By popular demand: Nokia N95 Review (part 1)

Since radiac asked me to, I’ll post a sort of review of my phone, the Nokia N95. Before I got mine, I read a bunch of reviews, that mostly mentioned all of the features of the phone, and the stuff it did – and then, in the last two paragraphs, listed that by-the-way, the reviewer hadn’t had that good battery time on his phone.

Things are going to be a little different in this review – I expect that you’ll have read a bunch of feature lists, so I’ll focus on what the phone doesn’t do:

Battery time
There’s no way around this. Oh my. The phone has a 900 mAh Lithium-polymer single-cell 3.7 volt battery. You could use such a battery to power model airplanes; I have a couple a bit like it for that purpose. It’s probably great for a phone, too. In this phone, on an average day for me, it will run out after about 24 hours. 24 hours. Don’t expect to get more battery time than this if you use it’s email fetching, power up the web browser a bunch of times to check things on Wikipedia, send a few text messages, and call for 10 or so minutes.

If you plan to use the GPS: Get a car-charger. I have used the GPS in the field for geocaching – I have a review of that elsewhere on this blog – and it seems to keep its charge fine when in the field. But invariably, when I get home, I have to charge it up. The car-charger isn’t really that expensive, I paid around £7 for it.

Recharge the phone every night. I’ve once had the phone run out of battery for me during the day, after I’d been using it quite a bit for web browsing, but mostly, It’ll work just fine all through the day on the nightly charge.

Camera quality
This is really the party piece of the phone, according to many reviews. A 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. Wow. Don’t be fooled. This is a mobile phone, not a camera. The camera is great, for a mobile phone, and probably passable compared to that of a compact camera of the same dimensions. But it is absolutely no match for my 6 megapixel (only a bit more) Dynax 7D SLR. The compression, especially, is terrible! It’s great for little snapshots, and it does fit my pocket better than my SLR-and-6-lenses, but I’d never use it for anything I really cared about.

All that said, I like that it has two camera, so you don’t have to be awkward if you ever video phone (I don’t), and I like that there’s a decent flash on the main camera. I don’t like the shutter thing you slide in front of the camera – it comes open in my pocket a bit too often, which unlocks the phone and starts the camera software – even if it’s only half way open.

GPS navigation
Reviews have proclaimed that this phone has turn by turn navigation. Nokia has wisely steered clear of such claims. Let’s set it straight:
This phone does not have built-in turn by turn navigation

Important part: Built in. You buy it. It costs a fee. It’s available as a 3-year subscription, and it isn’t expensive – but it isn’t included. But there’s a trick. Using the built-in maps, you can ask it to plot a route for you – that’s a free service, and it works. Preload the maps onto your phone, and it doesn’t even have to use the net connection for it. You can also – with firmware 11.0.026 at the least – ask it to track you as you travel along the route. Doesn’t cost anything, but it doesn’t tell you to turn either – you have to figure that out on your own.

Supposedly, the navigation you buy is really good, and works great, and the maps are updated free of charge, and all is good. I tried out Tomtom, couldn’t get it to work with the built in GPS. Someone mentioned that there is other stuff coming out that’ll do turn by turn navigation – but none of it is free. So, if you buy this phone, beware that you need to pay an additional fee for the navigation.

Software stability
The firmware I have on my phone is version 11.0.026, I think. Presumably, Nokia has gone through some 11 versions of the firmware, polishing it, weeding out the bugs, making it stable and nice.

They’re not very good at it.

They’ve ended up with a phone that I had to do a hard reset on (*#7780#) after owning it for some 27 hours. The web browser refused to start. It worked fine afterwards, and restoring my settings from the microSD was fine as well. But it isn’t really a sign of stable software.

I have also experienced the web browser crashing, or running out of memory, all to often for an “Internet Phone”. There also seems to be some kind of garbage collection running, picking up things like the GPS program that I had left running because I wanted to check a web-page while still knowing where I was… Not good.

It isn’t terrible, and it works most of the time – not worse than most other phones, I’m told. But it definitely doesn’t look like something that’s gone through 11 rounds of stability improvements.

To be continued…
I can’t really come up with more right now – I wanted to write all the positive stuff as well, but I will have to do that some other time…

4 thoughts on “By popular demand: Nokia N95 Review (part 1)

  1. radiac

    You wrote an entry for me! I feel so special!

    Thanks for all of that, very helpful! I’ve decided I’m after a phone primarily to use for internet for up to ~4 hours over a 14 hour day with no recharging, so perhaps I should keep looking for something with a bit more battery life.

    Sadness, the rest of it sounds pretty good. Still, by the time I’m free of my contract, maybe they’ll have come out with an extended battery 🙂

  2. mihtjel Post author

    I’m not sure if it’d do internet surfing for 4 hours (train rides?) but it might… I should try it sometime I guess. An extended battery may be coming with the American version.

    I’ll try to write part 2 (the positive stuff) soon.

  3. radiac

    Yes, train rides, plus possibly use during the day – for that I guess I’d need to take a charger. It could probably handle 2 or 3 hours a time, even my laptop can manage that 🙂

  4. radiac

    Oh, forgot to mention – there seem to be large adverts all over Paddington station selling the N95 as a route finder. Always in too much of a hurry in the mornings to stop to read, and always forget to look at them on the way back. Will do soon 🙂

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