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We have seen the N95 evolve and take on a new skin, some design alterations, and a load of memory. It did fairly well in both guises. Next we got a glimpse of the N96, touted as the next best thing. But in my opinion the next best thing to launch soon after the N95 was the N82. I’ve been waiting to see what Nokia would do with a different version of this handset. I think the N78 is it, so here’s what I have to say.
This candy bar handset is not particularly sleek or slim but it does have a certain something that makes it rather eye-catching. Its all-black, glossy faceplate may be a magnet for fingerprints and dust, but when it’s clean... that’s a whole 'nother story.
The N78 has a large 2.4 inch TFT display, above which is the secondary camera for video calls. As in the N81 and N96, the N78 uses Nokia’s touch-sensitive Navi Wheel feature not just for the multimedia display (dedicated key located next to the Navi Wheel) but for the entire menu system navigation. The keypad may look really small and the keys clustered, but it’s not a problem using it at all.
On one side of the N78 is the USB port, microSD card slot, and the charging port. The dedicated camera key and volume/zoom control keys are located on the other side. The N78 also has stereo speakers located on either side. The 3.2 megapixel camera with a flash is at the rear of the handset. Thankfully the N78, like others in the Nseries, has a 3.5mm earphone socket on the top near the power key. In case your earphone wire is too short you can use the bundled headset with a remote that also has a 3.5mm socket.
Features and Performance
The N78 is a feature rich handset and is loaded with goodies. But let’s talk about the few new features the interface comes with. Oddly the handset doesn’t have an accelerometer like the N82 does, but it does have auto screen rotation for the image viewer and video player. What makes the interface really come alive is the Breathing addition.
It's a little hard to explain in words, what it implies is this: the interface displays smooth transition animations when you move from one screen to another, or switch applications. Another new feature is the Open Application viewer that allows users to see which applications are open or running in the background. This is the first Nokia handset I’ve come across that has this feature. Other new S60 handsets have a small indicator near the application icon as well as the folder to indicate that it’s still open/running.
Another great feature is that the N78, unlike other S60 handsets (thank goodness), allows users to access SIM contacts as default. No more copying all the contacts to the handset and having to choose whether or not to save new ones in the SIM or phone! The Standby menu also has a new feel with a vertical shortcut bar that I think is great – the icons won’t end up hiding too much of the wallpaper. Though the Navi Wheel makes it fun to navigate the menus, the sensitivity can’t be adjusted so it can get a bit annoying as your thumb may move too quickly and you’ll end up activating the application near the one you actually aimed for.
One of the weirdest things about this handset is the Images screen in the Gallery, which automatically rotates. In normal handsets you have the option of rotating the image to portrait mode if it shows up in landscape. The N78 isn't altogether different. Well, actually it is. When you switch the image to portrait mode, you're also going to have to turn the phone around – and by that I mean upside down.
For full GPS functionality you’ll need to install some other applications. Luckily Nokia has maintained them as freeware that can be downloaded from its website, like the Location Tagger application that stores GPS coordinates on every image taken. Then again that's an unnecessary software as the N78 has a built-in Geotagging feature. Choose an image, select 'Show on Map', and it’ll show you exactly where on the map that image was taken.
The N78 does not come with Maps 2.0. Not yet at least. But if you’re not one to wait, just download it and install. The problem is getting the GPS to actually function properly. Every time I opened Nokia Maps, no matter where I was, it would take a good 10-15 minutes, often more, for the receiver to pick up the satellites. Even with A-GPS activated.
Let me be clear though, that it could be a problem with just this piece. The Google Maps application I installed was of course much quicker. The Location Tagging application also quite strangely picked up the coordinates while using the camera in just a minute or so even while the Geotagging icon in the camera menu still showed no signal.
Another interesting application that can be used in sync with the location tagging on the N78 is Sports Tracker. It’s come a long way since the days of the older N95, with live features that allow others to see you while you're running. It also lets you upload your routes with any pictures you may have taken along the way. The site stores all the data the handset collects while you work out, and stores it a simple and readable interface on the net.
The music player interface is the same as in any other Symbian S60 handset but I’m happy to say this has got to be one of the best of them all. For starters, it’s one of the loudest S60 handsets I’ve ever reviewed. There’s a bit of a problem with the quality – the highs and mids are off the charts and are just too shrill – but there’s no need to worry since you have some EQ presets and an 8-band customizable EQ. Just keep those levels as low as you can. Once you find your balance, you won’t have to worry about noisy commuters or honking traffic, you can pleasantly retire into your own world.
I can’t understand why Nokia can’t have a simple Folder option in the music player so you don’t have to keep creating a playlist every time you copy music into the handset. There are options that store songs by Artist, Genre etc. but the categorization depends on the accurate tagging of the music files. So most of the time you’ll have songs by the same artist showing up in different places. The name, as you may know, doesn’t always help.
With an option for downloading Podcasts, Visual radio as well as Internet radio, the N78 is set for those of us who prefer streaming media rather than plain old MP3 playback. The visual radio or FM radio took a scant 17 seconds to locate and preset all the available radio stations. Having a large display is definitely a bonus, especially when it comes to watching videos. Nokia’s Video Center application allows you to connect to sites like Reuters and YouTube. Like other handsets, it has a voice recorder, a message reader, and text-to-speech. Other features include 3D tones, voice commands, and Nokia’s Switch software for data transfer between phones.
The N78 comes with a video and photo editor for spicing up your pictures and mobile videos. Oddly though, it doesn’t have ANY preloaded games. Though you can download games using Nokia’s Catalogs in their Download section, you’ll find just one free game available. The rest you’ll have to pay for, which is disappointing.
Other features include Quick Office for reading MS document files, as well as a PDF reader. Of course you will have to purchase the license if you want to edit the files. There’s also the usual zip application, notes, calendar, calculator and converter. As word of caution, the handset did tend to hang quite often after I installed additional applications, including games, Google Maps Shozu etc. and the 2GB memory card started to feel a bit full. Again this could be a glitch with this particular handset and hopefully won’t be a generic issue.
The N78 is loaded with various connectivity options. It’s a 3G enabled handset that supports HSDPA. Aside form Wi-Fi connectivity, it also supports EDGE and GPRS/WAP for users on the go. And what would an Nseries be without Bluetooth and A2DP? The N78 also supports USB v2.0 connectivity via its micro USB port. As for email, there's full support for IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP email accounts and a full attachment viewer. It works well with a number of push email solutions, as well as Microsoft Exchange Server synchronization.
The handset allows bloggers to update their profiles and upload images directly from the gallery using clients like OVI or VOX. The easiest way to go about it is to use the Share Online feature. A Print Online feature is present, but there's no support for that in India yet. From the music angle you can also connect to the Music Store to download tracks. Other modes of connectivity include PTT (Push to Talk) and Nokia’s new Home media facility that allows you to connect to your PC in a home environment that’s set up wirelessly over WLAN. The N78 comes with a Search option that’s quite helpful for finding information in the handset itself as well as on the Internet.
The N78 comes equipped with a 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera with flash and Carl Zeiss optics. There are plenty of features to choose from: white balance, various scene modes, contrast and brightness and exposure compensation to ISO selection and color tones. As mentioned earlier, the Geotagging feature allows images to be tagged with the location once the antenna icon at the bottom of the screen changes accordingly.
In Macro mode what’s remarkable is that you can take get some really closeup shots of the objects in focus. The colors are retained fairly well and the level of detail is quite high. For some reason though, even when you’ve switched off the flash, it will still fire if you’re taking a closeup.
It hasn’t been raining much in Mumbai, but even so the sun has been reluctant to show itself. Due to this it’s been a bit tricky getting normal daylight pictures, so I had to use the Cloudy White Balance setting most of the time. You’ll notice that the images still appear a bit pastel and blotchy in certain areas, but the detailing is still quite good.
The battery life of the N78 is something impressive. I managed to easily get almost 3 hours and 45 minutes of talktime. On an average the N78 will give you over two days of usage including calls, messages, net connectivity, music and even a little camera usage. You will drain the battery if you use the GPS too much. If you happen to be someone who uses a mobile to its fullest capabilities and wants good battery life, the N78 is something to think about.
I liked using the N78, except when it hung after the card got full, and when issues with the tardy GPS cropped up. Apart from these, the N78 is definitely a good handset with a great battery life. It has a loud-as-hell music player, good camera quality, and Geotagging (when it works). The only problem is it costs Rs 19,000, which is a bit steep when you consider that the price of the N82 has dropped to Rs 19,500 in the gray market. The latter gets you a 5MP camera with Xenon flash, an accelerometer, and GPS. You only miss out on Geotagging – for which you have Nokia's free Location Tagger application in any case. I don't think this is too tough a decision to make.
GSM 850/900/1800/1900, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA
|Physical||113 x 49 x 15 mm, 101g|
|Display||240 x 320, 16m colors, TFT, 2.4 inch |
|Memory||76MB internal, microSD for external|
|Media||MP4, AAC+, MP3 and WAV, 3GP, Voice Recorder, Visual and Internet radio, GPS, A-GPS|
|Camera||3.2 megapixel, auto-focus, flash, secondary camera for video calling|
|Connectivity||USB, Bluetooth with A2DP, Wi-Fi|
|Battery||300 hrs standby, 3 hrs 45 mins talktime |
|Street Price ||Rs 19,000|