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When Phones Were Fun: Nokia N95 (2007)

(upbeat music) - i gotta be honest. It feels like kind of a strange time to bring back a series called, "when phones were fun.". -. after all, this has been one of the most interesting years in mobile tech history. In 20 alone, we've gotten a proper reboot of the motorola razr, samsung's wine worthy galaxy fold sequel and lgs radical rehash of its own weird past with the wing. In fact, it was in the wing review that i said, "phones are indeed fun again," and i couldn't be happier. But you know, something tells me that whatever social feeds might exist 13 years in the future, few of the phones i just mentioned are likely to inspire the kind of love fest that this 2007 era device does every time i tweet about it. Because in its day, the nokia n95, wasn't just the ultimate smartphone. It was also in many ways, the last of its kind. (upbeat music). Normally when i handle a relic like this, i'm struck by how outdated everything feels. But with the n95, more often i'm surprised by how much is familiar. This was a phone with software capable of multitasking, a phone that stored it's media to micro sd cards, a phone with built-in wifi. So you could avoid the 3g data plans that were just starting to pick up in price. Sure, you could find some of these features on some phones, but finding all of them packed into one device was rare, at least in the us.

And while the design is vintage 2007 with its hard plastic buttons and soft rubber battery door, that same design cleverly accentuates it's multi-functional nature. Slide up for the numeric keypad, so you can talk in text or slide it down for the media controls that remind you that you don't need an ipod, if you own an n95. And then of course, there's the camera. Does it give you some context? The phone i carried when the n95 hit the scene was the motorola q. Whose 1.3 megapixel fixed focus camera kicked out shots like this. Oh yeah. Freschetta frozen pizzas, brooding bathroom mirror selfies, theater parties, seconds from descending into chaos. Yep, seems like college. Point is the moto q's mediocre photos were pretty standard for the time. Nokia's answer to that status quo, was this. A five megapixels shooter with carl's zeiss optics, a two-stage shutter button and continuous if achingly slow auto-focus. That meant that it could kick out images that were very respectable for 2007 assuming you set your image quality to print and your video to tv high quality, which translates to a very grainy for adp.

- this is a test of the nokia 95 video camera. If this had been an actual video, i would have dressed better and slept more. This was also the first phone i ever saw with a front facing camera. And given the state of 3g networks here in the states at the time, it would be several more years before i saw another one. -. speaking of first, the n95 can't claim to be the first phone with an accelerometer, but it was the first that i know of to leverage it for a useful purpose. Like waking the screen when you waved it around. And because the s 63rd edition software made this a legitimate smartphone, third party apps could hook into that accelerometer. Remember all those light saver apps on the first iphone? Well, n95 could do that too. The darth of this particular video is ricky cadden. The owner of this n95 you're seeing in my video and his app library here is a period treasure chest. Video playback is handled by that classic stalwart real player. This third-party twitter app called gravity was apparently still working at least seven years after the phone went on sale. There's a built-in lifelogging feature for that pre-facebook world, where the notion of documenting your life through photos was still exotic. And the app that anchors this thing most firmly in its time, the gaming hub.

With its demo versions of asphalt three and fifa 07 both residing beneath the engage brand that nokia was still using four years after the spectacular flop of the smartphone of the same name. The n95 is yet another reminder that the world of smart phones existed long before android and the iphone. This is the phone that helped popularize features like an always on display gps assisted maps, and at four to eight gigs, enough built-in storage for full length movies. In fact, many people on twitter recalled to me fondly or not that years before apple gifted everyone who bought an iphone, a u2 album. Nokia gave some customers who bought the n95, a free copy of spider-man three. And you can use composite cables to play that movie on a crt tv from the phone. I didn't even know you could do this at the time or i would've made it a point to spend the money i didn't have on one, but in 2007, it was being on shelves at wireless carrier stores that made or broke a phone in the us. Now, apparently nokia specifically intended it's n95 dash three model for sale by at%t. but the carrier demanded the removal of wifi. So it could use the phone to push its data plans. When nokia refused, the deal dissolved. Which meant the only way to get ahold of the n95 in the us, was to pony up nearly $600 for the unlocked model. - and speaking of never making it to carrier shelves.

You know, that thing hmd sometimes does where it'l reboot a classic nokia design and re-release it with modern features. Well, when hmd heard that i was doing this video, they let me in on a little secret. They were going to do that with the n95 too. -. thanks to hmd for this little exclusive here. This is a non-functional prototype on loan from hmd of what that n95 revival would have looked like. Well, it resembles a typical slab at first glance. All it takes is a little sideways nudge to expose its heritage. There under the screen sets a dedicated speaker array dotted by wide and ultra wide angle cameras and spotlight style led flashes. The whole phone capable of resting on a camera bezel that pulls double duty as a kickstand. The result would have been a freestanding mobile console for high quality video calls movies and even a smart alarm clock. All of it summoned just as easily as you could put the original n95 into media mode. And i kinda dig it. Like the original, this n95 is a fun twist on a popular design but it's not just different for the sake of being different than someone who found a lot of value in the kickstand equipped htc evo and coveted the htc seven surround.

I think people could have found this phone quite useful and it's a bit of a shame hmd opted not to put it into production. But on the other hand, maybe it's just as well. A phone like the n95 is so legendary. So beloved by so many, that resurrecting it in a less ambitious form factor might not have made the desired splash. In its day, the n95 was a product without peer. It wasn't the first device that claimed to combine your camera, ipod, gps, and phone. But it was one of the first to actually do all those things well. Months before the competition from cupertino would launch the iphone family that would decimate the old nokia and eventually culminate in the current design desert that inspired this series, the nokia n95 was perhaps the pinnacle of a time when phones were fun. (upbeat music). Special thanks to ricky cadden for loaning both his personal n95 and some personal anecdotes that made this video possible. And also to hmd global for being so open with information and access to the n95 reboot prototype. As always though, neither hmd nor anyone else was given a copy approval rights or an early preview of this content. The opinions contained in this video are michael fisher's and his alone. If you'd like to hear me refer to myself in the third person some more or if you would like more episodes of when phones were fun, please subscribe to the mrmobile on youtube. I've got an archive full of old phones, and i'm gonna kick these out just as often as i can. Until next time, thanks for watching and remember to stay safe and mask up while you stay mobile, my friends.

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