Nokia N95 8GB Review

With GPS, 3G and a 5-megapixel camera, the Nokia N95 ticks three important boxes that Apple overlooked with the iPhone. It’s no wonder then that this phone is often called the ‘iPhone killer’ and, in truth, it’s probably the only mobile on the market with a chance of living up to the name.

Whenever the Macworld team talks to people about the iPhone, the subject of Nokia’s N95 invariably crops up. So we thought we’d best take a look at one.

Being Macworld, you’d expect us to have a certain amount of bias towards Apple’s mobile. Actually, this isn’t the case, aside from preferring Macs over PCs and the Windows environment, we’re no more or less inclined to any product merely because it has Apple stamped upon it.

Having said that there is a practical advantage to having an Apple phone plugged into an Apple computer. The iPhone is pretty much guaranteed to sync and work properly with a Mac, which is something many other mobiles have great difficulty with. A fact to which we can testify due to endless despairing hours of banging iSync with a metaphorical hammer.

That syncing feeling
Nokia scores brownie points on the Mac front by producing a plug-in for iSync, which you can find at http://europe.nokia.com/mac/isync/. In theory, this enables you to synchronise your iCal and Address Book contacts with the phone. In practice, we couldn’t get it to work. However, this could be an OS X Leopard glitch and we have had Nokia phones sync up without a hitch in the past, so an update from Nokia could fix this.

Aside from calendars and contacts; adding music and video is a drag-and-drop affair from your Mac to the N95’s built-in 8GB memory, which appears on the desktop as a removable drive. It plays most music formats: AAC, MP3, and WMA – and dropping them into the Sounds folder incorporates them into the Phone’s media player. Video is slightly more problematic because it only sports MPEG-4 compatibility, although this is a common enough video format and one that many video podcasts come in. It’s worth bearing in mind that the N95 is not compatible with any FairPlay DRM protected movies or videos bought from the iTunes Store.

Syncing with a Mac aside, there’s a lot to commend the Nokia N95. There’s the aforementioned 3G (which is WCDMA HSDPA no less); a GPS system complete with Nokia maps; and 5-megapixel camera (complete with Carl Zeiss lens, flash, zoom and dedicated camera buttons. It even syncs up to iPhoto like any other digital camera. On top of this, the N95 is a competent music player with built in stereo speakers that are every bit as good as the iPhone’s.

Design, however, is an issue. Not that the Nokia N95 is bad by any means: it has responsive buttons; a dual slider that moves one way to reveal a keypad, and the other to reveal music controls; and a large 2.6in, 240 x 320 (QVGA) 16 million colour display. It’s also lightweight and comfortable to hold.

The Nokia N95 is traditional though, which is a problem for us. While the iPhone feels almost like something from the future, the Nokia N95 takes its cues from every mobile phone that came before it. Admittedly, it’s probably better than any other normal mobile phone, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Being a smartphone, the internet makes its presence felt on the Nokia N95. Although it lacks the full internet experience offered by the iPhone, it does render pages moderately well (as long as you’re looking at basic news pages and suchlike). But there’s no arguing with the 3G connection. In terms of internet speed on the move, the Nokia N95 beats the iPhone hands down. Like the iPhone, the N95 sports a WiFi connection, although we found it slightly more ‘testy’ than Apple’s offering. A couple of times we were refused connection for no discernible reason.

OUR VERDICT

As we mentioned in our iPhone review, the Nokia N95 is noticeably cheaper than the iPhone, and offers a wider range of technical features. One thing it lacks is the multi-touch interface that makes the iPhone such a joy to use; the N95 feels like every other bog-standard mobile – admittedly one that has everything bar the kitchen sink crammed inside. Not that there’s anything bad with that, and we can see why this mobile is going to give Apple a lot of trouble. If you’re a Mac owner though, the advantage of having an iPhone is that it syncs perfectly with your computer, which should sway you in Apple’s direction.

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