Review: Nokia N95 8GB

Nokia has pulled out a lot of stops for this, the second Nokia N95 iteration.

The utterly black Nokia N95 8GB 

In terms of reviews, the Nokia N95 8GB is relatively simple to handle, thankfully. Not because it's a simple or trivial product, but because the original N95 is so well known and has been written about so many times that there's really little point in going over every function that's common to both devices in minute detail.

Setting the scene

But a short summary is in order, at least. The original N95 was intended to be the last word in the classic S60 phone line, i.e. with a typical phone form factor, with (and I'm judging it by the last released firmware, v12 here):

It was quite a package for a 'phone', but despite the plus points above and even with latest firmware, two big negatives remained. The 950mAh BL-5F battery just wasn't up to the job of powering all the multimedia and comms goodness, with power users of the N95 finding that the battery sometimes didn't last the day and with casual users irritated by having to recharge every single night. Secondly, the free RAM after booting, around 20MB, while enough for lesser S60 3rd Edition devices, wasn't really enough for a device of the N95's ambitions and RAM was prone to run out while (for example) browsing a largish web page, prompting various 'memory errors'.

Side by side. Note dimpled media keys and larger screen on the 8GB model

Armed with feedback about the issues above and with one eye fixed firmly on the company's new Ovi strategy, Nokia set about revamping the N95 and trying to fix everything in one go, to produce a worthy flagship phone for 2008. And now it's here, with WOM World kindly sending me one of the very first production N95 8GBs in the world. How has Nokia done?

The changes

Although much of the N95 8GB's hardware and software are identical to that of the original, there are more changes than you might think at first glance.

The verdict 

So, quite a list of changes from 'original' to '8GB'. Most are very positive, but it's also worth noting a few of the negatives, which may, just may keep people using the original design. There's the lack of a physical lens shutter, which may be an issue if you're rough with your smartphone, there's the lack of a built-in video editor, the fixed flash memory, with no option to take out a card and stuff it into a printer (for example), and finally there's the black finish, which is slightly less tactile than the original N95 and the 8GB model slipped from my fingers more than once while testing it. Gulp.

N95 8GB cam

But there's no doubting, on balance, that the N95 8GB is 'better' than its predecessor. The improvements in speed, battery life, free RAM and screen size all stand out as highlights. Build quality on this production unit was excellent in every regard and some of the mechanical oddities of some batches of the original are nowhere to be seen.

Is this the best smartphone ever made? Yes. You could even drop the 'smart' bit and call it the 'best phone ever made', since this will be sold in High Street shops and picked up, as the original was, by people from all walks of life, most of whom have never even heard the term 'smartphone'.

For the hardened AAS reader and power user though, note that the form factor limits of the original N95 are still in place, i.e. the QVGA screen, placing real usability limits on which web sites can comfortably be browsed around, and the numeric keypad - going back from the Nokia E90 or E61i to a keypad is a real wrench. Still, the latter problem can be solved for some use cases with a Bluetooth keyboard.

A big thumbs up overall though. Nokia has listened carefully to the feedback coming from early N95 users and has addressed just about every criticism and done it in style.  The original device enjoyed several major firmware updates and countless extensions via the Download! application and I'd expect this to see the same attention from Nokia.

Steve Litchfield, AllAboutSymbian, 22 October 2007

A lot of tech within such a small black box


Published by Steve Litchfield at 9:55 UTC, October 22nd

Section: Reviews
Categories: Hardware
Platforms: S60 3rd Edition