Nokia’s N-Factor

The year is 2007; Tony Blair is still the Prime Minister of the UK, the world economy is booming and Apple is gearing up to launch their first iPhone, with a 2MP camera, no 3G and only 4GB of memory. Touchscreen phones in general were a pretty new addition to the market in those pre-recession days, and with models such as the LG Viewty and Samsung Tocco giving users a clunky user experience at best. King of the hill in the mid 00’s was very much the Nokia N-Series of smartphones; launched in 2005 this line up encompassed various models, each focusing on a different aspect of common mobile life. Some focused on music, others the internet and of course some on the ever important camera, as the mega-pixel race heated up in the battle to see who could offer the best camera inside ever shrinking phones.

As a mobile phone buff at the time I was captivated by the NSeries phones, and managed to own two myself despite their prohibitive price and the fact I was not on a phone contract. Crowning glory for Nokia was the launch of their N95 smartphone, a model which had features which would make a modern smartphone blush and at the time went straight to the top of the pile for those wanting a fully packed phone which could do anything. Amongst the N95’s key strengths were:

  • 5MP camera with autofocus
  • MP3 player with 3.5mm headphone jack and dedicated music controls
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and 3.5G data
  • Intergrated GPS chip and satellite navigation package
  • 2.6″ screen (not touch)
  • Gaming CPU for Nokia NGAGE downloads

Bear in mind that no other phones at the time had these features and it is clear to see that we are dealing with a phone far before its time, although admittedly not all the aspects worked seamlessly together. My GPS never wanted to find any signal, internet crashed quite frequently and the camera sometimes took a while to focus and snap pictures, but I kept the phone as my sole one for close to 18 months at a time when I had been known to have 2 or 3 on the go at once!

The N95 was a massive sales success for Nokia and they released a music edition complete with an even larger screen and 8GB of internal memory, but in many ways it was the last real hit that the company had before the market shifted dramatically with the subsequent arrival of the iPhone 3G and importantly the App Store. Buyers flocked to this easier to use phone which now could compete with the Nokia on everything bar camera features, and I include myself in this rush of hysteria as I replaced my N95 with a 3G shortly after I started university and never looked back.

As with all the phones I have owned, it now lives in its original box in the cupboard above my bed, where I periodically get them out to marvel at how different they are to use. But the N95 is still very much a usable phone and in several circumstances I have gone back to using it as my main phone-once as part of a university project but also in times when I have needed to use a full size sim card. It’s easy to look back with rose tinted specs to these times and I do not regret making the switch to the iPhone at all, but part of me wishes that phones had kept their buttons, in which case I would almost certainly be using a modern counterpart of my favourite Nokia superphone.


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