If you feel you’ve been waiting ages for Nokia’s N91, you are right. The press release I have on file announcing the handset is dated 27 April 2005. In that document, worldwide availability is stated as expected by the end of that year. Well, it is now May 2006, and only now has the handset finally turned up. It’s complete with the 4GB of storage promised way back then – an amount that has not been bettered by any other handset in the interim, though Samsung’s SGH i300 Windows Mobile handset got close with 3GB.
Was it worth the wait? Does the N91 succeed in marrying the needs of the mobile phone user and the music listener? We’re about to find out.
Your first thoughts when you get hold of the N91, or see it in a shop window are likely to be about its size and general looks. With an all over silver chrome fascia, the N91 is fatter at the top than at the bottom, giving it a bulging appearance, though this doesn’t negatively affect how it feels in the hand.
At 113 mm tall, 55 mm wide and 22mm deep the N91 is a lot bigger than many phones, and actually rivals Orange’s SPV M600 for overall size. The bottom third of the casing is taken up with a series of controllers for music playback, and you need to slide this down to get to the number pad. When you do this, the handset grows to a huge 140mm tall.
The good news is that you can do most things without needing to use the slider, and when you do need the number pad its small wide keys are nicely raised from their surround, responsive, and very easy to hit.
That front fascia is one of several aspects of both software and hardware designed to emphasise the musicality of this handset: Nokia certainly does seem to have covered the bases and thought user needs through well.
The shortcuts on the fascia are effectively built as a large navigation button, and doing what you want (play/pause, back, forward, stop) is very easy. An off-centre lozenge shaped button acts as a shortcut to the music player software. On the top edge of the N91 is a slider that locks and unlocks all the keys.