The Nokia N-series are an elite range of mobile phones from the Finnish manufacturer, which include the latest features and advancements in mobile technology. The N-series now includes 15 handsets, with features like mobile television, Carl Zeiss camera optics, Symbian operating systems, and unique Nokia designs.
The brand new Nokia N93i is an upgrade to the N93, which itself was an upgrade to the first N-series handset released in Australia – the N90. The N93i’s key feature is the 3.2mpx digital camera, which has Carl Zeiss optics for amazing quality images and video.
The N93i has a wide range of top-notch functionality – so what are we waiting for!? Let’s jump into the review.
The N93i’s key features include the 3.2mpx digital camera, internal 16 million colour display, unique folding design, wide selection of connectivity options, miniSD memory card support, 3G network compatibility (with an additional camera for video calling), integrated FM radio, and the Symbian operating system with the Nokia Series 60 user interface.
I can’t go much further in this section without going into some detail about the N93i’s camera – a 3.2mpx Carl Zeiss optics camera module, with 3x optical zoom and 20x digital zoom. The camera module itself is located where the hinge for a regular clamshell would be. Unlike the N90 (which the N93i is based on), the camera module is in a fixed position and does not move. The display can rotate up to 160°, so it cannot be used for self portraits. That’s where the mirror finish on the back of the display comes into play!
The camera itself can capture still images up to 2048 x 1536 pixels, and “DVD-like” video at 640 x 480 pixels and 30fps. The camera is auto-focusing with the push of a button, and also has a macro mode for taking photos of objects as close as 10cm to the lens. An LED flash injects some light into low lit situations. For more detail on the camera (including example images and video clips), browse to the dedicated Camera Performance section on page two.
On the front of the handset is a 128 x 36 pixel LCD display, which is hidden behind the mirror finish when not activated. If a button on the side of the N93i is pushed it comes back to life and displays reception/battery status, incoming messages or missed calls, and other important information. The main LCD inside the handset is a 16.7 million colour TFT LCD – it’s beautiful! Measuring 240 x 320 pixels the display offers amazing quality, and is a perfect match for the N93i’s features.
Nokia have included the usual set of connectivity options (Bluetooth 2.0, infrared, and USB 2.0), but have also thrown in TV-out support and WLAN 802.11b/g connectivity. USB and TV-out (available in PAL or NTSC) is available through the Pop-Port interface on the left hand side of the N93i. The infrared window is also located on the left of the handset. The sales package of the handset has CD’s with all the software needed to transfer data to and from a computer. Detailed information on the connectivity options can be found in the appropriate section towards the bottom of this page.
50MB of base internal shared memory can be expanded by way of miniSD memory cards. A 1GB miniSD card can be found in the sales package, although some regional areas and different carriers may have different sizes. The N93i is compatible with many of the most common video, audio and document files, which can be transferred via a PC or directly from a compatible device.
Let’s now move onto how the N93i performed in real life testing.
First things first: the N93i is big. Measuring 108 x 58 x 29mm and weighing 163 grams, it is definitely not the smallest clam shell handset available on the market. The N93i has dropped a few grams from the N93, though. Much of the size is due to the unique folding design of the handset, which offers three different ‘modes’ for using the N93i.
The first mode is what Nokia call fold closed mode. This is just how it sounds! In fold-closed mode user interaction with the device is through the front LCD display, which displays incoming calls, messages, and e-mails among other things. If the display times out, it can be re-activated by pressing the dedicated camera button on the right hand side of the handset.
The next mode is fold-opened mode. Just like the last mode, this is just how it sounds. Interaction with the device in this mode is through the 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD and the keypad, which includes two soft keys, a 5-way navigational pad, numerical keypad, and additional shortcut keys. All menus and applications can be accessed in this mode, except for the viewfinder mode.
Switching into camera mode involves opening the N93i to 90ş and then rotating the display to face away from the camera lens. The camera application will automatically start up and you can start shooting images or video straight away. There is a small 5-way joystick on the right hand side of the handset which is used to browse around the camera application, as well as the dedicated capture button, a flash button, and a video/image mode switching button. The two soft keys on the left hand side of the display are also used in this mode. The camera application can be closed when in camera mode but it is somewhat hard to access some functions.
Viewing mode is like fold closed mode, however the display is rotated upwards like a portable television. All functionality is accessible in this mode however using the keypad is a little tricky. The two soft keys around the display (now on the right hand side) are used in place of the soft keys on the keyboard. This mode, as the name suggests, is best for viewing images and video clips as it provides a wide screen resolution.
User interface & display
The Nokia N93i is responsive and easy to use, thanks in part to the Symbian 9.1 operating system and Nokia Series 60 3rd edition user interface. The display on the N93i is absolutely amazing – capable of displaying up to 16.7 million colours (true colour) within the 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
If you’ve used a smartphone before, chances are it ran a version of the Symbian operating system. The Symbian operating system is one of the most popular in the smartphone world because it is powerful, easy to use, and supports is constantly being updated for new features that are developed for mobile phones. The N93i runs one of the latest versions, version 9.1. There are no major changes in terms of what the operating system looks like, but under the hood quite a few features have been added and tweaked for the best user experience.
The Nokia Series 60 interface is also very common, being used in almost every Symbian-based handset Nokia have ever released.
I experienced little to no lag while using the N93i, which is something I love to report! Changing between modes (which involves changing the orientation of the display) is quick and the menu system is lightning fast. I did find a couple of quirks with the operating system where it would restart randomly in the middle of running an application of freeze completely. More detail on that can be found in the Problems/Issues section.
The idle standby screen of the N93i has what is known as Active Standby. By default this feature is turned on, but can be turned off if so desired. Active Standby basically displays a list of six user-defined shortcut icons on the standby screen. The default icons are contacts, new text message, calendar, music player, gallery, and the web browser. The icons can be changed to practically any application on the handset, or even an Internet bookmark! The left and right soft keys can also be changed as required, with the default being messaging and gallery respectively.
Now onto this amazing internal display, which I must admit I did fall in love with! The quality of this display is second to none, and right from the word go the operating system showcases this. The display can be read in bright sunlight without having to cup the display for shade. Full user interface themes are pre-installed on the handset, each of which bringing their own different flavour to the handset. More can be downloaded online.
A light sensor inside the N93i automatically turns the keypad backlight on or off based on the ambient light to optimise battery life. Backlight brightness on the display can be changed to one of five different levels, but cannot be turned off completely. The handset has a power saver time out (which turns off the display if the handset is left open), and a light time out (which turns off the backlight).
The N93i also has an external OLED display, measuring 128 x 36 pixels with 65,536 colours. A closing wallpaper/animation can be applied to the display, but images are no resized to fit so they will almost always look weird. The colour scheme can be changed between white, red, green, blue, and pink. Closing and opening tones can be selected but these are disabled by default.
A small LED above the front LCD indicates missed calls and e-mails, unread messages, and battery charging. The LED can display red, green, or blue, and the user can select which should be displayed for each notification from the settings menu.
Making and receiving calls
The N93i has connectivity support for 2G (900/1800/1900MHz) and 3G (2100MHz) networks, and supports voice-only and video calling. Push-To-Talk is also supported, and there is an integrated loudspeaker for hands free calls. A stereo headset is included in the sales package, and the handset supports the Bluetooth headset and hands free profiles for supported Bluetooth headsets.
For most calls, users will use the earpiece. I feel that the maximum volume was a little too low for some calls, especially if the other caller wasn’t a very loud speaker. The loudspeaker volume on the other hand was perfect.
By default when a call comes through and the N93i is opened the call is not answered. The green pick up button must be pushed before the call is started. This setting can be changed in the “cover settings” menu in the main settings window. Caller ID is displayed on the N93i’s external LCD display, and if the contact has a picture attached this is shown on the main LCD when the handset is opened.
A dedicated video calling VGA camera is found above the display. In-call, the streaming video can be changed to an image of your choice. There is no dedicated video calling button, but when hovering on a contact or inputting a phone number the options menu will usually have a video call selection available. Video calls can only be made when a connection to the WCDMA 2100MHz is available, in all other circumstances an error message will be displayed.
The usual Series 60 contact manager supports multi-field contacts, and can include a picture for each contact. Contacts must be transferred to the phone memory or they will not show in the Contacts application – Series 60 phones like to make the difference between SIM and phone stored contacts very clear!
MP3, AAC, WMA, and polyphonic MIDI ring tones are supported. All of the sound profiles can be customised by the user.
The major messaging formats are supported by the N93i: SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail. A common inbox stores SMS/EMS and MMS messages; e-mail messages are stored in their own set of folders.
SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 e-mail servers are supported. E-mails can be downloaded from these servers over GPRS/EDGE, WCDMA, or a WLAN connection. Several different e-mail boxes can be defined, and they are very easy to set up if you have all the details (server address, username, password, etc).
T9 predictive text is installed for English and major Asian languages – in other regions this may change accordingly. The material of the keypad on the N93i makes it a little difficult to slide your fingers around while messaging, so quick typists may have to adjust their technique.
Message composition windows are laid out in a simple manner. For text messages, there is a “To:” box at the top of the window, with the rest of the display being the message body. Character count is at the top right hand corner of the screen along with an icon indicating the text input method. For MMS messages this only differs slightly as there are additional boxes at the top of the window for details like the subject, and each object in the MMS has its own box.
Images captured by the N93i at 3.2mpx are too big for MMS messages, so they are automatically resized when attached to a message. Video can be recorded using the MMS mode to ensure that they are 300KB (the MMS limit) or less.
I’ve only given the N93i four stars here because of the fact it doesn’t natively support push e-mail services like Blackberry. For a high-end phone, this compatibility with those types of services is starting to be expected.
A full suite of connectivity options are offered on the N93i. From wide area networking protocols like WLAN, 3G & 2G connectivity, to local connectivity such as Bluetooth, Infrared, and USB. The sales package includes necessary data cables and software for Windows users.
Starting with the local connectivity support on the N93i is the age-old infrared protocol. The low-speed, line-of-sight technology is still valuable when it comes to connecting to older devices, and surprisingly has not yet been totally abolished by Bluetooth. The infrared port on the N93i is on the left hand side.
Bluetooth version 2.0 is supported, with the following profiles: Basic Printing, Generic Access, Serial Port, Dial-up Networking, Headset, Hands free, Generic Object Exchange, Object Push, File Transfer, Basic Imaging, SIM access, and the Human Interface Device profile. Sending files via Bluetooth or Infrared is easy – just hit the options soft key on any item in the file browser and select “Send”. A dialogue box with all the possible options is displayed, and off the file goes!
USB connectivity is handled by the Pop-Port interface on the left hand side of the handset. The port is protected by a hard plastic cover, which easily flicks off. The Pop-Port is USB 2.0 compatible for high speed data transfer, and a data-cable can be found in the sales package, along with the PC Suite software. The N93i has several different USB modes, which are displayed in a dialogue box when the cable is connected to a computer. The modes are: Media Player, Mass Storage, PC Suite, or Image print.
Media player mode is used when connecting the handset to a Windows computer for use with the Windows Media Player plug-in, which is found on the Nokia PC Suite CD (included). This mode makes it easy to transfer music from a Windows Media Player library to the handset. Mass Storage device is perhaps the easiest way to transfer files as no drivers need to be installed – most operating systems have these drivers pre-installed. In this mode the memory card shows up as an external drive, which files can be transferred to via drag & drop. PC Suite mode is for communicating with the PC Suite software for actions like synchronization or using the in-built modem, and Image print is used when connecting to a compatible printer without need for a PC.
Most of the time I used the Mass Storage mode to transfer files, as it’s the quickest and easiest option. I tested it on Windows XP and Mac OS X, both operating systems recognized the memory card and data transfer was super fast.
The Pop-Port interface can also be used for connecting the N93i to a television. The sales package includes a RGB/Pop-Port data cable, which plugs directly into the yellow-white-red ports on a television. PAL or NTSC output can be selected through the Settings menu. The output through the Pop-Port is exactly what is being displayed on the internal screen. Using the integrated slide show feature of the gallery you can show off your holiday photos, or share video clips with family and friends – all on the big screen.
The PC suite software included with the N93i has had a little bit of a revamp, and includes a new Application Launcher application which pops up when the handset is connected to the PC. Synchronization with Microsoft Outlook and several other applications is handled by the PC suite software, which can sync contacts, calendar entries, e-mails, and more.
Moving onto long-range connectivity, and where else to start but with the WLAN support found on the N93i. The handset is compatible with IEEE 802.11b/g protocols, and supports WEP (keys up to 128bits), WPA, and 802.1x security protocols. The handset can also communicate with UPnP devices on a home network. Using the standby screen of the N93i is the easiest way to scan and connect with WLAN networks – just scroll down so that the WLAN item is selected, then hit the centre navigation key. Any networks that can be found will be displayed, where they can then be connected. If security is active on the network the key must be entered, and that’s it! It couldn’t be easier.
When connected to the Internet via a WLAN connection, any of the applications that would usually require a data connection will call on the WLAN connection. However, to use the Internet browser, it cannot just be opened from the main menu, as this will start a data connection. The only way to browse via WLAN that I found was to select “Start web browsing” from the WLAN item on the standby screen.
The N93i is compatible with the 2100MHz 3G network band, and uses the WCDMA protocol for data transfer. The protocol is capable of speeds up to 384kbp/s, but in real life this is much lower. That said there is still enough bandwidth for streaming video and audio, video calling, and downloading large files from the Internet.
When it comes to 2G connectivity, automatic switching between GSM 900, 1800, and 1900MHz networks is integrated. GPRS and EDGE data protocols are supported.
Software to play back the most common mobile audio and video formats comes pre-installed on the Nokia N93i. For music playback, the proprietary Nokia Music Player is used, while video playback is through the RealMedia Player application. Transferring multimedia files to and from the handset is simple by way of Bluetooth, Infrared, or USB.
The Nokia Music Player has a handy feature which scans in the internal and external memory for compatible files, and then adds them to the library. The library can sort music files by artist, album, genre, composer, most played, recently played, recently added, or just display all files in the library. File formats supported are MP3, WMA, and AAC. OMA DRM 2.0 is supported for copyrighted tracks downloaded direct to the handset.
Additional features of the Music Player include a equaliser with 5 presets, random play and repeat options, and support for M3U play lists. The Music Player can play music in the background while other applications are used, and can easily be controlled from the menu that appears in the standby screen when the player is open.
MPEG4 and 3GPP video formats are supported by the RealMedia player. The player can play streaming video over a WCDMA or GPRS/EDGE data connection, or files stored locally on the external or internal memory. The player has a loop function and can play back video clips at full screen. Wide screen resolution video can be viewed at a larger resolution by putting the N93i into ‘viewing mode’. More about this mode can be found in the Physical Aspects section of this article.
The Pop-Port interface supports TV-out in NTSC or PAL format via the included RGB cable in the sales package. The video output is exactly what is being seen on-screen. Showing friends and family pictures and video is easy with the integrated slideshow feature of the gallery application. PAL or NTSC can be selected from the TV-out menu in the settings folder, and the radio can be changed from 4:3 to 16:9 (wide screen).
Personal Information Management applications, or PIM applications as they’re more commonly known, are just like they sound. They take data from a user and store it an easily accessible, convenient fashion. The N93i has several applications that make organizing important dates, functions, and data a walk in the park.
The calendar application on the N93i is capable of storing meetings, memos, anniversaries, and to-do notes. Alarms can be added to any item, and you can view upcoming items in month, week, or day format. The standby screen also displays any upcoming entries to the calendar.
Inside the “Office” folder in the main menu are several other handy applications that have some PIM functionality. The Recorder application is a simple voice recorder; Converter will handle conversions from a wide range of measurements; a calculator; notes application for writing quick notes; Zip application for uncompressing and creating new .zip files that may have been downloaded via e-mail or transferred to the handset; Adobe PDF viewer; and a Barcode application which uses the integrated camera to decode different types of barcodes for information like URL’s, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers – interesting!
QuickOffice comes pre-installed, and includes QuickPoint, QuickWord, and QuickSheet. File formats that can be opened with QuickOffice are .doc, .ppt, .txt, and .xls.
Using the PC Suite software, contact, the calendar (including to-do items), and notes can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook 2000/2002/2003, Microsoft Outlook Express (Windows Address Book), Lotus Notes 5.x/6.x/7.0, and Lotus Organizer 5.x/6.x. The N93i is also compatible with SyncML servers for over-the-air synchronization.
I’ve only given the N93i three stars here because at times I felt like the build quality was less than what I’ve come to expect from Nokia.
The rotating hinge where the display attaches to the end of the camera module is on of the major problem areas – when in fold closed mode the display can be pushed from left to right, putting a lot of pressure on this hinge which doesn’t appear too strong. While talking on the phone the display likes to rotate about, making it uncomfortable against the side of your face.
Although the mirror finish on the front of the handset looks good, it is very prone to fingerprints and scratches. Nokia include a cloth in the sales package which does the job, but it would need to be cleaned after every use to keep it looking good.
For more on my build quality issues with the N93i, check the problems and issues section of the article.
The N93i is powered by a 950mAh lithium ion battery pack. Nokia give the following estimated operating times:
Talk time: 3.1 - 3.9 hours (GSM), 1.7- 3.3 hours (up to 180 mins (WCDMA & GSM)
Standby: 9.3 - 11.8 days (GSM), 7.8 - 9.4 days up to 240 hours (WCDMA & GSM)
Still image capture: up to 400 291 pictures (3.2mpx, Flash off)
Video capture: up to 112 mins (VGA, 30fps)
Video call: up to 107 mins
Video playback: up to 205 mins (VGA, 30fps)
Music playback: up to 10 6.3 hours (offline mode)
I got approximately 3-4 days usage out of the N93i when I was making a few calls a day, a lot of SMS messages, and a little camera usage each day. The “low battery” warnings are more than sufficient – when I first got a low battery warning I spoke on the phone for a good 30 minutes and the battery still had some life in it.
During my time with the N93i I noted that the biggest battery chewing application was the camera viewfinder, which is to be expected. WLAN connectivity also chews up the battery life quite considerably, so use it sparingly if battery life is low. I kept it turned off unless needed.