How To Shoot Your World-Beating Mobile Phone In The Foot

Back in September, when it was announced, I was pretty excited about the Nokia N95, and I stand by my assessment that it’s the most fully-featured device to come out outside Asia — yes, I think it’s better on paper than the iPhone. What’s pretty interesting to me is that lots of people here in the US are taking notice, even though the device is thus far only available at Nokia’s flagship stores and for the steep (relative) price of $750. It appears to have sold out there already, while sites like Gizmodo are giving it some serious praise, and even Engadget, usually pretty up on the “but we’ll never get it here” stuff, seems fairly impressed.


Every single review, despite being very positive, mentions how poor the battery life of the N95 is — and when you’ve got so many things right on the phone (GPS, 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, 150 MB memory, and so on), you really can’t screw something so basic up.

From the Gizmodo review:

Why Nokia’s N95 Sucks:
1. Battery: No matter what anyone says, the battery life on the N95 isn’t good. You can justify it by considering how much power true GPS, WiFi, and those booming speakers take. Even turning off 3G access, as you won’t find reception in the US, the phone will be begging for DC after an 18 hour day of moderate/heavy use.

Om Malik:

Battery Life: If you are looking for a reason to not spend $750 on a phone, well here is a good reason. The battery on this device simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off. Nokia needs to fix this as quickly as possible otherwise, N95 could become a PR nightmare for them.

Even light email usage and web surfing starts sucking N95’s battery like Nick Nolte hitting the sauce. If you still insist on buying this phone, then buy a few extra chargers and have them littered around your house, office and car.


But the reality of the situation is that the N95 is a brilliantly conceived mobile phone that is nearly crippled by its battery life. A device such as this begs to be used, but the battery is not even remotely close to being up to the task. If it weren’t for the fact that the N95 does almost everything not only well, but superbly, the battery life would be an instant deal breaker. But due to its near other-worldly capabilities, I feel it deserves some leeway, and as such I still give it a “Recommended” rating. If the battery issue didn’t exist, I would probably have considered the N95 to be the best non-QWERTY smart phone ever developed to date.

You get the idea. It’s almost stunning that Nokia could knock every other feature out of the park, then drop the ball on something as basic as battery life. Yes, I understand that all these features can suck up a lot of power, and there’s not a lot of room for a huge battery, and so on. But all the features in the world aren’t any good on a phone with a dead battery.

I tend to not put too much faith in complaints about the battery life of mobile handsets, because it’s never enough for some people, but these are too widespread for me to dismiss. I was fairly prepared to drop the cash for an N95, either to Nokia or an import shop, as I’ve done before, even after I saw the $750 price tag. But with complaints about the battery life so widespread, I can’t bring myself to do it. Given the uncertainty, without testing it myself, I can’t realistically spend the money. And I wonder how many other potential buyers feel the same way.

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