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Nokia in LA: An Nseries Event

October 1, 2007 in Nokia Phone News

Nestled somewhere in the heart of Beverly Hills lies the Nokia Nseries mansion. Far away from the lights and sounds of downtown LA, The Mansion was the scene of a ridiculous party last Thursday. Food, drinks, Nokia phones, photo shoots with random models – it was all here.

It seemed to me that the event represented Nokia’s idea of convergence – one place for several different groups of people, tied together with a common interest. No, Nokia did not announce any new products – in fact, during the Q&A session we got the standard “We cannot confirm the existence of any devices that have not been announced…” deal. But the experience was still well worth it…

You'd think this was an invitation, but it's actually just a fancy picture frame.

The Nokia in LA Event. In Beverly Hills.

The Event

Nokia LA Event: Main Room

Nokia LA Event: Top View of the Main Room

Nokia LA Event: Top View of the Main Room - DJ

Nokia LA Event: The view from the outside - Downtown Los Angeles.

Our WOMWorld group was made up of about 20 or so bloggers like me, as well as some HoFo forum members. But we weren’t the only ones there – other guests included what someone termed “the jetset crowd”, late-night party-crashers and a couple of Nokia higher-ups.

The mansion was broken up into different sections, each emphasizing a special theme. There’s the N800 tablet room, Nseries device room, and N-Gage gaming room, just to name a few. Going through some of them:

Nseries Device Room

Nokia LA Event: The Nokia N81, in all its blurry glory.

Nokia LA Event: The Nokia N95 8GB - uh, trust me, it looks better up close.

Nokia LA Event: Nokia brought in some dummy phones?

One of the highlights of the party was the Nseries “touch and feel” room, dedicated to some of the newer Nokia devices out there: N800, N75, N95 – but also the new N81 8GB and N95 8GB. Some impressions:

Nokia N81 8GB

It’s similar in size and shape to LG’s Chocolate phone, but a heck of a lot more versatile. It has some very decent features (WLAN, Symbian, 3G, 8GB memory) but is hampered by a lowly 2 megapixel camera. The button layout is also a little different – the N81 removed the Edit key and squished the Call/End keys off to the side to make room for some music playback buttons.

Nokia has made gaming a key selling point for the N81 8GB, and the handset includes a couple demos to get you started (and should have the N-Gage application when it’s released). I gave Space Impact Light a test run on the N81, and found that the arrow keys were a little hard to press and not as responsive as I would’ve liked. The game also didn’t make any use of the dedicated A + B buttons – like many shooters on mobile phones, your ship auto-fires so all you’re really doing is dodging enemy bullets while moving around to get their ships in your sights. It’s still fun, but ultimately feels just a tad bit limited by the controls.

The slide, unlike the current crop of N95′s out there, is solid and opens with a satisfying click.

All in all, the N81 makes for a pretty slick handset. The look and feel is pretty incredible, and the phone itself is very well constructed. I’ll have to try out some more games on it before I can really reach a verdict on the gaming aspect though.

The N81 8GB will retail for $629 US and will be coming sometime during the fourth quarter of 2007.

Nokia N95 8GB

The N95 8GB version improves on the older-school N95 with more memory, a larger screen, smaller buttons, higher-capacity battery, and built-in assisted GPS, It has a more unified and refined look but still retains the same thickness of the previous incarnation (21 mm) and camera (5 megapixel, Carl Zeiss, mechanical shutter, etc).

I have to admit, I really like the new N95. Even though I prefer being able to choose just how much memory I need on my own, Nokia really pulled out the stops on the 8 gig. And the screen is not only larger, it’s also completely flush with the front cover (previous N95s had a recessed screen).

The only teensy-weensy problem is that the N95 8GB will cost $799 US. Ouch!

The N-Gage Game Room

Nokia LA Event > N-Gage Game Room > Creatures of the Deep”  /></a></p>
<p><a href=Nokia LA Event > N-Gage Game Room > Creatures of the Deep on an LCD TV”  /></a></p>
<p><a href=Nokia LA Event: Top View of the Main Room - DJ

Imagine lots of N95s hooked up, TV-out style, to some generously-sized LCDs to demonstrate the power of the N-Gage platform. That’s the N-Gage gaming room. While the platform itself isn’t even out yet, Nokia provided several of the launch games – Creatures of the Deep and Puzzle Bobble among them. CotD was a little weird – I found myself trying to pull the N95 back, Wii Remote-style, in an attempt to reel in a fish before it dawned on me that the N95 doesn’t have motion sensors. Dammit!

Puzzle Bobble was about as expected: nothing in the PB/Bust-a-Move franchise has changed in the past 10 years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the genre, Puzzle Bobble pits you against rows of colored bubbles that slowly take up the playing field. You have a cannon that can shoot the same colored bubbles, and connecting 3 or more bubbles causes the group to fall down. It’s an easy port for mobile phones because the controls are so simple: aim cannon left, aim cannon right, and shoot.

Both games are playable over Bluetooth, with CotD supporting up to 4 players (Puzzle Bobble only 2).

Aside from the CotD and PB, the Nokia people decided to drop in a Pac-Man arcade machine and Terminator 2 pinball machine (which did not work).

N800 Tablet Room

Nokia LA Event: 25 N800 tablets on display

Nokia LA Event: Slingplayer Mobile for the N800 tablet.

More than 25 N800 tablet devices were crowded into one room to celebrate the release of the SlingPlayer Mobile software, an application that lets you stream videos from your SlingBox with any internet connection. Combined with the wi-fi capabilities and widescreen display of the N800 tablet, it’s a pretty compelling piece of software for the N800.

The room also demonstrated the ability to watch YouTube videos on the tablet.

On a similar note, one of The Managers at the Nokia event mentioned that the next tablet would be more user-friendly than the 770/N800. In his own words: “Look at it this way: 770 – uber-geeks. N800 – geeks. Whatever comes next – much more closer to the mainstream.” That was refreshing to hear, since I found the N800 to be a gigantic pain in the arse when it came to digging through repositories for crappy required libraries. I’m definitely no uber-geek.

I do think that the N800 has huge untapped potential, however – and the SlingPlayer is a sweet little addition to the platform. (now if it could only get some decent games…)

Q&A Session

Nokia LA Event: The QA room and a whole bunch of random devices.

Nokia LA Event: One of Nokia's managers...I think his name was Steve...?

In the middle of the event, our little blogger/forum group got the opportunity to meet with several Nokia bigwig managers in the private press room. Some of the more interesting points that were covered:

  • Expect more tablet devices in the future – Nokia is “committed” to the tablet platform
  • The current N95 will not be getting the larger 1200 mAh battery present on the N95 NAM and 8GB
  • Universal support for Nokia products: an “ongoing challenge”
  • Touch-screens: not to be ruled out
  • “When it comes to radios and mobility – everything that we’ve done around operating systems and user interface – nobody is there where Nokia is.”
  • Nokia N95 – Made in Finland vs. Made in Hong Kong: absolutely no difference, same quality and same standards

We also got a quick run-through of several new accessories – Nokia MD-3/MD-4/MD-6/MD-5W speakers, the BH-803/BH-902/BH-604 headsets, and the HF-300 car speakerphone.

The BH-604s proved to be extremely comfortable (not too much of a surprise, given how expensive they are), the MD-6 speakers were tiny, and someone broke off the visor attachment on the HS-300. I would have liked to really test out the Bluetooth speakers, but it wasn’t very possible in the clubby environment.

The Rest of the Event

Let’s see…ordering drinks through the N800 tablet, an N95 photo studio where you could get your picture taken with a model, golf carts emblazoned with the Nokia Nseries logo, being able to meet other Nokia fans – it was all part of an incredible experience,

I’d like to thank WOMWorld for graciously flying me out there (and putting me into a pretty sweet hotel), as well as giving me the opportunity to attend the LA event.

And After…

What, you thought it was all over?

Nokia LA Event: Tiffany's on Rodeo Drive.

Nokia LA Event: The Chinese Theatre in LA, home to a bunch of famous handprints.

Nokia LA Event: Er..rattlesnakes?

Nokia LA Event: No visit to LA is complete without a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.

***

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