By definition, the Nokia Communicator is a brand name for a range of business-centric mobile phones. Traditionally, they wore a clamshell form factor, allowing them to be used as ordinary phones in closed mode and as palmtop computers when opened up. The earliest of Nokia’s Communicators were the fore-runners of today’s smartphones.
I wasn’t available when Nokia launched the first Communicator, the 9000, way back in 1996. That was because GSM mobile technology did not arrive on our shores till 2001. But I can tell you that it was a case of love at first sight. That clamshell form factor simply had me hooked from the word Go.
Nokia 9210i Communicator
My very first Communicator was the 9210i. It was a big guy (fondly referred to as a brick), but beautiful-looking in its day. It ran Symbian OS v6.0 (Series 80), an ARM processor clocked at 66 MHz, 8MB RAM, and 40MB internal memory. It also had an external memory slot, a 4096-colour 640×200 LCD internal screen, and mobile data was via CSD (Circuit Switched Data = GSM DialUp internet).
Those specs look lean; right? Yes; but the 9210i was far ahead of most devices of the day. It had no competitor.
Oh, and believe it or not, the 9210i had Flash 5 support for the web browser.
Nokia 9500 Communicator
The 9500 ran Symbian OS v7.0 (also Series 80 like all previous Communicators), an ARM processor clocked at 150 MHz, and 64MB RAM. It also had an external memory slot, a 4.5-inch, 640×200 pixel, 65,536-colour TFT internal screen, and mobile data was via CSD, GPRS, and EDGE.
I remember also that it had fax facilities built-in. I subscribed to a fax service that Glo was offering back then and was able to send and receive fax directly on my 9500.
The built-in Web browser was a Nokia-branded version of Opera and was one of the very first mobile web browsers to render HTML Web pages.
Nokia E90 Communicator
The E90 was the first communicator to run Symbian Series 60 (and many of us who enjoyed the greater depth of Series80 were totally disappointed), an ARM processor clocked at 330 MHz, and 128MB RAM. It also had an external memory slot, a 4-inch, 800×352 pixel, 16 million-colour TFT internal screen, and UMTS and HSDPA were onboard for mobile data this time.
The Nokia E90 was the first Communicator to spot a top-range camera. The camera performance was very close to that of the top cameraphone of the day, the Nokia N95.
Like lots of other Series 60 devices of the time, the E90 also had BlackBerry support via BlackBerry Connect (now discontinued).
After the E90 Communicator, Nokia made the first move to transition the Communicator range from clamshell to QWERTY slider with the E75. Honestly, I did not buy the idea. The E75 simply did not fit the mold – and in my opinion, it did not deliver.
The E75 ran Symbian OS 9.3, S60 3rd Edition (Feature Pack 2) with a 396 MHz processor, a 240×320 pixel, 2.4-inch display (excuse me?) and a 3 MP camera with LED flash. If I accept the E75 as a Communicator, I must state here boldly that it was the most frustrating one that I ever used till date.
It just felt under-powered and under-whelming all the way. A Communicator? I think not.
Nokia E7 – the New Age Communicator
With the E7, we are looking at Symbian^3, a 680 MHz ARM 11 processor and graphics processor. There’s a superb 4-inch CBD AMOLED capacitive touch display with multitouch, and every modern connectivity option in the book. Nokia claims that the E7 has the best QWERTY keyboard they have ever put on a Communicator. So far, I haven’t had a reason to argue that point, though that claim needs investigating.
The Nokia E7 is here now and I have found it to be a very sexy device. Without doubt, it is the smallest and sleekest, yet the most powerful Communicator ever.