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Nokia 9500 Communicator

23rd February 2004

 Nokia 9500 Communicator Open

 9500 Screen Close-up

 9500 Navigation Key

The Nokia 9500 Communicator is the much anticipated replacement for the Nokia 9210i, and it represents a significant collaboration between Nokia and its technology partners to create a class-leading hybrid handheld computer/mobile device for businesses and individuals who need maximum power and flexibility on the move. The feature set is pretty impressive, but by no means comprehensive. It does, however, represent a massive improvement over the Nokia 9210i.

 Nokia 9500 front Before we delve into technical details, it's worth considering a few points. Firstly, Nokia have stated that this phone should be available in the fourth quarter of 2004 - possibly around nine months after the initial product announcement. By the time the 9500 actually becomes available, you can expect to see a lot more smart devices competing with it. It appears that Nokia are revealing the 9500 this far out for two reasons - firstly, to act as a spoiler against current product releases from Nokia's rivals, such as Motorola, and secondly to quash speculation over the future of the Communicator platform.

It's worth remembering that the Nokia 9210 Communicator was announced way back in late 2000 and finally shipped in about June 2001. The enhanced 9210i came out in about mid-2002 - by the time the 9500 starts shipping the 9210 platform will have been in production for over three years. Fans of the Communicator series were beginning to doubt that a new model would ever come along, and the feature set on the 9210i was getting so out of date as to make the "Communicator" tag a joke - the 9210i doesn't have GPRS, EDGE, Bluetooth, or USB connectivity and the fact that it still sold at all was on the basis of it's excellent screen and useful keyboard.

It's clear from the long lead time that a lot of work has been put into giving the Nokia 9500 a push in the corporate marketplace. Nokia have worked closely with IBM, Cisco, HP, Fujitsu, Symantec and other industry leaders to develop applications and support for the 9500 series in business. This represents a change in direction for Nokia, as previous Communicator models never quite made the impact in business that Nokia would have hoped for, and with stiffening competition from Microsoft in the smart handheld device market, Nokia seems to be determined to get it right this time.

 9500 in docking cradle Technically, the Nokia 9500 is a tri-band GSM phone sold either in a GSM 900/1800/1900 or 850/1800/1900 configuration depending on country. It supports GPRS (up to 53.6kbps) and EDGE (up to 236.8kbps) plus built-in wireless ethernet connectivity over 802.11b giving a maximum throughput of 11Mbps - this makes it the first mobile phone announced to have built in ethernet. Sadly it doesn't support 3G networks and HSCSD support appears to have been dropped, which is bad news for corporate customers running their own dial-in access to internal networks. The two variants of the phone will lead to confusion, and when Motorola is producing quad band phones as a matter of routine, then Nokia look weak in this respect.

The big screen has always been the strongest point on the Communicator series, and the 9500 does not disappoint with it's huge 640x200 pixel display in 65,000 colours on the inside, plus a fairly impressive 128x128 pixel 65,000 colour external display, giving the 9500 a significant usability boost over the old 9210i. There's a well thought-out keyboard with improved navigation over the old model, making the Nokia 9500 easy to use for anything from texting, to email, to wordprocessing and more.

 9500 VGA-resolution camera The 9500 is the first Communicator to feature a digital camera, capable of taking both stills and video clips. Although at first glance a camera looks like a good idea, it means that the phone represents a potential security risk for certain types of business - and considering that by Q4 2004 that most new phones will be shipping with much better cameras with more that four times the resolution, then the camera is frankly not much of an enhancement and perhaps it could have been left as an add-on.

It's is a handheld computer that the 9500 comes into it's own, and it can been seen as one of the flagship models of the Symbian operating system (of which Nokia is a leading shareholder). The Nokia 9500 runs on the Symbian Series 80 platform and packs some powerful applications for contact management, scheduling plus a range of Microsoft Office compatible applications. There's 80Mb of RAM built in as standard, and this can be expanded with MMC memory cards. Combined with the large screen, easy navigation and useful keyboard, then the 9500 makes a highly capable computing device. Add to that the easy connection to a wireless network, VPN (using GPRS or EDGE), and a local PC (using Bluetooth, USB, docking cradle or infra-red) then this is a very flexible and powerful computing device indeed. Sadly, the 9500 lacks the more powerful Series 90 OS available in the Nokia 7700, which possibly indicates just how long the Nokia 9500 has been in development.

Built into the 9500 is a version of the Opera Web Browser, and with the wide screen and high-speed internet access over GPRS and EDGE, it's highly usable. The Communicator can also interface with standard POP3/IMAP mail clients, plus Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes. There's the usual array of features such as MMS too. It's more fun than the old 9210i, and supports polyphonic ringtones, plays MP3s and RealPlayer audio and video clips. Optional Xpress-on covers are available to liven the phone up from the standard grey colour. It's a little smaller and lighter than the 9210i too, but still a heavyweight at 222 grams (7.8 ounces).

This is a hugely important device, both for Nokia and for Symbian, but although the features look good now, by the end of 2004 it's going to be a tougher marketplace. However, Nokia's strategic alliances with key technology partners might well give the Communicator the competitive edge it really needs to beat Microsoft.

Initial price without a subsidy will be around 500 / 800 / $1000 from late 2004.

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Nokia 9500 Communicator Specifications


Q4 2004


Tri-band GSM


GPRS/EDGE/Wireless Ethernet


640x200 pixels + 128x128 pixels, 64k colours


640x480 pixels


Large, PDA-style device
148x57x24mm / 222 grams









Battery life:

4-6 hours talk / 7-12 days standby


Symbian Series 80

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