I must admit, I was unsure about my upgrade to the N96 – after getting a scathing review from Whatleydude (someones who’s opinion I respect greatly). I did want to try the phone for myself though, I did have a brief play with Whatleydude‘s review unit, the hardware seemed alright but I must admit the speed was a little ‘meh’.


In between this time and me receiving my phone Nokia released ‘Version 12.043’.  This fixed a lot of bugs. It seemed like the phone was suffering from ‘N95 Syndrome’ – The N95’s early firmware revisions were shoddy at best, but thanks to a handful of updates the N95 is now solid, and much loved. Also, thanks to O2’s returns policy, if I disliked the phone after 14 days, it could go back. So there wasn’t anything to lose!

The phone arrived, and after a quick *#0000# check, I was happy to see the v12 firmware was already on there. Sweet!

The phone certainly looks the part, I love the flush buttons, with the different texture of multimedia buttons, still not sure of the rather ‘thrown on’ look of the multimedia/gallery key – but I’m getting used to it. Texting and emailing with the keypad works well for me, I would imagine it could be a bit fiddly for someone with more ‘normal’ sized male hands.

The screen is lush and bright, although the size does make Symbian look a little ‘low res’ at times. In bright daylight it can be a bit washed out, but probably not as much as an OLED screen. Indoors though I’ve had numerous people comment how bright it is. Videos look superb and also thanks to the speaker position sound great too. I am a fan of the little kickstand fitted on the device, but it is a bit too small. If there were little knock or jolt the phone would be on it’s back.

Call quality wise the phone is spot on, better than the N95 for sure. The N95 didn’t like switching from to 2G to 3G during calls (or vice-versa), especially on O2. The call didn’t drop – it just went very ‘dalek underwater’. I’ve not experienced this once on this phone. 

Battery life.. well – yeah – it’s not great, but to be totally honest, it’s no worse than the N95, possibly a bit better. I’ve not ever been totally out of power, i’ve been close though! When the battery is getting low the ‘Power Save’ mode kicks in, it reduces the screen brightness amongst other things to try and conserve energy. I’m not totally convinced it actually saves the battery much – but at least the thought is there 😉 I would say though if you are a power user like myself, with push email running, lots of browsing, music etc you will be charging this each night. Don’t even think about using the GPS on a car journey without plugging it in with the supplied car charger, this eats the battery.

Whilst we’re talking about the GPS, it’s VERY good, getting a lock happens almost instantly, sometimes even when you’re inside! Nokia Maps in turn by turn navigation mode is smooth and snappy, better than some TomTom devices I’ve seen. If you’re using the GPS in a built up area (like walking around London) again the lock times are superb, much better than the N95.

Also something I’ve noticed whilst using Nokia Maps, the N96 seems to handle it’s RAM very well. On the N95 I found sometimes using Nokia Maps, if a call, email or message came in, Maps would usually bomb, taking other Apps with it. Not on the N96 though.. Maps happily chuggs along, if a message pops in, I can switch and read it, and then switch back to the Maps flawlessly. One thing which is slightly annoying,  which happens if you have music playing and use Maps. Instead of the music switching off when a voice command is issued, the voice command crashes the music and THEN the music is silenced. Hopefully Nokia Maps 3 will solve this!

The camera is good, possibly not as good as the N95 though, can’t quite put my finger on WHY though. I believe the N96 has a slightly smaller sensor than the N95 – and I do miss having a lens cover.  The dual LED flash is good, but, it should be a XENON unit for sure.

So – is it fast? Yes, It is! Is it good? Yes, very! Battery life good? Yeah, not TOO bad.. No worse than comparable handsets.

All in all it’s good.. very good – but I’m left wanting more.. times have moved on since the N95, and this doesn’t feel much like an upgrade from that. It’s certainly more stable under pressure than the N95 was, but still – it’s not quite the ‘one phone to rule them all’. I want more than GOOD I want, superb, breathtaking, brilliant. In the end, the N96 is just good.

Think this one will be on eBay soon… 🙂

*UPDATED – And now it is *

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