Review: Nokia N95 (Verdict: Can I keep it? Please??)

n95_low_menu.jpgI've been having a great time with a Nokia N95 this past couple of weeks. I was a little dubious as to its power when first seeing those "thing in my pocket" TV spots (how naff), but once I got hands on things got nice and kept getting better.

Let's get the trash talk out of the way first. The slide is too feathery. I've found this same problem with other Nokia sliders, and it rears its head as you try to quickly retrieve the phone from any tight-ish pocket. It slides just enough to accept a call, and then slips back to hang up. Less than ideal.

Second issue is in a similar vein: the unlock mechanism is too easily bumped off. With the two keys aligned directly across a single plane on the handset, I found the phone unlocked on a number of occasions on taking it out of said tight-ish pocket. Especially when keeping the phone in the included leather case! The case actually presses against the front of the handset too much, so the protection doubles as a button masher, heightening the risk of unlock and send functions getting hit.

These are annoyances that could well be deal breakers if you have no way to get around them. But I could be wearing more jackets and looser pants from now on to accommodate. Read on for why the N95 is worth the trouble.

Physically, the N95 comes in at a comfortably mid-sized bulk. Small for a smartphone, probably slightly smaller than the average compact digital camera. The numeric pad is one of the nicest I've touched — a solid, clicky sensation, with keys that will be easy for both meaty and small fingers to negotiate.

The camera image quality is very good, and you get a heap of camera modes and functions. We're talking settings and results on a par with most 5Mp compact digitals, really. The lack of zoom is its main drawback on this front, and with many compact digitals getting their optical zoom lengths expanded it pushes this into the domain of great quality happy snapper. It also has a weak sauce flash, and no optical stabilisation, so it is very much a shooter best suited to good available light conditions. Flickr and Vox support are built in for sending your pics straight up to an online service.

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The other hot ticket item is GPS. You need to subscribe to a $10 per month service, but this gets you positioning and navigation wherever you are in the world. You don't quite have the same ease of use as some stand alone GPS gear, but once you get in the groove of setting nav destinations, the Route 66 system delivers directions like a pro.

Interweb performance is great, and the built-in browser is quite good, though Opera Mobile is still a good idea — hell, that's a good idea on any handset.

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On the general performance front, if you like Nokia Series 60 then you'll be a happy camper. I hadn't been a big Nokia user in recent years, so it took a little getting used to. But once in the zone it was all clear sailing. The software support is pretty great too, with a new package just released opening up the world of SIP VoIP calling to your handset. You'll spend months refining your software to make it your perfect connected PDA.

For some the screen will be a problem — I know some users demand their smartphones have a full face screen, so they won't be sold on the N95 (that and full QWERTY keypads). But this is a different kind of smartphone, so stylus be damned.

In essence, this is the best convergence handset, or convergence device, I've ever used. It does so many things right, and where there is a question of trade off — camera, GPS, mobile web — it isn't so far off the single-function competitors to make you feel like you're missing out.

The very worst thing is a temporary problem. If you're an X-Series user like me, the N95 is still unsupported, so I needed to carry a second handset for my mobile net access. But that problem will be fixed 'soon', says 3 Mobile.

It may be worth waiting a little longer to nab this handset on a plan to avoid the big upfront cost, and that's definitely the best plan for 3 users. For those who have to show off, go buy it now — I've never tested a handset that has received so many looks of envy. Even the security guys at the airport were excited to see this puppy pass through their scanner. I'm surprised they didn't "confiscate" it.

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