This is a quick video titled “The Anatomy of a Home Theater” I put together of us putting up the home theater over the last few days. It’s not fully ready yet. We are waiting for custom red-colored theater curtains to be completed that will eventually surround the screen. We’ll also be adding/replacing a few pieces of equipment in the set up. Stay tuned!
Day 5 with my Nokia E71x involved Bluetooth, Google Maps, YouTube, web browsing, and VoIP.
Old Nokia handsets including the E61 and 6620 always had trouble with in-car Bluetooth systems. For example, the E61 pairs properly and shows caller-id information but does not show battery status, network signal strength, and has trouble with calls dialed from the phone which are then transferred to the car’s Bluetooth system. Unfortunately different sets of features work in different cars. This is one place where Sony Ericsson had always been ahead of Nokia. I’m happy to report the E71x paired properly, shows caller-id, battery status, network signal strength, and has no trouble transferring calls back and forth. I tried it the E71x in several German and Japanese cars with 100% success.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in London during my medical training. The culture behind navigation systems is very different in London when compared to America. Nearly every driver in London has a portable navigation unit (either dedicated or PDA/phone) from manufacturers like TomTom. More often people use their mobile phones with navigation software rather than dedicated units. This is where I became accustomed to running TomTom on the E61. Although I have built-in navigation systems in all the cars in the garage here in the United States, I still find having navigation installed on my mobile phone to be invaluable for the times when I’m in a friend’s car or a rental. Its infinitely more useful and the maps are cheaper to update than buying a new DVD every year for every car in the garage. With that said, I haven’t been able to install TomTom on the E71x. I certainly hope a compatible version is released.
In the mean time I used Google Maps via a download from Google’s website to test the GPS capability of the E71x. I’m happy to report the device can grab a GPS signal quite quickly and pinpointed my location on a map. It works. However, I’m wouldn’t be able to use Google’s software for turn-by-turn directions because it wasn’t designed for this purpose. For example, it lacks voice prompts and updates its position in large jumps while a car is moving so it would be very easy to miss a road. This is a shortcoming in the Google Maps application and not a hardware issue with the E71x.
On the old E61, I cannot play YouTube videos in the default Nokia web browser. While using the E71x, I accidentally clicked a YouTube link on Google News only to have a video open and play in the default browser. It was quite impressive. Video and audio quality were about what I’d expect from a mobile device. Interestingly going to YouTube will play videos using both the built-in Real Player and via Adobe Flash in the browser. Google also has a Nokia-specific YouTube application that can be downloaded from Google’s site. It allows for search and video playback. Again, all of this was to my pleasant surprise.
The default Nokia browser handles most things okay but fails on some sites. For example, I was attempting to view a menu for an Italian restaurant we were planning on heading to for dinner this past Friday. The Nokia browser would consistently crash and not allow me to go any further than seeing the site’s home page. Eventually I installed Sky Fire which allowed me to get a bit further but it also got stuck. The site works fine on an iPhone. Ultimately I had to resort to using my laptop. This may be a special case because many other websites worked perfectly between the two browsers but I’m really hoping we see some major improvements from Nokia and AT&T in this area.
VoIP is the first area of disappointment from this handset. I’ve tried installing both Truphone and Vopium only to be thwarted due to various issues. I’ve contacted both organizations in the hopes of finding a solution. I will post an update when I hear back from them.
AT&T has locked down the E71x in nearly every respect. This is what exists on the device:
Menu –> Settings –> Config –> Connection –> Sip Configuration
I was able to register my Gizmo SIP VoIP account and get a successful “Registered” response but there is no “Internet Tel.” application like the Nokia E61 which configures how the phone deals with incoming SIP calls. Furthermore, there is no default call choice between GSM and SIP calls on the E71x as seen on the E61. Lastly, phonebook entries no longer give a call choice between voice, video, and internet (aka VoIP/SIP) telephone calls. It seems like the only option to run VoIP on this handset will require installing a third-party application like Gizmo, Fring, or Nimbuzz that tunnels VoIP/SIP data through a third-party website. The problem being that VoIP call quality drops through the extra jumps.
This is unacceptable. The tightly integrated VoIP/SIP client on the Nokia E61 and unlocked E71 (not AT&T’s E71x) is one of the most amazing developments in telephony in the last decade. Nokia took a chance and it sold geeks like me to recommend Nokia to our friends and family in the United States even though there is stiff competition from the iPhone and Blackberry. Without the built-in VoIP/SIP client the iPhone, Blackberry, and the new Palm Pre suddenly become viable choices because the same VoIP compromises have to be made on those devices. Actually, to be fair the Blackberry has no SIP stack and the Palm Pre is too new to have anything written for it yet. Lastly, Windows Mobile has a built-in SIP stack but nearly every handset maker removes it so third-party software or a hack is needed to get VoIP working. So in actuality the choice is between an iPhone and a Nokia. Even then the a non-jail-broken iPhone can only use VoIP over wireless but not 3G. The Nokia E71x even without a working native SIP client can still tunnel VoIP over 3G (and wireless) using third party apps but a pristine Nokia E71 can do it all natively. Hence why Nokia phones are my first choice.
In the specific case of the E71x I suspect AT&T removed all the VoIP/SIP features to continue milking customers for everything they can. Unfortunately, I understand the new unlocked Nokia N97 also lacks a built-in VoIP/SIP client as seen in the N96. Nokia claims a VoIP/SIP API is available for anyone who wants to write their own application but no one has released any software. If Nokia does not offer a native VoIP/SIP client via a firmware update in those phones, then the Nokia E61 may be the last Nokia I ever own. Nokia, I know you’re reading this post, so listen up. Put a user accessible SIP client like you have on the E61 and E71 (not E71x) and users like me will continue to recommend your stellar phones. Don’t turn your backs on us now.
A few days ago I was contacted by a Nokia representative regarding my interest in evaluating an AT&T-branded Nokia E71x. Initially I was hesitant because I don’t know the first thing about writing a product review. Yet I’ve always found reviews done on other sites focusing too heavily on features that don’t mean much to me. Ultimately I decided that Nokia would benefit from a power user’s opinion so I accepted the offer.
Over the next 3 weeks I’ll try to give a frequent snapshot of what I liked and disliked about the device from the standpoint of user. I’ll also try my best to compare the E71x to my 3-year-old E61 which I have come to regard as a device far ahead of its time. I really hope I like the E71x but AT&T’s botched device customization of the Nokia E62 with limitations such as a lack of 802.11b/g wireless present in the E61 and a whole host of useless bloatware pre-installed has me approaching the endeavor with caution. This is in no way a negative reflection on Nokia but more of an AT&T issue.
Now onto Day 1′s thoughts…
The E71x was shipped via DHL and arrived in a regular AT&T branded box. It contains the phone, battery, charger, USB cable, manual, and several other booklets. I was in a hurry to get the phone charged so I could swap my SIM into the E71x from the E61.
While charging I was able to compare the E71x to the E61. The E71x is all black and very feels solid. The device is smaller than my E61 in all three dimensions. It can comfortably slide into my coat or pant pocket without causing an unsightly bulge. The keyboard no longer has a gap between the keys and the keys have a more defined click when depressed. The back cover is metallic but has become a fingerprint magnet. Overall its a gorgeous phone.
I was able to make a few calls and send a few texts today. The handset call volume and speaker phone are both loud and clear. The phone has signal reception on par with my E61 (excellent). One thing to note is other reviews on the internet for the unbranded E71-2 have commented that the antenna is near the bottom of the handset which can cause some signal degradation when the phone is in hand. I wasn’t able to experience this myself but I’ll be on the look out for it.
It’s too early to say for certain but I found the keyboard to be a mixed bag. Although I like the harder click associated with the keys relative to the E61, several times I found the key clicked but the phone did not register my input. I’ve had to slow down my typing and make an effort to depress each key very firmly. Earlier I mentioned the E71x keyboard no longer has a gap between the keys like the E61. I have rather large hands so its taking me a bit longer than expected to get used to the new arrangement. Hopefully it is a temporary thing and I’ll adjust.
Overall the phone is much more responsive and I’m pleased with my first day’s usage. Tomorrow will be a big day as I pair the device to my car via Bluetooth and attempt to get voice-over-ip (VoIP) working.