It's raining Nokia S60 smartphones here lately, and we were lucky enough to receive the US version of the recently announced but not yet released Nokia E66 for review. The US version is a quad band unlocked GSM phone with US 3G HSDPA on the 850/1900MHz bands. For those wishing to order the Nokia E66 once it becomes available, this is the E66-2, type RM-345 (the dash at the end of model number indicates region when there's more than one regional version sold and each Nokia variant has a "type" too).
The E66 represents the latest evolution of Nokia's E series business smartphones. It runs Symbian OS 9.2 and Nokia S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 with enhancements. With Feature Pack 2 phones like the Nokia N78 just starting to ship, we were surprised that the E66 still runs Feature Pack 1, but it has demand paging for improved speed and enough other tweaks that we don't mind. The phone has a few new features like Modes (a way to switch between 2 customized themes) and automatic screen rotation when the smartphone is turned (via an accelerometer). The phone uses the accelerometer in two other cool ways: like the HTC Diamond, simply turn the phone face down to silence incoming calls (and snooze reminders); tap the phone twice to silence it. These accelerometer-based features can be turned on and off in settings.
Though it's a business phone, the Nokia E66 is slim, stylish and packed with multimedia features. Nokia was one of the first companies to catch on that business users like stylish devices that can shoot photos, and play music and video too. There's quite a lot packed into this 4.27 ounce phone: WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, GPS, a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens, music player, FM radio and US 3G. Since this is a business phone, the E66 supports Exchange ActiveSync, Intellisync, iSync and Mail for Exchange. Unfortunately, Nokia has announced that they'll no longer be developing BlackBerry Connect for E Series devices, so the E66 is out of luck.
The E66 is a slider that follows in the footsteps of the Nokia E65, but it's much thinner, runs a newer S60 version, has a faster CPU and a GPS. Not a bad upgrade! It's certainly an attractive and sexy phone, though the mirrored front that takes its good looks up a few notches also hinders outdoor viewing. And yes, it holds onto fingerprints like crazy. Fortunately, it's easy to clean, unlike high gloss black plastic phones like the Diamond.
Our review unit is deep metallic gray with a bright silver metal back panel and smoky mirrored front. The red plastic power button up top is the only jarring design element, everything else is the best of Scandinavian design. The number pad has textured and slightly domed keys, so both texting and dialing are a breeze. The buttons surrounding the d-pad are completely flat and with 9 of them loaded together in a small space-- good luck selecting the right one if you're not looking at the phone. The button labels light up when you press any button, and the inner 4 (Home, calendar, contacts and mail) light partially when the d-pad ring pulses (like the Nokia N78, the E66 has a "breath" feature where the d-pad light pulses slowly, and more quickly if you've got a message, notification and etc). Neat, but this doesn't make it easier to hit the right button without first pressing a button. Thankfully, the call send and end buttons are masked in the usual red and green so they're always visible, though they don't contrast well with the dark background so I wouldn't call them easy to see.
The microSD card is hot swappable, and you must remove the battery door (but not the battery) to access the slot. There are two side release buttons that open the back cover. The SIM card holder is just above the battery, and you must remove the battery to insert or remove a SIM card.
The phone is fairly small by Nokia S60 smartphone standards, being both smaller and thinner than the N78, and thinner than the Nokia N95. It's the only phone among these 3 to support automatic screen rotation. Turn the phone left or right and the display switches to landscape mode. Turn it back to normal upright position and the display returns to portrait. Screen rotation isn't overly sensitive, so the screen didn't switch with normal slight hand movement (a good thing), but it sometimes took it 2 seconds to switch back to portrait mode after we'd moved the phone to normal upright position.
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