Nokia N95 Preview

Nokia knows intelligent design. Not unlike God, who apparently formed bananas to fit gracefully into the human hand, Nokia pays close attention to its product life cycle. While many of the N-series phones are similar, they are often improvements on previous products that offer amazing functionality in a smaller, more elegant package.

The Nokia N95 is Nokia’s latest media phone. This ultralight phone has a 5-megapixel main camera, 150MB build-in memory, a mini video conferencing camera on the front, and QVGA screen. Add in a MicroSD slot with a 2GB card in there — not sure if that’s a standard offering, but it should be — and a music player that rivals most others and you’re in business. GPS and WiFi? That’s just gravy.

I’ve only had the phone for two days so I haven’t had time to really dig into the network features, but I’m happy to report that design-wise this is the best N-series model I’ve seen so far. Going around the edge of the phone we fine a 3.5mm jack, a hot-swappable MicroSD under a little hatch, a mini-USB jack, camera button, and volume control. When you slide the phone up, it reveals a keypad. When you slide it down it reveals track control buttons. Best of all, the phone is clad in a soft rubbery plastic and weighs about four ounces. It’s like they took everything that made their phones horrible in the past — proprietary USB ports, odd flash hidey-holes, and heavy batteries — and made something that truly stands out.

Series 60 phones aren’t for everyone. As a smartphone platform, S60 is a difficult beast. It’s not quite a real smartphone OS yet there are a number of powerful features hiding underneath. I’ve been consistently disappointed with the email clients in S60 phones, and this phone is no different. Fortunately, the N95 has some amazing UI improvements including a very cool rotating menu system and “3D ringtones” that turn regular ringtones into an odd stereo wall of sound with just a quick button click.

If you like S60, however, my initial impressions of the N95 is that it is a great improvement over earlier N-series phones, even the N80. With a beefy CPU and great graphics processor, the N95 shows the value of a small, light, and intelligently designed smartphone. More to come.

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