A few weeks back, after Nokia had announced they were upending their software strategy for a partnership with Microsoft, they promised us developers a few things; the two key items were one free Nokia E7 and one free Nokia Windows Phone (when they become available).
Today arrived on my doorstep the aforementioned E7, and I thought it would be proper if I wrote something about it here.
First impressions are always important, and the moment I set eyes on this thing I was stunned. The hardware design is absolutely beautiful; a large 4" AMOLED display and aluminum frame hiding a svelte keyboard. The slider tilt-hinge mechanism is so very solid and appealing, and the device is surprisingly thin for a slider. I couldn't help but think how this phone would be a chart-topper if it was running WP7 or Android.
Sadly, it's running Symbian. It must be said, the latest version of Symbian, Symbian^3, is extremely nice. Unlike its predecessors (anyone who had the misfortune to use a 5800 or N97, I feel for you), it's actually designed for a capacitive multitouch touchscreen. Using it reminded me of all the things I loved about Symbian, back before the iPhone changed the world. While Symbian^3 may be great (it's much easier to use than BBOS6 on the Torch, for example), it's nowhere near the class of modern mobile OSes (iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Phone 7). Fortunately, this time next year we won't have to have this conversation anymore.
The camera quality on the E7 is a far cry from the Nokia N8 imaging flagship; there's no half-press to focus on the camera button, and the photos feel more like a camera phone than the N8 (which is on par with a point and shoot camera). Of course, it has a front facing camera for 3G video calls, like nearly every Symbian phone since 2005. It eschews the microSD slot, so you have to rely on the internal storage, and has a dedicated SIM tray like the iPhone.
All in all, this is a very nice gift from Nokia to its developers. The message is twofold; it shows developers that Nokia still cares about Symbian, and wants them to continue development for it, but most of all, it reminds developers that Nokia can make stunning hardware. It makes me giddy thinking about the next step in this giveaway, when Nokia distributes its first Windows Phone 7 devices to all its developers. As much as we in the tech world write off Nokia for using an outdated and limiting OS like Symbian, it's easy to forget that they are still the #1 phone manufacturer in the world. Their hardware is superb, and WP7 is a fantastic OS (though I wish Microsoft would get their updates out within three months of missed release dates... Seriously :-p), and I can't wait until the two come together. Some very exciting times are ahead.