The Nokia N96 is the recent successor to the extremely popular N95 model. To the trained eye, the design and style of the phone match closely, utilising the slide up function to reveal the standard keypad and slide down for the 4 multimedia buttons.
Included in the box at purchase is a useful and sleek in-line microphone and multimedia control including a standard 3.5mm headphone jack enabling the user to use any brand of headphones of your choosing, in-ear Nokia headphones, video cable with composite and audio connections, car charger, and a data cable with mini USB connection.
Along the side of the casing is a standard volume rocker, integrated stereo speakers into two of the four corners, a discreet on/off button and keypad lock button either side of a standard 3.5 mm headphone/TV out socket and to finish an equally discreet camera button.
The Nokia N96 sports 16GB is to storage memory as standard, with a microSD slot to upgrade to upwards of 28GB. The phone is Quadband enabling usage around the world, and supports GSM, Edge, 3G and HSDPA networks up to 3.6 MBps offering versatility and speed on the move. The manufacturers state that the N96 can offer 220 mins talktime and 220 hours standby per battery charge.
The phone uses the Symbian S60 OS which ensures easy navigation through the menus. If a little slow at times, the software handles most applications well. However when combined with the auto rotate accelerator when changing from portrait to landscape mode, the lag does become frustrating. When navigating around the many screens and multimedia pages, the D-Pad can be operated both by depression and rotation of the finger, offering flexibility and saving time.
The Nokia N96 offers a 5MP camera with Nokia’s high quality Carl Zeiss Optics, a dual LED flash, Auto-Stabiliser and Auto-Focus. The camera is a fantastic feature, offering up to 2592 x 1944 pixel images with clarity. The images you can take in Macro format are nearly always sharp and in focus and match many of the stand-alone cameras on the market today. The front of the handset has a small VGA camera in the far right, although lower in spec than the main lens, also giving you the opportunity to action video conferencing from the front.
One of the latest pieces of software that the Nokia N96 provides over its rivals is its DVB H Class C TV tuner. This gives you access to Digital TV streaming either live or recorded over an internet connection. In the UK, BBC have signed up to offer users access to it’s flagship BBC I-Player service offering current and vintage BBC programs at the touch of a button. This is a fantastic step in providing a truly mobile multimedia experience.
This leads me on to the Nokia N96’s video capability. The screen is 2.8″ in diameter and is seamlessly integrated into the casing of the phone. Unfortunately not VGA, the screen still offers a crisp image when watching videos in an mpeg 4 format. At the back of the handset, a small stand can be released from the camera housing allowing you to prop up the handset on a flat surface to watch videos. A simple but very effective addition for those long train journeys!
The music player is easy to use and extremely well designed. The player combines well with the stereo speaker system, delivering high volume levels with no loss of quality. Although the headphones provided with the N96 are ok, a great response of deep rich tones and balanced treble is provided when using good quality headphones such as Bose and Shure. It is also worth remembering that the music player also supports most audio formats including MP3, AAC, and WMA which avoids any frustrated file conversions before transfer.
If there weren’t enough included already, other applications that deserve a mention are the FM tuner which is still not included on all handsets on the market, GPS Navigation software which is intuitive and easy to use and the Nokia Calendar which is perfect for storing appointments and alarms.
Internally, the Nokia N96 does it all however the phone does have its flaws. This phone and others in the Nokia range are starting to lose ground from more user friendly models such as the Apple iPhone and Samsung Omnia.
The operating software does need to be improved. The Nokia N96 can do almost everything, however can often freeze, crash or slow down when multiple apps are running at any one time. This may sound picky, but if you want to replace all portable gadgets into one manageable unit, you will want it to work seamlessly. That said it is unlikely that you would have more than four apps open at the same time so for the majority of people the N96 will fulfil all your needs.
This small gripe aside, the Nokia N96 is a beautifully styled, durable handset with some fantastic applications and features providing a truly impressive smartphone experience.