Over the years, we’ve seen a steady stream of business and messaging-centric landscape QWERTY smartphones come and go, with HTC arguably leading the pack via its collection of Windows Mobile, Android, and WP7 devices featuring sliding keyboards and tilt-out displays. But few of HTC’s offerings are as iconic or memorable as Nokia’s line of Communicator clamshell phones — starting with the Nokia 9000 in 1996, continuing with Symbian S80 models, and culminating with the Nokia E90 atop S60v3.
The Nokia E7 is the latest in this distinguished succession of Communicators and the manufacturer’s current flagship device, dethroning the Nokia N8 which continues on as the company’s media mogul. Now that the E7 is finally shipping in the US, we can begin to answer a few outstanding questions about Nokia’s latest high-end device. Is it the greatest Communicator to date? Can it carry the torch for Symbian in the immediate future? And more importantly, how does it fare in today’s shark-infested Android and iOS waters? Jump past the break for our full review.
Nokia promises strong Symbian devices through Windows Phone transition, major OTA update this summer
Nokia loves telling the world about the 150 million Symbian handsets it will ship in the years to come. Problem is, that’s far from a factual statement — it’s a goal, a hope, and something that will only be possible if developers and fans don’t abandon the platform wholesale as the company transitions from Symbian to Windows Phone smartphones over the next two years. As such, Nokia is desperately trying to convince us that Symbian and the Qt developer framework are far from dead. In an open letter of encouragement to developers from Purnima Kochikar, VP of Nokia Forum & Developer Community, Purnima attempts to coax devs into fine-tuning their Qt skills in preparation for a “strong portfolio” of new Symbian products with “GHz+” processing and faster graphics coming in 2011 and 2012. Presumably she’s talking about the T7, X7, and E6 leaks among others. And because Symbian is still the leading smartphone platform in markets like China, India, Russian, and Turkey, she hints that Nokia will likely continue to support Symbian well beyond the transition to Windows Phone, at least in select markets.
Of course, hardware has never really been Nokia’s issue so it’s nice to hear Purnima commit to a first major Symbian user experience update this summer that includes the new home screen, icons, browser, and navbar we’ve already seen, in addition to a “fresh look and feel” to the Ovi Store and Maps with the latter also getting a integrated social media services update. The Symbian update — some of which has already been seen on the C7 Astound — will come to “all users” over the air. Too late to save the platform but just in time for the Symbian faithful.
Want to know where those next 150 million Symbian devices that Nokia wants to sell are going to come from? Well, here’s a little sliver of your answer. We’ve just swung by Nokia’s swank dinner event well outside CTIA’s convention center grounds in Orlando tonight to check out the official introduction of the rumored Astound for T-Mobile. Make no mistake — this is a straight-up C7 in every sense of the word, featuring the same 3.5-inch AMOLED display, 8 megapixel camera, and 720p capture as the original announced last year atop Symbian^3 — so the only real differences are the T-Mobile branding (or should that be AT&T branding?) tastefully featured along the bottom chin and a slight platform bump to Symbian^3.1, which we’re told features “some, but not all” of the PR2.0 update’s features like portrait QWERTY support and a refreshed browser. Interestingly, the carrier will be offering WiFi calling on this one — just as it did on the E73 Mode — and you’ll be able to do unrestricted video calling over Qik thanks to the front-facing cam. Look for it to launch on April 6th for $79.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate on contract (and pre-orders start tomorrow). Follow the break for our hands-on video and Nokia’s press release.