One of the two 3G handsets I have received from 3G Hutchison, the NEC e616V is a new handset on the market which had its problems when first released. They were only firmware problems however, and have since been resolved. The e616V is compatible with WCMDA networks and UMTS, enabling Videotalk calls to be placed from the handset and received. It is only compatible with rich 3G networks, the only one operational to the public in Australia is “Three.”
The e616V has some great selling points, all of which I was drawn too. Read on to find out how my trail with this handset from NEC - a company directed at broadband and mobile telecommunications - went.
Please note: Many of these features mentioned in the article are NOT available to users on 2G networks. Using a 2G SIM card in a 3G phone may cause permanent damage to the handset and/or the SIM card.
The e616V has so many outstanding features, all of which perform fantastically. Dual cameras, photo assist light, WCMDA & GPRS data-compatibility, massive internal memory & external MemoryStick Duo support, PIM applications, a video and audio player compatible with heaps of file formats, GPS, the list goes on. One of the best 3G handsets from NEC, the e616V is electrifying.
The dual cameras on the e616V enable you to have video chat with someone whilst looking at the main display, as the inward camera is located on the inside, at the top left of the top flip. It is only small, and doesn’t have support for VGA pictures - but that isn’t needed as it’s mainly for the Videotalk function of the handset. The outward camera is in the middle of the external part of the top flip, and does support VGA sized images (640 x 480 pixels). The outward camera also has a photo-assist light for those low light situations. Different quality and size settings can be applied to both cameras in the camera application of the e616V - which does allow video recording!
WCDMA and GPRS are the two data-protocols on the e616V; the latter one is used when the handset isn’t in a 3G compatible area. GPRS areas cover most of the populated areas of Australia, so you still have access to WAP pages and other media when not in a 3G zone. WCDMA is the 3G data protocol able to connect at 384kbp/s, in turn allowing Videotalk calls to take place - streaming video and audio. Videotalk calls can be started and received on the e616V.
19mB of internal shared memory is available on the e616V, which can be filled up with images, video, audio files, sound files, documents, and any other kind of file. You can download files from WAP pages, from a PC connection, or Bluetooth connection. If you need more space, the e616V has support for Sony’s MemoryStick Duo cards, which will slot into the left side of the handset. The e616V only supports MemoryStick Duo cards up to 128MB.
PIM applications on the e616V organize your life and keep everything up-to-date with the help of up to 10 synchronization servers. PIM applications like a calendar, to-do list, notepad & memos, alarm clock, and call memos. All these applications are in the “Toolbox” main menu.
The audio and video player on the e616V has support for a huge range of file formats, windows media audio and video, MP3, AAC, ASF, MPEG4, MID(I), and 3GPP. The audio files have a little animated picture when being played, and all audio formats supported on the e616V (except MP3 files) can be used as the ring tone.
GPS is supported on this handset, but as “Three” doesn’t support it yet it cannot be used. These are just come of the major features of the e616V, it’s a packed phone!
Although the e616V is a tad on the large side, it isn’t uncomfortable to use in the slightest. It weighs in at 130grams, and 103 x 53 x 26mm. The weight changes whether or not the extended life or standard battery is being used. The design of the e616V is sleek and smooth, no rough edges. The antenna has been inserted into the back of the handset - so the e616V looks very much like the Z600 model from Sony Ericsson; in the internal antenna sense.
Readers who find removable covers extremely hard to remove in some cases will rejoice, as the NEC e616V is one of those handsets whose battery makes up the external part of the phone - there are no removable covers. This allows the larger extended life battery to be inserted without changing covers, and the standard battery sits flat into the handset.
All slots on the e616V are covered in grey plastic to keep dust or other foreign matter out, and this completes the silver design of the phone. The grey stoppers sit perfectly into the handset, and the respectable icons/text labels are imprinted into them.
When opening and closing the hinge clicks into place keeping the handset steady. The main directional/operational buttons have a blue backlight, and are chrome. The numerical keys are clear and sunken into the handset more - and they have a green backlight. All buttons on the e616V are larger than most, so big fingered people won’t have any problems! ;) The only external buttons on the e616V are the volume buttons on the left hand side.
User Interface & display
The e616V is a proprietary user interface environment, but is in some ways similar to the LG U8110/Samsung E700 UI. Once again, the main reason is due to the numbers next to the menus and sub-menus allowing you to jump to an option without scrolling down and selecting it. The main display on the e616V is internal, a huge 176 x 240 pixel TFT LCD able to reproduce 65,536 colours. The sub-display, on the external side of the top flip is monochrome and measures 120 x 30 pixels.
The main internal display acts as the viewfinder for the camera function, and can show the inward facing camera and the outward facing one. The quality of the display is particularly visible when taking pictures; it’s as clear and crisp as the photos the cameras take. The contrast of the e616’s display can be changed, in-between a range of 0 to 20. The wallpaper can be selected from pre-set files installed on the phone, or other files that have been downloaded or transferred to the handset. The LED backlight brightens up the whole display and makes it viewable in any lighting situation. The external display’s contrast can also be changed from the main setting menu. The little display looks very neat and tidy, and the purple & white effect that it has when activated is very trendy. The external display shows the caller ID of an incoming call, or when idle it shows the time and date, battery and reception level, and any other function-related icons.
When idle, the display shows the indicator levels and other icons at the very top of the screen, and the text labels for the soft keys on the bottom. The background shows in-between these, with the shortcut icons on top. The time is displayed in the middle section between the text labels for the soft keys, and the date in small print directly above it. Three dots indicate the options menu key can be used.
To the user interface now; this is displayed in 9 animated icon squares, which come to life when they’re selected. When you are in a menu the battery and reception level, with all other icons is always displayed at the very top - it never goes away. The icons have numbers which can be pressed on the numerical keypad, and the phone will go to that menu. These numbers continue throughout all menus on the e616V’s user interface. The main menus are as follows, the “Contacts” is automatically selected when you open the menu. 1. Phone, 2. Messages, 3. File Manager, 4. Java™, 5. Contacts, 6. Multimedia Centre, 7. External Connection, 8. Settings, and 9. Toolbox. Colour schemes are not able to be applied to the UI, but the colours that are used match up with the external design of the handset well.
If a ‘+’ shows next to a text menu, it means that there are other sub-menus beneath this in the menu-tree. Pressing the select button (the one in the middle of the directional pad) well open up these sub-menus, and so on. The directional keys are used to move the selection from label to label, left and right and up and down. Pressing a directional key when the e616V is idle will start a specified function - the right key will go to incoming calls, the left to missed calls, up and down will display the contact list. There are many more shortcuts available, consult the very large e616V manual for more.
When in the menu, you will notice most functions have a “Link this” label for the left soft key. Pressing this will add a link to the specified function to either the home screen (the shortcut icons in the idle screen), or the Quick Menu which can be accessed when the phone is idle by pressing the option key, and then ‘2’.
Making and receiving calls
The e616V can make and receive video calls, and the normal plain audio calls. Videotalk calls can be made in 3G network zones in most capital cities of Australia, and come countries other than Australia that have 3G networks in place on the 900/1800MHz frequency. With Videotalk you can see the person you’re talking to - bringing new meaning to being close to someone by talking to them. Audio is also transmitted with the video stream.
A Videotalk call can be initiated by dialling in a number or selecting a phone number or e-mail address (for phone to PC Videotalk calls) and then pressing the left selection key, which will read “Vid. Call” in most situations. If not, the green call key and then selecting “Video call” will do the trick. You can choose between whether or not the inward camera or outward camera is used for streaming video, or if you don’t want to stream a live picture at all you can show a picture saved on your handset or MemoryStick Duo. The Videotalk calls can only be made when you are in a 3G network, and the user you’re calling must be on the 3G network in a 3G receptive zone as well. You can check if you’re in the 3G zone by clicking here:
http://www.three.com.au/coverage. Video streaming from the e616V is reasonable, but not as good as the quality from the LG U8110. I had my video set to “Standard,” but it can be set to “better picture,” or “faster movement”. Audio can be muted while in a call, and if you don’t have the headset attached to the handset when you make or answer a video call the handset will route the audio to the speakerphone. A headset is included in the sales package for you to use.
The audio calls can be placed by selecting a number or inputting one, and pressing the green pick up button. The call will then be started, and you can change between the earpiece and speakerphone by pressing the options key and then number ‘8’. Audio quality from the speakerphone was pristine, and likewise from the earpiece. The headset included in the sales package is only mono, a stereo headset would have been convenient.
When a video call comes through, the external display will read the number that is calling, and will flash a little image of a photo frame in the top section, indicating that it is a video call. A normal audio call will also display the phone number will be the only thing displayed. If the handset is open and a video call comes through, the whole screen will show an animation which clearly indicates a video call, and vice versa for audio calls. The status light on the external top flip will light up bright blue when a call is coming through or when it is in place, and flash.
The NEC e616V supports the following messaging formats: EMS, SMS, MMS, and e-mail. E-mail messages can be sent and received from up to two servers, and the EMS/MMS messages can be extra-long, gone are the days where 160 characters was the limit!
MMS messages are supported up to 150kB - but this can be lowered if you wish from the settings menu in the messages folder. MMS messages received on the e616V can contain video files (MPEG4 or other supported video player formats), image files, text, and audio files (MP3, WAV, or other supported audio player formats). Any MMS messages sent from the handset can contain the same data.
SMS and EMS messages can be spread upon more than one message, removing the 160 character limit. EMS messages are able to contain small black and white images like those that were ever-so-famous on old Nokia phones like the 33xx, and monophonic ring tones - as well as text. T9 predictive text (English) can be used to write your messages in SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail messages. T9 is quick and easy way to write your messages.
Up to two e-mail servers are user definable in the e-mail messaging centre on the e616V. You can download and send e-mail messages like you would on a PC or Laptop at home or work. The maximum size of e-mail messages is also 150kB, but this can be lowered if you wish. POP3 and IMAP4 servers are supported, they are the most common protocols used in e-mailing.
The e616V stores SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail messages in the shared memory which is 19mB. Messages can also be stored on the MemoryStick Duo if one is inserted - and the 3G USIM can hold up to 20 text messages.
The e616V is compatible with WCDMA networks, GPRS networks, and can connect to local devices via a data-cable (USB) or Bluetooth connection. WCDMA is the fastest of all four, and is responsible for Videotalk calls and other functions which require a large amount of bandwidth - like streaming video and audio, or large video file downloads from WAP pages.
When a connection to a PC is established, either by the included USB data-cable which plugs into the left side of the phone or a connection via a Bluetooth dongle, applications can pick up the presence of the e616V and transfer files or synchronize. The product CD included in the sales package has all the applications you will need, including the Bluetooth modem driver, file transfer application (OBEX protocol), USB driver, WP-TCP setting application, and IntelliSync software for the NEC e616V. When you have the phone connected to the data-cable and USB port of the computer, you will need to go to the “External Connection” menu on the main menu, select “USB”, and then select the memory type to allow the transfer protocol to look in - either Handset or MemoryStick Duo (not included).
WCDMA supported zones (3G reception areas) will allow data-connection speeds at up to a blazing 384kbp/s. When you’re not in a 3G area, GPRS is available on the e616V so you can roam onto the GPRS service and still access MMS messages, and WAP pages. SMS, audio-calls, and other basic features are also available when you’re roaming out of the 3G reception zone. GPRS will only be able to reach speeds of 48kbp/s - Videotalk calls are only able to be received and started when in a 3G network zone.
This handset from NEC is a little on the large side, but it isn’t a bulky handset - even with the extended life battery which is larger than the standard battery. The handset is well attached in all areas, and doesn’t creak or move around on the hinge at all. It clicks firmly into place when opened and closed - it can’t be faulted on the external side.
One problem I did have was with the numerical buttons which are difficult to press due to their depth into the handset - but that was on the only thing.
The handset measures 103 x 53 x 26mm and weighs 131 grams.
Problem area alert! The battery life of the e616V when the standard battery was in was almost non existent. A full charge of the battery wouldn’t last a full day of normal usage, the battery would die half way through a call or just on standby, and then it will beep if you try and turn it on, telling you that the battery is low and needs a charge.
Luckily, an extended life battery is included in the sales package of the e616V, which is 1380mAh, boosted up from the standard battery which is 780mAh. The extended battery was fine for me, not running out quickly and didn’t take much longer than the standard battery to charge. It’s a wonder why NEC even bothered putting in the standard battery, I’m sure other e616V users would be thinking the same thing.