With the E71 going down a storm, including here at Pocket-lint, the E63 has a tough act to follow. At a glance it may look the same, but can it deliver an experience close to the E71 flagship model?
In terms of design, the E63 is very close to the E71, adding a few millimetres to make a slightly fatter phone. Whereas the back of the E71 is sculpted from metal, you’ll now find a plastic cover in its place, albeit with a rubberised texture so it feels secure in the hand. Other little alterations leave you with a handset that still looks like a serious business phone, but without the premium finish you’ll find on the E71. It is also surprisingly weighty at 126, thanks to the large battery, but once you get used to that battery life, you’ll forget about the weight.
The screen and keyboard around the front is essentially the same as previously, you have a large, crisp 320 x 240 pixel, 2.36-inch display, which gives you plenty of space to work or play, whilst still giving you the full QWERTY keyboard underneath. Across the centre of the phone is the normal array of shortcut and call buttons, centred around a four-way nav key and OK button.
The keyboard itself has relatively large keys, slightly larger than the E71, more like the BlackBerry Bold in size. The straight alignment does make them a touch more difficult to type on that the distinctive curve that you find on the BlackBerry Bold or Curve models, but all these handsets are very much pitching in the same park.
The keyboard is also a little spongy and squeaky thanks to the finish, something that is likely to wear off over time: at least the keypad doesn’t move around like it does on some BlackBerry models, but equally it isn’t as crisp as those rival offerings. Press and hold will bring up alternative characters on those keys that have them, but unfortunately doesn’t give you caps on those keys that don’t, so you’ll have to make good use of the Chr key for symbols, as well as the function, shift and Ctrl keys.
So overall the typing experience doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of the E71, but the OS (Symbian S60) experience is very much the same: easy to navigate, with plenty of customisable home page information to let you know what is going on with your phone. The folder-based menus also have a nice way of letting you know what is still running in the background, so you can jump in and out of applications and still keep your bearings.
The operating system also means you can benefit from the number of applications now available for Symbian OS devices. As a headline feature you get a free subscription to Ovi allowing you to link up documents and more from your phone with your PC. This being a 3G handset, access to online content is fast, but lacks the edge provided by HSDPA, and also supports the other great feature of this handset: email.
Like the E71, you get the same smart email setup, so you just put in your email address and password and the phone basically configures your settings giving you access to your email in seconds. Thereafter you can send emails to your merry delight, with support for IMAP4, POP and Exchange, so you’ll have no problem hooking up to your personal or work email accounts.
So it all sounds pretty similar to the E71, but some of the hardware elements have been stepped-down or removed, so you’ll find that the GPS is now missing and the camera around the back is 2-megapixels, rather than the 3.2-megpixels of the bigger brother. The camera does have an LED flash, which can be toggled on by holding the spacebar, so you could use it as a torch - surprisingly useful when you wake up in a strange hotel.
Around the body you’ll find a Micro-USB for hooking up to your PC, as well as a microSD card slot. On the top is a 3.5mm jack for your headphones or the bundled handsfree kit. What you don’t get, surprisingly, is any sort of volume control on the side to change volume during calls; instead, you have to use that four-way controller on the front.
You do however get Wi-Fi which is also well controlled from the home page, without having to dive into menus and settings. You also get Bluetooth 2.0 as you’d expect. These connections do all pull on the battery life, but as in the E71, the battery life is very good, meaning you don’t have to recharge every night or even every other night. You may even get a week from it, depending on usage, but it is noticeably better than BlackBerry rivals.
So overall the E63 is a very complete package giving you access to most of the goodness you’d expect in an enterprise handset. Yes, there are some elements missing, such as the GPS which you’ll find in many rivals, but at its core, it’s the sensible operating system that appeals. You still get the dubious mode switching aspect too, so if you think this would work for you, then it is there to play with; but in reality, we can’t see that this feature would stand the test of time.
Offering good connection speeds and access to a range of communication tools, the E63 should appeal to anyone who can’t quite stretch to the E71, either in terms of straight-up purchase or contract costs. However if you have a decision to make, then the E71 is a much more complete package, giving you better all round connectivity in a sharper and slimmer design.