When Nokia announced the N95 at its Open Studio event in New York in September 2006 the company was riding high with a worldwide market share of 35 percent.
The N95, which was part of the Nseries family, was arguably the pinnacle of Nokia’s phone journey, emerging just months before Apple unveiled the iPhone. In the press release announcing the product, the N95 was described by the company as an “all-in-one multimedia computer”.
Anssi Vanjoki, who was the Executive Vice President in charge of Multimedia products, commented that it was a "single device - which fits easily in your pocket - can replace stand-alone devices that you no longer need, whether it's your music player, your digital camera, PDA or navigation device.” Only a few months later, Steve Jobs would describe the iPhone as “an iPod, a Phone and an Internet Communicator”.
Memorably, Vanjoki also stated that “the Nokia N95 is the evolution of "what computers have now become” - a phrase that featured in the TV commercial. At the time, few people appreciated what a huge role smartphones were going to play in people’s lives and how they would eventually become indispensable, effectively replacing a computer for many functions.
The N95 had what Nokia called a “pioneering 2-way slide concept” which was invented by Ricky Barnett
and Brian Davidson
at Nokia's Southwood offices in the UK. The original patent
describes a "hand portable electronic device having a plurality of modes of operation including a communications mode and an application mode, and having a first component and a second component, wherein the first component is movable relative to the second component between a first position and a second position and wherein movement of the first component to the first position causes the device to operate in the communications mode and movement of the first component to the second position causes the device to operate in the application mode.
In addition to providing the traditional numeric keypad found on other slider phones at the time, when you slid the phone in the opposite direction a series of media keys were revealed. Music and video could easily be controlled, and this multimedia “mode” naturally orientated the phone into the landscape position which was ideal for watching videos on the phone’s 2.6-inch QVGA 16 million colour display using its built-in stereo speakers.
The five-megapixel camera was a key part of the N95 story and it could capture stunning pictures. It could also record “DVD-like quality” video at 30 frames per second which was something other phones did not offer at the time.
The N95 also had a special cable in the box which connected to the 3.5mm headphone jack and could output composite video so you could connect it to a TV to look at pictures or video. Furthermore, it also made it possible to edit documents stored on the phone on a large screen.
Another important feature of the N95 was integrated GPS which was located below the “0” key on the keypad. When using the GPS function, users were advised to slide the keyboard open and not to cover the keyboard with their hand.
The N95 was the first Nokia phone to support this capability – previously users had to rely on a GPS module (pictured below) which was connected via Bluetooth. Nokia provided an on-board Maps application with maps for more than 100 countries with turn-by-turn navigation being offered as an additional subscription service.
The N95 was also the first Nokia phone to feature a built-in accelerometer. This was initially used to record the orientation of photos when they were taken, but developers quickly began to innovate around this capability. Nokia’s Sports Tracker took advantage of the accelerometer to track steps and one notable third-party application was a Star Wars Lightsaber app that would make the noise of a lightsaber being used when the phone was waved around.
The marketing campaign for the N95 was considered completely exceptional at the time, and one of the most ambitious Nokia had ever undertaken.
Many people remember the TV commercial featuring Moby’s “In My Heart” (see below) which became synonymous with the N95 at Nokia, and almost an “official theme tune” for the product.
Nokia’s marketing team also embarked on a teaser campaign known as “The Riddle” featuring a poem which started with the words “I have a thing in my pocket, but it’s not one thing, it’s many” (see video below). It was read by actor Harry Dean Stanton
This idea was also developed into an award-winning viral marketing campaign called ‘Great Pockets’ featuring a tailor called Henry Needle who specialised in “hand-tailored great pockets clothing”. This campaign was built around the idea of pockets, tailor-made clothing and classic British style.
Henry Needle offered spoof clothing that allowed you to take all your multimedia devices with you: be it a handheld GPS, a digital camera, a media player, a PC, an MP3 player or anything else you needed in your “technological life”. However, should you not be interested in these garments there was an alternative solution waiting for you, the Nokia N95.
Although announced in September 2006, the N95, which cost €550, did not ship until March 2007. By this time Apple’s iPhone had been announced. Initially, the N95 outsold the iPhone but was eventually overtaken. Nokia reported that it sold over seven million units worldwide during the lifetime of the phone.