Nokia N96 Review

Nokia N96 Review
This is an unlocked GSM phone which can operate in the
US on AT&T (without 3G) and T-Mobile (without 3G).

This review has been updated on 11 November 2008


The Nokia N96 has a pretty hefty reputation to live up to. The N95 was a true powerhouse, and the finest converged device of its time. With a 5 megapixel camera, 3G data, the powerful S60 UI and eventually 8GB of internal memory there were few devices that could compete with it, and arguably no one could do it as well. Then along came a little device out of Cupertino and the cellular landscape changed. Not one to be reactive, Nokia has stuck to its guns with the retooled N96 and delivered an upgraded device that once again aims to sit atop of the mobile industry; improvements include 16GB of internal memory with microSDHC expansion and an integrated DVB-H tuner for mobile TV. But is it enough to compete with the almighty iPhone?

Included in the box you’ll find:
  • Li-Ion Battery
  • AC adapter
  • 3.5mm headphones with microphone adapter
  • RCA TV-out cables
  • USB sync cable
  • Vehicle adapter


Though definitely inspired by the dual-sliding N95, the N96 is a much more modern and sleek device. Like the N81 everything on the device is flush with the exception of the directional pad and Multimedia key, giving the N96 a much more modern and minimalist appearance than its predecessor. The sharp corners of the N95 are now smoothly rounded, and the keys are only apparent when illuminated.

You can compare the Nokia N96 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The front of the phone is comprised mostly of the 2.8” QVGA display. At 16 million colors, the same as the iPhone, the display is extremely vivid and colorful. It is easily readable in any lighting conditions, though oddly enough colors tend to wash out in direct sunlight. At the top is a pinhole front-facing VGA camera and earpiece. Below is the navigational cluster, which features right and left soft keys, the five-way d-pad, send, end, menu and clear keys and a multimedia key. Also hidden are multimedia playback controls, which sit outside the four corners of the d-pad and illuminate when the keypad lights up. The menu and clear keys, which are on the corners, can be a bit cramped and awkward to press.

The phone slides up to reveal a standard 12 key dialpad. The keys are all flush, and while they offer sufficient feedback navigating without looking is all but impossible. As is often the case with sliders, the overhang can interfere with the top row of keys. The keypad is also a bit too wide for our liking, and on the whole we weren’t too crazy about tapping out messages on this thing.

A downward slide changes the screen orientation to landscape and reveals four media keys- FF, Play/Pause, Stop and RW- that can also be used for gaming controls. N-Gage is also on board, and there are a few pre-loaded demos as well as plenty of downloadable content for the user. Like the keypad, these keys are dark at rest but illuminate white when being used.

The black face of the phone is offset by the silver housing surrounding the N96. Unfortunately it is plastic, and cheep feeling plastic at that. It’s not incredibly cheap, but cheap enough that we’re ashamed to see it in such a high-end device. The right side of the phone features stereo speakers at the top and bottom corner, which sit at the top of the phone when watching TV in landscape mode. It also houses the volume rocker and camera key. On the left side is simply the covered microSDHC slot. The card sits a bit too deep in the phone for our liking, which makes it hard to both press to remove and to physically take out of the phone once it is pressed in.

On the top is a lock switch, the 3.5mm headphone/output jack and the power/profile button, and on the bottom is the microUSB data port (that can also be used to charge) and the 2mm pin charging port. The power button is too small and travel too far, and you cannot hold the phone by the sides and press it with one finger, you have to brace it at the bottom.

The back is a glossy dark plastic, with a wavy pattern “etched” into it for aesthetic purposes. The 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera is prominently displayed, and is ringed in silver housing that flips out to act as a stand for the phone while viewing video. The single LED flash of the N95 has been replaced by a double LED one in the N96, but unfortunately does not have the Xenon of flash of the N82.

All in all the N96 feels just ok. It is actually wider and taller than the N95, though has slimmed down considerably. That’s not to say that this isn’t a portly phone, because it most definitely is. In these svelte days of the iPhone and Touch Diamond the N96 is the fat kid doing the truffle shuffle. It feels too wide in our medium sized hands, and while that may be a good thing for those of you with big mitts it pretty much eliminates the fairer sex. The sliding mechanism is good, and we have confidence it will hold up over time. The weight has also been reduced, down to 4.4oz, but with its plastic construction the phone’s lightness leads to a cheaper (but not cheap) feeling. It could definitely do with some metal trim or a glass display (hint: touchscreen,) and while the design is a step in the right direction Nokia still has some considerable work to do.



1. unregistered

so u people decided to use a chinese n96 model to review?i thought all chinese moble phones were dodgy?

12. unregistered

What are you talking about? The n96 they used is not a clone, where does it say that? The strokes on the keypad means that it is intended for Chinese input for the Asian market. You do know that there is a huge Asian market that Nokia is targetting right? Millions of Nokia consumers in Hong Kong alone. The best way to tell the difference is that the clloned n96 do not operate under Symbian, and they have a big distorted "Nokia" branding on the front. Are you naive or what?

2. unregistered

i remeber ready articles about crap chinese cloned phones saying they were shit,and here they are making a review on using a (possibly)cloned N96 lol

3. unregistered

Isn't the processor dual ARM? so the processor isnt actually a downgrade?

4. unregistered

the processor of n95 is dual ARM as well...

5. imi unregistered

heyyy this phone arena always make mistakee the processor is dual double its not downgrade its upgradeee and also it has Feature PAck 2 nor 3 Feature PAck 3 is not relaease so far

13. Riachu unregistered

I agree. Phone arena is crap. is better!!!

6. SAYEM unregistered

Hey Guys One Question. ... I heard that n96 has DVH-TV... is that gonna work in USA ?

8. unregistered

as the review says, no. its not available in north america

7. hmmm unregistered

I respect nokia for there amazing camera and great gaming abilities but it just to thick for my taste and not touchscreen.

14. Riachu unregistered

Buy the N85. The screen is better, lasts longer and is smaller. It doesn't have TV, but only people with no life watch TV on the go.

9. unregistered

almost 18 months, nokia havent released anything great after n95. hope tube will be launched in october n96 is way over prices, n85 is much better than this

10. unregistered

come on. n95,n96 is better than d iphone! d only good thing about d iphone is its touchscreen and thats it!

11. RAJHANS unregistered

Nokia is always weak on build quality. There is only one an exception and it is E71. In hardware MOTOs are best.

15. unregistered

I would like to know why this phone as a better rating than the n85 (8.5 vs 7.5) when the n85 has better results in the individual ratings .

16. kimmyhendrick

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

There is a good article review about the Nokia N96 that I find really helpful, it describes the product in a way that is pretty easy to understand. You can check the review here:

17. enter.adj

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 01, 2009

This is best phone by nokia up to date .. check my review @ Please leave a comment

18. enter.adj

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 01, 2009

This is best phone by nokia up to date ..

19. enter.adj

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 01, 2009

This is best phone by nokia up to date ..

20. phonelover

Posts: 1; Member since: May 03, 2010

I used to have the N95 - upgraded to the N96 and I have to admin - HUGE improvement !! Got it in december 2009

21. netmobileltd unregistered

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  • Display 2.8" 240 x 320 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP
  • Storage 16GB
  • Battery 950 mAh(2.50h 3G talk time)

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