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At first sight, there's nothing particularly shocking or innovative about the N79's design. Open its box and you'll find a candybar phone that looks similar to a many of Nokia's other phones, but the N79 has a few features that did catch our attention.
There's a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the N79 so that you can plug in a standard pair of headphones. Next to that there's a toggle switch for easily locking or unlocking the N79. The lens cover that protects the N79's 5-megapixel camera is easy to slide open, but won't move in your pocket.
Lens cover aside, it's the N79's battery cover that we were most intrigued by. In the N79's box, you get three differently coloured battery covers. Depending on which cover you choose, the N79 recognises it via a set of metal contacts and changes its theme accordingly. If you put on the blue cover, for example, you a blue theme is displayed on the screen. It's not a particularly complicated feature, but it works and it does look good. We would, however, like to be able to change the front cover too.
We would also like to see more metal cases on Nokia phones. The N79 doesn't feel flimsy, but it doesn't boast the metal finish of the E71, for example, which feels and looks like a higher-quality product. The N79's keypad could also do with some attention, because it's a little too flat and ill-defined for our liking, but you get used to it after a while. That said, the size and shape of the phone works well -- it feels right against the side of your face and fits easily in a pocket.
Having fiddled around with the battery covers for a few minutes, we were glad to find out that there's much more going on in the N79 than an intelligent-casing system.
The phone runs on S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2, and it runs quickly -- there's little or no lag when going into menus or apps.
The navigation keys on the N79 are large and easy to press, making navigating the N79's easy-to-understand menu even easier. Should you wish, you can use the four-way navigation key as an-like click wheel, but we preferred to just click it.
Depending on which way you hold the N79, its display will automatically change to portrait or landscape. We found the motion sensor to be a little over-sensitive at times and ended up turning the feature off, but it is useful when viewing pictures.
On the subject of pictures, the N79's 5-megapixel camera allows you to take still pictures and video. Pictures in daylight came out well, but in low light, its meagre dual LED photo lights meant pictures weren't illuminated as well as is possible with a xenon flash.
The N79's camera interface keeps thing fairly straightforward. You can set it to various modes, such as night mode or sports mode, adjust the flash and set a timer, among other options, but there aren't any extras such as face detection or panorama mode.