The last time I was excited about about anything coming out of the World Mobile Congress was 2007. It was held in early February 2007, some four months before the launch of the first iPhone. Nokia was king of the world, their beautifully made hardware was made with magnesium alloy chassis’ on the E-series business handsets. Symbian was a user friendly if flakey operating system.
Nokia took business smartphones to the next level with the E90 Communicator; a powerful handset with a full sized keyboard hidden beneath the exterior of a candy-bar phone.
The e90 was a leap forward from the previous 9X00-series communicators in computing power and connectivity. The E90 supported Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, numerous bands of GSM, UMTS cellular radio and HSDPA – which heralded a near broadband web experience – network permitting. Beyond connectivity, the phone sported a decent-sized screen some 800 pixels wide, a full keyboard that I managed to type blog posts on in real-time and a GPS unit that allowed you to tag photos on Flickr or use Google Maps.
There was also a built-in camera that was ideal for use with Skype when you had a wi-fi connection. Setting up an IMAP email account was a doodle. And unlike one of the current crop of phablets I could fold the clamshell case and put in the side pocket of my carpenter jeans. I used the E90 Communicator as a lightweight laptop replacement, similar to the way I currently use the MacBook Air.
The achilles heel of the E90 Communicator was the Symbian software. I had some 3,500 contacts at the time in my computer, when I attempted to synch it across to my phone it bricked. I had to have it reflashed. It was not a memory issue, but that the OS seemed unable to handle a business contact book. I managed with a sub-set of the contacts on there. Eventually while in Hong Kong on business, the phone stopped holding a charge, it would chew through a battery in 30 minutes. I got a replacement battery for it but it made no difference. Given that mine was a developer programme model phone, no one in Shenzhen would attempt to repair the device.
The sticker in the back of the phone was like kryptonite for the most hardened shanzhai hardware hacker.