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Nokia Nseries 2006

Intro N73 N93 Flickr Comments  26  

While the N93 is by far the more feature-laden of the two major new phones announced today, the N73 is more interesting to us for a number of reasons. First of course is the smaller size. Second, it has better support for US networks. While the N93 only supports GSM 1900 in the U.S., the N73 is quad-band, supporting GSM 850 and EDGE. It will also be available in a non-3G version that will presumably be more affordable and a better match for U.S. networks.

The features of the N73 seem to hit a nice sweet spot that I expect will please most people. It sports a 3.2 megapixel camera with an auto-focus Carl Zeiss Tessar lens and sliding lens cover. The QVGA display is huge and bright. It's really huge, actually: 2.4 inches, which is quite impressive for a phone as small as the N73.

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It also does the whole music thing (of course). Unfortunately, it lacks stereo Bluetooth, but at least it has a miniSD memory card slot enabling up to 2 GB of memory - plenty for a decent music collection. The phone has stereo speakers, which are interestingly located at the top and bottom of the phone. That means they are only "left" and "right" if the phone is held sideways in landscape orientation. That's useful for watching full-screen video with stereo audio, although I don't know how much content like that is actually available (or at least that someone might want to watch without headphones).

There are a few compromises that make this not quite the "ultimate" Nseries phone. It doesn't have Wi-Fi, for example, and the display isn't the ultra-high-resolution type like on the N90 and N80. But of course this is an N7x phone, which is supposed to be slightly lower-end than the N8x and N9x models. For being at the low end of the Nseries, it still has an amazing feature set that is competitive with the very best phones from nearly all other manufacturers.

In my time using the N73, I found a lot about the physical design I liked, and a few things I didn't.

First, the good: The sliding lens cover has a spring-loaded action similar to a good slider-phone mechanism. It looks and feels great, and the way it fits flush with the top when closed should help minimize accidental photos of your pocket. Naturally, sliding it open starts the camera application.

The general phone design felt great and was a joy to use. The size is one of the main factors that contributes to the feeling that this phone hits a "sweet spot".

The joystick on the N73 is not the best joystick I've used, but it's usable. The only trouble I found was that its chrome finish is a bit slick, making it difficult to use when your fingers are greasy or sweaty.

Like Sony Ericsson's high-end camera phones as of late, Nokia's camera interface and controls are similar to that of a standalone digital camera. There's an on-screen, icon-based menu for quickly accessing common options, and the zoom and shutter-release keys are arranged along the top when the phone is held sideways for camera mode. The shutter release key is pressed half-way to focus a shot, and all the way to capture.

Like most auto-focus cameras, it takes a moment to focus. However, there was something really odd about how it focuses. If you simply press the shutter button all the way down to take a picture quickly, it does indeed focus and take the picture very quickly (1, or 2 seconds at the most). However if you start by pressing the button down half-way to focus first, it takes well over two seconds to fully lock focus, and once you do, it doesn't take the picture any faster when you do press the button all the way. It's very odd; it's possible it was a bug in the software that will be fixed later on.

The slick, animated gallery application is an updated version of the one on previous Nseries models.

The number keys aren't as nice, though. For some strange reason, the keys are all concave, with the top and bottom of each key having a raised strip. It is usable, but it feels awkward, and heavy text users might find it quite cumbersome. I found myself using my fingernails to press the keys, (which I don't normally do.) Once I got used to that, it was fine.

The N73 of course has the latest and greatest version of Nokia's smartphone OS: S60 3rd Edition. This means it has Nokia's nifty new web browser for viewing full web sites exactly as you see them on a PC.

All of the UI and software functions are very fast. I don't know if this is because of the new Symbian 9 underlying OS, or a faster processor, but both the N73 and N93 are impressively speedy at almost everything.

Some sample photos: (keep in mind these are prototypes!)

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