Tools Of The Trade: Nokia E61 mobile email

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The E61 is Nokia's answer to the BlackBerry, the mobile email device beloved of City types who are always on the go.

On the surface, the two have a lot in common. The E61 features a screen that takes up about half the casing, with a keyboard immediately below. This layout makes it much easier to use with one hand: previous high-end Nokia phones were "clamshell" designs that worked well enough at a desk but were tricky to use on the move.

It is possible to gain access to almost all the E61's features using the small joystick and function keys just below the screen. The keyboard, with a full qwerty layout, is designed for typing relatively long documents and emails.

The E61 is based on the Symbian operating system. This is user-friendly and, as it is supported by other manufacturers, should encourage third-party developers to create software for the E61.

But it is the software that comes with the device that will determine its usefulness. Buy a BlackBerry and the only option is BlackBerry email; on the E61, the standard email software will work with most office and personal email accounts. Then there is the option of adding software for BlackBerry servers, operator-branded software - such as Vodafone's Business Email service - or Nokia's own server. As the E61 has wireless LAN as well as a mobile connection, it is also quick and easy to check email via the internet.

Another advantage is the built-in software for making voice calls over the internet. This can integrate with large companies' VoIP systems, allowing the E61 to work as a wireless phone in the office as well as on the road. This, though, is complicated and may need IT support to set up.

Where the E61 falls short of some of its rivals is in its non-business features. There is no camera, for example, and no video calling. GPS navigation is available as an add-on, and the E61 does come with a stereo headset and a music player.

The battery life is excellent. It is quite possible to go three days or more without charging the device.

The E61 is a solid all-round performer, though whether it is the ultimate in mobile email will depend on a company's technology set-up. But as more operators announce support for the E61, it could mount a real challenge to BlackBerry.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5.

PROS: 3G, WiFi and internet telephony support.

CONS: no slots for extra memory; keyboard might not appeal to all.

COST: from free to £110 on Vodafone with a contract.