E is for Extinct, Part 2
That might be confusing for you because this post is about my recent experience with the Nokia E72, which appeared in stores almost two years before the E7. But don’t get all angry and smash your laptop’s screen! I just decided to write Part 1 on the E7 and Part 2 on the E72 because that is chronologically fitting for when I used the two E-Series phones. And it’s another long one, I’m afraid. Not quite as long as Part 1, but putting-the-kettle-on worthy I think. So make a nice cup of tea, sit back and enjoy another journey into Nokia’s rich past, with my take on their 2009 QWERTY beast, the iconic and beautifully constructed Nokia E72.
Way back in the mists of time when I was still living in England, I was sporting (rather proudly) a great-looking Nokia flip-phone. This was before I had journeyed across ‘The Pond’ to live in New York, and I had been very happy with my unlocked Nokia 6131 that was purchased from Amazon in the UK for £140 – I honestly loved that thing. And when the summer of 2007 arrived and I made my way over to America, I joyfully discovered that one of the main networks, Cingular, (soon to be rebranded AT&T) were selling the 6131 on their website. I gleefully paid the $199 (plus tax) for it, despite the webpage offering phones of far better calibre and having many more features. It made me glad that I was going to be able to keep using the same phone I had been texting and calling with back in England. For me, it was a small token of familiarity that I didn’t have to worry about while I was becoming accustomed to my new life in a new country. It’s the small things, I suppose. The truth is, back then, I just wanted a phone that worked as a phone; mobile web browsing hadn’t hit me yet, and to me that was something you did on a computer anyway. Indoors.
I can’t even remember the other phones Cingular were offering. All I knew was that I wanted a Nokia, and when I saw that they were selling the exact same model that I had been content with using on Virgin Mobile in the UK, I didn’t even bother to look for other options. I knew the 6131, I knew it could take selfies (although we called them “photos of yourself” back then!), it could take a microSD card, you could swap out the battery should you find yourself running low, heck, you could even see missed calls and texts – and the time – from the standby screen on the front, a bit like a very early Glance Screen effort (something I am sorely missing on my Lumia 930 by the way, but that’s another story).
So, it’s 2007, I’m a new immigrant in the USA and I’m still using a trusty Nokia as my main phone. OK, now fast-forward to early 2009 and I am still using the (now rather beaten up) 6131. And my friends are all sporting iPhones, and laughing at my battered flip-phone. Yeah, there was that. But I was actually still (in 2009!) happy to live without the mobile web and just use my phone for calls and texts. The 6131 could get on the web but it was a very slow, frustrating experience that never really worked so I never really bothered.
But by early 2010 I had started to become more curious. My iPhone-toting friends were still pointing and laughing (such a pleasant bunch, aren’t they?) and telling me to “join them” (sounded like a cult), and even though I did not want something as flashy and expensive as an iPhone, I was starting to become more curious and interested and as to what else was out there. So I found myself in the one place where all my troubles could disappear, in the comforting glow of an under-the-counter blue neon light: the Nokia flagship store on 57th Street in New York. There, I could peruse the devices that had been made by the one phone manufacturer I felt the most familiarity with. I could examine the genuine Nokia devices, fresh from NokiaLand itself. I’ll admit there was also a feeling that I was sticking with my European roots by buying a Nokia; most Americans I knew were fans of Apple, an American company, so it felt good and proper (and a tad rebellious) that as a Brit, I should use what the Brits use. (Of course, that was changing fast, and the iPhone was becoming almost as popular in the UK).
If memory serves, the Nokia store had a very fine selection of pre-N8 S60 phones on display, as well as one Maemo-running device called the Nokia N900. But I didn’t buy the N900 at that point in time. It was tagged as costing a hefty $599 (plus tax) – a bit out of my price range. The E71 was on display, a phone I had considered because AT&T were selling it as the “E71X” in their stores, and I was quite happy to consider purchasing that phone through them. But the lure of unlocked Nokia devices, in a Nokia-saturated little world, was way too much of a pull for me. I spent quite a while in there, visiting the store several times over a couple of weeks and chatting with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Through my conversations with them (and they really were superb peeps) I found out about something called ‘Ovi’ which would (apparently) make my life amazing, I discovered that maps on a phone were actually a proper thing now, and that Nokia would include 3 months of free voice navigation with their app – for use pretty much anywhere in the world.
After much deliberation and caressing of devices (!) I ended up choosing a handsome, black Nokia E75. The physical keyboard was something I had definitely wanted (I didn’t like touchscreen keyboards) and although the E72 was very tempting, I liked the idea of having the best of both worlds: a candy-bar phone if I wanted that, or a full landscape QWERTY keyboard for those longer emails and texts. Seemed perfect to me. The staff helped me set it up, load my info, download maps, set up my Ovi account – such a nice bunch of people! Pity that their jobs were about to end just three months later when the store closed that summer. I glance forlornly every time I pass it on 57th Street (it’s a Yves Saint Laurent store now) and I think back to how much of an enjoyable experience it used to be to go in there and become immersed in the modern, blue-accented interior design with the Star Trek-style lighting accents here and there. Anyway, the E75 was the phone I had chosen above all others, and my adventure with the ‘modern’ Nokia OS was about to begin. S60 here we come!
The E72 had certainly piqued my interest though, especially by the summer of 2010 where I spent about two months in my native homelands of Buckinghamshire and London in England. I hadn’t seen any E75s out in the wild, but I had seen gazillions of E72s, both in the States and in the UK. I had played around with a friend’s E72 while on a visit to London and I put my E75 next to his E72 for a quick comparison. I thought how great it would be to have the bigger screen for a start; the one on my E75 was rather small. I also liked the Blackberry-esque keyboard on the E72, although I did still prefer the landscape QWERTY of my E75. So perhaps I was close in buying myself an E72, but I never quite reached out there and snagged one.
The successor in my mind to my E75 was the outstanding and very unique N900 – its lure had finally won me over, and I had been completely sucked in to the whole world of mobile phones by then too. I was reading dedicated webpages and blogs (AllAboutSymbian was my main go-to), regularly visiting the Nokia Discussions page, and becoming thoroughly converted from normob to geek. So when I returned from England late in the summer, I got online and went to YouTube and all the mobile phone review sites and watched and read and watched and read, and convinced myself that a shiny new N900 from Amazon was the answer to my hankerings, and I was absolutely right.
After that, one thing led to another, as they say. Through the N8, the E7, the E6, the N9, the 808 PureView, the Lumia 810, the Lumia 920, the Lumia 1020 and now the Lumia 930, I feel my journey with Nokia is now at an end. That is, with Nokia as the name on the top of my chosen smartphone, as I’m sure the next big cash spend will be on a Lumia sans “NOKIA”.
But despite the whizzbang-all-whistles-and-bells-singing-and-dancing Lumias we use today, I was always curious about those classic Nokias that I had swept past, those devices which are often mentioned by commentators, but ones I never used. The top of the list for me there, was the Nokia E72.
So I hopped onto eBay and shopped around. Amazingly I found a listing for one in great condition, complete with all the original accessories and even its original box for just $42. And I won the auction at $42! The Buy-it-Now asking price was $130 so I’m sure the seller was a bit miffed that his once pride and joy had sold for the starting price, but I guess you win some and you lose some. Anyway, soon I was in possession of the phone that I had eluded for years, and I was all ready to spend some time setting it up and seeing what it could do in this post-S60 world of ours.
I had all the highest of hopes that things would end up being slow but at least doable. Unfortunately it turned out that I was right about it being slow, but not really right about the E72’s ways of working being doable. Well, not the way I wanted to use it.
The first thing I did was to hook up the E72 to my PC and run Nokia Suite; I wanted the very latest updates from the aging Nokia servers, even if “latest” meant from years ago. Sure enough, there were a few updates that it found, downloaded and installed to the E72, and soon I was all ready to go to town setting it up with my personal information, and even see if I could scrape together some apps for the old thing.
Surprisingly, it did actually manage to pull in my Outlook.com emails, contacts and calendar! Yes, it took quite a while to be honest, but with me dealing with “ancient” software, by today’s standards anyway, I was ready to be patient! But unfortunately, it was here that I came across my first pothole in the road: I kept getting a syncing error, with the phone informing me that it couldn’t acquire the latest information. I assumed it meant my email, which I had set to “Always on” so that it would regularly check the account for anything new. When it did this, it decided that there was an error of some sort or another, and hence the onscreen message. In fact, on a little checking myself, the E72 had actually downloaded the latest emails (I cross-checked on my PC simultaneously) so this was a bit disheartening. I couldn’t live with that bloody error message popping up every 2 minutes! But my workaround was to set the email sync to “Manual” so that it wouldn’t do that. Again, unfortunately it did pop up the error message again just as soon as I forced a manual update. Sigh and harrumph.
Additionally, I was having major problems trying to make the E72 be a device I could use Twitter on. All of the third-party Twitter apps that were still (languishing) in the Nokia Store simply didn’t work, more than likely because the APIs currently being used by the apps were horribly out of date. I am not sure, but trying to log in to my Twitter account always resulted in an error and the only way I could get a tweet out there was via the Web, and that’s not really the way to get things done quickly. Actually, come to think of it, even that threw me a few issues too, one being that I tried to shoot off a tweet, only to be told that an error had occurred (what a surprise) but when I checked TweetDeck on my PC, the tweet had actually made it out to my followers, so that was a bit odd.
But to be completely honest, even if those apps and services had worked the way they should have done, the biggest problem I had with using the E72 was the overall slow speed of the thing. I know that is being outrageously unfair. How could a phone from 2009 be anywhere near as quick and nimble as a phone from 2014? 128Mb of internal RAM compared with 2GB? A 600MHz processor compared with a 2.2GHz one? A 320 x 240 screen with 169 PPI compared with a 1080 x 1920 screen with 441 PPI? Well, that is what five years of development and innovation get you, but I’m afraid it was so bad for me, so horribly slow, that I just couldn’t use it. I tried to imagine it was 2010, I tried to imagine a world in a time when Twitter was not a thing for me, when sending the odd text would be what I used that QWERTY keyboard for, but I just couldn’t do it. On top of all that, my AT&T sim didn’t seem to want to play nicely with the E72 (or vice-versa!) and I was getting a steady single bar of signal in my home, whereas usually I’d be getting three or four bars of signal. Moving into the kitchen and signal would drop altogether.
I might be wrong on this next point, but wifi and the E72 weren’t very good friends either.
Again, 2009 wasn’t a time when absolutely everyone had home wifi like they do today, so perhaps that is why a reliable wifi connection was very problematic on my E72; it was never constantly connected like modern smartphones are, and it would only connect when it was manually asked to do so. In its little 128Mb mind, that was when I would want to browse the web. Strangely, when I followed its rules and went to browse the web, it would still try very hard to use my ailing 3G signal. I would have to manually connect via the wifi prompt on the homescreen, otherwise it wouldn’t connect. Likewise, any visits to the Nokia (née Ovi) Store were made even more painful than they already were because poor old doddery S60 wouldn’t think to use the available wifi connection (why would it, I never asked it to!) and so it would attempt to visit the Store on my weak 3G signal. Moving closer to a window helped (wow, how 2009 is that?!) but I was baffled and confused as to why it would insist on using the cellular connection when there was a strong wifi connection… oh the dizzy spells! Quick get me to the couch, I can barely take it!
Yeah, so… no. It was nice to stroll down Nostalgia Avenue for a few hours, but the path just led to Exasperation Lane instead of Fun Times Road, and I just had to knock it on the head. I didn’t even give myself the chance to explore all of the quirky keyboard shortcuts – I honestly felt like I was wasting my precious time by trying to use the E72, so I simply decided not to waste any more of it. But the real shame is the fact that the E72’s hardware is gorgeous, even by today’s standards. Solidly built, beautifully designed, but it’s quite upsetting that the software doesn’t stand the test of time like its physical form does. Why can’t apps and services just bloody work for more than a few years?! Grrrr.
Needless to say, the E72 has been sold on and is now in California, bought by someone who does not have the same demands that I had of it. The buyer wanted a quick replacement for her own, smashed E72 – I asked her if she knew what she was getting into and why on earth she wouldn’t want something more up-to-date, but it was the E72 she couldn’t live without, so who am I to judge? That E72 is currently in a much more loving home, and hopefully, it’s doing a grand old job, for a grand old phone. I just hope she doesn’t use Twitter.
I guess phones of the past are best left where they are. In Part 1 of ‘E is for Extinct’, I told of how I tried to resurrect my Nokia E7, but I was mostly defeated. I was largely unsuccessful in my role as Dr. Frankenstein, attempting to bring two classic Nokia E-Series phones back to life, two devices that were popular back in their respective days. But in 2014, I have learned that this is, sadly, a mug’s game. Nokia are no more (as far as smartphones are concerned) and with Microsoft about to finally scrub away the last of that famous insignia that has adorned our beloved phones for decades, it only seems fitting to leave these E-Series dinosaurs to either RIP in the sock drawer, or be put into the hands of someone still living in the past (and that’s her bag, and there’s nothing so wrong about that!)
So I’m sad to say that, from my own view and recent experiences, E actually is for extinct, but not without a heartfelt tip of the hat to two phones that will always be remembered for being excellently designed by a much-loved and admired company.
Microsoft Lumia is now the official future of Nokia phones. But Nokia’s device history is a rich, and often colourful tapestry of classic, innovative devices with features and designs that have tugged at our heart-strings for years and years, and I don’t think that genuinely global respect will fade quickly. I am a very happy Lumia owner; my 1020 and my 930 are front-and-centre my smartphone choices, and friends and family who have ventured down the Lumia route have very high praise for the Windows Phones they use, despite the strong competition in the market.
Nokia got plenty wrong in recent years, but I think they will mostly be remembered for what they got right at the time, and the E7 and the E72, for their respective times, were really fantastic devices. They get left behind because time doesn’t stop, but then again, neither do our fond memories.