The first thing I thought when I saw the announcements made at Nokia’s Symbian event was “wow, that E6 sure is a looker; Wish the X7 was as exciting as this is.” Strange that I’d think that, especially given the larger screen and more expansive, touch-based interface on the X7 as opposed to the E6 but there was a vibe, an expectation if you will, that the X7 would unanimously disappoint. Part of this disposition is due to the nature of the X7. Like pretty much all Symbian^3 devices, it has nigh-on the same specs in every meaningful category as the N8, which, bar it’s camera doesn’t really bring as much to the table as we would have hoped for.
Odd then, that I’d find the E6, a device running the exact specification barring minor screen differences, a keyboard and certainly less of a multimedia focus to be the better of the two recently announced devices. Even more so when I think about my purchasing decisions in the past; I eschew keyboards (moving or otherwise), small screens and business-centric devices as a rule.
After a couple of minutes pondering this very problem I realized my best experiences with Symbian, where it worked best all happened on keyboard-toting, touch-screen absent devices. The successes of the various E-series candy-bar communicators is more than testament to this belief. And while I’d always wished for a touch experience as far back as when I used a 3250, the Symbian experience was geared around the soft-key and menu buttons. Further, Nokia’s forays into the touch market have been more or less failures for the simple reason that they retained a user-experience with much more in common with the button-driven paradigm than the touch paradigms upon which iOS and WebOS were based (Android is excluded given it’s origins on BB-esque devices).
The E6 from what has been shown thus far has a home screen that better fits the form-factor than the current implementation of widgets fit devices like the N8 or X7. Hardware that’s more befitting to the conservative, business nature of these devices while at the same time providing a stability and richness of features that can rarely be rivaled in other devices of this class and concurrently increasing usability due to the more granular nature of the controls available. The marriage of the touch-screen to this form factor doesn’t change these facts, rather accentuating them, giving an even better experience than was previously thought possible in this class of device
Yes there are promised UI changes for the larger-screened devices, yes there is more powerful hardware supposedly on the way, but it seems, in this author’s humble opinion that Symbian’s origins will forever be closely intertwined with it’s future, limiting the heights to which it can attain. The E6 may likely represent the pinnacle of Symbian’s niche in the smartphone world, the best of what is sure to become a vanishing niche.