Mini-Review: Nokia Email Beta needs some work

Noah Kravitz
 from Oakland, CA
Published: December 4, 2008

Thanks to the folks at Nokia, I've got a re-loan of the E71 smartphone, one of my favorite releases of 2008.  A Symbian S60 device, the E71 has an Email client as part of its pre-loaded Messaging application, and while it can't handle HTML mail and isn't the prettiest thing to look at, it basically works just fine.

However, Nokia just announced the live Beta of their new Nokia Email service for select devices - including the E71.  So I figured I'd give it a whirl.  I also installed Google's Java-based Gmail app while I was at it, and set all three clients up to rock my Gmail.

The results?  Good think Nokia Email's still in Beta.  While the app itself works pretty well, the push notification system is spotty at best (and for many people that will be the only reason to go this route - particularly if Nokia starts charging for the service as it seems they're planning to).  I haven't yet reached out to Nokia PR for any sort of "special tech support" just yet, so I may be missing some trick, but I wanted to walk through the process of trying the app from the standpoint of an everyday user.

Installing Nokia Email was easy, as was setting the service up for my Gmail account.  The system recognized my Gmail addy and autoconfigured everything for me (just for the heck of it I tried adding a second account with a custom domain, and the auto-configure failed).  Manual syncing of the account works well, but push notifications are another story.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, is the best way I can describe it: When I woke up this morning I had more in my Inbox than when I turned in last night, but syncing throughout the day today has been very erratic. 

Right now Nokia Email is a good 4-1/2 hours behind my actual Inbox.  That's not so good.

I've fiddled with the "What to Sync" and "When to Sync" settings and hit the various online forums, but haven't found the magic formula just yet.  I have noticed some similar complaints scattered about various forums and blogs, so I'm guessing that the bugs are still being worked out.  It is a Beta, after all.

If and when the system works as promised, it should be nice, as it supports multiple accounts, is backed by a Web-based interface, and is integrated with the S60 Home screen for quick notifications when new missives arrive.  The built-in S60 Mail app also offers Home screen notifications, but lacks true push functionality.

Meantime, Google's Gmail client has been performing pretty well.  Gmail's UI is a bit easier on the eyes than either of Nokia's offerings, if you ask me, but there are no Home screen notifications, and Gmail's top-to-bottom threaded/chronological display of Email threads gets a little annoying from time to time.  This newest version of Gmail supports multiple accounts, however, which is a welcomed touch.  I also seem to be able to leave the Gmail app running and it auto-refreshes my Inbox for me.  Though I haven't yet pinned down how reliable that strategy is for staying on top of the latest messages.

It's not like manually clicking "Sync" or "Refresh" is that big of a deal to me, in all honesty.  It's just that when Nokia announces push Email I get all drooly and want push Email.

Anyone else rockin' the Nokia Email Beta?  How's it workin' for you?

Products mentioned