Upcoming Phones I Actually Find Interesting: Nokia N96 and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

nokia96.jpg

Despite quickly slapped together responses to the iPhone last year, most handset makers have been taking their time to make a proper response to Apple’s wunderentfettungseinrichtung. (I’m pretty sure that means “wonderful degreasing device,” which iPhone owner can tell you is a perfectly accurate description.)

There’s a mobile conference going on in Barcelona this week. Unlike the mobile phone conferences we have here in the States, it’s sort of a big deal, and most of the important and innovative handsets are being talked up. Two in particular caught my eye, which is saying something, since I tend to find the glacial upgrade process and reticence to risk-taking design tedious.

The Nokia N96 is the follow-up to the wildly popular N95—at least wildly popular in the rest of the world. Although the N95 was released in the States, it never quite became the default object of lust for USians. The N96 is cut from the same jib, but with upgrades all around, both in features—dual-LED flash for its 5-megapixel camera, DVB-H mobile TV tuner, and 16GB of built-in storage as well as a microSD slot—and in looks. It’s very nice looking in general and the dual-sliding action that reveals either a keypad or a set of secondary gaming/media buttons with which to play N-Gage titles looks nice.

What it lacks, just as its predecessor did, is a proper keyboard. Nokia makes several models of smartphones with QWERTY keyboards, but they tend to be bigger and clunkier. Why they don’t think QWERTY is appropriate for their flagship is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it has something to do with the European perception of what makes a handset a handset.

The N96 will probably be released in North America at some point in the future, even if it’s just available direct from Nokia, but for now it’s only been announced in Europe with corresponding 3G bands.

Product Page [NSeries.com]

xperiax1.jpg

Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X1 is a step in a new direction for the company, pushing not only a large, tactile QWERTY keyboard (hidden under a curved “arc-slider”) but Windows Mobile 6. Previous Sony Ericsson models tended to use a custom version of Symbian, the same OS used by Nokia.

A motion-sensitive screen reorients depending on, uh, orientation—very iPhone—and a new “Panel” interface that can be used with the touchscreen without sliding out the keyboard. The screen is huge and high resolution, the processor should be plenty powerful, and it’s got the standard complement of 3G and Wi-Fi built in.

It is, in short, a kitchen sink device of the first order, and presuming that Sony Ericsson can add the same level of polish to Windows Mobile that they did to Symbian (a tougher, but still doable task, I think) they’ll have quite the device on their hands. I think it’s going to be too large to really be considered an iPhone killer—that sliding keyboard, while definitely appealing to me, will make this too big for many pockets; the iPhone is 11.6mm thick, the X1 is 17mm—but it’s the first SE phone in which I’ve been interested for a while.

Sony’s got a dedicated project page up if you’d like to take a look at pictures. I’d expect the X1 in late ’08 for the better part of a thousand dollars, although nothing official has been announced.

Product Page [SonyEricsson.com]

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6 Responses to Upcoming Phones I Actually Find Interesting: Nokia N96 and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

  1. Anonymous says:

    presuming that Sony Ericsson can add the same level of polish to Windows Mobile that they did to Symbian (a tougher, but still doable task, I think) they’ll have quite the device on their hands.

    Judging by the crashes, sluggishness and generally iffy behaviour of my M600i (and we’re not even talking about the PC sync neuroses), that level of polish is not terribly high.

  2. cha0tic says:

    Nokia FTW. I’m a big fan of Nokia phones. Especially the Communicator series, because of the qwerty keyboard, that I could thrash out large blog posts on whilst sitting in the pub. Nokia seem to have got their various interfaces and software just right.

    The 9300 was nearly the perfect phone for me. The ‘i’ version wasn’t available from my Phone Co. The WiFi would have been icing on the cake. Then I went and lost it. (No I wasn’t drunk)

    As it was a works phone it was replaced. With a piece of shit HTC touch. Windows mobile still isn’t right, even version 6 is still shonky for phone use. The Sony phone above looks nice, but with WM on I’d steer well clear.

    My personal phone is a Nokia9500, yes it’s a brick, that bit I hate, but it has a qwerty keyboard, Camera, Bluetooth & WiFi.

    The E90 is the current phone I’m lusting after, looks like Nokia has put together another winner (as far as I’m concerned) looking at the specs’.

    Oh and just as an after thought THE Best phone ever made was the Nokia6300i
    battery life for ever, could get a signal when no-one else could, clear sound & great volume (I work in a sometimes noisy environment)

  3. sdt says:

    That’s more like “facility for degreasing wonders” :)

  4. claud9999 says:

    bah, sliders…I used to own a number of different slider phones and while they were all well-built, the sliding functionality generally was more an annoyance than a boon. And the added thickness for the second layer prevents me from slipping the phone into my pocket (whereas I can have the iPhone + my wallet in the same pocket and it is still comfy.)

  5. Kit10inDublin says:

    I’m a Nokia fan. The N series of phones is excellent.

    Joel is right – us Eurosians (!) believe a handset should be a handset. A QWERTY keyboard defeats the fantastic inbuilt predictive txt & dictionary function that makes practical usable sense for a hand held device.

    The Sony phone looks good but the QWERTY keyboard is simply not necessary. And the pic immediately puts me off – my thumbs are smaller than the ones pictured above but what a major pain is it to maneuver round such a tiny keyboard with your thumbs and/or forefingers.

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