NOKIA has really pushed the boat out with its marketing of the swish new N95. You'd be hard pressed not to have seen an advert or two boasting the wide array of features and capabilities of the phone as a 'total mobile solution'.
After a quick look at the specs it's not hard to see why: the most notable of inclusions is the presence of a built-in GPS receiver, the first phone of its kind to have one. There's also a 5-megapixel digital camera with a Carl Zeiss lens and powerful multimedia support that compares nicely to modern multimedia players.
Fans of the N-series will probably recognise the distinctive silver and grey design. The distinguishing feature of the N95 is its double-slide operation: slide up for a traditional keypad and down for fast-access multimedia keys to control content playback and access the N95's media menu. Of course this is also a Series 60 Symbian-based Smartphone, so you can take advantage of a wide range of games and applications to further enhance the already rich features of the phone.The range of connectivity includes GPRS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with the option to choose which to use when connecting so you can take advantage of local wireless hotspots. Pleasingly, Nokia's connectivity with the N95 is far more generic, with a mini-USB port for connecting to your PC and a standard 3.5mm jack plug so you can use your own headphones rather than those supplied.
Multimedia playback includes an audio player with support for MP3, AAC and WMA, a stereo FM radio and MP4 video player. These are all fairly nice to use and you're given just enough options, including an equaliser and visualisations, to suggest that Nokia is taking this sort of thing seriously. There are also stereo speakers either side of the unit that are pretty impressive for something this size, and a video and audio composite cable that'll allow you to plug the phone directly into a TV or stereo to show off pictures, video or music.
The built-in 5-megapixel camera offers a range of features that in some cases surpass entry-level digital cameras, with integrated flash and range of modes, digital stereo microphone for video recordings, image editing and of course a secondary camera on the front for video-conferencing. Nokia promotes sharing of content with its video 'Lifeblog' support and if you find you're eating into the 160MB of built-in memory too quickly you can plug in a microSD card to up the capacity.
The GPS functionality is likely to be one of the biggest talking points of this phone, but rather than just providing maps of the UK and Europe on an SD card and integrating a GPS receiver into the phone itself, Nokia has elected to use a new mapping technology called Smart2Go.
Instead of storing the maps locally from the off, they are downloaded for free as and when you need them, in a similar way to Google Maps. If you want to enable the full navigational features, including turn-by-turn directions and points of interest, you'll need to pay a time-related fee typically varying from a week right up to a year. This has the advantage of allowing you to manage your own costs rather than paying a hefty one-off fee at the start, but you'll need to do this carefully to avoid racking up a rather large bill.
In terms of performance, you can expect to see similar features here to other phone-based solutions from companies like Route 66 and Navman. Unfortunately the time to first fix is often pretty slow. The receiver is embedded in the bottom of the device and as a result you do find yourself waiting a while, often up to three or four minutes, before your position is locked in. As a result we can see the Nokia Maps functionality more suited to occasional use or emergency situations, while frequent travellers would probably still prefer a dedicated GPS.
In terms of general operation we're pretty pleased with the responsive menus and application performance in comparison to earlier models in the N-series. While it's still susceptible to the occasional crash if you're a bit too gung-ho with your menu jumping, this is much improved.
The biggest complaint most users will have with the phone is inevitably the battery life. In terms of standard operation it's not too bad, but get busy with media playback, satellite navigation and the digital camera and you'll be lucky if you make it through the day.
We also have a few niggling issues with the design of the handset itself. Digital camera and gallery shortcut buttons on the side are all too easy to hit by mistake, it's relatively chunky despite being quite light, and it's not particularly easy to slide the phone up or down without pressing the keypad control by accident. We're also not sure how necessary the separate dedicated media controls are in the slide-down mode, since you can use the keypad to perform exactly the same functions at the same time.
However, we're far too impressed by the high-end features and functionality available on this Smartphone to let a few design issues ruin the show. The N95 is the most powerful, feature packed phone we've ever used, and while we expect rival manufacturers (as well as Nokia itself) to update and improve these features with new models over the next six months, this is a great starting point and the N95 will be a hard act to follow.
99 x 53 x 21 mm, 90 cc
16M colour graphic
240 x 320 pixels
Carl Zeiss optics
2592 x 1944 pixels
160 MB shared memory
Video and flash