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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nokia introduces one phone in three disguises - N96, N85, N79

Modelling the N79 and its faceplates
Thanks to Nokia and Text 100, I had a chance to attend the media event for the launch of Nokia's brand-spankin' new N96, N85 and N79 phones... ok, "multimedia devices". Though I was probably the only blogger in a sea of journalists and editors, I wasn't complaining.

It was held at House, and I'd actually walked up Dempsey Road to it from the bus stop. As a result, and because I departed late, I missed most of the spiel from Grant McBeath, GM of Nokia Singapore. I don't think I missed much of the proceedings though, except for the product videos. Oh, and a video that supposedly showed DJs Glen and Ros using the N96 in public. I would've preferred meeting Ros in person, but I guess that's another dream that'll have to wait.

Setting up for CNBC filming
We were then given to try out the three phones around a small booth. The big screens showed how the phones were integrated with Nokia's Internet services, e.g. N-gage gaming, Ovi photo and video sharing, Nokia Music Store, etc.

I played a Star Wars game on the N85 and I think the only outstanding thing of that experience was the OLED screen. It was well-lit, brighter than most other high-end phones that I've used. The colours were vivid, and the lines and details were clear. On the other hand, a screen that good was wasted on the small display.

Oh, and the N85 is the first Nokia phone to supposedly have a dedicated USB charger. Err, I suppose that's useful somehow. I currently charge my Sony Ericsson K800i through USB too, though the phone-end is connected through the same power connection. So I wonder why there's a "dedicated USB charger" on the N85.

The other phone I tried was the N79. Its distinguishing feature was its changeable rear cover, which would then change the phone desktop's theme. If I snapped on the green cover, the theme would turn green. If I replaced it with a red cover, the theme would change to red.

This change-a-roo is done through little sensors on the cover and phone's innards, though it's no rocket science. On the other hand, after my experience with Sony Ericsson's Z600, I must say that I'm not the type who will change my phone's covers.

I didn't get to try the N96 much, aside from listening to its speaker quality. Which, by the way, is a universally irritating feature for any phone. In a public place, I really don't want to hear whatever trance-techno music the punk next to me is listening to. That's what earphones were invented for -- to save others from putting up with your "music".

Ok, but that's just my ranting. In addition to the seemingly good quality speakers, the N96 seemed more "solid" than its predecessor, the N95. So it seems like Nokia has also improved its manufacturing quality.

DJ Glen Ong gave away some prizes later. I don't know what the winners won, since I'm not one of them. But I got a press kit, and the swag (free gift) is a Nokia USB charger (model CA-100). This is of no use to me since I don't have a compatible Nokia phone.

Nokia N96, N85, N79

Personally, I think of these three phones as the same model but with three disguises. That's because the majority of their specifications are the same. Same form-factor, same camera lens, same multimedia features, same connectivity.

What differentiates the three phones are:

N96: 16GB removable memory card, 8 free songs from Nokia Music Store, TV-out
N85: 10 pre-loaded trial games, OLED display
N79: 3 snap-on covers

Those are pretty much what I could glean from the specification sheets. And they don't seem like much. But I suppose they are trade-offs. Including an OLED display in all three phones would probably introduce manufacturing and cost issues. So would TV-out.

And, err, I guess some people absolutely need to be able to change the look of their phones.

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