First Impressions on the Nokia N76
My box from WOMWorld arrived on Wednesday with a nice, shiny, red Nokia N76 inside. I’m not going to bother with unboxing pictures because everyone’s done that. But I will type down my initial experiences, with the usual disclaimer that while I work for Nokia, yet they don’t pay me to write about phones. These are my honest opinions.
The Nokia N76 is sometimes called Nokia’s answer to the Motorola RAZR. The size and the keyboard certainly remind me of one, but the design here is all Nokia. The keypad is basically flat, but most of the keys have a rough feel to them. The keys give just-enough tacile feedback to let you know you actually pressed a key. There is a visual and tacile border between each of the keys as well. The angles and use of chrome decoration are elegant. The movement of the fold is slow, deliberate, and very solid. A little tricky to open one-handed, but it can be done.
There’s a lot to see and experience on this device. It’s a little long, I know, but keep reading!
Volume, camera, and gallery keys are on the right-hand side of the phone, the (covered) slot to insert the MicroSD card is on the left hand-side, along with the receptacle for the power adapter. On the top, you can find the 3.5mm headphone jack, a covered USB adapter, and the power button.
The first thing I did after putting the battery and SIM card in–taking the battery cover off was painfully challenging–was plug in the phone to charge it. Next, I fired up an internal version of Nokia Software Updater to update the firmware. It shipped to me with 10.0.0.035, it’s now running 20.0.0.041. This isn’t published publicly, yet, so software issues I experience and document here may vary.
The process of getting the device upgraded was problematic, but not for any reasons Nokia has control over. I was attempting to do this under Parallels, which decided to give me the blue screen of death when doing the firmware upgrade. It got a little dicey there for a while with the phone, but it looks like it recovered nicely. Meanwhile, I booted my Mac into Windows XP directly and the upgrade went without a hitch.
One thing I immediately miss on the N76 is WiFi. I can’t tell you how much I use WiFi on my other Nseries and Eseries devices, particularly when it comes to downloading podcasts. It’s ironic, because the Nokia Podcasting application is pre-loaded on the N76. Pity the Nokia N76 doesn’t support US 3G.
I decided to spend some time today setting up my favorite podcasts on iTunes and syncing the device with Nokia Media Transfer on the Mac. This went without a hitch, though I had to create playlists for each podcast. Took some time to get the playlists set up right, but it all appears to have synced over.
The next step is getting my contacts/calendar onto the device. I was hoping I could use Mail for Exchange, but it appears the N76 isn’t supported. Fortunately, it seems that an internal version of Nokia Intellisync Mobile Suite does. Sub-optimal, only because the application requires so much memory to run, but it does email properly too. Ended up sideloading the application through Windows on Parallels, but it got loaded and is syncing.
Still need to load up some of my most-used applications like GMail, Screeshot, Google Maps–yes, I’ll miss the GPS on the N95 too–and TalkPlus. Wish I could get a copy of the Jaiku client that currently in beta to run on the N76, but it’s got a developer-signed certificate and the developers are on summer holiday. Oh well, that’s why m.jaiku.com exists.
One of the coolest features on the phone is the front screen and the dedicated media keys. You can turn on your radio–requires headphones to be plugged in for the FM antenna, pick a playlist and start playing music. All while the device is closed. Sound comes out the speakers on the bottom of the phone. At least for podcasts, it sounds pretty good.
Some other cool things you can do with the outer screen while the device is closed include:
- Lock the keys (press the rewind, then fast-forward key in rapid succession)
- Reading incoming SMSes
- Look at the month calendar (press the Gallery button)
- Blank the outer screen (press the Gallery button again)
- See the clock (screensaver)
- Activate the camera (press the Camera button)
Now, onto the camera. The camera is a 2mp camera with flash. I haven’t given it a full once-over yet, but it seems to take okay pictures. Here’s a couple of samples (click on the pictures for a full-size view):
I did notice that going into the gallery switches the screen into landscape mode. This might be a bug related to pre-release software I am running on it, so I have no idea if the production code does this. Clearly that needs to be fixed.
Just for kicks, I showed this phone to my wife. My wife is not a huge fan of our phones. She thinks the design of some of Nokia’s competitors is better, given the phone’s she’s seen and used (mostly low-end, though she’s also used the N93 before). She took one look at this phone and said “it’s about time they have a nice looking phone.” I told her what it was called and she said “can’t they come up with any better names? What about a catchy name like the RAZR or Chocolate?”
If I could keep this phone longer, I would give it to my wife to use for a few days to see what she thought of it after using it. Of course, I’d have to disable Active Standby and a few other things so it’d be more like a “phone” than a Multimedia Computer.
There’s probably more to this phone than I’ve uncovered thus far. I’ve got a couple of weeks to play with it before I have to send it back. Wish I didn’t have to, because this is one elegant piece of hardware.