After my previous phone contract ran out in April, I didn’t go get a new phone rightaway. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting then that struck my fancy. I was using an N73, which was a great phone, and although there were other “better” phones available, none were compelling upgrades. Until now, when the N95 8GB washed up on our shores.
The N73 is still a great phone. But the N95 8GB has come out to emerge as the new leader of the pack, after correcting some of the serious issues with the original N95.
Probably the most visual distinction of the new N95 8GB from the original N95 is its new shiny black skin. Black is “in” again. Just like how the all-white Macs have turned black. (No racists innuendos intended, please.) You might also notice that the N95 8GB’s stunning LCD screen is larger. So clearly this is not just a “software change” (like the N73 ME is to the original N73…). Turning to the back, the camera assembly is different too, with the N95 8GB loosing the lens cover and now spotting a flatter back.
The large LCD screen is really cool, it’s almost like watching movies on the big screen instead of on your TV. The bigger screen makes for more comfortable reading of text. Web pages that were just slightly too small for comfortable reading (like it was with the N73 if you had to read through several pages of text) are now perfect.
The N95 8GB’s keyboard is definitely a significant improvement over the N73’s. First of all, the numeric keypad keys are not only larger, but more importantly, they are contoured so you can very easily feel their positions. Also, considering how often the menu button is used nowadays, the bigger and more easily reached key is a welcomed improvement.
Although the N95 8GB overall looks and feels cool, it doesn’t feel as rugged as the N73. Although it has improved over the original N95, the N95 8GB still feels slightly flimsy. Most slider phones seem to suffer from this characteristic.
The N73 (and original N95 too, I believe) contains only 6 application shortcuts in the active standby screen. The N95 8GB has 7. I know, doesn’t sound like a big deal. But hey, sometimes it’s just that one more shortcut that you need!
An obligatory mention of some of the N95 8GB’s key technical specifications: 3.5G HSDPA, 802.11b/g Wireless LAN, UPnP, GPS, and a 5 megapixel camera. There are very few phones out there that combine all these features together (actually, is there any at all?).
There is no more of the proprietary Nokia pop-port. Instead, the N95 8GB has a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack which also doubles as a TV out. For data connections to a PC, there is now a standard mini-USB connector. Definitely much more convenient to have standard connectors.
The N95 8GB has no expandable memory slot. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, really. 8GB of flash on-board is sufficiently generous. On my N73, I bought a 1GB mini-SD card and left it in there forever. It might as well have been part of the phone. Having a standard mini-USB connector makes it easy to copy data in and out of the phone, so the usefulness of a removable mini-USB is not that important.
The battery is the achille’s heel of the original N95. What’s the use of all the wonderful powerful features of the N95 if its battery cannot keep it running? Thankfully the N95 8GB has upgraded the original 950mAh battery to a longer lasting 1200mAh one.
Coming from the N73, the N95 8GB has plenty of much needed improvements in its applications department. For me, one of it has to be the clock application. In the N73, you cannot set automatically recurring alarms, such as to wake you up daily at 6am. The N95 8GB not only allows you to set the days of the week for the alarm to repeat, you can even configure multiple alarms. Now, I can do what I was doing on my iPAQ a long time ago: setting both weekday wakeup alarms and weekend wakeup alarms. Another important thing for me was the keypad auto-lock! This is such a basic thing, and most phones do have this feature. I cannot understand why it was left out in the N73, but fortunately the N95 8GB has it. The GPS is neat. Unfortunately I think the Nokia Maps can be improved in terms of its navigational instructions and more detailed mapping information.
Nokia has been quite productive in writing their own add-on applications which users can download from their website. But on top of that, building on a Symbian OS platform has given the N95 8GB access to a great repertoire of 3rd party applications.
For the N95 8GB, Nokia has backported the demand-paging feature that was intended for later Symbian OS releases. Demand-paging is old-tech in the PC world, but it nevertheless gives the N95 8GB an edge in reduced memory consumption and faster application load times. Ultimately this translates into a better user experience: applications are more responsive, things just happen more quickly than before. (Of course, the N73 probably has an older, slower processor too.)
The phone now comes with a new Nseries PC Suite which matches the phone: a black theme. It actually does look quite nice. Except that Content Copier crashed on my notebook (though it appears to work on my office desktop). Not sure what’s up with that. Someone on the net suggested installing the regular PC Suite (latest version is currenly 6.84), and the Content Copier from there worked on my notebook.
A funny thing though. While checking out the regular PC Suite software, Nokia Singapore website doesn’t list the N95 8GB model. Fortunately, I popped over to check the Nokia Europe website, and they do have the N95 8GB listed.
So, what’s my overall take on the N95 8GB? It’s just about everything you’d want in a phone, and probably it will take others a while to catch up. The N95 8GB’s portfolio of features and cool gadget factor definitely outweighs its few shortcomings. See how the original N95 has been so much ahead of its time. The price is probably steep (even with a mobile contract), but consider the number of individual devices that have been combined into one compact gadget that you can carry around everyday.
If you’re thinking of getting the N95 8GB, do check out other reviews. There is certainly no shortage of reviews on the net, and I’m definitely not covering the topic with sufficient depth. (See how I’ve skipped all the bits about camera, video, music, etc!)
ps: Noted some things I may have said of the N95 8GB could already have been the case for the original N95, or even other N-Series phones. I don’t know; I’m just sharing from an ex-N73 owner’s experience.