The new Nokia 9500 Communicator is a hybrid PDA, phone, camera, music player and wireless browser in one. The hardware design is similar, if not exactly the same in this 4th generation in the Communicator range but under the hood the new communicator packs a few more punches and worth the upgrade from Nokia.
At a first glance the 9500 Communicator looks like a 1995 mobile phone on steroids. It has the look of mobile phones ten years ago, with a clunky looking interface, square looking with large buttons. It's not all bad though as the phone opens up like a clamshell with a large screen, a QWERTY keyboard and an easy to use navigation stick.
The 9500 Communicator is 148mm wide by 57mm deep by 24mm high and weighs a heavy 222g. We found the device could not fit into most shirt or trouser pockets, unless you possibly wear a pair of cargo pants.
The main purpose of this device is for business users on the road, where users require access to e-mail, word processing, Web access and more. The 9500 Communicator is clearly not going to be a fashion item this summer. The device is a rather bland grey colour and is just too square looking compared to say the BlackBerry for any sex appeal.
The Nokia 9500 Communicator business features are its greatest asset. The phone runs the Symbian operating system with most software one would typically find on an office workstation. We liked that the phone had a plethora of connectivity options including Wi-Fi, GSM/GPRS and Bluetooth.
The 16-bit colour screen measures approximately 110mm by 36mm tall, making the screen rather wide but adequate for writing e-mails, word documents, and reading Web sites. With RAM storage of 80MB, reading and modifying documents was easy and fast with relatively little lag, even with large documents.
The phone comes with a camera but we found you could only use it when the phone was closed and could not use the inside screen to preview when taking a picture.
What the 9500 Communicator lacks in style it makes up in usability and functionality. The buttons on the keyboard are intuitive and big enough to type on. We especially liked the one push buttons to key functions like calendar, contacts, telephone and so on.
The synchronisation software that was bundled with the device was easy to install and use. The Communicator 9500 comes with a docking bay making synchronisation quick, easy and tidy.
We found the 9500 Communicator very economical on battery life considering the large colour screen on the device. During our tests the phone lasted 4 days of casual use using both the phone and the PDA screen of equal time.
Finding a wireless network was a breeze with the device automatically configuring various mobile hot spots we were in contact with. If wireless is not available, users can still use GPRS to access the Web and e-mail. Companies worried about security will enjoy the security features of VPN, Ipsec, SPA and SSL.
Our main gripe with this phone is the lack of functionality between the phone screen and the PDA screen. It would have been nice to have more integration between the two modes, for example being able to take photographs and reading documents on the front screen instead of having to constantly switch between the two.
At AU$1499 the 9500 Communicator does what it is designed to do - be a business data tool for users on the road. While the device is a lot smaller than lugging around a laptop and is comparable in size with most PDA's it's not particularly pretty. But, if looks don't matter to you the 9500 Communicator does its job, and does it well.