Nokia N86 – A straight-up oldskool Nseries smartphone, yo.

N86 T9 FailOne thing that stuck with me from the launch of WIND Mobile in Toronto this past week was that the company offers not a single straight-up oldskool handset. Even in their currently limited lineup everything they’re selling is either a touchscreen or qwerty.

And yet my recent stopover in super-futuristic Tokyo last month would suggest that numberpad devices are still very much in fashion.

Suffice to say that for me and this N86, traditional T9 text input is something that has to be tolerated for the sake of that sweet, sweet camera.

The keypad on the N86 isn’t bad, per se — far from it. While maybe not quite up to the gold standard of numberpads — that honour goes to the N95, IMHO — the keys on the N86 have similarly good travel and, critically, have a bit of space between them, as you can see here:

N86 Numberpad

If you’re a whiz at T9 your thumbs will fly on the N86, but if you’re still learning like me you just need a little patience and you’ll get bw bz by.

Above the keys is a straight-up oldskool 240×320-pixel display, with one important difference. Though the resolution is the same as on almost every other Eseries and Nseries device, this one is all AMOLED up in yo’ face! That is to say, it’s an active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display…

So what? Well, see for yourself, the N86 on the left compared to my N79 on the right:

N86 AMOLED Screen

AMOLED is more efficient for better battery life, but more importantly it looks fantastic everywhere except in direct sunlight, where it’s still readable.

N86 Installed AppsBut behind the screen we’ve got a bit of an oldskool problem — a lack of available space for installed apps.

Here’s most of what I’ve put on my N86, plus a handy guide in case there’s something here that you don’t recognize:

Row 1: Calcium, FishText, Frozen Bubble.
Row 2: JoikuSpot, Nimbuzz, OfficeSuite.
Row 3: Opera Mini, Qik, SplashID.
Row 4: SymTorrent, UpCode, WorldMate.

None of these apps take up much space on their own, but together with the other necessary items on my default drive they’ve gobbled up over 70 of the available 78MB of flash memory there.

N86 Available MemoryDon’t believe me? See for yourself…

Part of the problem is how Nokia arbitrarily splits up the internal memory on its devices into separate virtual drives. Sure, I could’ve install all my apps and more into the “mass memory” partition of the single, internal drive, but I didn’t — and now I can’t install the N-Gage client on my N86 at all.

Furthermore, why split it all up in the first place? That’s straight-up oldskool obfuscation for new users, yo… But I suppose it makes sense in this (mostly) straight-up oldskool Nokia.

If I do end up buying an N86 for myself, I’m gonna have to get me some adidas-style white stripes to lay across the back of it.


Nokia N86 – Worst Camera Phone EVAR!!1!

Hey, didn’t I post just yesterday that Nokia’s N86 was the best camera phone EVAR?

Indeed I did. I’m not trying to contradict myself here; instead I merely wish to point out a couple of issues that prospective N86 owners should be aware of. You can decide for yourself how important they are.

Exhibit A: Panora-meh.

Maybe it’s because photo-stitching is a bad idea with a wide-angle lens, or maybe it’s because I suck at such things. But try as I might I could not for the life of me get a halfway decent result in the N86’s panorama mode.

Click through to each photo’s Flickr page and see what went wrong with each. The third photo came closest to yielding acceptable results, but there are errors in all three…

Bangkok Panorama Fail

Singapore Panorama Fail

Shibuya, as seen from 16th Floor of Excel Hotel Tokyu

Exhibit B: (not so much) Macro.

I’m not terribly impressed by the macro mode on the N86 (or any of the Nseries handsets I’ve tried, for that matter). I just can’t get as close to what I’m shooting as I’d like to, like this big bag of betel nuts in Taipei, for example:

Taiwanese chewing gum -- forget Red Bull, this stuff will bite you in the ass.

The odd thing is that while focusing the lens will often lock on my subject for a split-second, then lose it completely. Maybe this hack for macro video recording would also work in photo mode?

Exhibit C: Here we go again…

N97 owners are all too familiar with Nokia’s destructive camera lens cover. Well, guess what — the cover on this N86 is doing the same thing. See that line just below the lens?

Scratchy scratchy!

The saving grace here is that the cover is not scratching the glass directly over the lens, per se, due to its modified design. But Nokia could have avoided this uproar altogether with more metal painted plastic around the lens, as they did with their own N79:

A better Nseries lens housing...

I’m not personally sold on the lens cover idea at all, and my opinion is that a thick, clear shield over the lens (as in the N95 8GB and N97 Mini) is the way to go.

And on the subject of cameras…

Exhibit D: Front-facing camera… WTF?!1!

Imagine my surprise to discover that the front-facing camera on Nokia’s imaging flagship has a lower resolution than the N97 before it — CIF vs. VGA. The pixel count isn’t much different but the resulting video sure is!

Here are two streamed Qik videos, recorded in the same location at the same time of day with the same settings. The only difference between the two is the slightly weaker Canadian winter sun.

N86 (352×288 pixels), recorded yesterday:

[qik url=”″%5D

N97 (640×480 pixels) recorded last summer::

[qik url=”″%5D

While the front-facing camera might never be used on most handsets, I’m a big of Qik and use it quite often with my screen facing me. Maybe this is why Qik’s running a contest right now with the 1st-gen N97 as the prize?

So there they are, my photo and video-related issues with the N86. Are they enough to steer you towards another device? It’s certainly giving me pause for thought

Nokia N86 – Best Camera Phone EVAR!!1!

How’s this for a vote of confidence? The 8-megapixel camera on Nokia’s N86 is so good that I never once reached for a standalone camera on my recent trip around the world.

Here are some of the best pics snapped in faraway places — you can see more in my dedicated Flickr set

I don't know what this is but it's awesome #3.

I don't know what this is but it's awesome #6.

Singapore Flyer - at the top #1

Taipei 101 by Day

Artsy Shot

Grand Hotel at Night

Tokyo from My Hotel Room

OMFG, Ninjas!!1!

And video is every bit as impressive on this thing, maybe even more so:

Even video streamed live to Qik at dusk looks crisp and clear — and with the powerful one-two punch of PixelPipe and Share Online I can upload any media anywhere in just a few clicks.

If there’s a better camera phone out there I sure haven’t seen it…

#ACRTW – Sunday brunch in London with friends.

Hey, isn’t that Tom Hall, the dude who tirelessly collates all the goings-on in the Nokia-verse for Indeed it is — he’s seen here (photo #1) posing at the front door of 1000heads swanky new London HQ.

Tom graciously offered to babysit me during my day-long layover in and out of Heathrow, and he brought friends (photo #2). Even better, I got the okay to take one of them with me on my ’round the world tour!

But which one?

Well, the white N97 actually belongs to Tom so that’s out. And truth be told only the N86 was earmarked for me, mostly because of its high-res camera but also because the other two technically haven’t been released to the public yet. But you know what? I’m totally okay with that.

I know, you think I’m an idiot for not begging to take the N900 with me, especially being a Linux-loving freedom beard and all. But hear me out: Though Nokia’s open-source behemoth has more raw horsepower than the other two, I’ve got some issues with it — at least in regards to this particular trip:

  1. I’m going to be running around Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei & Tokyo documenting anything & everything I can, and I simply don’t have the time to get fluent in Maemo right now.
  2. The QWERTY keypad on the N900 is good, but the one on the N97 is significantly better, IMHO. The keys are farther apart and have more travel, which makes thumb-typing more accurate — at least for me.
  3. I can’t put my finger on it (no pun intended) but even after a few minutes with it the N900 feels less like a phone and more like a really small computer. My netbook is already a fairly small computer, so what I need is a phone.

The N97 Mini might have gotten the nod (were it possible), but every single app I’ve currently got on my N79 is replicable on the N86. Give me an hour or two to set up the shortcut keys and I’m good to go.

And now, thanks to Tom and my other pals at WOM World, I’ll have a high-functioning handest in Tokyo that’s worthy of a Japanse keitai…

Arigato! m(_ _)m

Posted via email from Andrew Currie on Posterous