We're always impressed with the camera options on the Nokia N multimedia phones, and the N79 is no different. You can choose from eight shooting modes, ranging from close-up to sports to landscape, and five quality settings. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, white balance, color tone, ISO light sensitivity, and exposure value to get the best picture possible. The flash even has a red-eye reduction option. Plus, there's also a self-timer and a sequence mode for multiple shots.
Picture quality was most impressive. The photos came out extra sharp with bright and vibrant colors, and there wasn't any of that haziness that plagued the Nokia N78. Recorded videos also looked quite good, especially for a camera phone. Once you're done snapping photos or video, you can send them via Bluetooth, multimedia message, or post them to the Web, whether it be to Nokia's Ovi service or Flickr. The N79 features up to 50MB of internal memory and the microSD expansion slot can accept up to 8GB cards.
The N79's voice features include world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, voice commands, a vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone's address book is only limited by the available memory, and the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. There's room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, work and home addresses, e-mail addresses, a birthday, and more vitals. For caller ID purposes, you can assign each contact a photo, a ringtone, or a group ID. Bluetooth 2.0 is also onboard, with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, and file transfer.
The smartphone is also 3G-capable, supporting the 850/1900MHz HSDPA bands, meaning you'll get the benefit of 3.5G speeds only if you use an AT&T SIM. (T-Mobile's 3G network runs on the 1700/2100MHz bands.) Alternatively, the Nokia N79 has integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) so you can also surf to the Web using a Wi-Fi connection.
For navigating the streets, the Nokia N79 has standalone and assisted GPS, so it uses both satellites and cellular triangulation to find your position. The smartphone also comes preloaded with the Nokia Maps application, which offers color maps, route planning, and points of interest. For real-time, turn-by-turn directions, you'll have to upgrade the application, but Nokia is now offering a complimentary three-month trial of the turn-by-turn service. Afterwards, you'll have several purchase options, including a one-year license for $125.77 or a one-month license for $13.96.
Finally, the N79 runs the third edition of the S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 on the Symbian operating system for your productivity needs. An app called QuickOffice lets you view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and it optimizes the pages for the phone's screen, so you don't have to scroll all over the place to read text. There are some nice shortcuts to jump to the top or bottom of the page to reduce the up-and-down scrolling, and there's also a search function. However, if you want any editing capabilities, you'll have to upgrade the preloaded copy of QuickOffice. For messaging, the device can access IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP e-mail accounts and comes with a full attachment viewer. It also supports a number of push e-mail solutions, as well as Microsoft Exchange Server synchronization, but this is dependent upon your service provider and company's e-mail solution, so check with your IT department if you have any questions.
There are a number of other productivity tools on the phone, including a ZIP manager, a measurement converter, a PDF reader, a calendar, a clock, a calculator, and a message reader. There is a shortcut to the N-Gage gaming platform from where you can download and interact with other gamers; but like the Nokia Music Store, it's not fully operational yet in the States. For more titles and other applications for the Nokia N79, check out Download.com.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 850/1900) in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was mixed. We made numerous calls to friends, and most of the time, we enjoyed clear sound with just some slight background hiss and volume was nice and loud, even at lower levels. However, there were a couple of instances where calls sounded fuzzy--enough be distracting, though our friends reported no major complaints. We were able to use an airline's voice-automated system with no problems and we didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period. The speakerphone wasn't anything to write home about, since calls sounded spotty at times. We were able to pair the N79 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
The Nokia N79 proved to be a good little performer, keeping up with our demands. The screen's accelerometer was very sensitive and quick to change orientation whenever we rotated the phone. There was minimal to no delay when launching or using applications, even the multimedia features, which can sometimes trip up other smartphones. Speaking of multimedia, music playback through the phone's speakers was quite good. We could have used a smidge more bass, but all things considered, the N79 produced admirable sound with plenty of volume. Thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack, we were able to plug in our Bose On-Ear Headphones and enjoyed even better sound quality. Video playback was smooth with matching audio and picture.
The Nokia N79 has a 1,200mAh lithium-ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.5 hours (3.5 hours on 3G) and up to 15.5 days of standby time (16.5 days on 3G). In our battery drain tests, the N79 provided 8.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the N79 has a digital SAR rating of 1.4 watts per kilogram.