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     Volume 7 Issue 36 | September 5, 2008 |

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Unexpectedly Converging

Nader Rahman

A model walks the ramp representing one of the features of the N96.

I am not particularly tech savvy, in fact one might say I'm a technological cherry picker. There are a few aspects of technology and a few gadgets that interest me and I know about them reasonably well, the rest unfortunately mean nothing to me. Ask me about the latest software which will revolutionise my life and save me precious time and I'll stare back blankly, ask me about the difference between high resolution and hi-definition and I'll stare back blankly, ask me what a widget is and I'll crack some joke about aerially challenged people (I'm trying not to call them midgets). But you ask me about mobile phones and there is more than a twinkle in my eyes, now there is a gadget I understand, there is a gadget I'm interested in. That interest was recently sparked when Nokia sent out an interesting invitation recently. On what must be said was a very feminine t-shirt they simply printed the words, 'the web now made by hand'. There was a time and a date, and I could not wait to see what this was all about.

I arrived early and surveyed the surroundings. Not knowing what to expect when I saw a fashion ramp I thought this would be the launch of some rather useless and what some consider to be stylish phones. Suffice to say I'm not a fashion phone fan, they usually look weird and in their efforts to be stylish they sacrifice other more important features. But worst of all is when people start waxing lyrical about them; art deco meets art nouveau with a touch of futurism. That pretentious babble over a mobile phone is only justified when an art hack (critic) is blindfolded and asked to feel up a model of the Empire State building. Back to the point, with the ramp ready, journalists filtering and an ominous looking free buffet I was prepared for the worst.

The lights were dimmed and an announcer took to the stage, finally there would be some answers. Metro-sexuals around the room were disappointed as the phones being launched were not some haute couture fashion accessory but in fact the next generation of all encompassing phones, where one will truly have the internet in one's hand, and if used to its potential the internet could be shaped from a single device. 'The web now made by hand' was beginning to make sense. The managing director of Nokia EA, Prem Chand further elucidated the point. The devices being launched were from Nokia's highly successful N-Series line but each brought something different to the table. The N79 is essentially a fully loaded computer with a customisable design, the N85 is the definitive entertainment package and the N96 is quite simply an icon of convergence, bringing together everything mobile phones can offer and more.

Chand added that the new line of phones would do more than use the Internet and other media, but had the power to shape the content on the Internet. No longer was a phone just a device to surf the Internet, now one could record a song, or video an incident and immediately post it on the Internet (a strategy that works for CNN's iReport, as they gather first hand news via citizen journalists without spending money. The secret to Ted Turner's billions has finally been revealed.) Thus the new generation of mobile phones from Nokia are not devices that work one way, but help give one a truly interactive experience.

The N79 includes a very 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and comes with interestingly named Xpress-On smart covers, available in colours like Light Sea Blue and Espresso Brown. The interchangeable covers have automatically matching screen themes, which make them stylish (not the fashion phone sort of way) and useful. With a 4GB memory card there is also enough space to fit in a library of music, a catalogue of pictures and folder full of video clips, which when made from the 5 megapixel camera can be edited immediately.

While the N79 came equipped with 4GB memory the N85 doubles up with a massive 8GB worth of memory and a wealth of other features. It features an eye-catching 2.6” OLED screen along with N-Gage gaming and a built in FM transmitter. Obviously for a gadget of such importance nothing less than a 5 megapixel camera which captures DVD-quality videos will do. The dual slider design pioneered by Nokia has evolved to become smaller and sleeker with this model. Another nifty advantage this handset provides is that it includes a 3.5mm audio jack which makes it easy to listen to ones music through normal headphones.

Finally there was the mother of all convergence devices, the N96. If the other phones were packing a punch, this one was packing a hydrogen bomb. From its dual slider design to its staggering 2.8” OLED screen this was a behemoth in more ways than one. It comes with a whopping 16GB of internal memory with the capability to add another 8 through its card slot. Just to highlight that the phone is not merely a phone there is a clever little kick stand which allows one to view it hands free, the 3D stereo speakers also make watching videos on the phone a joy for the ears as well. The 5 megapixel camera also allows for fantastically clear pictures and DVD like video. For a device that offers so much it was not as bulky as I thought and was remarkably light. With one in my hands I thought of slipping it into my pocket and walking off, upsettingly journalistic morals got in the way and the plan was ditched.

Aside from the fashion show, there was also time to get a feel for the phones by inspecting and tying them out individually.

Before we go ga ga over the devices there was the small matter of a fashion show to attend. It proved to be quite interesting as each model came out representing a different feature of the phone. From a dress made of long rolls of photographic film (which represented the camera) to a woman walking with an over sized 16GB key chain it proved to be quite literal at times. Just when I thought it was all a little too literal the models broke out into a 10minute long bout of interpretative dance, which was amazingly well choreographed. Now I was not expecting that when I followed the rabbit down the hole to this event. With a buffet of fine food and a room of starved journalists it is easy to see how my evening ended, stuffed and bloated with one too many canapés.

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