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Nokia 9500 Communicator – First Impressions Of The New Business Workhorse Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Tuesday, 16 November 2004
The Nokia 9500 Communicator is the forth generation of Nokia’s flagship business phone. Adding WiFi and a host of business connectivity features it is central to Nokia’s enterprise strategy. We take a first look at this do-it-all device.

Physically the Nokia 9500 shaves a couple of millimeters off the depth and width of the Nokia 92x0 and a whole centimeter off the height, but it both looks and feels significantly smaller with a more rounded, less chunky shell than the Nokia 92x0. On the exterior the phone is now the right way round, dialing and talking are done on the same side. The phone interface is color and based on Nokia’s Series 40 UI. With the phone closed it is possible to access messages, a call log, contacts, profiles, the camera and the phone’s settings.

Inside, despite the smaller case, is a larger, brighter screen. The keyboard, which looks a lot more like a real keyboard, has positive and responsive keys even thought the key travel is very limited. The keys are slightly domed, which reduces the likelihood of accidentally pressing two keys at once. Four command buttons are provided at the right of the display and a set of application shortcut keys above the keyboard, again all familiar territory from the Nokia 92x0. The keyboard however has, in addition to a 5-way cursor key, a set of directional cursor keys – which come into their own in the web browser.

The core software on the Nokia 9500 is very similar to that of its predecessor, with many improvements and a couple of additions. There are the PIM applications, telephone manager, contacts, calender and messaging; a set of office applications to access Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files; media application including web browser, image library, video player, music player and voice recorder and utilities for managing the device, connections and synchronization.

One feature of the Nokia 9500’s applications is that any Nokia 92x0 user will be instantly at home with them. This is actually quite a refreshing approach, too often software updates seem to consist mainly of reengineered menus, change for changes sake, often requiring the user to relearn regular tasks. There are no such problems with the Nokia 9500.

The Calendar application remains one of the best on any PDA, particularly with regard to task management where task categories are well supported to the extent that different categories can be displayed in different time slots. One significant improvement, which may disappoint the more technically minded users, is that the ability to embed any file into a calendar entry has been replaced by a simple Notes field. Embedding files in the Calendar entries was rather cumbersome, with several steps to both create and edit, it was all a little too clever really, the new “Notes” is much more practical.

Messages is also familiar territory, it has the same ability to deal with SMS, emails and Faxes as the Nokia 92x0 but with added features for MMS, remote mail and support for Fax Poll. The mail viewer can also display rich HTML formatted messages.

The office applications provide the ability to view and edit Word and Excel, with this capability now extended to cover PowerPoint files too.

The media applications allow pictures and video taken with the integrated camera to be view and streamed content to be watched or listened to. There is also the now almost obligatory music player, just to prove the Nokia 9500 need not just be about work. Voice Recorder is one of the few applications which provided less functionality than the original Nokia 92x0 version – but the limitation only appeared to be in the fact that the editing capabilities of its predecessor are absent.

The reason we have to say that the Voice Recorder “appeared” to only remove the editing features of it predecessor is because of an unfortunately limitation. The Nokia 9500 supplied is a US specification model, which meant that a cellular connection could not be made down here in New Zealand. So unfortunately there are no comments on the quality of the phone, MMS feature or whether the voice recorder still records phone calls (the manual says it can). For a similar reason PC connectivity and synchronization have not been reviewed as the US version is not yet supported by Nokia’s publicly downloadable PC Suite.)

Something of a compensation is the fact that the 9500 is Nokia’s first device with WiFi. It connected painlessly to a small wireless office network and the connection had practically the same range as a WiFi enabled laptop. The resulting performance was impressive with the Nokia 9500’s Opera browser taking only a couple of extra seconds to render most sites when compared to the desktop version. The Opera browser has always been impressive, and the version on the Nokia 9500 is no exception. It rendered pages well and the fit feature (Medium Screen Rendering) works effectively even on complex web sites. It was noticeable however that initial access to homepages and pages with heavy graphics did take longer to render.

When used with the messaging application the WiFi link provides quick downloads. While the mailbox setup includes a limit on the size of mails to download there is no way to relate this to the access point (unlike the outgoing SMTP mailboxes, where individual setting can be provided for several access points.) So POP or IMAP Internet email users will either have to create two mail accounts or constantly update the settings as they move between WLAN, EDGE and GPRS networks. Admittedly many users will be employing push mail on their Nokia 9500 so, for them, this will not be a limitation, all the same its likely to be a frustration for POP and IMAP mailbox users.

Ultimately it is difficult to judge the Nokia 9500 without connecting to a mobile network. Certainly the features that either do not rely on a network connection or can work thought WiFi work well and are an improvement over the Nokia 92x0. Nokia have sensibly resisted change for changes sake and the Nokia 9500 will be instantly familiar to any Nokia 92x0 user. For business users the Nokia 9500 will satisfy most everyday needs, push email, VPN access to the corporate networks, the ability to view and edit the key triad of Microsoft documents and web browsing all with the ability to use high-speed connections when they are available. The Nokia 9500 looks a worthy replacement for the Nokia 92x0 and should be the hit in Europe its predecessor was. It will be interesting to see, with an America’s specific Nokia 9500 due soon, how far the European success will be mirrored in the US.

When we managed to get hold of a EMEA specification 9500 we will report more. In the meanwhile we will be taking a look at some of the add-on applications for the Nokia 9500, as well as looking at the built in applications in depth, over the next few weeks.

Find out more about the Nokia 9500 from Nokia's web site at www.nokia.com/phones/9500. For more information on the development and enterprise possibilities created by the Nokia 9500 download the Series 80 White Paper and FAQ.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 November 2004 )


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