Nokia N96 review

Barry de la Rosa
30 Jan 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT SIM-free; £130 on £35 per month, 18-month contract



Symbian 9.3, 2.8in 240x320 display

The N96 differs from many recent smartphones in having neither a touch screen nor a keyboard.

In fact, it's not much different in design from its predecessor, the N95. Our main gripe with the N95 was poor battery life. Thankfully, the N96 is far superior in this regard, lasting an impressive 17 hours during testing.

This is the first mobile handset to offer video downloads from the BBC's iPlayer. The iPhone can stream iPlayer content, but is unable to store it for later. This makes the N96 perfect for commuters, as you can download programs over WiFi at home and watch them on the move later. It also has a built-in Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) TV tuner, although no mobile TV channels in the UK take advantage of this yet.

The handset has dedicated playback controls, and you can use your own headphones thanks to the standard 3.5mm socket. An in-line remote control lets you pause music or video when you take a call. It has 16GB of built-in memory as well as a microSDHC slot, so you can store plenty of downloaded TV. The 5-megapixel camera has a twin-LED flash and produces some impressive images.

The build quality is less impressive, however, and the plastic casing feels less rigid than the iPhone's. The flexible plastic keypad has flat keys with little travel, and using alpha-numeric keys to enter text on web pages and emails is very slow. The inability to charge the phone over USB is also aggravating. One nice touch is the keypad locking switch, which is much more convenient than a key combination

The Nokia web browser renders pages quickly, but you can't view it in landscape mode unless you slide the screen down, hiding the keypad. You can view office documents, but to edit them you need to buy a £23 upgrade for Nokia's Quickoffice suite. Email is easy to set up for any popular webmail service, and supports POP3 email and Microsoft Exchange.

Nokia Maps shows your current location, and you can search for destinations and plan routes. If you pay extra for the Drive or Drive&Walk licences (around £25 and £65 per year respectively) you can use the N96 as a dedicated satnav. This provides voice-prompt navigation commands and icons for points of interest along the route. It's useful but more expensive in the long run than buying dedicated satnav.

With its future-proofed TV tuner and iPlayer download support, the N96 is ideal for TV addicts. We can't recommend it for most users over the iPhone, though, as it lacks its incredible build quality, growing software range and slick interface.




Main display size2.8in
Native resolution240x320
Second DisplayNo
CCD effective megapixels5.0-megapixel
Flash2x LED
Video recording formatMP4, 3GPP, H.264, H.263, Real Video
ConnectivityBluetooth, WiFi, USB
Internal memory16384MB
Memory card supportmicroSDHC
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 900/2100
Wireless dataWCDMA


Operating systemSymbian 9.3
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord/Excel/PowerPoint/PDF viewers
Email clientPOP3/IMAP
Audio format supportMP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC+
Video playback formatsMP4, 3GP, Real Video
FM Radioyes
Web BrowserNokia Web Browser
Accessoriesheadset and remote, USB data cable, travel mains adapter, car charger, TV-out cable
Talk time3.6 hours
Standby time9.2 days
Tested battery life (MP3 playback)17h 6m

Buying Information

SIM-free price$432
Price on contract£130 on £35 per month, 18-month contract
Prepay price$432

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