Testing the new Nokia Email Service

Nokia has launched the public beta of its new email service. The email client on my Nokia E61 is very weak for a purportedly messaging and enterprise device. Maybe Nokia finally got it right this time.

Nokia wants your password

I start the sign-up process easily enough from the new email.nokia.com site. You are asked to choose your phone from the supported models. It looks like a relatively small subset of S60 Edition 3 handsets from the past 2 years. Next is step is introducing your email address. OK. Then your password. OK… Oh wait what?

It turns out this is not a hosted service. It peeks into your existing account! Nokia is trying to pull a Blackberry-like trick here. Fair enough, but for testing purposes I am going to use an empty email account before I decide to trust my main email account to the service.

SSL? What is SSL?

Next the service tries to auto discover the email server and fails. After a long while the page loads and asks you for your IMAP/POP3 details. Why it couldn’t do that from the beginning?

SSL IMAP doesn’t appear to work, the form keeps telling me it cannot access the account. Since I am using Google Apps for Domains I enable the other choice, SSL POP3. Which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work either.

It appears that the service either doesn’t support SSL access to email servers, or that the setting is not exposed during account creation.

Back to square one

At this point it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to use Google for Domains, so I had to create yet another account, this time on Gmail proper, under the reasoning that Nokia wouldn’t be so stupid to leave out one of the most popular email services ever. Except, of course, for the little comment about not supporting Hotmail…

This time it worked, and never prompted for any additional server details. My guess is that Nokia is hardcoding internally this info for Gmail users. I complete the account creation process and in one minute I receive the SMS with the link. Yes, a SMS with a link, not a WAP-PUSH. Cheap Nokia.

The cheapness continues with the site it loads. The page is being loaded with the “Services” browser so the site can read the model information from the User-Agent header. And they asked me earlier my handset model. Yet the page is asking me again to choose a download link depending on my handset model.

The download goes fast (1.7MB) and starts the installer. Everything is autoconfigured and in the end it just asks for the password.

Not so good, not so bad

The application appears to be divided in modules. This probably keeps memory requirements low but introduces some pauses while navigating the interface in my lowly E61. In the settings pane I notice that apparently my mail is going to be pushed. I really hope this is not like the incredibly bad IMAP IDLE support the built-in client features.

I send an email to my test account, and within 10 seconds it is displayed in the phone. Fantastic, working push email. To test it further I mark the message as read from the Gmail interface, and then archive it. The emaill app in the phone keeps it in the inbox as unread. This could be a design decision or just Nokia not wanting to push metadata. Either way it’s just an small detail.

The data session is being kept open so I guess it is using a keepalived TCP connection, like Microsoft Exchange Push. To test it I close the data session and send another email. It arrives to the Gmail account but it is nowhere to be seen in the handset. After a minute the data session is opened again with no intervention on my part. But the email is not here. I have to go and select the Sync icon to make it appear. I try it again, waiting this time for much longer. As before the data session is opened again in under a minute but the email doesn’t show up. 5 minutes later is still not here. I decide to try to send another email without closing the data session this time. It arrives in ten seconds, and at the same time the undelivered, unpushed one arrives too.


Looks like the quest for robust non-Blackberry, non-Microsoft push email continues. IMAP IDLE is here and well supported, now all we need is an email client that doesn’t crap out the moment the connection goes out and is able to reopen it.