Nokia E-Series Meetup – Reflections

eseriesmeetupI had the opportunity to attend the E-Series event at the Flagship Nokia store in New York City on June 12. On hand were product managers from Nokia, representatives from WOM World – an organization that promotes dialogue about S-60 devices, Google ad sale executives, and, it seemed, every S-60 mobile tech blogger in the greater metro NY area!  One of the main reasons for the event, besides being a meet and greet for local S-60 bloggers, was to provide feedback to Nokia product managers about the E-Series line of Nokia smartphones, specifically the E71 and the E75. The E-Series is a line of S-60 smartphones aimed at productivity and business users. After everyone was sufficiently lubricated with the ample food, wine and beer provided, Chanse, who works at the Nokia corporate office posed the following questions, and broke us into three groups to discuss (chartpaper and markers were also provided):

  1. Which form factor works best for a QWERTY – E71x candybar, or E75 slide or another form factor?
  2. Is there an argument for making all mobile devices QWERTY?
  3. What are the lines blurring between business, multimedia and consumer focused devices. Should those lines remain? If not, why not?
  4. Think about how working practices will change in say five years, what do you expect to see in the place of these devices? What legacy will live on?

The questions raised by the Nokia marketing are good questions, and I’ve had time to reflect on my own personal experiences with S60 devices for a few weeks.  Here are some of my thoughts..

QWERTY smartphones such as the E71, or Blackberries are at their core messaging devices. Users that choose this form factor do so because of their need to be connected to their work and personal emails. A QWERTY keyboard a la the E71X or E71 serves this functionality extremely well. One of the strengths of having a front facing QWERTY keyboard is the sheer simplicity and ease of use. With an E71, anyone can at a moments notice open an email app, type a note, or tweet, and send it off. No hassle, no fuss. But, more importantly, can do this fast. I like sliders too, such as the E75, or Windows Mobile devices such as the Touch Pro 2, however, with sliders, there’s an additional step of sliding out a keyboard. The typing experience on a slider is generally more luxurious, but a slider form factor generally forces two hand use. It is possible to do one-hand input on a slider phone, but it is more awkward. True messaging types – those that email, twitter, or blog from their mobile device might prefer a front facing QWERTY. Living in the big city, I am able to maneuver the streets with an almost radar sense with my face down typing away furiously on my Blackberry or E71; a slider form factor for a “messaging fiend” such as myself would not be as efficient, and could get me killed. Ultimately, it does come down to personal preference.

Smartphones, at least in the Nokia space are dichotomized as either a multi-media device., i.e., the N-Series, or business productivity devices, i.e, the E-Series. It is a useful distinction, because most smartphone users do lean toward one more than another. We live in an age where we want everything now. We want our phones for voice telephony, email, music, movies, GPS navigator, PIM, high-def video and still image capture, desktop publishing, etc. This is a wonderful vision, and I am trying to push this “convergence” idea myself. Phones like the new N97 or iPhone come very close. But, I have overheard my iPhone brethren lament how clumsy and frustrating it is to type a simple email to a friend. This particular user is trying to have it all, but his true nature is that of a “messaging” type, and he would probably be happier with an E71 style phone. I see many E71/iPod Touch double fisters in NYC. My concern is that phones that try to do everything, end up being lukewarm. The iPhone, although it bills itself as a super-phone is really a multi-media device with phone functionality. Users that need their music/video content on the move will love it, but emailers would hate it, especially towards the end of the day when there’s only one bar of battery left.

Are the lines blurring? Will N and E-Series go away to be replaced by a Z series where everything works, and we can type with E71 efficiency, and have the multimedia experience of an iPhone, or N97? That day might be coming, but in my mind for now, I don’t mind having a phone that truly excels at its core functionality. E71 is truly amazing for what it does. Of course, if it could shoot pictures like the N82, that would make me extremely happy, but day to day, what would bring me joy would be the effortless use of its core functionality – email, and messaging.

If I can look ahead to the future and dream a bit… imagine the power of our smartphones multiplied exponentially. I go to the office and dock my smartphone to an extremely sophisticated terminal. My smartphone isn’t a periphery. It is my primary computing device. Everything I work on in the office can be shared via my smartphone, cloud, and office terminal. Distinctions between mobile and desktop fade. This may be in an immediate future, but imagine working on a presentation in the office, syncing it to my phone, and then walking into a boardroom, and showing the presentation with a built-in projector, from my phone! Imagine taking 20+ megapixel quality pictures, from my camera (with high quality Carl Zeiss optics of course!) and uploading it immediately to my social media venue of choice. I’d buy a Z-Series phone, if it had the battery life of a E71. Imagine.


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