Reviewed August 9, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Editor's Note, June 2008: Check out the Nokia N78, the N73's successor with US 3G, GPS, WiFi and a 3.2MP camera.
Editor's Note, October 2007: If you're really serious about photography, check out the Nokia N95 with 5MP camera and US 3G!
You know something is up when you receive a powerful smartphone and you don't rip open the box to make a phone call or try out an Excel spreadsheet. Instead you slide open the camera lens cover and madly take photos of anything remotely attractive or interesting. That's the Nokia N73: a camera that just happens to have a smartphone attached. If great photos aren't your thing, Nokia offers a wide variety of Symbian OS S60 phones with lesser cameras and other strong points such as the Nokia E61's QWERTY keyboard and the Nokia N91's 4 gig hard drive for MP3s aplenty. If quality photos are important, the N73 and its bulkier sibling the N93 (which lacks the 850MHz band used by Cingular in the US) are Nokia's top offerings. The Nokia N80 has a 3MP camera that's quite good (once you adjust to the shutter lag), and you'd likely be pretty impressed if you saw the photos it takes. That is, until you see the N73's photos. The N73 has a 3.2 megapixel camera and adds a Carl Zeiss autofocus lens which makes for sharper photos.
The N73 is one of Nokia's newest S60 3rd Edition phones and was released at the end of July 2006. It's shipping in Asia and in parts of Europe but is not sold in the US by any carrier. However it is sold by Nokia flagship stores, the Nokia USA web site and by importers unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. We picked up ours from phonesource-usa.com and received the Hong Kong version of the phone in two days. Should you pick up an Asian model, have no fear: it's a bilingual phone so you can set it to English (unless you prefer Simplified Chinese). On the number pad, the numbers 1 through 5 each have one Chinese stroke, but these aren't distracting. The phone does support predictive text in English as well. The Nokia is available in three color combinations: silver gray / deep plum (which we received), frost white / metallic red and frost white / mocha. The plum and mocha colors are complex, looking nearly dark gray to black with metallic highlights in darker locations but turning much more vibrant under direct light.
The plum colored back in sunlight which brings out the color
Features at a Glance
The Nokia N73 is a quad band GSM world phone which will work anywhere GSM service is available. It has EDGE and UMTS 3G on the 2100MHz band (for Europe, not the US), Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, 240 x 320 QVGA display, miniSD card slot, full PIM applications with easy syncing to Outlook (and the Mac with little trouble), MS Office document viewers, MP3 player, FM radio, stereo output, email client and a full HTML web browser.
In the Box
Nokia includes their stereo Pop-Port headset, world charger (prong adapter for US required), USB sync cable (CA-53), software CD with PC Suite and LifeBlog for Windows, a thick manual (even if the phone is an overseas model, Nokia always includes an English manual along with a manual in the localized language), Lithium Ion battery and (possibly) a 128 meg miniSD card (Nokia doesn't list this in their specs but one came in our box).
Design and Ergonomics
The N73 is one of Nokia's more normal looking smartphones. It has a straightforward candy bar design and an absolutely standard keypad. It looks more at home with recent MS Smartphones like the T-Mobile SDA and Cingular 2125 than the Nokia N80, N91 or N93. Like the SDA and 2125, a large QVGA display dominates the front face, and while the phone may lack the sexy looks of the N80 or the stainless steel machismo of the N91, the display itself is so eye-catching it gives the entire phone a turn to the stunning. Since normalcy abounds, the phone has a standard keypad with roomy blue backlit keys, a perfectly conformist 5 way joystick that's surrounded by the usual smartphone cluster of 2 softkeys and the call send and end keys. The application launcher, pencil, clear and multimedia applications launcher keys wrap around the keypad in the bright silver surround. All are easy to access and we're thankful the ever-important application launcher wasn't relegated to a side location as with the Nokia N91.
Like most other phones (but unlike most Nokias) the N73 has a volume rocker for both speaker sound and in-call volume on the right side (easy controlled by your right thumb when holding the phone in the right hand during a call), and this rocker does double-duty as the zoom control for the camera. The IR window is all by itself on the phone's left side, and stereo speakers under a post-modern looking metal grille are located at the top and bottom edges of the phone. The charger port (the smaller style one found on recent Nokia phones and the Nokia 770) is at the bottom as is the Pop-Port multifunction port (used for USB syncing and headsets). Turn the phone on its side and it becomes a camera, and in fact looks like a point-and-shoot. Slide the rear lens cover to expose the lens and LED flash and the camera application opens automatically. The slider stays firmly in place and lays against the phone's back in an interesting manner to accommodate the sloping lines of the phone. Slide the lens cover shut and the camera application exits automatically. There's a dedicated Gallery button beside the shutter button which allows you to quickly move through your photos in full-screen landscape mode.
Above the display you'll find the secondary VGA camera used for self-portraits and video conferencing in 3G service areas, the light sensor which automatically adjusts display brightness and the earpiece. the miniSD slot is located on the bottom edge parallel to the Pop-Port connector and the card is hot-swappable. As you'd expect, the battery lives under a door on the phone's back and the SIM card is under the battery. The phone feels and looks very well made, perhaps a bit more so than the N80 (which is indeed well made but looks and feels like the plastic it is). The N73 is mid-to-large sized by feature phone standards and small by smartphone standards. It's smaller than the Treo 700p and 700w, Nokia 7610, Nokia 6682 and all Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones on the market and is similar in size to the Cingular 2125 and T-Mobile SDA MS Smartphones.
Phone Features, Data and Reception
The Nokia N73 has top notch reception, and is among the strongest RF phones. We tested it both on Cingular's 850MHz network and T-Mobile's 1900MHz network in the US. Both incoming and outgoing voice are clear with no distortion, static or other unpleasant audio artifacts. Call recipients commented on how good we sounded, and incoming volume through the earpiece is good, though not deafening. Clarity and volume are excellent through the included Pop-Port stereo headset and is a perfect match for loud places (as is the speakerphone). Like other S60 3rd Edition Nokia phones, the N73 comes with Nokia's voice command software which offers speaker independent speech recognition and dialing (though it does claim to fine tune to your voice over time). As with other S60 3rd Edition phones, it works OK, though its accuracy doesn't compare to Voice Signal software or MS VoiceCommand on Windows Mobile. However, it's definitely better than the N80, which was at best 50-50 for us. In addition the N73 has speed dialing and support for call waiting, conference calls and caller photo ID.
Even in the US where we must rely on EDGE, the N73 is a fast phone for data, getting 150K on average using Cingular's MEdiaNet service. For those of you in Europe or those who visit there, the phone has 3G (WCDMA UMTS) on the 2100MHz band (in the US we use the 850 and 1900MHz bands for both voice and data, including 3G). The phone will automatically switch between GSM and UMTS networks where applicable and can fall back to good old slow GPRS if neither EDGE or UMTS are available.
(Please note: The messaging and email applications on the N73, N80, N91 and N93 are identical, so you'll notice great similarity in these sections of our review). The Messaging application supports POP3 and IMAP email as well as SMS and MMS messages. If you leave the Messaging application running, it will automatically check for new mail and notify you (it retrieves headers only until you tell it to download the full message) and it does not support push email (consider the Nokia 9300 or Nokia E61 if you need push email, particularly BlackBerry Connect). In addition Nokia includes an IM client, but it's not for AIM or MSN out of the box- you'll need IM support from your carrier (this doesn't exist in the US) or use a service like yamigo.com. Alternatively, download Agile Messenger and install it for turnkey IM support on MSN, AIM, Yahoo and ICQ.