Nokia 9500 Communicator


19 May 2005

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Product: PDA
Price: €649
Love it or hate it, the Communicator has been the stalwart, high-end device in Nokia’s range since the Nineties. Yet despite ongoing upgrades and a battle with its weight problem, it always manages to appear out of step with the sharp end of design and ergonomics. There is no doubt that its bulk, an inescapable part of a design remit determined by its fold out Qwerty keypad, gives it a retro feel in the pocket-friendly era of BlackBerry devices, but in its favour it remains the most convincing alternative to lugging a laptop out of the office.

In its latest incarnation (pictured), the 65,536-colour display, 80MB memory, Wi-Fi connectivity and a rich range of applications make it hard to fault as a business tool. Added bonuses include an excellent hands-free conference call feature that blows the socks off the likes of the Xda in terms of performance.

The bad news is that after all these years, it’s still not a user-friendly device. Part of this is because the 9500 is yet to receive full network approval, so configuring internet settings is more fiddly than we’ve come to expect from devices where setting up email accounts has become a simple step-by-step process with operator server information pre-installed.

Nokia’s synchronisation software is still slightly messy. Having struggled with the version on the bundled CD, I downloaded the latest 6.5 edition of PC Suite from the Nokia website and found it a good deal more intuitive than its predecessors.

Synchronisation with your desktop is of paramount importance for any corporate mobile device and Nokia still has some way to go before it gets close to the ease of use that Microsoft delivers with Windows and ActiveSync. This may explain the recent Nokia announcement that it plans to incorporate ActiveSync into upcoming models, an acknowledgement that while Nokia and the Symbian platform might be winning the battle for mobile operating systems over Microsoft’s Pocket PC, it has still some work to do if it wants to win the confidence of business executives who demand easy compatibility with their Windows workstations.

Nokia’s web browser, a painful frame-by-frame download process, also suffers by comparison with Pocket Internet Explorer.

Gripes aside, for anyone who values a full keypad and is prepared to put up with the extra weight (222g) and set-up headaches, the 9500 is still out there on its own. Perhaps the imminent 9300, smaller but without Wi-Fi and the camera, has more chance of winning new customers to this niche product sector.

By Ian Campbell