Featured, Nokia, Symbian

Feature: Two weeks with the N86 – Day 3


Water droplets on a bus window, shot with the Nokia N86

It’s been three days into my 2 weeks with the Nokia N86, and in case you’re wondering, I certainly haven’t hurled the phone at the wall. In fact, I’m very much in love with the N86.

[quote_left]The N86 still feels like a top-end smartphone today[/quote_left]There are so many things that Nokia got right with the N86 from a hardware design standpoint. First and foremost, the N86 is solidly built and still feels very much like it just came out of the box for the 1st time despite being three years old. Previous N95/N95 8GB/N85 owners will recall how build quality wasn’t really a strong point of those earlier dual sliders, but the N86 still feels like a top-end smartphone today. The sliding mechanism is still as tight as ever, the lens is pristine, the battery cover fits tightly without any creaks and none of the buttons feel abnormally loose. And the glass front looks and feels perfect.

I really like the physical size of the N86 not only because it fits really comfortably in my hand but also because it actually feels like a phone when I hold it up to my face, as opposed to almost every modern smartphone available today. What I love, however, is the experience of taking photos with the N86. [quote_right]The N86’s camera is still stunning even by today’s standards[/quote_right]This is the first time in a really long time that I’ve felt like I actually want to take photos with a phone, simply because what the N86’s camera produces is never disappointing and the physical lens cover (another feature that’s pretty much non-existent on smartphones today) means it actually feels like a camera. I can start shooting with the N86 very quickly from standby, and it’s really refreshing to be able to trust that a smartphone camera will capture a more-than-acceptable shot even when all the settings are left on auto. I’ve actually put up a gallery of photos shot with the N86 on my Google+ page; it’s clear that the N86’s camera is still stunning even by today’s standards. That said, the camera shutter button isn’t great – it’s small and stiff and can be hard to press without inducing camera shake.

[quote_left]Why isn’t anyone else doing always-on standby clocks?[/quote_left]I’ve enabled the always-on standby clock on my N86 that shows the date as well as any new notifications alongside the time display itself. This has quickly become an indispensable feature to me and something that I’ll really miss when I eventually go back to my Android smartphone; until you’ve had experience with this feature you really don’t know how convenient is to be able to see the date, time and notification icons just by glancing at the phone. Why isn’t anyone else doing this on AMOLED-screened devices? How hard can it be? I’ve also taken a liking to the 2.6-inch AMOLED display on the N86 – it may not be very high-resolution (QVGA forever!) and it definitely feels cramped, especially when scrolling around websites, but viewing angles are fantastic and the colours can still be considered extremely bright and vibrant today. Along the same lines, the stereo speakers on the N86 are fantastic – modern smartphones like the Xperia S absolutely fail to match up to the volume and sound quality that the speakers on the N86 manage to put out.

That’s not to say there haven’t been issues. RAM has been quite a constraint with the N86 – the situation is definitely not as bad as certain S60v5 devices (cough, N97, cough) but I’ve had my fair share of freezes and Out of Memory errors when surfing with Opera Mobile. [quote_right]I was about to say something here but I’ve run out of memory[/quote_right]Hence, I’ve switched all my browsing over to Opera Mini so that I can get online and read articles without constantly running out of RAM; the memory errors have gone away. Clearly, the N86 is not built for the demands of today’s desktop-class websites.

[quote_left]Nokia Email is really slow to respond[/quote_left]On a brighter note, I’ve managed to achieve some extent of Google integration with the native Search app that allows you to bring up a Google Search box with a single button press from the homescreen. I’ve also installed the native S60 YouTube and Google Maps apps, along with the now-abandoned Java Gmail client (kindly provided by Steve Litchfield). Why not Nokia Email? Well, I set up my Gmail account in Nokia Email and decided I couldn’t deal with it after a couple of days. The app is really slow to respond, syncing is not very reliable (sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t) and overall it just doesn’t provide a very good experience. That’s not to say the Java Gmail app is perfect, but at least it’s snappier and less frustrating to use.

I’m obviously still in the honeymoon period – I’m really enjoying the N86 and so far I haven’t encountered any major problems trying to use the N86 as my daily driver. In fact, I haven’t felt like I haven’t been able to accomplish what I’m able to do with my Xperia Mini Pro on the N86 for the most part. Even though I’ll only be using the N86 as my only smartphone for 2 weeks, I’ve set it up exactly how I would if I had to use this device over the long term.

I’m just missing Instagram right now. Kind of. And I wish I could try the leaked Flipboard .apk on my Android phone. But that can wait.

[button link=”https://plus.google.com/photos/115472579256820442217/albums/5739746628182998561″ style=”light_gray”]Nokia N86 – Photo Gallery[/button]

  • tawalker

    “Why isn’t anyone else doing [an always-on standby clock with notifications] on AMOLED-screened devices? How hard can it be?”
    I realise that for many people, Symbian devices no longer “count” (!), but they continue to offer this feature (it’s in the current “Belle” OS, for instance). It’s one of the myriad of reasons I’m glad I’ve stuck with my Nokia N8 – if you want a slightly more decorative version of the “standby clock with notifications”, Nokia Sleeping Screen offers this, whilst not hammering the battery. (I wish it included email notification support as well as phone and SMS alerts, but I suppose you can’t have it all.)
    Hopefully, in the dim distant future when I’m finally forced by time to move onto an Android mobile (or whatever), there will be a Sleeping Screen-type app available for it…

    • alv1nW

       @tawalker And we aren’t even approaching Nokia N9 levels of double-tap to wake awesomeness yet. I really wonder why such software innovations aren’t being replicated elsewhere

      • tawalker

         @alv1nW I thought about including Nokia Situations in the post too – now that’s an app I would *really* miss… unless there’s an Android app which will switch phone profiles (silent, etc.) depending on whether criteria are met (location, WLAN, time/date, etc.)?

        • alv1nW

           @tawalker There are a few options that come to mind in that department such as Tasker and Locale :)

  • Lilitu57

    I am following your experiment with keen interest. I have three Nokia’s, 710, N8 and E6.
    Of late I have ‘gone back to the future’ and used my E6 a lot more.

  • BerriUQAM1

    What you feel when you use the camera or take a look at the always-on standby screen is exactly what I feel with my N95 for more than 4 years ^_^
    I’m surprised that Opera Mobile is hard to use on your phone: is it because you have installed all your apps on C: and thus you run out of space? Or maybe because you were using Opera Mobile 11 or higher, these versions are so heavy that they also freeze my phone from time to time (version 10.1 solved the problem).

    • alv1nW

       @BerriUQAM1 Yeah I installed the latest version of Opera Mobile and it was really slow but Opera Mini works perfect.

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