10 years ago today; before Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy; when BlackBerry was the biggest name in smartphones but nobody knew how to make the most of their internet connectivity; there came a futuristic phone that never took off – the Nokia N92.
What made the Nokia N92 stand out 10 years ago? It could tune into digital TV and even record and rewind live programmes.
Even as 2015 draws to a close, the idea of pausing and rewinding live TV on your phone – without using your entire data allowance – is pure fantasy. So why didn’t the Nokia N92 pave the way for a new market in TV phones?
Nokia N92 as a TV
The Nokia N92 could tune into TV shows thanks to a tiny digital aerial, like a small version of the one on your roof. It even gave the phone a full programme guide and the ability to record – in fact, the phone had a 30-second rolling record function so you could always rewind live TV even if you weren’t recording the whole show.
The problem was that the tiny aerial had slightly different requirements to the big one your TV uses, so TV channels had to broadcast on a slightly different signal. That meant there wasn’t a lot of choice when the Nokia N92 launched.
So, as a TV the Nokia N92 couldn’t quite live up to expectations, but surely more channels would have launched if Nokia had stuck to its TV phone plans. All it had to do was make sure the N92 worked as a phone as well.
Nokia N92 as a phone
To modern ears, the Nokia N92 sounded great. It had the biggest screen of any phone, a fast processor and a huge battery, but at the time those weren’t the most important things. The N92 was big and heavy – three and a half times fatter than a Samsung Galaxy S6 – and it cost much more than other Nokia smartphones of the time.
The keypad was a bit of a mess too. Hidden under the big, swivelling screen, it was hard to get to. And when you did start using it, the buttons, of which there were many thanks to the TV controls, were hard to press.
What really killed the N92 and mobile TV?
Yes, the Nokia N92 was a bit big for a time when we loved our tiny mobiles. And yes, it wasn’t the easiest to use. But the first iPhone had the same issues and look at how that turned out.
What really disappointed with Nokia’s TV phone was the lack of TV. While broadcasters were deciding if mobile TV was worth supporting, broadband and mobile internet was becoming fast enough to smoothly stream video.
In the end, mobile TV didn’t get the support it needed and was ousted by the likes of BBC iPlayer. At least the rise of internet TV over mobile TV means we can bingewatch Netflix today.