Product Review: Nokia N95

28 Aug 2007

Ask any Nokia employee and you’d hear echoes of Winston Churchill’s “We’ll fight them on the beaches” speech when they talk of how their precious N95 will send Apple’s forthcoming and much-hyped iPhone limping back to the States.

Without being able to compare the two devices – the iPhone won’t launch here until Autumn – the Nokia N95 has some considerable advantages.

It is a fully-fledged 3G phone with a built-in Wi-Fi radio for fast web surfing compared with Apple’s 2.5G GPRS technology and it has a 5.5-megapixel camera for high-resolution image capture compared with the iPhone’s measly 2.0-megapixel capability.

Unlike the iPhone – which has a touchscreen – the N95 comes with a two-way slide design to allow you to shift from ordinary phone one minute to music and video player the next.

Having studied the N95 from afar I was pleasantly surprised at just how light it was and of course how visually impressive it is with all the sparking lights.

My first reaction was to check out the camera and I was pleased with the way you simply pull back the shutter over the lens and presto you’re in camera mode.

The camera comes with a Carl Zeiss lens and while the 5.5-megapixel capability puts Nokia in a league of its own, it’s still a lot of technology that I’m not convinced sits well on a mobile phone.

Don’t get me wrong, it works well; too well as a digital camera. But I wish anyone luck trying to send a 5.5-megapixel photograph as a message on a cellular network in Ireland.

The video camera application was sublime, recording crisp and clear images easily.

The device is packed with neat multimedia features such as an intuitive media player, video centre and interactive radio service.

For web surfing you can go over cellular networks – and pay operators a fortune – or you can switch to Wi-Fi and hop onto the web via a public hotspot. This application was easy and fast to set up and is the closest I’ve seen to full and proper web surfing on a mobile handset.

The mapping application could and should have been the clincher on this one and sadly I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I saw it work in a demonstration perfectly well but I think the controls need to be refined to make it easier for users to navigate and find places at a whim.

Could this be the iPhone killer? It won’t stop Apple establishing a beachhead but it will spoil the party a little for Steve Jobs.

The N95 is infinitely more sophisticated than any of the specifications I’ve seen for the iPhone.

But without a touchscreen and a hype machine fuelled by over-zealous followers it risks being just another obtusely named Nokia phone. A little bit of refinement and a striking identity would do the trick nicely though.

The N95 retails for €349 with Vodafone, O2 and 3 and for €750 SIM-free.

Pros: Good media player and 5.5-megapixel camera

Cons: Mapping application is a little unwieldy

Price: €349

By John Kennedy