So, after protracted negotiations with Orange, I got myself a shiny new N95 to play with. It’s Nokia’s new flagship phone and it pretty much Does Everything – it’s got a 5 megapixel camera, WiFi, GPS, high speed mobile internet, video and music player and more – oh, and apparently it makes phone calls and sends text messages too, should you care about that. The question is, though, with such a multifunctional device, is it jack of all trades and master of none?
Well – yes. But that needs unpacking a bit. The N95 is clearly meant to represent a new generation of mobile device, and Nokia have thrown pretty much everything they have at it. Inevitably, some stuff sticks and some stuff, well, doesn’t so well.
So, the good: everything that is advertised is there and does fulfil at least basic functionality: the camera is a full 5 megapixel job with a full range of settings that you’d expect to see on a consumer compact digital; the GPS tells you where you are and how to get where you’re going; the WiFi detects wireless networks simply and the built in web browser is a massive improvement over anything Nokia have ever done before; the media player is good and the screen is excellent so video playback is lovely, and finally there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use your own headphones rather than the shitty Nokia ones. Additionally, the Series 60 software is mature and works well – the active standby screen is as good as any other PDA’s home screen with appointments, messages, to-do lists and other information cleanly and clearly displayed.
The problem is, though, that whilst it’s all there, there’s quite a lot of rough edges. The GPS takes quite a long time to get a lock, especially around tall buildings, and the accuracy can suffer if there are dense trees or big buildings around – and it basically doesn’t work at all unless the keypad is open; the camera – whilst clearly better than pretty much any other phone cam out there – is still not that good compared to most mid-range compacts, and compared to my PowerShot A710, it’s pretty useless – the images have too much noise reduction applied and there’s quite a lot of fringing; the web browser is much better than previous incarnations, but the Opera for Mobile is still streets ahead; the WiFi detection works, until you want to try and assign an IP manually, in which case you’re digging through menus and fighting a total lack of documentation; the media player is good but won’t replace my iPod and there’s quite an annoying hiss in the background if you’re listening to anything quiet. In addition, whilst the thing looks great, and the dual-slide is a neat trick, the build quality doesn’t seem to be as good as it could be – my slide is quite wobbly, and this appears to be a common fault. And the battery life is short – very short – even for a smartphone: you’ll be charging it every day – at least.
All that said though, there’s nothing deal-breaking here – everything works, and mostly works pretty well. The trouble is that it’s being pitched as a top-end device and, unless you’re in a position to argue a free one out of your service provider like I was, it’s fairly pricey too – and the rough edges takes a bit of the shine off. Overall, I’m happy with it – but with a few bits polished and tidied up, I could be even happier.
Oh, and this post was entirely written on it, with minimal pain, so it can’t be that bad