Several NSeries devices have had support for accessory Bluetooth GPS, but the N95 is the first Nokia phone to have a built-in GPS. This isn't a tower triangulation GPS such as that found on US CDMA phones from Verizon and Sprint but a true GPS. The GPS takes 1 to 3 minutes to get a cold fix and 30 seconds to 1 minute for a warm fix (not exactly the fastest fix times for a modern GPS). We managed to get a fix even indoors, but that does double fix time and isn't always sucessful. It proved quite accurate in both driving and walking modes, though it's not a SiRFstarIII GPS. The phone's battery can withstand 3.5 to 4 hours of constant GPS use, so get a car charger if you'll need it for a day of traveling. The phone's GPS APIs are open to 3rd party developers, so we expect to see TomTom and perhaps other software solutions available for the N95 later this year.
Nokia includes a GPS application and Maps which provide mapping and navigation worldwide (turn-by-turn navigation and route simulation require a fee). The GPS application shows you current latitude, longitude, elevation, speed and more. The navigation and mapping are powered by Navteq and TeleAtlas and you can download maps to the phone (or microSD card) over-the-air or via WiFi. In addition you can use desktop map loader software to download and transfer maps to the phone (map loader downloads are currently slow via the desktop). The on-phone software is actually smart2go and it includes maps, an extensive POI database (points of interest), route simulation, directions shown both on map and turn-by-turn and more. It has day and night display modes and options to exclude toll roads, tunnels, highways and ferries. The software and basic service are free, but you must pay a monthly fee of approximately $12, or $110 for 3 years (for the US and Canada) if you want route simulation and turn-by-turn directions including spoken directions. Though maps and POIs are free for those areas of the world covered, you would have to buy navigation on a per country basis. So if you are a US resident but travel to France and want turn-by-turn navigation for France, you'll need to purchase that (which makes the 7 day and one month options attractive).
We're glad that Nokia includes mapping and navigation software, and even more pleased that it's a global solution covering 100 countries (despite the fee for turn-by-turn). However, there are a few quirks and omissions in the software: when selecting a location via contacts, the Maps application only pulls the first word of the street address (bug!). So if the address is on West Park, Maps will think it's simply West, and if it's N. Summit Rd, Maps pulls it in as "N.". The software is replete with address options: enter one yourself, pull it from contacts, select a POI (point of interest), use a saved landmark... but there's no intersection option. This feature is commonly found in mapping and navigation software and is a must for those of us who need to find their way to Broadway and 5th and do not know the exact street address. This is global software, so you'll need to enter the country of your destination address when entering it manually or through contacts unless you're one of the few folks who actually bothers to fill in the country field for every contact in Outlook in Windows or Address Book in Mac OS X. We also found fastest route directions to sometimes be circuitous.
The N95 is a multimedia demon, with a full-featured music player that finally competes on features with Sony Ericsson's Walkman phones. The phone supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, M4A and WMA file formats and OMA DRM 2.0 as well as WMDRM (Rhapsody To Go works). The player supports play by genre, artist, album, playlist, composers or all songs with shuffle and repeat options. The player's EQ has 6 presets and you can create your own. In addition there's a visualizer and support for album art. Playback through the built-in stereo speakers is surprisingly good and sounds like a laptop rather than a phone. The music is clear, undistorted with good tonal range: nice! Sound through 3.5mm earbuds is also very good, though we could detect low level white noise as if the amp could stand better grounding.
Nokia Visual Radio (stereo FM radio) has grown up and added a station directory feature which lists known FM stations in a given city and saves them. The N95 can play the radio through its speakers rather than the headset if you wish. Yes, you still must plug in a wired headset since it acts as the radio's antenna. The radio application supports presets, manual tuning, background playback and the visual radio service (not widely available in the US). Sound quality is quite good by phone standards with less white background noise than that of the music player. Reception is better than average among phones with FM tuners and the phone will automatically mute radio playback if a call comes in.
For video playback, the N95 has Real Player with support for MPEG4, H.263, H.263 (GPP) and Real Video formats. For those who need further file format support, consider 3rd party players and converters like SmartMovie (or wait for the forthcoming TCPMP for Symbian). Real handled 30 fps local file playback with files encoded at 500 kbps decently as well as streaming media over WiFi.
Additional multimedia apps include Nokia's LifeBlog, Flash Player (Flash Lite) and Video Centre. Nokia includes an AV cable with all N95 phones that connects from the 3.5mm headphone port to RCA connectors on the back of the TV (video + left and right channel audio). Output quality depends on what you're playing: photos will look very good even on large plasma displays and video shot at VGA resolution will be decent.
And now the part most if not all of you have been waiting for: that 5 megapixel camera! The N95 features a Carl Zeiss autofocus lens with a mechanical shutter (1/3s to 1/1000th) and variable aperture f2.8/5.6. Camera phone flashes are generally pitiful LED affairs with the exception of high end Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot phones like the K800i. Nokia imaging phones fit into the lame flash category but we have to say that the N95's flash is bright compared to older NSeries camera phones. It really does manage to illuminate the immediate scene, though of course it won't set an entire room ablaze. The phone has digital zoom (how we wish it had the Nokia N93's optical zoom) up to 20x (6x in 5MP quality mode). The maximum image resolution is 2592 x 1944 and several lower resolutions are supported including those appropriate for MMS.
The real surprise is video quality. So far Nokia imaging phones have been divided into two camps: still shot or video. The N73 was a still shot champ but its video was good, not amazing. The N93 and N93i excel at video with a slight loss of still image quality. The N95 does both well: photos are better than the N73 and video is on par with the exceptional N93 and N93i. The N73 was a leap forward in photo quality (as was the Sony Ericsson K790i/K800i) and the N95 surpasses them, albeit not with the Sony Ericsson's low light handling. The N93-- well there was simply nothing else that could take such high quality VGA 30fps video in the world of phones until now.
Yes, it isn't fair to compare the Nokia N95 to a dedicated 5MP digital camera, but let's face it: we all are interested in that comparison. No, the shots aren't quite as good as this and last year's 5MP digital cameras. Generally speaking there's more JPEG noise reduction done by the N95's internal image processing software (though not as much as the N73 whose photos could look a tad painted) and more sharpening. A dedicated camera is better for low light photography (still Nokia's weakness, though the N95's night mode generates the best dark room photos to date on a Nokia phone). Generally, even outdoor cloudy day photos showed loss of detail (leaves on trees became fuzzy rather than sharp and distinct as they are under bright sun). But some of our daylight outdoor photos came darned close, and in some cases surpassed our dedicated slim 5MP Samsung camera for capturing detail like the drops of water on the carrots below, and offering better contrast on the lava rocks in the Buddha photo. Compared to the N73, the N95's photos have more detail and the N95 is better at low light shots. Compared to the Sony Ericsson K790i and K800i CyberShot camera phones, I'd say well-lit daylight shots are better on the N95 with more detail and better colors, though the difference isn't night and day. The SE wins out for poorly lit shots. Overall, the N95's photos are generally very sharp, colorful, well exposed with a faint purple bias (more so on the Euro/US model than the Asian one).
The camera has a wide selection of settings that will please camera buffs. These include 7 scene modes (auto, landscape, close-up, portrait, sports, night portrait, night plus a user-defined mode), flash control (on, off, auto and red eye reduction), a self timer, sequence mode with burst, EV compensation in 0.5 increments, ISO (high, medium, low and auto), contrast, 3 degrees of sharpening, white balance (auto, sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent and color effect (normal, sepia, black and white, vivid and negative). You can set the image size at 5MP, 3MP, 2MP, 0.8MP (for email), and 0.3MP for MMS. In 5MP mode, images range from 800k to 1.4 megs and the phone will automatically save images and video to the microSD card if present. There are 4 shutter sounds but no way to turn the shutter off, and your subjects will notice the flash light illuminate in red when a photo is taken (not terribly bright but noticeable).
The video camera records at VGA resolution at 30fps with lesser resolutions available for MMS and the like. It saves high quality video in MPEG4 format and MMS video in .3GP format. The mono audio's quality is good (Nokia's specs list stereo recording but we've only found one mic on the phone), and is generally in sync with video. Colors are fairly accurate and vivid and there's relatively little of the usual camera phone blockiness. Zoom works smoothly and maintains decent quality (just don't zoom all the way) and the frame rate is smooth. The N95 generates better quality video than that typically found on YouTube.
The N95 has a front-facing camera intended for self portraits and video conferencing (a feature not supported in the US).
Sample Photo Gallery
These sample photos were taken at the highest resolution. Unedited other than resizing for use here. Click on a photo to see the original version (~2592 x 1944pixels) in a new window.
Asian supermarket snacks.
Catfish in a tank, taken through glass (obviously).
Dark room indoors, poor light with flash. The flash adds a blue-green cast: the wall is actually tan.
Mostly sunny day, no zoom.
Using 3x digital zoom which softens details
Indoors, low to medium light, no flash. Much better than the N73's photos in similar conditions.
Notice the drops of water on the larger version of this image.
Taken just after night set in using night mode which increases the sense of ambient light in a scene. Though better than prior Nokia phones, night scenes still show plenty of noise.
The Nokia N95 is powered by a 950 mAh Lithium Ion replaceable and rechargeable battery. It's Nokia model BP-5F, for those hunting for spares. Much has been made of the N95's battery life, or lack thereof. In our tests we have found it similar to the Nokia N80, which is to say OK for a smartphone and short for the average feature phone. The N95 has a bevy of power-sapping features: WiFi, 3G (though not in the US), GPS, a large high color display, fairly fast CPU and a 5MP camera. Use these a lot and your battery will not last a day. For example, you'll get 4 hours max of straight GPS navigation, approximately 2.5 hours of straight WiFi use, 2 hours of demanding 3D game play, and 3G (especially switching between GSM and UMTS towers) will shorten talk time by up to an hour.
In our more conservative "real life use" tests: taking 30 photos, shooting 3 two minute videos, playing System Rush for 20 minutes, talking on the phone for 30 minutes, surfing the web over EDGE for 30 minutes, downloading email 10x/day over EDGE, downloading apps and ringtones over WiFi for 20 minutes, using the GPS twice to find a destination in a neighboring town (about 20 minutes total GPS use) and looking up PIM stuff, left us with 3 bars out of 7 at the end of the day. US folks: keep in mind that you should set the phone to GSM mode only, otherwise the phone will drain the battery quickly because it will constantly hunt for non-existent 2100 MHz 3G towers. In general, with light use plan on charging every other day and with moderate use plan on charging nightly.
The Nokia N95 is undeniably an amazing phone. We've seen phones that cram nearly as many features in (notably missing that 5MP camera) but they're much larger, heavier and less attractive. Somehow Nokia managed to fit it all into a very attractive mid-sized phone that makes most Palm and Windows Mobile phones look very large. As a camera phone, the N95 is a leap into the future with its excellent 5 megapixel camera and strong autofocus lens. Both still photos and video are superb compared to any other camera phone on the market and it won't make you wish you'd brought your point-and-shoot digicam along.
By S60 3rd Edition and NSeries standards, the N95 is very fast and stable for a first version firmware. We had none of the out of memory errors and crashes we've noted on first release NSeries phones in the past. Syncing with Outlook under Windows works well and syncing with the Mac using Nokia's iSync plugin is a breeze. Nokia S60 3rd edition devices are smartphones in feature phone clothing: they're stylish and compact (OK, the N93 and N91 aren't tiny) yet they pack full PIM applications, syncing, web, email and Office viewers. The N95 is no exception, though its brains take second stage to the impressive multimedia, connectivity and navigation features.
Pro: Good smartphone features, fantastic camera that's far ahead of the pack, great VGA video, decent GPS, reliable WiFi with easy connection management, fast Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, vivid and large display, excellent ergonomics and controls, good multimedia performance, excellent software bundle, best mobile browser on the market and the phone syncs to both Windows and Mac OS X.
Con: Price! Though we don't think the price is far off the mark given the cost of other unlocked feature-packed phones without contract, that's a lot of money and relatively few will be willing or able to spend that much cash. Battery life could be better. GPS is slow to get a fix and navigation software has a few bugs and needs a few more features and more intuitive organization. Image saving times aren't fast when taking photos with the camera.
List Price: $750 Sold unlocked by Nokia direct and importers (importer prices vary and may not include the 1 year US warranty)
Display and Graphics:16 million color transflective
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.6 ". Resolution:
240 x 320, supports both portrait and landscape modes. 3D graphics accelerator hardware.
Battery:Nokia BL-5F Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
950 mA. Claimed GSM talk time: 3 hours (claimed WCDMA 160 minutes). Claimed standby: 225 hours in GSM mode (225 in WCDMA mode).
Performance:Texas Instruments OMAP ARM 11 processor running at 332 MHz. 64 MB built-in RAM
and 256 megs flash ROM. 20 megs RAM free at boot, 160 megs flash storage available for storage.
Size:99 x 53 x 21mm (3.9
x 2.08 x .83 inches). Weight: 120 grams (4.23 ounces).
GPS: Internal GPS.
Phone:GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900 MHz unlocked world phone (some European carriers sell locked versions). Has GPRS, EDGE and Euro-only UMTS (2100 MHz band only).
Camera: 5 MP with digital zoom, CMOS sensor and LED flash. Carl Zeiss autofocus lens.
Photo: 2592 x 1944 pixels max resolution with several smaller sizes available including MMS-friendly. Images are saved in JPEG format with EXIF data. Focus range: 10cm to infinity (10-50 cm in macro mode). 20x digital zoom (6x in 5MP mode). Mechanical shutter, speeds from 1/3s to 1/1000. Has several scene settings including auto, center weight metering, adjustable EV, sharpening, color balance.
Video: VGA 640 x 480 max resolution at 30fps and AAC audio. Zoom up to 10x. H.263, MPEG-4 format and 3GP for MMS.
Secondary front-facing video conferencing camera: 240 x 320 and 176 x 144 pixel resolutions, video frame rate 15 fps, 2x digital zoom, H.263 format.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice recorder, music and video players included. Music player supports MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/WMA/M4A formats and OMA DRM 2.0 and WMDRM. Stereo FM radio included (use earbuds or headphones as the antenna).
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR. Bluetooth profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, BIP, BPP, DUN, FTP, GAVDP, GOEP, HFP, HSP, OPP, SAP.
Software:Symbian OS 9.2 with S60 3rd Edition feature pack 1. Java MIDP 2.0.
microSD slot (hot swappable), 1 gig card included. Compatible with cards up to 2 gigs.