When Nokia launched the N93 last summer, it was little short of revolutionary: a 3G, 3-megapixel handset with a 3x optical zoom, camcorder styling and Wi-Fi to boot. But it was also large, heavy and complex to get to grips with -- a real Rubik's Cube of a phone.
But after revolution comes evolution, so can a slimmed-down, blinged-up successor, the N93i, celebrate its successes and fix its faults?
At first glance, the N93i seems to have little in common with its predecessor. Where's the functional matte black housing? Where are retro plastic keys? Colour LEDs and a stylish OLED display wink out seductively from beneath an oh-so-fashionable mirrored exterior, edged with chrome details. Around it, a two-tone body pits subtle silver tones gently against a body shell that can only be described as 'midnight aubergine' in colour. Honestly.
Pick it up (carefully! The mirror attracts more fingerprints than an episode of CSI) and the illusion begins to fade. The N93i remains a very substantial handset, tipping the scales at 163g -- less than an AA battery and lighter than the N93. And while Nokia has trimmed millimetres from the body all round, it's still a handbag (or manbag) phone rather than a slimline pocket rocket.
But this is no ordinary clamshell. Flip up the mirror and the N93i's main, 61mm (2.4-inch) display flashes into life. This has the same resolution (320x240 pixels) as the N93, but is now capable of displaying 16 million shades for genuinely photographic-quality framing and playback, with punchy -- even arresting -- colour reproduction.
'Improvements' to the keypad are less convincing. Gone are the bulbous ZX Spectrum-alike keys, replaced by a distinctly sub-Motorola etched metal pad. This feels tinny and suffers the common problem of uncertainty over which key you're actually pressing. The Razr V3 has a lot to answer for.
The N93i's selling point -- and the feature that accounts for a large proportion of its bulk -- is its hinge-mounted 3x optical zoom camera. You access this by twisting the main screen through 90 degrees then pulling it towards you. Hey presto! Your bulky phone is now a slim vertical camcorder, with a huge widescreen viewfinder.
The transformation is convincing: your thumb falls naturally on to a large record button, surrounded by an intuitive zoom rocker. The soft keys on the display access shooting options and a tiny thumb-stick lets you zip through menus. The only downside is that you might have to shift your hand to avoid covering up the tiny LED flash/video light, mounted just beneath the lens.
The screen also folds right round to lie flat on the keyboard: it's a good position for viewing video clips but makes accessing some buttons (including the media player) awkward. Try not to get too annoyed by the camera's separate lens cover -- it's so small and fiddly that you'll lose it within days.
The N93i is all about the camera: a generous 3x optical zoom with autofocusing, a useful (but not excessive) 3.2 megapixels of resolution and a video mode (VGA, 30fps) to rival standalone digital cameras. Pictures are best saved to the 1GB miniSD card supplied, which is easily accessed through a side-mounted slot.
The zoom is simple, if slightly jerky, to use. On-screen icons let you swiftly switch scene modes (including macro and night portraits), adjust colour and tweak white balance or exposure. Delve into the menus, though, and you'll find nothing beyond a self-timer. Unlike Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot phones, there's no burst mode, no image stabilisation, no red-eye reduction and, crucially, no real flash.