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Review: Nokia 9500 Communicator
By
Vipul Shah

This is the most difficult product review of my life because Nokia 9500 Communicator is almost like 2 or 3 digital products combined into one. It has features of PDA, Phone, and Laptop like functionality.

I got Nokia 9500 Communicator two week back for trying it out and reviewing it. I was not very optimistic about it since it was Nokia product trying to grab market share of expensive phone which traditionally is Sony-Ericsson turf. But After 2 weeks of intense use I believe Nokia has got winner here and it can bring it market share not only from competing mobile manufacturer but also from many notebook/laptop users. This product will do almost any function you expect to do when toting around 3kg to 6kg laptop. It won’t play DVD but otherwise it will do everything an enterprise user needs to do.

Nokia 9500

Q: Why should one go for such a bulky and expensive phone when phones much smaller and cheaper are out there in market?

A: This phone is not positioned as PDA phone like other smaller more pocketable cheaper phone out there but it is more of laptop phone. This phone features Symbian 7.0S Series 80 platform operating system which never crashed in 2 weeks of my use. This phone has full QWERTY keyboard with form factor of laptop so that you can put it on table and type with two fingers and still see screen in front of you. You can send and receive fax; you can print via many HP printers with inbuilt printer drivers for same. You can hook it up to your office or home or any open Wi-Fi connection when on road, When outside Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) coverage, you can use EGPRS (EDGE) which can be many times faster then ordinary GPRS Class 10. I used it with Orange EDGE network and it didn’t make me miss my desktop PC with internet connection. For 2 weeks I surfed on net using only Nokia 9500 communicator, its browser rendered most website quickly; it crashed only 3 times when I was accessing bank websites with HTTPS protocol. It also lets you connect to other devices and PC with Class 2 10 meter range Bluetooth which paired perfectly with Belkin Bluetooth Adapter, Zoom Bluetooth Adapter, Jabra FreeSpeak 250, Plantronics M3000, M2500 and M3500 headsets. When you play music it plays thru speaker or headset. When phone rings, if you are wearing Bluetooth headset it rings using ring tones selected on phone and not default headset tone. Display is 640x200 and bright with 65,536 colors, 80MB memory plus free 128mb MMC card. You will never run out of space for your address book. You can access your corporate network to check email or access web or other applications via VPN. One can open any Microsoft Office documents in this phone, edit it, save it, email it, print it or fax it.

Nokia has studied enterprise market in-depth and designed this phone for their convenience. This phone can be very useful for small business owner or professionals too who need to constantly check emails or surf web for their work.

Q: What are special feature of this phone?

A: Convenience and connectivity is keyword. It uses all possible connectivity options like IRDA, Bluetooth 1.1 Class 2, Wi-Fi 802.11b, EDGE GPRS. It is very convenient from user point of view. Its setting wizard helps you do many of functions like email or roaming gprs which used to be very frustrating in past with other phones. Now you can add any email account by selecting country, selecting name from major ISPs listed and entering username/password. If your ISP is not listed, you can just use any existing and change server details. First time you insert any SIM card in phone, it takes 3 minute to boot phone, and sets up phone with all settings for that operator so you don’t have to call up and find GPRS or SMS settings. When you are traveling, you can go to Roaming wizard, select country and operator and it will make GPRS settings for same. Till now most users traveling to foreign language countries found it very frustrating to find out APN gateway settings for local operator, Nokia has added full database of all GSM operators on planet.

Q: How was user experience?

A: For two weeks I used this phone to check my emails from various pop3 account, surf net, read news/articles, listen to mp3 music and take few pictures at 640x480 resolution using this camera. It worked beautifully. Phone is 230gram but fits well in trouser pocket or shirt pocket. I carried it in hand in train for 2 days on my way to work, and no ticket checker dared to ask me to show ticket. This phone commands respect just like BMW or Merc does on road. I was always lazy about replying SMS messages on regular phones with T9 dictionary but on this phone my SMS usage jumped 10 times daily since it was as easy as typing email on full keypad. If you spend 20 or 30 minute every day on reading/answering email when you reach your work, you gain that much time daily by doing it on your way to work. Web surfing was not very fast but workable. Salon.com, nytimes.com front pages took more then 1 min to download. Browser seems slow as scrolling up and down can be very slow and you may wish for real laptop for same. Camera is standard 640x480 but takes very good clear pictures without any flash. Battery is largest available 1300mAh which lasted me whole day of surfing, talk, sms, and emails and still some battery juice was left at end of day. It takes slightly more then hour to fully charge empty battery. About manual, I didn’t need to touch manual for my entire usage as like other Nokia products one can easily figure out most functions. Manual is detailed but I don’t think many would need to refer it.

Q: Before I open my wallet what do I need to know?

A: Microsoft Office documents open in this phone, but Microsoft Office 2003 couldn’t open files created on this phone. This is tri-band phone where as most other phones costing more then US$400 are quad band. It lacks touch screen and stylus so you can’t quickly move from one part of screen to other part and it takes forever to move pointer using its scroll keys especially when in browser. T9 dictionary is missing on front keypad but it is not needed since one can simply open phone and use full keypad. QWERTY keypad is not backlit so at nights when surfing while in bed can be difficult as with more then 90 degree screen angle light from screen doesn’t reflect on keypad. Bluetooth profiles like OBEX Synchronization is missing so unless you use Nokia PC Suit you can’t sync phone address book with computer. If you use Mac or Linux you are out of luck. Removing battery for changing sim card is difficult; one always needed some sharp object to lift one side of battery before you can flip it out. Processor is definitely underpowered and you will notice it when using email or web. Phone I tested was made in Finland but one available in many markets is made in China.

Q: What is price? Is it worth it?

A: Price is US$940 in India, and approximately US$200 more in Dubai and elsewhere. It is very much worth it, I would say if you can afford this phone, just go for it. As of now there is no product in market which can offer all Nokia 9500 Communicator has to offer. Just imagine not having to carry laptop around. XDA IIs and HP iPaq 6315 offers many of features but it lacks EDGE connectivity which can be crucial in mobile internet connectivity. Also I don’t know many phones which can receive fax. Many of problems mentioned above would be resolved by firmware update. In case you can’t afford this phone, wait for its smaller sibling Nokia 9300 Communicator which lacks Wi-Fi and camera and has smaller battery. Go for XDA IIs or HP iPaq 6315 only if you can live without EDGE (EGPRS).

Q: What is wish list for next Nokia communicator?

A: Nokia should come up with one more model say 9500i or 9700 with touch screen, quad band and faster processor and then just laugh all the way to bank.

Vipul Shah
guide@vipulshah.com


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