CES 2007: Live Report
The Nokia N76 is a N75 on a diet – it is slimmer version with more aggressive and fashionable design. The clamshell is smaller than most of its Symbian Smartphone siblings and is also one of the most slim phones using this OS. With flat internal keypad, the Nokia N76 also reminds of the popular RAZR phones, and it’s also that thin – half inch only.
The slim profile does not come at the price of functionality – the Nokia N76 is Symbian S60 smartphone; as a multimedia phone, it packs 2-megapixel camera, a couple of color displays and music player with control keys on the front cover. We are glad to notice the 3.5mm stereo jack for usage of headphones, as the phone is advertised as music device.
N76’s displays are relatively big, with the internal one being 2.8 inches unit with QVGA resolution and 16 million colors, while the external one has 128x160 pixels. We will not argue – the time has long passed when Samsung was the undeniable leader when it came to vivid and colorful displays. Nokia was able to catch up and in some cases actually surpass Samsung. The N76 is a pure example of this – showing extremely sharp and vivid colors, with high detail and contrast.
Manufacturing a slim phone requires using a flush keypad. Comparing the N76 with the RAZR’s for example, we definitely will choose the N76. The keys are textured with vertical lines running across each key, plus each key is separated from the others making them more easy to feel without looking. The keypad has decent key press feedback and strong backlight.
The 2 mega pixel camera could be used with the phone closed. To control the different camera settings, the front keys which the rest of the time play the role of music controls are used. To switch from image to video capture, there is a dedicated key next to the camera one.
For people looking for a smartphone with Symbian OS, with good built quality and display, with somewhat fashionable design, the N76 is a definite candidate to be considered.
We are actually surprised that Nokia just gave the N93 the "i" upgrade. Nokia has been know for always trying to give its phones a new model name, no matter if the "new" phone is just a different color version.
Let’s be honest - the N93 could not seriously be called digital camera substitution, no matter how many Cars Zeiss labels Nokia puts on it. In our head-to-head test of five 3+ mega pixel camera phone, the Nokia’s big gun came #4 - behing Sony Ericsson K800 which shared the #1 position with Samsung D900.
This time, Nokia instead of touting the N93i as "leave your regular digital camera at home" device, actually ask you to leave your video camera at home. We feel this is something we can actually agree on doing. We were allowed to taka a few images with both N93 and N93i and actually compare them. We were asked to explicitly say this: "The image software on the N93i is not final and the final version could produce different (better) results". Please keep in mind - in the cameras of this class, the imaging sensor does play the major role. The second component is not the "super-duper" Carl Zeiss optics, but the software which processes the raw images. So Nokia had a point in asking us to put the disclaimer.
We were one of the few if not the only one allowed to take samples shots with the new N93i. We can not comment on the overall performance of its camera, since we were able to take just a few pictures in the dark show-floor of the CES expo. What we can comment on it how it compares with the N93 in the same conditions. Overall, the images are almost identical - brightness, contrast, details - everything. The only major difference we noticed was the a lot stronger Noise Reduction system - the low light images were a lot more smoother and with less visible noise.
Its video camera performance was very good for a phone - no trace of the usual "lag" and low frame rate usually seen in lower-end devices.
Nokia got this right - slightly improving the camera performance and slapping an "i" is not enough today. The consumers demand smaller, lighter devices they can carry around. If one didn’t care about the weight and the volume, he would have a laptop, stand-alone digital camera, Ipod and regular digital camera all the time. The idea of the converged device is to have one gadget which is small enough to have be carried all the time, but still to perform reasonably well. The N93 was not that device – way too bulky, way too heavy for everyday use. The N93i is definitely not a RAZR, but is definitely a move in the right direction - smaller and lighter.
4.25" x 2.28" x 1”
108 x 58 x 25
4.65" x 2.18" x 1.1"
118 x 55.5 x 28
Improved are not only the dimension, but as well as the front of the phone. Now it is all glossy black, with an OLED screen hidden below it. It is the same resolution of 128x36 pixels as the one on the N93.
The hinge is still the same, allowing the N93i to be opened as a regular clamshell, as well as twisted and oriented as "camcorder" style.
The other major difference is the keypad. Unlike the N93 one, which has the top part (d-pad, soft-keys and few shortcuts) completely separate from the bottom ones, the N93i one continues and there is not clear division between both. The keys are now also more flush but it is really a personal preference which ones you like.
The last "new" phone Nokia had for us was the 6131NFC. Nokia 6131 NFC is actually the well-known 6131 clamshell. It is absolutely identical in design and features, except the additional Near Field Communication technology. In a nutshell, NFC allows very short range communication between two devices. Currently it is used mainly in ID cards which when brushed against a reading surface would grant access to a building or room. A small chip inside the ID card sends information when in very close proximity to a reading device and by close we mean really close - the maximum distance is about 7 inches, while usually the device slightly touches the activation surface.
At CES, Nokia had several demos of the NFC technology. The first one was printing a picture taken with the phone by an NFC/Bluetooth printer. Since the NFC works at very close proximities and is relative slow, it is used just to initiate a Bluetooth connection between the phone and printer, and then the actual pictured is transferred via Bluetooth. Similar demonstration, but with a picture frame was also shown.
Another demo showed getting a movie trailer simply by touching the NFC phone to a NFC enabled movie poster. This time the NFC was used to start the phone's browser and point it to a website at which the video trailer could be downloaded. These NFC-enabled posters will be soon available in New York.
The last demo was finding a restaurant and transferring its info to your phone. There was a rectangular poster with several placed shown on it. You choose one and point the 6131 to it. Then the restaurants phone and address are transferred to your phone.
In the future, NFC will be part of every phone. The time to carry small change or even credit cards will be forgotten - no need for them when you would be able to just waive your phone and the payment information transferred. Exchanging contact information should also be a breeze - just touch the other person’s phone. Want to pair two Bluetooth/Wi-fi devices? - No need to enter codes, initiate discovery etc - just touch them.