What's Good: The build quality on the E73 is second to none; free Ovi Maps; front-facing camera; great messaging device.
What's Bad: Compared to newer OSes like webOS, iPhone, and Android, Symbian is a bit out of date. Combined shortcut keys challenging to use at times.
The Verdict: If you're looking for a great messaging device, and aren't interested in BlackBerry, have a look at the E73. If multimedia is your thing, look elsewhere.
The Nokia E73 Mode falls into the design pattern of the E71 and E72, though I happened to like the E73's design a bit more. Offering a 2.4-inch display, 5.0-megapixel camera, VGA front-facing video camera, 3.5mm headphone jack, and HSDPA connectivity, the Mode comes in at 4.48 inches long by 2.30 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, and weighs 4.5 ounces. It's thin and sleek, but the metal form factor makes it slightly heavier than other devices in the same size category.
One of the key features that the E73 has going for it is the metal construction in today's world of plastic. I've enjoyed how sturdy the device is in comparison to the rather flimsy devices that are on the market today. When I buy a phone, I review it from one end to the other to make sure there's no design flaws. Usually, the smartphones that are manufactured with a lot of plastic will creak, bend, or have other design inconsistencies that frustrate me to the point of return (get it, return?). That's why I like the design of the E73. Much like the iPhone, the exterior build quality is very good, and the phone has just enough heft to it that I feel comfortable putting it through the "daily grind."
While I liked the keyboard on the E73 (particularly since Nokia decided to curve the keys), the only issue I've encountered thus far involves the shortcut keys. Instead of making separate keys per shortcut button like they did on the E71, Nokia placed two shortcut buttons on four physical keys beside the optical D-pad. As a result, I've found that the buttons are often hard to press, and have registered incorrectly on several occasions. I also wish Nokia would center the keyboard rows in the typical QWERTY fashion instead of aligning every row to the left. For those that are used to a standard QWERTY keyboard layout, there might be a bit of a learning curve .
To their credit, Nokia has always been very generous in the accessory department, and that doesn't change here. The phone ships in the standard T-Mobile box with the phone, battery, 4GB microSD card (in phone), charger, car charger (a nice little perk), microUSB data cable, stereo headset, and carrying pouch.
The E73 ships with Symbian S60, which is a bit long in the tooth compared to today's operating systems like webOS, Android, and iPhone. Still, it excels in messaging, with support for "more than 90% of business e-mail clients," according to Nokia's E73 PR manual. The E73 also supports Nokia's Ovi Maps service, allowing you to download voice-guided navigation to your device. Once downloaded over Wi-Fi, Ovi Maps requires no additional data plan.
I've been testing the E73 in the Charlotte metro area, and call quality has been great, with no choppiness or signal problems. Callers told me that I sounded clear, and I was able to hear them with sufficient volume. When working with the speakerphone in a busy coffee shop, I was able to hear my callers fine, and while they complained about the background noise, they could make out what I was saying. I took the device to a known T-Mobile dead zone this morning, and was able to complete a call, though the audio suffered from the occasional dropout. I paired my Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset without any trouble.
The E73 is rated for 13 hours of talk time (6 hours with HSDPA connectivity) and 16 days of standby time. Nokia devices are known for superb battery life, and in my limited testing, battery life has been exceptional. I've subjected the E73 to moderate use including calling, text messaging, casual e-mailing, and internet use since 9 AM EST, and the battery has dropped one bar in six hours. I'll continue battery testing, and will report final results in the review.
The Nokia E73 Mode will be available on June 16th for $69.99 after a mail-in rebate and two-year agreement. As always, the full review will come shortly!