Revisiting the Nokia N97, Four Months Later: A Review

I never did an official review of the Nokia N97, mainly because by the time I actually got the phone, everyone and their mother had already filmed videos of unboxing and smashing N97s on concrete, and released reviews left and right. And mine would just have simply echoed everyone else’s sentiments. But now, no one’s talking about the N97. It’s all about the N900.
So I decided to revisit the N97, four months later.


And four months later, the first thing I want to mention is: this phone is durable. Very durable. In the time I have owned it, it was undergone more “falls” than any of my previous phones, and yet it looks pretty much the same as it looked when I took it out of the box. Sure, some of the paint on the sides have gotten a little worn, but otherwise the phone’s held up very well. A couple of days ago, I was at the supermarket when I bent over to take a look at some meats in the refrigerated section. Next thing I know, my N97 fell out of my jacket pocket and hit the ground, causing the back cover and battery to fly off at supersonic speeds. Okay, I found them scattered on the floor a couple of feet away. But either way, there was no damage that I could see, and the phone turned back on like nothing happened. I love that.
Sadly, the slide-out keyboard never grew on me: to this day I still cannot type a single text message without making at least one mistake thanks to the extra-mushiness of the QWERTY. On the N97, I always felt that the keyboard was more of a crutch instead of a boon.


The N97 was billed as a super multimedia device, a mini-computer that could do pretty much anything. I haven’t seen much of that. Sure, I now have DosBox running on my phone, an excellent eBook reader, and some simple games, but I don’t feel like this phone opened up any more doors than my previous E66, or even my original N95. And the real reason is software.
There isn’t a lot of it out there.
This was a problem when the Ovi store first launched, and it’s still a problem now. The N97 suffers from the same issues as its predecessors with regards to software: there are very few useful/fun/unique/killer applications, or widgets, or games.
Then again, I find that most of my idle time on the phone now is spent visiting web sites on the web browser, or at least until I visit one that uses too much memory and ultimately quits back to the Home screen.


Ah, yes. The bread and butter of the N97. I hope my Definitive Nokia N97 Bug Listdidn’t contribute to Nokia’s stunning multi-million-Euro loss on Wednesday, but judging from the comments (160 and counting!), lots of people were having some serious problems with this flagship phone.
The funny part is (ok, maybe not so funny), I myself haven’t had that many problems crop up since v.11. My bug list probably includes the lock switch, the random playing of the Nokia tune, and in general the entire S60 Fifth Edition touch interface. I haven’t had the alarm-that-goes-off-3-minutes-late bug, or the random freezes (I did have this very, very early on) and reboots, or messed up camera features. Sorry guys. Maybe I just lucked out.
I’d also expect the upcoming v.20 firmware to address some of these problems that people are having. Unfortunately v.20′s release date is as hard to pin down as the N900′s.

Call Quality

This is a bit hard to pin down. Calls always sound great on the receiving end, but I’ve had numerous people say that I come across a little garbled. I’ve also experienced a number of dropped calls. Is it the fault of AT&T, or Nokia? My guess is AT&T.


I really like the N97 camera. The video camera, that is. While I wasn’t exactly impressed by still-picture quality, the video recording @ 30fps is extremely smooth. I liked it enough to take a couple “self-improvement” videos of myself playing tennis. And not having to worry about storage space is a huge benefit in my book, though I have to admit when I first got the N97 I thought it was extreme overkill.
As I noted way back in the first impressions post, the stereo speakers are kinda crappy. That hasn’t changed. The sound is nowhere near the quality of the 5800XM speakers, a phone less than half the price of this one. But I had no qualms when listening through wired/wireless headphones.

Battery Life

This one’s a mixed bag. I’ve had the phone run for days, and I’ve also had the phone die after four hours of music playing in the car. There are some times when the phone gets slightly warmer than usual, which is usually a sign that the remaining battery life is going to the crapper.

Final Conclusions

The original N97 wasn’t worth the price of admission. Now that the price has dropped to more reasonable levels, you may be considering picking it up.
Here’s the problem: the N97 is a sort of jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It’s got the touch interface, physical keyboard, high-powered camera, WebKit-based browser, but none of these things are done particularly well. They’re just kind of okay.
What I’m trying to say is: the N97 isn’t a bad phone at all. It could just be a heck of a lot better.

10 Ways to Improve the Nokia N97

How would you improve Nokia’s N97 smartphone? That’s the question of the day. My answers inside!
1. Prioritize the user experience over everything else. If that means throwing in a faster processor so the phone doesn’t lag when scrolling, so be it. But this could also be something simpler, like masking loading times with animations. A $750 phone shouldn’t feel slow or choppy.
2. Get rid of the directional keypad and make the QWERTY keyboard bigger and better.
No one is going to be playing N-Gage games on the N97. The directional keypad is way, way too close to the edge of the phone, making it difficult to use it effectively. It’s just too cramped, and for me, playing a game for more than 2 minutes strained my fingers. And the actual keypad just isn’t made for gaming. Game controllers are made so you can just shift your thumbs over to move Up/Down/Right/Left. Here, you’ve got to move your thumb around thanks to that (pretty useless) center button.
Removing the keypad would allow for a full QWERTY keyboard, with larger keys in the correct places. That means the Space Bar in the middle, the ZXCV row underneath the ASDF keys, Shift keys on both sides, etc.
Also, consistent tactile feedback would be great, too. Right now every N97 I’ve used has some very nice-feeling keys (anything in the second row, for example), and some really squishy ones (bottom row – ugh). I find myself having constant issues wondering whether I pressed or didn’t press a certain squishy key.
3. Fix the lock key. Once and for all. I seriously cannot believe how buggy the lock key is, and how Nokia hasn’t been able to fix this.
4. Move the Menu key somewhere else.
I personally can’t stand the location of the menu key (so much so that I’ve even remapped the camera key to act as a Menu key, more on this in a later post). It’s in a lousy spot that’s just not finger friendly to one-handers. Maybe this is a little revolutionary, but how about putting the Menu key on one of the sides, a la Lock key or Volume keys? It might not look as elegant, but it’d be a hell of a lot more functional.
5. Throw in a better email client. Preferably one that actually works (contrary to my experience with the onboard email client). Nokia’s own alternative, Nokia Messaging, is just far too slow to be practically used in a serious mailbox. My not-so-serious mailbox that’s filled with less than 100 emails lags like crazy when scrolling or opening up individual emails. We need a responsive email client, and we need it now!
6. Make the keyboard functional in more places, instead of just the Music Player.
There’s a lot of instances on the N97 when the keyboard just isn’t used or used to its fullest potential. Some examples are the Home screen, where the phone simply ignores all keys except those reserved for dialing, and the browser, where the keyboard is also summarily useless. The fixes aren’t difficult. At the Home screen, just default to contacts search (or the add a new contact menu). As for the browser, the keyboard should open up the Go To box and allow you to quickly enter URLs.
The funny thing is that S60 Third Edition phones with keyboards (ie. E75) do a great job integrating the keyboard into the phone experience. Why can’t the Fifth Ed.phones do the same?
Finally, I’d also love to see keyboard shortcuts for applications.
7. Put the 5800 XpressMusic speakers on the N97.
The 5800XM’s stereo speakers were, quite simply put, awesome. The N97′s, on the other hand, kinda suck. They certainly sound puny and tinny by comparison.
8. Move the audio jack. The jack is centered on the top of the phone. This is a really lousy spot because having something plugged in there directly interferes with using the phone in landscape mode (since people tend to hold the phone by its sides). Somewhere in the top right corner of the phone sounds good to me.
9. Remove (or change) the camera key.
I find myself constantly hitting the Camera shortcut key by mistake, usually when attempting one of those finger yoga exercises that I have to go through to press the Menu button. The lens cover automatically opens up the camera application anyway, and you can snap pictures using the touch-screen. A manual touch-focusing feature, similar to that on the Xperia X1, could replace the autofocus. Alternatively, if Nokia allowed me to disable the camera key entirely, I wouldn’t be complaining.
10. Improve the widgets system.
Widgets are small apps that can be added to your Home screen, and they’re an important part of the N97 experience. Yet there’s so little flexibility involved that it’s a wonder that anyone actually uses them. Why am I only allowed to have 2 sets of shortcuts? Why can’t I have widgets in different places, depending on the screen mode? What’s the point of adding a “Hide Content” button? Instead of flicking the screen to hide widgets, how about adding support for multiple “Spaces”, a la OS X? There’s a lot of potential here for some really cool stuff.

Nokia E75 Mini-Review

Nokia’s E75 combines an excellent (albeit slightly unorthodox) slide-out keyboard with the work and play flexibility of the Eseries line of phones. Just don’t expect any N97-like styling.
I spent about two weeks with the E75, and while I don’t have enough meat and potatoes for a whole review (thanks to the speedy arrival of my N97), I do have a couple of good/bad impressions. Onward!

The Good

The QWERTY keyboard. One of the E75′s biggest strengths. Great feeling, tactile keys, which never felt cramped. I also liked the fact that the keyboard actually workedin various areas like the Home screen (typing letters automatically brings up contacts search) and the browser (pops open the Go To box). Definitely beats the N97 in this respect. My only gripe is the location of the Backspace and Enter keys.
Snappy performance. No complaints here. Overall the E75′s interface handled my usage with ease.
Decent build quality. The E75 is well-built, but loses a point for having a slightly shaky top half. There’s definitely some rattling going on when the keyboard is pulled out.
Music. I was pleasantly surprised by the mono speaker. It’s louder and clearer than I expected. In addition, Nokia had the foresight to drop in a 3.5mm stereo audio jack.
The GPS. Lock-on time for the GPS was wicked fast. I didn’t get to test it out that much, but the times I did, it was certainly quick.

The Bad

It’s bland. It’s an Eseries workhorse phone, and I just can’t get that excited about it. Visually, the phone’s odd oval shape looks off, and the included themes weren’t eye-catching. The E75 really lacks that coolness factor that would separate it from other phones.
Badly designed keypad. Not to be confused with the QWERTY keyboard. While most Eseries phones have separate buttons for the Call/End/Soft Keys and Home/Calendar/Messaging/Cancel, the E75 combines two options into one button. Case in point: the left soft key, when pressed on the left side, functions like a left soft key. But press the same button on the right side, and it’s a Home button. Along with the smallish corner buttons (* and # keys), I found myself making a lot of keypad errors.
Blah camera. The 3.2 megapixel camera ain’t the greatest, and pictures were a little lacking in the color department.

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Phone Review

The 5800 XpressMusic is Nokia’s first real touch-screen handset. You know it as one of the cheapest touch smartphones around. But how does it fare in real-world use? And is it worth the low price, or should you hold out for something better?
Get down and dirty with the Nokia 5800XM inside.
Quick Summary
The 5800 XpressMusic is a cheap way to get a fully-fledged touch-screen smartphone with all the bells and whistles in one little package. Overall, it’s a solid phone that needs a more intuitive, user-friendly interface and a decent collection of software before it really comes into its own. And if you’re a Symbian-experienced enthusiast, you won’t have much of a problem adjusting.
Build Quality
Even though the 5800 XpressMusic is pretty much 100% XpressPlastic, it’s heftier and thicker than previous XpressMusic offerings, and doesn’t feel too cheap. The front and sides are strictly smooth plastic, while the back has a rubberized surface that prevents the phone from sliding. Overall, I like the weighting of the device – it’s not too light, and not too heavy.
Aside from the battery cover being strangely difficult to pry off, I have no real qualms about the phone’s build quality.
Screen and Display
The 5800 has a 360×640 touch-screen. It’s resistive, and nowhere near as sensitive as the iPhone or any other capacitive touch surface. I personally found that it could be a little bit more sensitive, and more like the N97 in that regard. The touch-sensitivity is really noticeable when attempting to type on the on-screen keyboard – it’s extremely easy to mess up letters (see my E75 vs 5800 vs N97 keyboard shootout for more). You can, of course, use the stylus that is conveniently tucked away in the battery cover for better performance.
Music and Media
With a name like XpressMusic, we’d expect some great things from this device in the music department. And it doesn’t disappoint. The onboard speakers are simply awesome. I would go so far to say that they are the best speakers I’ve ever heard from a mobile phone – they are that good. They blow the N97′s tin can speakers out of the water.
The 5800 does have a 3.5mm jack, but this actually proved to be more of a pain than anything else. The placement on the top of the phone makes it a real drag when doing anything in landscape mode – typing, browsing, etc. It’s just not comfortable. However, I don’t really know how Nokia could remedy this – put the jack on one of the sides?
So it’s sort of a lose-lose situation.
In terms of storage, the 5800 comes with an 8 GB microSD card in the retail package. Good thing, because the phone only has a mere 81 megabytes of internal memory.
Battery Life
Nokia rates the 5800XM’s talk time at 8.8 hours on GSM. With light/medium use (email syncing every hour over 3G, sporadic phone calls, random web browsing/ebook reading), I was able to get around 2.5 days of battery life. Even with heavy use, I never really came close completely draining my battery. Battery life is a winner here.
Interface and OS
There isn’t any nice way to put this: the Symbian S60 Fifth Edition interface is lousy. The touch interface has been described as “tacked-on”, and that pretty much fits the bill. If you took the previous S60 Third Edition operating system, made the icons bigger + slightly more touch-friendly, and threw in a rough touch keyboard, you’d get S60 Fifth Edition.
The problem here, at least for me, is that instead of looking at touch from a user’s perspective, Symbian more or less plopped the technology on top of an existing, and decidedly not-too-touch-friendly operating system. It’s a good thing that the 5800XM is a mid-range handset, because there is absolutely no way that this phone could ever compete with the iPhone, Pre, Storm, or G1 on a user experience level. The interface is just not there yet.
And while we’re talking about things that aren’t there yet, it’s a good time to mention that neither is the software – applications, games, or whatever. Nokia’s Ovi Store is still in its infancy and there’s just not enough content to excite me, or anyone else, for that matter.
The Browser
I can’t say I was blown away by the 5800′s WebKit-based S60 browser. It’s still relatively slow, and lacks a quick switch to fullscreen mode as well as kinetic scrolling. Also, while you’re in fullscreen mode, you can’t manually open another web page unless you exit fullscreen and click the “Go” button. Web pages do look true-to-life for the most part, they just need to load faster.
Final Conclusions
Despite my misgivings about the Symbian operating system and the touch-interface, I do like the 5800 XpressMusic. It combines all the features that you would really want into one small smartphone that has the competition pretty much beat when it comes to price. And it’s a capable phone. Just don’t expect too much touch-friendliness.
The Good
- Battery life is excellent
- One of the cheapest touch-screen smartphones out there
- Onboard stereo speakers rock
- XpressMedia shortcut key is a great idea – too bad you can’t customize it
The Bad
- Not enough S60 Fifth Edition software
- S60 Fifth Edition is just S60 Third Edition with touch tacked-on
- Touch UI is not intuitive
- Home screen is lacking

Nokia N97 Bug List

Update: Nokia N97 v20 firmware was released on October 27, 2009.
It’s been a week since the N97 arrived at my door, and yet during that time I’ve seen some strange things. And not strange in a good way either. So I’m making my official Nokia N97 bug post here and updating it as I see fit.
Current status of the Nokia N97: The NAM version that I have is pretty stable. However, it sounds like the international versions are *still* having some major issues – see the comments below for more.
To anyone running v10/11/12, make sure you update to the latest firmware via Nokia Software Updater.
The following is my list of N97 problems, bugs, and other irregularities. Note that after the latest firmware update (20), some things have shifted to the “Fixed” heading.
- Playing music seems to cause the phone to run much warmer than normal, which leads to the battery dying very quickly. The strange thing is the phone might not heat up until several hours AFTER you’ve finished playing music, in some kind of delayed reaction. The N97 is rated for up to 40 hours of music playback, and that leads me to believe there’s some kind of weird issue here. Update, sort of: I think this has been fixed.
- The lens cover mechanism has a tendency to scratch the plastic above the lens. Noticeable when the cover is opened. [Thanks Tuan]
Home Screen
- The portrait/landscape wallpaper display is screwy. When you use a standard 300×640 vertical image as your background, it will not display correctly in landscape mode. Basically, instead of rotating the image 90 degrees, the phone will take the middle 300 pixels and make an 640×300 image out of it – meaning you get a nice blown-up image in landscape view. Lovely! Fix: when creating a wallpaper image, use a 640×640 image. See my N97 wallpaper post for more details.
- Hitting certain keyboard keys repeatedly causes the screen to freeze for a lengthy amount of time. Basically, whenever you hit a non-numeric key, the screen clears for a quick second, showing only the background and a broken side menu. Pressing the button repeatedly causes some kind of loop, which lags the phone to all hell. Try it with the Uppercase + top row of keys for a bit ‘o fun.
- No way to enter a url in fullscreen mode without exiting back to windowed view.
- [Help] No help topic for Sensor settings. I would love to know what sensors are affected by the “Off” settings. Proximity? Brightness? Accelerometer? All?
- [Profiles] My N97 randomly plays the Nokia tune for contacts that I have assigned a custom ringtone. Also randomly plays the tune as the default ringtone. Argggghh!
- [Photos] When viewing photos, auto-switching to landscape mode causes the menu options to disappear, but the menu option box remains.
- [Menu] No transitions when switching from one folder to another. Could just be the default themes, but the 5800XM default themes has them.
- [Menu] Quitting the Photos causes a Back button (instead of Exit) to appear in the resulting Menu screen. Pressing the Back button simply refreshes the Menu screen and changes the button to Exit.
- [Music Player] Not quite a bug, but more of a feature request: removing a connected set of headphones while listening to a song should automatically pause the song. I don’t really see the logic in having a song start blasting from the speakers just because you forgot to pause it when removing the ‘phones.
- [Music Player] Switching to another application while simultaneously playing several music files in a row messes up the progress bar. Instead of showing the current song’s progress, the bar will continually scroll from start to finish, cycling through all of the songs that were played outside of the Music Player app.
- [Messaging] The Messaging application sometimes fails to display the menu options upon loading. Instead, the phone just shows the leftover parts of the Home screen. The options are still there, and can still be activated by touch.
- [Messaging] A phone that has the option “Memory in use” set to Mass Memory, and has been disconnected from USB (Mass Storage mode) will show the error “Cannot access selected memory” for subsequent received messages. It will also change the default memory in use to Phone Memory. No fix, but you can switch back by going toMessaging -> Options -> Settings -> Other -> Memory in use -> E:Mass memory.
- [Messaging] There’s no way to transfer text messages from phone memory to Mass memory.
- [Stupid] The applications Boingo, Qik, and Joikuspot cannot be uninstalled, despite all of them being useless.
- [Nokia Messaging] Deleting consecutive emails too quickly in Nokia Messaging using the delete key (with delete confirmation turned off) sometimes crashes the program. Update: The new version of Nokia Messaging ( now shows a dialog box that says “Deleting” without actually deleting anything. It also freezes there unless you hit the Cancel button.
- [Active Notes] Entering a note with the keyboard in Active Notes is uncommonly laggy. This does not occur in the regular Notes application, or if entering notes with the virtual keyboard.
Fixed in N97 Firmware Update 12.2.024
- The lock/unlock switch is still seriously buggy. A good amount of the time the phone will either NOT lock or NOT unlock even though the screen will flash. Come on, Nokia.
Fixed in N97 Firmware Update 11.2.021
- 3G causes the N97 to crash and reboot endlessly. This only seems to happen in certain areas, leading me to believe that the N97 has problems with one of the two 3G bands on AT&T (850 or 1900). Any use of 3G causes endless reboots in any application that uses 3G. Fix: switch your phone to use EDGE, or get a new SIM card from AT&T. More info at [Nokia Support Discussions]
- Unlocking the phone via lock switch will not activate the backlight most of the time. This happens on the first unlock after an idle period – subsequent unlocks will activate the backlight until the phone goes into idle mode again. Seems to be a pretty universal problem. Extremely annoying because I have to hit the unlock switch a minimum of three times, usually more. No fix yet. Workaround: Hit the Menu Key [thanks Jasz] or Camera Key [me] to turn the backlight on before hitting the unlock key.
- Unlocking the phone via slide sometimes shows the message “Use keyguard switch to unlock screen and keys” for 1-2 seconds.
- Unlocking the phone via slide while in landscape mode will sometimes cause the screen to reset to portrait mode for a quick second before reverting to landscape mode.
- The phone can’t be locked or unlocked if the keyboard is open. This comes into play when the backlight bug above is triggered – you can’t just lock and unlock the phone to turn on the backlight. [no more backlight bug]
- Opening the browser and selecting Options -> Exit while loading up a default page sometimes crashes the application.
Final Notes
If you’ve found a bug, please add it in a comment below. Make sure you specify your phone model (RM-5xx) and software version (ie. 10.2.012). You can find your model/version by typing in *#0000# in the Dialer (or go to Settings -> Phone -> Phone mgmt -> Device updates). Thanks!

Nokia N97: First Impressions

I’ve spent a grand total of three hours with Nokia’s N97 “flagship” smartphone, and I have to say – it’s looking to be a mighty impressive device, and a worthy upgrade to the 5800 XpressMusic. But it definitely ain’t without its flaws.
For those who are new to my version of First Impressions, they’re just a bunch of random thoughts running through my head as I’m using the phone. Apologies in advance if they’re a little too jumbled.
- The Nokia N97 looks, and feels, stunning. Build quality is top notch all-around, with one exception: the back cover.
- The keyboard: definitely flawed. Problem one: the bottom row of keys is a mess. We’ve got an uppercase key where the Z key should be, and the result is a row of keys that are shifted over by one. Throw in the location of the space bar (to the right of the M key – brilliant!), and using it becomes more of a chore, rather than a joy. Finally, problem three: Some of the keys are way too mushy, while some are decently tactile. And strangely, having a period/comma key next to the L key did NOT bother me.
- Keyboard, part 2: despite what I’ve said about it, the keyboard is still faster, way faster than typing on the 5800′s on-screen display. And slightly less error-prone.
- Related note on keys: I don’t know when companies will ever learn that putting keys on the bottom corners of the phone is just a bad idea. It was a bad idea with the Xperia X1, and it’s a bad idea with the N97. The menu key is situated in the lower left corner of the phone, making it damn near impossible for me to press no matter which hand it’s in. Usability guys…
- The screen: It’s big. I think this is the first display I’ve seen on a Nokia phone that is actually viable for watching movies/TV shows/YouTube. And gaming, reading ebooks..
- The slide: it pops open with such force that it feels like I’m going to injure myself or other people around me. That makes it all the more satisfying though.
- Lock key: the lock key is now on the opposite side. It also seems that whenever I unlock my phone after a couple of seconds, the backlight does not turn on. I have to re-lock and unlock to get it working again. I had the same problem occasionally with the 5800, too.
- Improvements over the 5800: I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the N97 fixes issues that I came across with the 5800 XpressMusic. A couple of useful applications that Nokia neglected to add, like Active Notes and a Paint program (except there’s no more stylus – the irony) are now here. The Home screen can be customized to add widgets and extra shortcuts (but you can only add 2 rows of shortcuts, meaning 8 total), whereas the Home screen on my 5800 is nothing but four shortcuts and a background. Touch sensitivity is noticeably better also.
- And finally, the browser: I love it. It’s fast. It now displays a progress bar when you’re in fullscreen mode. It could, however, make better use of the keyboard – the only button that I’ve found works (other than the 5-way keypad) is the 0 key, which enters fullscreen mode. And unless I’m doing something wrong, when you’re in fullscreen mode, you can’t go to a web address unless you exit the mode. Huh?
But it does display this site correctly. I love it.

Nokia N85 Gets a Review – In Italian, No Less

The N85 Gets Reviewed in Italian/Badly Tranlated English
A user over at All About Symbian got their hands dirty with the Nokia N85. Unfortunately for everyone else, that user wrote the review in Italian.
Good thing another user took the time to Google translate the post. Among the highlights (the meaty parts ripped out by yours truly, see original post link below):
  • 1. the phone is solid and the slider seems to be a great improvement if compared with that of the N95.
  • 3. the screen is fantastic especially for what concerns the images and videos. Furthermore the visibility of the screen is good also with intense sunlight. Probably, it is the best screen available on the N series…
  • 6. the system is very solid and stable. N85 has about 72 MB free that lower down to 58/60 MB with the simultaneous use of different applications. He used in a test the following applications at the same time: address book, Photo gallery, Settings, X-plore, Handy Taskman, Jbak Taskman, Application Management and diary still having 28 MB free. At this point, he tried to start RealPlayer also but the phone re-booted.
  • 7. navigation is very fast with both WiFi and 3G. Web pages are loaded very fast and it is also fast in GSM mode.
  • 8. the GPS has been used to Geotag some photos and for a brief urban travel with Maps. The fix is very quick (30 seconds) and the signal has been maintained during all the travel even in zones with high buildings.
  • 9. the photos have been compared with those of the N95. In general they appeared good-looking but it seems that is necessary some improvements (with the next firmwares) especially for what concerns the macro and the night modes. Anyway as a first release it is very good already
  • 11. the audio is very good and it is better than that of the Innov8.
  • 13. with NGAGE the phones works very well. The screen is marvellous and, of course, perfect for gaming. About the phone performances, no slowing down have been observed. The phone seems to be a perfect game-machine
  • 14. The first impressions are that the battery duration is similar to that of Innov8 and N96.
There isn’t a whole lot that I can add. After giving it a good run at the Nokia See Into S60 event, I came away extremely impressed, far more impressed than any of the other phones there (N96 included). The N85 is that good.

Nokia 6650 Phone (Sleeper Hit?)

I recently received a Nokia 6650 as part of Nokia 6650 Chronicles, a cool little project documenting the daily lives of twenty bloggers, yours truly included.
The 6650 is what I’d call an enigma. It looks like your typical S40 AT&T budget phone, but in reality it’s a Symbian OS-powered, quad-band/3G connected smartphone with an integrated GPS.
As usual, a big thank you to WOMWorld for inviting me to the project and sending over the 6650. Thanks guys!
At first glance, the Nokia 6650 is a very unassuming flip phone. Personally I think the look is just a tad bit on the bland side and I don’t see it winning any style contests. But there’s a nice, weighty heft to the phone thanks to metallic covers on the front and back. It doesn’t feel cheap. It’s slightly smaller and thicker than the E66.
As I mentioned earlier, the 6650 runs Symbian 9.3, which initially was a surprise to me (I honestly expected another S40 phone), and menu navigation is pretty consistent with other S60 phones. The default theme has a nice background featuring a map of the USA, but it’s a bit too colorful for my taste.
The best part of the 6550, however, is the outer display. The phone allows you to run certain applications (camera, timer, stopwatch, and calendar, among others) on the front screen, controllable via three touch-sensitive buttons and volume keys which double as scroll up/down buttons. There’s a certain level of polish in the outer display’s menus that you don’t normally see in a Nokia flip, and it’s very easy to get used to.
Speaking of displays, the main one is a 2.2″ 240×320 pixel screen. Coming from a long line of Eseries and Nseries devices, it’s definitely on the small side.
Another nuance that I noticed after a quick run-through: the 6650 uses the damned 2.5mm stereo jack, so it loses a couple points there.
Finally, at $69.99 with a two-year agreement, the 6650 qualifies as a recession-ready budget phone. From what I’ve been able to glean after using the phone for a couple days, it’s far better than any other budget phone currently selling for that price.

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

Nokia’s brand spanking new 5800 XpressMusic phone, formerly known as The Tube, has been announced for a grand total of ten days and there’s already a number of reviews for the device. We’ve collected the best of them.
So what’s the verdict? Generally positive. All of the reviewers seem to agree that the 5800 provides a pretty nice set of features for its price range (279 Euros, $379 USD) but stumbles a bit when it comes to the actual S60 touch interface.
“The 5800 seems like a solid mid-level touch phone for music—especially if Comes With Music pans out as a cool service. But don’t plan on using this thing for heavy emailing or texting—you’ll probably be using T9 text entry with the touch dialpad or the stylus for most of your text entry unless you have the patience of a monk, which kind of defeats the point for an all-touch device these days.”
- Gizmodo
“The revolution is already here and its name is “Nokia 5800 XpressMusic” – there will be no other similarly geared and at the same time well-balanced phone in 2009. It sports an unparalleled price/quality ratio and changes the rules for all phone makers out there, including Nokia itself.”
- Mobile-Review
Currently the most comprehensive, most positive review of the Nokia 5800. Seems like they _really_ liked the phone.
“Where the 5800 does fall down is the operating system. Both Apple’s iPhone and Google’s G1 give users the ability to download extra sotware and useful applications onto the device, something that’s largely missing from Nokia’s offering. Overall, though, it’s an impressive touchscreen debut, and a handset that will do the Comes with Music service justice.”
I have no clue what this guy’s saying, you can’t download applications to the 5800? Huh?
“Nokia launched its own warrior into the touchscreen phone market today, in the hope it would slay all fruity-based rivals. But unfortunately it falls a little short…Too many applications slows the handset down to a halt, and there’s often a perceptible lag or delay in music playback when switching between applications, which might be acceptable to Nokia stalwarts, but will irk newbies to the Finnish way of life.”

Nokia N96 Gets Reviewed

The Nokia N96 Gets Reviewed: Fo\' Real.
The Nokia N96 Gets Reviewed: Fo' Real.
A user over at All About Symbian posted the first unofficial review of the Nokia N96 MonsterPhone, and it’s looking pretty good: other than a stiff camera shutter key and a couple of minor S60 app glitches, there’s a lot to like. Of interest might be the better-than-expected battery life (“the N96 lasted a full day of me fiddling around with power hungry activities”), louder-than-expected speakers, good build quality, and some impressive looking shots from the 5 megapixel cam.
Nokia N96 Review @ All About Symbian

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Phone

So I put the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic through its paces for the past couple of weeks to really get a feel for this razor-thin, low-end T-mobile exclusive phone. Inside, everything you wanted to know and probably a lot more than you care to hear.
Down and dirty with the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic.
Down and dirty with the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic.

(I’m going to try something new with review pictures this time around: they’re uploaded onto Ovi, so you can view the slideshow or click on the slideshow to see the rest of the full resolution shots. Let’s see how this works out)
As usual, I must express my sincere thanks to the folks at WOMWorld for providing the trial device. And without further ado:
Up until this year, Nokia’s XpressMusic series was pretty lackluster. The original XpressMusic phones were low/mid-range handsets meant to be score with the younger crowd, but failed miserably because, let’s be honest – no one wants to be seen rockin’ out to something akin to a Fisher Price toy.
Nokia’s designers took the original look and threw it in the garbage, and eventually ended up with the 5310: a budget-priced handset that happens to be one of the slimmest phones around. Oh yeah, and it’s a pretty decent music player, too.
The Outside
The first thing you’ll notice about the 5310 XpressMusic is that it’s small. Really small. It’s official measurements are 4.09 by 1.76 by 0.39 inches (103.8 x 44.7 x 9.9 mm), and to give you some kind of perspective, here’s the dimensions of a couple popular Nokia phones:
Nokia N95: 3.9 x 2.09 x 0.83 inches (99 x 53 x 21 mm)
Nokia N81: 4.05 x 1.97 x 0.70 inches (102 x 50 x 17.9 mm)
Nokia 6010: 4.64 x 1.95 x 0.87 inches (119 x 50 x 23 mm)
If you’ve ever encountered an N81, the 5310 is about half as thick. And probably a quarter of the weight. It’s so light that you won’t even notice that you’re carrying it around.
The front houses the display, keypad buttons, and the dedicated music keys. Nothing too out of hte ordinary here – buttons are about average size (very similar to the N95), and are slightly raised. There’s a firm tactile response when pressing keys, and for the most part they should be fine – although there might be issues with absurdly large fingered people and the 5-way directional key.
I like the unobtrusive look of the dedicated music keys. They’re only very slightly raised and they blend in nicely with the red.
Other features of note on the outside: top-mounted 3.5mm audio jack, power button, and USB port (complete with flimsy port cover), left side charger port, right side volume controls, and rear 2 megapixel camera.
Build quality is what I’d call average. There’s no creaking going on and it isn’t hollow, but the feel is still rather…plasticky. Given its price point ($25-50 with contract), I can’t say I’m too surprised by this.
Not a whole lot to mention about the display. It’s a 2 inch 240×320 pixel TFT. It’s quite bad in direct sunlight. For all other purposes, it does its job.
The Nokia 5310 houses a no-frills 2 megapixel camera with basic functions. It’s not impressive. Colors are noticeably faded/washed out. See pictures below for more. And video, if you can believe it, is far, far worse. Youch!

I warned you!
Voice sound quality was typical Nokia, and that means very good in both directions. The loudspeaker, unfortunately, could be better – the maximum speaker volume is way too low, and using it in any kind of outside environment is pretty rough. Part of the reason for this is poor placement of the speaker – it’s situated on the back of the phone, so typically holding the phone in your hand will muffle the sound somewhat.
Even though it’s meant to be a music phone, the 5310 doesn’t come equipped with stereo speakers. That isn’t to say the onboard speaker isn’t good, because it’s actually rather decent. The addition of the 3.5mm audio jack is a nice touch, although the included headset is cumbersome and there’s just way too many wires to deal with.
The retail package also includes a 1 gigabyte microSD card, compliments of Nokia (and falling memory prices).
There’s also a lot of Panic! at the Disco-related paraphernalia preloaded on the phone. Okay, by a lot I mean one song (Nine in the Afternoon) and a couple videos. I cannot stress how bad the videos look on the phone. They are horrendous.
Battery Life
The 860 mAh lithium-ion is definitely one of the 5310′s stronger points. It’s rated for up to 5.5 hours of talk time, and I was able to get a good couple days usage out of it that included a mixture of phone calls, taking pictures, listening to music, and generally messing around with the phone.
User Interface
Finally, a word about the user interface. I like it. A lot. It’s faster and more responsive than previous UI’s, looks 100x better (now looks very similar to S60 counterparts) and the active standby is great. And going through menus while listening to music is actually a pleasant experience. Hurrah, S40 UI’s are no longer an embarassment!
The Good: small and thin, lightweight, cheap price, battery life, nice interface, overall good value for the money
The Bad: small and thin, horrible camera + video, no stereo anything

Gizmodo Reviews the E66 (“not $500 good”)

Gizmodo has posted a lightning review of the E66 Eseries business slider. The one-line verdict: “It’s good, but it’s not $500 good, esp without a qwerty.”
Nokia's E66: Good but not great.
Nokia E66: Good but not great?

The E66 is the equivalent counterpart to that other Eseries phone release, the Nokia E71. Feature sets on both phones are pretty much the same, as is pricing (350 Euro at last count).
So according to Gizmodo, the E66 is a device that’s nicely sized, “loud and clear”, and has a ton of features. Sounds like a win, right? Well, not quite – and the reasons are Symbian (slow, with options “buried deep in menus”), a lousy browser (“Nokia’s built-in S60 browser sucks, plain and simple”), and a “pointless” screen rotation feature.
I can’t speak for the browser, but having to dig through S60 menus is standard Symbian fare. I’d love to see more customization of the Active Standby screen rather than the six shortcut icons and the calendar/to-do list stuff under it.

And the E71 Gets Reviewed…(No Real Verdict Though)

The folks at Engadget managed to snag a brand-spanking new E71 and put it through its paces. Unfortunately, the verdict is really more of an observation than anything: “As for accomplishing what it sets out to do, the E71 manages it all with style, providing a plethora of features in a speedy, beautiful and miniscule device.”
Well, at least there’s lots of pictures.
Engadget reviews the E71.
Engadget reviews the E71.
Nokia E71 reviewed by Engadget
So I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the review for you:
The Good
  • Stylish
  • Thinnest QWERTY device around
  • “Comfortable to hold and use”
  • Better keyboard than the rough E62 predecessor
  • Strong set of software included – Maps, Share on Ovi/Flickr, S60 Browser
  • “Zippy” load time
The Bad
  • Too many button presses to accomplish tasks
  • Smaller screen thanks to smaller device size
  • Media playback interface not up to par
  • Unsubsidized by AT&T = freakin’ expensive

Nokia 3555 Flip Phone

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been fooling around with one of Nokia’s more recent budget phones, the 3555. Inside: a mostly full review* of this Series 40 quad-band flip.
Nokia 3555 Phone
The Sexy-back Nokia 3555.

And here it is, the 3555. A big thanks, as usual, to my friends at WOMWorld for providing me with the phone trial!
Nokia 3555: Top
Chances are you haven’t heard much about the 3555, if at all. That’s because it’s one of those low-cost “affordable” handsets that fly under everyone’s radar. Yes, the T-Mobile-exclusive 3555 can’t hold a candle to any Nseries phone, but for the price you do get a decently-featured (although slightly boring) flip phone.
Size and Weight
First off, the 3555 is a serious underweight in the world of cell phones. It’s a mere 93.9g or 3 ounces, and it doesn’t leave much of a footprint in your pocket. I might even have to say that it’s too light. It does have a rather plasticky type of feel to it – it’s missing that dense “heft” that you get with other phones – even phones like Nokia’s 6085 flip phone. And at 20.5mm, the 3555 is not a slim phone.

The Outside
The top part of the flip houses the external display, camera, and speaker. The outer display, for some reason, was rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise which results in having to manually turn the phone to read what’s on the screen. But the screen itself is clear and easy enough to read. Note that the front cover is not removable (at least not easily like an Xpress On cover). Since the 3555 is a pseudo-successor/counterpart to the 6555, it features the “sexy-back” seamless look when fully opened. Basically this means the hinge is completely on the inside in contrast to the typical clamshell ugliness. It definitely gives the phone a different, classier look.
The sides house two volume buttons and the dedicated camera key.

The Inside
Not a whole lot to say here. The 1.8″ main display won’t be winning any awards, but it does its job. The pixels are humongous though.
The keypad is completely devoid of any weirdness on Nokia’s part. The buttons are big, round and pretty equally accessible, and you shouldn’t be pushing the wrong buttons by accident.
Nokia 3555: Speaker
The 3555 sports a Music Player application as well as expandable memory which should appeal to general music fans. Most of it is standard fare, with the exception of the external mono speaker. The speaker is actually surprisingly decent. There are no dedicated music buttons, which is a little annoying when you’re playing music and then decide that you want to shove the music app into the background. If you do not have Active Standby enabled (the default), there’s no easy way to get back into the Music Player. You’ll have to go through a number of menus and sub-menus to get there. Savvier phone users might figure out that you can create a shortcut (or just turn the blasted Active Standby on), but it really should be a major menu option.
Nokia 3555: Music Player Application
A little bit about the Music Player application. It’s a really simple, childish-looking program that gets the job done. And it manages to show cover art too. On the downside, adding music to the song library takes a noticeably long time. At max volume, everything also sounds pretty much like crap.

There is support for microSD cards on the 3555, but it is absolutely, positively not hot-swappable. Nokia’s actually gone so far as to put the microSD slot UNDER the battery, ie where the SIM card is. The mechanism is also pretty flimsy I might add.
Bluetooth headphones do work with this phone, but you end up getting mono sound out of both channels. With that said, it’s not bad as bad as it sounds.
You be the judge. Important things to note: it’s VGA and that’s all that needs to be said.
Nokia 3555 Camera Picture 1
Nokia 3555 Camera Picture 2
Nokia 3555 Camera Picture 3
Nokia 3555 Camera Picture 4
Nokia 3555 Camera Picture 4
Actually, no, there’s more that needs to be said. Pictures take an average of 4 seconds from the time you push the button to completion. On an interesting note, there’s actually an option to completely mute the camera shutter sound. I’d been under the impression that USA-based cell phones had to keep the shutter sound on no matter what. Stalkers rejoice I guess.
As mentioned before, the 3555 is a Series 40 device, which means large, ugly menu screens. The 3555 is no exception here. With Active Standy though, you can at least pretend that you’ve got a Series 60 phone.
Moving through menus is fairly quick and for the most part the user interface is pretty responsive.
Nokia 3555: Main Menu Nokia 3555: Active Desktop
Ports, Jacks, Plugs, Etc.
There are three main ports: power, headphone, and micro USB. The power plug is your standard Nokia (small) jack. The headphone jack is similar in size to the power plug port – it might be the 2.5mm headphone jack but I’m not 100% sure on that. Either way, the retail box comes with one mono headphone/headset that you can plug into the port.
Also note that the box does not come with a micro USB cable, which would normally be handy for transferring items from the memory card to your PC (especially considering the lack of hot-swappable cards). Transfer time is generally slow, taking about 1.15 seconds per megabyte. Before I forget, the 3555 does NOT come with a microSD card.
Nokia 3555: Box View
The Box
The Nokia 3555 retail box comes with the following: phone, BL-5C battery, mono headset, charger, and manuals. You do not get a microSD card, microUSB cable or anything else, for that matter.
Everything Else
There’s one slight caveat to this “mostly full review”: I couldn’t actually make a call with the phone, because it was locked to T-Mobile and I’m not. So I’ll have to update sound quality and battery life at a later time, when I get my hands on an unlocked model.

First Hands-On Review of the Nokia N96 Phone Released!

Talk about ridiculousness. Mobile-Review managed to get hold of a prototype Nokia N96 (due out in Q3 2008) a couple of months early.
What happens when you get a phone months ahead of release? A huge freakin' review, that's what.
What happens when you get a phone months ahead of release? A huge freakin’ review, that’s what.
Nokia N96 Phone Next to A Nokia N95
Don’t want to read Mobile-Review’s super-duper N96 phone review? Here’s a short summary of their findings:
  • Big, wide, and heavy (sounds meaty) (“its pocket-stretching casing won’t fit just about any jacket or trousers”)
  • Attracts grease, dirt, fingerprints and other fun gunk on your fingers
  • Kick-stand is pretty sturdy and quite handy a la N810 (“at least, I pressed, pushed and abused the N96 in all possible ways when the stand was out and still couldn’t break it”)
  • Good quality mobile TV viewing
  • Navi-wheel is a failure – again
  • Decent battery life considering that it’s a 950 mAh, same as the original N95 (“In Moscow, the N96 stayed online for around 2 days when we were heavy on its features”)
  • No substantial improvement for sound quality with the 24-bit DSP
Keep in mind that this was a prototype model, and the build quality wasn’t exactly up to final product standards. The camera wasn’t working either, so it looks like that one’s still up in the air.
Pricing: The Nokia N96 phone will retail for 550 Euro (currently $868 USD). This is a serious phone for some serious cash.

10 Annoyances of the Nokia N81

While using my Nokia N81, I’ve come across a number of bugs, oddities, and general annoyances that make using this slider a less than pleasant experience. Here’s hoping that some of these get addressed someday.
Nokia N81
Bugs, annoyances, and other “features” while using Nokia’s N81.

1. Thanks to what I’ve deemed a firmware bug, the N81′s sleep mode cannot actually be toggled on and off despite the option being present in Settings. Regardless of what you choose, sleep mode automatically kicks in after a minute or two of inactivity. Sure, this forces you to save battery life, but it didn’t help me much when trying to run a stuck-pixel fixing Java app: sleep mode kept turning the darn thing off. Ugh.
2. The N81 uses a non-standard USB connector. I guess this saves space but non-standard is never cool. Don’t lose that cable!
3. You can type in a number followed by the pound (#) sign to insert a contact’s phone number. So if you happened to know that Person X was in position number 32 in your Contacts list, you could enter 32# which would automatically insert that person’s primary phone number. Really not very useful unless you like memorizing people’s position numbers.
4. The directional arrow keys are too hard. To press, that is. While it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in every day usage, playing games with the arrow keys becomes that much harder.
5. When I first got my N81, the N-gage demos were installed but would not load. I found this rather amusing. (solved by reinstalling with the help of the Download! application)
6. Sometimes the # key lets me switch between General and Silent profiles, and sometimes it doesn’t. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is. Along the same lines, occasionally I’m able to hold down the left softkey to automatically read (using the text-to-speech built-in software) my latest text messages, but most of the time I can’t.Why?! Meanwhile, useless shortcuts like the right “voice commands” softkey work perfectly.
7. There should be a keypad lock section in General Settings. You can probably figure out quite easily how to change whether the phone locks when the slide is closed (Settings->General->Slide Handling), but did you know that you can have your N81 automatically lock itself after a specified period of time? Hint: it’s in Settings->General->Security->Phone and SIM Card->Keypad Autolock Period. It’s a welcome feature, but how many people would seriously dig this deep to find it?
8. There isn’t any easy way to add a new wi-fi access point, especially if your router does not broadcasts SSIDs. I still don’t know how. I had to modify an existing access point to get it working. The “WLAN Wizard” is completely useless.
9. Navi-wheel: great idea, lousy execution. Having a navi-wheel is awesome. Having a navi-wheel that doesn’t scroll through items consistently and/or quickly is not. Going through lists of songs in the Music Player ends up being a chore rather than the speedy experience it was supposed to be.
10. There are no games. The N81 is meant to be used in landscape mode with the hidden A & B gaming buttons, yet this presents a two-pronged problem: 1) most games do not let you change the screen orientation, and 2) most games do not support user-defined keys. As if!

A Nokia N82 vs. Nokia N95 vs. Nokia Z5fd Photo Comparison

Here’s some photos I dug out from my trip to Miami, taken with three different cameras: a Nokia N82, Nokia N95, and FujiFilm Z5fd. You probably already know that the N82/N95 are 5 megapixel CMOS cameras with Carl Zeiss optics, but the Z5fd is a relative unknown 6 megapixel ultraportable with a SuperCCD sensor.
The Nokia N82, Nokia N95, and FujiFilm Z5fd Shootout
A photo comparison between the Nokia N95/N82 and FujiFilm Z5fd.

Nokia N82 picture of green Case Logic pockets case: flash
Nokia N95 picture of green Case Logic pockets case: flash
FujiFilm z5fd picture of green Case Logic pockets case: flash
Nokia N82 picture of green Case Logic pockets case: no flash
Nokia N95 picture of green Case Logic pockets case: no flash
FujiFilm z5fd picture of green Case Logic pockets case: no flash
Nokia N82 picture of Miami skyline during the day
Nokia N95 picture of Miami skyline during the day
FujiFilm z5fd picture of Miami skyline during the day
As expected, pictures taken by the N82 and N95 cameras were noticeably similar, although the N95′s flash added an annoying slight bluish tint to all my photos. In the end, it seemed like the N82 took more true-to-life pictures than either of the other two cameras, especially judging by the Miami skyline picture. While the Z5fd took just “okay” pictures, the camera did have one cool feature that I wish other cameras would implement – the ability to take two quick shots, one with flash and one without.
Ah, it’s too bad that the N82 is a candy bar. If Nokia made a comparable flip phone I’d jump on that in a second.