E62
Sony-Ericsson

Smartphones Now: Symbian

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Smartphones Now is a special group of features by CrunchGear writers on the latest smartphones available or soon to be available in the US. In this installment, we discuss smartphones running the Symbian Operating System.

have also used Symbian.

of third party software. Nokia’s N-Gage, for example, was built on the Symbian platform with a Java-based gaming client built in. It is the granddaddy of phone OSes and still in common use, at least in Nokia phones.

What Symbian Does Best

Symbian tends to be a stable, easy-to-use interface without many bells and whistles. Although UIQ phones have a touchscreen interface, most Symbian phones use a dedicated “swish” key to get to the underlying menus and then a directional button to move from item to item.

Because there are only a few “flavors” of Symbian, most programs written for Nokia phones are compatible throughout the line. UIQ phones are slightly different, but there is some overlap.

On the whole, Symbian is easy to use and designed for the relative novice. It has a clean, fresh and everything–from phone status to email notifications–is visible from the main screen.

What Symbian Doesn’t Do

When pushed, Symbian tends to crash rather than slow down. However, in our years of using Symbian phones, a soft reset usually solved all problems. Also many complain about the syncing system, which is non-existant for Linux and often subpar on other OSes. The music syncing system, for example, is quite poor but is getting better.

Most Symbian phones eschew the QWERTY keyboard, making messaging apps a bit hard to handle.

Before You Buy

Before buying a Symbian, or any smartphone really, make a list of the applications you’d like to have on the road. Symbian supports most major word processing and spreadsheet application viewers along with a wealth of travel programs including currency convertors and alarm clocks. It is very full-featured out of the box and there are a number of other programs available from Nokia in open- and closed-source form including a podcasting app and an Internet Radio system.

The Phones


The N95 is Nokia’s flagship model in its N-Series line of smartphones. It consists of a double-sliding mechanism–one way reveals music keys, another way revels the numeric keypad. The N95 has WiFi, supports HSDPA and includes a GPS receiver for mapping and location-based services.

Announced in September, the N95 has yet to surface in the wild. However, it should be available online and from Nokia stores. Nokia is selling its N-Series without a carrier, but it supports world GSM frequencies and should be available in the beginning of next year.

This monster has a 5-megapixel camera and a TV-out system for viewing video and photos on the big screen. It will probably cost about $600 initially. It’s more a mini-PC than a phone, but that shouldn’t stop the casual user from picking it up for its many media and image-handling functions.

Press Release

The diminutive N80 is Nokia’s Symbian slider phone with a twist. It includes WiFi along with a push-email support, making it a bit more of a business phone. A 3-megapixel camera with flash adds a bit of fun while the Microsoft Office viewers make sure you stay on top of things.

The N80 also includes an FM radio and miniSD slot for memory expansion. It weighs a mere 5 ounces and can last for about 3 hours of intense usage and 8 days standby. It comes in both GSM and CDMA models, although Nokia is selling the GSM version in the US at its stores and online. It costs $599.99.

Product Page [Nokia]

This 3G smartphone features a huge touchscreen, pop-out QWERTY keyboard, and enough UI tweaks to make Symbian almost unrecognizable. Sony Ericsson’s UIQ is an amazing system feature a single-handed interface with scroll wheel for rolling through contacts and email. At 5.3 ounces, this slim phone includes video phone capabilities along with a business-card scanner and FM radio/music player with 60MB internal memory. It also has 802.11b for wireless Internet and syncs with Macs and PCs.

While this amazing phone originally cost $800-1000, prices have settled at the $650 mark. If you’re looking for a replacement for your Treo or even a Blackberry, give this one a gander.

Product Page [Sony Ericsson]

If you can get your hands on the W950i, rejoice. SE announced this phone this year but few carriers have gotten up the gumption to release it. It is a Walkman phone, which means most of its functionality is focused on music playback. It does run UIQ however, and includes most of the software available on phones like the P990.

Austere and elegant, the W950i has a “touch” keypad with touchscreen. This means that the entire surface is free of buttons, and, oddly enough, the begin and end call buttons are displayed on the screen rather than the keypad. Need room for your music? The W950i has 4GB of memory and also comes with a headset and Walkman music kit for syncing your tunes.

This is the unicorn of smartphones, so good luck finding it on these shores. However, it’s an example of Symbian done right so we had to include it.


Nokia E62

The E62 is the smartphone for the road warrior on a budget. Available from Cingular for $99 with a 2-year contract. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and supports almost every push-email service out there (Good Mobile Messaging, BlackBerry Connect, Intellisync Wireless Email, Mail for Exchange (Microsoft ActiveSync) and Xpress Mail) along with POP and IMAP. One caveat–this device doesn’t have WiFi, which might turn off hotspot fans.

Designed as a business phone, the E62 has 80MB of built-in memory and runs Symbian Series 60. No camera means you can carry it in high security places–like the locker room (??)–and an improved interface makes getting from program to program a breeze. It might be lacking in features, but sometimes a pared-down phone is just what you’re looking for.

Product Page [Cingular]

<td valign=top

About $599.99

<td valign=top

About $650

<td valign=top

TBA

<td valign=top

$99

Phone

Manufacturer

Carrier

MSRP


 Wi-Fi


 GPS


 QWERTY Keyboard

Touchscreen


 OS


 Weight


 Size


 Features

Verdict

Nokia N95

Nokia

Any GSM Carrier. Should be
available online and in Nokia stores.

About $600

Y

Y

N

N

Series 60

About 5 ounces

TBA

5-megpixel camera, HSDPA
support, 2.6” display, microSD slot

A flagship phone, but a bit pricey.

Nokia N80

Nokia

Any GSM carrier. Available
online and in Nokia stores.

Y

N

N

N

Series 60

4.7 ounces

3.76 x 1.97 x 1.02 inches

3-megapixel camera, EDGE,
microSD slot, FM radio

A mini slider phone for
work and play.

Sony Ericsson P990i

Sony
Ericsson

Any GSM carrier. Available
online.

Y

N

Y

Y

UIQ

5.3 ounces

4.4 x 2.2 x 1 inches

2-megapixel camera, FM
radio, MemoryStick slot, touchscreen

A real powerhouse –
more PDA than phone.

Sony Ericsson W950i

Sony
Ericsson

Any GSM carrier.

N

N

N

Y

UIQ

5 ounces

TBA

Walkman Music Player

A media phone with real
smarts

Nokia E62

Nokia

Cingular

N

N

Y

N

Series 60

5 ounces

4.61 x 2.76 x .63 inches

Push email

A slim work phone. No
camera means it’s good for secure areas.

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