Slide this way

One of the perks of writing this column is the opportunity to follow up reviews I’ve written for the front half of the magazine – it lets me express more personal opinion than would be fair in a full review, as well as taking a longer term perspective. Nokia’s new E75 Qwerty slider phone is a perfect case in point. You may have read the review, which concluded that it’s a cracking little phone, its most staggering feature being the battery benchmark figure of 179 hours – the longest we’ve ever seen. In this column, I’d like to explain how the E75 did so well.

Slide this way

The benchmark we use is fairly simple: the phone is fully charged and then we make one 30-minute silent call and download a 50MB data file. At that point we switch off all alerts, LEDs and so on, then just leave the device on a shelf, in an area with good HSDPA coverage, to check an email account every 30 minutes until its battery finally dies. The POP3 log will then tell us to within 30 minutes what the time of death was.

To be honest, I didn’t believe that initial 179 hours figure (which I’d achieved using a Vodafone SIM in the phone) so I re-tested it using Orange – the thinking being that maybe a 1,800MHz network would give a different result to Vodafone’s 900MHz. The second test gave an almost identical result.

Further tests I’ve done make it clear that it’s actually the standby battery consumption that’s so stunning on this phone. I’ve spent several days using it intensively, making regular use of its GSM, 3G and Wi-Fi radios – and, of course, the screen backlight, which is typically the most power-hungry component in any phone – and under such “power user” conditions the battery lasts only two or three days, much the same as a typical BlackBerry.

But it’s important to note that the PC Pro battery rundown benchmark takes into account that most people don’t use their phone this way – they’ll leave it in a pocket and make occasional calls, or send infrequent emails and texts, and it’s under such real-world usage that the E75 really shines. Does that imply that it’s good for only lightweight users and not for power users? Not at all! Its superb low-usage battery life is certainly a headline-grabbing feature, but there’s a lot more to the E75 than its standby mode.

Solid gold easy action

Two things struck me when I first pulled this phone from its box. The first was that it’s very slim for a slider phone, barely a couple of millimetres deeper than an iPhone at 14.4mm against 12.3mm. I’m really impressed that Nokia managed this with its very first sliding keyboard phone, especially as HTC – which has built several generations of phones in this form-factor over several years – could manage only 17mm with its latest one. What’s more, the sliding mechanism of the E75 feels very well engineered with an action that feels really solid.

That brings me on to my second initial observation: build quality. I’ve always been a fan of Nokia’s E series – perhaps not always in terms of usability – but what’s always struck me is how well they’re bolted together. I’m usually leery of car analogies, but here one is inescapable: think of the solidity of European built cars compared to those from the Far East, with heavy doors that go “thunk” rather than tinny things that go “clink”, and switches that feel hewn from quality plastic rather than recycled Coca Cola bottles. The E75 has that same “European” feel, so there was no surprise when I pulled out the battery to inspect the label and underneath it says “Made in Finland”.

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