03 August 2006

Nokia N80

I was going to write about the ludicrous economics of the mobile phone industry (in this country at least), but thought you'd all be more interested in the new Nokia N80 - in particular, how far have 3G phones come in the year since I got my 6680 which I reviewed in the early days of this blog.

I had no intention of upgrading my phone, but Orange tried to get another £5 a month for insuring my 1-year old model. While that alone was not enough to upgrade, the tempting offer of 50% off line rental for a 2 year contract was. That turned out to be false however - it was just 1 year off as it turns out. I should have complained harder but lost the will to live after sitting on hold for countless hours. A further £30 rebate was the best I could do! Given my low usage (I'm on just a 120 minute plan) the phone was still going to cost me £75, but frankly the economics are still way in my favour (except I give up the right to upgrade in a year's time and move to the Apple iPhone!). It is ironic that my 6680 is now sitting idle, though fortunately it can be used as an extra remote control using Salling Clicker! There wasn't a lot wrong with the 6680, but the screen had become diabolically scratched. I had also found the interface frustrating when compared with previous Nokias - generally slow and with many actions requiring several steps and dexterity with the scroll key, where once it was one.

Anyway, I had quickly made up my mind to go for the new N80. Why, you may ask? Well, the primary reason was it is the first phone (except for the much larger smartphones) that has built-in WiFi. And, fortunately, Orange has not disabled this feature. Why is this so important you may also ask? While not yet available, it is widely anticipated that VoIP software will be made available for the Symbian phones soon giving me the ability to make cheap calls via a wi-fi hotspot (a Skype client is expected). More importantly, I can use the phone's browser (which is now Safari-based) to access web sites without going through the expensive 3G network. I can of course use it on my home networks too.

Apart from WiFi, I was attracted by the phone's size - while chunkier than the 6680, it is shorter (about the length of an iPod nano as it turns out) and narrower. It's keyboard slides away neatly, but the keys are consequently bigger (and much better) than the 6680. A 3MP camera also helps, though I had read the image quality is not great. I was almost put off by a new style Nokia charger - the first for many years, which would have made my other chargers obsolete. However, an adapter included allows use of older chargers.

The phone duly arrived. My first impressions were of a much better screen, and a VERY snappy response time in all respects. The phone also felt good in the hand despite it's thickness, and indeed I prefer this over the 6680. I was quickly able to transfer contacts and calendar information from the previous phone using bluetooth. The WiFi connection was relatively straightforward to set up though due to my tight security, I had to find the phones MAC id, which was not indexed in the manual (but googleable). I was quickly surfing web pages though, and the browser indeed looks neat (though there is need to be zooming in and out to read traditional pages). I haven't tried a lot of pages yet, but I imagine that it is still best used with WAP-style pages.

Having played with the phone more, I am very happy with the new interface. Apart from the speed, it's also better arranged - easier to have your preferred actions just a keystroke or two away.

Many of the phones features aren't particularly Apple friendly. Despite the WiFi for instance, it can't access files from a Mac in this way (that I know of) - only Bluetooth can be used for that. The uPNP features for photos etc. are of no value to a Mac user. I was though able to connect the phone via the USB cable with the memory card showing up on the Mac desktop (this didn't work on the 6680). But the feature seemed unreliable, and the phone's online features are disabled when this is done. My SanDisk USB card reader had no trouble accepting the new style mini-SD card (yet another type) and mounting it on the Mac desktop that way for quick transfer of music or images. Unfortunately, Symbian/Nokia now require applications to be certified for use on the phone (or something like this). So, my trusty Salling Clicker remote control application is not installable yet. However, Jonas Salling has produced a Java applet which gives most of the features of Clicker, and does work using the usual Bluetooth method. He is working to get the application certified, and one advantage is that it should also work via WiFi which should enhance the range significantly.

Apple's iSync is the usual story of the phone not supported until some future release of 10.4.x. But, there is a simple workaround to add the phone posted on numerous discussion boards, and a user-supplied tiff image to make it professional. This worked first time for me, with just a simple use of text edit and copy and paste. However, I would have thought Apple could make the iSync framework easier to accommodate new models quickly - perhaps by allowing the vendor to deliver a simple file. I can't believe Nokia wouldn't do something like this if it was available. iSync seemed to work fast. Given the better interface on the phone and a few nice little features in Contacts etc. I think I will use this feature more than on the 6680 where I found Contacts and Calendar rather disappointing.

I haven't tried the camera yet - I'm keeping various protection stickers on the phone until I get a case. I'm not willing to let this get scratched as badly as the 6680, especially as I have 2 years to run on this one!

So, all-in-all, this is a significant improvement in the last year, though not monumental. Arguably this phone fixes things that should never have been on the 6680 and previous 3G phones. But there is a trade-off. Battery life is even worse than the 6680. This maybe because it's a smaller battery, but it may be because of wifi (which cannot be turned off to my knowledge) and more features eating into the power. While being at the high-end of Nokia's offerings, I don't think it is yet a great music player, a great internet access device and certainly not a great camera, and so I still think true convergence is a way off unless you are willing to accept the compromises. But it is a positive step in the right direction. If you like your phone (relatively) small but useful for many functions, this is certainly worthy of your attention - Mac or PC user.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Hob

Also just got myself a Nokia N80 and am extremely impressed!

Very disappointed to discover that the UPnP features aren't compatible with a Mac. Tried everything - EyeConnect, TwonkyVision, but no joy.

If you do come across something that will allow me to share media between Mac and N80 via WiFi please let me know!

Meanwhile, here's a good tip- Opera Mini.


M. Ottemark said...

every mobile phone after nokia 3310 is very silly. why do you do this?

db said...

I have got a nokia N80 and use an apple but I cant seem to get it to work with iSync. I added the .tiff file and changed the code in that file as well and it still doesnt work. Damn thing

andrena markley said...

Nokia N80 is a better handset than others phones in the market in its category. But its main drawback is that its battery is not up to the mark.