Review: Nokia's E62 a smart phone for the masses

It has e-mail, Web browsing, a music player and more for $149

Nokia's new E62 smart phone may be tough for tech-savvy tightwads to ignore. Bargain-priced at $149 (plus a service contract via Cingular), the device offers a slew of useful smart-phone features, supports most popular e-mail platforms and provides handy applications for road warriors.

It's not a device for folks who need speed or for power users who love lots of bells, whistles and buttons to push. And if you want a touch screen, a camera or zippy 3G cellular data access such as that provided by EV-DO, you'll have to look elsewhere.

But Nokia's E62 is refreshingly easy to configure and use, and it delivers all the basics that average business users need, plus some unexpected extras. In other words, while smart phones previously were aimed primarily at enterprise power users, this is a smart phone for the masses.

Nokia E62

Nokia's E62

Credit: Nokia

The feature set

At the top of the E62's feature list is strong support for e-mail. It supports Microsoft Exchange, BlackBerry Connect, GoodLink, Cingular's Xpress Mail and standard mail formats such as POP3 and IMAP. It also has built-in support for virtual private networks (VPN).

It has the usual organizer capabilities such as contact management and a calendar. It also has built-in tools for viewing and editing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, Adobe's PDF format, a Zip Manager for handling compressed files and an attachment viewer.

Popular instant messaging services are supported, including AOL and Yahoo, as well as text and multimedia messaging.

When you're off the clock, hit the "My Stuff" icon and you can fire up the built-in music player that supports MP3 and AAC formats, an application for viewing MPEG-4 and 3GP video files and an image viewer for showing off photos (JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF).

This is a quad-band phone running in the 850-, 900-, 1800- and 1900-MHz bands, meaning it is usable not only in the U.S. but also in Europe. The only significant disappointments -- for some -- will be that the E62 isn't a camera phone, it has no Wi-Fi support and it only supports Cingular's old-generation EDGE cellular data network, not newer, faster 3G data networks. Still, the EDGE network is more than fast enough for basic communications tasks such as e-mail and instant messaging. The European version of the device, the E61, supports 3G networks and Wi-Fi.

Putting it to work

Like the Motorola Q and BlackBerry's 8700 series, the Nokia E62 sports a slim, if slightly blocky, profile at 4.6 by 2.7 by .63 in. and a weight of 5 oz. Given its size, using the phone feels a little like talking into a brick, a problem it shares with those other smart phones.

The E62's gray metal casing is not as snazzy as the Q or the newer BlackBerries, but it has a nice solid feel, unlike, for instance, the plastic-clad BlackBerry 8700g.

I found that the E62 operates well as a phone. It features voice dialing, voice commands for menu shortcuts, a speaker phone and six-way conference calling.

The device has full Bluetooth 2.0 support, meaning you can not only use wireless headphones but also transfer files wirelessly to a desktop or laptop PC. The full Bluetooth support means you also can use it as a modem for compatible PDAs and laptops.

The E62's bright, 2.8-in., 320-by-240-pixel, 16 million-color display is impressive, with sharp text and excellent readability in varying types of lighting conditions. An LED blinks just above the screen to indicate incoming messages.

A block of navigation buttons just below the screen includes: phone call and end, menu, e-mail and two soft keys, as well as a tiny joystick, which makes it easy to scroll and click through menus, documents and Web pages. In the nice touch department, if you press and hold the menu button you can toggle between running applications.

I found the E62's backlit QWERTY keyboard, just below the navigation buttons, roomy and comfortable to use compared to other small-device keyboards.

Along the left edge you'll find buttons for volume control and voice recording. Ports for the included power adapter, headset, mini-universal serial bus cable and infrared are located along the bottom edge.

The E62 comes with 80MB of internal memory. That's expandable, but you must inconveniently slide off the battery cover to access the miniSD slot, which accepts cards with capacities up to 2GB. It's odd that they didn't just punch a hole into the side of the cover to make the slot more easily accessible.

The device runs on the Symbian operating system (9.1, Series 60, third edition) and the interface is impressively clean and uncluttered.

Useful applications under the "Office" icon include the document viewer/editors, a calculator, voice recorder, currency converter, Web browser, file and sync managers and the setup for printing files from the device. You can also run slideshows from the E62 on compatible projectors.

I tested the document applications, opening a variety of Word, PowerPoint and Excel files and found that the phone did a reasonable job of maintaining formatting. It was a bonus to be able to edit the files, but labor intensive. I'm not sold on using a smart phone to work on spreadsheets or PowerPoint files. It's slow going with such a small keyboard and display.

Speed-wise, the E62 isn't a barn burner. There was a small but noticeable lag when switching between applications and downloading Web pages.

On the upside, Nokia gets a thumbs up for its S60 Web browser, which displays thumbnail views that make it easier to scroll pages and navigate. For instance, when you hit the back button, tiny graphical representations of the pages you've visited appear. When browsing, the device's joystick works like a mouse, complete with a cursor.

The browser offers popup blocking, bookmarks, support for RSS feeds, blogs, JavaScript, multiple windows and more. Overall I found using the E62's browser to be a better user experience than, say, using the Treo's Blazer browser. The E62 also comes with a WAP browser that lives under Cingular's MEdia Net icon.

Uniformly, from e-mail to instant messaging, the E62 was a breeze to configure and easy to use. What about battery life? It's rated for an impressive 5.5 hours of talk time, and I got about four days of total use on a single charge before recharging.

The bottom line: If you're on a budget and looking for a solid if basic smart phone with a few extras thrown in, Nokia's E62 is a winner.

Michelle Johnson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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