I had an informal gathering with Nokia, Text100, and several bloggers at The Straits which is located at 31 Pekin Street, Far East Square. At first, when I heard of The Straits, it was referring to the The Straits Kitchen located at Hyatt Hotel. Luckily the full address is given, if not I will be going to the wrong place. The last informal Nokia event was held on the 13th June 2008. How time flies, 2 months just passed like that.

We get to play with the Nokia N79, N85 as well as the long due N96. I would like to say that my views are PURELY based on the prototypes as N79 and N85 will not be launching that soon. For the N96, it is quite closed to the final as it will shipping next month (September 2008) and the RRP for it is S$1258.

Nokia N79
The first phone that I got to play with is the N79 and it is the successor of N78. It is the smallest Nseries device that is built by Nokia so far and indeed it is small. The build quality of it is solid, similar to that of my N82.

As you all may know, the Xpress-on cover is back. I have not heard of that term for a long time. This time instead of paying separately for the covers, Nokia has decided to bundle 2 other colors cover within the package. 2 colors of the N79 will be available, Canvas White as well as the Seal Grey. The Canvas White will come with the cover color of “Olive Green” as well as “Light Sea Blue” and the Seal Grey will come with the cover color of “Coral Red” and “White”. Both sets of the N79 will come with a default cover color which is Espresso Brown.

I am quite impressed by the Xpress-on cover. For example, if you change the cover to Olive Green, your S60 OS’s theme will also change to Olive Green. There is a chip located below at the back of the cover that does the magic.

The shutter speed for the N79 has been increased and hence it takes lesser time to snap a photograph and hence when taking a slow-moving object, it will not be that distorted anymore.

Nokia also added Nokia’s Widsets to the phone. WidSets is a clever service that brings the Internet to your cell phone. You can have your Twitter, Friendster, Flikr, Digg, Wikipedia, etc services within the application.

The N79 also has an accelerometer and this time it can rotate any screen within the OS itself (even the main menu). Just rotate the phone, and the screen will be rotated as well. It is much better than my N82 when they first introduce the accelerometer where it can only rotate certain screens.

The N79 will have common stuff such as 5 megapixels camera, dual-LED lights as well as GPS.

The only thing I do not like about N79 is the menu key as well as the clear key. The left and right screen key, as well as the answer/hang-up key, are “popup” but on the other hand the menu key, as well as the clear key, are flat and hence it is a little harder to press the menu and the clear key or worst still you will press the wrong key like me. I tested it and when clearing my message, instead of pressing the clear key, I pressed onto the right screen key.

Nokia N85
The Nokia N85 is the direct successor of N81 and N81 8GB. It is built for playing N-Gage games similar to the N81. The N81 is a normal sliding phone but the N85 is a dual slider phone.

The N85 spot a new OLED screen never is seen before in the Nseries. With this screen, whatever is displayed on the screen is brighter, sharper, and consumes lesser power. You can definitely notice the difference.

The keypad on the N85 is very flat and hence it is very difficult for me to press. I have to press the menu key quite hard for it to recognize my action.

Similar to the N79, it also has faster shutter speed, Nokia’s Widgets, accelerometer, 5 megapixels camera, dual-LED lights as well as GPS.

A lot of people are saying N85 is the N96 killer as N85 has a better screen and a much better battery life. You can read about the comparison here.

Nothing to say much about the N96 as I have discussed it many times. I personally think that it is a long due phone since February 2008, it has been more than 6 months and finally it will be launched next month. If Nokia were to launched it before June 2008, I think it would be good as I think that the N85 will eat into the market share of N96 as they are very similar and DVB-H is not ready in Singapore.

Nokia N79 and N85 will launch sometime in October 2008.

Once again, do note my views are still based on early prototypes and some of these problems may get solved before the actual release.

PS: I forgot to bring my Canon iXUS 860IS as well as my Nokia N82 and hence when I use my iPhone to take the pictures of the phones, it turns out to be crap and hence I did not upload it. iPhone camera really not up to standard.