WTF indeed; permit me to explain…
So I’ve had a Nokia N95 8GB in my possession for a week now, and I think I know it well enough to deliver a final verdict, at least in relation to my current Nokia handset, the comparatively stuffy E61i.
I should state up front that both of these devices make for an excellent smartphone experience, and S60 itself ranks up there with my favourite mobile platforms of all time, right alongside the groundbreaking first-generation Treo and the unlimited data-driven Fido hiptop. And I’m not just pandering to WOM World here; I’ve had my E61i for a year this month and the fact that this die-hard Mac user hasn’t yet been swayed by the iPhone must count for something!
I should also point out that as a Canadian, the latest super-fast 3G data network is all but useless to me, because mobile data in this country is so expensive to begin with. I have to pare down web pages with Opera Mini anyway, and since there isn’t any visible speed difference between EDGE and WiFi I suspect there wouldn’t be any noticeable gain with HSDPA either.
That puts the N95 at a bit of a disadvantage out of the starting gate — at least the North American variant targeted at me. And even though its seemingly endless list of features leaves my lowly E61i in the dust, I ultimately don’t think it’s for me.
The answer becomes clear only when I break down exactly what I use my smartphone for. In terms of percentages it plays out like this:
Photo & Video Capture
Right off the bat you can see that taking photos and videos isn’t so much a priority for me, despite being a graduate of film school and a neophyte citizen journalist. There’s no denying the superiority of the N95’s autofocus 5 megapixel stills and DVD-quality videos, but my E61i’s 2 megapixel imager and 352×288 pixels video capability is good enough considering that I hate flash photography in general and must wait until I get home to upload large media files to the web via WiFi.
Despite its low ranking this is a fairly crucial smartphone feature for me. Here, the E61i trumps the N95 with a full version of Quickoffice preloaded onto the device. If I had to pay for an office suite on the N95 I’d probably go with — go figure — OfficeSuite, if only for its support of OpenOffice formats.
The N95 obviously gets the nod here for its N-Gage support, even though there aren’t yet that many games available for download. But if you’re a fan of console ROMs you’ll actually find the E61i a perfectly good gaming device, mostly because of its landscape-oriented screen.
That landscape screen is also the deciding factor here — the N95 loses out only because I can’t use the #2 and #8 keys to page up and down when the slider is flipped to the landscape position. I’ve also noticed that my favourite mobile browser actually seems slower on the N95 than my E61i, which doesn’t make any sense to me, yet persists after a reinstall of the app.
As you’d expect its QWERTY keypad makes the E61i the uncontested SMS champ. But it’s not so much of a rout as you’d think; I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Nokia’s implementation of T9 and would go so far to say that’s it’s likely even more accurate than my own unpredictive QWERTY thumbing. Its shortcomings become apparent only when you want to enter “challenging” text — symbols, all caps, web URLs, that sort of thing. Switching between different modes of text entry is probably as easy as it can be, but it’s still extremely tedious.
An unexpected surprise was the N95’s keypad, damn near perfect in terms of key size and tactility. It makes my E61i seem absolutely stiff by comparison. Still, you can’t really argue with the simple fact that 39 keys beats 12 any day of the week.
I should probably point out a possible issue in terms of build quality. This N95 I’ve been using has clearly seen a lot of action and as a result is pretty creaky, with lots of give in the chassis even when closed. My E61i, on the other hand, is as rock solid as it was out of the box almost a year ago — and it’s travelled with me to Bermuda, New Zealand and Egypt, along with an unscheduled trip or two to the pavement from about waist-high.
But build quality aside, the N95 is an absolutely killer handset and feature for feature is the most advanced smartphone that money can buy — at least until the second coming of the JeebusPhone next week…