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Nokia E55 Cell Phone Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Nokia has branched out quite a bit in recent years with its smartphone line of Symbian handsets. The E series in particular has usually been quite business-centric, like the Nokia E71 for example, but the E 50 series tend to be a bit more attractive to consumers. Take the Nokia E55, for instance. It offers all the smartphone benefits of e-mail, GPS with Nokia’s OVI Maps, Wi-Fi, support for North American 3G bands, and PC-syncing, but it also has multimedia goodies like a 3.2-megapixel camera with video recording, a music player, plus a 3.5mm headset jack. The E55’s superslim profile and hybrid keyboard also gives it that consumer appeal. Finally, the E55 is surprisingly affordable at $339 for an unlocked phone.

Design
When the Nokia E55 debuted last year in Barcelona, Spain, during Mobile World Congress, Nokia boasted that it was the world’s thinnest smartphone. While we can’t verify this claim, the E55 is indeed the thinnest smartphone we’ve ever held in our hands. Measuring 4.57 inches long by 1.93 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick, the E55 is long and lean. And though it’s so skinny, it weighs around 3.46 ounces, which gives it a solid feel in the hand. The back battery cover is clad in a spun metal surface that provides a nice grip as well. The E55 comes in both black and white.

The Nokia E55 claims to be the world’s thinnest smartphone.
The 2.4-inch display dominates much of the E55’s front surface. It’s a nontouch screen, but it does support up to 16 million colors. It’s really colorful, vibrant, and has an interesting light-sensing technology that adjusts the brightness depending on the environment. You can adjust the Home screen’s background image, theme, font size, backlight timer, and choose the menu layout as well. You can also change the “call image,” which is the image that shows up when there’s an incoming call.

The E55 also lets you alternate between “Personal mode” and “Business mode,” with the idea that you can easily switch between the two depending on your situation. In Business mode, you’ll get access to work tools like e-mail and your calendar, while Personal mode gives you easy access to multimedia applications and the like. This seems a bit arbitrary, since you could easily access these other apps regardless of mode, but it’s a nice setting to have if you want it.

The Nokia E55 has a hybrid keyboard similar to RIM’s SureType keyboard.
Underneath the display, you’ll find the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a middle square toggle with a center select key, shortcut keys for Home, the Calendar, and Email, a Back key, and the Talk and End keys. Below that is a hybrid QWERTY keyboard where two letters share the same key, similar to RIM’s SureType keyboard. While we know not everyone likes this style of keyboard, we actually don’t mind it so much. Especially since the E55 has pretty good predictive text and can guess our words as we’re typing them. The keys themselves are well-spaced and are slightly slanted so we can dial by feel. Perhaps our only complaint is that they feel a bit soft when pressed.

On the left is the charger jack, while on the right are the volume rocker, a user-programmable shortcut key, and the camera key. At the top are the 3.5mm headset jack and the power switch. The camera lens is on the back, as well as an LED flash. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

Features
The Nokia E55 is equipped with the Symbian S60 Third Edition operating system and has features very similar to the ones on the Nokia E71 and the E63. Even though it is slightly more consumer-friendly than its brethren, the E55 still makes a pretty good business smartphone. It supports Microsoft Exchange Server, POP3, and IMAP4 e-mail accounts, plus several push e-mail solutions as well. You can view and edit Microsoft Office documents thanks to Nokia’s QuickOffice suite. Of course, you also get all the typical PIM applications like a calendar, notes, a calculator, a currency converter, a voice recorder, Adobe Reader, and more. The E55 supports instant messaging, too–our version came with Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger, but you can download other IM clients as well. There’s even a text-to-speech message reader if you need to keep your eyes on the road.

As for phone features, the E55 has all the typical goodies like a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, and text and multimedia messaging. It also has conference call support, quad-band GSM for world roaming, and VoIP support. The E55 supports push-to-talk functionality as well. The contacts list is limited only by the available memory (it has an internal memory of 100MB), while the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts. Each entry has room for many numbers, an e-mail address, street addresses, a Web URL, important dates, and more. You can pair a contact with a photo or one of 50 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. From the contacts list, you can press the right arrow button next to any contact and you’ll see a drop-down menu where you can choose to call or send a message to that person.

The E55 works on AT&T’s 3G bands, but not T-Mobile’s. But if you don’t want to use 3G, the E55 has Wi-Fi. It also has Bluetooth, with support for stereo A2DP streaming, dial-up networking, and file transfer. Like other E series phones, the E55 is equipped with assisted GPS, and it comes with Nokia’s OVI Maps application that gives turn-by-turn directions and even real-time weather and traffic information. We also appreciate the pedestrian-friendly maps. We’re also thankful that we no longer have to pay for turn-by-turn directions as before.

We’re quite pleased with the E55’s multimedia offerings. They include a built-in music player that supports MP3, WMA, W4A, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ file formats, plus OMA DRM 2.0 and WM DRM-protected songs. The player categorizes tunes by albums, genres, artists, and composers, and you can create and edit your own playlists right from the phone. Other settings include a built-in equalizer, a podcasts category, and an FM radio (you need to plug in your earbuds to tune in). The video player on the E55 supports 3GPP and MPEG-4 files.

As with the E71, the E55 has a 3.2-megapixel camera. There’s an LED flash, plus a few camera features that include autofocus, exposure settings, digital zoom, several scene modes, white balance presets, and color effects. You only get three quality settings in video mode, but you get access to the same editing features as for the still camera. You can then upload those photos to Nokia’s OVI or Flickr if you wish. Picture quality seemed above average. Images looked sharp, and colors looked bright and vibrant. We didn’t even need the LED flash in darker environments, though it did result in a moodier overcast tone.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 850/1900) Nokia E55 in San Francisco using an AT&T SIM card. Call quality was surprisingly good. On our end, calls sounded really crisp and clear with little static or distortion. Volume was good, too. When we switched on the speakerphone, callers sounded a tad on the hollow side, but still clear overall.

On their end, callers said we sounded great, too. They said we sounded smooth and natural and the volume was just right. It was almost that of landline quality, save for the occasional hiss. As for speakerphone quality, they said they could hear us just fine as well, except there was a bit more echo than usual.

We were quite pleased with the 3G speeds on the E55. We managed to load CNET’s page in just 45 seconds, and it took around 29 seconds to load CNN’s mobile site. Nokia’s built-in Web browser supports Flash Lite 3.0, so we went to YouTube and managed to watch video clips with only a few seconds’ buffering time. The E55 showed no sluggishness when transitioning between applications..

The Nokia E55 has a rated battery life of 8 hours in GSM mode and 6 hours in 3G. It has up to 23 days of standby time in GSM mode and 29 days in 3G. According to FCC radiation tests, the E55 has a digital SAR of 1.19 watts per kilogram.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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