Content Nav Menu 

Nokia N80 Smartphone

By: Zack Smith
on August 1, 2006 6:49 pm

The first time I saw pictures of the Nokia N80 back when it was announced, I was thrilled. As soon as I saw the laundry list of
features, I knew I had to have it! I already had a Treo 650 with Sprint, but the software was sometimes buggy and Sprint worked
poorly at my house. In the middle of July, I got a chance to leave my Sprint contract without the termination fee, so I immediately opened an account with T-Mobile and ordered a new N80 from eBay.

The very impressive specifications:

  • 2.2″ 352×416 262k (18-bit) display
  • Quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) GSM with GPRS and EDGE
  • 2100MHz (European and Asian only) UMTS
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • 802.11g wifi
  • 3.2MP (2048×1536) main camera with LED flash and macro
    mode
  • 0.3MP secondary camera for video calling
  • 40MB internal flash memory and hot-swappable miniSD slot
  • Symbian OS 9 with S60 3rd edition

The first thing I thought when I opened up the box: It’s so small! Don’t let any of the stock photos fool you into thinking that this phone is large. It’s much smaller than I expected. Even with the phone open, it’s positively miniscule compared to my Treo.

closed open comparison

The box includes a USB 2.0 cable, 3.5″ headphone jack adapter, a European power adapter with the new smaller plug, a software CD, a folder filled with product literature and manuals, an adapter to change old style power adapters to the new size, the most tangle-prone headphone/headset assembly ever designed, and a 128MB miniSD card.

You have to put the SIM card in for the phone to be recognised by the network, and that’s fairly straightforward. Right around
this point you will see that the battery is very small! More about that later. The phone will work without a SIM, but only as a PDA. The miniSD slot is tricky. The memory card is inserted with the logo facing away from the screen. My rubber door didn’t want to close all the way until I fiddled with it for a while. I would have liked a proper hinged cover, like the 6680 has, much better. I’m afraid to use this one too much for fear that it will eventually not close anymore.

After all of that, you can press the power button on the top of the device. It’s a little hard to press, but it’s worth it once you see the screen:

screen

The screen is positively gorgeous. I always thought that my Treo’s LCD looked good, but this display is just so incredibly crisp. Pictures vibrant and have lots of detail in the gallery application, which is fairly basic. Video clips play in RealPlayer very, very poorly… if they play at all. Half of the time, RealPlayer crashes.

gallery

The camera application has a lot of different settings. You can see what they do in real-time.

camera

Sample pictures:

sample picture

sample picture

sample picture

This picture was taken in the dark to show the effectiveness of the flash.

As you can see, the picture quality is much better than your run of the mill camera phone. The macro mode is definitely an
improvement over typical fixed-focus phone cameras, but I still would have liked to see true auto-focus.

The front camera is pretty good, considering it’s VGA resolution. When I use the front camera in my house, there are blue and green artifacts because it’s adjusting for the low light.

The best camera in the world wouldn’t matter if the phone wasn’t good for talking with people, though. Luckily, the N80 is an
excellent phone! You can have as many contacts as the phone has memory, and you can assign multiple numbers, a picture, and a personalized ring-tone to each contact. The reception is excellent. Calls through the main speaker are clear, and I was even able to have a conversation while the signal was at the lowest marker without words dropping out. The speakerphone is very loud and clear, and the callers don’t get muffled like they did with my Treo.

Opening the slider will answer calls, and closing the slider will end a call. One thing I wondered was if you could make a call
while the slider was closed, and you can. You can either start the call while the slider is closed, or press the left soft-key and
then close the slider while you’re on a call. Pretty handy, although it’s easier to hold the phone when it’s open.

There is a voice command program that seems pretty nice, but whenever I try to activate it, it comes up for just a moment and
then won’t open again until I restart the phone. I can’t get it to work at all. There’s also a button on my bluetooth headset that
triggers the voice command, and that does the same thing.

My Sony Ericsson bluetooth headset seems to work well for calls, but the phone seems to want to use it to play music as well. It
will work, but it’s not what it’s designed for! Bluetooth is much faster than it was for my Treo or my older Sony Clie, even though
my Powerbook only came with Bluetooth 1.1. The wifi reception is also good. I have two wireless routers on opposite ends of my
house, and the N80 can detect both networks.

connection box

The N80 comes with two web browsers. One is an unspectacular WAP 2.0/HTML browser, and the other browser is an excellent mobile browser that’s new for S60 3rd edition. This browser uses the same rendering engine as Safari, WebKit, and it does an acceptable job of shrinking content down to fit the screen; it even displays some flash content. There is also a nice little map of the entire web page that comes up when you’ve been scrolling for a while or when you press the ‘8’ key. I wish that I could rotate the display while the web browser is open… I also wish that the web browser would just give you an error instead of closing suddenly when it tries to load a page that’s too big! Most pages load within 4 or 5 seconds when browsing over wifi. I live in a rural area that doesn’t have EDGE data yet, and GPRS download speeds are downright pokey, measuring in at about 38kbps, so it can take a while on the road. 3G service will only be found in Europe and Asia, and this phone will never work with American 3G networks.

web browser
web browser

As a smart-phone, the N80 can run third party applications. While this is true in principle, old Series 60 applications won’t run on the N80 or many of the other members of the N series because the new Symbian OS 9 isn’t compatible with older applications for security reasons. Programs are slowly being re-released that are compatible with the updated OS, but they’re hard to find. All Java applications run fine, though.

When you hold down the menu button, a list of all open applications shows up. Yes, there is actually a mobile operating system that is sensible about multitasking! You can then switch to a different program or you can press the ‘c’ button to close it.
There’s no need for 8 menu deep program managers or carefully programmed multitasking hacks. It is very nice to
have the option of just going to a different program if your application is busy downloading something.

The audio player is pretty nice. You can play back MP3, AAC, and AAC+ files, and there’s a third party program for streaming
internet radio. It lets you create playlists and view music organized by artists, albums, playlists, genres, and composers. Nokia made a big deal a while ago about how they were going to be the biggest seller of MP3 players very soon, but I don’t think it’s
so great. My iPod may be old, but it is an easier and better MP3 player than any mobile phone I’ve seen. The Nokia music player
interface is one of the better ones I’ve seen, but I can’t imagine someone owning this phone and using it as their primary music
player. Maybe I’m just not as good as I thought about this whole convergence thing :)

There is also a radio tuner, but it can only be used when there’s a wired headset or headphones connected because it uses the
wires as the radio antenna. Personally, I don’t listen to the radio, but I’m sure lots of people like having that choice. The sound quality of the included loop-around headphone/headset thing is pretty bad, and it has so many little wires on it that I can’t
even imagine the mess it would be in after living in my pocket for a while. The internal speaker is good, considering what it is. Oh, and it’s extremely loud! I have no trouble hearing even the faintest of my ring-tones.

I tried to sync my N80 with my Mac right after I got it, because I already had a fully populated address book that I was not going
to put in by hand, and it didn’t quite work. The Sync app on the phone didn’t want anything to do with any kind of computer, and iSync said that the N80 wasn’t compatible! What?, I thought, knowing that iSync has supported S60 phones for some time now. A Google search later, I was adding a string to one of iSync’s configuration files. It wasn’t very hard, but Apple should stay
more current about these things.

The rated battery life for this phone is 3 hours of talk time or 192 hours of standby time. I’m not really sure how realistic those
times are. I don’t know of anyone that talks on their phone nonstop from the time it comes off the charger until it dies, nor do I know of anyone who uses their phone as a decorative ornament and never uses it, but the phone lasts through an average day for me with an hour of wifi/GPRS usage, 45 minutes of calls, and a bit of text messaging and taking pictures. The screen will turn off after a while, and a piercing very bright blue LED will flash to tell you that the phone is still on. I don’t like this, especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. You can turn this sleep mode off, but that might drain the battery much faster.

The N80 can really do it all. Every smart-phone should have wifi, and S60 is much better than Palm OS for many little reasons.
Still, I don’t think it’s right for me. I miss the solid form factor of the Treo, all of the third party applications, and predictive T9 is no replacement for the thumb-board. T-Mobile just doesn’t have enough coverage where I live, and that’s the biggest reason why I’m going to sell this phone. For other people, this might be the perfect phone.

 

Product Information

Price:599.0
Manufacturer:Nokia
Retailer:Nokia
Pros:
  • Excellent reception and call quality
  • Good camera quality
  • Bluetooth and wifi connectivity
  • Lots of customisation options
  • Small
  • Beautiful screen
  • Full-featured web browser
  • Powerful Symbian OS
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Case accumulates fingerprints
  • The front camera quality is poor in indoor lighting
  • Web browser sometimes closes suddenly when it's out of memory
  • Not many third party applications for the new 3rd edition OS
  • Another blinking LED! Aaaargh!
  • No 2.5" headset port or included adapter

Comments

  1. 1
    Julie says:

    Post your comments on the Nokia N80 Smartphone review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/nokia_n80_smart_phone

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

  2. 2
    Experiment626 says:

    Hi Julie!

    Great review of the N80 Zack!

    Hey I have a quick question: the main problem with the N80 when using Wifi is its tiny screen. Would it be possible to use the N80’s wifi connection in order to get a Bluetooth-enabled PDA that doesn’t have built-in wifi (e.g., Palm Tungsten T3) to connect to an open Wifi access point?

    In this situation, the N80 would serve as a “pass-through” device which would connect to the access point via Wifi and pass on the signal to the T3 via Bluetooth. Would this work at all?

  3. 3
    Bobuku says:

    It is really??

  4. 4
    zackwp says:

    Experiment626 wrote:

    Hi Julie!

    Great review of the N80 Zack!

    Hey I have a quick question: the main problem with the N80 when using Wifi is its tiny screen. Would it be possible to use the N80’s wifi connection in order to get a Bluetooth-enabled PDA that doesn’t have built-in wifi (e.g., Palm Tungsten T3) to connect to an open Wifi access point?

    In this situation, the N80 would serve as a “pass-through” device which would connect to the access point via Wifi and pass on the signal to the T3 via Bluetooth. Would this work at all?

    There weren’t any options to share any of the network connections to any of the other ones. There wasn’t an option to use a Bluetooth network connection for the internet, either. It would be really cool if it could be a little Wifi-Bluetooth bridge, but it can’t do that out of the box. A third party program might be able to do it, but I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a program like this out there.

    The screen is certainly very small. The web browser will zoom out enough that most content can be seen in a single column, but the text is utterly illegible. Near the end of my time with the phone, I started using Opera Mini instead.

  5. 5
    AaronFG says:

    As a treo user I understand your need for the qwerty keyboard!

    However, wouldn’t the E70 be more your style?

    http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_e70-review-96.php

    It’s on my list as next phone right now.

    Smaller, same OS, but gives me the qwerty keyboard. I played with one in a cellphone shop last week. It’s very very nice. Solid build. *Gorgeous* screen.

    Wifi, BT, egde, etc.

    It is close to $450 most places though…..yowch. :(

  6. 6
    haivu says:

    Thank you Zack for your excellent review. I have been pondering buying this phone for some time now. After reading the review, I have a few questions that I hope Zack and other N80 owners can answer.

    1. Can the phone, as a PDA, connect to a WIFI network that has WEP protection?
    2. Can we sync over WIFI?
    3. Can we play protected WMA? I frequently check out audio books in this format and it would be nice if I can bring just the phone to the gym instead of both phone and MP3 player.
    4. I heard a user comment from CNET that the phone crashes too frequently, do you have any comment regarding this?
    5. What are the competitors to this phone?

    Thanks.
    Hai

  7. 7
    markgilson says:

    The latest Nokia PC suite has a connect to the internet button. It gives you a standard modem over bluetooth connection. Not sure if it can be configured to take advantage of wifi but it works for gprs on mine.
    Zack, it can connect to a wep enabled netowrk.

  8. 8
    zackwp says:

    haivu wrote:

    Thank you Zack for your excellent review. I have been pondering buying this phone for some time now. After reading the review, I have a few questions that I hope Zack and other N80 owners can answer.

    1. Can the phone, as a PDA, connect to a WIFI network that has WEP protection?
    2. Can we sync over WIFI?
    3. Can we play protected WMA? I frequently check out audio books in this format and it would be nice if I can bring just the phone to the gym instead of both phone and MP3 player.
    4. I heard a user comment from CNET that the phone crashes too frequently, do you have any comment regarding this?
    5. What are the competitors to this phone?

    Thanks.
    Hai

    It worked with my 802.11b router with WEP and my 802.11g router with WPA2 just fine. I don’t think iSync will work over wifi, and I didn’t try the Nokia PC suite because I don’t own a PC.
    There is no WMA support at all.
    The phone itself was very stable, and the only program that consistently crashed was the web browser. I think it’s too advanced!

    I think the main competitors of this phone are the Windows Mobile smartphones made by HTC. To be honest, a Windows Mobile smartphone or Pocket PC phone is better for this price point. If the Treo 700w didn’t have such a terrible screen, I definitely would have bought one instead of a 700p. Symbian OS 9 has almost no third party software and the process to get software certified is too restrictive for this to change in the near future.

  9. 9
    haivu says:

    Thank you Zack for answering all of my questions. :cool:

  10. 10

    [...] to buying the N85, I had been using the N80 off and on. Even though the N80 is over 3 years old and very chunky in comparison to current [...]

  11. 11
    yabby says:

    im sorry but his review totally stinks. the n80 is an awsome fone. you can do so much with it. you can even change your icons to look like iPhone icons. dont let this fool lie to yu.

Leave a Reply