January 13, 2008

New mobile

Those of you who know me know that I'm a bit of a sucker for gadgets. Such gadgets include, among other things, mobile phones and accessories for them. Obviously, with the recent move from France to the UK, I'm a little strapped for cash and have had to curb my enthusiasm for such gadgets, but I did decide to go for a new mobile just over a week ago.

A mobile phone is very useful in my business, albeit not absolutely necessary, so I started out with a payg deal from Virgin Mobile almost as soon as I arrived here in October. Virgin uses T-Mobile's (formerly One-2-One) network infrastructure, so I knew that when the time came to go for a contract, I could also count T-Mobile in among the contenders on the grounds of the excellent network coverage. At one point I also took out a payg line with Orange but decided that they were too pricey. Hmm... That reminds me that I still have some credit on the SIM that I should use up before getting rid of it.

Anyway, by the end of 2007 I decided it was time to go for a contract and started window-shopping. I wanted something that included Internet access at a reasonable price so that I could use my phone to send and receive e-mail while away from the computer. The only operator that stood out from the others in this respect was T-Mobile, so I decided to go for them.

Meanwhile, before leaving France I had been eyeing up the Nokia N95 handset and had considered purchasing one SIM-free at a price of roughly £400. My priorities changed somewhat with the move so I had to put that project on the back-burner. I was, however able to revive it once I'd decided to take out a contract because I could buy one with the contract for only £10. Now, that's more affordable! OK, it's SIM-locked to T-Mobile's network (I can unlock it later on anyway) and I have to stick with T-Mobile for 18 months, but that's no skin off my nose because I probably would stick with them anyway.

I went for T-Mobile's "flext 30 + web'n'walk" deal which gets me 450 minutes airtime per month or up to 900 text messages, or anything between the two extremes. You just have a monthly allowance which is tapped into whenever you make a call or send a text/picture message. You also get "unlimited" Internet access too (in quotes because it is actually capped at 1GB/month and there are restrictions on what you can do).

Now, I do still have many contacts in mainland Europe, both business and personal, so I do need a means of communicating with them at not too high a price. It so happens that I still have a contract with Orange France that I'm lumped with until February 2009, but which includes all calls, including roaming calls (which, technically, I am making since I'm using a French-based network from the UK). So, rather than let that go to waste, I use that to call Europe. I also have the Virgin Mobile payg line (and the Orange UK line with some remaining credit on it) that I can use. Once the Orange France contract it up, though, I'll want another solution. There's time to think of one yet, although I am tending towards the solution of paying T-Mobile an extra £2.50/month in order to pay 20p/min instead of 70p/min for calls to France.

Update Jan. 16th 2008: I have now found a solution for my international communications. See this blog entry.

So, why did I so want an N95?

Basically because it's so much more than a phone. In fact, Nokia doesn't even call it a phone, but a "mobile multimedia computer". Nokia has a reputation for making phones that are rugged and easy to use, which suits me fine.

Now for the extras. The camera to start with... How does a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics grab you? I'd go for one of those in its own right, so getting one fitted in the phone, err, sorry Nokia, the "mobile multimedia computer" is a great bonus. And it does take great pictures!

The FM radio with its so-called "visual radio" service seems to lack sensitivity, although that doesn't really bother me since I don't really listen to the radio that much anyway.

The music player can play back multiple formats. The most practical of them for me is MP3. If I include all the relevant id3v2 tags in the MP3 file, the individual songs I copy to the phone get sorted automatically by genre, artist and album.

The camera will shoot full-frame video at 640x480 pixels and 30 frames per second using mpeg4/aac to encode the video/audio. Okay, this isn't DV quality by any stretch of the imagination, but it knocks the socks off the old VHS and SVHS camcorders. You can get something like ¾ hour of video on an otherwise empty 1GB microSD card. It'll also record low quality video suitable for sending by MMS.

The quality of audio playback is reasonable. It would be pretty exceptional if there was less hiss produced by the electronics. On the up-side, the N95 works with a conventional stereo headset fitted with a bog standard 3.5mm jack. No pricey replacement with a vendor-specific connector to buy if the headset goes. Other things can be plugged into the 3.5mm socket on the side of the phone, such as a remote control giving you volume control and search/skip capability and a built-in microphone so you can take calls using the headset, or a video-out cable with which you can connect the phone to a TV set in order to view video footage you've shot on a large screen.

Bluetooth connectivity is pretty much a must nowadays. I do have a Sony-Ericsson Bluetooth earpice that I use to take/place calls hands free. With a Bluetooth dongle plugged into a USB port on the computer I could also use that method to transfer data between phone and computer.

There's also an infrared port on the phone. I have no need for that, personally, but can think of situations in which it would be useful (syncing data between the phone and a PDA for example).

The N95 is also WiFi-capable using both 'b' and 'g' variants. There's an 802.11g WiFi network here so I can hook up to it with the phone and access the Internet using that method instead of connecting to T-Mobile's packet service.

Finally, the GPS. Yes, there's a GPS receiver in this phone. Download "Google maps" and pair it with the GPS, and you can see a map on-screen with a blob showing where you are on the map. It's great for people like me who have little to no sense of direction and need to know how to get to somewhere they don't know from a place they don't know - as is the case for me frequently having only been living up here for a couple of months so far!

Anyway, that just about wraps up this entry. Thanks for reading this far, and sorry if it bored you to tears!

1 comment:

Pamela said...

So you can make nice pics with your phone?? Why aren't there any nice pics in your blog? ;-)
Enjoy your gadget. We chose for the N80, the N90 was too expensive for us because we had to buy 7 phones at once.

I look forward to your next post. :-)