Monday, December 14, 2009

Face Off: Nokia E63 vs. SciPhone G2

I picked up a Nokia E63 cheap some time ago as a possible replacement for my Sciphone G2. I like the keyboard on the E63, and that coupled with a discounted unit price at a local brick-and-mortar induced me to buy.

The phone my G2 replaced was an older Nokia, a Nokia 3650. This was a great phone, I still had such an old phone on my hip for such a long time because I couldn't find a newer phone that gave me all the features it had, plus some tech upgrades, at a price I was willing to pay. For the longest time the best I could find was phones costing over $700. Everything selling for less would have meant giving up something I already had on the 3650.

As a result, I had a good impression of Nokia. I know all their phones aren't winners (otherwise replacing the 3650 would have been a no-brainer, right?) But still, I liked Symbian far, far better than WinMobile or any of the other OSes I saw on other phones. Giving up Symbian when getting the G2 was one of my biggest concerns.

Overall, though, the G2 turned out to be a great phone. I gave up my old 3650 to one of my kids shortly after moving to the G2. I took a leisurely pace when "moving in" to the G2, and after about 3 weeks I had everything configured as I like it, and was using all the features I'd bought the phone for without any problems.

The phone ended up having a problem after that, and the fine support at, from whom I'd bought the phone, had me return it for a replacement. When the replacement arrived, I was able to "move in" to the new phone easily enough (my only problems turned out to be with my service provider, T-Mobile, who turned off my internet service without my authorization then refused to reinstate it at my previous rate, only offering me the new rate of over double my grandfathered rate from before.)

Then last October I bought the E63.


I looked at the calendar and discovered that just three days short of two months in using this phone, I still don't feel comfortable with it. When I tried (and tried, and tried, but that's a long story) to do a firmware update, at one point it warned me it'd be clearing everything in the phone. Didn't bother me at all, I haven't personalized it at all past setting up the Wifi and pairing it with my workstation via Bluetooth. I don't stand to lose any data. It's not like it's my phone...

I'm starting to get used to some of the menus I use regularly. It's still not natural. Not even calling my wife.

The controls and menu layout stink. You're never sure what you should do, you're never sure exactly what you're going to get. Constant surprises keep you feeling this way.

This phone's keyboard is great. Otherwise, I call it a dog. I gave up my old phone about a week after I gave up my G2. I still have my G2, and I take a "vacation" from my E63 every so often by sticking my SIM back in it. My teenager is upset that she doesn't have my G2--she was really looking forward to it. With the Java apps on it, it pretty well kicks the butt of even the vaunted "Jesus Phone".

So, in spite of the G2's quirks, I still like it more than my twice-the-price first-line manufacturer Nokia E63:

Nokia E63 versus Sciphone G2

E63: Very nice physical keyboard.
G2:Soft keyboard, with the annoying trait of having to flip through multiple international keyboards when entering data that requires shifts between upper and lower case, etc.
Win: E63


E63: Either has none or it can't be found by mere mortals.
G2: Easily found and configured.
Win: G2

E63: Clearly documents which JSPs it supports, supports a wide variety of them.
G2: Less clear what it supports, but runs touchscreen capable Java apps well.
Win:E63 by a nose. Functionally the G2 is as good, but better docs of what standards it supports would be very nice.

General Phone Use:
E63: Awkward interface, usable but non-intuitive. Lousy menu structure, unclear about keyboard mode.
G2: Easy, intuitive.
Win:G2, hands down.

Signal Strength:
E63: Excellent in marginal areas (where I live and work is the definition of a marginal area.)
G2: Very good.
Win: E63, but not by much--the G2 outperforms every other phone I've tried but the Nokia E63 and 3650.

Call Clarity:
E63: Excellent sound and clarity, decent noise rejection.
G2: Excellent sound and clarity, good noise rejection.
Win: G2 by a nose.

Hands-free, wired:
E63: works well with an awful provided headset.
G2: works poorly with a nice basic headset.
Win: Nokia, at least it's usable though the headset is so bad you don't care.

Hands-free, Bluetooth:

E63: Mating with headset is a pain, works well after that.
G2: Mating with headset is a little challenging, works well after that.
Win:G2 by a nose.

Hands-free, Speaker phone:
E63: Easy to use, excellent volume level, poor volume controls.
G2: Easy to use, decent volume level, great volume controls.
Win: G2. Even though the Nokia achieves higher volume levels, the inability to control it easily during a call makes this point moot.

E63: Hidden in crappy menu structure, no good customization options.
G2: Easy to install, good menu structure (but not as good as the i68+), easy to customize.

Overall Ease of Use:
G2, hands down.

For all that, I haven't given up either phone...yet. I haven't checked for a firmware update for my G2 since I've gotten it. If the keyboard thing is fixed, I'll be ready to hand the Nokia to my teen. The keyboard is pretty much what's keeping me on the Nokia right now. But I'd swear less if I gave it up...

Edit, Dec. 18, 2009:
E63: No Data Cable Provided
G2: Data cable provided.
Win: G2

The more I try to get out of the Nokia, the worse it gets.

I can see why Nokia is having trouble...

My Articles on the Sciphone G2: