Nokia N73 Smartphone Review

Introduction

As a part of the multimedia-oriented N-series, N73 aims pretty high as a cameraphone and does it with its 3.2 megapixel auto focus module with the legendary Carl Zeiss optics, large QVGA display and music player with stereo sound. All of this is comprised in a stylish design, global roaming (quad-band GSM) support and high functionality, thanks to its Symbian S60 operating system – something that takes it one step ahead of its Sony Ericsson rival – the K800. As a successor of the N70, there is a serious upgrade to both the camera and the display with its QVGA resolution, which is now a standard for telephones of this class. Unlike the N93, the N73 has no optical zoom and Wi-Fi, which is a feature of the slider of the series – the N80, which has just ordinary lenses and its camera lacks the autofocus. The phone comes in a package which also contains stereo headphones (needed for the Radio) and a cable for connecting the handset to a PC, and in order to fully take advantage of the N73's capabilities you only have to buy a miniSD card with ample capacity.





Unlike its big brother – the N93, N73 is in the classic candybar design and the only movable part in its construction is the slider, which protects and enables the camera that is on the back of the phone. Its glides smoothly and is aided by a spring mechanism, which makes it really easy to open or close by only a slight push with your finger. There's no annoying wobbling both when opening and closing it.

The N73 is available in two color combinations – black and white, and red and white, as the one we tested was the latter. Only the front side is entirely in white (and little silver too), while the rest is respectively in black or saturated red. Both color variations are highly contrasting, while the daring red one is obviously aimed at the younger customers as it's an eccentric color and is rarely used in mobile phones. The N73's construction is relatively solid as the only noticeable problem about it is the battery cover which slightly succumbs when pushed. The phone feels comfortable in both hands and the side buttons (located only on the right side) are easy to use. Its weight of a little over 4 oz. helps you feel it in your pocket but it still fits in there. That's not much and it's lighter than most Nokia smartphones and almost every Pocket PC phone, but it's more than the standard one for modern WM Smartphones.

The front side is dominated by a 262k color large QVGA display, which is very bright and thanks to the light sensor its brightness is adjusted according to the lighting conditions, just like with the E50, so the display is clearly seen even in very bright sun light. The contrast is very strong and the colors are highly saturated, while thanks to the high resolution the pixels are small enough and the images look clear and detailed. Just above it are the camera for video calling and the service LED light.

 

The keypad buttons are small which is really annoying as it causes a lot of trouble when you use them – you have to press them with the top of your finger. They're located at the lower part of the phone which makes them even harder to use when holding the phone with only one hand and entering text, because the weight distribution is not right in this case and it's likely that the handset slips out of your hand. All the buttons have very good tactile response, but the surface of the keypad is almost completely flat and you can hardly feel the separate keys, which even harder because there is no spacing between them. For navigation, mainly the joystick is used and it's the most protrusive part on the front side so it's very comfortable and easy to move in any direction, while pressing it is also not hard at all.

Located on the right side of the phone are the volume control buttons and below them - shortcut keys to the gallery and the camera. They're easy to see in the dark as they are lit too and the color of the light is blue just like the one of the numeric keypad. The soft buttons and the joystick are lit in white, while the Answer and Reject ones are respectively in green and red. The left side of the phone houses only the infrared, which does not fit at all to the overall design of the phone. Located at the top is one of the speakers, as well as the power button, in the middle, which also acts as a shortcut to the Profiles. The other speaker is located at the bottom where the miniSD cards slot and the pop-up port are. The stereo speakers are located at the top and the bottom respectively, so that they can be as far as possible from each other in order to achieve some kind of stereo sound. We did not notice any stereo effect but that may also be a result from the poor quality of the sound coming out of the speakers.        




Interface:

N73 is a phone running on Symbian Operating System with S60 interface. The version of system is v.9.1, which is the latest one up to now – that's why it's similar to other phones by the manufacturer, like the E70 and N80 for example.  This version of the S60 allows for various resolutions of the displays (the old 176x208 used in earlier Nokia smartphones and the new bigger 240x320 and 352x416), which helps for better image quality, as well as for more convenient reading of webpages, where resolution is more important than physical size. Another cool extra is the support of using the whole operating system in landscape mode – something that has been successfully done in WM for Pocket PCs.

The top part of the homescreen displays a clock and the date, as well as the usual signal strength and battery, while the name of the carrier or Offline can be seen in the middle. The Offline tag indicates that the N73 works only as an “organizer” with the phone function switched off (that's handy for using the device during a flight). Just below these is located a row of 6 shortcuts which can be personalized to suit you best.
The rest of the display, below them, is used for “notifications” – this is where missed calls, upcoming tasks (or To-Do in the calendar), received messages are displayed, as well as the music player status (the song that's played at the moment). The various capabilities of this Active Desk can be set to serve you best. It resembles a well-personalized homescreen of a Pocket PC with Windows Mobile OS and is really useful and pleasant to use, and it saves a lot of time. Located at the bottom of the screen are the two software buttons which can also be personalized from the Settings menu.     



The main menu can be viewed as 3x4 grid of icons that can also be displayed as a list (it's chosen directly from the main menu) but the icons are not animated in both cases. The keypad buttons can be used as shortcuts – a function which is much better implemented than version 6 of the S60 interface but still a lot of things should be changed: as the menu not always holds 12 icons (they can be more or less), scrolling up/down shows you different ones that should be associated with the keypad – but they're not. If you press 3 while at the highest part of the grid, you'll select the icon located at the top right corner. But if you scroll down to reveal the other icons in this menu, pressing the 3 button will still open the afore-mentioned menu, not the one currently located at the top right of your screen; so these shortcuts only relate to the first 12 icons in a particular menu, while the rest (if there are any) remain without any shortcuts. If a button's function is dynamic and corresponds to the grid in the menu, you can click the button for a given menu without even thinking about it. Thus, you save the time you usually need to “walk around” the menus, using the joystick.     
The menu can be personalized by using themes, and if you combine various screensavers and personalized homescreens, two identical phones can look quite different. Definitely, the operating system provides many good personalization options, so it can be compared to the most advanced system, according to us – WM for Pocket PCs.

Phonebook:

The Contacts menu is almost the same as the one in the older version of the S60 interface. All the contacts are displayed as a list and if there's a picture ID, it can be seen in the top left corner of the screen as a thumbnail with a very small size (it's the same when you have an incoming call and that's why we find this feature useless) when you select the contact.



If you want to search, you type in directly from the keypad and searching is done for the whole name (not only the first word), even if the name is saved in more than one field (first and last name for example). If you want to edit a contact , you can only change the already defined fields. For adding more information you need to select the Add Detail menu. When adding a new contact you are provided with the “basic” fields, but with the “Add Detail” function you have almost no restrictions on the fields and their number and you can add a lot of phone numbers.   

The phone has a set of voice commands – they are speaker independent and you don't have to “train” every command, something that can save you a lot of precious time. By holding the right soft key, the “recognizer” turns on and you can say a name (from the phonebook) to be dialed. Names like “Father”, “Brother”, “test”, “John” and “Neo” were no problem, but we had no success with others like “Amy” for example.

The commands can activate various programs or perform different functions, like “New SMS” for example, but a list with different capabilities must be added to the menu - not all of them are added by default so that they're easier to recognize with any speaker – thus by adding only the ones you need you can achieve best possible accuracy without the annoying training – and it works, the voice commands were very accurate and we rarely experienced mistakes when launching applications.




Organizer:


The Organizer is spread into different submenus – the calendar is one of the icons in the main menu and it can be viewed by month or week. Of course, you can easily add notes to a particular day with a few clicks; To-Do notes and Meetings are also displayed on the homescreen if the corresponding option is turned on (see Interface). An alarm can be assigned to each entry in the calendar.


Other options like Calculator, Notes, and Converter are located in the Office menu. Notes are just annotations with no option for adding an alarm like the To-Do notes. The Converter works with various quantities (Length, Weight, etc.) but the interface has not changed much, compared to older versions, and working with various types is still inconvenient – entering different values requires a quite slow transition from one row to another, while choosing types is done from a drop-down list, which usually takes a lot of time. 

The calculator has no scientific option, like the one in the 6131, which is a lower level phone.



Nokia has been wise enough to add third party software that comes with every smartphone as that's a way to broaden the phone's capabilities – you have QuickOffice and PDF reader which help you out with the most frequently used document types. Unfortunately, the Office is still only a “viewer” and you cannot do any editing with it which is a major drawback. When viewing Word files, you can stylize the text by using various colors, highlighting, italic, bold and underline, but some powerpoint files do not display properly. During the tests we opened two presentations, and the one with the white background was displayed, whereas the color one (a MS Powerpoint preloaded one) could not load the background image. A simple Excel document could also be viewed, but when we tried opening more complex ones (various colors, a lot of columns and sheets), they just could not visualized, so the application looked practically useless.



The situation with the PDF Reader is even worse. It's clear you can not expect to edit anything with it, but its only option – viewing – is really awfully implemented. We tried opening a digital manual of the N73, downloaded straight from the manufacturer's site, and the N73 did not manage to open it at all. A document with only one text line looked dreadful when viewed as the font was small and hard to read. So using the phone for viewing more complicated documents of this type is hard, inconvenient and even pointless. As a whole, the office applications are there so that one can say they're present, but we think that they just cannot do what they're supposed to and thus they are simply useless.  

   
Alarms are located in a third menu - Clock. If fact, there's only one alarm, and it's set for a particular hour – Symbian S60 has no capability for duplication (unless you use 3rd party software). The World Clock is also located in this menu and you can add various cities that you like to view – that's very convenient and saves a lot of time compared to the standard way with “moving across the world map"..

The Tools menu houses the integrated File Manager which we would've liked to feature an improved navigation too. Unlike PPC phones, it does not resemble the explorer we know from PCs and working with files is not quite fast.

Messaging:

The Messages menu has nothing new to offer – you can easily compose SMS/MMS or Email and located in My Folder are templates which are handy for text that is often used in messages. The fast T9 can help you enter text quickly, but the keypad is an obstacle as it's quite uncomfortable so we'd prefer not to write too much messages. The EDGE and UMTS connection helps for faster retrieving of Emails.



Connectivity:

This is not the strongest feature of the N73 – the supported Bluetooth version is 2.0, but it's a shame that a multimedia device like that lacks the Advanced Audio Distribution (A2DP) Profile for stereo audio streaming, and you can't connect stereo wireless headphones to listen to your favorite music but must only use the ones with Pop-up Port, which means you should either buy an adaptor, or use Nokia accessory. The phone also has an IrDA port, located on the left side of the handset, and offers further capabilities for connectivity with other devices, but it's an outdated technology and it's present in very few phone models these days, so we find it unnecessary. Unfortunately, the N73 does not support Wi-Fi, which is a wireless network standard – it would have allowed access to Internet in all hotspots (places with such kind of network), as well as usage of IP telephony. Through Wi-Fi you can also stream music or video fast and free to your phone, or download some new multimedia content. Wi-Fi would have been also very useful if the carrier supported UMA – a service that's expected to be launched by T-Mobile USA, and which helps you to reduce your bill by using local wireless connections.
For over-the-air data you can connect through both 2G GPRS/EDGE or through 3G UMTS (no HSDPA support), but unfortunately the latter supports 2100MHz band only, which means it will work in Europe/Asia, but not in the US, where 850/1900MHz UMTS is needed.

Like most other Nokia phones, along with the N73 comes a CD with Nokia PC Suite. The software has a nice interface with logically structured and easy to use menus, but the options supported are nothing special – here we have the standard backup and synchronize, connecting the PC to the Internet via the phone, managing contacts, messages, multimedia and applications. Even if you've never used Nokia PC Suite you won't experience any troubles working with it and establishing a connection between the PC and the phone would be no problem with the USB cable provided with the N73. When connected to the USB cable, you can choose which mode the N73 should enter in: Media Player, PC Suite, Mass storage, or PictBridge. PC Suite is the one we've described above, while the Mass storage is most suitable for transferring lots of images, music or videos from the computer to the phone or vice versa – by using it we transferred 31MB for 45 seconds, which is speed of 1.45MB per second. The stupid thing is that this mode disables the phone functionality and you can miss a call while you transfer content. The PictBridge is used for direct printing of images through compatible printers.
 

Internet browser:

Thanks to the EDGE/UMTS data and the QVGA resolution of the display, loading and viewing a standard HTML webpage is a pleasure. The phone has no problem rendering all pages and reading phoneArena's news was a pleasure. Scrolling left-to-right and top-to-bottom is done with the phone's joystick, and a mini-map shows you, which part of the page you are looking at. The pages loaded pretty fast and as a whole, we had a great experience with the browser, so we definitely like it more than the Internet Explorer, built in Pocket PC phones based on Windows Mobile. The browser can load RSS feeds for even faster access to information. What we loved about it is the history: when you use 'back' to see pages you've seen earlier, you see the pages as thumbnails, you can open from the phone's cache.



Camera:


The main target of the N73 are the people looking for an all-in-one multimedia device that can offer good music playback options combined with a camera with good image quality. The phone is sold as a 3-megapixel shooter that can easily replace your pocket-size camera. Located just around the lens is the Carl Zeiss Tessar sign, guaranteeing that it's manufactured under license of the legendary brand, and it's only Nokia that currently uses it in their mobile phones (N73, N90, N93 up to now). Turning it on is done by opening the slider on the back of the phone, as starting the camera takes the annoying four seconds which may cost you if you instantly want to take a picture of something. Just after it's started you can half-press the shoot button (unfortunately, it's still not precise enough like with a digital camera) in order to focus on the object you want to take a picture of and it takes 2 seconds even in poor lighting conditions, as it's aided by a blink of the flash. After taking the shot, you will still have to wait for another four or five seconds before you get the chance to focus for the next picure – so for taking two photos you will need about 15 seconds if the camera has already been started. In other words, you can take about six pictures per minute, which is definitely slow, having in mind the pretensions of the smart cameraphone. 
 

The camera interface is displayed in landscape mode and we think the phone is intended to be held with both hands. The right one is used for pressing the shoot button and the left one – for zooming, which unfortunately is only digital, unlike the N93 which has an optical one. The various options are displayed in small icons arranged vertically to the right of the screen, so that there's as much space left on the display as possible for the viewfinder. Interesting options are a few scene modes including night photo, night portrait, Sports, Close-up. There's an option for more than one color scenes and white balance, but the latter still lacks manual tuning.



The camera can obtain good results only outdoor, when there is bright light – then it does not produce much noise in the image and there the 3-megapixel resolution helps for capturing more details. Unfortunately in very bright light the colors are not realistic and little amount of purple fringing occurs. In low light the noise-reducing system in the phone kills all the detail of the image and everything becomes blurry as if you've used a “watercolor” to produce the photo. When you hold the phone steadily (as you can't put it to lie horizontally) and use the “night photo” mode, the captured photos are clear (although again there is the “water color” effect) if the object you shoot is lighten enough. If Nokia had used better image sensor (as digital cameras need good lens, sensor and processor) they would definitely have the best cameraphone, but unfortunately they haven't and the biggest drawback of the N73's camera is its noise levels (noise-reduction).
Let's don't forget that we are talking about a cell phone with built-in camera. In our head-to-head tests of 3.2 mega pixel camera phones (N93, N73, N80, K800 and D900), N73 and K800 got the highest scores.

Nokia N73Canon SD200



The pictures taken can be viewed from the gallery, which is in landscape mode too.It displays  a single image at the centre of the display, which is surround by small thumbnails of the other images in the phone. Navigating left-to-right the images move at the centre position to be displayed in bigger size. It's nice that the phone caches different sizes of every image, so they load pretty fast once you've previewed them in the gallery.


The Multiemedia key opens a dedicated menu, which has shortcuts to various applications, with the Music, Radio, Web and Slide Show by default (they can be defined by the user). This menu pops up with animation, but it's boring to wait for it every time.



The phone comes with headphones in the box, but can also play the music through its stereo speakers, which should be cool for the incoming ringing alert. The interface of the music player is the same as those used in other Symbian S60 phones (for example the E50 that we've reviewed earlier). It's not quite comfortable – moving through the options can only be done with up and down directions and the buttons are so small that you have to stare at the display if you want to see what each of them does – this is a total waste of space and resolution.



The Music Library menu allows you to sort the songs by Artist, Album, Genre, Composer, and we find the Track Lists option to be an interesting idea as it allows you to select the most played songs for example. The music player works fine in background mode thanks to the multitask capabilities of the smartphone, while the beautiful homescreen displays the songs that's played and the time elapsed – by pointing at it you are allowed to adjust the sound volume of the player without even opening it but you can not pause it or change to the next track. As there is plenty of space between the N73's keypad and display, we'd have been happier if we found a row of music dedicated keys there, but unfortunately we didn't.

The sound quality of the music player is not the one we'd like to hear in a high-end multimedia phone … neither from the phone's speakers(they sound awful, with distorted sound, total lack of bass, muffled high frequencies and unreal vocals and also had some noise from time to time), nor from the stereo headphones, which also didn't produced any bass and had low quality of middle and high frequencies – unfortunately it is hard to connect decent hi-fi headphones to the phone, and you have to search for Nokia adaptor (Pop-up Port to 3.5mm jack). It's sad that it is not in the box, as it was with Sony Ericsson W810 and LG Chocolate KG800. As you can expect, the built-in equalizers don't help for the sound quality at all.



Software:

The phone can use applications based both on the Java platform and Symbian S60, which provides wide 3rd party software compatibility like any other smartphone. Installation is a piece of cake, while additional programs increase the software's capabilities very much and thus it can be personalized to better suit you. The phone comes with several applications, as well as a game, called Snakes, which is a 3D version of the well known from other Nokia phones game.


N73 has only 42MB of internal memory and you must expand it with a miniSD card to take advantage of the phone's functionality. The slot for the latter is located at the bottom of the phone, above the pop-up connector and is covered with red plastic flap, which opens from the right to the left and is put solid in its place. However, that's quite inconvenient as you have to use your finger to open it, and if you often swap cards you will not be happy with the way it is done. It's nice that it is almost hidden and doesn't make a bad impression design-wise, unlike the IrDA eye on the left side.

Performance:

The N73 has some lagging when you move through its menus, but it is faster than the E50 which is based on the same Symbian 9.1 S60 Interface operating system. Opening most of the applications and games is fast, but waiting for things like the multimedia menu, the gallery and the camera is annoying.

Surprisingly, the N73's signal strength is average and we were unable to place a call in places with poor coverage – we could not even establish a connection. During the tests in an area where the signal gradually fades, we found out that the performance of the handset was worse than the one of the phone we compare all the rest to. The 1100mAh battery provided by the manufacturer is claimed to be enough for more than three and a half hours talk-time and two weeks in standby mode, and through normal usage, including taking pictures with the camera and listening to the music, the phone should last for at least two or three days.

Conclusion:

The N73 is a multimedia-centric device and as a smartphone it can expand its abilities with additional applications, which is a huge advantage over the rival models from other manufacturers – the K800 from SonyEricsson for example. It is one of the best cameraphones on the market now with its 3-megapixels and auto-focus lens by Carl Zeiss, and produces images even better than the Nokia's flagship phone – the N93. Although its music player's interface is not the most comfortable to use, it offers good options for sorting, but unfortunately the sound from the stereo speakers lacks quality for a portable audio system. Overall, the N73 is very good device, and the Symbian S60 OS justifies the bulky size.







Pros

  • 3-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens.
  • Very good personalization of the phone including the homescreen, the main menu and the applications.
  • Big and bright display with QVGA resolution and realistic detailed image.
  • Incredible Internet Browser.

Cons

  • Uncomfortable keypad.
  • Low sound quality of the stereo speakers.
  • Noise-reduction kills image's detail.

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

8.3
43 Reviews

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless