Nokia E52 Review – Size doesn’t matter

Posted Dec 24, 2009
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Here we go again with another one from Nokia in the E series. Although launched a quarter ago but it has started to gain market presence. A power house with 600 Mhz processing unit, something like putting a V8 engine in a hatch back. Having reviewed the over hyped N97 and extraordinary entertainment device 5530 Xpress Music, I was a not a tad bit disappointed in Nokia E52. It is a very handy and powerful device and it packs all the goodies which a phone should have. There were some shortfalls but the advantages of this phone over shadows them all. Before heading on to the main review, let’s look at some of the specs of this device.

Specs

Nokia E52 packs a powerful ARM 11 600Mhz processor with 60MB internal and a capacity to hold 16GB memory through mini-SD card. The phone we were provided with came with a 512MB memory card, which was a disappointment but then again, enthusiasts can upgrade their phone’s memory card at any given time. The screen is bigger and better with 240×320 pixel resolution and 2.4 inch diagonal width. E52 also comes packed with accelerometer, something Nokia now loves to include in almost every mid to high end phone they produce these days.

Exterior

Nokia E52 comes encased in a plastic body, which has resulted in reduced weight and increased mobility. You will not notice this phone in your pocket, which maybe a disadvantage for some as you will not notice it gone from your pocket as well 🙂 The back cover is light aluminium cover, which is something I am not really fond of as one has to really take care of it as it seems to be fragile to even passing breeze. The keypad is flat with four navigation keys and rest numeric keypad, with a five way navigation button in the middle. Here I would like to mention that at times it becomes a hassle to press the right key due to their small and flat size but then again, one has to get used to these things if the plan for keeping this device is more than 3 months.

The phone has standard side buttons and input slots and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the phone along side the mini-USB port, which is also used as charging port. The USB port is not concealed which leaves it welcoming to dust particles to clog open ports. It is good to see that Nokia is now utilizing the same mini-USB port for both, data transfer and charging, which is an indication of Nokia moving towards a unified charging and data transfer port. I am expecting it to be standardized in all Nokia phones within next year or so. The sides clusters volume control and dedicated camera button.

As indicated earlier as well that all newer Nokia phones have started coming in with a fragile back cover. Gone are the days when batteries served as back covers too. It also hosts the 3.2 mega pixel camera (sorry no Carl Zeiss) with dual LED flash. The SIM is inserted near the battery compartment and it is somewhat a little hassle to get the SIM out. On the other hand, memory card is right under the SIM compartment but the insertion point in on the side, which makes it easier to hot swap the memory card. You will also notice that the battery is Li-Ion 1500mAh, which is the same as Nokia E71/72. It is good to see Nokia standardizing batteries but power hungry devices like the E72 or N97 needs to be fitted with high amp batteries to last longer. In our tests the battery lasted good three days (72 hours) with an average of 2 hours talk time everyday along with an hour of music play and about 30 minutes of gaming on the phone.

Nokia E52 come loaded with Symbian OS series 60 release 3.2. Although with standard icons and FP1 interface, there was not much difference in performance when compared with similar or higher OS in the same phone categories.

User Interface

The user interface is similar to standard Nokia UI these days. The home screen has application shortcuts at the top and various utilities and services shortcuts at the bottom. All these can be turned on and off through phone settings. Also, like all Eseries devices, the home screen has mode change option as well, which can come very handy for those who like to have time for themselves when away from office. The notifications of missed calls and messages are shown through notification icons on home screen.

The customization of home screen gives the user freedom to choose from their favorite or most used applications like email, facebook, maps or any other app. Like other Nokia devices, home screen wallpaper can also be changed and customized, although the wallpapers with themes are pretty decent but then again, it all comes down to user preference.

What’s new in the Menu?

The answer to it will be, nothing. It holds all the same programs and icons which are very much standard in all Nokia touch based phones. As a matter of fact, until recently, Nokia has done a better job in organizing the programs icons in menu thus removing all the clutter it used to have. The menu is standard list of icons but its not until one drills down in each category to discover various applications and options.

The menu UI is pretty easy to use as now Nokia has reduced the number of icons on it. On the other hand they have put everything into these main categories and at times it gets a bit confusing finding a specific application or utility. Even I have to search for a particular phone settings and it took me good 15 minutes to find it.

Accelerometer

Before I proceed with my normal review of the phone, I would like to go through a breakthrough innovation which is now part of the Nokia E52. We already have seen accelerometer in Nokia Xpress Music phones but this is the first time a normal handset has this feature as well. Although some might find it irritating at times that the screen changes direction when phone is tilted sideways but I found it to be a very useful feature. Now, with accelerometer turned on, user does not have to worry about straightening the phone when trying to look at who’s calling but the phone screen will tilt sideways if the phone is held in that direction. For me, it came in handy when getting up in the morning and trying to see what time it was (Yes I don’t have a wrist watch). Also, it is fun to play with the screen while sitting in a boring meeting. Users can of-course turn it off though the phone settings by going into the sensor settings but I would recommend to keep it on… you will get used to it.

Phonebook and Dialer

There are no surprises here. It is the same. There is nothing new. The only thing I liked about it was the level of details you can access while browsing through a single contact. Of course you can insert as much detail as you like, for example, photo of a contact, multiple numbers and email addresses etc. The smart search option for finding a contact is very convenient as all you need to do is to type the first letters of the name (first or last), the phone book will short list the names of the possible matches.

On the sound front, it was audible and very clear on both ends. Even while standing outside a building with all the traffic around us, we could talk conveniently without missing a word or sentence. The person on the other side could also hear us very comfortably. The speaker phone was good too as we tested it in both, silent and slightly noisy environment.

The phonebook log is pretty standard with all call details for the last 30 days along with your network usage of data sessions. The call log keeps the data of incoming and outgoing calls, messages and data packets so that you would exactly know your usage during the past 30 days.

Messaging & Email

Ever since T9 was introduced, users sending messages started increasing as it is one of the most convenient ways to type a word. Working with non-QWERTY phones, at times it used to be a hassle to type an SMS as each key was to be pressed a few times for getting the desired letter. In Nokia E72, the amalgamation of T9 and standard typing is so convenient that the user will have no time learning how to speed text.

The new application is Nokia’s email service. You can now either choose from setting up an SMTP, Pop, Imap or Mail For Exchange. The installation of application is entirely dependent upon which service you choose. It does not mean that if one is selected then other will not be installed, it will but I recommend those who use Gmail to use gmail’s own email client, whch can easily be downloaded from google.com.

Music & Video

I am not sure why did I club both of these together. May be because they are closely related as one may want to keep music videos along with the normal music collection… nay… actually they are both part of entertainment group. There is nothing new in Nokia E52 in terms of music or videos but this that when you turn on videos, the screen automatically moves to horizontal view so that the video can be seen in a bigger and better screen resolution. It is a neat trick but at the end of the day, one does not watch movies for hours on a mobile phone. Keeping in view Nokia’s long association with legacy application, do not expect anything extraordinary in it as well.

The Music library and video library has standard layouts without any feel of something new but I must hand it to Nokia for keeping it simple for its users.

Camera and Images

Having seen what Nokia N97 could do with the extremely good camera phone, Nokia E52’s camera is at par with all other standard cameras. It nothing extraordinary but a standard point and shoot which you would expect from a mid range phone. Although the night pictures were disappointing, the day light pictures were moderately average. Not exactly a camera which we would take to parties for snapping those priceless moments. Packed with standard setting options, Nokia E52’s camera does not offer any extra feature thus it is sort of irrelevant to buy this phone just because it has 3.2 mega pixel camera. There is no Carl Zeiss lens but dual flash does offer some extra light in case it is needed. The gallery is also standard and there are not many enhanced features in it except for one i.e. image editing, which recently Nokia added to their smart phone class.

The video option is again, VGA. It is about time that Nokia got rid of the VGA camera option and came up with better resolution video option as it is not only outdated but close to becoming pre-historic. Nokia must now retire its stint with VGA cameras, users do not like it anymore. With the price tag of close to $350, there has to be some decency on Nokia’s part to provide the users with better camera options.

Connectivity & Browsing

Now the fun part begins… not! Don’t expect any new browser from Nokia as I don’t know why they are stuck with their standard browser. Although it comes up with some addition features and full screen menu options but it is still not at that point where Nokia could give the users an option not to install third party browsers like Opera Mini. The zoom function works well for looking deeply into the websites but some may prefer to increase the font size instead since the zoom option required a lot of swinging of side bar for reading all content. The browsing speed is also dependent on the type of connectivity you use. In Pakistan standard connectivity option is EDGE and some area are still under influence of GPRS. There is no 3G option in the phone thus it renders useless for European users. There is much to be desired in the browser but there are some features which tells us that Nokia is serious about improving the browsers experience. Features like built-in RSS reader, login and password saving, flash support (this is a big plus) and standard mini map and multiple windows option. Like we said before, it is an improvement on the previous versions but still a long way to provide a breakthrough experience. I now use Opera 10 Beta which has a way better user experience than the standard Nokia phone browser.

On the connectivity front, the E52 is packed with options. You can connect through GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSPA or even WiFi, which has made this phone a real eye candy for business users who like to have compact phones with all connectivity options. Also along with others, Nokia E52 has Bluetooth 2.0, which is faster than its predecessor. Kudos to Nokia for keeping the connections alive and proving that “Connecting People” in a better way will have positive impact on the brand not only in popularity but also commercially ($$$).

Organizer and Applications

I would rate this phone more for business users and I have my reasons why. Firstly, it is a smaller replica of E71/72. Secondly, it has all the right Office apps (Quick Office, Acrobat Reader, Calender, Task Manager). Finally, it provides you with an option of configuring your office email (Exchange or any other POP mail) on the phone for on the go usability.

The office suite comes standard with Word, Spreadsheet and Power point and it has an option of creating new documents as well. I could not let go of my E71 only because it always came in handy when I had to respond to an email after reading through the attached spreadsheets. Nokia now has an agreement with Microsoft, through which future versions of Nokia E series phones with come packed with MS version of Office suite along with actual MS Outlook email client. Good going but I must warn Nokia before hand that MS apps will take over whatever memory the phone has and we can also expect some BSOD… Nokia style!

On the application front, Nokia OVI store browser is built in E52 as standard and I must say that it is one of the most important Nokia phone application. You can browse for Free or Paid applications on the store and create your own profile, so that next time you log in, it would know what you looked for and suggest similar applications to you. With OVI suite, you can back up your phones content and phone book on the online storage provided by Nokia. Unfortunately Nokia music store does not support Pakistan at the moment for the purchases but when it will, the Pakistani youth will be thanking Nokia for doing so.

GPS

Nokia E52 comes with A-GPS chip, which is standard in all Nokia medium to high end devices. The change in this phone is that now it uses Nokia OVI maps as well, which are a renamed version of Nokia maps with compass. I somehow did not like Nokia maps, maybe because complete maps of Pakistan are still not widely available but I did like the GPS performance with Google Maps and Garmin navigational maps. The satellite signal was always strong and even within my house, the phone was able to catch a couple of satellites without a hitch.

Conclusion

Nokia E52 is fast and not so furious but a beast caged into a small device. A power pack with 600Mhz of processing power with all the applications and functionalities you would look for in a more expensive device. The only big disappointment was the camera but other than that this baby is rocking solid. A highly recommended device for business and casual users alike as it can server any one with out a hitch. Just put in a bigger memory card and you are good to go. Here’s a quick list of likes and disliked from our side.

Nokia E52 is priced at approximately Rs. 25,000 in Pakistan but we are expecting the price to fall sharply in the next quarter after the commercial introduction of Nokia E55.

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