The Business-Savvy Smartphone Review: Nokia E62, BlackBerry Pearl, T-Mobile Dash, Palm Treo 750

CIO compares four of the hottest smartphones available, from the perspective of four experienced IT executives.

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A dedicated e-mail key's sole purpose is to lead users to their e-mail inboxes with a single click, no matter which application they're in. (The T-Mobile Dash has a similar e-mail key.) That'll be useful for business users who employ a smartphone mainly for messaging.

The E62 lets you display the device's screen during meetings via compatible projectors or projection systems, using a wireless connection such as Bluetooth. Drivers for the compatible projector must be downloaded to the device, but once it's all installed, it takes only a few clicks to display the screen via projector.

The default Web browser on the Nokia E62 is the HTML 4, WAP 2.0 Nokia S60. Combined with the large display, it was the most functional we reviewed. You use the device's left action key to go to the address bar, create and access bookmarks, view history, as well as zoom in and out and modify a webpage's font size. A cursor enables users to click wherever they want on any given webpage—unique to the E62. It's particularly valuable since many Internet sites are still not optimized for mobile devices, and therefore sometimes appear jumbled and disjointed. The Nokia browser's cursor allowed us to easily click on any section of any page we desired and led to speedier Web browsing. Whenever you click on the E62's right action key while browsing the Internet, you're shown a page with small screen shots of the webpages you most recently visited. The joystick becomes a toggle between screens, and it really improves Web surfing.

The Nokia E62 includes built-in support for the AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger services, and each can easily be accessed with two clicks from the device's home screen. Only a screen name and password are required to sign in to IM accounts, and the device's large keyboard is particularly suitable for messaging. Though the E62 is not the only device we reviewed that supports IM services out of the box—the Dash also supports three different IM applications—no third-party applications were required, which means there was no need to download additional programs.

But nothing is perfect.

<< Nokia E62: The Bottom Line    |   Nokia E62: What We Didn't Like >>

Nokia E62: What We Didn't Like

At 4.6 inches long, 2.7 inches wide and 0.6 inches in depth, the Nokia E62 immediately feels a bit clunky in your palm. Its size becomes even more noticeable when you place the long, thin slab up to your ear for a phone call. The E62 is too large for most users to fit in a pants pocket; a holster or some sort of bag is likely required to tote it around. However, its larger dimensions don't make it much heavier. The E62 is actually lighter than the Treo 750. Ramsey appreciated the device's large keyboard and display and wasn't particularly turned off by its size, but you should pay attention to the device's dimensions (or at least the size of your pockets).

The Nokia E62's design is oldest of all the smartphones we evaluated, and it shows; though the E62 hit the United States in September 2006, around the same time as the Pearl, Dash and the Treo 750, the E61, which features a near-identical form factor, was available in Europe in October 2005, almost a year earlier. Whereas the BlackBerry Pearl, T-Mobile Dash and even the somewhat clunky Palm Treo 750 could easily become talking points in a bar or other social setting, users may be inclined to keep the E62 pocketed. However, its plain, no-nonsense matte silver metal exterior could be a draw to business users who want to stay away from flashier, more attention-grabbing devices.

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Stephen Ramsey, Principal, Brulant

The E62 accesses Cingular's GSM/EDGE network, which means it's not a true 3G phone. Cingular's EDGE network offers users average download speeds of 74 to 135Kbps compared with the average download speeds of 220 to 320Kbps of its 3G/Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) network or its faster high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) network, which offers users average download speeds of 400 to 700Kbps, according to Cingular. Users who need to make phone calls and surf the Web at the same time, or place calls while they send e-mail, should think twice before investing in the E62. Third-generation smartphones also speed up downloads of large files like PDFs, videos or presentations, so users who frequently download such files and want to do so as quickly as possible should seek out a true 3G phone.

The Symbian 9.1 OS powers the E62, and overall we found the device to be rather sluggish. In some cases, we pushed a button two or three times before the E62 performed the command. Ramsey noted that the OS was slower than the Windows Mobile OS in his Moto Q, and it took him significantly longer to navigate through menus or screens and to launch applications with the E62.

The E62's user interface (UI) was somewhat unintuitive (which is always a personal perception), and its joystick, which is used not only to move up and down and from side to side, but also as the "action" or "enter" key, could sometimes make navigation a bit awkward. Ramsey had some difficultly getting used to the UI and joystick; on a scale of 1 (least intuitive) to 10 (telepathic), he ranked the E62's UI as a 4. "It took me a couple of hours to really get used to," Ramsey said.

Setup is intended to be a snap, but it wasn't for our IT manager. Ramsey first attempted to connect to his corporate mail client via the Mail for Exchange application. He was able to initially sync e-mail, calendar and contacts, but the device stopped syncing immediately. Brulant's IT department doesn't support the E62 and its staffers were unfamiliar with the device, so Ramsey reached out to the E62 product manager, whom Nokia provided as a technical support contact, to no avail. He uninstalled and reinstalled the application, but the device generated no error messages, so he couldn't locate the cause of the problem. Even when Ramsey attempted to force the sync, the device responded by saying the task had been performed; however, his e-mail, calendar and contact information still did not sync up with the E62, and no corresponding log records were generated.

Ramsey eventually could use Cingular's Xpress Mail application to sync his mail, but the experience with Mail for Exchange and the inability to work through the issue with the Nokia product manager left a bad taste in his mouth.

One important weakness is that the Cingular Xpress Mail Client lets users circumvent the IT administrator. We used Cingular's Xpress Mail client to link the Nokia E62 (and the Treo 750) to our corporate network. Both were easy to install and use; however, a note within the Nokia E62 Getting Started Guide is particularly relevant to CIOs and IT executives: "Xpress Mail is a self service option for accessing your corporate e-mail from your Nokia E62 without IT support. NOTE: Your IT administrator may prohibit self service options. Please consult your IT administrator before beginning setup."

Interestingly, the Treo 750 reviewer and user guide sent along with the device don't mention that Xpress Mail users may want to check with IT administrators before connecting to their corporate inboxes and calendars or any other parts of their organizations' networks. Because we set up our Xpress Mail e-mail account on the Treo 750 before the Nokia E62 and didn't need to read the setup instructions twice, we linked to our network without the approval of our IT staff. (In fact, CXO IT staffers are still unaware that we have multiple devices using Xpress Mail to access corporate e-mail and calendar information. Please keep that under wraps. We don't want to get in trouble.)

Ramsey was unaware of the Xpress Mail application until we brought it to his attention. He, too, expressed concern. "That's not how I would want it to happen," he said. "From a technology standpoint, that could cause difficulty. I want to know who's connecting to mail and how they're connecting. I would want to limit that feature."

Xpress Mail is available on a handful of devices beyond Palm's Treos. A list of devices that support Xpress Mail can be found on Cingular's site, though the list is incomplete (it doesn't include the Treo 750).

The E62 doesn't have a built-in digital camera. That can be a positive or negative. If your organization has banned digital cameras on its premises, the Nokia E62 might be a good option for your smartphone deployment, as you won't need to disable the camera and ensure that it stays disabled.

Though the E62 features a slot to expand its available memory via a miniSD card, the additional memory cannot be disabled by an IT administrator. Ramsey would look for the ability to disable any expandable-memory functionality, but would still deploy corporate phones with expandable memory that cannot be disabled. Your security policies may restrict such expandable memory and thus eliminate the device from consideration.

You access the E62's voice recorder and voice-activated dialing features with a button directly below the volume-up and volume-down keys on the device's right side. We often inadvertently hit the voice-recorder key while trying to adjust volume, and recorded small snippets when we were only trying to hear our correspondent. There is no way of locking the voice-recorder key to stop it from accidentally being depressed, and the key cannot be programmed to represent a different function.

How does the Nokia E62 stack up to its competitors? Keep reading to see how well it fared.

<< Nokia E62:What We Liked    |   RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100 (Cingular) >>

RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100 (Cingular)

The BlackBerry Pearl is not like other BlackBerrys. And that's no accident. But does this consumer-oriented smartphone still work for enterprise users? Despite business-friendly features, one IT executive says he'd buy a Pearl for himself ... but probably not for his IT staff. Find out why.

Research In Motion (RIM) has proven that it can do business phones right. Now it's moving on to bigger things. The handset maker has taken a lesson from Motorola's tiny, ultra-popular RAZR phone, and come up with the BlackBerry Pearl 8100. The Pearl is the first truly small handheld from RIM and the first BlackBerry to include features specifically aimed at consumers.

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Because it is so different from other BlackBerrys, the Pearl is making a name for itself in both the trendy consumer space and the unforgiving business world as one of the hottest phones on the market. Named for the pearl-shaped trackball embedded in the center of its keyboard, the device is RIM's first move away from its trademark thumbwheel. The "pearl" is the device's central means of navigation. The handheld was initially offered in the United States by T-Mobile in September 2006, and later by Cingular in December.

To provide an inside perspective of the BlackBerry Pearl, we called on a real IT executive to review the device: Paul Roche, CIO of Network Services Company, a multibillion-dollar distribution organization with more than 400 warehouses located across the United States. Roche is particularly qualified to review the Pearl. His CEO recently came to the IT department with a brand new Pearl of his own, and since nobody else at Network Services used a BlackBerry, Roche had to get the device set up and linked to his network without any of the necessary ingredients in place.

The Bottom Line

The BlackBerry Pearl is without a doubt the most aesthetically pleasing device we reviewed. It is also a completely functional business device due to the high level of security it offers users, as well as its strong battery life and intuitive user interface. However, due to its small size and the lack of a full qwerty keyboard, the Pearl is best suited for users with smaller hands and for those who read lots of e-mail but don't frequently respond. (That should cover most of the managers in your office, unfortunately.) Because of the Pearl's delicacy, it's not suitable for users who carry a phone in their back pockets. (Crunch.)

Roche, together with his vice president of operations, determines which smartphones are deployed across Network Services. Although there are no official feature criteria, a full qwerty keyboard is a necessity, so Roche doesn't plan on deploying more BlackBerry Pearls anytime soon. However, he said, he would purchase it for use as his personal phone.

<< Nokia E62: What We Didn't Like    |   RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100: What We Liked >>

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