Sales package:

  • Handset
  • Li-Ion battery (BL-5F)
  • USB data cable (CA-101)
  • TV cable (CA-75U)
  • Remote control and headphones (AD-54, HS-45)
  • Car charger (DC-4)
  • Charger (AC-5)

Positioning

As a rule, the average consumer’s thought pattern isn’t characterized by sophistication or depth – all he cares to consider when choosing a phone is index and functionality. Take the Nokia N95 for example – it is a do-it-all flagship, so the average Joe readily assumes the device that has one rung added to its index, specifically, the N96, should outdo the previous offering in every single way. The logic seems solid at a glance, but as we go deeper into the N96, it loses a fair share of its soundness.

Nokia has a clear-cut goal: to roll out a variety of solutions in order to settle down in different niches and for this they need similarly styled phones that pack in unique feature sets. Being resembling design-wise helps offerings that stand close together within the range appear identical to those who buy this trick, even though as far as philosophy and hardware are concerned, they couldn’t be more polarized. Basically, that’s the story of the Nokia N96 that got stuck with the “flagship” title, so now it is considered as the best S60-based solution around, which is not how things really stand. Effectively, it is a niche product that’s meant to open the range of similarly featured solutions, a feeler, if you like – dubbing an all-round new solution that hasn’t stood the test of time yet “the flagship” is somewhat reckless. Moreover, Nokia has never done such thing, but gossips care very little about that.

Nokia’s portfolio offers a couple of DVB-H capable solutions, specifically the Nokia N77 and a more dated phone, the N92. Neither of them was widely available, since they were used either in pilot television projects or tailored for particular regions (like the N77 in Taiwan, starting late fall 2007). Indeed, given that the vast majority of markets still have no DVB-H television enabled, a replica of the N73, yet armed with this functionality, was uncalled for. In March 2008, the European authorities standardized on DVB-H and from this point on will put in their efforts to support it. In this sense the Nokia N96 has a good chance to avoid the role of an ugly duckling that will never see release – thankfully, mobile television isn’t a big focus in the N96, it is rather included among all other things there.

Much like other Nseries-branded solutions, the N96 is heavy on multimedia, and delivers especially with its video department. There is a handful of things going for it – the display diagonal, hardware support for H.264 decoding, speedier videos and a folding stand that allows having the N96 on flat surfaces at a video-friendly angle.

Interestingly, over a year ago Nokia started to enhance its product portfolio not only by varying styles, but also hardware platform underpinning their solutions. The Nokia N95 and its follow-ups built upon the TI OMAP chip, while the N96 takes advantage of STMicroelectronics’s Nomadik. So when comparing these two phones, their similarities don’t go beyond physical aspects, since other things, like functionality and hardware, are quite different.

Is the N96 a mass-market solution? No. Then, is it heavily specialized, aiming at one particular niche? No. It is rather somewhere in between. This phone will see moderate sales, although the fuss around it will easily shadow its modest numbers.

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Design, size, controls

Visually, the N96 is very much like the Nokia N81 8 Gb – same black finish with glossy surfaces, same controls, with a little bit of silver along the sides, making for a pretty seducing mix. The front face is extremely easy to soil with fingerprints and smudge; basically, it gets so dirty in a matter of minutes that a cleaning cloth becomes a must-have for its owners.

The phone measures in at 103x55x18 mm (125 grams) plus the camera part is even thicker due the rim around the lens that adds a couple of millimeters to the N96’s girth. On the whole, the N96 looks and feels more like some sort of shovel in the hand due to being quite wide – compared with the Nokia N81 it has gotten 0,5cm wider. While it is not a solution for women in any way, it is more about whether or not shop assistants will manage to convince them that it is the flagship solution. As far as I remember, the Nokia N93 wasn’t all that petite either, notwithstanding, women happily went for it and carried it around in their purses, and furthermore, some are still using it. It is important to realize that the Nokia N96’s dimensions are as close to the maximum as it get – its pocket-stretching casing won’t fit just about any jacket or trousers. Some may well argue with me on this, and I will readily agree that some types of clothes are perfect for the N96; but for the most part, it will not please you with its portability.
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