If You Want To VoIP, Wait Before You Buy Nokia N96

Nokia has released its new N-Series phone, the N96, in Europe. It’s like the Swiss army knife of phones — a very expensive Swiss army knife — in that it does a lot of things, except one: It won’t allow you to make VoIP calls. Apparently some of the more well-known VoIP services, such as Fring and Truphone, will eventually work on this device that costs nearly $1,000 (550 euros + tax), but for now they don’t.

Asterisk users who might be looking to hook up their phone systems to this device via Wi-Fi may be out of luck as well. But let’s be positive, for someday in the near future, popular VoIP services will work on the device; after all, Nokia and its sidekicks claim as much.

In the meantime, here’s what the N96 does offer:

1. Live TV via DVB-H in Europe.
2. 2.8-inch display to watch movies and 3-D stereo speakers to listen to the soundtrack. It can store up to 40 hours of video, supports all common video formats such as MPEG4, Windows Media and Flash Video.
3. 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a flash. It captures videos as well, making it a good tool to replace a dedicated video camera. It is easy to capture short and on-the-go videos with this device.
4. GPS, radio, Wi-Fi, 3G (European), something called N-Gage gaming, and more.
5. 16 GB memory that can be boosted with a 8GB memory card. (Sandisk is selling these for really low prices.)

These features are nice, but the problem is that in order to use them, you still need to go through many menus and press quite a few buttons. I get very frustrated with S60 phones these days, especially because Apple’s iPhone has shown me a better way to get to all these applications. Nokia, despite its grand vision of a mobile data planet, is unfortunately still looking at the world in an old-fashioned way.

Nokia’s N96 prompts me to ask the question: Where is Nokia’s touchscreen response to the iPhone? Samsung, LG and even tiny HTC have rolled out their versions of touchscreen devices. Sure, they aren’t very good, but at least they’re trying. Sony Ericsson today announced a new “panel” approach for its Xperia device — a strategy that reminds me of the iPhone dashboard.

It has been over a year since the iPhone was launched, and Nokia still doesn’t have anything new to show except for some videos. Sign of a company that is, well…yes, I’m just going to say it…too bureaucratic. Either that or they’ve decided to adopt the ostrich approach to competition.