updated 05:05 pm EDT, Tue May 20, 2008
Nokia N95 8GB Hands-On
Although available for awhile in Europe and for a short span of time as an unlocked phone in North America, the Nokia N95 8GB is finally available officially from a carrier on the latter continent, courtesy of Rogers Wireless in Canada. Electronista has just received its review unit and is putting the smartphone through its first paces, but already has early opinions for those looking to buy the premium smartphone, whether on Rogers or not.
Anyone familiar with the N95 will be familiar with its size, but the 8GB model remains thick -- one of the thickest in its class and easily comparable with the bulky Sony Ericsson K850i. However, the device is a slight improvement in build quality from the original, silver N95 and exudes a certain sense of class that isn't present on most other phones, including most other smartphones. The black admittedly goes a long way to help the device, but the smooth slider, subtly backlit keys, and general build quality also help.
The 2.8-inch LCD is a definite improvement over the smaller original and virtually dominates the front of the phone. The colors aren't quite as vivid as one would expect, but a built-in accelerometer gives the N95 8GB an advantage that nearly every phone but the iPhone will lack: tilting the phone on its side automatically adjusts media playback and most parts of the interface to fit in landscape mode. Nokia's feature is slightly more advanced in that it will apply the effect to more top-level menus, though we've already found apps (primarily Rogers-made programs) that refuse to run in anything but an upright mode.
Rogers has left many of the Nokia apps alone, but definitely makes its presence felt: aside from the default bright red theme, the company tries to push its own media player ahead of the N95's default and shows its brand elsewhere. We hope to see in the long run whether the changes hurt the phone's chances or are just extras that might prove useful.
The N95 8GB also gives an opportunity to try the latest version of Nokia's Multimedia Transfer app for the Mac -- a utility that automatically loads and syncs the phone with content from common Mac apps, including iTunes and Safari. While it's not a full replacement for direct support inside these apps, the latest version already shows promise as a solution to owners who have no interest in (or can't use) the iPhone but still want to transfer their content with minimum fuss.
Expect a more complete look at both the hardware and the software in coming days with our full review.