17.12.2014 18:51

Nokia E90 serving 2014 purpose

Nokia E90 is one of the last Nokia devices from the family of communicators with the Symbian OS produced in 2007. Could this device serve its purpose in 2014? Well this article is written in Dedit on it.

Old crap

What could be the motivation to use such a device? I am stil looking for a device to replace my aging HP Jornada 720. Why? My Jornada is starting to have serious problems with the display, it does not have a suitable web browser, WinCE could not use wireless - main problem is missing encryption, its operation system is in ROM and can not be fixed, it has no support for utf8, have troubles typing accented letters (while still can switch keyboard layouts - this is great), booting a familiar linux is painfull and gui buggy and slow (console is fine, but that's it), audio becomes noisy. Few years ago I bought Sony Vaio P - this device is perfect for fast work in the field, in places where there is not too much space etc. however it boots too long (10-20s is too much for a quick look or writing notes), suspend is unusable as is sucks battery too fast, its battery is starting to be main problem as it does not last an hour, always when I need it, its empty.

You may think of why not to use a newer Android device? First I definitely prefere hardware keyboard as I type without looking on the screen, sometimes even a keyboard just mechanically. Jornada has a great keyboard, it could be one row narrower (something like the greatest psion mx5) it is a full featured keyboard, vaio is definitelly too wide for fast type in hands (both could be 10 finger typed thou). Androids with a hw keyboard are nowhere to be found in Europe, just old or second hand US devices. Second reason is I do not like the Android much with all its googleness.

Symbian software

For that reason I picked up old E90 in a bazar for few "bucks". Now is it worth it? Most of those devices I saw were heavilly weared out. This means they were used alot. It has most of the function that may be needed today like wifi, umts, bluetooth, gps... And it's running Symbian, that may be a kind of supported. Is it? Not much. Nokia stores with apps vanished, what you find on the net is old and is trouble to install for two reasons

1. There is a mess of Symbian versions. this is one of the reasons led to Symbian death - there are various series, revisions, for each you need a different package.

2. Signing - packaged are signed sometimes. You can enable installation of packages without signature, but as soon as package is signed it has to be valid - and it is valid only for a certain time. If you want to install such a package, then you have to change device time to timeframe the cerificate is valid, otherwise it refuses to install either as "Certificate is not valid yet" or "Certificate expired". This really is a pain to install anythig, as thre is no easy way to find the valid time frame of the certificate.

Microsoft was especially precise in removing all downloads and redirected them to new products you are not interested in.

Also the amount of usable packages is decreasing as most people leave this platform. Still the hw keyboard makes a difference, especially when correcting mistakes - the hw cursor is a must. Typo fixing is today substituted by text recognition etc. - I'd rather have a typo than a "correct" word completely out of context.

The menu design and setups are weird to me, it has maybe some Finish logic or somethig but to find some things like deleting wlan is not easy, up to now I did not found how to do some things easy in normal operating system (keyboard layout anywhere to switch?).

Keyboad keyboard

How goes the typing on hw keyboard? It is not bad, but superior neither. Keyboard is hard to press, missing keys or symbols (special key Chr hides them), keys are nice in design but hard to distinguish by finger, eventhou not completely flat. It is hard to write on it for a long time, you can only thumbtype, 10finger typing I consider impossibe. I've got a device with my mother tongue letters, which is advantage as I do not know how I would write them on english one. There are many phone keyboards out there, so what matters most at the end is how fast you can get used to it. E90 is fine in that you get used to it quickly.

Display and browser

Display could be bigger, resolution is ok for most of the work, ssh and pine are very good with putty for symbian. E90 is missing a touch screen, I do not understand that, but e.g. browsing is surprisingly usable without it but not that fluent as one may be used to on modern devices. On the other hand you do not need to worry about accidental display touches moving your cursor away and starting some gesture feature. Web pages are loaded in mobile devices mode and kind of slow, but is still acceptable. Painfull is a management of certificates as sites with a self issued certificates are constantly asking for confirmation... It should be possible to manually import them in DER format.

Of course there is a second display for the phone functions. This is the "old" one with a display that is visible even it is not backlit so there is a good chance one could read it in the sunlight too.

Battery lifetime is still a question to me. Batteries are however easy to find and are replacable, looks like nokia tried to share batterie between devices - this would be great. Charger is 5V/890mA but has a Nokia tidimidi connector, will try to make usb "reduction". E90 has a mini usb that could be used to access the microSD card as a mass storage device or with Nokia sync but not for charge. UMS works under Linux.

The old battery produced 2007 is giving two days or hard work - writing and wifi, no SIM.

There is a headset hole too but again with some weird size, normal 3.5mm jack is too big. It's 2mm nokia charger and 2.5mm headset/phone. For the headset you can buy a reduction to 3.5mm.

GPS and maps

Holy shit. Installing Nokia Ovi 3.01 puts you in a license hell for the product that is not supported anymore licensefree 3.03 is not for E90. Orignal maps installed are at least somewhat free but very hard to use, slow too.



You can make backup of phone from Tools/Memory/Options/Backup phone memory, this produces file on the external SD card that is in Backup/Backup.arc, however this is not an ARC archiver file. This is some Nokia proprietary format, the closest is the NBU. There is Windows app NbuExplorer that needs .NET. However it can be started on Linux using mono,

mono NbuExplorer.exe

Then open the .arc file. It gave me some error but at least shows some file in the archive.

Updates (10/2016)

As of January 2016 MS closed most of the services for Symbian phones - read this article. The only source that left is described here. I had no luck to find my 0550303 product firmware anywhere. I.e. the product from 2010 is now stuck where it is.


Dedit good simple editor and putty as a ssh client software for Symbian S60v3 needs system date cca 13.05.2009.
X-plore file manager, jbaktaskman advanced task manager
QuickOffice 6 first install SecMan (10.12.2008) and disable security checks
Opera for Symbian S60

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