Introduction

2 Dec 2009

This story starts with my old Nokia N73, which was getting a bit long in the tooth. It was mostly a good phone, I could rely on. The only problem that I had with it was the fact that the time zone database has not been updated, even with the latest firmware. So, every time we had a time change in Sydney, my Nokia N73 would be off by one hour when synced to network time, for about a month. I asked Nokia to fix this numerous times, both using their support web form and over the phone. Suffice to say, nothing has ever been done about this, for over two years. But I digress...

Anyhow, it was time to change. I wanted a QWERTY phone this time and it seemed that Nokia E72 offered the best cross section of features I was after. So, I got one. It is an E72-2 model, which supports 850/1900/2100 MHz 3G WCDMA range (don't believe the spec on Nokia Australia site - it is confusing). This was the last chance I was willing to give Nokia, before giving up on the brand.

The fun begins... again

I got the phone and I was immediately impressed. The build quality was absolutely superb. The phone felt great in the hand, the screen was precise and bright, the keyboard easy to use, voice call quality excellent etc. And to top it all off, the phone was really fast. It was time to set it up.

After restoring my backup from Nokia N73 using the Nokia PC Suite, I went to set up my e-mail. And, of course, immediately hit bugs and missing functionality. Not really surprising, given this is the first spin of the firmware - things like this always happen with Nokia (and I guess other) phones.

The first thing I noticed was that when IMAP mail is configured, the phone cannot display all folders found on the server (which should, of course, be the default). Instead, it has some predefined folders in the list, some of which don't even exist on the IMAP servers I use. Attempts to subscribe to many folders resulted in the phone hanging for a long time. And, occasionally, the mailbox setup can get corrupted by subscribing to very many folders, not to mention that the client cannot actually use them properly (keeps connecting and disconnecting, and eventually gives up). In my case, two different mailboxes that I've set up got renamed to the same name. Very handy. Not.

Apart from that, there is no selection for sent mail folder. Every IMAP client I've seen has this, but not this one. It would be nice to see selection of drafts folder as well, but it's not so important.

IMAP IDLE support is also dubious. One would expect that there would be a setting where if the server closes the connection, the phone opens it again and executes IDLE to wait for new mail. Not so. One can pick the poll period for IMAP mail, which does execute IDLE, but if the connection gets closed by the server, the client will not attempt to open it and IDLE again. This is not real push e-mail. In practice, there could be many minutes before the mail ready on the IMAP server is picked up by the phone.

Strangely enough, e-mail application doesn't start automatically on reboot, even when polling is configured. This means that if you reboot the phone, you need to open e-mail once to get it to poll for e-mail again. Doesn't make any sense to me. This was fixed, see below in Updates.

I tried Mail for Exchange as well. Nokia really have to be joking. This thing barely works, doesn't obey the commands, displays no diagnostics etc. Does anyone ever test software at Nokia?

I also encountered some problems with the web browser. Nothing major and I'm sure things can get fixed up on that front easily.

Even more fun

So, I called Nokia support. Not surprisingly, I spoke to someone that had absolutely no idea about what IMAP was, how IDLE was supposed to work or anything like that. I asked them to put all my complaints down and pass them on to someone that does know what it all means.

And just to be sure, the next day, I submitted all of the bugs through the web form to Nokia again, so that their developers see this. Of course, this went to another Nokia representative that replied to me with absolute garbage. This person claimed, for instance, that Nokia E72 cannot connect to IMAP servers directly, but rather must use Nokia e-mail servers. I wonder how Nokia managed to connect to my own IMAP server, which was at the time behind a firewall, making it inaccessible from the Internet. What utter nonsense. Idiotic stuff like that really ticks me off. Especially when I made sure I don't use Nokia e-mail servers (I don't even have an account there).

Other nonsense advice included checking my security settings in relation to browser bugs I reported, which were Javascript/CSS/rendering errors and had nothing to do with SSL/TLS or security at all.

So, I called them again and asked to speak to a manager. He promised to notify second level support for me. I'm going to be paying attention to what happens with all this (which is most likely nothing) and report here. Oh, and by the way, that manager also promised that someone from second level support will call me within the same day. That didn't happen, but I did eventually get a call from second level support, a week or so later. The issue is being escalated, so that's good news. (Since then, there was almost no improvement in any of the mail software, so as usual, Nokia are useless.)

Recently I told Nokia that their SSL authority certificates list is out of date (for instance, they did not have Verisign Class 3 Public Primary Certification Authority - G5 on the list). Some idiot from Nokia support replied with: "If the SSL certificate is showing as expired on your phone, the wrong date may have been configured on the Nokia device." I mean, seriously, where do they find these people?

A word of advice to Nokia: open your bug database up to your customers. Today. Yesterday, in fact. Hiding things doesn't make them better.

Other details

VOIP calling with Nodephone worked for me, after reading this very useful page created by Sean Cull. Out of the box settings are not sufficient to get things going though, you need software mentioned at the above page.

Profimail is a very nice IMAP client. Much better than the built in one. It handles my 75,000+ messages, spread over many folders, just fine. Recommended. (Note that support for this product can at times be lame, especially if you request a more nuanced fixes, related to SSL or the way IMAP works.)

Opera Mobile 10 is a great web browser. Recommended.

RoadSync 5, although looking nice on paper, is somewhat cumbersome to use in manual sync mode. It appears a bit more reliable then Nokia's Mail for Exchange, but it does still miss mail that is supposed to be picked up. For whatever reason, it sends e-mails in HTML format and there seems to be no option to change that. When large amount of mail is picked up, accessing RoadSync subfolders can hang the phone for a few minutes. YMMV. Between this and Nokia's solution, this may be lesser of two evils, but still not even close to what Profimail offers for IMAP.

Updates

The 023.002 update seem to have fixed the problem with mail not being picked up periodically. So, now even when you don't start the mail app, the mail will be picked up as scheduled.

The 031.023 update is a lot faster than all previous versions. Well worth the upgrade (finally something done right at Nokia!). Also, it seem to have fixed the problem where camera app would crash if the photo just taken was attempted to be sent via MMS.

The 051.018 update appears to bring some stability to applications, especially the web browser and e-mail. However, both IMAP and Exchange support are just as useless and unreliable as before - they just crash less. The camera software is also still terribly slow, making it practically unusable for any half serious photo taking.

With 052.005 update, Nokia have outdone even themselves! I periodically check on my phone whether updates are available and sure enough, this one popped up. So, I went through the FOTA steps only to be told that this update is NOT for my phone model. Then why was it shown in the first place? Hilarious.

I received the new Nokia Email app on my phone, version 3.09.0. It crashes a bit less. Yeah, it can actually see (with long delays) all IMAP folders in the subscription list. However, it is still not capable of doing basic things like actually delivering large IMAP folders (which Profimail can do with ease). Of course, the location of sent and drafts still cannot be set for IMAP. For a phone that was marketed as an e-mailing solution, this borders on false advertising. Exchange support is a bit better in this version, so much so that I stopped using RoadSync to avoid those nasty hangs.

Update 054.005 doesn't seem to bring anything exciting. I cannot tell any difference from 051.018 (apart from cosmetics) to be honest. Camera, for instance, is just as slow.

Update 071.004 is what we should have had from the start. The phone is visibly faster and it also seems more stable. Web browser works better too. There is more free phone memory after the update. Finally some great work from Nokia. Unfortunately, the camera is still not up to par - way too slow in processing the images.

Nokia released Email app version 3.21.0. Finally, the move message option is back - something I have reported as missing repeatedly and they essentially called me crazy. Well, it turns out, I didn't dream it.

Update 081.003 appears almost indistinguishable from the previous version. The contacts search by company name works again. Camera seems to work faster.

Conclusion

Nokia E72 could have been a great smartphone. The hardware is, for sure. However, the software is disappointing. Many versions of the software have been released so far, with not one of them being good enough in crucial areas. Recommendation: do not waste your time on this device.

Copyright © 2009 Bojan Smojver, Rexursive.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the licence is here
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