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If You Want To VoIP, Wait Before You Buy Nokia N96

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Nokia has released its new N-Series phone, the N96, in Europe. It’s like the Swiss army knife of phones — a very expensive Swiss army knife — in that it does a lot of things, except one: It won’t allow you to make VoIP calls. Apparently some of the more well-known VoIP services, such as Fring and Truphone, will eventually work on this device that costs nearly $1,000 (550 euros + tax), but for now they don’t.

Asterisk users who might be looking to hook up their phone systems to this device via Wi-Fi may be out of luck as well. But let’s be positive, for someday in the near future, popular VoIP services will work on the device; after all, Nokia and its sidekicks claim as much.

In the meantime, here’s what the N96 does offer:

1. Live TV via DVB-H in Europe.
2. 2.8-inch display to watch movies and 3-D stereo speakers to listen to the soundtrack. It can store up to 40 hours of video, supports all common video formats such as MPEG4, Windows Media and Flash Video.
3. 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a flash. It captures videos as well, making it a good tool to replace a dedicated video camera. It is easy to capture short and on-the-go videos with this device.
4. GPS, radio, Wi-Fi, 3G (European), something called N-Gage gaming, and more.
5. 16 GB memory that can be boosted with a 8GB memory card. (Sandisk is selling these for really low prices.)

These features are nice, but the problem is that in order to use them, you still need to go through many menus and press quite a few buttons. I get very frustrated with S60 phones these days, especially because Apple’s iPhone has shown me a better way to get to all these applications. Nokia, despite its grand vision of a mobile data planet, is unfortunately still looking at the world in an old-fashioned way.

Nokia’s N96 prompts me to ask the question: Where is Nokia’s touchscreen response to the iPhone? Samsung, LG and even tiny HTC have rolled out their versions of touchscreen devices. Sure, they aren’t very good, but at least they’re trying. Sony Ericsson today announced a new “panel” approach for its Xperia device — a strategy that reminds me of the iPhone dashboard.

It has been over a year since the iPhone was launched, and Nokia still doesn’t have anything new to show except for some videos. Sign of a company that is, well…yes, I’m just going to say it…too bureaucratic. Either that or they’ve decided to adopt the ostrich approach to competition.

12 Responses to “If You Want To VoIP, Wait Before You Buy Nokia N96”

  1. The small battery, comparatively high price and cripple VoIP are all criteria that make the N96 much less attractive. Also, despite being announced with fanfares in Barcelona at the beginning of this year, it has still not made it out into the retail channel.

    Comparing the N96 with the E71 is an interesting exercise; the E71 *IS* available now (in both European and NA models), is considerably cheaper and has a HUGE battery with commensurate working time. The E71 has fully functional SIP VoIP and push e-mail, coupled with a very pleasing form factor with a very useable full QWERTY keypad.

    I suspect that the E71 will sell in very large numbers; the N96 (when it eventually arrives) probably will not!

  2. @glu

    I agree with you that nokia needs those early adopters to keep the momentum going for these expensive devices. i think it be interesting to see how it shakes out. as a company they have some good ideas but execution is slow. I mean they want to compete in internet time, unfortunately their processes are still from another era. I have experienced it and the iPhone is one of those devices that can cause them problems of perception. I got Truphone working on an iPhone and that’s it. The N-series is sitting in a drawer somewhere without much usage. It used to be my big reason to carry a N95.

  3. Well said Didi…

    One of the reasons SE has taken so long with the Xperia is to get the UI right – typically one of the biggest complaint/problem area for WinMo devices. I had an opportunity to see a demo unit – definitely waiting… No other device comes close.

  4. Om,
    Try using T9Nav ( on your N-series. It is still in beta but absolutely fantastic. It’ll probably make the iPhone menu navigation look slow and cumbersome :)

    Btw, I have absolutely no connection to T9Nav. I am just a genuinely delighted user of their app.


  5. I wouldn’t call Nokia too bureaucratic. They are, however, very large and very cautious. Anssi Vanjoki has stated that they will have touch devices across the product lineup, and at the E71/E66 launch, company reps seemed to refer to multiple touch devices due this year. At the very least, we will see the Tube – and I suspect this will happen sooner than most think. I think that’s going to be the main device for Nokia Comes With Music.

    Also, HTC isn’t tiny. It has over 50 percent of the WM market worldwide, and has easily been the most innovative WM phone maker.

    Just doing “touch” is, imo, pointless unless you do the UI well. Of the devices we’ve had here in Israel, HTC’s are the only ones that come remotely close to the iPhone experience. LG is far behind and Samsung’s touch UI is terrible. Hopefully, Nokia are waiting because they want to get this right.

  6. @om HELSINKI!

    I guess the question comes down to whether the power users that are the N-series demographic really care about VoIP. They certainly care about an out of the box tethering solution so that’s a huge loss. Can Nokia afford to lose more power users to the blackberry/iphone parade?

  7. Finnsense

    Word in these parts (i.e. Espoo, Finland) is that Nokia’s forthcoming touchscreen phone is due out this quarter but is a bit rubbish. You should see the number of Nokia folks wandering around with their new iphones – even though they all get N95s for free.