A week with the Nokia N95: There’s a little monster in my pocket and it’s SMART!

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..

Nokia N95

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??

Nokia N95 Power adapter

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.

GPS track exported from Nokia's Sports Tracker to Google Earth

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.

GPS track exported from Nokia's Sports Tracker to Google Earth
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.

Tomb of Prophet Shoaib, 5 mega pixel photo from Nokia N95

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.

ikbis on Nokia N95

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.


17 Responses to “A week with the Nokia N95: There’s a little monster in my pocket and it’s SMART!”

  1. Dave Says:

    I’ve heard good things about the phone. Enjoy.

  2. markus Says:

    I heard that the N95 is slow and sluggish, what do you think? is it slow on power-up and does the menu pop up quickly or does it hang for a moment, sort of like a windows PC?

  3. Hussein Says:

    ok, but we shouldn’t consider Nokia phones as a perfect imaging solution.. even they are using a Carl-Zeiss lens (famous german brand) look to the image quality.. its very boor and below the average, a SonyEricsson 2.0 MP cam could took a better photo..

    anyway mabrouk..

  4. Humeid Says:

    Dave: Thanks. It’s a fun product for sure.

    markus: power up time: 25 seconds to PIN entry, then 16 seconds after PIN entry. I wish it was faster. Sliggishness appears when using camera and multimedia functions. Otherwise it’s OK (but not lightning fast).

    Hussein: It’s not a “perfect imaging solution” but I would not consider the image quality poor at all. Especialy coming from a phone! I have not seen pic from SonyEricsson but I am rather happy with the image quality of the N95..

  5. Hussein Says:

    check out flickr camerafinder with sonyericsson K750, K800, W800, W810..
    http://flickr.com/cameras/

    sorry for my judging but depending on the mosque photo above i would say its a very disappointing quality for such a phone!

  6. Nizar Says:

    Oops !

    http://www.l22l.com/l22l-up-1/2ed3191f80.jpg

    http://www.l22l.com/l22l-up-1/bf8d365686.jpg

    I hope this wont be a problem :S

    P.S. Mabrouk on the new phone, glad that you enjoy it :)

  7. Mustapha Says:

    Well, I am also waiting for the iphone but I needed a phone right now, but I’ll stick with the Treo680.

    Never been a nokia fan as I’m not a fan of their interface and design. Besides, Mac people usually prefer palm-Os

    :p

  8. peter Says:

    I’m really glad you did a thorough ‘Ahmad’ review because I’m on the waiting list for the n95 and was concerned about a few of those things. It should be here in a week, looking forward to checking it out. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Zaidoun Karadsheh Says:

    You should wait and see E90, should be released very soon

    http://europe.nokia.com/A4346177

    This is what we called a computer and a mobile:)

    Can’t wait to get it

  10. Khawaja M. Says:

    Mabroooook :)

    I love GPS-enabled mobiles … and I think upcoming communication applications in Marketing and tourism will focus on GPS more and more during the upcoming 3-4 years…

  11. Qwaider قويدر Says:

    You know, after trying those bluetooth keyboards, and fully Qwerty whatever, I tell you, typing at arm’s length to those tiny screens (like you would normally do) it a PAIN! It’s completely impractical. It’s one of those ideas that look way better on paper.
    The integration of GPS, is a very nice, and apparently Nokia makes you pay through the nose for it.. but here’s the deal, Nokia makes really good, functional phones.
    I’m a Smartphone person (once you go Windows Mobile, you would never ever go back) I just crave these features, they’re very important to me. Email sync over the GSM network, with contacts, calender, appointments, even notes and favorites getting to my phone once I configure them in outlook
    Add to that, MSN Messenger, Windows Live mail (with a rich interface) and Virtual earth (with road, aerial and traffic info built in)

    A phone is a little piece of plastic without the software, and apparently the next battle is going to be bought and decided in that arena.

    Alot of devices are getting more and more integrated. Are we going to see Laptop killers soon? Well, when phones start packing a 15” screen or equivalent in their candy-bar form factor then … maybe!

  12. Apoc' Says:

    Nice article I have to admit but also, for all N95 freaks it’s highly suggestible to read the pretty detailed and huge user review from the folks over at the Symbian Freak.

    Give it a try, you’ll not be sorry.. .

    http://www.symbian-freak.com/reviews/n95/n95_review_01.htm

    Cheers
    Freak

  13. Avi Says:

    Magnificent review man. I am looking for stuff to do with my N95 as well.

  14. nidal Says:

    n95 is a great phone I have been using for about 3 months, Ahmad had mentioned almost all of n95 spesifications but still theres alot he didnt mention like the internet phone which to me is a great deal (voip) yes through the wirelles you can make a free call by registering Gizmo (for example) over ip , I tried it its very cool and freeeeeeeeeeeeeee besides theres alot of third party applications for the wirelles use like an application called peerbox, its a filesharing application that you can download and upload movies , clips , and pictures, yes just like the computers .
    by the way Ahmad I think the best mobile that satifies your needs now is the new nokia e90

  15. Hani Obaid Says:

    I got an N95 a few months ago becuase I couldn’t wait any longer for the E90 communicator to come out. (I had a crappy rubberized sports model nokia phone before that). I always found the Ipod overpriced and overrated, and expected the same from the Iphone.

    My only complaint is battery lifetime. You can buy a bluetooth addon wireless keyboard, there’s one that’s flexible so it folds up into a minimalist tube, but yes you have to lug it around…

    It comes with the 1GB memory card, I would like to buy the 2GB one, and thinkit hsould have come with the 8GB one !

    Fring totally rocks ! I can call the US/Jerusalem free for as long as I want directly on my N95. Btw it also let’s you connect to google talk and chat on both services.

    I’m running firmware 11.0.26, I installed it by updating my Nokia pc suite online, then using the included nokia software updater to download and install the new firmware.

    The firmware is completely stable, and I ahve no problems logging into wifis (free or encrypted), and am constantly connected to one at home.

    I think Carrefour has the lowest price in Amman for it (assuming you find they still have any in stock).

    Btw I haven’t used the GPS/mapping yet eventhough I use Google Earth Pro all the time. Did you ahve to subscribe to anything from your moible provider to get it to work ?

    Oh, and while you wait for a GPS amp, I categorized everyone else’s google earth placemarks under folders, and found meaningful icons/logos/flags for all of them and put it all into 1 placemarks file you can get here, just open the placemarks file in Google earth, and disable the community layers so you don’t have duplicates.

    http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=966064

    Cheers

  16. Jason Says:

    One small correction, the GPS and Maps program(including route calculation) and updates to the maps are free. Not being in the emirates a long time it has saved me plenty of times from driving around for hours looking for some place in Dubai. You only have to pay for the voice assisted directions and it is time limited. Which is a shame as it’s not a cheap phone and I do really want that feature but not enough to pay for some time period.

    The picture quality on ‘most’ of my shots are amazingly good, so good that I stopped using my 5Mb fuji camera. The only problems come when you don’t have the patience to wait for the picture to be acquired, goes green. Compared to my friends sony ericsson 810i, which takes good photos, is at least as good if not better.

    The one thing missing fom the original post is how I can use it as a portal entertainment device, to keep yourself amused in a long drive, or plug into your friends tv and it acts as a portal movie player. Add to that the mini USB for file transfer and it’s very good. Though the optional 2G memory stick and car charger is more a must.

    So as a GPS system, phone, sms, email, pc modem, camera, video recorder, web browser, portal media player, and music player that fits in your pocket, I think it’s amazing. Only needs walkie talkie (NB. not PTT)

  17. umayr chutoo Says:

    n95 is the best

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