Thoughts on S60

reflections on the most popular mobile operating system worldwide

The N95 Upgraded: Enter N95-3

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When the original Nokia N95 was released in early April, it was an exciting time for every S60 enthusiast. The N95 had specs that were unparalleled when it was first announced; a 5mp autofocus camera, integrated GPS, 160mb of internal memory, and every possible option for connectivity that exists to date. With so many features, most users (including myself) had no problem shelling out $800+ for their first N95.

Over time though, people began to discover problems with the N95. For one, the battery life was much shorter than expected. Users would only get about 6-8 hours of life out of it with normal usage before it would give the dreaded “Battery low” warning and turn off. The N95 also suffered from a RAM shortage, just like most devices with S60 3rd Edition. All it took was an accidental press of the media button while browsing the web to make one or both of the applications crash, if not reboot the device entirely. Another problem plaguing the N95 was the lack of high speed data. WLAN was always an option, but most people are outside a wireless network more often than they are within one, leaving EDGE as the fastest connection available (comparable to a 56K modem connection).

The N95-3 seems to have tackled all of these issues in hopes to win back North American market share for Nokia and bring a much better user experience to its users, but is it going to be enough? Is the N95-3 going to replace the original N95? Read on to see what I think about it…

Upgrade #1: RAM

On most S60 3rd Edition devices currently available (excluding newer devices such as the E90 or N76), the amount of RAM available is anywhere from 16-22mb on a clean boot of a total 45mb (as reported by Best Task Manager). Although the N95 handles its resources a bit better than other devices with the same amount of RAM, anyone who has tried to listen to music while browsing the web will tell you, it simply isn’t enough.

The new N95-3 packs a whopping 45mb of available RAM on boot, effectively doubling the amount found on the original N95. This upgrade should be ample for most multitasking which was impossible on the original N95, but it won’t be perfect. Even with this increased amount, I think it would be unlikely that the N95 could handle the Web browser, music player, Maps, Gallery, and a large Java application simultaneously, but it should be enough for the power user if used responsibly. For my needs, I think this will be plenty of RAM. To date, I haven’t been able to effectively use the web browser while listening to music and I think this will be enough RAM to do just that. It should be noted that RAM, like anything else, uses resources and will have an impact on battery life.

Upgrade #2: US 3G

This will be the second phone Nokia has released which uses the North American 3G bands, the first being the Nokia N75 on AT&T. 3G has always been the area where Nokia has simply fallen short to its competition in the United States. Many other mobile manufacturers have been pushing out various devices capable of using AT&T’s 3G network for well over a year while S60 fans have been waiting in the dark.

Fortunately, the N95-3 does indeed support the US 3G bands for faster data speeds, but that isn’t the only advantage. With 3G, the N95-3 supports new features such as simultaneous voice and data transmissions, improved voice clarity, and potential video calling (if supported by AT&T). This is the feature I’m most excited about because it allows true wireless freedom. With such technology, your location doesn’t determine what online features and services you can use. With the original N95, users were forced to use WLAN for all high speed data connectivity, but with 3G, that limitation doesn’t exist.

High speed data may sound all well and good, but it is widely known for being the largest drain on battery life for any mobile device. I also worry that this new N95 variant may not be able to turn 3G off in the Network options, forcing it to constantly search for a 3G signal and lose its charge.

Upgrade #3: Battery

With these new upgrades, the improved battery life is pivotal for the success of the N95-3. The original N95 used a 950 mAh battery, the BL-5F, which was sufficient to last through an average day with minimal usage. The N95-3, however, has a new, larger 1200 mAh battery, the BL-6F. Although this may seem like an excellent upgrade to compliment the other upgrades previously mentioned, I have a feeling it’s not going to be enough to balance off the new power hungry features. The RAM won’t make all too much of a noticeable difference on the device, but the 3G will definitely be relevant. Not only that, but now that the device is going to be that much more capable, I imagine users are going to find themselves using it more frequently, which will be another aspect working against the duration of a days use.

I’m very happy to see that all of problems of the original N95 have been addressed and there’s no doubt it’s going to be a success in the United States, but unfortunately, I think it’ll be history repeating itself; Early adopters will have to add the cost of additional batteries and chargers to the premium price tag.

Even though several bloggers have already received their prototype units of the N95-3, I’m hoping to pick one up to review as soon as they’re available for sale at the Nokia flagship stores.

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Written by Jonathan

September 17, 2007 at 8:12 am

Posted in Mobile Events

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