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Nokia Open Studio Fall 2006

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Sep 27, 2006, 9:28 AM   by Rich Brome

Hands-on with the new Nokia N75, N95, and 5300.

N75 

At a large event in New York City today, Nokia revealed the latest additions to its Nseries line of high-end flagship phones. The N95 is Nokia's first HSDPA phone, and also packs in just about every feature imaginable. The N75 isn't as ambitious, but still holds its own quite well, and - most importantly - should have the honor of being the first Nokia WCDMA phone offered by a major US carrier. It should also be the first Nseries phone with a major carrier.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The N75 marks Nokia's third attempt at bringing a WCDMA phone to a major US carrier. The first was the N80, followed by the 6282. We're hoping that the third time is a charm for Nokia.

To be fair, there's every reason to believe that the N75 will launch as planned. For one, it was designed from the ground-up for the U.S. market, instead of a spin-off of a European model as with past attempts. Hence the clamshell form factor favored by Americans, and more importantly the inclusion of WCDMA 850 for full compatibility with Cingular's 3G network. Nokia also took the unusual step of waiting until just a couple of months before launch to announce it; Nokia often announces major new phones further in advance of launch. It seems like they waited until they were really certain it would launch as planned.

Although Nokia can't officially discuss the carrier that will offer the N75, Cingular is the only one with a fully compatible 3G network, so they're pretty much the only possibility.

At first glance, the N75 seems like a cross between the N71 (an older clamshell Nseries phone) and 6133. The features are nearly the same as the N71, while the form factor is slimmer and sleeker, like the 6133. Technology-wise, the N75 doesn't add many features on top of the N71. Most notably, it lacks stereo Bluetooth and HSDPA. When asked, a Nokia spokesperson said the lack of both features was a time-to-market issue.

Nokia was quick to point out the more advanced external display interface and accompanying front and side control keys. It's easy to dismiss these as simply a larger display and media keys, but it's actually much more.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

While it's not quite the full Series 40 interface that Nokia puts on the outside of phones like the 9300, the interface is surprisingly rich and sophisticated. It's made possible by a 128 x 160 color display (the same resolution found on the main display of cheaper mass-market phones) and media keys that double as soft keys, plus useful side keys for navigation.

A full music player interface is provided; not just previous / next track, etc. The functionality you can access without opening the phone rivals most standalone music players.

Pressing the camera button brings up a full camera interface on the outer display, so you can hold the phone like a normal camera, an unusual feature for a clamshell-style phone.

We also happened upon a calendar interface, and got the feeling the outer display could do even more if we had time to really delve into it.

Unlike many other color external displays, this one is extremely easy to see and read the time and date in idle mode when the backlight is off.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The N75 isn't quite as thin as a RAZR, but it's still relatively thin, and does have an overall thin and light feel to it, while still feeling very solid.

Look for the N75 to hit shelves around the middle of the fourth quarter. That should mean November, just in time for the holiday shopping season. As always, release dates are very subject to change. The price will be $399 unsubsidized, meaning it should be much lower with a new or renewed contract, rebates, etc.

N95 

There's really no other way to say it: the N95 is a phone from the future.

It's not just that it raises the bar in terms of technology, or that it packs in an amazing number of features. That could be said about past Nseries devices such as the N93. What sets the N95 apart is that it merges its industry-leading technology with a design that's small, light, and practical.

While the N93 (and many other Nseries phones) sacrifice pocketability to pack in their cutting-edge features, the N95 is small enough for pretty much anyone to carry as their everyday phone.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

HSDPA, Wi-Fi with UPnP, stereo Bluetooth, full GPS, a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera, and a huge 2.6-inch QVGA display are just a handful of the impressive features on the N95. The HSDPA is even the latest and greatest 3.6 Mbps peak-rate variety, something still rare outside of data cards for laptops. It really does have just about everything you could want in a converged phone device.

The only thing really lacking is 3G for the U.S., although it is quad-band GSM and does have EDGE data, so it's still not a bad choice to import and use here. Nokia did tell us that they plan to bring a device "with similar features" to the U.S. sometime in 2007.

The N95 has a mostly typical sliding form factor. Holding it upright and sliding the display up reveals a typical numeric keypad. All of the keys are very easy to feel and use.

The twist is when you slide the other way, sliding the display down from the closed position. This reveals media keys (play, pause, rewind, etc.) More importantly, it activates landscape mode, rotating the interface 90 degrees on the display, for a wide-screen viewing experience. Even better, the N95 stays in landscape mode if you close the slide, so the two-way slide mechanism ends up being most useful as a quick physical way to toggle the N95 between landscape and portrait modes.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

In the same way, the camera application can be started instantly by simply opening the lens cover.

The graphics on the latest version of S60 are pretty slick-looking. Everything is smoothly animated, often in 3D. Media-related screens now have colorful, subtly animated backgrounds. In many ways the slickness of the UI is reminiscent of Apple's Mac OS X interface.

The N95 will be the first device to ship with Nokia's new browser, with enhanced RSS and the new pop-up toolbar. Being able to flip to landscape mode quickly for wide-screen browsing is extremely handy.

The N95 has a new type of connector that doubles as both a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and a video output for connecting to a TV for multimedia viewing. Like the N80, it also has UPnP, so you can also send multimedia to a UPnP TV wirelessly via Wi-Fi.

The best feature of the N95 though is the size. It's really hard to believe they packed so much into such a small package. It's also very light, and the build quality is quite good.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

More comparison shots: (added Oct. 12)

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

5300 

The 5300 is a sporty little slider phone with an unusually colorful, clean design.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The media keys next to the display take a moment to figure out. Although it looks like you could press directly down on them, they're actually side keys that must be pressed from the side. Once you figure that out, the keys are easy to press through the red rubber, and the rest of the keys feel good and work quite well.

The specs and features of the 5300 are respectable. The display is QVGA, the camera is 1.3 megapixel, and the data supports EDGE. Most importantly for music, the memory card slot supports cards up to 2GB.

The 5300 will come to Europe and Asia by the end of the year, and then to the U.S. in the 1st quarter of next year. Since the 5300 is tri-band GSM, only the U.S. version will have GSM 850.

A cheaper 5200 variant will also be released in the Europe and Asia with downgraded specs all around.

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Subject Author Date
N95 Bands Phairoh Sep 27, 2006, 2:02 PM
3G?? HSDPA?? ghettoknight92 Oct 6, 2006, 10:22 PM
"version for the US", har har. Invader J Oct 2, 2006, 10:10 PM
New size-comparison photos Rich Brome Oct 12, 2006, 6:42 PM
what megapixel jsmith9147 Oct 10, 2006, 4:27 PM
when does N95 launch? temptemp Oct 5, 2006, 9:31 AM
5300?? Etix Sep 30, 2006, 8:16 AM
N95 traffic and weather for navigation? mmc4009 Sep 29, 2006, 12:18 AM
Confused about WCMDA / HSDPA capabilities in N75 Sam K Sep 28, 2006, 12:21 PM
N95 rocks! tribalb Sep 28, 2006, 10:24 AM
End of the PopPort? themightylife Sep 27, 2006, 10:05 AM
Complete Roundup of N-Series Coverage ajpprc Sep 28, 2006, 12:05 AM
 
 
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