Beauty and the Beast; the Nokia N73 and N93 S60 smartphones

Beauty and the Beast; the Nokia N73 and N93 S60 smartphones

Summary: The Nokia N73 and N93 are two high end S60 3rd Edition smartphones and in this review 40 detailed photos of both pieces of hardware are shown. The N73 is a candy bar phone that packs in a ton of features while the N93 is a large clamshell phone designed to take DVD quality video at 30 fps. The N93 is available now in the U.S. and the N73 will be available soon. Check out the review and see if either of these multimedia smartphones interest you.

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TOPICS: Nokia
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I have been a member of the Nokia Nseries Blogger Relations program for just over a year now and have written a couple of reviews and lots of thoughts on the review devices I was sent to evaluate. I have posted the pros and cons of the devices, used one device as my main device for a few months (the Nokia N70), been impressed with some high end features, been disappointed with other features (no vibrate on Nokia N90, rather poor still camera on Nokia N93, low memory issues), and overall have enjoyed being a part of this program. The two latest devices sent for me to check out were the Nokia N73 and Nokia N93. I was most excited about trying the Nokia N93 with upgraded specs over the N90, but after a month or so of using both devices I actually prefer and am quite impressed with the Nokia N73 for a daily usage device. Check out my extensive image gallery of both devices that includes my original unboxing photos and read more below about each device.

N73 and N93

The Nokia N73 Initial Impressions: I pulled the Nokia N73 from the plain brown box and was surprised by the color scheme and general feel of the construction of the device. I guess I haven't been following the reviews on the n73 too closely as the frost white front and metallic red color back and sides caught me a bit off guard. The whole device is plastic, but feels very durable and hasn't scratched up since I have been trying it out. My daughters saw me taking it out and were ready to take it for themselves and give it a try because it looks very cool. The front plastic around the keypad is surrounded by a chrome border and the metallic red color casing felt great in my hand. The back slider covering the camera looks to be a nice improvement over the slider on the Nokia N70 and I like having a cover over a camera like this, especially when it is a 3.2 megapixel model with Carl Zeiss optics. There are stereo speakers on both sides of the top mounted power button and a metal grid over the microphone on the bottom adjacent to the POP-Port connection. After initial startup, the brilliant, high resolution display blew me away and after seeing this device I can't see how someone could go back to a Nokia N70.

Nokia N73 specs: The Nokia N73 is a candy-bar form factor with a rear sliding camera cover. The N73 is a quad-band GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900) with 3G UMTS support as well. The device has a large, bright 2.4 inch QVGA display that looks incredible. An externally accessible miniSD card slot is located on the bottom of the device with a metallic red plastic cover. There is a VGA camera on the front top for video conferencing, which is not supported here in the U.S. The 3.2 megapixel camera on the back takes still photos and video (MPEG4 @ 15 fps with AAC audio) and actually does a very good job with both. The device is optimized for camera usage with the buttons on the right side turning into the camera control buttons when the cover is slid down and the camera is rotated into landscape orientation. The camera only takes photos in landscape mode and the right buttons become the top buttons that control zooming in and out (20x digital zoom) and capturing the image. Macro mode allows you to take photos within 10 cm of the N73. A flash is included with an effective range of about 3 feet. One thing I like about the camera is the halfway down press that focuses the photo since I don't like the camera phones that have a capture button that goes all the way and risks taking blurry photos. Bluetooth 2.0 is integrated in the device, but WiFi is not included. To be honest I see little use for WiFi on a device with a keypad and actually rarely even use WiFi on my T-Mobile Dash that has a full QWERTY keyboard. S60 3rd Edition powers the device and provides you with the best mobile browsing experience, IMHO, although I would like to have seen the ability to browse in landscape mode.

Nokia n73 experiences: As I stated earlier, I used the Nokia N70 for a few months as my primary device and switched back to a Windows Mobile Smartphone for a couple of reasons. The main issues I had with the N70 were the low resolution display, the lack of notes support in appointments, and the fair web browser. All three of these have been taken care of with the N73 and I imagine this device could become as popular as the Nokia N70 where it ranked as one of the best sellers in Europe. The display is fantastic, S60 3rd Edition fixes the appointment/note issue, and the web browser is incredible. If I am going to be out and about and plan to take some good quality mobile photos then I take along the N73 instead of the Dash. I actually am planning on taking the N73 to CES to post entries to Flickr for my Geek.com CES coverage of products I see on the show floor. The N73 supports posting to Flickr right from the device Gallery so uploading pics only takes a couple button presses. You can also edit images and videos right on the device. I actually wore the N73 on a lanyard at a black/white/red party over the holidays as my red accessory and took some party photos. The keypad has a nice blue backlight and in camera mode the right/now top buttons light up as well. Phone quality has been top notch, as expected of Nokia Nseries devices. I use Bluetooth all the time to connect to my headsets and to send photos to my MacBook Pro. The N73 and N93 use a new 970 mAh battery, the BP-6M, that I haven't seen before. It lasts me at least two days on the N73 and the CES trip will give me a real test of the battery.

The Nokia N93 Initial Impressions: I really liked the N90, but the lack of vibration was the Achilles heel that kept me from using it as a main mobile device. I work in a quiet engineering office that requires a silent phone profile with vibration mode. The N93 has vibration mode so I was excited to give it a try. I pulled the all black N93 from its box and actually thought it was a bit smaller than I imagined after reading all the reviews online. The plastic casing is smooth and feels great in your hand. The 3.2 megapixel camera actually has a lens cover and I quickly attached the included lanyard to keep from losing it. The back cover does not come off easily to get to the SIM card and battery and doesn't really slide back on either, rather it snaps back into place. I thought it would fall apart after a few times popping it off and on, but I have done this a number of times over my review period and it still looks and functions just like when it arrived. The display looks great on the outside and inside and the keypad is nice and roomy. The twist mechanism and camera barrel are different than the N90 and you can no longer video yourself and look at the display at the same time so video podcasting is a bit more difficult. You can put the display down into landscape mode and use if for all applications and functions now, where on the N90 you could only use the camera in landscape mode. The POP-Port cover is removable and I lost it within the first couple days of checking it out. The camera buttons are easily manipulated with your thumb, as long as you are right-handed and a couple of buttons on the display are used in landscape mode.

Nokia N93 specs: The Nokia N93 is a clamshell smartphone with a flip and twist display for taking video and still photos or turning the device into a small portable computer. Video is really the primary focus of this machine and it performs this function well with 30 fps video at 640x480 resolution. 3x optical zoom is also a feature of the 3.2 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. I actually found still photos taken with the N90's 2 megapixel camera to be a bit better quality. There is a 1.1 inch, 128 x 36 pixel color display on the front that shows the incoming caller, time, battery, and signal status. The 2.4 inch, 320x240 internal display is brilliant and one of the best I have seen on a mobile device. An 802.11 b/g WiFi radio and Bluetooth 2.0 radio are both included in the device, as well as a 3G UMTS radio and tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900 MHz). Cingular customers may not be happy with the connectivity of the N93 since their primary U.S. band is 850 MHz and that is not supported on this device, the same as the N90. Up to 50 MB of internal memory is provided for local storage of data and you can store applications and photos/video on a miniSD card with the slot accessible externally. There is a large plastic cover over the slot that actually works well and is connected to the device. Like many of the Nseries and other Nokia devices, including the N73, you can listen to music stored on a storage card or use the integrated FM radio. Like the N73, Quickoffice and Adobe PDF are included to allow you to view Office and PDF documents that are sent to the device. These are not business focused devices so the full editing capability software found on the Eseries is not included. There is also a Barcode scanner application that allows you to capture an image of a barcode and gather data from it. All the other standards S60 3rd Edition applications are included along with LifeBlog and the Flickr upload capability in the Gallery.

Nokia N93 experiences: I tried to use the N93 exclusively for a couple of weeks, but I just couldn't hear my callers as well as I needed to when holding the device up to my head. I suppose the N93 with the large form factor is designed to be used with a Bluetooth headset, but many times I don't have my headset with me and just want to make and receive calls. I do take the N93 with me to all my daughters' sporting events and it has captured some very good video. I even used it to capture Granny making a Norwegian specialty, Lufsa, so we can archive the process for future generations to make this potato based staple. I am really looking forward to the release of the S60 version of the SlingPlayer Mobile client so I can connect to my Slingbox via WiFi and then output the video to a hotel TV using the TV-out capability of the N93. Speaking of the TV-out functionality, you could actually use the N93 as a mobile computer when traveling with the video output connected to a large display or TV and a Bluetooth keyboard connected for email, surfing and text editing (with a 3rd party application). I may actually try to experiment with taking and using the N93 as a mobile computer in one of my upcoming business trips. I don't mind so much that the N93 is large as I tend to carry a pack with me most places anyways, but the camera barrel and trying to find the "sweet spot" bug the heck out of me. The N93 does work well as a mobile video player when put into the landscape view mode, especially when on a crowded airplane and I have used the Neuros Recorder 2 to get video from my TV onto a storage card for this functionality. Battery life has been good for calls and basic T-Mobile EDGE browsing, but taking video and connecting via WiFi really suck down the juice.

Nokia N73 and N93 conclusions: The N73 is a wonderful smartphone that works as a high quality phone, very good quality camera, decent quality video recorder, and good data device. The only issue I have can think of in regards to the N73 is the rather flat, small keys on the keypad. Other than this small issue, I haven't found anything not to like about the device. The N73 isn't currently available to purchase at Nokia Flagship stores or online directly in the U.S., but you can buy unlocked models from importers if you like. It is shown as coming to the US site though, but the price hasn't yet been revealed.

I was really looking forward to the N93 after using the N90 to take some great photos on a family vacation since the N93 added a high megapixel camera, S60 3rd Edition, and a vibrating ringer. The N93 does an excellent job with capturing video and it looks like video may become more and more popular in 2007 so the device may be something on-the-go videophiles might want to check out. I don't think it works that well as a phone though since the camera barrel rests strangely against your face and it is tough to find the "sweet spot" on the headset to hear your caller. It is very well constructed, feels great in your hand, has a great keypad with large numbers, has a brilliant display and wonderful S60 3rd Edition software, has integrated WiFi and Bluetooth and the TV-out functionality. However, it is a bit large and not really pocketable, doesn't take that great of still photos, and is quite expensive for a camera phone. I plan to try using it more as a mobile PC and that may actually make it a more valuable device to me. The Nokia N93 is available for purchase from Nokia's US site for US$699.99 and is a SIM unlocked model. The N93 is shipped for free too.

Topic: Nokia

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4 comments
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  • More importantly....

    ...the main purpose of having a phone is making and receiving calls. How's the reception on both models and sound quality?
    tic swayback
    • Phone quality on phones

      I find the N93 call volume to be too quiet for me, but I have never had a dropped call from the device. The N93 seems to be a bit like the N90 was as far as RF reception goes. It is about average, but I do notice a difference when my hand covers the back of the phone.

      Reception and call quality on the N73 is excellent. It is one of the strongest models I have tested in these areas.

      I agree that the main purpose of having a phone is calls, but these types of smartphones and higher end mobile devices are designed for those who want more out of a phone. You can get a free phone in the U.S. in most cases that allows you to make and receive calls with good reception, but these devices aren't designed for people looking for just a phone.

      The Nokia Nseries are multimedia devices and allow people to replace multiple devices with a single device and different models focus on different strengths, i.e. the N93 is a video powerhouse.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Thanks

        And I do agree with you that smartphone buyers are looking for more, but don't doubt for a second that if the smartphone can't do the basics, make and receive calls well, then all the other trappings are completely useless.

        The N73 does sound intriguing. I may look into it, although I'll probably wait to see if Apple does indeed announce their long-mythologized iPhone next week.
        tic swayback
        • I agree with you too

          Yes, that's true, people must have a device that provides the basic call features or it isn't worth anything even if it has all the bells and whistles.

          My Treo 650 stopped functioning well as a phone (low volume, random resets, etc.) and so it dropped out of its role as my main device. One reason that I didn't stick with the N90 is that there was no vibrate mode. And I can't see the N93 being a primary phone either because of the low call volume and awkwardness in using it without a headset.

          The N73 does quite a bit and still functions as a great phone. I just received a Nokia N80i to try out and it functions a lot like the N73, with integrated WiFi so that may be a device to consider as well.

          BTW, these Nokia devices sync with iSync on my MacBook Pro. Some have required a few tweaks to get setup, but they do sync fine with the Mac and also most now can connect as an external storage card.
          palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)