Hands-on: Five things I like about Nokia's N85 smartphone

No sooner do I get my hands on Nokia’s N85 smartphone, and the Finnish handset maker announces its successor – the N86. However, since the two devices share so much in common – the most noticeable ‘upgrade’ being the N86’s 8 megapixel camera and improved optics – I thought I’d share five things that I really like about the Nokia N85.

See also: MWC: Five handsets that caught my eye

Form factor

When it comes to the form factor, the N85 is very much a phone. Incorporating a two-way slider and 2.6 inch QVGA non-touch screen, sliding downwards reveals a traditional numeric keyboard, while sliding upwards exposes a set of contextual buttons that act as dedicated media keys when listening to music or watching video, and gaming keys when accessing N-Gage, Nokia’s mobile gaming platform. I’ve found the sliding mechanism to be fluid and a lot more solid feeling than the slightly creaky N96, which features a very similar form factor, albeit with a larger screen.

OLED screen

I’d heard good things about OLED technology, but until you’ve seen an OLED screen up close, it’s hard to appreciate the difference in contrast levels and overall liveliness of the display, of which the N85 is testament. Thankfully, we can expect an increasing number of smartphones released later this year to feature OLED screens, such the upcoming N86 and Samsung’s recently announced Omnia HD.

FM transmitter

While mobile phones with FM tuners are old hat, the N85 is the first smartphone that I’ve laid my hands on to feature an FM transmitter. In hindsight, it seems like such an obvious feature, making it possible to broadcast your phone’s music library to a car stereo without the need for extra gear. Take that iPhone 🙂

BBC iPlayer

This one only applies to Brits: the N85 carries the same excellent BBC iPlayer client as the N96 (see my review). It’s great to be able to access the BBC’s TV catchup service ‘on the go’, including the ability to download content for off-line viewing.

Video recording

The N85 has a very decent stills camera for a phone- 5 megapixel with Carls Zeiss optics – but it’s the video recording functionality that I’m enjoing most. Picture quaity is really good, especially for web video (640 x 480 pixels and up to 30fps), with my favorite use case so far being live streaming via Kyte.


last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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