Nokia E61i

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Every time I decide to buy a new mobile phone, I get excited that it might become my new favorite. I’m really anxious for a new favorite. A phone that has all the features of my current favorite (Treo 680), but with enough new features that takes me to my gadgeteer happy place. If the Treo works for me, why do I want to chuck it for something new? Because I get bored easily and am never satisfied. :o) Will the Nokia E61i transport me to mobile phone nirvana? Let’s see…

nokia e61i

Hardware Specifications

Operating system: Symbian S60 3rd Edition
Memory: Approximately 60 MB of available user memory
Hot swappable microSD memory card support up to 2 GB
Quad-band GSM/EDGE coverage for international usage (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) with WCDMA 3GPP
2.8” QVGA landscape active-matrix color display supporting up to 16 million colors (320 x 240 pixels) with an active area of 56.9 x 42.7 mm
WLAN: 802.11b, 802.11g
Bluetooth 1.2 specification
2 megapixel camera
Weight: 5.29 oz
Dimensions: 4.61 x 2.76 x 0.55 in

nokia e61i

Package Contents

Nokia E61i
Battery BP-4L
Travel charger
Wired headset
Connectivity Cable

The E61i has a serious / business style to it. The design seems a bit straight laced and stuffy… at least to me. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it might cause some people to look the other way.

nokia e61i

The casing is a combination of brushed aluminum and charcoal colored plastic. The front is almost entirely comprised of the 2.8 inch display and QWERTY keyboard. Above the display there is new email status LED / ambient light sensor and a small power button.
The LED is supposed to blink for a missed call, text message,
email, and multimedia message. You have the ability to turn on or off any of
these options. During my review period with this phone, I never was able to get
this to work reliably and never for a missed call. I think one time I saw it
blinking for a text message.

nokia e61i

On the back you will find the easy to remove battery cover and the 2 megapixel camera lens.

nokia e61i

The only other physical buttons on the E61i are located on the Left side. Here you will find the up/down volume buttons and a voice recorder / voice command button. Pressing the voice recorder button once will launch the recording application. To begin a recording, you must press the center select button on the front of the phone. Holding the side button in for several seconds will launch the voice command application and cause it to listen for your command.

nokia e61i

Along the bottom edge of the phone, you’ll find the power port, data / proprietary headset port and IR port.
That’s right, there isn’t a regular headphone jack built into
this smartphone.

nokia e61i

I’ll admit that the Treo has spoiled me. Now I feel like I must have a smartphone that has a QWERTY keyboard. Without one I feel a bit lost and all thumbs. As a result, I get along relatively well with the E61i’s keyboard. The keys are a bit larger than the Treo’s, but are flatter and have less tactile feedback. They are also backlit, but only light up when the ambient light sensor detects that your are in low light. I had no problems getting used to the keyboard layout for texting or calling. I did have more trouble getting used to the navigation buttons located above the keyboard. The 5-way nav button in the center is too small in my opinion. The surrounding buttons are also too cramped.

nokia e61i

As you can see in the image above, the Nokia E61i is wider than the Treo 680.

nokia e61i

But, it is thinner… Is it better to be thinner or more narrow? For me, the E61i feels too wide to be a phone. It feels awkward to hold up to my ear and talk into it. It’s not THAT much larger than the Treo, but in hand, it just doesn’t feel nearly as comfortable to me. That said, it does feel very solid and well built. It passes the gadgeteer squeeze test with absolutely no protest.

The display is large and easy to read. I wouldn’t say it’s wonderful as I’m
currently spoiled by the
. But it is crisp and the colors are not washed out. The display is a
lot better than it looks in the images I have shown below. All of those images
were taken without flash, but they do appear to be a bit washed out for some

life on the E61i is excellent. It is rated for 4-9hrs talk time and 12-17 days of standby. I’ve used it for what seems like a week without
connecting it to the AC adapter for a recharge. Granted, this is during a week
that I only used it for an occasional call and text message. But still, that’s
pretty darned good if you ask me!

The signal strength / reception with this phone is equally impressive. Nokia as
a rule seems to make phones that can how to hold a signal better than most
phones I try. This phone is no exception. I’ve been able to use it in places
that I’ve only seen a ‘no signal’ or ‘no service’ message on other phones. I’ve
also found that I can drive through areas where my other phones (Treo / iPhone)
always drop the call. Not so with this phone.

Sound quality
during calls is clear and the volume is very good for both sides of a conversation. No gripes there.

For a lot people here in the US, the E61i will disappoint because it isn’t a 3G phone. It just
has EDGE. This would definitely disappoint me if I actually had 3G in my town… The E61i does have WCDMA though… so if you’re in Europe, you will have 3G speeds.
The E61i has built in WiFi which works fine but given the size of the display,
surfing on it isn’t exactly a great experience.

So, as far as hardware goes, this is a solid phone that performs well, but lacks
some pizazz when it comes to style. Now let’s take a look at the user interface
and built in applications.

nokia e61i

This is the home screen. It is functional, although not overly customizable. As
you can see, there is an application launch bar to the right of the clock. There
are also a few status lines. The phone comes with 2 themes, but you can find
many more online.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

Pressing the small phonebook button in the navigation bar will bring up the contacts application. From here, you just start typing part of a name. First, Last or even the middle name, and it will filter down the list to just show the correct matches. As you can see, contact records can have images associated with them if you desire.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

Incoming and outgoing calls are shown on the home screen, along with missed call status.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

The E61i has a very good software bundle built into it. Included is a copy of Quickoffice which gives you the ability to edit Microsoft Excel, Word and Powerpoint files right on the phone.

nokia e61i

There are also several media players on the device, including RealPlayer, Flash Player and an MP3 player.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

The music player has a simple interface and supports MP3 and AAC formats. You can play music through the built-in speaker or through the proprietary earbud (yes, earbud… not earbuds) included with the phone.

nokia e61i

The 2 megapixel camera has a simple interface and takes mediocre pictures. I guess a so-so camera is better than no camera at all. Right?

nokia e61i
nokia e61i
Click thumbnails to see full size image samples

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

The web browser is pretty good if you don’t mind surfing on a tiny display. You use the 5-way nav button as a pseudo mouse to move to the links that you want to click on.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

Image rendering isn’t too bad and moving backwards and forwards through pages that you’ve visited is done through a convenient thumbnail view of the pages.

nokia e61i
nokia e61i

I didn’t find the messaging client to be all that friendly. It’s one application that you use for text messaging and email. Accessing email is painfully slow. I used it to access my IMAP account, so maybe that’s why it might be slower than with POP. Even though I had it set to pull down full messages, it would only download the headers. Then if I wanted to read a message, it would have to pull that down. It just felt very cumbersome to me.

I also don’t love the way this phone handles text messages. The message does not show up on the display when it comes in. Your phone just beeps and tells you that you have a messages waiting. You have to then navigate to the message to read it, which takes too many key presses for my liking.

nokia e61i

When I purchased the Nokia E61i, I was hoping to fall in love with it. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. While I do appreciate some aspects of this phone (namely the great reception), the size, cramped keyboard and overall feel of the OS just don’t do it for me. At least this time I can say that I gave a Symbian device a real honest to goodness try. It’s time for me to get back to my quest to find my perfect phone. Wish me luck with my next try.


Product Information

  • Excellent call (sound) quality
  • Great reception
  • Email client feels slow
  • Proprietary headset
  • Too wide

22 thoughts on “Nokia E61i”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. How’s the responsiveness of the E61i in general? I tried to wean myself off a Treo (650) with the E60 some time ago, and was terribly put off by the all-around sluggish nature of the device. I was never sure whether to blame the Symbian OS or an underpowered processor tucked away inside.

    I’m happily on an iPhone now, and the same ol’ Symbian doesn’t interest me at all at this point … simply asking out of morbid curiosity.

    I’m also surprised to see the Nokia proprietary connector on the bottom edge … the E60 had mini USB and a standard headset jack, IIRC.

    [Edited at February 05, 2008 22:43:36 PM.]

  3. Thanks for the review. I was interested in this model but now will pass. The Treo 680 is hard to beat. I tried the iPhone for awhile but hated the calendar. Now I have the HTC TyTn II. It’s an excellent gadget phone. The 3G speed is as good as WiFi but isn’t available everywhere.

  4. Hi there,

    I am new to this site, and came across it ramdomly…

    I just wanted to say, this is the best phone ever.
    I have it, and have been through around 15 phone in the last 6 months.
    This has everything you can want from a business phone, and also for personal use.

    I have recently bought an iphone, but only due to the hype, and also wanted to test it, to see if it was upto par.
    It’s working out well, but I find the iphone has no comparision to the E61i. In terms of features yes, the iphone can do alot, but when do you use them?
    The E61i, I still use, well, its now been taken by my wife, and she is loving it, even though she was a strong candybar believer, she in less than 2 hours, has become fast and effiecient in using it.

    Dont know why I am sticking to the iphone, oh yeah, its cause my wife has my E61i… oh well, at least its still in the family… 🙂

  5. Geoff:
    This phone doesn’t feel overly sluggish. The only aspect of using it that feels slow (to me) is checking regular email. Everything else seems normal and not noticeably different than other phones I use.

    Nick V:
    What are your thoughts on the email client?

  6. Larry:
    I need to write my review of the Pantech Duo (Windows Mobile Smartphone). Sneak peek: I love the size and dual keyboards that it has, but sound quality is the pits…

  7. I’m interested in an E61i, mainly for the Wifi and thumbpad, so this review will help me decide – although my Treo still seems the better device (apart from missing Wifi).

    I would have liked to have seen some comments regarding the video playback capabilities. For example, can it play quicktime podcasts without stuttering?

    The inbuilt email app isn’t the most practical but IMHO Symbian has one of the best email apps available on a mobile device: PROFIMAIL by Lonely Cat Games is brilliant.

    Oh, you should try Opera Mini too – much better than the stock browser.


    [Edited at February 07, 2008 04:41:07 AM.]

  8. Antonio:

    Give me a link to a podcast and I’ll test it for you. I can pretty much say that if you are pulling a podcast down via EDGE then it will be a horrible experience. But if you save the file to the MicroSD card and play it from there, it will probable be much better. I am not sure though if the QT format is compatible with any of the built in players though.

  9. Antonio:

    The built in web browser does not appear to be compatible with the videos on either site. I get a window with a icon in the middle and that’s all…

  10. I download the videos on my desktop and save them in a folder on my memory card, then I open them with the Gallery app (found in the Media folder I think, but it moves about on different phones).

    Anyway, I tested an E61i in a store yesterday (didn’t try video though) and I came away with an E51. I need speed!


    [Edited at February 08, 2008 04:37:51 AM.]

  11. Hi,
    I “almost” trade my treo 650 with this E61i few weeks back.

    Before i did that, i read lots of review on E61i: good keypad, good wifi, fast web browser. so I went to the shop and tried the E61i, the keypad is excellent. Wifi is good and OS and home screen is attractive.

    After tried it for 5 minutes, comparing with my treo, i decided to draw back, because the Navigation Button is not comfort, the messaging is not so good. and the last one, i can not loose treo’s touchscreen.

    a week later, i bought HTC Touch which is considered a good phone, but then i passed it to my friend, for some reasons: 1 sms only 160 characters, memory is never enough “always stated memory is running low”, battery capacity is low. Though i liked the fast processor (in my opinion), handwriting recognation, good wifi, and nice home screen.

  12. Um, just about all aspects of the E61i UI are customizable, including things like showing SMS messages, calendar appointments, etc. on the ‘Active Standby’ screen (this is the oxymoronic name for the regular status display). All the tones, sounds, light activity et. al. is customizable via profiles.

    This was not a very thorough review, IMHO.

  13. Antonio:
    I like the size / format of the E51. You’ll have to let us know how it works out for you after you’ve had a few days with it :o)

    Copying the file to the flash card and running from the gallery app worked just fine. No stutters at all.

    I never said that you couldn’t customize the home display. I actually said that it was customizable through themes. The thing I complained about was that the option to customize the notification light doesn’t work…

  14. Andreas: I understand how you feel – my primary phone is a Treo 650 and I too was interested in buying an E61i – mainly because I wanted a device with Wifi and a thumbpad.

    I had a quick play with an E61i yesterday and it seemed too slow and I feared it wouldn’t play back my video podcasts – I guess if I had waited one more day I may have purchased it after reading Julie’s test results… but to be honest I wasn’t convinced by the thumbpad and the size – there is no way I’m going to carry that thing about, I don’t have a briefcase and my pockets aren’t wide enough.

    The good news is that the GSM Euro Centro has been announced – the bad news is that it doesn’t have Wifi.

    [Edited at February 08, 2008 07:24:13 AM.]

  15. Julie: Thanks for testing! Unfortunately I chose the E51. I’m still quite pleased – I’ll let you know how I get on with it. Suffice to say that I installed fring yesterday and was able to Skype and chat via Wifi!

  16. Julie,

    The e61i _IS_ a 3g phone nearly anywhere in the world except for in America. You might want to mention that given that a lot of your audience don’t live in the USA. Your review gives the impression that the phone simply doesn’t have 3g capability.

    Happy Friday.


  17. Xerxes:

    Thank you for pointing that fact out to me. It completely escaped me when I copied the specs from the Nokia site… I’ve just updated the review.

  18. After 2weeks use, would like to balance other very good reviews with these problems I have found.

    • No FM radio
    • Auto keypad lock is a downloadable extra which has to be paid for after 14 days!
    • Can’t cut, copy, paste in many apps including contacts, very annoying.
    • Editing spreadsheet is almost impossible, formats of cells are lost, different from PC versions.
    • Files like word & excel docs are not synced automatically, labour intensive job manually copying them, possible easy mistake overwriting.

    I wanted a phone especially so I could update files as 4 & 5 above. Disappointed that local Vodafone shop miss sold me on this feature. Obviously they have never tried it.

  19. this is a great phone and i want to if it can be upgraded coz i v been using it sinc 2007 and its not compatible with any other video format which makes me loose interest on it………………………..

  20. Solid machine… Its giving some challenges cos I upgraded to firmware version 2. I cant install mini opera and (says certificate error) and my blackberry aint functional. Someone help pls


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