Instead of the 1GB card you get with the E52, the E55 comes with a 2GB one of external storage. Everything else in the box is exactly the same. The big bonus over the E52 isn't in the box really, it's the lifetime Nokia Maps City Explorer license, complete with 3D landmarks, detailed descriptions, weather forecasts and pedestrian navigation.
The microUSB cable is of the long ones and there's a one-piece handsfree. There's of course the mandatory charger, along with an adapter to use with old chargers. There's also a user manual and this time the computer sync software is supplied on the memory card (you can download it off the company website too).
Nokia E52 stands at 116 x 49 x 9.9 mm and has a volume of 54 cc - the exact measurements of the E52. It is extremely pocketable and remarkably comfortable to handle. Gone are the glory days of the Nokia E71, now it's neck and neck for the title of slimmest smartphone on the market - Nokia E52 / E55 and Toshiba TG01 are the current competitors but more are coming.
Even with such a slim body, the Nokia E55 is just 2 grams under a hundred, which gives it a really pleasant solid feel. The extensive use of metal is the main cause for that and we are pretty happy Nokia chose to continue this trend with yet another Eseries handset.
We're glad we got the black variety of the E55, otherwise it would've been a bit too much of a déjà vu. Yes, the phones are identical. And no, the half-QWERTY keyboard doesn't make the E55 any less attractive than the E52. We guess enough users will find the keyboard a big improvement over the E52. It doesn't make it any less obvious though which one is the niche and which one is the mass device. Either way, we're talking two absolutely stunning lookers.
The metal accents on the handset's body are a nice thing too see, and they boost both looks and durability. This time even the keys below the display are metal for an extra nice feel to navigating the handset.
The E55 is available in three different colors - Black Aluminium, White Aluminium and Red. Again, our unit in Black Aluminium looks great, the rear being especially classy.
The grooved surface of the rear cover has quite a raw and industrial feel which gives the otherwise slim and refined handset a bit of extra solidity. The front is keen to reply with a glossy silvery frame enclosing the black navigation deck and numpad.
The earpiece of Nokia E55 is placed at the top of the front panel, flanked by the ambient light sensor and the video-call camera.
Below is the 2.4" 16M-color QVGA display. Its quality is quite pleasing with great contrast and brightness for a really vibrant image. In QVGA terms that is - the E55 is hardly up to scratch with high-res displays that are becoming more and more common. Yet, it's quite hard to find a bigger, higher-res display in a bar-shaped handset in this segment.
The Nokia E55 screen offers uncompromised sunlight legibility, which is a company trademark. No matter how bright the sun outside, you can always read the display comfortably.
Continuing our journey down the front of the handset we come upon the metallic D-pad. It's large and comfortable enough to use, just like the 8 keys surrounding it. They all offer nice tactile feedback and the metallic finish on most of them is an added bonus.
Essentially, the D-pad and two rocker-styled controls nicely project over a brushed metallic deck that accommodates the two soft keys and the Call and End buttons. The rockers host the menu key and backspace, along with the two typical Eseries one-touch shortcut keys. The latter can be used as shortcuts to four applications of your choice - two handled by short presses, the other two by a press and hold. Their default function is visualized by an icon.
Next is the half-QWERTY keyboard. Initially we had some concerns about it - it certainly isn't the most common type. If you're not familiar with this type of arrangement, here's the gist - imagine a regular QWERTY keyboard but group the keys by two, so they form pairs like QW, ER, TY and so on. The numbers are arranged in the typical way on the middle three columns, making dialing a number a familiar experience.
Despite having 8 more keys than the E52, the keyboard is very comfortable and the keys are reasonably big. The rows are tangibly terraced for very good touch orientation. Still, there are some key combinations, which are awkward, like Shift + M for example. It takes some time before you stop bumping your thumbs.
For typing, you have two options - predictive input on and off. With text prediction turned off, one tap of a key enters the first character, while subsequent taps alternate between the characters assigned to that key. There's a shift key which works in two ways - a tap switches between modes (lower case, all caps, prediction on and off) or you can press and hold it, which works exactly like on a computer keyboard.
There's also a function key, which is used to access the alternative symbols (punctuation and digits), a double tap on it locks this behavior until you press it a third time. A symbol key is also here to let you pick less common symbols from a pop-up chart.
Prediction works a bit like T9, it's just that you have two letters per key rather than three or four, which makes the guessing the correct word more likely. The symbol key can be used to alternate between the listed suggestions. There's also word completion, which can greatly speed up typing.
Going through the drill
We did a little typing test to compare the speed of the E55 keyboard against a regular 12-key keypad. Initially, we had to look for each letter, but in no time we were beating our previous times. Here are the results:
|Training||E55 keyboard||Standard 12-key keypad||% faster, E55 over standard keypad|
|First time use||2:53 min.||1:34 min.||- 84%|
|15 minutes of use||1:17 min.||1:27 min.||12%|
|1 day, moderate use||0:55 min.||1:05 min.||15%|
As you can guess, we used one and the same text sample for each of the tests. Here's the sample we chose:
I bought a new phone - it's great. My new number is 12345678. I'll be late for the meeting on Monday, so start without me.
It's a message that covers some of the basic typing hurdles - punctuation, switching between letter and number mode, repeated letters, capital letters, and letters that share keys on both the Nokia E55 keyboard as well as on the standard 12-key one.
We used a person with rusty texting skills for the test, so the first result is very near a "no training" result. Sure, they won't qualify for an SMS typing competition but what's important here is the learning curve - it's not that steep as expected at all.