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28.06.09 | Nokia N95 8GB – My Review After One Year’s Use
Filed under: Computer — Tags: , — Dr. Ivan @ 21:55 — Comments (0)

I was somewhat hesitant to buy a Nokia N95 8GB when the need for a new mobile phone arose a year ago. Much but not all of that hesitation has been proven groundless.

Some nostalgia first

First of all, a little historic prospective. I can still remember the times when mobile phones were massive bricks which emitted enough radiation to basically microwave your brain in matter of a few seconds. Or may be not – we are still waiting for the results of some major prospective studies to give a conclusive result on the whole radiation issue. In any case does it even matter? Would you stop using mobiles even if they were harmful? The answer is most probably no in the same way that the majority of users are not quitting Facebook in fear of being burgled or become addicted.

That is however not the point I am trying to make. Radiation or not, we have long since passed the time of mobile bricks. My first personal mobile phone was a Motorola, had a miniature (by today’s standards anyways) monochrome display and rubber keys to boot. But first and foremost it was a budget phone which was far from pushing any boundaries. The latter would be a general theme of basically each and every mobile phone purchase of mine from then on (except one slightly more expensive Sony Ericsson phone which got stolen almost a day after I got it).

Therefore it was a big step for me when I bought the Nokia N95 8GB. At the time (more than one year ago that is) it was not necessarily newly released, but was new enough to cost an arm and a leg. Besides, this was considered for quite some time to be the top-of-the-range business mobile. It was also my first Nokia phone (I had previously used Motorola, Siemens and Sony Ericsson for the most part).

The review

So, what do I think of this phone a year on? Well, here is a short summary of the major pros and cons:

Pros:
  • Camera: The camera which is built around Zeiss optics is excellent, both when it comes to stills and video, especially the latter. Indoor performance is of course questionable, but so is the case with almost all camera phone out there at the moment. Software gives you a number of options to customize camera settings which in my book is a good thing. It should be however noted that the is neither built-in flash nor a lid to protect the lens.
  • Media management: No need for the iTunes’ bloat or any hacks to get the thing working, just use it as mass storage device, transfer your music / movies / pictures and you’re done.
  • PDF-reader: Very handy to have although painfully slow. Not all pdf-s will show up properly due to what appears to be partially lacking support for embedded fonts. Also, “Out of memory” error message will make frequent appearance. In the end, you will be better off converting your more advanced pdf-s into pictures and viewing them page by page.
  • Flash support: The much-touted flash support is indeed quite amazing. You are in fact able to watch videos directly off of youtube from within the browser.
  • Fast browser: Indeed, the included browser is very well made. Plenty of options for viewing, zooming, multiple window navigation, pop-up blocking etc. Nonetheless be prepared to install Opera Mini, as the built-in browser has an annoying tendency to reload the page every time you press “back”. There is also no support for Google Apps which is disappointing but by no means surprising.
  • News and email: Feed reader, podcast viewer, possibility for sending and receiving emails are all included and are actually well executed.
  • OS: Sigh… Well, what can you say: It runs Symbian OS (s60), with all the good and bad aspects that implies. My personal view is that the negative sides far outweigh the positive ones. Still there is one particular positive characteristic to highlight: The huge amounts of quality software is staggering. Office applications, dictionaries, games, toys and themes are all at your finger tips.
  • Run several applications simultaneously: This is one of the best features of this phone. It is very nice to be able to switch between several running applications, especially if you for example need to look something up in an SMS sent to you while browsing.
Neutral characteristics:
  • Dimensions: Yes, this is a clunky mobile. It is large, although I have never felt the need for it to be any smaller – perhaps I just have large pockets.
  • Secondary camera: Never used it, and never will. You might be otherwise inclined though – especially if you are a user of video calls.
Cons:
  • Cost: It is indeed expensive. Depending on your need for various functions this phone provides you with, it might not be worth the full price.
  • Design: If you care about this sort of thing, you should know that N95 is a black, edged and ugly box. In this department it is no iPhone killer.
  • OS: As I’ve already stated: The negative sides far outweigh the positive ones. The endless problems with certificates, unfortunately high latency and low responsiveness tend to get on your nerves. Menu navigation is slow, tedious with only limited customization options.
  • Bundled software: Well, there pretty much is none. A particular travesty at least for me was omission of the ability to be able to set a specific profile for a particular time of day. Furthermore including a very weird-looking clock screensaver does not help much, especially when you can barely see the tiny digits – and there is no way of turning on screen lighting without waking the phone from standby. When talking about the accompanying Nokia Soft for your computer, it is even less impressive. Taking backup and especially restoring backup does not always work (which is particularly unforgivable), Vista support has for some reason been absent (I basically do not care, but displays how much Nokia is devoted to supporting their users).
  • USB-connectivity is marred by several problems. First of all inability to connect the phone as mass storage device because of some cryptic program accessing the storage memory is annoying. Second, ejecting (eject /dev/sdX) the phone from Linux implies that the phone reconnects immediately to the computer unless you are quick to remove the USB cable (a matter of less than one second). I have also heard that this is the case on Macs as well.
  • Media formats support: Well, what if I want to play my FLAC-encoded music on it? You guessed it, not supported and probably never will be. Some video format not liked by Nokia? Sorry, the bundled Real Player won’t help. All this a real shame and amount to nothing but absolutely groundless exclusions.
  • Screen light: You want to always have it on? Or perhaps you would like to prevent the phone to go into standby mode? Sorry, the bright (no pun intended) guys at Nokia decided that permanently turning screen lighting on is not an option. Even if you are navigating using GPS in your car, it will turn off eventually. Go ahead, scream, Nokia doesn’t seem to hear – or care.
  • Switching to loudspeakers on audio jack disconnect: You will not believe how many times that has happened to me. Accidentally tug too hard on the audio wire to your ear phones so that the audio jack pops out and the rest of the bus will hear your favorite Slayer song in obnoxiously loud hissing made by the incapable loudspeakers on the N95. Embarrassing to say the least…

Concluding remarks

Overall, I think that this phone has been a good companion for me over the past year. I have been frequently using it for reading and Internet browsing as well as taking occasional notes and recording sound.

The OS has its limitations and there are a number of annoying issues (some of which could have easily been fixed by Nokia). Also, stability and crashes, although not too frequent, do happen. Nonetheless I feel that this mobile has served me well both in terms of offering a variety of applications for use on the out-of-the-pocket basis, as well as being a notebook and an Internet tablet.

Nowadays, when the price has dropped significantly, it is definitely a buy worth considering. Although be sure to check how many of the features offered you actually need, and whether any of the bugs are too much to take.

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