the perfect N95 headset

The Nokia N95 has been on the market for quite some time now (March 2007?) and if there’s anything I always wanted to change about it, then it clearly is the inappropriate headset it came shipped with (pictured below).

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The HS-45 headset with its AD-43 remote control unit failed to work after 4-5 months in use, so I went out and bought a few ofter solutions that never really performed the way I wanted it. Also, Nokia never really delivered a better solution, but instead kept on producing other unsatifying headsets.

While reviewing the Nokia E71 business phone that came shipped with the HS-47 headset as well as the state-of-the-art BH-903 Bluetooth Stereo Headset (for review), I quickly realized that I would want to have something similar to the HS-47.

What I needed to do was to merge my Sony MDR-818 earphones with the HS-43 headset I had bought via eBay some time ago. After all, what I need in a working wired headset are the following features:

  1. shaped earphones (like on the MDR-818 or the BH-903)
  2. an angled 3,5mm plug because the audio/video jack is on the side of the N95 (contrary to many other current Nokia phones who have it on top)
  3. a microphone located at the mouth and not on the chest
  4. some sort of volume control

So there I went, cutting the 10,- EUR Sony earphones into pieces and opening up the control unit on the HS-43…

some of the tools: a soldering iron (maybe not this Weller as it takes ages to heat up), old Sony MDR-818 earphones, Nokia HS-43 headset

HS-43 control unit opened up

unsolder L+ / L- and R+ / R- to remove the existing earphones + also remove the brass clip on the cable

trim the “new” earphones to the desired length and solder them onto the PCB, refix the brass clip to provide a strain relief on the cable (important!)

Et voilá – JKE’s own headset for the N95 that fulfills all the open issues I ever had with other headsets. Nice!

@ Nokia: PLEASE change your headset policy and – if you don’t want to equip your shipped handsets with decent headsets due to marketing reasons – at least provide us with better alternatives. Headsets are a commodity, and will as such always brake at one point.

JKE’s Nokia E71 review: (4) the fine print

The E71 is a business phone.

Having said that, it is also suited for those users who actually have to cough up some savings and are looking for a decent mobile workhorse. As opposed to an iPhone (no tactile feedback) or another QWERTY-equipped Windows Mobile phone, the E71 comes with the perfect mixture of (a) usability, (b) design, (c) built quality and (d) connectivity.

However, it still has some flaws that need to be mentioned here and may partly be changed by upcoming firmware upgrades.


Coming from a Nokia N95, I am of course already spoiled in terms of multimedia functionality. And this although I am one of those users who prefer the business functions over to the multimedia capability. I primarily use my N95 for reading e-mails on the train, listening to some music and taking a few snapshots from time to time (even in macro mode, which is quite decent on the N95). Reasons enough to allow a direct comparison of the E71 with my N95. But mind you – the following observations aren’t meant to be a comparison alone!

Continue reading “JKE’s Nokia E71 review: (4) the fine print”

JKE’s Nokia E71 review: (1) mobile blogging

“I just hope it doesn’t arrive when I’m around”, she said. “…coz you’d spend more time with it than with me”.


Donna of WomWorld/Nokia contacted me the other day, asking if I’d be interested in testing the Nokia E71 business phone as a blogger. What a rhetorical question…


[disclaimer: this post is REALLY long! You’ve been warned! :-)]

Continue reading “JKE’s Nokia E71 review: (1) mobile blogging”

mobile blogging, part 3

It’s almost one year ago that I published three (1, 2, 3) articles on mobile blogging – and nothing has really changed since then.

Back in 2007, both the Nokia N95 and the Apple iPhone were released – two completely different phones that were only compared on numerous blogs due to setting new standards on each segment: the N95 being a true multimedia phone with a decent 5mp cam, 640×480 @ 30fps video (albeit a mono mic), a (slow) internal GPS module and a really nice multimedia player. With the latest firmware, it even plays flash videos (YouTube & Co.) and has different applications run at the same time (sort of multitasking). The iPhone on the other hand provided a compatible device that suits Apple users – a nice user interface and all-in-one device like the N95 which unfortunately still missed some basic phone tools (MMS, Bluetooth exchange, etc.). And although both phones aren’t the only cool devices out there, they sold quite well. Even if the iPhone doesnt feature all these special goodies the N95 comes with, Apple’s phone still has the best browser on a mobile phone.


GoogleReader on my N95…

Back in 2007 I had bought the N95 because the music player on my Nokia 6230i had constantly failed (due to a bug in the firmware) and because I urgently wanted to have a new, sexy phone. Something that enables a better mobile blogging experience.

And that’s exactly the basic point here: until now, no mobile phone has actually delivered this *sweet mobile blogging* experience so far.

Back in 2007, I argued that it’s a software issue. And still believe it is. So instead of buying new phones, a systematic adjustment between the phone’s software (firmware & single programmes) and your blogging platform (WordPress, Vox, Typepad, etc.) comes into mind.

Sure, there’s this WP iPhone app some of us have tested some time ago, but still: it doesnt work that well, and it doesn’t provide a similar experience we’re having online on our laptop, surfing the net with decent browsers on bigger screens with full JavaScript support etc..

And this – I believe – is also one of the many reasons for the success of Twitter. Twitter just filled that gap on mobile blogging, phone manufacturers have failed on providing. Why? Because that special Twitter experience is the same whether you’re online via a browser window on your laptop, use it via an extra widget somewhere on the desktop, have it run as a stand-alone utility on S60 & iPhone platforms or just use SMS (for sending only, though).

You know I had a discussion with my Minister of Finance earlier this week on getting a new phone (again), and I had mentioned the new Nokia E71 and why it could be an improvement on what I am looking for (~ mobile blogging device). However, with the above mentioned discussion on mobile blogging being a software issue, I am rather confused now and think I should stick to my N95 at this point. Maybe wait for Google Android’s phone being released by the end of this year?

Another interesting developement since 2007 is the success of so-called Netbooks – which are lightweight laptops at 7″-10″ screen sizes, often equipped with an energy saving CPU, a solid state disk and enough flexibility to provide surfing the net, answering your e-mails and doing some other office work. Battery runtime still is an issue though, often only giving 2-3 hrs. Netbooks are currently sold for 300-400,- EUR in Europe and are small enough to fill that special gap the need for mobile blogging has created.

So here’s my conclusion: instead of waiting for the ultimate mobile web experience via a dedicated & maybe also expensive smart phone, I’ll bet on another setup: ppl – especially those in need in a rural Africa – will imho be introduced to the combination of basic GPRS & UMTS (3G) phones, hooked up to cheaper laptop computers such as netbooks.

Not today, not tomorrow – but maybe in two years time when basic netbooks wil sell for ~ 150,- EUR and will also be sold on the African continent in a big style. Why? Because a mobile phone is – although it is often shared with members of the extended family – still a device for a single user (despite of these new Nokias that come with multiple phonebooks). A computer though can easily be shared with others. Here’s what I had in mind:


Solar panels are already for sale in rural Kenya as well as simple GPRS-capable phones, netbooks could be equipped with a free & open OS (+ BT, serial port & USB cable driver package) and it would still cost below the amount you’d normally spend on a) getting a normal desktop pc online or b) a fancy smartphone that just still doesnt deliver the real web experience.

And the best part: this setup isn’t reduced to the needs of a rural environment, but also applies to urban areas in the US, Europe or Asia. In other words: if I had to do true mobile blogging right now, I’d go for this setup (ok, maybe without those solar panels).

Netbooks are what Twitter is used to be to SMS: added value.

cheap lens covers

Note to myself: never change a running system!

I really have to keep on telling myself not to verschlimmbessern any approved system. Just because a modification is possible, the “hack” often isn’t better.

Case in point: When I recently *upgraded* the original silver cover on my Nokia N95-1 to a black Made-in-China cover, I also switched to a new (and fake) camera lens cover – which apparently comes with a very low-quality plastic lens. The original lens cover isn’t that much better, but it still is. Guess it comes with a polarization filter. So today I’ve switched back to the old lens cover et voilá, macro mode has improved to the old sharpness. Sweet!

macro mode with fake lens cover:


macro mode with original lens cover:


the camera story

Ok, this one is for Cgzed and Mzeecedric (CG), my DSLR-affectionados:

Some years ago, I think it was in 2000, I traded in an older Nikon F2 with a 50mm lens into a Nikon F70 – both being single-lens reflex cameras. I went for the Nikon range because a) i wanted to use some older lenses we had acquired in Japan during the 1980s and b) I’d first gone for a Canon model but didnt like its weight. There’s a much better grip on the F70 and with a decent 28-105mm lens, it wasn’t as top-heavy as the Canon.

a Nikon F3 with an MD-4 motor-drive, some lenses, filters & bags

Needless to say that my F70 is still almost in mint condition – contrary to Cgzed or CG, I am too lazy for carrying such a huge camera around with me. I guess I’ll keep it for a very very very long time now…

Then came the digital age and my first digital camera was a Casio QV-100 I had managed to obtain for a relatively low price in 1998. Picture wise it came close to what low-budget webcams are capable of doing these days (or even worse) although it came with a CCD chip (instead of a CMOS chip). Battery consumption on this machine was horrible and just one day it went into early retirement. Although I couldnt get it back to life, I had managed to still sell it on eBay. Nice!

Casio QV-100 with data caboools

Next cam that followed was another low budget solution: Mustek gSmart Mini – which only advantage was the limited size. And you could use it as a webcam, which was pretty cool – back then. This little cam was later on inherited to a member of my extended family.

I think the best part about these cams came when I disassembled them – similar to what this guy did.

Years passed on and nothing happened. Then, during winter 2003, digital cameras started to flood the market. Mama Xmas gave me the hint that I’d have the choice between a bigger bed and a better camera. “You decide what you want, JKE”, she said. “I’ll help you kununua a bigger bed, or you’ll save it and get a camera”. Hmm. A bigged bed? What for? My bed was already 90cm wide and 200cm long – what would I need a bigged bed for? Don’t you know that nerds often sleep alone? …Well, I ended up going for a better camera (and later on inherited a bigger bed from my bro-in-law ;-) => Sanyo Xacti J1, 3Mpx with an internal lens which provides a 2cm macro mode . Awesome!

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Sanyo Xacti J1 (not my hand)

The Sanyo J1 is still in use and I’ve often thought about buying a better point&shoot cam, maybe a 7,1*mpx “low-budget” (aka beginners) cam with some more features. Or rather go for a Nikon D40(x)? Of course, Hash will argue that the D50 is a much better deal, but then: unless you have a family and a baby buggy to carry around, there’s no way for me to carry a bulky camera around with me. PLUS: i am way too broke to seriously think about buying just another camera.

There are so many good cameras out there and so many talented photographers. Ok, maybe some of these ppl photoshop their results before uploading them to Flickr & Ipernity, but still: with todays advanced cameras, you basically only require some decent light and the right angle to take a picture. Of course it makes sense to invest into proper equipment, but if you’re as lazy & broke as I am, something like the autofocus 5mpx cam (based on a CMOS sensor) in my Nokia N95 will have to do. Also, it competes with other 3,2mpx cameraphones (N73, SE K800i) and is a real progress to what I had used before, and especially in Kenya: my Nokia 6230(i), which came with a nice & quick CMOS chip. Alas, if you need to take a quick pic without much ado, the Nokia 6230i is still the best cameraphone for that purpose. In fact, it was more fun taking snapshots with my 6230i than it is right now with the N95. But then – I am using the N95 as a real camera substitute, and not for snapshots only.

I’ve now lived with the N95 and its cam for the last 1,2,3….9 months and have taken most of my photos with this cameraphone. Why? Because it’s just around when I need it. Simple.

…and this picture is even geotagged!

I am not such a good photographer and so I actually don’t even have to worry about better equipment (as i does NOT depend on the right equipment + i’d be happy if i could get rid of the inherited F3 equipment above which has only been kept due to sentimental reasons + the bad market situation), but my aim right now is to see what’s possible with a relatively bad camera / good cameraphone. What kind of picture quality is this cameraphone capable of?

For a start, check out this Nokia N95 user group on flickr.

*there was this discussion on the net the other day where some camera testers argued the best mpx resolution/chip size was achieved at the 5-7mpx range – can’t find the relevant link though…

black is beautiful!

…a.k.a. “things you do when you are supposed to other things”:

Here: changing the (broken) original silver/”plum” cover on your Nokia N95 into a MadeInChina-plastic cover in black.



(Pics taken with a Nokia 6230, hence the lousy image quality. Pole.)

Took me one hour. Problem is that you have to remove some parts like the loudspeaker or the flexible pcb underneath the display from the original cover and have to stick it (it’s glued!) to the new cover. Dito bottom: had to remove the GPS antenna and glue it to the new cover. You have to be a bit careful while reassembling it – especially the slider (hinge) requires some attention.

It feels a bit cheap with the new cover, sort of plastic touch to it as only the front plate is made out of aluminium, but it fits, looks better (imho) and works. I am not a big fan of the overall N95 design (i thinks it’s horrible and looks like a prototype – e.g. no seamless integration of the display) and with this new cover I think it looks a bit less chaotic.

Can you see the clear adhesive tape on the old battery cover? Well, a new battery cover (alone!) sells for the 1/3 of the price for a new complete black cover, so I was tempted to go for this complete mod. Considering that you have to remove some glued components from the original cover and make sure that you don’t destroy any gaskets, I think it may even be easier to just paint it black next time.

this is what happens…

…when companies like Nokia purchase the accessories for their mobile phones in low-wage countries:


The integration of a very very very low quality “Lithium Battery” (Made in Indonesia) into the AD-43 control unit of their flagship model N95 that dies just after 4-5 months in use. And mind you: I haven’t even used it in power-user-mode, but instead only for about 8x / week, 25 minutes each.

There’s no way to open this headset without damaging it as the screw on the back is only accessible once the clip is removed. :-(

The control unit died last night after flashing the internal firmware of the phone to V20.0.015, so I initially thought there’s a connection between a (faulty) flashing process and the dead control unit. But no! Just a lousy battery which promoted the whole gadget to higher glory.

NOKIA! ==> There are alternatives available, such as the Renata CR2032:

Renata CR2032

…which costs a little bit more, but honestly: what’s better? Satisfied customers who will buy another Nokia phone – or unhappy customers who even dismantle the headset themselves because your totally unable customer service doesn’t even reply to e-mails?

Sorry for being a bit picky on this, but there sure is a reason why some batteries do cost 0,20 EUR and others 3,- EUR.