Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Review of the Nokia N82 Mobile phone

I recently purchased a Nokia N82 cell phone and want to share a review of my experience with the phone and also about using it with the TALKS screen reader. In this post, I’ll just discuss the phone. I’ll follow up with another post later about the TALKS experience.

The N82 is the latest in Nokia’s line running the Symbian operating system. That OS is a must if you want to run a screen reader on the phone. The other option is to have a phone from another manufacturer that runs the Windows Mobile OS. What that all means is that you’ll pay a good chunk of change for one of these Smart Phones, no matter the make.

For somebody who is blind and seeking a fulfilling mobile phone experience, you need to ask yourself what is accessibility worth to you. Personally, I want to know what number I’m dialing, who’s calling me, and to have full access to all the features of the phone. I also like to know my battery and signal strength before making a call. For those various reasons, buying a Smart Phone that can run a screen reader is worth the investment to me. If I’m going to have a cell phone, then I want one that can give me information just as well as if I were sighted.

This phone comes loaded with tons of extras that make it useful and desirable to those wanting a high-end phone. One of the big features I like about it is there is both Bluetooth and a built-in WiFi card. With this WiFi card, I don’t need to subscribe to a data plan to access the web on it, and I can do this from anywhere I have an open WiFi connection. It also comes with a GPS system. And, finally, I’ve also read that it is the only phone with a 5 mega pixel camera, which, with the built-in xenon flash, offers some great photographic experiences. One online review I read of the N82 said that it takes great nighttime pictures from short distances.

One of the potential future uses of this phone for me is that, being it is a Smart Phone with a 5 MP camera and flash, it is ideal for running the
KNFB Reader Mobile
OCR software. Right now, I don’t have a real need for this application, but if aspects of my life change, and that need arises, this phone is an ideal machine to run that OCR scanning system. I would need to justify the nearly $1,600 cost of the KNFB program to myself and the only way I could see that happening is taking a job where I’m either needing to read documents regularly or traveling alone a good deal. Still, it’s a real peace of mind to know that I have the right phone to do this.

The Front Face

The N82 is a candy bar style phone, meaning it is open-faced and the keys exposed.
Being that the phone is open-faced, when users who carry it in their pants pocket as I do, there is a strong potential for it to have buttons pressed inadvertently and to make unintended calls, all without the user’s knowledge. The N82 solves this problem by initiating an automatic keypad lock after about 30 seconds of inactivity.

At first, I didn’t like this automated lock as I thought it created an unnecessary extra step for me to unlock the keypad every time I wanted to do something on the phone. Additionally, I wasn’t able to unlock it on my first try. I had to work at it to get the buttons pressed just right. With practice, though, this has diminished and is hardly a problem any longer.

What has also happened is that I have come to appreciate the keypad lock. On several occasions, I’ve been doing something where I accidentally bump the phone inside my pocket and I hear TALKS announce, “Press unlock and then star.” Whenever this has happened, I’ve just been thankful that the keypad was locked.

And, if you’re wondering about answering incoming calls with the keypad locked, that’s not a problem. I’ve taken several calls where the keypad’s been locked. When the phone rings, you simply push the green “Send” button and you take the call just as if it were unlocked. When you hang up, TALKS announces, “Keypad locked,” to remind you that you are back in that mode. That also once again locks the “Send” key to prevent accidental dialing.

This phone has the traditional layout of the Nokia phones. It has a directional “D-pad” in the center, just under the 2.4” diagonal screen, with a soft key on either side of it. My previous phone, a Nokia 6620, had a small joystick instead of the D-pad, but the functions are identical. Just below those keys is the usual phone keypad.

The soft keys and D-pad are easy to discern by touch. The D-pad is a square that has a raised lip on its outer edge. That lip helps blind users know exactly where that D-pad ends and just where to press to get that directional push.

The soft keys are a bit different from those that I was used to on the 6620. These are almost flush and harder to feel, except you know that the D-pad ends and the soft keys begin immediately on either side of it. The left soft key also runs pretty flush into the “Menu” key right below it. It took a bit of playing to figure out that this functions as the TALKS button, used to initiate a keystroke command. The right soft key has an extra button sticking up just under it, which is easy to notice as it projects outward just like the normal keypad does. That is the “Multimedia “ button, which takes you to the folder of that name containing photos, videos, and music.

Perhaps the trickiest key to find on this phone was the "C" key. This key functions as the phone's delete key, which is also the key needed to back up one space when entering a wrong digit. On the 6620, it was easy to find on the right side, just below the “End” key. However, the only keys down the side edges of the N82 like that are the “Send” and “End” keys. (The 6620 had two keys on the right side corner and three on the left.) I had this phone nearly a week and a half before I figured this one out. It is just below the “Multimedia” key and just above the “3” key in the keypad array. Like the soft keys, this “C” key is nearly flush and its presence is difficult to figure out.

The keypad is normal in design and has no special functions assigned to the keys from Nokia. Yes, they do act as the letter representatives for text messaging and filling out forms, but there’s nothing new or big about that. Like the “Multimedia” key, the entire keypad is raised sufficiently to allow for quick tactile reference. The “5” key does have a raised nib on both the right and left sides to quickly inform the user that he is on that home key.

The Sides

Along the sides of the phone are some notable features and keys. On the left side, the jack for the charging cord is near the bottom. Above that is a small plastic panel that is tethered to the phone. It opens to allow access to the 2 GB micro-SD storage card, which is included and already installed when the phone is purchased. The box includes an adaptor that allows the micro-SD card to be inserted and used in computers. Above that slot is the jack for the phone’s micro-USB cord to connect it to a computer.

Along the right side of the phone are the unit’s two external, stereo speakers and some keys, but no jacks or slots. About a half-inch from the bottom of the phone is the right speaker, and the left speaker is in the same position on the top end of this side. The speakers are designed to add stereo sound when viewing videos, allowing you to view them in landscape mode and still getting full stereo sound. The button nearest the bottom is the button used to take photos. Just above that is another key used for photos as well. Just above that key is a rocker button used to raise and lower the external speaker volume.

The Top

On the top of the N82 are only two items to note—the power button and the external headphone jack. The power button is located in the middle of the top surface. This button is recessed just slightly, enough so that it is tactilely discernable. A feature worth noting is that when the phone is off and the user presses it in to turn it on, the button has a slight vibration to indicate that the unit is powering up. The external headphone jack will operate any headphones that use a standard mini-jack and the phone is shipped with a pair of ear buds included.

The Back

On the back of the phone is the camera. There is a sliding lens cover that automatically engages the camera feature when it is slid open. This works even if the keypad is locked, which is a handy timesaver when needing to get that quick shot at just the right moment. To slide that open, there is a raised control that will slide from left to right, when looking at the back of the phone. This is near the top end of the phone. Just below that is the flash and lens. The flash is on the left and the lens to its right, near the center of the phone. The phone is designed to be turned on its side when using the camera, so that the lens is on the bottom. That is why the button to take a picture is on the right side of the phone when looking at its face. Turn the unit into a landscape position with the photo button on top, and slide the shutter open, then click away.

Final notes

One other feature of the N82 is the music and video player. Nokia intends for this to be a multimedia device. The screen image will automatically shift from portrait mode into landscape mode when turned on its side. Remember the speakers’ positioning? Additionally, included with this phone is a second cable. This one is a video cable to attach your phone to a television to allow for sharing your videos. These can be ones you’ve taken with the built-in video camera or ones you’ve downloaded with that nifty WiFi card.

The phone is simple to operate and fairly intuitive. I’m personally not into texting, but the traditional keypad design makes this a real workout. I know, other people do it all the time, but I think a compatible, portable, Bluetooth keyboard will be my next purchase.

All in all, I have to say that this phone is very easy to use for anybody, whether they can see it or not. The downside is the price. If you look on Nokia’s home page, it is suggested to sell for around $650, but can be found for less at various vendors. (I found it for $400 at buy.com, and have since seen that drop another $20 or so.) Still, the N82 is not sold by any of the wireless companies, so there are no discounts available to make it more affordable by signing a two-year contract. In spite of the expensive cost, the N82 still provides one of the richest user experiences I’ve ever had with a cell phone. Using the camera is simple enough for my 6-year-old son to operate. The music player is good enough to let you hear your favorite tunes, even in noisy settings.

And, don’t forget that its still a mobile phone. The sound clarity, signal strength, and overall durability of the N82 all rise to the high level of expectation I’ve grown accustomed to with my previous Nokia phone.


dadougalee said...

Nokia phones are the best phone investment that you could make. Year after year they have been providing quality phones for consumers. Unfortunately the new Nokia phones can cost you an arm and a leg, especially an unlocked Nokia N82. I found a great site to find unlocked Nokia cell phones from auctions. I bought 2 Nokia N82 cell phones for me and my wife, and we love them. Check them out at Unlocked Nokia Cell Phone Auctions. Just my 2 cents.

Peter Smith said...

Hi there, great review! Your timing couldn't have been more perfect for me. I am a new N82 user including the KNFB Reader. I also have Talks and Wayfinder built in. My probs are with the Nokia information access. Their main web page is flash driven and the pdf of the user guide seems complicated. Do you know how I can find a simple way to access the user guide? I called Nokia and they are going to mail me an audio cd in 6 to 8 weeks! I'm feeling eager yet vexed. If you can reply to psmith.harvard@gmail.com
I would be most grateful.

Barry Kraft said...

I have also had a N95 8GB which is one of the best smart phones on the market. The N82 has the same functions yet with a much better camera! And really good battery life I get about 2 days life out of mine between charges and I really like the N82 cuz of the powerful camera. Thanks for this review!! As for me, Nokia NSeries represents not simple mobile gadgets but a complete, independent masterpiece.