Here's one variation of my dream Nokia NSeries device: combine the Nokia N73's excellent camera with autofocus lens and its larger display with the Nokia N80's WiFi, d-pad and compact slider design. Nokia did more than one better with their latest NSeries phone, the N95: it features a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss autofocus lens, a 2.6" QVGA display and a two way slider. Oh yes, and there's an internal full GPS with free maps covering 100 countries. But let's not forget the Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, full-featured music player, standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, VGA video camera, the excellent S60 Feature Pack 1 web browser based on Safari technology, Euro-only 3G, quad band GSM + EDGE, the usual super-strong Nokia reception and MS Office viewer applications.
Though the phone is clearly ripe with high end features, the 5MP camera is its most salient feature. Like the N73, it excels at still photography and like the N93, it does an excellent job of taking VGA resolution video. We'll cover photography in great detail in page 2 of this review.
In the Box
The Nokia comes with a good set of accessories including a 1 gig microSD card, mini USB to USB sync cable (gone are the specialized Nokia USB cables and Pop-Port, finally), world travel charger (the same charger used with most Nokia phones made from 2005 onward), Lithium Ion rechargeable battery BP-5F, a remote with detachable 3.5mm earbud stereo headphones (the remote controls music playback and has a mic for calls), 3.5mm to AV cables (RCA connectors for video, left and right audio), a software CD with PC Suite and LifeBlog and a manual. The Asia Pacific version of the phone adds a very nice leather case. When buying from importers or carrier-branded devices, you may not get the memory card or case, regardless of region.
Design and Ergonomics
The N95 is a mid-sized phone that's similar in size to the Nokia N80 but slimmer. It features a two-way slider design: slide the display up to reveal the number pad and slide it down to switch to landscape mode, access playback controls and see a palette of multimedia applications: video player, gallery, maps, the web browser, music player, FM radio, LifeBlog, and a 3D game called System Rush: Evolution.
The Nokia N95 with slider open to reveal the multimedia buttons and launcher.
The multimedia launcher.
The slider feels spring loaded in each but we believe it actually uses plastic cams. We've had three N95's in house (two Euro and one Asian), and the front (display) section has a little side-to-side wobble at the screen end when closed but not when slid open in either direction on unit 1 (Euro) and no wobble on units 2 and 3 (one made in Finland for sale in the US and one made in Asia for sale in the APAC region). When you slide the phone to reveal the multimedia controls, it automatically switches to landscape mode and stays in that orientation until you slide it to reveal the number pad. The slider locks firmly in place, both open and closed and it hasn't accidentally slid open when in a pocket or bag. It looks and feels well made, imparting a sense that it will last some time. The phone's front face, top and bottom are silver and the back is plum ("sand" which is tan, is available as well). The plum is more noticeably plum colored compared to the Nokia N73 which looked nondescriptly dark unless it was held under bright sunlight. We received the plum colored version that's intended for sale in the US at Nokia Flagship stores and on NokiaUSA.com by the end of April. It's actually the European version and Nokia tells us there is no different in firmware, software or hardware between the two.
The d-pad is responsive and has a large center action button, making navigation a breeze (and much better than the N73's joystick). It's flanked by two large buttons: the standard S60 application launcher on the left and the multimedia applications launcher on the right (the same multimedia launcher that runs when you slide the phone to reveal the playback controls, but in portrait orientation). The two soft keys and call send and end keys surround the d-pad while the S60 pencil key and clear key line the bottom.
The number pad is reasonably large and easier to operate than the N73's. Each row of keys has a pronounced soft ridge running horizontally, center raised markers on the 5 key and a raised line at the edges of the number pad all of which make for a good "dial by feel" experience. The number keys are easy to press and make for easy text input.
The bottom, showing mini USB and charging ports.
The mic, charging port, lanyard mount and standard mini USB port live on the bottom and only the power button lives on the phone's top. Small but very good sounding stereo speakers under chrome grills are on each side and the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, microSD card slot cover and IR window are on the left. The volume rocker, an assignable button and the camera shutter button are on the phone's right side. The speaker grill, light sensor and front-facing video conferencing camera are just above the display. As with most phones, the battery lives under a door on the phone's back and the main camera is at the upper section of the back. The camera lens is protected by a door: slide the latch next to the lens to open it and start the camera application. Close it to exit the camera application. The latch is firm and the cover doesn't accidentally open in a pocket or purse. The LED flash sits next to the lens and there is no self portrait mirror (use the front-facing camera to take a photo of yourself).
Left side: top to bottom are the speaker grill, IR port, headphone jack and microSD card slot door.
Right side: top to bottom are the speaker grill, volume rocker, Gallery button and shutter button.
Phone Features, Data and Reception
The N95's quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM radio will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available. Here in the US, it will work well with both T-Mobile and Cingular. Nokia includes a settings wizard that detects your carrier from the SIM and sets up the correct data, SMS and MMS settings. We tested this with a T-Mobile SIM and it worked well (though we had to choose the correct APN among the 3 possible T-Mobile servers). As with most Nokia phones, reception is top notch and is among the strongest on both the 850 and 1900 MHz bands used in the US. Voice quality is good, though not as full in the bass or loud as the Treo 750 (though it is a hair clearer than the Treo) and volume is adequate. Call recipients said our voices sounded clear and loud. We had no echo or white noise issues. Call quality through wired and Bluetooth headsets is excellent and the volume can really crank. To answer a call, simply press the green call send button or slide open the phone. Closing the slider does not end a call.
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). Messaging is unchanged from prior S60 3rd Edition phones. No IM client is included, but you can download Agile Messenger and install it for turnkey IM support on MSN, AIM, Yahoo and ICQ (Agile charges a monthly fee).
Nokia includes their voice recognition software which allows you to dial contacts or launch applications using voice commands. Press and hold the right soft key to start voice recognition. The phone's display will show it's listening and a progress bar shows you how much time you have to say the command. This is true voice recognition and you won't record voice tags— nice. Not so nice is the job it does of recognizing commands. As with most NSeries we've reviewed recently, voice command did a poor job of recognizing commands.
Horsepower and Performance
The N95 is a fast little bugger by S60 standards, being more responsive when opening menus and applications than the N80 and N73. It's faster than Windows Mobile 5 and 6 when navigating the device and launching applications but not as fast as the quicker feature phones or Palm OS. The Nokia runs on an Texas Instruments ARM 11 dual core processor clocked at 332 MHz. It features a dedicated 3D hardware graphics processor and from the included demo version of the 3D game System Rush: Evolution, we'd say 3D gaming performance is excellent.
For storage the phone has nearly 160 megs available and you can expand that with a microSD card up to 2 gigs in capacity. At boot there's 20 megs of free RAM to run programs, and unlike the N80 and N73, running Gallery and the web browser simultaneously didn't cause problems. The only time we got a not enough memory error was when we left System Rush running in the background and then tried to launch Snakes. 20 megs is OK, but we'd still like to see more RAM, Nokia.
Software and Syncing
S60 3rd Edition smartphones have very capable PIM applications including contacts, calendar, notes and To Do's (integrated into calendar). Contacts has many fields that match most everything found in Outlook on the desktop. In addition the Nokia supports groups and you can use any contact as a start or end point when navigating by GPS. You can sort contacts by first or last name, but Nokia still hasn't added a company sort (doh!). The calendar is the usual strong S60 affair with its four types of events: meetings, anniversary, to-do and memo. The calendar has day, week and month views, repeat events, alarms and sync settings (public, private or none). The Notes app syncs to Outlook notes.
In addition Nokia includes QuickOffice to view MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents (you must purchase a $20 upgrade to the full version, or $30 for QuickOffice Premier if you wish to create or edit Office documents on the phone). Adobe Reader 1.5LE comes with the Nokia as do several utilities such as Converter, Calculator, a voice recorder, an un-Zip app, a barcode reader (reads data from square barcodes and some traditional product barcodes using the camera to decipher product info, URLs and more), Nokia's Bluetooth keyboard driver (supports Bluetooth keyboards that use the standard HID profile), 3D ringtones (add a 3-D effect to ringtones), Speed Dial, Internet Tel. (VoIP), a file manager, memory manager and the usual S60 themes, profiles, settings transfer and USB applications. The N95 also has wizards to help you get connected to WiFi networks and to automatically enter the proper carrier settings based on your SIM card.
We'll cover the whole hoard of multimedia applications and hardware under our multimedia section on page two of this review.
Nokia's Active Desktop with shortcuts to your favorite apps, upcoming calendar items and WiFi status.
What's a smartphone without syncing? The N95, like all NSeries phones comes with PC Suite for Windows. PC Suite has grown up over the years and is now a powerful and reliable desktop syncing and phone management application that can sync contacts, calendar and tasks to and from Outlook. You can also manage photos, music and update the phone's firmware using PC Suite. In the past, we were at the mercy of Apple when new phones came out, as they supply new iSync phone drivers every 6 months or so. There are 3rd party solutions and the old do-it-yourself edit the .plist files methods, but that's less than a turnkey solution. For the first time, Nokia has made an iSync 2.4 plugin available on their web site, so Mac OSX users can sync calendar and contacts information with the phone over USB or Bluetooth. We used it over Bluetooth with our Mac Pro and it worked flawlessly and quickly thanks to Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR.
Bluetooth and WiFi
Like the N80 and N93, the Nokia N95 has WiFi 802.11b/g. You can use the WLAN wizard to setup your connection, and have the phone ask you whether to use WiFi or the cellular data connection when connecting to the Net. You can also set the default to be WiFi if you wish, and you can use WiFi to download map data in the Maps application (certainly faster than EDGE!). We found WiFi to be reliable and to have reasonable range by mobile device standards. Application and video downloads are downright fast using WiFi, and though we find ourselves using WiFi surprisingly little (thanks to unlimited US data accounts and US 3G services/phones) on most devices, the Nokia makes it so easy to select and use the 802.11 connection when starting up a data session that we used it more. The N95 also supports UPnP for those who like to stream media over their home wireless network. As expected, battery life takes a hit when using WiFi: it's not bad if you use it only to download a few apps or surf for 20 minutes, but if you surf or stream media for 2 hours, you'll use over 2/3 of the battery.
As with other recent NSeries phones, the N95 has Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR for pleasingly fast syncing and file transfer. A big thumbs up there-- we synced 200 contacts and 500 appointments to the phone using iSync on a Mac Pro with + EDR in under 3 minutes and 850k image transfers take 22 seconds. The phone sports Nokia's usual wide selection of profiles, and thankfully the phone has both the A2DP and AVRC profiles for those who wish to use stereo Bluetooth headphones. In addition the phone supports serial, DUN, handsfree, headset, Bluetooth printing, FTP, Object Push, HID (keyboards) profiles and more.
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).
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 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 stereo AAC audio. Zoom up to 10x. H.263, MPEG-4 format.
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.
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.