Nokia N95 assessment

Jabber on my N95

I got a first-generation Nokia N95 two months ago. The Gadget Show rated it better than the iPhone in pure functionality. Ben Ward (and his commenters) have had some really serious problems, so I thought I’d give a hopefully more balanced view.

With that in mind, I’ve had a mobile phone for the last ten years and my favourites have all been Nokias which means that I’m very, very familiar with the Symbian OS. Thanks to JimH I was on the Early Access trial of Python for S60. All of this serves to show that I like to think I’m balanced but I’m probably not :)

Executive summary: The Nokia N95 is a great phone, but terribly terribly slow. If you get one, buy the newer Nokia N95 8GB which has a bigger screen, better battery life and obviously more memory.

I’ve now upgraded the firmware and the whole device is much, much snappier, including the previously ponderous camera

The good

The integrated WiFi means that I now use the podcasting support above texting, phonecalls, calendaring and taking photos. But it’s a poorly integrated application; for example the bundled WebKit-based browser supports RSS subscriptions but this list is separate from your podcast subscriptions and items are not interchangeable. This means it is very difficult to browse to a site which provides podcasts and then subscribe in a suitable application (the best route seems to be copy and paste of the URL). You can at least import and subscribe to an OPML file so you’re best off maintaining the list online somewhere, perhaps using something like del.icio.us and an rss2opml converter.

The TV-out is great and actually useful given the native mp4 support and free xvid player available.

Running Apache on your mobile phone is super-cool and would open some interesting possibilities if it didn’t murder your battery life.

Python support is good and getting better all the time. Most of the phone’s functions are available to scripts, making it quite straightforward to hack your phone, provided you can set up a decent develop/deploy/test cycle

My 3-branded X-Series N95 came with Skype and MS Live Messenger and a simple menu layout.

If you hurled it at someone hard enough, you could probably kill them.

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but…

The bad

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but slow beyond belief and pushes it very almost beyond utility.

As with most Nokia phones in the past five years they seem to have too many hardware designers. As Russ says, the dual-direction slide is a gimmick and the media buttons should be elsewhere. They would have had room for them if they hadn’t had so many redundant buttons on the existing design. When the slide is open for normal use and including the keypad, there are twenty-nine buttons available. Twenty-nine! I never even use one of the largest two (about which Russ says The “media key” is stupid and the media menu is stupid)! I say this every time, but Nokia need to drastically rethink their button strategy.

Connecting the phone to your PC via mini-USB does not charge it.

Some of Ben’s other criticisms are valid:

  • the “notes” app can’t be synced. The phone comes with no other text viewer or editor.
  • changing between profile and landscape views aren’t accelerometer based, despite there being one
  • the gallery application is a step backwards from the previous version found on devices like the 6630 (presumably because of the increased size per photo)

The indifferent

The GPS has been variable for me. Sometimes I get a fix within 30 seconds, othertimes it takes up to five minutes, which is clearly useless. Nevertheless, as a first-generation device with this functionality it makes a good first pass with excellent application support where the location will default back to that of the cell ID you’re connected to.

The iPhone has quite good overall usability, most other phones suck at usability and I’ve certainly got used to it.

Other criticisms seem to be unfounded:

  • text recipients can be chosen by typing their name in, you don’t have to browse
  • I can’t find a place outside of third-party apps where the number pad can’t be used for navigation
  • Each entry in the missed call list has an option “use number” which appears to reflect the number which called
  • the battery life is more or less what I’d expect from a handheld device running bluetooth, GPS, Wifi a digital camera and a phone.

There is a brand-new firmware release out today which claims to solve a number of these problems, but it requires you to completely wipe the internal memory and reinstall all your apps and reconfigure your phone. As one of the commenters on the AllAboutSymbian article says Imagine having to do a complete re-install every time Microsoft released a Service Pack. Eugh.

5 thoughts on “Nokia N95 assessment

  1. Are you going to redo the review using the latest firmware?
    GPS fix in under 30 secs – usually under 15 secs, faster camera, faster everything, more available memory, demand paging – the list goes on!
    Also – nokia release firmware a couple of times a year so its not that big a deal reinstalling apps. At least they provide a backup/restore tool which restores settings, contacts and calendar easily.

  2. When you install a new firmware (V20 actually), you can perform a backup either on your PC or (my case) on your SD card. As a matter of fact, I dont loose any data in the process. Some applications (Papyrus, Google Maps) needed to be re-installed, but not that much. And the V20 firmware really rocks!

  3. I have heard a lot of good things, so I guess I’ll take the time to note down all the apps I’ve installed and want to keep and do the upgrade.

    Of course, I’m not on Windows which is a requirement I’ll have to deal with.

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