The Nokia E52 updates the E51 handset, giving us a device with a 12-key T9 keypad, over the QWERTY offerings we've seen of late.
The phone itself has all the hallmarks of Nokia's Eseries: slick design, plenty of features and finished in a fusion of silver greys. A candybar phone, measuring 116 x 49 x 9.9mm, it is certainly thin and weighs-in at just under 100g.
It feels good in the hand too, with the AlMg alloy backplate giving a cool and classy feel to proceedings. It's exceptionally well constructed too, with tight seams, no creaks and very little flex in any aspect of the phone.
Minimal design this isn't however, and as is often the case with Eseries phones, you have plenty of buttons to hand. The front features the 12-key keypad, topped by the usual calling, menu and navigation buttons. You also get a series of shortcut keys allowing one-press access to your home screen, calendar and mail.
Sensible and practical features which should appeal business users on the move, but you might find yourself hitting the raised shortcut keys when you mean to hit a flush menu key beside it.
The top of the handset sees a power button which doubles as a profile changer, so it is simple to switch to silent, and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, something we are always pleased to see. On the right-hand side you'll find a dedicated camera button along with the volume controls and a shortcut button for voice commands (by default).
Around the back you'll find a 3.2-megapixel camera with LED flash, which is adequate for grabbing quick pics to share online, with quick access to Flickr, Vox and Ovi straight from the menus. You can geotag images too and video capture supports a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 15fps, which is nothing to get excited about.
Based on the Symbian 60 OS, you'll find things are familiar in the E52, reflecting the structure we've seen in previous Eseries devices. That's a good thing, because it is very easy to use and you get a good solid business-conscious offering here, but we can't help feeling that a refresh can't be far off.
It is easy to set-up your email accounts, be they POP3, IMAP, Exchange, with our Gmail and Yahoo accounts receiving the appropriate icons through a clever email wizard. Contacts and calendar are also intuitive and quick to navigate with easy shortcuts from the home page.
It's a reasonably good multi-tasker too, with an icon indicating where you have open programmes, although it is worth closing applications you are no longer using to save power for what you really want to be doing. Copy and paste is lurking the menus, for example to find an address in Google or Nokia Maps, both of which are installed.
As an Eseries device it also supports the dubious mode switching we've seen before, something we've never really taken to. Perhaps we are just bad at maintaining a health work-life balance, but it's there if you want it.
The browser is relatively quick, but constrained by the limitations of the 2.4-inch 240 x 320-pixel display, a resolution which is fine given the size of the device, but you'll only ever see so much on the screen. You can have multiple pages open to browse around which is convenient, especially if you are trying to research something on the fly, but it much prefers mobile-formatted pages over standard webpages.
The Internet section of the menu also offers icon shortcuts to MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. However, these are browser versions rather than dedicated apps, so is merely a nod to social networking, which seems distinctly lacking on the Eseries when compared to what you'll find in recent smartphone launches.
However the Ovi Store is up and running and ready to serve you new apps. Why the Ovi Store app isn't provided right from the off we don't know, although there is a bookmark hiding in the browser to get you to the right place. Application handling is no way near as slick as the iPhone and browsing apps seems slower than on BlackBerry App World, but at least they can be searched for easily.
One of the frustrations of a 12-key smartphone is having to use T9 or multi-press entry for everything and inevitably it means a constant switching between the two. Head into messaging and T9 is great, so long as you are dealing with fairly regular words. But once you get into searching for more unusual things on the Ovi Store, like the word "Twitter" you'll have to switch out again. It's a small point, but something that QWERTY devices avoid almost entirely.
Sure, the keyboard is very good, with a nice action and all that quality feeling you'd expect from a Nokia device near the top of the pile, but you need to consider exactly what you are going to be using the phone for. If you are trading up for a more sophisticated device having only ever used T9 handsets, then you'll probably take to it. If you are a great creator of text, if you spend a lot of time writing emails on the move, then you might be better off with a QWERTY offering, like the E63 or E71, and enjoy the extra screen space too.
But that said, the E52 does offer you all that Nokia power in your pocket in a much more compact form factor than some of it's larger siblings. You get HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth to keep you connected, with simple connection options to ensure you don't use data minutes when in Wi-Fi if you don't want to. You also get an FM radio, a favourite with commuters, and good support for music and video playback too.
Memory expansion comes courtesy of a hot-swappable microSD slot which lives under the back cover. A 1GB card is supplied, but it will accept larger cards up to 16GB.
Dependent on contract
There is no doubting that the Nokia E52 is a well constructed device. It's design oozes the high quality look that many business folk are looking for. The keyboard is great too, so T9 fans will be well catered for, even if we feel it falls short of the practicality offered by the QWERTY rivals out there.
With all the hardware specs you'd want, we were also astonished by the battery life which is very good, lasting us a week with average use. It's perhaps not surprising: this phone is mostly battery (see the picture).
If you are looking for a T9 handset packed with connectivity and the sort of support that those in business need, then the E52 may suit you nicely, blending a compact form with practical and easy-to-use features. For those looking to really get down to heavy emailing, you might find that the screen and keypad are just too small.