When I first heard about the N96 being termed as the Next Generation Phone by Nokia itself, I knew it had to be extraordinary. I finally laid my hands on this special phone, even before it was released in the stores. Though I haven’t got any pictures to prove it 😦
When I saw the N96, my first words were “You gotta be kidding me. This is the N81!” Of course all of you will agree that it bears resemblance with the N81 8 GB, but when I actually explored the features, I was blown away.
When you hold this phone, the first thing you notice is that it’s heavy. But it’s got all the features crammed into it that you really don’t mind. This phone is a revolution in telecommunication devices. The N96 sets new standards for phones to match up to, and I don’t think any phone other than the OMNIA can give the N96 a run for its money.
The N96, according to Nokia, is the “official successor to the N95”. The N95 was intimidating itself, but when one actually worked on it, many minor and major flaws were noticed. It was buggy and excruciatingly slow at times, but the N96 is a great improvement. Check out this page for a huge list of flaws in the N95 and also how to boost it up. I could have written another post on the N95 tips and tricks, but hey, that would be copying.
Back to the review now. The N96 has so many features, that you feel it’s too much. It has 128 MB of RAM as compared to 64 MB, which its predecessor had. So, it’s much faster and the applications boot up at a greater speed than on any Nokia device I’ve ever experienced.
It’s also got a 5 Megapixel Camera with a Carl-Zeiss lens, which even its predecessor possessed. But the Xenon flash is an improvement which can take excellent quality photographs even in the most ridiculous lighting conditions. But a problem is that pictures at this quality mean each picture is more than a megabyte in size, which can eat up your memory. But Nokia’s taken care of that too. This chunky phone comes preloaded with 16 GB Internal Mass Memory and adding an 8 GB memory card, you can upgrade your N96 with 24 GB memory! This means, that you can store more than 20000 images of full quality in your phone. I see this as a great improvement over the N95 Classic as it had only Flash memory.
This phone has also got some small details such as the stand on the lens behind the phone, which enables the user to pop it out and place it on the table for easy video viewing.
The N96 is a dual slide phone, which means that it has numbers on one side and dedicated music buttons on the other. The speaker is loud enough and gives the required booming noise for heavy metal songs like Crawling (by Linkin’ Park) and also provides clarity for soothing instrumental songs like Hotel California (Eagles).
The most impressive part is the video quality, which the camera captures at an amazing 30 frames per second. Also, the phone supports videos in .avi and .flv formats too. I was surprised by the Flash Video format support. It was unexpected, as .flv files are usually ripped YouTube or similar videos, which many companies condemn. Anyway, resolution of .flv files is generally 240×320, which exactly matches the N96 resolution, which means that the videos are top quality.
The battery life has deteriorated. I recollect friends complaining about the terrible N95 battery life, which used to exhaust itself by night. Although the various features might suck the battery, yet Nokia has made a blunder by providing an entirely new and less powerful battery for the N96. There are battery saving techniques such as turning automatic WLAN detection off and decreasing the screen brightness.
The phone also has 3G with HSPDA, which means you can have video conferences, and also access super-fast internet on your phone while engaging in a conversation with another person.
But there are some problems. This phone does not have a single touch sensitive component. Other large players in the market such as the iPhone and OMNIA come with full touch-screen. But considering this problem with an optimistic outlook, it means that the phone would definitely have been more expensive, if Nokia has provided a touch-screen facility.
The phone also lack dedicated game buttons, which are a great asset to the N81; but I do have a feeling that the music keys can be used as game buttons. However, speculation can never, and should never, ever be trusted. It was just a rumour I heard.
But just as I was beginning to feel that these were minor drawbacks, there came a major blow. The N96 has no encrypted e-mail! Since the N96 is seen as an entertainment phone and not a business phone, Nokia must have not have considered encrypted e-mail as a priority. However, I recommend office goers not to use this phone as lack of encrypted e-mail may expose the e-mail contents (including the username and password) to others, which may prove to be quite a danger. [Note: when I consulted a clever-looking Nokia salesperson about this major flaw, he said that “the E-Series is tailor made for business people, not the N-series. The latter is targeted at a younger audience”. This answer was quite satisfactory, and therefore, I walked away.]
All in all, the N96 is an amazing phone. My only grudge against it is that it needs to lose some weight and slim up a bit. Although it may seem a bit pricey (Rs 37000 approx.) I must say, it’s worth it. This certainly lives up to the title The God of Phones.