Whatley Wednesday – Nokia’s Latest “Music” Phone

Nokia’s Latest ‘Music Phone’ The N81 8GB.

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First off can I state, for the record, that I tried.
I tried and I tried and I tried.
I really did!

Whenever I get a new handset I am aware there’s that ‘bedding in’ period of a couple of days where you have to get used to the nuances in the UI and re-learn the layout of the buttons etc… (you can stop grinning now you there at the back with the iPhone) …so please believe me when I say I was chuffed to bits when I got an email from those lovely people (and friends of SMSText News) over at Nokia WOMWorld asking me if I’d like to Trial their latest music device – the Nokia N81 8GB.

My response? YES PLEASE!
Always happy to try out the latest handsets – they’ve sent me a couple before and irrespective of whether I liked the phone or not – it’s always been nice just having a play, y’know?

So, before I rant, here’s the good stuff:

The slider mechanism is the nicest to date. Every hand I’ve put it in has resulted in a ‘Ooooo… that’s nice’.
Taking photos is now easier. Simply hold down the ‘Shoot’ button to boot the cam and you’re away, (a’la the newer N95 models).
And that… is… Oop no – sorry – it’s got a really nice screen too. Yeah, that too.
Ok – that’s it.

Now for the bad stuff:

A complete lack of joined up thinking through the entire design of the handset.
Yes it’s a phone. Yes it does all the things a phone should do but it’s the little things that get me.

For instance:

The ‘c’ button is right next to the ‘play/pause’ music button. AARGH! Sorry. I say ‘right next to’ I mean ‘may as well be the same button’.
That’s right – a negative button right next to a positive button. By pushing the button that I want to stop doing something I accidentally push the button that starts doing something.
In this instance Kate Nash starts blaring out at me whenever I try and correct a misspelt SMS!

That ONE thing frustrated me SO much that within a week I went back to my N95. For the record you have NO IDEA how hard it was to not go back after day one. “No” I told myself “You must TRY and use it properly” -
(so good luck to Ewan on his ‘Normob Challenge’, I know I couldn’t do it)

There are a couple of other things that annoyed me – the overall ‘feel’ of the handset is a bit too plastic-like for my tastes. It’s like one of those dummy models you might find on the shelf of your local P4U.
The keylock system has changed. The N81 now features a ‘flick’ switch on the top that locks and unlocks with a quick flick. Which is fine up until it gets stuck in the flicked position where upon the phone continuously locks and unlocks until you un-jam the button.

*sigh*

Don’t get me wrong – Operators/Nokia will probably sell a bunch of them this Christmas as the cheaper alternative to the iPhone. What with it having an 8GB internal memory and being about £200 cheaper on an a similar contract. Yeah, why not?
It’s EVEN got the ipod-esque ‘Navi-Wheel’ – but even that has managed to become an annoyance…

(WHY have something as a USP on a handset and not even have it switched on out of the box?! YES. That’s right. You have to go in to your phone’s settings and manually switch the Navi-Wheel to ‘ON’ to actually get it to work)

The whole phone feels completely rushed and not thought through at all.
When shopping for a new phone this Christmas by all means have a look at the N81 and have a play too.. but I personally would not recommend it.

You (and Nokia) can do a whole lot better.

  • http://intomobile.com Stefan Constantinescu

    With the new N95 firmware out that breathes new life into the device I too can’t understand why anyone would want the N81.

  • N95-1

    nice review :-) i recently played with one in an electronics store, and i thought the plastic-y feel was not too bad.. for me, the feel was just belonging to the design of the whole thing (meaning: some will like it, and some probably don’t, but it’s not per definition bad). also, another important point for the positive side would be the excellent audio quality, which by far exceeds the one of lets say an ordinary N95-X (i have that from other revives – not tested myself). however, for a “music” phone, i also would much prefer to have more easily accessible music control buttons, and not just buttons that easily can be missed, or not even be found in the first place.. *g* cheers

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