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[qi:012] A few months ago when I got my hands on the first version of Nokia N95, my initial impression about that phone was less than enthusiastic. A 5-megapixel camera, remarkably solid music playback capabilities, and the ability to make phone calls over WiFi seemingly struck […]

[qi:012] A few months ago when I got my hands on the first version of Nokia N95, my initial impression about that phone was less than enthusiastic. A 5-megapixel camera, remarkably solid music playback capabilities, and the ability to make phone calls over WiFi seemingly struck a chord with everyone but me.

Battery life, lack of U.S. 3G (HSPDA-High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) higher speeds for wireless Internet access, lack of Exchange support left me cold, though those shortcomings and a steep $750 dollar sticker price didn’t stop N95 from being a brisk seller, especially in Europe.

Well, Nokia fans in the U.S. can rejoice – the new N95 is capable of handling U.S. 3G connections, the kind currently being offered by AT&T, is finally making its debut stateside, and you are going to be impressed by the subtle tweaks that come with this new device.

You might remember that I got a glimpse of the new phone on The GigaOM Show, when Blake Krikorian, CEO of Sling Media showed up with what Nokia describes as “multimedia computer.”

I have had the opportunity to play around with an early prototype version of the new 3G-capable N95 for a couple of days, and so far, it has been an experience to remember. It seems someone at Nokia sat down, read through my long list of nagging issues with the N95, and fixed them.

The single biggest improvement is the battery life of the power-hungry device. It also seems to be faster and has more on board memory. The camera on the back of the phone is recessed but that doesn’t seem to have impacted the photo and video quality. Still, I am going to miss the shutter protecting the Carl Zeiss lens.

Did I Say 3G: What I found most impressive about the new N95 was that I could use the phone as a modem and connect to AT&T’s 3G network. The download speed was a nifty 400 kilobits per second when the device was connected over Bluetooth to my MacBook Pro.

The ability to use N95 as a modem was a good enough compensation for the disappointment I felt, when I realized that I couldn’t sync the new version of the device with Apple Address Book and iCal via the iSync module. I guess the next update from Apple should fix this issue. (No such problems when I plugged in the phone to a ThinkPad T61, where the Nokia PC Suite worked flawlessly even over Windows Vista.)

After this point forward, the phone just proved to be a pleasure, though it has been hard to adjust to the 12-key triple-tap-and-type data entry methodology after using the iPhone. I was impressed with the Windows Live search application that comes bundled with the phone, and the tons of games that have been great time-wasters.

VoIP: The phone comes bundled with Gizmo VoIP client and it took less than 30 seconds to set it up, though I could not make it work over the 3G connection for voice calls, and ended up using the WiFi connection instead. The same problems occurred with the Truphone client, though finding WiFi networks is a breeze, thanks to a built-in Wi-Fi finder.

Multimedia Madness: The new devices come with easy access links to Nokia’s new music and gaming portals, though the services were not live during the time I had the phone.

Nokia has also made it easy to watch YouTube videos on the device: the speedy connections actually make that fun when compared to YouTube videos on the iPhone. A video center shortcut on the menu gives access to more video such as Reuters business news, though I had trouble making those particular videos work. You can also add other content such as RocketBoom.

Playing back videos and music has seen marginal improvements. For instance, videos have less jitter and seem more stable, I guess because of a more powerful processor.

Maps Maps & Maps: Nokia bundles its Map application with this device, and over a 3G network it is actually useful and fast. I really like the GPS with 2D/3D views.

There were some nagging issues such as Nokia’s Mail4Exchange didn’t work.

Verdict: Overall, this is definitely a much-needed improvement over the previous (European) version of the N95. If iPhone isn’t your cup of tea, and you’ve got about $750 to spare, then this one is worthy of your time.

Next up is twisting Blake’s arm and getting him to give me a copy of the Sling Player: now that would be something. Meanwhile, I am going to settle in for the night and watch Casino Royale on the tiny screen.

  1. Om,

    This page should lead you to an iSync plugin that Nokia have written for the N95. It works great with my 1st gen European N95, YMMV with this new US model.

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  2. [...] Posted by Josh Kimball on August 29th, 2007 *Big Nokia week: They rolled out an internet services arm called Ovi (which means “door” in Finnish, I guess), they revived the N-Gage, they finally officially announced that they’re opening a music store in key Euro markets, they launched a new music phone, the N81, and their U.S. version of the N95 is getting raves. [...]

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  3. [...] US will get a new more powerful Nokia N95. Though it looks just like the existing N95 it adds a few extras such as more RAM and longer battery life. It also offers 3G support for North American networks. Welcome also to a new N95 with a whopping 8GB of internal memory. Available in tan or black, starting in mid-September for $699–anyone else feel like they just got punched in the gut? Other highlights include a 5 MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics, assisted GPS, etc. Read the hands-on review of the US version N95 at GigaOm HERE! [...]

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  4. sounds great Om but still it comes back to the all important battery lfie when it comes to making constant use of those features…..Not sure if your a fan of WM6 phones but ATT also has a nice HTC variant(8925) coming out next week fully loaded which could compete with the N95

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  5. Should I buy iPhone for 499 and think that I paid 250 less for not having 3G and a powerful camera? I have never used a 3G network so I don’t know how big is the improvement over EDGE network. Only OM can do this analysis and give us some numbers. I feel iPhone has a BIG advantage over all others because of the touch screen but who does not want a fast internet connection on cellphones. Damn why did Apple decide not to have 3G on iPhone.

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  6. The $750 is of course for an unlocked phone, so the comparison to the price of a locked, 2yr contract iPhone isn’t accurate. It is free on Vodafone UK with a 18 month contract for example.

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  7. [...] Gigaom has a reviw of N95 phone. [...]

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  8. I am assuming, I will get my iPhone unlocked, one way or the other :)

    Also, almost every Nokia model sees a price drop. So next year at the same time, N95 will be around 600. iPhone’s price won’t change.

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  9. New N95 Reviewed By GigaOm

    GigaOm founder Om Malik gets a sneak peak at the new Nokia N95 which offers real 3G for USA users and a whole lot more. Technorati Tags: VoIP, Nokia, N95…

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  10. Expected price is in the USD500 range from the other articles I’ve read.

    Given the outstanding warranty repair I’ve gotten on my N770, I’ll definitely take the N95 rather than the Sony/Eric I was considering.

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