Nokia N73: Finally a Series-60 You Can be Proud Of
It’s been a day since I’ve taken delivery of my brand-spanking new Nokia N73 (pictured at right). And I have to say, I am pretty impressed. It’s not that it’s some huge revolution in usability and design. It isn’t. It’s a step up from the N70 (pictured at left) which I’ve been using for a few months. But what a step up! It is just a little bit better in almost every aspect of operation and use. Build quality is better. Industrial design is better. It’s lighter. It’s smaller — not by much but just enough that it now fits comfortably in my pocket where the N70 was uncomfortably bulgy. It’s balanced and has a flat bottom — it doesn’t sit precariously on the desk like the N70 did. The materials it’s made out of seem higher quality — maybe it’s just the lack of (or at least minimization of) finger-print-showing chrome accents. Its battery lasts longer. It doesn’t get as hot as the N70 did during long calls. The camera features a real (glass, auto-focus) lens and takes measurably better pictures (though still not up to the quality level of dedicated digital cameras, they are more than usable for most on-line applications and could even be suitable for decent, if small, prints). The lens cover is easier to slide back. The screen is higher resolution and brighter. On the N70, you had to wait a few seconds for things like the call register or address book to come up. This delay is gone on the N73, making the experience of using it as a phone much much much less painful. The PC sync software was a snap to install and get working and synced my 800+ Outlook contacts very quickly over Bluetooth. In short, it’s just that little much better in about every single way and that adds up to a real difference in terms of usability, operation and, yes, sexiness. To borrow a catch-phrase from Oldsmobile, this is not your father’s Series-60.
My minor qualms list:
- The built-in web upload application for photos (which is supposed to provide out-of-the-box Flickr integration) did not work. It kept rejecting my username and password and provided no easy way to diagnose the problem. I downloaded ShoZu which worked right away (although ShoZu didn’t have the N73 in its list of supported phones).
- The Nokia S-60 Web Browser works on most sites, but things falls down on things like drag-and drop Ajax applications. Nothing you can do here unless you could add a bluetooth mouse (which you can’t, and in any case that’s hardly “one-handed operation.”)
- The Web browser does not appear to support CSS media queries (or at least doesn’t load stylesheets marked for media type “handheld”). So if I go through the trouble to create special CSS for small-screen devices, this is work is lost on the S-60 Web browser. I think this is a big problem and I hope they fix it in future releases.
- There are two browsers — one for “Wap” and one for “Web.” They even share the same (or a very similar) icon. This doesn’t make sense.
- Final browser nit: when I tried to demonstrate how cool the browser was to my wife by bringing up IMDB while we were out at the pub to answer a question on so-and-so’s filmography … the phone crashed. Oops! It hasn’t done the same since but still — some points knocked off for bad timing.
- Settings are difficult to change. It took me the better part of 20 minutes to figure out how to turn off keypad beeps. That’s a lot of beeps. (It’s in “Profiles”).
- The Lifeblog application holds a lot of promise, but seems to be limited to working with the Typepad software. I would love to use it, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work with Blogger.
- It takes yet another kind of micro-flash-card format (MiniSD), which means the card I bought for the N70 is now useless.
That’s about it for now. The long and short of it is — great device. As for the Web Browser — it’s a real innovative leap for mobile browsing. Like any 1.0, there are some problems, but Nokia re clearly on the right track here. My wife has yet to be convinced, though.
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