Rythie's Blog

Technology and stuff

Don't Buy a Nokia N96

The contract on my Sony Ericsson k810i phone expired at end of last year. I'd not had much luck with that phone, the joystick controller failed in the same way the it happened on the Sony Ericsson T610 I had on the one before last phone I had. Not being able to navigate the phone basically made it unusable towards the end. I figured, I'd had bad experiences with Sony Ericssons both times, I'd bought them, and I had three different Nokias and they had all worked pretty well. This time, I thought I'd go back to Nokia. The Nokia N95 got rave reviews, though for me, I was also looking for something to replace my aging 20GB iPod. The Nokia N96 was the successor to the N95 which added 16GB internal memory and the option to add another 16GB, which I did.

I also looked at the iPhone, though at the time it only supported 16GB, had no video support, no bluetooth stereo (which are all fixed now) and it's a pain to work with Linux since you need iTunes to get stuff on and off it. So I decided on the N96.

Nokia's phones used to be popular because they were easy to use and reliable, but they have really messed up big time with this one. Here some of the areas I've kept on hitting problems over the last 9 months with this phone:

When you need to turn on the phone it can take about a minute to start, also, slide to lock the screen doesn't work all this time. Normally this wouldn't be much of a problem but the phone does sometimes crash so you end up booting it more that you should need to.

Address Book
On an old Nokia phone I could type the first letter of a person's name and it would jump right to it, now they match the beginning of any word so, it will match their surname and other bits I've added to the name like "house", "work" "mob" etc. (maybe I shouldn't use these anymore) so searching for "h", "w" or "m" brings up a lot of unwanted results.

Text Messages
First off, sometimes when you receive a text the phone can take a while to wake up and show you the text at all. When your viewing the text you don't see the date/time of the text, on old non-smartphone Nokia phones you would simply scroll down, on the N96 you have to go to Options → (scroll right down to) Message Details and then scroll that down to see the time - which is crazy when the screen is so big.

Email client
The mail client leaves a lot to be desired, with the default settings it runs out of memory even when it is the only program running with an inbox of 4,000 messages. I found that reducing my mailbox down to about 1500 messages helped this a bit, but still most of the time wouldn't let you read a message. In the end, I found that limited the number of messages was the best answer which can be done with the following from Email:

Options → E-mail settings → Retrieval settings → Retrieval amount → From Inbox = 50 (default: All) Even with this setting, I find it can take several minutes to check for new message, when I haven't used it for a few weeks.

Web Browser
The web browser seems fine in general unless you have used iPhone or iPod Touch before. I have recently bought an iPod touch and it's really easy to do a web search, change the page URL, use tabs, bookmarks basically everything you need. Nokia's browser is very poor in comparison. When it has to load external stylesheets it seems to load that at the end so you start reading the un-styled content for a few seconds and there is a big jump while the page changes. There is no multiple tab support.

MP3 Player
The music player does work some of the time. Occasionally it gets confused on a song and it starts stuttering and this can be fixed by pausing and un-pausing it again. Also, sometimes the phone will just simply crash and reboot while your listening to a song. A minor issue is that on my Sony Ericsson k810i I could pause/play and change volume all with out unlocking the phone, which was useful, on the n96 I have to unlock it every-time to do this (they do provide a wired remote which I don't find useful, and my iPod had one which I never used).

I've talked to a few people with Nokia N96s, and they report the same type of problems. I can't see a good reason to choose the Nokia N96, so my recommendation is to get something else.