One day to go, and here it is: iPhone vs. Nokia E70, Part I: The basics

Apple iPhone vs Nokia E70

In less than two days, at 18:00 local time, the oh-so-hyped iPhone will be available for sale across the US. Mr. Jobs has offered the final version of the device to several (Apple lovin’?) US journalists, so there’s already a plethora of reviews available.

This article will be based on the available iPhone reviews (it’s going to be quite a while until it comes to Europe) and on my personal experience with the Nokia E70. The E70 is already pretty old, almost unknown, and ugly. But what it offers is already way beyond the iPhone.

This will be a long article, which will directly compare the two devices, highlight each one’s strengths and weaknesses, and give some insight in the world of the Symbian operating system and the s60 interface.

US readers don’t despair, I will make as little reference as possible to the fact that Nokia’s smartphone has WCDMA connectivity while the iPhone is limited to EDGE. And I’m doing that just because the E70 that’s available in the States is also limited to EDGE.

First of all, I want you to know that I postponed this comparison so I could be fair and know as much as possible about Apple’s device. The time has come, and it will be darn long until I’ll manage to have a hands-on contact with the iPhone.

Second of all, I consider this comparison pretty absurd myself, since the iPhone is nothing but a fancy phone, while the Nokia is a real smartphone. I’m doing it just because Mr. Jobs and even naive reviewers have called it a smartphone. Which, again, it isn’t.

A smartphone is characterized by extensibility. You will never see programs that can EDIT pictures or videos on the iPhone. Nor will you see ones to actively use the microphone or camera and save your work. The only thing that the iPod can and which is generally limited to smartphones is the multi-tasking ability.

Because many of you won’t be interested in all the technical gibberish, I’ll start the comparison/review with the mundane, palpable and visible details, and will build on tech specs later.

First of all, the looks and sizes: The iPhone is very good looking. From shell to interface, it looks great! It’s slim, but then look at its width.. It’s hard to figure it will be easily pocketable, especially since I had to get used to the Nokia. Apple’s gadget is half as thick as the Nokia, which earns kudos for the looks but doesn’t add any points to how pocketable it is.
On the other side, the E70 is simply put BUTT UGLY. Clearly designed for functionality, the design was left aside. Especially unappealing are the ‘shoulders’ and hinges of the flip-able keyboard. It looks good when open, though. It’s almost twice as thick as the iPhone, but I’d rather have a thicker but not too wide device in the pocket.
I’ve saved a size comparison at Sizeasy.

That’s it with the sizes. I won’t start a complete review of the Nokia here, but you can find a fairly good one at The Russian reviewers don’t give any technical data or 3rd party application tips, but you’ll find it very useful and in-depth too.

Instead, I’ll do a step-by-step comparison: I’ll take a feature of the iPhone and then match it to what the E70 has to offer.
The interface: Apple gets all the points here. It’s fast, sleek, and beautiful. It doesn’t seem to offer any themes though, and it can’t be operated with only one hand. The E70 has a very weak point here: because of the handset’s size and desigh, they couldn’t fit a D-pad so there’s a joystick.. Sony-Ericsson users can testify what bad points it brings. As for the interface, it’s standard s60: doesn’t look fancy, but it’s fully skinnable, scalable and switches to landscape mode when you open the full keyboard. We’ll discuss keyboards later.

The phone: Apple offers a very nice interface, easy conference calling between up to 5 peers. The contact list offers no voice dialing and no search functions. The voice quality has been described as ‘just average’ by the reviewers, but I think it has to do with AT&T’s fixation on half-rate codecs. The E70 can only merge two calls, but it offers the standard Nokia quality. You also get speaker-independent voice dialing (no training required), contact search, and it can also speak out the name of the caller.

Messaging: Apple offers conversation-like SMS, and formatted E-mail. No MMS or instant messenger here. Nokia doesn’t offer formatted mails by default, but there are many more protocols offered, clearly oriented towards the corporate user. You’ll get the standard POP and IMAP, plus various push-mail protocols, including the popular BlackBerry. You also get MMS and instant messenging by default. As an upgrade, Nokia has just started offering built-in support for Yahoo Messenger. If you really want formatted mails, there are commercial 3rd party applications that can offer user-friendly interfaces and lots of eye candy.

Web: The Safari browser is outstanding indeed. If only it had support for flash and flash videos.. Though, Apple’s claim that the iPhone brings the ‘real Internet’ for the first time on a ‘smartphone’ is a load of BS. The over-one-year-old OSS browser which comes by default with s60 has exactly the same capabilities as this mobile Safari, and the same shortcomings. The interface is more familiar to PC users though, as it uses a mouse-like cursor and a transparent overlaid site map for quick and intuitive navigation. It also receives regular updates from Nokia.

Media: The ‘iPod’ application really is the best iPod ever released by Apple. CoverFlow is very nice, the fullscreen video looks cool on the big screen too. Even though the E70 is pretty much business-oriented, it has strong multimedia features, just like all s60 devices. You’ll get a music player with cover art; you’ll be able to sort the music by genre, artist, album, release date and so on. For videos, you have the built-in Real Player, which can play streams, and many video and audio formats. Having a fully-fledged operating system, the Nokia can also receive additional plugins for audio and video. The third party application market is overwhelming: you can even get full-screen DivX and XviD playback, with subtitles and all.

Since this is already getting extremely long, i’ll conclude this first part with the input methods. While the iPhone is truly revolutionary, the Nokia is pretty conservative. This makes everything but typing more enoyable on the iPhone, though you always have to use both hands. Nokia has the huge advantage of a full, physical QWERTY board. From all Nokia models I’ve used (including their communicators), this is by far the best keyboard ever featured on a Nokia.

Reviewers haven’t said too many good words about the iPhone’s virtual keyboard. I can very easily type on the E70 without looking at the keyboard.

Also, you don’t need both hands if you fold it closed. The application in use will be scaled to portrait, and you’ll be able to continue working with one hand. The exterior keypad is also excellent.

unfolded nokia e70

This concludes the first part. For extra details and for technical data, be sure to follow up on what’s to come.