The Nokia N80 as a VoIP Phone

Hi-Mobile sent us in the very popular Nokia N80 smartphone. While the phone was released about 10 months ago, just last month there was a brand new and free firmware upgrade that upgrades it to version 4.x which adds VoIP functionality. The upgrade is available for all N80 models, even the ones that were not released under the “Internet Edition” brand. Read more for our test. The N80 is a quad-band GSM/EDGE and European UMTS smartphone running the Symbian 9.0 OS with the S60 3.x front-end. It features an impressive 2.2″ TFT screen with the 352×416 resolution, it supports miniSDs and has 40 MBs of internal memory free. It features Bluetooth 1.2, an IrDA port, WiFi, FM Radio, PTT, a CIF video call front camera and a 3.2 MP camera with flash.

The device does not weigh much and it feels pretty good in the hand, although it could have been thinner. The slider mechanism is not very good, I kept pressing keys by mistake while trying to slide the phone up. One other thing is that the camera is more exposed than usual and so if you leave your phone in a rough place you can seriously scratch the lense. Having said that, the overall construction of the device is very good and pleasant. In the box there was a charger, a handsfree stereo headset, a 512 MBs miniSD and a USB cable.

The N80 version that Hi-Mobile sells is the Asian “Internet Edition”, so I used the Nemesis Suite (NSS) to change the product code to one that is equivalent to “Greek/English” and then I re-flashed the phone using the Nokia Upgrade Suite (NSU). After 15 minutes of work, I had a Greek/English phone with the latest firmware in it.

The N80 boots in about 15 seconds and it greets you with the standard blue-ish theme found on most recent Nokia phones. All the hardware buttons and icons are as standard as any S60 3.0 phone except a special button below the joystick that loads a “multimedia” menu which includes shortcuts to the gallery, music, radio and video players. In addition to the normal PIM applications, many extra utilities were included in the N80, like a Flash player, a Kodak image viewer, Real Player, Lifeblog, QuickOffice, Adobe PDF Reader, Converter, Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard utility, UPnP and a few more. What’s missing compared to my E61 is all the GPS utilities that could be used with a Bluetooth GPS module and some Exchange/Blackberry utilities. There is also a “Download” application that has shortcuts to online packages for applications like ZIP, anti-virus, Yahoo! Go, Podcasting, WLAN Wizard, Gizmo, Barcode reader and more. One important feature that the device lacks is “auto keylock” support, which thankfully can be fixed with the download of a freeware utility.

The device’s media capabilities are pretty good, as it can playback MP3/AAC and MPEG4, but it doesn’t seem to support WMA and h.264 (newer Nokia phones have h.264 support lately). Because of the unusual resolution, QVGA videos will have to be stretched out instead of rendering at 1:1 zoom. There is also a good FM radio client and very good J2ME support (maybe the best I’ve seen on a phone). One thing I didn’t like was the media gallery application that defaults in landscape viewing with a silly animation. The camera application is very good, it has macro support (it is a hardware switch) and it allows recording videos in both 3GP and MP4. Video recording from the front camera is available too.

with flash

Regarding call-quality, the Nokia N80 proved to be an excellent choice, while its battery life is so-so when UMTS is ON and pretty good when only using GSM. For example, the talktime is about 3 hours when UMTS is ON, but about 5 hours when it’s OFF. For non-Europeans, it is recommended that they turn off UMTS to save battery life. WiFi worked perfectly with WEP and WPA networks and allowed for a pleasant web browsing and emailing experience. Bluetooth maxed out at about 85 KB/sec in ObexFTP mode. There is no A2DP/AVCRP support unfortunately.

The part that personally interests me in some of these newer Nokia phones is VoIP. Nokia has implemented the SIP standard and since the latest versions of the firmware it has STUN support which makes it more robust when used with free SIP services from around the globe (as opposed to an Asterisk server at the same side of your firewall). I tried the phone with Gizmo, VoIPBuster, FWD and Ekiga. Except Ekiga’s Linux client which seems to be having some trouble communicating correctly with Nokia’s client, all the other services worked perfectly. I am able to call my mom and little brother in Greece for just $0.02 per minute while AT&T charges me about 40c per minute plus a $0.50 connection fee. Sure there is more lag with these “cheaper” VoIP services than there is with Vonage or a real landline, but for these call prices they well worth the hassle.

In conclusion, I must say that the N80 was supposed to be mostly a multimedia jack of all trades phone — and it is one– but for me, it proved to be most and foremost an amazing VoIP phone. If you are looking at a powerful smartphone with the ability to run native applications and J2ME apps (that don’t look crappy), and you need VoIP plus lots of media support and web browsing, this is the phone for you. Hi-Mobile sells this phone for $425, but you can also opt for the similar, but more business-minded, E65 model which currently sells at $470.

If you arrived at this article searching for a good VoIP handset but you don’t have over $400 to spend, I must also recommend you the Nokia E60 which has the same VoIP/business capabilities (no camera though) and it sells for $265. Just make sure you will upgrade the firmware of your E60 to the latest 3.x one by using Nokia’s upgrade suite or you won’t get good VoIP support otherwise. It involves a bit of labor, sure, but for that price, the E60 is a killer phone for what it does.

* WiFi, BT, IrDA
* 3.2 MP camera with flash
* Good performance and call quality
* 3G support and video-call support
* Good media-related functions
* High resolution screen
* VoIP support

* Camera lense very exposed to scratches
* Thick, problematic sliding mechanism
* No A2DP/AVRCP support
* No h.264 support

Rating: 9/10


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