Love your N95? Get the Nokia N86.

That’s right, I’m back… and I’m bringing my N86 review with me.
In short, as the title suggests, if you were a fan of the N95 – then the N86 is for you.

That’s right, I’m back… and I’m bringing my N86 review with me.
In short, as the title suggests, if you were a fan of the N95 – then the N86 is for you.

The Nokia N86 8MP
The Nokia N86 8MP

You may remember a few months back that fellow Really Mobile co-founder Ben Smith and I sat down to argue discuss the merits of Nokia’s much heralded saviour of 2009, the N97.

It’s a testament to the industry we watch, work and live in today that this now seems like such a long time ago. Here we are some eleven weeks since that post went live and already, I feel like I backed the wrong horse. You see, I was only impressed with the N97 for what is wasn’t. The firmware wasn’t buggy, the hardware wasn’t a let down and the camera wasn’t incapable.

But what did it really bring forward?
Aside from a new form factor, not much.

I said back in the Spring, way back before we launched Really Mobile, when discussing the N97 that I was in fact looking towards to the N86 more than anything else on the horizon…

“…to my mind the N86 is the true replacement for the N95 8GB.”
— James Whatley, April 19th 2009

…and I am very pleased to announce that I was not disappointed.

When it came to choosing a handset for the Lucozade Energy Challenge, the N86 was the only option. I’d read about it, seen videos about it, hell – I’d even taken some shots with an early prototype myself.
This handset has been everything my N95 8GB ever was and more.

Having used the N86 solidly now since the end of June I can safely say that this is my phone of choice and will be for many months to come. You all know I’m a Nokia fiend but of late, that love has waned. Especially in regards to the previously mentioned, N97.

However the N86, the beautiful Nokia N86 8MP – to give it its full name – that which we first glimpsed way back in February of this year at Mobile World Congress, is an excellent phone in the traditional sense.

And it’s this last part dear reader, that is the keystone to the whole of this piece.

You see – I doubt that we will ever see a phone like the N86 ever again. The sheer elegance and sophistication that goes into this perfect combination of this phone first, camera second device is as gorgeous as it was the first time you ever laid eyes on it.

There really is not much I can say about this phone’s feature set that hasn’t already been said. One would imagine that most of you know that the N86 sports a rather fetching 8MP camera (which, on my recent travels around Africa, has yielded some spectacular results). It would be frivolous to assume that the amazing video output from this stunning piece of kit has completely passed by that of even the most casual of mobile fanatics. And I would certainly be completely mis-judging my audience if just for one second I assumed that none of you had noticed the glorious industrial design mixture of glass and metal, making the Nokia N86 one of the smoothest and cleanest handsets one could ever have the great fortune to hold.

A dying breed?
A dying breed?

Give it a silver finish and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was an E-Series.

Yes, it really does feel that good.

It is fantastic. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

What it makes me feel though, is sad – and not for the reasons you might think.

I just can’t help thinking that thanks to all sorts of things; the iPhone, the advent of Android, the upcoming Maemo war on Symbian. Phones like this will soon be consigned to the history books. I just have this horrible, dreadful feeling that what I’m using here, is an ending.

The phones of tomorrow are iPhones, are Androids… The N900 looks nice, but the 5MP camera doesn’t come to close to that of the N86. The new Nokia X6, with its capacitive (read: iPhone-esque) screen and its deep level music-based DNA still doesn’t match up to the content creativity skills of my beloved N-Series.

Yes, iPhones are lovely – we know this. Even the HTC Magic came close to swaying me from the Finnish fold some time ago too. But the days of just being able to push real and actual buttons will soon be gone. Relish in them while they’re still here. Remember that feeling. Take happiness from it. And treasure it.

Reading on Symbian-Guru this past week that, as of Nokia World 2009 – ‘Nokia is Touch’ – I shed a tear.
As the Finnish giant moves to embrace Maemo as well as further expand its Symbian 5th Edition range, it stands to reason that the N86 could very well be the last great N-Series device.

Get yours while you can.

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118 thoughts on “Love your N95? Get the Nokia N86.”

  1. I think you're right about N-series, but with the launch of X-series might we not soon see another range launched which majors on cameras (like Sony Ericsson do) and has a mix of touch and non-touch.

    It certainly would be a shame if all consumer units became 'touch'…

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  2. As of yesterday I've been using the Nokia Messaging on the N86. It comes built-in under the moniker of 'Nokia Email'. It's the same app/software that is shipping with the new E-Series devices (the first of which was the E75 from memory) and so far, I'm really enjoying it. Email without QWERTY means I can send more stuff one handed. That's what used to bug me about the N97 and in fact, nearly ALL touch devices – you just couldnt/cant do anything *quickly* with them and you need to give the display 100% of your attention all the time. Not for me I'm afraid.

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  3. As of yesterday I've been using the Nokia Messaging on the N86. It comes built-in under the moniker of 'Nokia Email'. It's the same app/software that is shipping with the new E-Series devices (the first of which was the E75 from memory) and so far, I'm really enjoying it.

    Email without QWERTY means I can send more stuff one handed. That's what used to bug me about the N97 and in fact, nearly ALL touch devices – you just couldnt/cant do anything *quickly* with them and you need to give the display 100% of your attention all the time.

    Not for me I'm afraid.

    [Reply]

  4. That might be case re: X-Series, yes. But if that was true, then why not throw something out there that actually has the hallmarks of a flagship device. Like another 8MP camera, or a Xenon flash maybe? The X6 looks like the 'hero' handset of the X range, but I don't think it could be an N-Series. Maybe that's the bar now, if you look at the E72. A business handset with a 5MP camera? these features are the norm… in which case, where is the flagship device?

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  5. That might be case re: X-Series, yes. But if that was true, then why not throw something out there that actually has the hallmarks of a flagship device. Like another 8MP camera, or a Xenon flash maybe?

    The X6 looks like the 'hero' handset of the X range, but I don't think it could be an N-Series.
    Maybe that's the bar now, if you look at the E72. A business handset with a 5MP camera? these features are the norm… in which case, where is the flagship device?

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  6. Very good point you have there. The keypad on the N86 looks very usable too, contrary to the flat, non-separated keys on my N79 that make it a little frustrating to try and text/type with.

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  7. Very good point you have there. The keypad on the N86 looks very usable too, contrary to the flat, non-separated keys on my N79 that make it a little frustrating to try and text/type with.

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  8. I still remember your words vividly James, “hold on an wait for the N86” and I must say I agree with you a 100% I have also used extensively the N97/5800 and have not been dazzled with Symbian s60 v5, I'm still loving the old school Nseries. Question for you: how has the battery served you on the N86 in your multiple adventures.thanks

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  9. I still remember your words vividly James, “hold on an wait for the N86” and I must say I agree with you a 100% I have also used extensively the N97/5800 and have not been dazzled with Symbian s60 v5, I'm still loving the old school Nseries.
    Question for you: how has the battery served you on the N86 in your multiple adventures.

    thanks

    [Reply]

  10. That is a very good question Jorge, The battery has been *ok*. Not awesome, not bad.. but ok. Given that every day I've been online almost all day, taking photos as often as possible, recording videos and uploading to various sharing sites as well as blogging on the fly… I normally get a good 6-7hrs out of it. But I do have a spare battery as well as a Power Gorilla to keep me charged in case of emergencies. I can also recommend a 16GB microSD card. They rock my socks also.Which reminds me – aren't we supposed to be doing something over Skype sometime soon? 😀

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  11. That is a very good question Jorge,

    The battery has been *ok*. Not awesome, not bad.. but ok. Given that every day I've been online almost all day, taking photos as often as possible, recording videos and uploading to various sharing sites as well as blogging on the fly… I normally get a good 6-7hrs out of it.
    But I do have a spare battery as well as a Power Gorilla to keep me charged in case of emergencies.

    I can also recommend a 16GB microSD card. They rock my socks also.

    Which reminds me – aren't we supposed to be doing something over Skype sometime soon? 😀

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  12. You got it brother, let's do it, when its a good time for you, for me this weekend is good, early in the am so for you its, let see its 9:28am now in Miami, so it must be 3'ish for you right, so let's shoot for the next upcoming days, its gonna great 🙂

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  13. You got it brother, let's do it, when its a good time for you, for me this weekend is good, early in the am so for you its, let see its 9:28am now in Miami, so it must be 3'ish for you right, so let's shoot for the next upcoming days, its gonna great 🙂

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  14. Its a done deal, after I trial the N86 which should be in a couple of weeks my contact is Nokia Latin America and they get everything late compared to Europe/US I think I'll sell both my N95 8GB and saddle with your setup, extra battery, I have an 8gb etc.

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  15. Its a done deal, after I trial the N86 which should be in a couple of weeks my contact is Nokia Latin America and they get everything late compared to Europe/US I think I'll sell both my N95 8GB and saddle with your setup, extra battery, I have an 8gb etc.

    [Reply]

  16. Well I'm flying to Antigua on Saturday morning and won't be back for a couple of weeks. So not sure how or when it'll be possible.. but yes, definitely soon. Let's keep talking 🙂

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  17. Well I'm flying to Antigua on Saturday morning and won't be back for a couple of weeks. So not sure how or when it'll be possible.. but yes, definitely soon.

    Let's keep talking 🙂

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  18. James, I'm sharing your sadness. I can see some great phones for content creation coming along soon (check your pockets). But the lack of ability to rapidly deploy the camera means many moments could be missed. The N series truly understood the photographers need to start up the camera quickly and shoot. Theres an opportunity for Symbian and Android developers to come up with hacks to enable rapid on and shooting for pure touch devices. could you compare the time it takes to shoot from your pocket between the Satio and the N86. Would be interested to know where we are on this as it stands.

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  19. James, I'm sharing your sadness. I can see some great phones for content creation coming along soon (check your pockets). But the lack of ability to rapidly deploy the camera means many moments could be missed. The N series truly understood the photographers need to start up the camera quickly and shoot. Theres an opportunity for Symbian and Android developers to come up with hacks to enable rapid on and shooting for pure touch devices. could you compare the time it takes to shoot from your pocket between the Satio and the N86. Would be interested to know where we are on this as it stands.

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  20. i understand how James feels, but i must say, after almost 4 Months on Touchscreen Devices, i don't miss Keypads too much. Nokia 5800 was terrible, with its endless Bugs and resistive Screen, but the G1 and most of all, my HTC Hero now, are serving me really well. combined with the predictive Text Option, i'm getting some really good Typing Speeds. I might get back to Nokia when there are more capacitive Screen Phones available, but for now my Hero serves me perfectly well! I'm pretty fed up with Nokia for now :-/Regarding the N86: I didn't have one in the Flesh yet, but when it was announced i had a good Feeling about it, as it solved some of those Issues the N85 had – it looks much more solid, the Keys look so much more usable compared to the ultra-stiff N85 Keypad, oh and the Camera is impressive too, although this isn't the No.1 Buying reason anymore.. Great Post James, keep it going! 🙂

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  21. i understand how James feels, but i must say, after almost 4 Months on Touchscreen Devices, i don't miss Keypads too much. Nokia 5800 was terrible, with its endless Bugs and resistive Screen, but the G1 and most of all, my HTC Hero now, are serving me really well. combined with the predictive Text Option, i'm getting some really good Typing Speeds. I might get back to Nokia when there are more capacitive Screen Phones available, but for now my Hero serves me perfectly well! I'm pretty fed up with Nokia for now :-/

    Regarding the N86: I didn't have one in the Flesh yet, but when it was announced i had a good Feeling about it, as it solved some of those Issues the N85 had – it looks much more solid, the Keys look so much more usable compared to the ultra-stiff N85 Keypad, oh and the Camera is impressive too, although this isn't the No.1 Buying reason anymore..

    Great Post James, keep it going! 🙂

    [Reply]

  22. Hi Ben,I am hoping that the camera focused branch will not come to an end, but with the Xseries and Eseries going off to grow happily out into Music & Biz, that the Nseries or like will be able to develop fully as a camera based creation oriented devices. *crossing fingers*;o)

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  23. Hi Ben,

    I am hoping that the camera focused branch will not come to an end, but with the Xseries and Eseries going off to grow happily out into Music & Biz, that the Nseries or like will be able to develop fully as a camera based creation oriented devices. *crossing fingers*

    ;o)

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  24. Whilst I like the N86, I wouldn’t buy one, it’s just too fragile, the glass screen just makes it a bit too delicate for my liking. The one I had on trial from Nokia fell off my table onto the floor and smashed, gutted. But it shouldn’t do that! Nokia phones tend to be fairly tough, my 5800 has taken a few tumbles, my N95 went flying across a concrete car park, all with very tiny cosmetic impact. I want a phone that can take a knock, be a true pocket warrior, not one that is fragile and weak!

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  25. Whilst I like the N86, I wouldn't buy one, it's just too fragile, the glass screen just makes it a bit too delicate for my liking. The one I had on trial from Nokia fell off my table onto the floor and smashed, gutted. But it shouldn't do that! Nokia phones tend to be fairly tough, my 5800 has taken a few tumbles, my N95 went flying across a concrete car park, all with very tiny cosmetic impact. I want a phone that can take a knock, be a true pocket warrior, not one that is fragile and weak!

    [Reply]

  26. Whilst I like the N86, I wouldn't buy one, it's just too fragile, the glass screen just makes it a bit too delicate for my liking. The one I had on trial from Nokia fell off my table onto the floor and smashed, gutted. But it shouldn't do that! Nokia phones tend to be fairly tough, my 5800 has taken a few tumbles, my N95 went flying across a concrete car park, all with very tiny cosmetic impact. I want a phone that can take a knock, be a true pocket warrior, not one that is fragile and weak!

    [Reply]

  27. Except currently, the N86 v 11.043 latest firmware, is the most Bug-ridden abomination of evil, Nokia have ever saw fit to throw our way.

    You can argue all you like (it’s your site after all *lol*), but I have posted about the major issues in detail on sites such as AAS etc, giving detailed info on the key problems.

    And I don’t just mean the little issues like current firmware not remembering “Special Words you spell out” (one day Nokia will finally get wise to checking that in each firmware first, given how many other phones over the years have had this bug that needed fixing), or the fact that CAPTURED photos are not even listed in the “Captured Photos” section in the Gallery, if saved to Mass Storage memory.

    I’m talking more significant ones such as normal landscape photos randomly being saved as a PORTRAIT photo instead (the complete opposite of what the rotation sensor/accelerometer is even meant to be for).

    Or how about the screen randomly auto-rotating when not in use, and then not being able to correctly re-orientate it when the phone is unlocked, if using a numeric key-guard, but worse yet, the Power Button then not even working, so that you can’t even switch your phone off without doing a BATTERY PULL (which with the FM Transmitter being built into the COVER, not the phone, is not something you want to be doing any more often than really needed).

    I don’t even need go on to talk about the incorrect charging/battery meter indications it sometimes shows (which can be potentially devastating), and the host of other issues it currently has.

    So, a lot to make it a white elephant just now, and NOT the Flagship you indicate…

    ..Were it not for the fact that I suspect ALL of these issues are SOFTWARE only, and can thus all be fixed in Firmware updates, IF Nokia are minded to do so.

    And if they do, given that the hardware and actual feature set of the N86 is so extensive, then believe it or not, despite my ‘rant’, I’m with you on this…

    …This really could be Nokia’s TRUE Flagship device, never mind the N96, N97 etc.

    The N86 can be king.

    IF Nokia sort out the horrible bug ridden, nightmare Firmware first.

    So come on Nokia, give us the Flagship we all want it to be – the N86!

    [Reply]

  28. Except currently, the N86 v 11.043 latest firmware, is the most Bug-ridden abomination of evil, Nokia have ever saw fit to throw our way.You can argue all you like (it’s your site after all *lol*), but I have posted about the major issues in detail on sites such as AAS etc, giving detailed info on the key problems.And I don’t just mean the little issues like current firmware not remembering “Special Words you spell out” (one day Nokia will finally get wise to checking that in each firmware first, given how many other phones over the years have had this bug that needed fixing), or the fact that CAPTURED photos are not even listed in the “Captured Photos” section in the Gallery, if saved to Mass Storage memory.I’m talking more significant ones such as normal landscape photos randomly being saved as a PORTRAIT photo instead (the complete opposite of what the rotation sensor/accelerometer is even meant to be for).Or how about the screen randomly auto-rotating when not in use, and then not being able to correctly re-orientate it when the phone is unlocked, if using a numeric key-guard, but worse yet, the Power Button then not even working, so that you can’t even switch your phone off without doing a BATTERY PULL (which with the FM Transmitter being built into the COVER, not the phone, is not something you want to be doing any more often than really needed).I don’t even need go on to talk about the incorrect charging/battery meter indications it sometimes shows (which can be potentially devastating), and the host of other issues it currently has.So, a lot to make it a white elephant just now, and NOT the Flagship you indicate…..Were it not for the fact that I suspect ALL of these issues are SOFTWARE only, and can thus all be fixed in Firmware updates, IF Nokia are minded to do so.And if they do, given that the hardware and actual feature set of the N86 is so extensive, then believe it or not, despite my ‘rant’, I’m with you on this……This really could be Nokia’s TRUE Flagship device, never mind the N96, N97 etc.The N86 can be king.IF Nokia sort out the horrible bug ridden, nightmare Firmware first.So come on Nokia, give us the Flagship we all want it to be – the N86!

    [Reply]

  29. Except currently, the N86 v 11.043 latest firmware, is the most Bug-ridden abomination of evil, Nokia have ever saw fit to throw our way.

    You can argue all you like (it’s your site after all *lol*), but I have posted about the major issues in detail on sites such as AAS etc, giving detailed info on the key problems.

    And I don’t just mean the little issues like current firmware not remembering “Special Words you spell out” (one day Nokia will finally get wise to checking that in each firmware first, given how many other phones over the years have had this bug that needed fixing), or the fact that CAPTURED photos are not even listed in the “Captured Photos” section in the Gallery, if saved to Mass Storage memory.

    I’m talking more significant ones such as normal landscape photos randomly being saved as a PORTRAIT photo instead (the complete opposite of what the rotation sensor/accelerometer is even meant to be for).

    Or how about the screen randomly auto-rotating when not in use, and then not being able to correctly re-orientate it when the phone is unlocked, if using a numeric key-guard, but worse yet, the Power Button then not even working, so that you can’t even switch your phone off without doing a BATTERY PULL (which with the FM Transmitter being built into the COVER, not the phone, is not something you want to be doing any more often than really needed).

    I don’t even need go on to talk about the incorrect charging/battery meter indications it sometimes shows (which can be potentially devastating), and the host of other issues it currently has.

    So, a lot to make it a white elephant just now, and NOT the Flagship you indicate…

    ..Were it not for the fact that I suspect ALL of these issues are SOFTWARE only, and can thus all be fixed in Firmware updates, IF Nokia are minded to do so.

    And if they do, given that the hardware and actual feature set of the N86 is so extensive, then believe it or not, despite my ‘rant’, I’m with you on this…

    …This really could be Nokia’s TRUE Flagship device, never mind the N96, N97 etc.

    The N86 can be king.

    IF Nokia sort out the horrible bug ridden, nightmare Firmware first.

    So come on Nokia, give us the Flagship we all want it to be – the N86!

    [Reply]

  30. I totally agree that the N86 was one of the best-built phones by Nokia (and by anyone for that matter)… and I have tried most of the Symbian phones having worked at Nokia.

    It is an utterly gorgeous phone, just a pity that the Symbian OS is so weak (and Maemo even more limited, from a developer perspective, in many ways, due to its lack of Java (ME) support)

    [Reply]

  31. The N86 is (IMO) one of the best mobile phones ever built… it was sheer pleasure looking at it and holding it.

    Pity that the Symbian OS just cannot keep up with the iPhone, Android, Palm and RIM.

    And Maemo seems (in terms of Java support) a giant step backward

    [Reply]

  32. I totally agree that the N86 was one of the best-built phones by Nokia (and by anyone for that matter)… and I have tried most of the Symbian phones having worked at Nokia.It is an utterly gorgeous phone, just a pity that the Symbian OS is so weak (and Maemo even more limited, from a developer perspective, in many ways, due to its lack of Java (ME) support)

    [Reply]

  33. I totally agree that the N86 was one of the best-built phones by Nokia (and by anyone for that matter)… and I have tried most of the Symbian phones having worked at Nokia.

    It is an utterly gorgeous phone, just a pity that the Symbian OS is so weak (and Maemo even more limited, from a developer perspective, in many ways, due to its lack of Java (ME) support)

    [Reply]

  34. The N86 is (IMO) one of the best mobile phones ever built… it was sheer pleasure looking at it and holding it.Pity that the Symbian OS just cannot keep up with the iPhone, Android, Palm and RIM.And Maemo seems (in terms of Java support) a giant step backward

    [Reply]

  35. The N86 is (IMO) one of the best mobile phones ever built… it was sheer pleasure looking at it and holding it.

    Pity that the Symbian OS just cannot keep up with the iPhone, Android, Palm and RIM.

    And Maemo seems (in terms of Java support) a giant step backward

    [Reply]

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