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August 15, 2008

Burn-Out Test of My Nokia N95 During a Fortnight of Vacation

by snoyt

CakeFor the summer vacation I planned two weeks of R&R for myself. For my Nokia N95 it became two weeks of very hard work. It was continuously at my beck and call, multitasking to every whim I felt. The perfect electronic slave. On vacation I tend to rove around like a little mars explorer on steroids. Reading books in restaurants, coffee shops while taking a break from cruising the cities and countryside. Besides it was raining a lot during my trip,  a good excuse for not hiking too much ;^)

As a result the N95 worked doubletime. From the early waking call until late night, playing musical lullabies for this weary traveller to playback of converted DVDs to my nodding head. Over 200 pictures demanded to be geotagged, while sportstracker running occasionally in the background for hikes. Maps 2.0 working online and offline while routing me towards food, sights, relaxation, parking places, shops and cosy hotels.

As a result I ran into some big little annoyances. Revealing some of the N95's strong and weak points. I won't mention the obvious things the N95 is famous for. It has been chewed over enough. Thus not a word about the excellent camera quality, the top video quality for a mobile, nor my 8 GB microSD with 3000+ songs on it and 1,5 GB of map 2.0 data storing all of Europe with plenty of room left for recording video and photos. Nor will I complain about it's scrungy battery capacity. I had my car charger, my 220V-travel charger as well as a 3500 MAh Proporta to keep the little fella happy and beeping all day and night. I was prepared, happily so, to go on the road with my trusted e-buddy. After more than two years of ownership not expecting some interesting observations about my N95, an not in the least the ultimate frustration when it broke down the last 3 days of the vacation.

Searching places with Maps

Having maps 2.0 was mostly great.For rainy days it gave me zoo's, cinema's, aquariums and amusementparks to relax. For sunny days it yielded places with terrific views, hilltops, old castles and more. It suggested pubs, restaurants, hotels and car parking spots. It supplied phone numbers to call and check in advance whether or not it was open and make reservations.  In other words pure freedom.

Maps performed well in offline (saving on roaming) as well online mode for searching places. Bothersome is that the content of the offline database and the online search database are very different. Items found in the offline database are not always present in the online database and vice versa. Some kind of merging that search results would be really nice or at least one being a subset of the other. For a complete search, you have to check in both modes. Very annoying.

Routing

Routing works well in larger cities like Bonn, Koblenz etc. However when routing through rural areas maps it shows its shortcomings. It carelessly navigates you over single car wide farmer roads where two cars in opposite direction can not pass. "Hello mr farmer I happily will drive the last kilometer again but now in reverse to let you pass... This suggests that those roads were probably badly digitized from satellite pictures. Particular since some have traffic signs forbidding entrance, or even state being a deadend. Of course this is unlikely to be a purely Nokia Maps problem. In any case I applied some intellect and ignored the satnav when directed into smaller roads when not yet near my destination. Followed those oldfashioned roadsigns if they are available until I was in the right micro-village and could be safely directed to the proper location. Still, why in heaven's name don't they use the road width information from a satellite picture to my advantage?

A typical Nokia maps problem I found with its 'voice directions'. They occasionally are contrary to the routing displayed on the phone screen. The eternally blond, occasional says: "Turn right", actually meaning occasionally: ' turn left'. The road might bends right in front of the T-junction, but you really need to go left as the map on the display of the N95 shows. This is by all means not restricted to rural areas alone, though it shows to be more frequently there. In this, Maps 2.0 can do with some serious improvements. I also heard an interesting warning, never heard before in civilized roadcountry: 'sharp turn ahead'. It is a nice warning but it is inconsistently done and might even give a false feeling of safety and perhaps trick me into an unsafer driving style.

N95 GPS tagging and tracking

Gate During my trip I continuous swapped between maps, e-mail, music, gallery, n-gage, photocamera, videocamera and my very important webbrower. In the background locatontagger ran. Occasionally suplemented with sportstracker. Here is where the N95 shows it's first 'age'. Despite running V20 firmware with demand paging,  location tagger regularly got kicked out of memory, not tagging this or that picture. I resorted to contineously checking for it's proper working, but that soon became annoying.

On the positive side, I ran the music player through a bluetooth stereo headset (BH-500) simultaneous navigating with Maps 2.0. This worked brilliantly. It nicely reduced music volume and upped the Maps voice. Again, not without some form of a little big irritation. Switching between music and voice is a bit slooow, missing at least the first half second of the Maps girl announcing a turn. This happends using any bluetooth headset  with Maps 2.0 with to listen to voice directions. It regulary eats the first half second of the message making it impossible to distinguish between going left and right (in dutch it is 'left turn' instead of 'turn left'). Very nasty, particulary in difficult traffic conditions where you can't take you eyes from those crazy roadwarriors. It is technically very easy to activate the bluetooth headset half a second before making an announcement. Why not do so?

GPRS/3G Trouble

Well, internet worked nicely and in most places. In one rural area one Begian carrier really frustrated my GPRS connection and befuddled and deadlocked the N95 each time it tried connecting. In the end I had to switch off all the automatic internet connecting settings to prevent the phone from trying to make a internet connection and deadlocking itself. I suppose these were the first signs of impeding doom.

Breakdown

The last 3 days of the vaction it broke down. Refusing reboot, showing occasionally colored noise while booting. It simply refused to work. I guess it could not cope with the workload and a hotspell. No GPS, no photo's, no phone! Yes indeed, no phone. Driving over empty roads, kilometers/miles from civilisation I suddenly felt bereft of my little safety blanket. At risk for out-of-the-blue car trouble, chancing to run out of gas, or other unknown disasters waiting to happen. How hollow now the memory of that feeling of superiority I felt when sliding open my 'trusty' N95 to help that guy and his family who got lost because his PNA (satnav) broke down. O shame on me.

I do have an excellent sense of direction and can read maps like a true ranger. Yet a GPS is a wonderful thing when it is 3 am in the morning and you are tired from Aachen's nightlife. The hotel was more than an hours drive in a microVillage in the middle of nowwhere. While suddenly exiting the highway a heavy cloak of nightfog popped up over unfamiliar roads. You suddenly feel like walking into a horror movie. Without the prescient telltale music. Seeying creepy nightfog turning important roadsigns nearly invisible ones for real does that. I tell you, whole heartedly, a little GPS map on my N95 is on those occasions a perfect warning for unexpected intersections and dangerpoints in the road.

Resurrection

After six days of refusing to reboot, my N95 is now alive again. No clue why. I guess the heat and hard work was to much for it. A year ago my first N95 was replaced with a brand new IMEI number after crashing a similar way. I guess this one is already with one foot in its grave. I wonder if its merely pure coincidence or simply bad design/build quality of the first N95 model.

Now I wonder, would it be really that posh to buy a second, spare smartphone? I need a backup for calling in any case. My N95 got me addicted enough to all its little features and software. Instant e-mail access, satnav and webbrowsing. Topnotch snapshot pictures. To feel connected anywhere any time. Twice my N95 has now been defunctional, leaving marked periods of being 'without' in my life. Letting me feel that I really want one, crave one, cherish one. It sounds silly. Give me a backpack, a decent knife, compass, food for a week, sleeping bag, matras and I happily roam the bush bush by myself. Popping out the forest for more when the food is done. Gadgets? Who needs one. Yet, when roaming civilization I really really crave my little smart gadget(s).

A second smartphone posh? I am in fact waiting for the perfect n-series touch creen model. A Nokia with all the N95 features packed (soft- and hardware), with a 16:9 touchscreen and slider qwerty. Pocket-sized,  100x50x20 mm. Yet they are most likely months away. Between starting and finishing this post, I broke down an ordered a Nokia N82. In ninja black of course. It is currently the best in the N95-ish class. Its better stability, larger memory, xenon-flash, properly oriented lens slider, much better gps-reception and battery life would make my N95 blush in shame. I guess I simply am hooked. Hooked on instant knowledge, information and ability any time any place. I expect my N95 will soon be nothing but a spare. Hopefully an unused spare.

A mobile junky

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Comments

ARJWright

Honestly, it doesn't sound at all like the device has a problem. It sounds like you use the device according to how it was designed to be used, but not how it was built to be withstood to be used. It will be interesting to see if future devices will suffer from a similar issue after such hard use, or if QA has gotten to the point where this is no longer a concern for some power users.

seth

Darla, I take it you don't need NAM 3G network speeds then? Before I bought my n95-4, I was really wanting the n82 to avoid the slider build quality issues, and also for the top notch flash, but the non-NAM 3G was the deal breaker. Just curious if it made a difference for you (obviously not i guess).

Thanks!

Mike Bowen

Hi Darla,

Awesome Story. I took my little baby genius (N95) on holiday to Mexico. Used it for listening to music, while lying in the sun on the beach or around the pool. We used the maps (not nokia map 2.0 because it wasn't out yet), but the standard application where ever we went. As a camera / video recorder it is awesome as you say. It matches or does better than my Casio 8MP point and shoot.

I even got to use my N95 camera / video camera underwater by placing it in a waterproof re-sealable bag. I've got Video / photos of it on my website or on YouTube if anyone is interested.

Mine has never burnt out in the 19 months that I have had it! It does get hot, and is ideal in winter for a chest warmer or leg warmer. LOL!

The battery use to be a problem in a previous firmware, but having the latest v21, I can hammer the phone during the day, use the internet, takes loads of photo, listen to music, and it lasts. Also having a proporta recharge battery has helped a great deal.

It's still the best phone ever!!!

Micky

Great report Darla!

Im guessing your poor N95 got (edited, orignal: hot) a little hot under its cover during its workout.

Dirk Snoyt

@Micky, Mike Bowen & Seth: Darla is NAM, this guest author is located in WE (Western Europe). Thanks for the compliments about the post. I look forward to testdrive my N82.

naevus

I will do a reverse test: next month I will travel across california, nevada, utah and arizona with my nokia n95 8GB but I will use TomTom in the car with and external gps receiver

Michael

How can you have used the N95 for over 2 years when it has only been available for 17 months now?

Snoyt: Ahhh, I can not. BIG TYPO. I have had my N95 since april 2007 being about 16 months.

Stephen

Hey maybe you should consider getting a N82 (as you said) or an N95 8GB ! both are damn good ! :)

Patrick

I always travel with at least one spare phone in case my N82 breaks down, but to be fair they aren't smartphones...usually I take my trusty and reliable 6230 or a SE k750i which still takes good photos. I also always travel with a spare pre-paid sim card in case I lose my phone or it is stolen. Plus you never know when you're going to need a second line.

Snoyt: I still have my SE w800i, 2.1 MP with AF. Which I is pretty close to a smartphone. But I left it at home, thinking it was OK. Part of my frustation of the N95 is lack of RAM and stability.

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