12 tips before you buy Nokia N95

135 Comments

n95a.jpgWEEKEND REVIEW: Darla Mack says that the Nokia flagship stores in Chicago and New York are about to start selling the much-awaited Nokia N95 phones. The phone, often described by Nokia executives as the ultimate multimedia computer, is being viewed as one of the most important handset releases for the Finnish phone giant.

There is a considerable interest from phone buyers as well, especially GigaOM readers: 48% of our readers who participated in a poll are holding out for this super-phone. (That alone is a good reason to sacrifice my weekend playing with N95. ;-) and writing this well waaaaayyyyyyyy too long review…)

Is it really what the “computers have become?” Nokia might be overstating the case, but they are moving in the right direction. A twin-slider phone, N95 has all the must have and bleeding features you should expect in a modern phone and some more.

A five-mega pixel camera, a video camera and audio features that can be described as luxurious. The web surfing experience is one of the best on any mobile phone, and there is a lot of under the hood improvements that make you believe that one day we will not lug around laptops.

m95gps.jpgIt is the first Nokia phone with an integrated GPS system, which I am having a tough time trying to get working, so for now I am leaving that one out. I won’t bore you with specs – you can read them on Nokia website.

The quad band phone is expensive and will set you back by about $750. You can buy the phone on the Internet for about $850 or so. So before you rush out, you might want to pay attention to twelve things about this phone, after three days of continuous use.

Physical attributes: It is wider than say Nokia N73 and you would think it would be heavier because all those extra features crammed into the phone. It feels surprisingly lighter, and fits in your palm nicely, despite its rectangular, digital camera type design.

That said, I think the design is boxy and doesn’t break any new ground, despite being a twin-slider. What I found disappointing was the chintzy feel to the phone, which I guess is the price of losing some weight.

Screen: The 240 x 320 pixels, 2.6 inch screen is bright and big, and in horizontal format, it can be used to watch video clips, or type out quick memos using the bundled Quick Office and a Nokia Wireless keyboard. The generous screen size is good for catching up on MLB scores, keeping tabs on GigaOM and checking out Digg.

Voice: If your primary concern is voice quality, the quad band phone gets very enthusiastic thumbs up from me, and it manages to pick up signals even in elevators.

Dialpad: The dial-pad is wide and evenly spaced and feels comfortable when thumbing out those text messages.

mediakey95.jpgNavigation & Media Key: The navigation keypad is also pretty easy to use and is clutter free, though “accept call” and “end call” keys are small. The Media key is finally doing what it says, and opens up a lush interface, which basically lets you navigate through most of the important apps – music player, FM radio, photo gallery and so on.

Camera: If you like taking a lot of photos, and don’t want to carry a separate digital camera, then the point-and-shoot features of N95 should suffice. The Carl Zeiss brand doesn’t really mean anything to me – I go by how the photos look to my naked eye. I find the quality of photos stunning. Camera is simple to use, and the built in Lifeblog software can get the photos to your Flickr account in a jiffy.

n95video.jpg

Video Recorder and Video Playback: I have been using Nokia N73 to do video interviews with Silicon Valley executives, and found that it sufficed my needs. The N95 however is a 2X improvement in video quality with better audio-pick up as well. Nokia has been smart in keeping the user interface consistent so there are no new tricks to learn.

The videos can be played-back on a regular television via a special cable that comes bundled in the box, and the quality of video is adequate, considering the source.

Music Player: This is the single best feature of Nokia N95. The sound quality is stable, smooth and not too loud, yet rich at the same time. Being one of those few who has tried I can safely say that Nokia N95 is their best music phone. Ever!

The big reason for that is the standard headphone jack, which allows me to plug in any one of my Ultimate Ears or Shure headphones/ear plugs. I simply hated the dongle-to-earphone hook-up. With this new standard audio jack, I can plug the headphones right into the phone.

n95music.jpg

When combined with the wired remote, my Shure SE 310 headphones have a new friend, one that would make me leave the iPod nano at home. The 2GB microSD card holds most of my current favorites, though I had to go through the burn-rip-load process. I will dig into the musical options of N95 later.

WiFi and Networking: N95 is one of the most connected devices on the market at present. It has the usual laundry list of connectivity options including Bluetooth and infrared.

While the HSDPA 3G options are pretty much useless to those of us in the US, we can certainly appreciate the mini USB connector (what took Nokia so long to finally support this?) that makes transferring files from your computer to the device a breeze, especially on a Mac.

WiFi is where N95 shines, thanks in part to new software applications that Nokia is bundling with the phone. The home screen of the phone has a WiFi scan option that allows you to easily find and connect to WiFi networks. No mucking around with the connectivity menu and getting the WiFi to to work. Full marks to Nokia for getting this right.

Internet Telephony: I loved the VoIP calling features of N80i, even if I didn’t care for the phone itself. I am glad that the native VoIP support is built into this device. While I have not been able to make it work with my Asterisk set-up just yet, the Truphone app is ready to go on this device.

I got the SIPphone to work as well, by simply copying the set-up from Nokia N80i. My Gizmo account is working, so I guess this feature is getting my personal blessing.

Battery Life: If you are looking for a reason to not spend $750 on a phone, well here is a good reason. The battery on this device simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off. Nokia needs to fix this as quickly as possible otherwise, N95 could become a PR nightmare for them.

Even light email usage and web surfing starts sucking N95’s battery like Nick Nolte hitting the sauce. If you still insist on buying this phone, then buy a few extra chargers and have them littered around your house, office and car.

No Mail 4 Exchange support: And lastly, what I really hate most about this phone is the terrible email support. I don’t care for Nokia’s internal email client. On my N73, E61 and E70, the Mail 4 Exchange software works flawlessly, syncing over the air with our company Zimbra server. No such luck with N95.

You can install the older version of Mail 4 Exchange client, which can sync your contacts, calendars and email, but when you try and open the email, you get an error message: Feature not supported. Other push email clients like Seven’s AlwaysOnEmail client doesn’t work either with this latest version of Symbian S60 operating system.

Your best option right now is RoadSync by Dataviz, but it is going to set you back by about $99. But hey if you are going to spend $750 on a phone, what’s another $99.

Bottomline: Despite all those fancy features, lack of Mail 4 Exchange support and terrible battery life are reasons enough for me to stay away from this so-called Multimedia Computer. A 2 GB micro SD card, $99 for RoadSync, a couple of extra batteries and chargers – you are looking at $1000 in total spend. A four-figure phone…. That’s too much for a gadget freak like me.

PS: I am working on a post: Pimp your N95. If you are interested in sending me your pimp-tips, please email them using the tips form, and don’t forget to give us your name, location and tips.

135 Comments

Tyroga

Just noticed on one site the “160 Mbytes Memory Plus 128 Mbyte MicroSDâ„¢ Memory Card”

Is that true, you guys only got a 128MB card? Here in Australia we received a 1GB card… all that nice memory.

Tyroga

Lovin’ my N95. The GPS and tracking are awesome, though to start with it took a while to get it set-up. In hindsight though had I just left it to do its scanning it would have connected much earlier.

I have even found that newer housing estates here in Australia are found.

The Flickr and Vox integration are pretty cool features too.

Also find that the Podcast and RSS capabilities are a plus. TWiT is even in the Featured podcasts… sweet (I have noted however that Leo seems to have an N95 now).

MoonLover

Great review. This is one of the most informative reviews on N95 i have seen till now.
keep it uP!

Michael Joseph Haddad

Hello! I read this statement from this site stated that “you can buy the nokia n95 phone on the Internet”. But how? What website?

Om Malik

Robert,

have you tried saving it in the playlist format. i think it is either m3u or .pls. that seems to the be format the N95 does understand.

Robert Nicholson

Unlike my N80 if I send myself via b/t an opml file and open it via messaging it doesn’t open in the podcasting application like it did on the N80. It opens in the Notes application and you cannot save it where you can load it via the podcasting application so how to I import my opml file exported from itunes?

Andy Perry

Hi,

I had the battery problem for the first few days. After a few discharge / charge cycles it gets better. Also turn off auto WLAN scanning. As default it scans for WLANs every 2min to 30 seconds, this easts the battery. If you turn this off and just scan when you need to the battery lasts for days even with bluetooth left on.

AP

Mark Korad

…also, should have said earlier. Nokia need to get their act together and put together a proper software package for Macs. Isync is ok, but no match for a proper platform where you can delve in to the handset memory and transfer the files and pic that you want. MK

Mark Korad

Thanks for the review. Some good tips. My major headache is the GPS. It defaults to either Berlin or a place outside Rome! I am in the UK!! I purchased the “extra” Navigation software at the princely sum of £65 ($130) – and have found absolutely no difference to the already installed maps software! Don’t know if I am doing something wrong? Tried Nokia and the software provider, but for some wonderful reason – they have not replied!!
On the battery saga, I leave the b/tooth on, and have found no real issues (I just charge every night). But I have noticed if one makes several long (30 mins or so) calls is sucks the juice quite quickly. Mark K

Sam

got this N95 phone unable to connect to home network. my old N80 connects just fine.
so must be the phone problem as the menu are very similar.
Had it for a week now and never got GPS signal not happy at all with this phone.

KEMARS

I worked for Nokia for 6years in Helsinki, Finland and learned some really good tips about how to get the most out of your multimedia device.

1st: when you get the phone for the first time, DONT START ITUP AND USE IT. place the battery in the device, and with it turned off, plug it in the charger and charge for at least a minimum of 16 hours.. so if you get home in the afternoon from the store, leave it in plugged in till the next morning.

2nd: if you are not using bluetooth connection, leave it off.

3rd: if you are in the USA, dont use DUAL MODE connection type to your network. rather use GSM only. I have visited my family / friends in the San Francisco Bay area with Nokia Test devices several times in the past 3 years using dual mode and 3g does not exist. its always on gsm.

4th: while useing the device, you can set the timeout period where the device shuts off the power to the main screen. by default its 1 minute. you can set it to 30 seconds. that does help a lot in the long run.. trust me on this..

5th: when your using a smart phone (multimedia device) such as a series 60 device, you have to think of it as a mini computer.. like you have a windows based computer in your hand. if you have MS PPT, EXCEL, WORD, and OUTLOOK running the same time, then you decide to start up IE Explorer or Firfox to surf the web, the resources are running constantly and drain the battery life. on the mobile platform its similiar in which you may have running applications in the background that you did not realize you had running. to find out if you have applications running in the background, simply select the MENU button and continue to hold it down until you see a sub menu on the top left hand side that runs vertical down. by default you have the main option of STANDBY always running. if you see other application names there, that could be one issue of why your battery life is not lasting longer than you think.

6th: I used the email client on the s60 3rd edition devices made by nokia and to be honest, if I need to send an email, i will always use a pc connected to a fast internet connection first before using a mobile device. simply put, if i need to send an email on a mobile device, i would rather make the voice phone call to that person first. it would be faster and possibly cheapier than sending it over a traditional gsm (EGPRS / GPRS connection). Though GMAIL client available from GOOGLE works nicely on the s60 3rd edition and using the gmail account via the web works just as nice. ;)

I use my test device every single day during the testing phases (usually 3 to 6 months) and the battery life, using the suggested steps above will improve your opionion on any nokia s60 device as well as make you a bit happier that you made a sound decsion to purchase a Nokia device.

hope this helps a bit an improves your thought about the battery life. =)

Rob from Finland

Johannes

It’s true, the battery life is too short. I’m used to Nokia 3230 and it has even shorter battery life. In practise I have got used to charging my phone almost every night and that doesn’t bother me at all any more. I also learned to use the GPS (external GPS receiver + Navocore maps) with power saving mode (the display is active only when needed). I don’t know about N95, but it seems the display (at least if in brightest mode) is draining the battery very fast if used actively. I guess the battery life will be a problem in iPhone too…

Jester

I totally agree with Om Malik. I was utterly shocked at the battery life! Couldn’t even last half a day although the phone is impressive! If only Nokia could improve on the battery, it will be fantastic!

Steven

Just bought a N95. Like to use free VOIP. Dont know how to get it working. Is there any help available?

Markus Goebel's Tech News Comments

Crippling the Nokia N95 might be the right move…

UK mobile carriers are disabling VoIP on the N95. Most of my Nokia calls are free VoIP. Seeing my low costs for mobile and desk phone I understand the suffering of the incumbents and mobile carriers. But thatÂ’s just the payback for the former yearsÂ’ …

sachin sharma

i was planning on waiting for the iphone but then i remembered:-

  • Apple have never released a mobile phone why will this one work?

  • All apple products tend to break easily ive had 2 ipods both broken, one mac pc which is broken and an ibook which is also broken

  • Apple aslo have bad batterys which was proved in the ipods

So at the end of the day i decided to stick with the only mobile phone providers which are tried and tested

Bawaji

SE phones are way better in terms of photos and sound quality of speakers. Nokia’s speakers suck and so does the camera. My K750i shoots much better pictures at a 2MP resolution than the N95 does at 5MP resolution. More megapixels does not always mean better quality of shots. And the battery of my K750i lasts me about 3 days with some camera usage and about 1 hour of mp3 playback (using HPM-70 headphones) every day along with a about 20 mins Bluetooth usage also.
Nokia’s quality really sucks on these N-series phones. I had actually used an N93 and was exceptionally disappointed with the picture quality considering the 3.2 MP and carl-zeiss lens.

links for 2007-04-11 at Framtider.net

[…] GigaOM: 12 tips before you buy Nokia N95 “we can certainly appreciate the mini USB connector /…/ that makes transferring files from your computer to the device a breeze, especially on a Mac.” “The battery on this device simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day.” (tags: nokia n95 mobiltelefoner mobilitet batteri recension fakta gigaom om_malik) […]

Gizmodo

FrankenHaiku: Nokia N95…

In their initial press release, Nokia called their N95 “what computers have become.” It wasn’t just a new phone, or even a new smartphone. The N95 was the evolution of the computer. In short, we were reading PR poetry. And……

Digital Tech News

Nokia N95 Device Released in the U.S….

The Nokia N95 all-in-one multimedia computer device has started selling in the United States at Nokia Flagship stores, online and through select wireless retailers at a suggested retail price is $749. The n95 is already available in Europe, the Middle…

How To Shoot Your World-Beating Mobile Phone In The Foot at MobHappy

[…] Om Malik: Battery Life: If you are looking for a reason to not spend $750 on a phone, well here is a good reason. The battery on this device simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off. Nokia needs to fix this as quickly as possible otherwise, N95 could become a PR nightmare for them. […]

Johanna

That’s weird, I have never had a problem with battery on my N95. Maybe the one you got is a lemon?

Loved the review, helped me a lot – especially since this device has SO much stuff on it it’s hard to keep it all straight in my mind.

Jason

Just a quick note on the Exchange support: The price for RoadSync was reduced from $99 to $49. Might help make the N-Series phones a more reasonable option for those who need support for Exchange.

Reg

Sounds interesting, and being outside the US where (1) my product of choice is not available, and (2) we have great 3G / HSDPA availability, I will probably get the N95 to use until (1) becomes true.

And what is that (1) I speak of? Well the iPhone of course, which unlike Nokias phone will sadly come to the US first.

Gizmodo have a set of 50 pictures of the N95’s UI. It looks adequate and moderately appealing, in a bank check number font kind of way (Nokia’s fonts have always struck me as oddly formed).

But comparing it to the pics and videos of the iPhone’s interface over at apple.com/iphone is like comparing chalk and cheese.

If the iPhone is just half as good as its previews suggest, my N95 will be on eBay within a week of it coming to my country.

Comments are closed.