A very feature-rich phone marred by difficult software. (June 7th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Nokia
Price: $400 (Rogers 3-year plan); $750 (US unlocked)
- Excellent camera for a phone.
- Surprisingly capable Nokia media player; Mac software a big help.
- Fast 3G and Wi-Fi.
- Stronger GPS features than BlackBerry.
- Good call quality.
- Expensive, even on contract.
- Symbian S60 unstable and at times difficult.
- Rogers media software forced on users and less capable than Nokia's.
- Short battery life.
- Video calling nice, but unlikely to be used so soon in North America.
the Symbian Series 60 OS and web browsing
Given that it's an extension of a previous model, it shouldn't be surprising that the the N95 8GB uses a largely standard implementation of Symbian S60 as its platform, which is a double-edged sword for a media phone. The OS is genuinely capable of multitasking and is powerful enough to handle 3D -- Nokia Maps and many advanced games use it -- but many features beyond the surface level can be arbitrarily difficult to use.
Settings are especially complex; it's not always clear which panel is meant to control a given function, logical options are missing, and automation rarely exists. The recently reviewed BlackBerry Curve 8330 could auto-configure nearly any mail account with very little information; with S60, setting up a simple Gmail address requires extensive steps and troubleshooting and still doesn't work as effectively as Research in Motion's design.
At least in Nokia's implementation, S60 also makes curious choices as to text entry: by default, it often insists on predictive text for certain areas, even when the feature is unlikely to make a proper guess. It had to be switched off entirely as it frequently made entering addresses into contacts or GPS all but impossible.
S60 is also one of the least stable mobile operating systems tested yet. While no OS is flawless, the N95 8GB occasionally freezes when an app monopolizes the processor. There were also periodic crashes which would force a hard reset of the phone. Rogers' media software was a particular source of trouble as it was the most likely app of the mix to completely freeze the device.
One potential consideration over other phones, even other Nokia models, is plug-in support; the 8GB edition supports Flash Lite video out of the box, which makes it one of the few devices that can handle YouTube or some sites without needing a separate client (as with the iPhone) or a download. This isn't available with the original N95's default firmware; it's less essential when both phones can now share the same features, but it may be important given Rogers' customization work and the frequent need to reinstall apps after a firmware patch on Symbian phones.