A few months with the Nokia N70

The N70 is one of many phones of the elite Nseries, a line of Nokia phones based on the S60 platform. The Nokia N70 has pretty much anything that a modern phone should possess: very good imaging capabilities (for a phone), 3G connectivity, smart phone features and an elegant design. We used it for months and concluded our test with a trip to Paris, France. So, is the Nokia N70 as good as it sounds? Read the whole review.

Physical Description
At first sight, it is easy to see that the N70 is a high-end cellphone. It has a classy silver body and assorted keys. I’ll pass on the long and boring description as we took plenty of pictures of the device.

On the upper-right of the screen there is a small camera for video calls. On the back, there’s a second (better) camera that can be activated by sliding the cover, pretty clever. On the side, a memory card slot lets users add memory as needed.

The N70 is smaller than the first generation 3G phones. It weighs 126g and feels heavier than most, less evolved, candy bar phones. As a comparison, the super heavy Treo 700w is 180g and the Sony T610 is only 96g.

The phone’s display is about 2.2” big and is bright. It would have been so much nicer to get a higher-resolution (320×240) one.

Finally, the N70 is capable of running 3D Games (I haven’t seen any, though), play FM Radio and MP3 music files.

Wireless Service
The wireless service was tested with Cingular in the US and Orange in France. In both case, the reception was excellent, so was the sound quality in reception and emission. I’m frustrated that I could not test the video phone feature: most people don’t have a video phone. The price (literally) to pay when you’re a early adopter, I guess.

The camera feedback on the display is just great, and sensibly better than most cameras. I showed it to many people and got a “wow” each time. The 2 Megapixel photos are nice, especially in broad day light. It could almost replace my Casio EXILIM EX-Z3. In darker conditions, the Nokia N70 is better than most phones, but won’t equal a pocket camera, even with the flash. However, the portability and dual camera/phone use of the N70 makes opportunistic photo snapping really useful. The N70 is also a very capable video-recording device and while it might not equal most dedicated digital camcorder, it certainly beats the crap out of most phones.

The S60 platform offers smart phone features such as data connectivity, email, SMS, calendar for the most popular ones. The phone internal software is very nice and stable. Unlike Windows Mobile or Palm OS, it didn’t suffer of any slowdown, crash or plain freeze. The embedded applications were good enough to let me do anything that I needed to without having to install additional software (this is quite hard on a Palm device…)

I hate to argue about which user interface (U.I) is better. If it’s not plain bad, it’s probably a matter of personal preferences and habits. The Nokia N70 U.I. is largely good enough and although I was annoyed by the number of click necessary to access a few functions, I got used to it after a week. The one thing that dampens it all is the the keyboard. I’ll get back to it at the end, but the keys are not comfortable to use to enter text, or dial.

PC Software
Although phones are getting really smart a computer is often the base of operations. Emails, contacts and calendar are often synchronized with a computer. The Nokia PC Suite (we tested only on windows) is very good. Our Nokia N70 was synchronized with Outlook via Bluetooth (BT) and it worked like a charm. I just left Bluetooth on all the time and each time that I was in range of my laptop, I can sync at the push of a button. Leaving the BT on all the time didn’t affect the battery life too much. Although all this was working very well, I think that a better solution is to have an exchange server and over-the-air synchronization.

GSM rules
Upon arrival in France, the only thing that I needed to do is to pop a local SIM card and voila. GSM is great in most countries for frequent travelers. Try to do that with the CDMA Treo 700w… Obviously I could also use the roaming with my Cingular SIM, but thanks to ridiculously expensive rates, I didn’t.

Possible improvements
As good as the N70 is, it is not perfect, and Nokia could improve a few things. The keyboard is the thing that I would fix first. The keyboard of the cheaper Nokia 6682 is actually much more comfortable. The lack of USB charging cable out of the box is also disappointing. Nowadays, I get really annoyed to have to plug another power adapter, while most phones (or devices for that matter) support USB charging. USB is also much more practical when traveling abroad. I hope that this is not driven by a desire to sell more chargers because that would be really lame. Finally, the bright screen has a lower resolution that the phone deserves. A QVGA (320 x 240) display would have been much better than the 176 x 208 the N70 has.

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. The Nokia N70 is definitely a high-end, stylish phone. The N70 is most capable for fast data access and low-intensity email and texting. Imaging features are above most phones. I would define the N70 as a smart (imaging) phone trapped in the shell of a candy bar cellphone: the inside is more powerful than what its body can handle.

Nokia N70 Homepage

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