Today Nokia “announced” its newest Nseries, the N86. It has all the usual Nseries goodies including a 3.5mm jack, WLAN, GPS, and comes with some extras like an OLED screen and an 8MP camera—the first from Nokia.
But something is wrong with this picture.
The N86 looks out of place. First off, it’s essentially no different from other Nseries devices. It’s a standard dual-slide with a medium-sized screen and a T9 keypad (which looks almost identical to the SE W995’s keypad, for whatever reason).
The other thing is that it looks very similar to the N85. Same 2.6-inch OLED screen, same dual slide, same camera configuration at back with a dual-LED flash. The only change to the N86 is the bump from 5MP to 8MP.
While the phone is indeed the N86, it apparently wasn’t always if this video from the phone’s launch in Singapore is to be believed:
This proves that the pre-production name for the N86 8MP was in fact the N85 8MP, a similar tactic to when they replaced the N95 with the N95 8GB. For all intents and purposes, the N86 should have just been an update to the N85 and not a completely new model, which in my opinion it doesn’t deserve to be.
The reason this is upsetting is because it shows that Nokia is seemingly uninterested in bringing an imaging-centric device to market. They did so with the N95, which had the first 5MP camera, and again with the N82 which had the first Nokia Xenon flash. The N86, despite being the first 8MP from Nokia, is not only a gimmicky update to a preexisting phone, but they didn’t even see fit to give the thing a proper flash. Not only that but the N86 also doesn’t include face/smile/blink detection which 8MP phones from Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG already have. And not only THAT, but it also is limited to VGA video recording, when all of its 8MP competitors can shoot at least D1 or WVGA. It seems pretty obvious that Nokia is no longer interested in bringing out imaging-powerful phones, which would also explain why their “flagship” device, the N97, is stuck with a three-year-old 5MP shooter.
It pains me because I love Nokia. I love the Nseries. But it seems as though the Nseries is becoming—or has become already—decidedly mainstream. Sure, mainstream products sell more. But that was not the original mantra of the Nseries, which was to release the most advanced and powerful devices before anyone else and do it better. That hasn’t really happened since the N95. In fact, save for the 3MP camera boost, the N86 is virtually identical, spec-wise, to the great N95.
Compare this—no, compare the N97—with the Samsung Omnia HD. The N97, Nokia’s flagship, has a 3.5-inch resistive LCD touchscreen, a 5MP camera, VGA video recording, and TV-out. The Omnia HD has a 3.7-inch capacitive AMOLED touchscreen, an 8MP camera, 720p video recording, and HDMI-out. See the difference? While both devices are good, the N97 could almost be considered midrange nowadays with those specifications, which is completely unforgivable for a top-of-the-range Nseries unit.
The N86 isn’t much more competitive. Strip the touchscreen, add some more megapixels, and there you go.
Additionally, the N86 is purely a Me Too device—it exists for no other purpose than for Nokia to have something the other guys have. If they cared only marginally less about competition, they probably wouldn’t have even developed it.
This N86 also signals what has been brewing in Espoo for a while. Nokia is interested in becoming a services/networking company, offering Internet services such as Ovi and other things to bring its devices better communication and sharing packages. So far, they’ve done well. In fact, the services an online aspect is probably one of the best things about Nokia right now; it really is awesome when it all works together. However, this has come at the expense of falling far behind in the hardware aspect, where other companies are seeming to strike a balance. 2009 shall be no different, it would seem.
The N86 will likely be a good phone, don’t get me wrong. It’s just sort of a kick to the junk for loyal customers and for customers who wanted something a little more competitive. Nokia clearly doesn’t believe the N86 is competitive at all, or they wouldn’t have chickened out and announced it halfway across the world from where MWC is being held.