I had the opportunity this year to spend Canada’s National Holiday in Ottawa, Ontario, our nation’s capital city. And since I didn’t want to burden myself with a heavy laptop I instead packed only my brand-new Nokia E90 — graciously on loan from Nokia’s WOM World — for the two-day trip.
The night before my departure I transferred my PIM data over to the E90 via the appropriate iSync plug-in from Nokia. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Nokia has done everything right here for Mac users; in fact, because I can also sync up to-do lists along with my address book and calendar events I would go so far to say that S60 handsets are actually more compatible with the Mac than Apple’s own mobile device!
Once on the road I had almost five hours to check email, text friends and surf the web with Opera Mini. The direct morning sun had absolutely no adverse effect on the E90’s wide and perfectly readable interior screen. When closed the handset doesn’t actually seem so big, but when open I found it quite a stretch to move my fingers over the wide keyboard with any kind of speed. Though the keys are generously large and have a nice feel, I think shaving half an inch or so off either end of the handset would go a long way towards making it more usable. Shall I go ahead and do this for you, WOM World?
Upon my arrival I quickly set up the E90 to access the available WiFi network where I was staying. My host also graciously offered a guest laptop as a tempting alternative, and I actually ended up using it for about half the time I was there. For basic web consumption the E90 with Opera Mini is perfectly fine, but I share a lot of links via Digg, Reddit and the like and could really use a mobile browser that supports bookmarklets.
On the morning of July 1st we made our way to Meech Lake for a scenic drive and hike. The E90 was safely ensconced in my sidebag and despite its heft, didn’t weigh me down any more than my other camera I had packed with it. You can see a video sample of a babbling brook here — note that YouTube has almost certainly upscaled it past it’s original 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
Later that afternoon it was back to The Hill to join the crowds for the big show. It was here that another E90 issue became apparent: Though the built-in 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera soundly trumps the fixed-focus imager on my E61i, the software and/or camera button borders on unusable.
Take this souvenir photo of a famous Canadian guilty pleasure, for example. By the time I was able to snap this blurry pic the freshly deep-fried dough wasn’t even hot anymore — first I mistakenly captured a video instead of a still image, and then I stood there like an idiot in the middle of the street waiting with my E90 pointed squarely at my dessert, waiting for some sign of confirmation that the photo of this thing had actually been taken.
Part of the problem is the camera button itself. First off, pressing it does NOT open up the camera app like it does on Nokia’s N95. and unlike the big alphanumeric keys on the inside of the handset that go clickety-click, this important part of the machine/human interface has a lot of give but zero tactile feedback! It’s as if some Nokia engineer walked in gravel on his way into the E90 design lab, picked a piece of it off of the sole of his shoe and said: “Hey, this would make an all right camera button…”
Another annoyance occurs if the phone happens to ring while the handset is open. My instinct would be to close the clamshell so I could take the call like I would on a regular phone, but closing up the unit immediately terminates the connection, so you’re forced to leave it open and make the caller suffer through a typically tinny speakerphone exchange.
But here’s a testament to the E90’s unabashed business prowess: Over the fifty-four or so hours I spent away from home I was able to secure a television interview with a local news station about Canada’s GSM monopoly through a combination of phone calls, emails, texts and map searches — all performed without so much as a shrug by this super-powered device!