Previously I was particularly scathing of the Nokia N86 8mp Camera Phone – but perhaps, after experiencing the touchscreen Sony Satio, and updating the firmware of the Nokia N86 – my experience using the phone has been a little more pleasant, and it seemed about time to post my re-evaluation of the phone.
Most of the issues originally reported still exist (and pretty much all of them are still relevant), but being aware of the limitations has let me work round most, sorry, some of the issues (and ignore or avoid the rest), until I can get a “real” smartphone (see Android phones), and finding 3rd party apps has certainly helped.
First of all you’ll need to install Opera Mini (version 5 Beta 2 works very well*) as the built in web browser is pretty rubbish, and data hungry. Another good app is J1CK.Tweet which is a simple and easy to use twitter app, with a decent number of features, such as letting you take photos and post them on twitter / twitpic (and then onwards to facebook if you use the facebook selective twitter app and #fb). See what I mean about needing to find a work-around or two?
You can also use Opera Mini for RSS feeds – but I haven’t found an app for this problem yet. (The built in RSS feed reader hides inside the built in web browser).
The built in Sat-Nav software is still pretty annoying, and limited to 10 days of use. One feature you can use is the walking mode – and as long as you don’t drive over ~29mph – you can still use this as a handy navigation system when stuck with no other solution. (The N86’s built in Sat-Nav software is by Nokia, and called Nokia Maps – and is noticeably better than the Sony Satio’s bundled navigation software: “WisePilot” – when I first used it, it only had four locations available: Sweden, Germany, plus two other European countries, which were not much use when I was in the north of England!)
There is still no facebook integration built in apart from the “Facebook app” – which is basically a shortcut to the website, and an icon. It uses the built in web browser, and the web browser still doesn’t accept email addresses with the subject defined after a ‘?’ question mark. You can get round this by adding an email account to the phone, and adding your facebook mobile email address to your contacts, or by using a 3rd party twitter app (see above). But it’s hardly elegant or particularly easy.
Running too many programs at once is an issue – and by too many – I mean about 4 or 5 apps. Load up Opera Mini, Web Browser, Email, Music Player, etc and then try sending a text message to someone – and the phone will freeze, unable to open the text message page, and will give no error message, just an empty screen. You can go to each application and quit them one by one, but sometimes it’s just quicker and easier to switch the phone off and on again.
Battery life is still awful. The only solution to this is to carry a USB cable with you at all times so that you can charge it when you’re in front of a computer. If you’re staying anywhere overnight, you will need to take the wall charger, battery life is around 1 or 2 days. If you actually use it, the battery life is appalling.
The battery life can noticeably affect the visibility of the screen in bright light – so it’s important to keep the phone charged at all times. The screen does look very good – the colours are very bright, the screen is clear and crisp, assuming the battery is fully charged – and the sun isn’t out. Although the screen does seem to scratch very easily.
ISO132 – Keep Off The Rocks” How about “No large notices?”
Since the last issue with ovi.com and their on-line services I’ve avoided them completely. However I’ve had to use the OVI desktop software – this is a big huge mess of an installation – centering around “Nokia Ovi Suite”. The most useful feature of this is the ability to plug in your phone and use it’s internet connection when yours is down, but the Sony Satio version of the software is much better, simpler to install and use, and gives you more useful information when connected to the internet. (The Sony Satio software is also easier to install, being cleverly stored on the phone, so that you can install it where-ever you take the phone, instead of the Nokia software coming on CD, or needing to be downloaded).
The camera uses an LED flash, which despite Nokia’s claims of excellent low-light performance thanks
to the f2.4 aperture lens, just isn’t adequate for indoor shots of people. It simply isn’t bright enough when compared to cameras with a real flash (see DigiCamReview.com or the Sony Satio) and photos of people with any movement will come out blurry (see the examples below, these are fairly typical of the results you’ll get indoors). In fact it’s so bad that one nights photos with the Nokia N86 8mp were completely unusable – I took about 12 shots with the camera with flash, they were nearly all blurry, with poor colour, featured lots of red-eye, and were not even decent enough to put on Facebook (with it’s lower than VGA photo requirements). In comparison the same number of shots taken with the Sony Satio on the same night all came out well due to the Sony’s Xenon flash.
Photos outside, in good light, can be pretty good. By pretty good, I mean good for a camera phone (see the examples shown – these are some of the better photos taken with the camera). I still think even the cheapest branded digital camera from Kodak (see below), Fuji, etc would be better than the Nokia N86. The macro mode is fairly good, but often the photos look a little washed out (lens flare?), and the camera is very sensitive to any dirt on the lens. Photos are still overly compressed and end up on average between 590kb and 1.9mb which is quite small for an 8mp camera (averaging around ~1.2mb).
Overall – this camera phone is pretty rubbish – but “acceptable” as a phone as long as you don’t expect too much of it. Don’t expect it to do RSS feeds properly or well (it needs a dedicated app for this), don’t expect it to do Facebook properly or well (ditto), and don’t expect it to do Twitter at all unless you get a 3rd party app. Most of all, don’t expect it to be a decent camera, simply because it can’t take decent photos indoors. The twin-LED flash solution, is just not good enough, and if you want a camera on your phone then you will need to get the Sony Satio with a real flash, or better yet, just get a cheap digital camera, such as the Kodak Easyshare C140 for £49 – it had a real 3x optical zoom lens, and a real flash!
After three months of use I’ve grown to accept the phone’s limitations – and grown to appreciate it’s design – I like the buttons, the sliding design, and compact size. It’s easy to text and phone people*, and the camera is acceptable in good weather**. But saying that, a dedicated digital camera is always going to be better, thanks to a real flash and better image quality – the images from the Nokia look over processed, and the colour seems poor generally. The phone works fairly well on the internet (better with Opera Mini) and is a decent enough phone if you don’t want to switch over to a touch screen, are a fan of Nokia, and you don’t expect too much from it. However, saying all this, it’s still pretty rubbish, and should have been, and could have been much better!
Uses the new Micro USB connection which is now the world-wide standard for all mobile phones! Hooray!
The kickstand is quite useful for video watching (iplayer etc)
Uses the standard 3.5mm stereo jack
Wide angle 28mm AF lens
Satnav limited to 10 days navigation.
LED Flash (no substitute for a real flash) – doesn’t light subject well, but does create red-eye
Poor value for money (especially when new, as with most new contract mobile phones – £238 sim free)
* apart from the crashes obviously.
** assuming you don’t have a real digital camera with you.
Tested with software version 20.115.229.01, 21-09-2009. Face detection was added with the firmware update.