With the meteoric rise of the Google-backed Android operating system and the Windows Phone 7 powerplay that gobbled up a goodly chunk of the Nokia OS market share, Symbian seems to be on the ropes. But that hasn’t stopped the Finns from pushing a solid piece of hardware for the original open source smartphone operating system. The Nokia E7 handset is meant to stand on the same ground as phones like the Samsung Galaxy S and the iPhone 4, but with Symbian powering its software. Overall, it is a very excellent phone, hardware-wise. But it’s weak point is the fact that it’s a Symbian smartphone, meaning it carries all the same disadvantages that you’ll see when comparing it to Android, iOS or even Windows Phone 7.
The best part about the Nokia E7 just might be its form factor. Whereas many smartphones are opting for portability and feather lightness by eschewing the physical keyboard, the Nokia E7 features a slide-out physical keyboard that’s reminiscent of the Nokia N97 and the Nokia N97 mini. When the keyboard slides out, the screen sits at a 30 degree angle, making it easier to view when typing. It also lets you prop up the phone on a desktop or some other flat surface for watching videos or other content.
Typing on the keyboard is a joy, especially for those of us who are frustrated by the touch soft keyboards. The physical keyboard allows for greater speed and accuracy, as well as a familiar feel for those who began PDA-ing long before the touch screen craze.
Other features include a microUSB port with support for USB On-the-Go, which lets you use your smartphone as a host device for peripherals like printers, etc. There’s a mini-HDMI port for video out and a 3.5mm headphone jack, letting you use practically any headset with the phone. There’s a physical switch for volume and unlocking. The SIM card slot is on the side of the phone, rather than behind the battery. This makes it significantly easier to swap out your SIM card, since you don’t have to power down the phone and remove the battery. But considering how often the average user swaps out the SIM card, this is only a nominal benefit.
The 8-megapixel camera is average. It shoots 720p HD video and has fairly good still picture quality, albeit a bit washed out. In terms of specs, it’s nearly up to par with other smartphones, but seems to lack some of the under the hood software tweaks that make photos come out crisp and focused.
In terms of apps, the Nokia E7 has the standard fare. OviMaps is a standout app, which excels over Google Maps in some ways. But the browser is somewhat lacking. While it does have some Flash Lite support, you’ll get better performance and user-friendliness if you install Opera.
Overall, the phone is sturdy and workable. If you like Symbian, then you’ll love this phone. But if you’re a trendy tech geek, then go with the flow and get an Anroid or iPhone.