about it, is still a brick, it has been heavily re-styled, with nips and tucks all over the place, but it's still large compared to other handsets.
That said, the phone's features are starting to justify the size. A 3.2 megapixel camera, a further camera inside, GPS receiver, a 512MB MicroSD card in the box and a slot which is hot swappable, two colour screens, a new vibrate feature, 3G, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, quad-band, and more are just some of the new features.
First impressions still remind us of the Palm 3 or Palm 5 PDA from yesteryear and the keyboard is very easy to use, being considerably wider than that found on the company's e65i or the any of the BlackBerry handsets.
Likewise the series of shortcut keys above the keyboard and elsewhere that link to your contacts book or the web browser for example make it in incredibly easy to use rather than having to fathom out the menu system.
Email is incredibly easy to use, backing up Andrew Hawking's, Head of the e-Series in the UK, statement that Nokia wants "To make email as easy to use as voice".
Upgraded from previous Communicators is the introduction of the Symbian Series 60 third edition on the outside screen as well as the inside display, so whatever you were accessing when the phone is flipped out is still accessible when you close it. It's a great decision and one that even in our brief play made a lot of sense whether it is accessing further telephone numbers or continuing a text you've started.
Bridging the gap between business and lifestyle (don't worry it supports all forms of email from BlackBerry Connect to POP3) the e90 Communicator even has games.
We had a quick play of the racing game included; the widescreen experience and the Need for Speed style gameplay was surprising good. We aren't talking PSP or Nintendo DS Lite good, but for a business device we can see plenty of businessmen choosing to have a quick go while waiting for the plane rather than being bothered to reply to yet another email.
Menu and interface hasn't changed much since the last outing and the phone in our First Look whether it was playing back video or checking emails seemed snappy, fast and good enough to get the job done.
While it's still a brick, our first impressions suggest that this is the best brick from Nokia yet. The Communicator series has always been an acquired taste and the e90 is no exception, however with the feature set this looks to be offering - including a GPS mapping solution so you need never be lost again (well not outside anyway) - it's certainly one to start looking at.
Although the Nokia e90 Communicator is a phone, we think it shouldn't really be seen as one - more a miniature laptop with phone built in. Against the competition it's certainly better than Sony Ericsson's now cumbersome p900 series, but since its launch there has been a lot of competition come onto the scene from everyone from more traditional PDA makers like HTC, BlackBerry, and HP to even Samsung with the i320.
Is this is a form factor that should be laid to rest? This isn't going to be a BlackBerry killer, Nokia are hoping the e65i will do that - but it shows that the model that has always questioned reason is starting to make sense.
Would we go for it? Probably not, but then that decision is getting harder with every release.
We will have a full review of the Nokia e90 Communicator as soon as we can get a unit from Nokia. The e90 is due out in Q2 2007.