When you think of smartphones, and particularly Windows Mobile 6 smartphones, the image of a slightly bulky touchscreen device comes to mind. BenQ think they have an alternative in their slim smartphone, the E72.
The E72 is available as part of the BT Fusion offerings, so is geared up to allow you to access your Wi-Fi network at home, then go mobile once you get out of range.
Measuring 108 x 46.3 x 13.8mm, the E72 is a candybar device that looks no different from your average mobile phone. The top half has a 2-inch, 240 x 320 LCD screen, and the bottom has a standard numeric keypad. The centre sees a regular four-way controller and some shortcut buttons.
In the hand the E72 doesn’t feel like anything special – if anything, it feels a little cheap and plasticky, a discerning creak is issued as you work the phone, mostly thanks to an ill-fitting battery cover on the back. The screen lies under a translucent plastic cover, that gives a sort of oily look to the screen and you feel like you are peering into the screen, rather than it being right there on the surface: certainly, it could have been bigger, the excess of plastic border a testament to this.
Other controls give you direct access to the Home screen, which is pretty essential to get yourself out of which ever menu you have found yourself in, such is the nature of Windows Mobile, although the "end call" button seems to have exactly the same function. On the sides of the phone are the normal volume controls, and a shortcut to messaging, which is always a good move.
There is also a shortcut button for voice notes, and we found that this feature actually recorded a very nice, clear, reproduction of the conversation. There is a rear-mounted speaker, but like most of these things, it fairly tinny; we have heard worse and it is adequate for playback of voice notes, but performs less well with music.
If you are planning on using this phone for your media on the move, you’ll probably want to take advantage of the microSD slot, that unfortunately is under the back cover, so you won’t be swapping cards without a bit of faffing around and there is no SDHC support. The only connection is the Mini-USB, used for both charging as well as for the headset.
As this is a Windows Mobile device, the OS is pretty standard stuff, and nothing to get too excited about, but there is a mild degree of customisation to provide a few extra shortcuts on the home screen. The texting window is terribly bland, and there didn’t appear to be any T9 support (that we could find), so single letter basing, which makes it a dog to use.
But in Windows Mobile and the E72 is pretty slow - you’ll spend your time waiting for the applications to launch. There are some interesting software options bundled in here, however, like the Mundo IM app that runs various IM protocols and a Traveller application, giving you information as you trot around the globe.
But the real shortcoming here is the lack of purpose. It is a perfunctory device, it works as a phone with the simplicity of syncing with Outlook to take your contacts with you, but thereafter seems to lack any real advantages of Windows Mobiles devices. The Wi-Fi connection is welcomed, but with a screen this small, you have to wonder what you’d do with it – certainly there is little advantage to browsing the web on such a device when faced with much larger screen options, both with Windows Mobile and without.
The tech specs are a little lacklustre too for a device that seems to want to give your that "connected on the move" feeling, with only GPRS/GSM/EDGE and no sign of 3G. So whilst the form gives you that mobile feeling, you lack the usability of a normal Nokia or Sony Ericsson device, and from Windows Mobile you don’t get that smartphone experience you’ll find with HTC.
Overall, you can’t help but feel that the BenQ E72 is something of a losing combination, struggling to meet expectations in either the mobile phone or smartphone departments.