Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nokia E75 vs E71 - Form Factor

One thing I have found myself thoroughly enjoying on the Nokia E71 over the past 5 or 6 months that I’ve been using it daily, is the form factor. Up until the E71, I had never liked the concept of qwertys and I was pretty much agnostic about form factors. But day after day, I started realizing that my views were changing about both statements: I was starting to be dependent on qwertys, and the candybar qwerty form factor was easily becoming my favorite. The E71 changed me, as it did with many of its owners I’m sure. I noticed that because I’ve had a lot of devices in my hand in the past months (N96, 6210 Navigator, N85, N82 to name a few), but my SIM card couldn’t remain in them even one day: it was instantly flowing back to the E71. The E71 is solid, sexy and most of all slim and very well built.

It is with these assumptions in mind, that I found myself opening the E75’s box and looking at the device wondering: how long will my SIM card last in it? Knowing the long list of similarities between the E75 and E71, on a hardware and software point of view, the main difference between them remained the form factor. So how did I find it?

First of all, I want to point one thing out: the E75 that I received is a french version and hence has an AZERTY keyboard, not qwerty. My E71 is also azerty, mind you. But, there are some differences between both, mainly affecting the punctuation, characters, and numbers placement. For example, some punctuation marks are appended to the Fn button and hence can be accessed by long-pressing the corresponding key, but the period and the question mark are appended to the Shift key, which means that I can only access them by clicking Shift then clicking the corresponding key. Whomever designed the Azerty on the E75 should be shot in the head. Seriously. I still find it counter-intuitive to type on the keyboard, and I still make mistakes all because of that.

For the past 6 days that I’ve had the E75, I had to relearn the placement of all the keys, all the numbers, all the letters. It’s stupidly annoying, and it reminded me why Qwertys suck. There is no default key placement, an issue that we never face on T9 keypads. The 12 keys are always there at the same place, and the appended alphabet is always the same no matter what device you have, no matter what manufacturer made it. We need that standardization for qwerty.

First impressions

At first, I kept sliding the full keyboard, even to type the smallest word. I guess I was too obsessed with the E71. But a few hours later, I found it increasingly easy to type those small words on the keypad, and to only slide the keyboard for full sentences or paragraphs.

For someone self-confessed as an E71 addict, the full keyboard on the E75 took me some getting used to. I was easily able to type fast on it, probably as fast as I do on the E71, with all the keys offering some awesome tactile feedback, but I wasn’t comfortable. The keyboard is double the width of the E71’s, the keys are also a lot bigger and very flat. This means that my fingers had to travel between each key and the next one, a problem I don’t face on the E71.

Six days later

To answer my first question on how fast will my SIM card fly back to the E71, I’ll say that for 6 days, it remained in the E75. That, by itself, is an achievement that the E75 should be proud of. Very proud of. Over the course of these 6 days, I got used to the weird key layout on the E75’s keyboard, as well as to its width and the width of it’s keys. Now, it’s second nature to type on it, and I no longer feel uncomfortable doing so.

The form factor of the E75 also draws some attention from passers by. Everyone assumes that it’s an ordinary phone, until I slide out that full keyboard, the sounding click of the slide resonating when it’s open, then I get some glances as if I did something very Sci-Fi’ish.

Another thing I have noticed over the 6 days, is that although I still prefer the landscape layout on the screen, I have missed the portrait layout which shows a bit more lines and hence a bit more information. The portrait mode is something the E71 doesn’t offer and I like that the E75 gives me the choice. One thing to add is that I haven’t disabled automatic screen rotation on the E75, something I always do on other devices. This is probably due to the fact that on the N96, N85, N82 amongst others, landscape orientation feels forced as the keypad is still in portrait. With the E75, I always have the option to slide open the full keyboard and start typing while still holding my phone horizontally.

On a negative note, one major annoyance I have with the form factor, is the lack of a d-pad, softkeys and menu button on the slideout qwerty. It’s really annoying to have to go over to the top slider each time you want to control the d-pad or select something. I got used to it but it’s still counter intuitive in my opinion.

Another negative thought is that you HAVE to hold the E75 with both hands in order to use the qwerty, and it is impossible to type with one hand. I tried doing it but I failed. On the E71, it’s very very easy to type with one hand.

Which is better?

Many people have asked me if I like the E75 better than the E71, or not. To those I answer, that by the importance of the form factor alone, they’re just different. I like them both, in a different way, and I can see myself using them both. The E71 feels more at home in my commute-filled life in Paris. The E75 would be awesome if I am leading my always-behind-the-wheel life in Lebanon: I text a lot while I drive, and T9 is way safer than qwerty as I’ve memorized the layout. Watch out for tomorrow when I shell out the ins and outs of hardware differences between the E71 and E75.

No comments:

eXTReMe Tracker

Add to Technorati Favorites