The Nokia N95
To the person in the elevator, I’d describe the Nokia N95 Multimedia computer as a Swiss army knife of personal entertainment and connectivity. From the college-student to the Internet content creator to the business professional, the Nokia N95 will keep you in touch with your peeps and will entertain you all along the way. The N95 I was able to review (and sadly have to send back) is the North American version. This is an update to the N95-1 that supported the 3G networks in Europe. The new N95 has support for the US 3G network (AT&T HSDPA),more RAM, and a larger battery. The price is steep at around $600. This phone is not subsidized by any carrier, which is a good thing! I’ll post about that on a later blog entry, but basically by not bowing to pressure from US carriers such as AT&T or T-Mobile, Nokia delivers a phone that doesn’t have any features locked out.
At First Glance
Out of the box, you can tell Nokia took a lot of time in designing the N95 to wow the customer. The phone has a dual-sliding action, one side revealing the numeric keypad and the other side featuring the media controls. The gorgeous 2.6″ QVGA display is good but not great, and the screen is easily visible in direct sunlight. The phone is great to handle and has a rubberized back side that makes this phone impossible to slip out of your hand. With so many features loaded into the N95, you’d expect it to be heavy and bulky. But not so, the phone is a little thick but overall feels great in your pocket or in your hand.
First and foremost, this is a standard quad-band GSM cellular phone. And as a basic phone, the Nokia N95 is outstanding. Call quality is fabulous both to me and the people I talk to. I used this phone on T-Mobile USA and AT&T and on my end people sounded clear and crisp. When asked how I sounded, callers couldn’t tell I was on a mobile phone. There was a slight high pitched noise for me while on a call, but it didn’t detract from the conversation at all. The address book is logically put together and allows for easy classification of my contacts. This phone had awesome battery life, even when using the advanced features such as GPS, data, and the camera. I was able to go 2-3 days between charges with moderate to heavy use. Minimalist battery life was a major complaint of the original N95.
It might be take less time to describe what the phone can’t do as opposed to what it can do. Lets start with hardware. The N95 features full fledged Bluetooth 2.0 including support for A2DP; meaning it supports full stereo headphones and Bluetooth headset for making calls.
Wi-Fi (802.11G) is built in, allowing for you to easily switch between cellular data and uber-fast wifi for all connectivity. Downloading VoIP clients such as Gizmo Project or fring will allow you to make cheap or free calls when in range of a wi-fi hotspot or on a 3G data connection. I wish the N95 was a little more transparent with it’s ability to use wi-fi or the cellular data connection. The iPhone excels at this, making the hop between the two types of connections.
GPS – this one is huge. The N95 comes with Nokia Maps installed which utilizes the on-board GPS. It downloads the maps as needed and is available for many geographic locations including North America, Europe, and more. It is so great in a pinch to be able to use the GPS to find your way, a nearby restaurant, or other type of business based on where the phone is located. I can’t say how many times I used the GPS to find my way when lost, even in areas where I knew the roads. At times it takes a while for the GPS to lock on to satellites, but once connected it does a great job of staying locked on and tracking my position.
The N95 also features a high quality 5-megapixel digital camera that also shoots VGA quality video at 30 frames per second. As a person who has long had a digital camera built into my mobile phone, I thought I wouldn’t use the camera feature on the N95 very much. However the picture quality is so good; I was constantly reaching for the N95 to take some great quality digital photos and videos. With the capability to add Micro-SD cards, your storage is almost limitless. My main complaint about the camera is that when you zoom in, the picture quality suffers greatly. I’m assuming this is because the zoom is merely a digital one, meaning it only enlarges the existing pixels. Also as expected, video capture when zoomed in to any degree is almost illegible. The N95 can take video at 30 frames per second which is fantastic.
The Nokia N95 shines as a media playback device and supports virtually all audio and video media types. The screen can be viewed either in landscape or portrait mode. In landscape mode, the 2.5 inch widescreen display shows tv and movie media in wide-aspect mode. The screen is a little small, but perfect for one person to view a quick tv show or video podcast. I downloaded some beta software from Nokia to be able to push media from my Mac onto the N95. It wasn’t as seamless as using an iPod with iTunes, but wasn’t too difficult at all. I had podcasts and music from iTunes on the N95 in a snap and was off to the races rocking with my tunes and media.
The N95 can also be used to output video and audio to a TV. An amusing part of my review was when I plugged headphone into the 3.5 mm jack, the N95 asked me if the new device being plugged in was 1) headphones, 2) TV-Out Cable, or 3) a Music Stand. Pretty cool. The speakers that are onboard the N95 sound awesome (for mobile phone speakers) and in a quiet room you can definitely use them to play your podcast or music.
The Nokia N95, because it boasts the Symbian S60 operating system, is stellar at messaging. You can open Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents and the N95 does a great job of formatting these types of documents for the N95’s screen. Also the N95 supports IMAP4, POP2, and SMTP e-mail accounts. Microsoft Exchange users will be happy to know the N95 will support Microsoft Exchange Server synchronization, giving you access to your company’s email system.
As stated above, call quality was impressive on the Nokia N95 MultiMedia computer. However it should be noted that the device feels a bit sluggish at times. I’m not sure if it is because the N95 lacks in hardware or if Symbian is a sluggish application stack, but there is a noticable lag when you hit a key or especially when trying to launch the camera to take a photo. Also, when loading media there is an annoying lag that can’t be missed.
There are a few caveats (as there are with ANY electronic device), but overall the Nokia N95 is the best mobile phone on the market and the best phone I have ever used. I have tried many different types of phones including Treos, Motorola Windows Smartphones, BlackBerrys and more. I have to say the Nokia N95 packs so many features and ties them all together that it makes my head spin. There are so many uses for this phone that it pains me to have to send the review unit back.
No matter if you are a business user, Internet content creator, or high school student; the N95 is a great platform to stay connected with your friends, co-workers, and family. The openness of the Nokia/Symbian platform means you can do virtually anything with your phone that you want. There are many 3rd party applications for Symbian and the list grows every day.
Apple has drawn criticism because the iPhone is a great piece of hardware and with the right software it is capabale of so much. Imagine being able to use an application like Skype to make VoIP calls or being able to use an IM client on your iPhone. With the N95 you can do this already. Gizmo Project is built into Symbian and there are many IM clients available for free download (not to mention countless other tools). You can take great looking video with the N95 or shoot awesome photos and directly upload them to the web without having to hook up and sync with your PC. This upload can happen either by wi-fi or the cellular network.
I would whole-heartily suggest the N95 to my friends. The steep cost is made up for in features and openness.
What are your thoughts?