Tools Of The Trade: The Nokia N80 smartphone

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The Independent Online

Nokia calls its N Series of smartphones "multimedia computers" rather than mere handsets, and aims them at high-end consumers rather than business users. However, they come with features that no one should overlook.

The N80 is a compact, slider-format phone equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera. This puts it at the upper end of the camera phone market.

But the N80 has two other features that will be of more relevance to businesses. It incorporates Nokia's new web browser, developed using technology from Apple, and is the first mainstream phone from the company to come with a built-in wireless LAN connection. This link should make it easier to synchronise the N80 with a desktop computer or even a server, or to store files on a networked hard drive. It also means users can surf the internet and download free of charge in the office, at home or in a free WiFi hotspot.

This is more useful and intuitive than it might seem. With an N80, you could, for example, keep your email inbox in synch from home or in the office using low-cost wireless LAN and only turn to more expensive 3G services to update and send messages on the move. The N80 asks which connection you want before going online, so it is easy to pick WiFi, if it is available.

But on the road, it is the web browser that makes the N80 stand out. Using the internet on most mobile phones is deeply unsatisfactory, with pages displaying badly, if at all, and long download times.

On a 3G network, pages download quickly to the N80 and the combination of a high-resolution screen and a web browser that is easy to navigate means it actually works well. Looking up information-heavy websites, such as an airline booking system or financial results, is practical as long as they do not require much in the way of text entry.

Nokia's built-in email software is also efficient and benefits from the good display. But as with the web browser, a handset with only a numerical keypad is never going to challenge devices such as the BlackBerry for anything but short emails.

The N80 does have a few disadvantages, such as the wireless LAN access being harder to set up than it should be. But it can still be recommended.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5.

PROS: great browser, wireless LAN support.

CONS: wireless LAN setup could be easier.

COST: around £300 SIM-free; from free with a contract.