Almost exactly two years and 5 months ago, on November 27, 2004 I posted the photo below to say farewell to my Nokia 6210 which I carried for four years and say hello to my first ‘smart’ phone the Nokia 6600.
Now it’s time for the 6600 to fade into the background, as I welcome the..
N95! It’s the super-smart phone that Nokia is telling the world is actually a computer.
Now I am not a mobile phone freak and I have to admit that I never used any non-Nokia phone for almost a decade (my first phone was an early Motorola GSM phone which fastlink used to sell).
But I can tell you that calling the N95 just a computer doesn’t do this little smart monster justice. Last time I checked, my laptop computer neither had a 5 Megapixel camera, nor did it it have a built in GPS system, nor could it make calls.
A device like the N95 simply twists your mind. each of the phone’s many functions is so deep that you are always a bit shocked when, with the press of a button it completely turns into something else. And it has the most amazing tiny power adapter (shown here compared to an older Nokia charger). I mean why couldn’t the world’s engineers come up with THAT 10 years ago??
Back to the mind twisting. For example: I have been having a great time over the past week exploring the world of GPS, something I always wanted to do, but never really could: it always was, and still is, a bit useless to own a standalone GPS device in a city like Amman which still has no electronic map (the Amman municipality promised a GPS map by the end of the year, by the way).
So I’ve been tracking my drives across and outside Amman and having real fun dumping my GPS tracks onto Google Earth, with an amazing free app from Nokia called Sports Tracker. I’ve also downloaded the maps for Dubai, Doha and Berlin, which are the cities I will be visiting this May.
Tracking an excursion to Wadi Shoaib. I posted the location of Prophet Shoaib’s tomb on the Google Earth Community and inserted the geographical coordinates into the Wikipedia entry about the Prophet.
Guess to which restaurant I went?
I even somehow managed to get the voice navigation to work for Frankfurt and have been going through the simulation mode that takes you from point A to B as if you’re driving you car.
So while being deeply engaged exploring the world of GPS.. BOOM something interesting appears in front of me. I press a button and a few seconds later I am shooting a 5 MP photo with really good quality. Or even better: shooting a camcorder like video.
The mosque built at the site of Prophet Shoaib’s tomb. Click to see the 5 MP original
I come back home. Hook up the phone to the TV (yes, the N95 has TV out!) and I am watching a video and a slide show of photos on the TV screen. Hey.. this picture is really cool…
Why not share it with the ikbis community?
A few clicks and the ikbis logo comes up and.. boom.. a photo is shared over the N95’s WiFi connection.
In the car, between a million phone calls I sometimes like to listen to a Podcasts on my iPod. It looks like my iPod (and my Fujifilm camera) won’t go into my bag every day. Why? Because the N95 has not only a decent music player (which is standard on most phones these days) but a podcasting app. It’s not exactly iTunes but my goodness, you can actually download podcasts directly onto the phone. No ‘computer’ required. The app allows you to subscribe to any podcast and download any episode you like. What’s cool is that the downloaded podcasts also appear in the phone’s music player alongside your music, under the genre ‘podcasts’.
While driving and listening to TWiT, I get a call. The podcast stops, the call starts. Then the call ends and the podcast starts again. Neat!
OK, enough fun and games. What about emails and work stuff.
Well, the N95’s WiFi actually makes mobile email (and mobile browsing) more usable. Sure you can use GPRS (or HSDPA if you are lucky and live in a 3G country) to check you mailbox. But once in a WiFied cafe or office you can rapidly download emails and their attachments. The included Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is really useful. I say so because I already used it to review several documents (in Arabic too).
But I have to say that using what essentially is an SMS interface for email is NOT cool. I check out some other email apps (like Smart Mail) which was more email-like but had a horrible, not very friendly look and feel to it.
So, I am still trying to get my head around owning such a device. But I also have my complaints. Just why doesn’t this ‘computer’ have a QWERTY keyboard. Yes I know that the Nseries is for multimedia heads and that the Eseries is for business types. But what if you are like me a multimedia-web-business hybrid person??! (Answer: get the new E61i which finally brings a camera into the E61).
Anyway, I am seriously considering to buy a separate bluetooth Qwerty Keyboard, but probably wont as I REALLY do NOT want to start loading up on more Gizmo junk in my bag!
What else is wrong with the N95. Oh the battery life. With a device that does so much, today’s battery technology just doesn’t cut it. You can be out of battery within a day. The solution for me will be: one power adapter at home, another one in the office and a car adapter too.
I also suffered from some system crashes already. I had serious problems logging into password protected WiFi networks at work. The current firmware version 10.0.018 does not seem to be totally stable and I can’t wait to update to version 11.0.025 (which I have seen on the phones of Nokia employees from Finland and Dubai).
And then there’s the built in browser. It’s pretty usable and all but does not render pages like a desktop browser. It seems to exaggerate the vertical spaces between lines of text which results in some web page layouts to break. It also does not support Flash (which means you can’t watch YouTube or for that matter ikbis videos on the phone (there is an application called YouTube to Go on the Nseries, still in beta, but I couldn’t get it tow work).
I installed a trial version of Opera, hoping to get Flash support (as in the great Opera on the Nintendo Wii). While the web page rendering was better in Opera, the browser does not support embedded Flash.
Is the N95 an iPhone killer?
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of an Apple freak. Some people were shocked when they saw me carrying the N95.
“Ahmad!! Didn’t you want to get the iPhone”..
Well, Recently I ‘ve been thinking of getting the Nokia E61 but a mobile phone without a camera is a no-no for me (I only found out about the E61i a few days ago). Then I decided I will wait for the iPhone.
What tipped me toward the N95, for now, is A. I am involved with ikbis.com and we have just gone into a cooperation with Nokia on the Nseries, so I had to get one and B. I needed to upgrade my Fastlink line from my old 500 minute plan to a 2000 minute plan (gasp) and I was able to get the N95 (which retails in Amman between JD 570 and 630 I think) for much less.
Compared to the iPhone, the N95 lacks a touchscreen. Compared to some iMates (HTC) it lacks a QWERTY keyboard.
I also have the feeling that, if Apple delivers what it has demoed, the whole phone industry will have to do some really hard work on fixing user interfaces. The iPhone’s demos are just amazing. Mind you, I have never really used an iMate/HTC, Palm-based or Blackberry based phone before. But the Symbian OS (especially some of its 3rd party apps) needs to rid itself of clumsiness and get an extreme visual makeover.
On the other hand the iPhone will probably have only a 2MP camera and, I am pretty sure, no GPS. It will not be a 3G phone when it comes out. Apple will tightly control the software, and it is unclear whether it will allow a 3rd party app market to develop. For example, I am using an app called Fring, which makes Skype (and Google Talk) availble on the N95. Will the iPhone do Skype? Hmm..
The iPhone is two months away in the US and probably 6-8 months away in Europe. The N95 is out NOW and available in Jordan too!
Nokia has scored a good point with the N95 but the battle is not over.