The Nokia E61i

As more of my tech-savvy friends start purchasing Nokia E61i‘s, it only makes sense for me to actually document my experiences with the phone. I’ve had the privilege of using it for a few weeks now, and find that its rather useful for a lot of things. The SIM in it belongs to the 3 network, so I might be able to provide some war stories of the network, as well.

The Phone
Build quality looks pretty good. Its quite wide, but is thinner than my Nokia N73. Both phones fit quite nicely in my pocket, side-by-side. It comes with a wide screen (display resolution set at 320×240 pixels, with 16 million colors), that makes it very efficient for web browsing. The QWERTY keypad is a more efficient way of entering text, and you slowly get very used to using your thumbs for text input. I guess if you’re a Blackberry person, the E61i is a no-brainer.

Its a Series 60 phone. 3rd Edition. The edition is important, because a lot of freeware you see out there might only be compatible with the 2nd editions.

The Camera
There’s a camera, rated at 2 megapixels. No flash in sight, and there’s no cover for the camera lens (like on the N73), so eventually its probably going to get quite scratched up. The camera is nothing to shout about, its actually pretty weak in comparison to what the N73 can offer. I’ve been taking a few photos with it, so don’t hesitate to check the NokiaE61i tag on Flickr, to see the somewhat horrendous quality of photos.

It also does video, and like all modern 3G mobiles, its meant to allow you to video-conference (i.e. make video calls). I’ve never found the video call feature terribly useful (having it for over 3 years), except when shopping last month. Since there’s no camera on the front, either you see whom you’re talking to and let them see what you’re pointing your phone at, or you turn it around and your other party sees you and you don’t see them. Not very intuitive.

My conclusion is that the camera is a gimmick. Look at the quality. It doesn’t go far. Its just there to be like all other phones that are being sold. Don’t use it if you can avoid it (I know I can, since most times my N73 is in my pocket).

Bluetooth
Worked without a hitch. I’ve sent images to Linux and OS X, and there was no problem whatsoever. If you need to find out the Bluetooth adapter’s MAC address, enter *#2820#. On OS X, when you add a new mobile phone, it also automatically asks if you’d like to configure it as a modem for data transfer. I declined, and will look into using the E61i as a modem later.

WiFi
Connected to several WiFi networks successfully. 802.11g, 802.11b, WEP keys, WPA keys, MAC based authentication, it has all worked for me so far. If you need to find the MAC address of the wireless adapter (its on your box), enter *#62209526#.

SIP (and VoIP)
The phone natively supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). So all sensible VoIP providers, including your Gizmoproject account will work, natively on the phone. Once configured, you can receive incoming phone calls on all your active SIP profiles, however, you can only make Internet calls via your currently active SIP profile (you can check which this is via Menu -> Connect -> Internet tel.). The only way to change it is via the Internet tel. option as well.

I have been told that SIP should work on any WiFi network. I’ve tested it on two access points (an old D-Link and a Linksys WRT54G) and since I know my router allows SIP traffic, it worked. I did attempt trying to connect on another network, which was based on a Netgear router – I failed. More extensive testing is clearly needed on this feature, and I’ll report back when I have more information.

You can’t initiate in-phone SIP calls via your 3G/GPRS connection. It only allows you to connect via a WiFi access point. You can work-around this via Fring (as some countries have unlimited data plans, making all calls over SIP might be cheaper).

Google Maps
Proof that Google Maps Satellite View is ancient (~3 years+) – my house doesn’t exist!

Essential Software
Considering you have access to a WiFi connection, there are bits and pieces of essential software that I have installed:

  • Fring – If you need Skype, or MSN, this is clearly a useful application to have installed. The current version (3.02 – built March 15 2007) is a little buggy – i.e. it doesn’t allow you to increase the volume, so Skype calls are painfully soft. This is fixed in Fring (at least on some platforms) and will make its way for Series 60 3rd Edition (Symbian 9) phones soon enough.
  • Gmail – I don’t use my Gmail account much, but I can see it being useful for some emergency emails and so on. Most people are hooked to their Gmail accounts, so this is probably a must have.
  • Google Maps – This might not be so useful if you’re not in a location that allows for Google Maps, but in Australia, the maps are ready and excellent (at least for Melbourne). Real-time traffic doesn’t work, but its impressive nonetheless.
  • Screenshot – you want to take screenshots of what’s on the screen if you plan on writing about it later.
  • jmIrc (screenshot)- because there are times you may be bored, and want to hop on an IRC network. It doesn’t look like the official version supports SSL (so getting on some private networks are impossible), but I’ve seen a version floating around that has built-in SSL.

Google Maps
Driving directions, assuming I’m GPS-less

Bundled Software

  • Beware RealPlayer. By default, it wants you to connect via your mobile Internet settings. Change this if you’re not on an unlimited data plan, especially if you’re going to be playing with m.youtube.com (YouTube Mobile).
  • Flash Player is pretty stock.
  • WidSets – for the life of me I can’t figure out its usefulness. Maybe someone else can tell me what its good for?
  • Email via built-in messaging – works a charm, speaks IMAP, and I’ve written an email or two when I’m on the road.
  • Web browser – does what its told to do. Will crash if you try to load a Zimbra login page (because its so huge). Has the ability to bookmark, and my most viewed sites are probably m.twitter.com or google.com/reader/m. Google’s Mobile Calendar is useful as well. The browser renders websites pretty well, but you also then realise that the web itself, isn’t made for mobile devices (that rant for another day).

WidSets
WidSets

What else is there to look for
I personally would like a mobile blogging tool. Maybe if I took a photo, I’d like that uploaded to a blog, where I write about today’s zeitgeist. I’m unsure if Azure is a good tool, or if KABLOG will even work on the device. Bonus points for supporting multiple blogs and multiple blog APIs.

A tool like GAIM Pidgin that supported multiple IM networks. I’d ideally like my AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo!, Gtalk, Jabber all in one.

Planet 3 to actually work. This isn’t a phone problem, its a 3 problem. They do browser detection, and if you didn’t buy a phone from them, they just disable your access to Planet 3. Seems kind of daft, but at least for my main usage, I found a solution on the Web (see what my monthly account usage is like).

I have yet to try out SSH (via s2putty) or even the new Gizmoproject client for the phone. There’s bundled QuickOffice, though I’m unsure of its usefulness. Syncing always gives me nightmares, and its not something I’ve attempted (or honestly want to attempt); I think the future of syncing will happen via the Web, so maybe ShoZu for contact backups? Are there more cool software packages to try out? I have no (or limited) interest in commercial software, free and open source is preferred.

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  • you can install mirggi – http://mirggi.net/ if you want an alternative irc client to jmirc. mirggi is a native symbian application btw.

    yehba might be a good alternative for mobile IM, it supports yahoo,msn and googletalk.

  • very helpful Colin, thanks for the links… me just got myself the E61i and starting to love it. tho the qwerty keypad thingy requires some relearning for me to get used to.

  • Pascal

    Hello

    I like to use the E61i as a Bluetooth Modem for my MacBook Pro. I don’t know how. Can somebody help?

  • yisibe

    try===gizmo voip for nokia for instant messenger / voip intergraton

    try===truphone for voip you can use over 3g

  • Hi there everyone!

    great links Colin! Did you actually get KABLOG to work on the E61i? It gives me a constant “failed HTTP error” :-(

    @Pascal: I use it as a modem for my MB Pro, thanks to Ross Barkman’s Modem Scripts http://www.taniwha.org.uk/

    I agree his page looks “original”, but all infos and scripts you need are there. If not, mail him, he’ll usually answer in 3 or 4 days.

  • Patrick

    Colin, great info.. helps alot.. cheers – pat

  • Anthony

    I have a nokia E70, and have changed to 3 mobile. Is there anywhere I can get to Planet 3 software? I have contacted nokia, but told they can’t load it onto any phones that aren’t 3 phones. The E61 software should be able to go onto the E70?

    Thank you.

  • mitch

    i cant get the e61i to recognize my wep encripted wi fi access pt. wont show up in list of available networks. any thoughts onthe config of the settings. not sure if it matters but i am using a sim card with att in the usa. i dont think it should matter.

  • raif

    i cant connect to my wireless internet with my E61i. I am using a d-link g router, is this the problem? i need help?

  • Great phone.
    I personally have installed fringe, Opera mini, putty, SIC FTP, Google Maps, Gizmo SIP and a web server on my device.
    A.Samir
    http://www.am4computers.com

  • Abhishek

    Thanks Colin a great info. I just wanted to point out that you can make SIP calls by changing then network settings to use 3G (UMTS) when available. But its not possible if using GPRS. One more thing to note, while configuring in E61i, its good to use the IP address rather than the hostnames.

    -Abhishek.

  • Girish

    Owning a 61i is the best thing happened to me in my life till date…
    its superb functionality and ease of operation is simply amazing…
    Hope to discover all of its features.. soon…


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