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Nokia N90

I have quite a dilemma. Actually it is one many of you would love to have. I've experienced absolute envy from friends and new acquaintances over the last 8 weeks while trying out the Nokia N90, simply the slickest video phone I know. (Oh yes I saw some Samsung knockoffs at CES however I've not lived with them.) My problem is Nokia just shipped me a Nokia N70 which has only just been released here. Effectively it promises to do everything the N90 does and more in a smaller package. My heart sank when this new phone arrived. Was it time to give up the N90? Would I miss it?

So what is it that the N90 has done really well? (Context. I have a T-Mobile USA account with a GPRS unlimited data plan. I've run that for the last few years with a Nokia 3650 an early Smart Phone).

The Great!
Fantastic Pictures and Videos. Makes you rethink the device. It feels right taking pictures with it. If you like photography then this format is a great way to take pictures. The transformer design easily balances in your hand. In this format it also communicates readily to others what you are doing. Others quickly identify it as a video camera. The memory card that came with it would allow you to make a 30 minute video if you wanted. I've found the 1-2 minute video is actually more fun. Plus the video self mode or video self /couple mode is excellent.

Image! Envy! Fact is you will have a camera everywhere. It's more than that. The angle of the screen in camera mode means the phone is not infront of your face. Most other camera phones you hold up to your face so you can see the screen. Here you don't. It's also a very tactile device. The opening and closing just means people keep playing with it. I've watched others on the program with it. Open shut, etc. It puts that itch there to use it.

The Good.

Smart Phone: It's a Smart Phone. It synchs with my Outlook, it sends Emails, picture and text messages etc. All the things you would think a smart phone would do. I use it as a modem for my laptop over bluetooth. Bluetooth headset etc. It has the Symbian 60 operating system, which is the best by many accounts I've heard. It works for me. Stepping into the N90 from the Nokia 3650 was easy. Nokia also provided the software to just bluetooth over all my contacts. Still for newbies to get the best out of this phone... plan on spending at least a day with it. There's a lock-in cost with Smart Phones similar to Windows vs Mac.

Great case. It feels expensive and has nice quality detailing. Chrome accents on the side. This is a flashy phone that means business. I sense it is the Nikon of phones if you know your traditional SLR cameras. Everyone that uses it will want more camera in the end. Not that the camera is bad, just that your desire to get great pictures goes way up.

Less than certain:
Headset Required Many calls I take with a bluetooth headset. It's a necessary partner for this phone. Still I'm less than certain that the flip phone feature is more convenient. The N90 opens out to a nice masculine size. It's real phone sized when opened up. Opening it is a two handed action. I'm not sure that's true with all flip phones. Still I haven't mastered it with one hand. That's no problem if you have a bluetooth headset on or nearby when it rings.

Texting / Office When I first got it I had to learn where the keys were for texting (the 3650 has a weird round dial) The buttons are big, easy to use although texting on a smaller keyboard even with my big thumb is no problem. The predictive text works reasonably well. It may not be as fast as a Treo to text this way. The downside of the large flip format is the open weight encourages you to cradle it with a second hand when texting; something not required on a smaller stick or lighter flip. Ross on business use. Depends on your business I think.

The size (it sounds big) actually folded it is thicker although not materially longer than either the N70, or a Moto Razr. Still it is heavier. It doesn't sit comfortably in a jeans pocket etc. I never had a case for it. I found it great in jacket pockets etc. It begs to be carried, perhaps I should use the provided handstrap.

Where's it suck?
Silent mode: This phone has no vibrator! That's right it doesn't vibrate. In silent mode there is no way to know that it is ringing. That may be perfect for the vacation. Similarly a phone vibrating when taking a video could wreck the video. Still I think that is just a software problem. If the phone wasn't so good this would be the deal killer for me. It seems a real oversight. I hope they put it in the N90 Version 2.

Reception: Is this one just "bad"? Unlike the 3650 and the N70 now in my hands my N90 reception sucks. While the bay area isn't the best for GSM, I had to give up on the N90 for taking calls at home. It dropped more calls on the freeways than I care to think about. I'm not alone in this. It may be I just had an early Euro version. Still I'd like a guarantee that it is going to be up to scratch in this regard before I buy. See Alice Hill's review.

What would I change.
This is a tough question when one looks at the basic design. There are a couple of features I've not been able to use. The IM system that comes with it is an example. I installed Agile Messenger. I also installed Opera as the web browser. There are a few other programs I'm still experimenting with. The PCSuite system is better than earlier systems. It still needs work, however for Windows users it makes the synch with Outlook happen.

I'd really like an even better lens, zoom etc. I want 4 or 5 mega pixels and I'm ready to pay for it. I want it lighter than the N90 and preferably a little thinner. The length is ok and I like the swivel lens section. I'd probably dispense with the second screen to make the screen section thinner and cut the weight. I really like the idea that I go out as a photographer with it every day. I'm not alone in an experience like this. Oliver Starr

I'd consider marketing it with a case in two versions. For the Guy and for the Gal. I generally think this is a guy's phone. It needs a belt holster etc. I'd love to know if there are female bloggers in the N90 program. I've dropped it five times. It appears robust, although those drops have done it some damage. Most notable being the loss of the lens cover. I'm not alone in losing this. I've been meaning to call Nokia to sort it out and get a new cover sent to me. (see Picture) I don't see that as broken but it disappoints me. Mine or not I want it fixed. In the end it is an expensive device and unfortunately it is going to get dropped. It has to stand up to that.

As this is the perfect travel phone. I took it to England over Xmas, it's been to trade shows etc since. It is a workhorse in these types of environments. I've shot at least 1000 photos and 100 videos with it and I know I could do more. So why can't I have it with at least two SIM card slots. One for my home SIM and one for prepaid travel SIM cards? Changing the SIM and getting off the back cover is just poor design. There is probably a reason for this. Still it is a point of pain.

So over the weekend I changed over to the Nokia N70. My first impression out of the box was why would I want to do this. In fact I wanted to just let my daughter go with it and get her feedback. She has a Moto Flip phone at the moment. I'll be writing more on the N70. It's powerful and different. I can see these two phones are like owning multiple watches. I already want to own them both. They are different and yet very similar. I'm now looking forward to working out which one of these I should buy. However after just a couple of days I'd buy the N70 if the N90 reception / quality problems are the same on all of them. Nokia should clarify this.


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