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What makes the Nokia N95 a smartphone?: Ask the Editors

CNET editors answer a reader's question about what makes the Nokia N95 so great and why it's considered a smartphone.

Nokia N95 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

Q: I guess I'm missing something, because I don't really see the overwhelming appeal of the Nokia N95. Yes, it has all the radios that we all want, but it's SO big. Also, it has Symbian, which seems about as common as a unicorn.

With its different interface and high price, why do so many editors love it so much? I would expect the iPhone or a BlackBerry model or a Treo model to be ranked higher than the N95 as a smartphone. Wouldn't you call the N95 a feature-phone rather than a smartphone? -- George, via e-mail

A: Hi George. You bring up a number of good points, but before anything else, let me first tell you how we, at CNET, define a smartphone. To us, a smartphone is a mobile phone running a third-party operating system, which includes Windows Mobile, Palm, BlackBerry, Symbian, and now Apple. There may be varying opinions on this, and in fact, even Nokia calls its N series devices "multimedia computers" rather than smartphones. We use this distinction because with the number of advanced cell phones these days, any handset with a boatload of features could loosely be defined as a "smart" phone.

Again, you make some valid points, George. Of the mobile operating systems, Symbian is probably the least known in the United States. This is in part because for whatever reason, U.S. carriers have been pretty reluctant to pick up these smartphones so they're not readily available for purchase, and if you do, you're most likely paying an exorbitant price for an unlocked version of the phone.

So why would anyone ever buy an Nokia N95 and why do editors love it so much? For one thing, just because Symbian isn't well-known doesn't mean it's not a good operating system. I've found the OS to be intuitive, responsive, and very robust in what it offers as far as productivity and multimedia tools. As for the N95 specifically, the chassis is admittedly a bit clunky, but the dual-slider design is useful and the display is gorgeous. Also, you have to remember when the Nokia N95 first debuted in 2006, it had a heap of features all in one device--a 5-megapixel camera (still a rarity now), integrated GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, dedicated multimedia controls--whereas its competitors only offered bits and pieces. There have been various iterations of the N95 since then and the smartphone has only become better with more features (U.S. 3G support, more memory, and so forth) and better perfomance. The N95 is certainly not for everyone, particularly with its high price tag. However, if you can afford it, you will certainly get a powerful and well-rounded smartphone.