Tools Of The Trade: The Nokia N70 smartphone

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The Independent Online

Mobile phone maker Nokia is not afraid of hype. Company executives have repeatedly described its latest smartphone, the N70, as a computer that fits in the pocket.

This might well be going too far: with no built-in alphabetic keyboard and the product unable to write text on the screen, the N70 falls short of the capabilities offered by Nokia's own Communicator line, or rival phones such as Sony Ericsson's P910 or HTC's MDA/XDA series of handsets. However, the N70 is packed full of features, including a music player and a two-megapixel camera.

The N70 is the first of Nokia's "multimedia" phones to go on general sale in the UK; also in the line-up are the photography-focused N90 and a music phone, the N91. While both of these have some intriguing capabilities, the N70 is more of an all-round device suitable for business users.

The first reason businesses might want to look at the N70 is that it is a 3G phone. Connecting to a 3G network offers data speeds that are, potentially, five times as fast as second-generation phones running on the GPRS network.

This makes downloading email to the phone, as well as web browsing, far more practical. It also means that the phone can be used as a 3G modem with a laptop, avoiding the need to buy a separate laptop data card and pay for another subscription.

This might not have been uppermost in the mind of Nokia's designers when they developed the N series, which is aimed first and foremost at high-end consumers; a business-oriented range of phones, the E series, is due out next year.

But notwithstanding its lack of a keyboard, the N70 has a decent range of features that business users will rate.

The first is the build quality. The N70 is not a light phone, but it is solidly made and should stand up to daily use. A sliding cover keeps the camera lens out of harm's way when it is not in use, which is another sensible touch. The large screen, designed for multi-media applications, is also excellent for viewing web pages and email.

The N70 includes software for viewing Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, as well as Adobe PDF documents. These applications work very well, and it is even possible to print directly from the phone.

The N70 comes with the standard Nokia calendar, email and task management applications, and because it is based on the Symbian operating system, software is also on offer from third-party developers. The handset will also support Nokia's Business Center email service.

The N70 is not a complete substitute for a handheld computer or even a wireless PDA such as the Communicator or an HP iPaq, but it is close. It is even possible to add an external keyboard using Bluetooth.

For light email users - or for business users mostly wanting to read emails on the move rather than create documents - the N70 is good enough, given its low cost.

Slightly better battery life would make it almost the perfect all-round communications tool.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5.

PROS: 3G, good screen, Symbian operating system.

CONS: battery life could be better, no WiFi.

PRICE: from free with a mobile phone contract.