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

Kevin

Om, excellent review. Thanks. Bought a US phone from a Toronto dealer two weeks ago and I’m blown away by what I can do with just one tiny device!

Yes, with all these functions, the battery does not last long. It’s NOT something Nokia can fix, it is physics. If you’re waiting to buy an N95 until after this issue is ‘fixed’, don’t look to Nokia, but to a new generation of battery development.

Do what I do and you’ll have few issues: buy a second battery, charge the fully discharged battery overnight and then put the partially discharged battery from the day before back in until it is FULLY discharged and repeat the next day.

I bought an oversized mobile belt pouch that fits the second battery alongside and my Bluetooth earpiece in the space at the end. Problem solved, no wait for new generation battery breakthrough required.

Re: “I can’t get things to work” — read the manual or call your carrier for support. It’s not brain surgery.

Karthik Sundaram

Om: will the N95 support a Blackberry service from T-Mobile and deliver push email?

Thanks, Karthik

W.J.DEYZEL

GOT MY N95 FOR ONE WEEK NOW. DON`T KNOW HOW TO SETUP THE GPS.BATTERY LAST FOR THREE DAYS WITHOUT MUCH USE.

tony

The Nokia N95 is coming out within the next 2 months, and is going to be carried by Cingular Wireless/AT&T. No details on pircing as of yet.

Jaguar

To the BMW with Harmon Cardon.Some would like to listen to music on the phone,because not every one has X5 and Harmon cardon,you moron!!!

Jan Eklind

I dropped my N95 from the bed 20″ or 50 cm to the floor where the charger was, the screen got crushed / broken. Nokia says not covered by warranty. This will cost me 1750 swedish crowns ca 250 us$ to get fixed. I paid 7700 SEK for the phone including a 1 GB memory card.
Not very happy and wonder, was I very unlucky?

Pierre

Great phone – if it works in South Africa – it should work anywhere in the world! HaHa Got the GPS, Internet mail – on our own pop3 server, internet, all working within minutes – it even has our street adress! something my BMW X5 with its 2006 maps does not have in! I think you guys are being overly critical about a great phone – please show me a better more functional phone – I use the GPS, Camera, e-mail extensively – on the road all day long – and have a usb power adapter that connects to my laptop… carl zeiss lens – brilliant image quality – 3G superfast at 1.8mbps -and – I’ve connected it to my Linux PC – come on guys! If you want incredible battery life get a motorola F3 it lasts for 5-6 days – but then again it can only make and receive calls! Personally the best phone I’ve ever bought (in SA at a premium of $1100) and I’ve had them all – 9110, 9210, 6680, 8800,p910, 6320, — Oh can it play music? Who cares – my X5 has a Harmon Kardon – why on earth would I listen to my phone?

Gurminder

Hi I am using N95 for 1 month. It is amazing fone I have been ever used. Battry life is not such bad as mentioned in above reviews. I charge it after 2-3 days without much usage. But If we will use phone whole day like clicking photos, music, gmames then every device needs more battay life. In Short N95 is ultimate device from NOKIA.

Edwin

Unfortunate about the battery. Hope Nokia solves this problem. I use a Blackberry and it is set for the GPRS to be always on so I can receive my push emails. If messaging is the key factor, the poor email and battery life will be the biggest put off for me. Think I’ll stick to my blackberry for the time being.

Colin

All the comments on battery life remind me of people who drive a Rolls Royce and then moan about petrol consumption. The best phone I have owned or seen and what’s more every last feature works a treat in the backwater of South Africa. The HSDPA is awesome. The GPS stunning. I will keep it thanks.

Claude

I believe the N-series might be Nokia’s Enron. In South Africa, even simple people (non-computer/gadgets people) all agree that the N-series are pure rubbish. (I believe they’re being unkind… I think that the design team was simply on drugs when they were designing these phones). The N80 must be the worst phone I have ever owned. It periodically loses signal, the WIFI does’nt work, the SMS and general interface font is designed to be read with binoculars, most of all being a mini-computer, the user cannot adjust the font-size (just a few of it’s problems)… you had to be on drugs to not have forre-sight about this all important facet. So, to the N95: it is my belief that what we put out today, will always be reflected in what we put out tomorrow, unless of course we replace every staff member from board members down. Since this is not the case at Nokia, I have to say that while it all sounds good, so it also sounded with the N80… till I bought and had to use it. So N95… no thank you. In fact, no more Nokias of any kind in my life… till they change all the staff members… at least, the whole R & D team.

Joe

The Nokia N95 is one of the best mobiles i have used, Had it for over a month now i like everything about it …

The Battery Life Thingy is a pain sometimes though >.>

Good Thing i have my chargers everywhere lol …

But other then that its a great mobile device

Aloha

Are you referring to multitasking here. the small circle that is on the top of an application when it is running on the background.
For instance if you remove an application, a little “poop” is left as the remnant of that application. go figure.Om Malik on April 8th, 2007 at 6:53 AM –

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!

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