Sep 092007

I’ve used Motorola mobile phones since I’ve had a mobile phone, starting with the V60i back in 2002 (as a customer of the original AT&T Wireless), followed with a V551 (with Cingular), which was in turn replaced with a RAZR V3 (upon its untimely demise).

The latter two phones had nearly identical software; but I was (and still am) a sucker for the RAZR’s form factor and construction.

  • I keep my phone in my pocket, so I like thin.
  • Antenna nubs are annoying. They’re pretty much a thing of the past on GSM phones; but when the RAZR was introduced, most clamshell phones had them.
  • There’s something satisfying about a cool-to-the-touch metal case.
  • The RAZR’s construction is solid. The hinge mechanism has a nice stiff feel to it with very little play. Mine has held up well through a couple of years of use.

The RAZR is not without its flaws, though. My chief annoyance was the weak phone book. This weakness is by no means unique to the RAZR. Most Motorola phones share a lot of the same software; and the phone book appears basically unchanged on models as recent as the KRZR. The number one, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking problem with the this phone book has to be: the single name field; i.e., no means of distinguishing between first and last names. So if you want to sort your phone book by last names, you need to put the last name first in each field. And then when you go to use synchronization software, you’re generally screwed because it doesn’t know about the scheme you’ve superimposed. A lot could be forgiven if this one problem were fixed. But there is plenty more wrong:

  • Rather than let you attach multiple phone numbers to a single entry, the Motorola phone book instead makes you create multiple entries with the same name, then gives you the option to visually merge the identically-named entries and treat one as primary. While this mostly works, it can at times be cumbersome to use.
  • That single name field is, on the RAZR at least, way too short.
  • The phone book accommodates storing phone number and e-mail addresses—nothing else.

So while I have preferred the Motorola clamshell phones, my wife has preferred Nokia candybar format phones. No question about it, Nokia’s UI is consistently superior—particularly its phone book. But there’s something about the ergonomics of opening a clamshell phone to answer it that I’ve always found attractive. And until relatively recently, Nokia’s suite of clamshell phones available in the US was quite weak.

That’s changed lately, which brings me to the N75. This phone uses a more recent version of the S60 software driving Gina’s 6682, so I was reasonably sure I’d be satisfied with the phone on this account. Indeed, the phone sports an extremely capable address book. It knows about first names and last names. It also knows about entries for which there should just be a company name. It can even store physical addresses—a feature I’ve been wishing for in a phone for quite some time.

The N75 has fared so-so in reviews. The major strikes against it seem to be that it is a battery hog and that it takes merely so-so pictures. My demands of a phone-bound camera are quite low; and coming from the RAZR’s VGA camera, even a mediocre 2 megapixel camera is a significant upgrade. I haven’t tried the camera much; but picture quality issues aside, I am quite pleased with the traditional camera-style ergonomics for the camera controls. Camera lenses on some phones seem to be designed to be obscured by a finger; that’s no problem here, even with my large paws. (The nice large keypad on this phone is also very accommodating of large fingers.)

As for the battery issue, I seem to be getting about two days on a charge. That may improve in the future, once I’m opening the phone to edit the address book less.

The construction of this phone feels reasonably solid; but it’s not up to the level of the RAZR in this regard. Nokia could learn a thing or two from Motorola with regard to hinge construction. Mind you, the N75 certainly isn’t bad in this regard. But the opening mechanism isn’t even as satisfying as my old V551; and it’s really nowhere near the nice feel of the RAZR. Apart from the hinge area, the body of the N75 is a matte black plastic. It seems likely to hide scratches reasonably well. But it doesn’t have the nice cool-to-the-touch feel of the RAZR’s metal case. Closed, the phone has almost the same footprint as the RAZR; but it’s about 30% thicker. While not terribly thick, the N75 isn’t really a “thin” phone by modern standards.

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the N75.

 Posted by at 10:04 pm