Nokia N96 returns better than ever


When the Nokia N95 was first unveiled to the world just last year, it took everyone by surprise, most notably due to the number of features and functions crammed into a reasonably sized handset. That smartphone has since received a refresh to feature 8GB of internal flash memory to help it keep up with other portable media players and music phones in terms of memory, but then again any device will still age with time, leading Nokia to work on its successor, the Nokia N96. The time is nigh, and the N96 which was first unveiled in front of the public earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will hit retail stores in the UK within a couple of weeks from now. It is rare for a handset to first hit Europe before it makes its way to North America, but then again for a handset as special as the Nokia N96, I suppose allowances can be made for its launch to be the exception rather than the norm.

I know that there will be iPhone fans out there (and maybe even G1 supporters) who won’t bother with the Nokia N96, but remember that Nokia is still the market leader when it comes to total cell phones sold around the world. The Nokia N96’s momentum has been built up over the past months so it would be interesting to see if the Finnish cell phone manufacturer is able to deliver this time round. As usual, we’ll need to take a look at the specifications before we can proceed, so let us see where the Nokia N96 stands compared to its predecessor, the N95.

  • Quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: GSM850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • Dual band UMTS/HSDPA: UMTS 900/2100 N96-1 (RM-247, Global), UMTS 850/1900 N96-3 (RM-247, Global), no UMTS N96 (RM-297, PR China)
  • 3G and WLAN access (RM-297 variant (PR China only) does not have WCDMA, WLAN and DVB-H)
  • Mobile TV (network-dependent feature)
  • 2.8” TFT display with 16 million colors
  • GPS Navigation
  • Access to Ovi
  • Instant upload to Flickr, Vox, Yahoo! and Google
  • Full-HTML browser
  • Symbian OS v9.3 S60 3.2 Edition
  • 16GB internal flash memory
  • microSD/microSDHC memory card slot (max. 32GB)
  • 2-way slide function
  • 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
  • High quality VGA camera in front of the phone
  • Double LED flash for the camera
  • Built-in motion sensor
  • Auto rotating display

Hmmm, something tells me that 16GB of internal flash memory is meant to help it go up against the high-end iPhone 3G that also has the same capacity, but the N96 wins out since it is able to bump that figure to a whopping 48GB when 32GB microSDHC memory cards are released sometime next year. I am rather disappointed, however, to see that the 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics has been retained, so no change in this aspect from the N95 although the rest of the world has already moved on towards an 8 megapixel camera with Samsung and LG leading the way. Granted, 5 megapixels is still much higher than what Apple offers, but the latter has something Nokia doesn’t – a cult following, sleek design and the software available for the iPhone platform that could eventually see it win out in the long run.

On the other hand, the 16 million color TFT display is a beauty to look at, so don’t go wasting it by having a standard wallpaper that shows off only a single color. Go on, play around with it and use the most colorful photo you have in your collection to do the display justice. The GPS navigation feature also boasts geotagging of images, helping you keep track of where you go as long as you remember to snap photos. Don’t worry, with the amount of memory within, I doubt you’d run out of space anytime soon.

Strangely enough, the camera lens in the N95 has more aperture compared to the N96, but that shouldn’t matter too much to the user since this is not meant to be a dedicated digital camera in the first place. I suppose Nokia also removed the infra-red port since they figured out nobody else will be using this ancient connecting technology much these days, hence justifying their decision. The lack of a hardware 3D graphics accelerator also does not bode well for the N96 where portable gaming is concerned, leaving the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP relatively unchallenged. Nokia has also seen it fit to remove built-in support for VoIP telephony in the N96 unlike Nokia VoIP 2.1 that’s found on the N95.

All in all, the Nokia N96 is somewhat a souped up N95, although there are a few sore points about it as well but those should not detract you from picking up this handset if you’re looking for a capable all-in-one cell phone. It will do well in just about any market released due to its relatively high end specifications, but as to whether it has the staying power to last beyond 2008 remains to be seen what with Sony Ericsson’s C905, LG’s Renoir and Samsung’s Bresson all sporting 8 megapixel cameras. Image shamelessly taken from phones4u, while Wikipedia was gleaned for the system specifications.

3 reviews or comments

Adam Richards Says: September 25, 2008 at 6:12 am

I would love for you to be able to tell the difference between photos taken with a 5mp and an 8mp camera at the size they’re normally viewed at. You can’t. A better sensor makes far more of a difference than pixel count at that level. Stop being a sucker for the marketing boys.

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