Friday afternoon I took the kids rollerblading at Stanford. On the way home, I stopped at the T-Mobile store and bought a prepaid SIM card for my Nokia N95. Mainly I wanted it so I could get a Fring account, and use the phone for VoIP calls; but I figured it would be nice to be able to use it as a phone if I really needed.

For the last couple years, I’ve carried around a cellphone, iPod, and digital camera. I don’t leave the house without the first and last, and usually I’ve got all three (plus headphones, obviously). The more I spend time with the thing, the closer I come to believing that under some the right circumstances I could be happy carrying just one device.

Of course, specialized devices are probably always going to be better than combination devices. And as an MP3 player, the Nokia is definitely way behind an iPod: it has a much smaller memory, the sound quality strikes me as a bit below the iPod’s (a tiny bit of persistent background hiss), and lacks the ability to handle all the playlists and so forth (not to mention the inability to play music bought from the Apple store). However, I can get a respectable seven hours’ music on the 1GB micro SD card, and have loaded it up with songs that I like, but haven’t listened to much recently (in smart playlist-speak, fulfilling all of the conditions: not played in the last 14 days, not played more than 30 times, rated with four or five stars, selected at random).

The camera is very good for everyday use, though I notice two issues with it: the latency is quite a bit higher than with my Canon digital camera– about 7-10 seconds, compared with under 2 for the Canon– and the night photography isn’t nearly as good.

There’s also no way to get a wrist strap on the N95, which for me is a significant thing, as for me not putting the wrist strap on leads to disaster.

The thing I’m using it most for is a mobile blogging device: basically, a digital camera with wifi. It’s great when I know I want to throw a quick update up on the blog (though just why I want it immediately, I’m not sure), a quick post that I can follow up later. The speed is nice, but I do feel like it comes at a price: while the predictive typing is pretty good, even with it I don’t seem to want to write anything longer than a couple sentences– and obviously I’m not someone who’s afraid of long posts. Still, I can imagine than when I’m on the road, it could be a cool thing: if I’d had this in Budapest, for example, I could have pretty much live-blogged every minute of the trip (there’s wifi all over the place in Budapest).

Actually, I did do that, because I was carrying around my laptop and cell phone everywhere I went. And since it was a working trip, and I trust my ability to take really good pictures with the Canon, I’m not sure I would have given them up for a single, slightly inferior device– inferior not so much in technical terms, but in terms of a couple specific performance criteria, and in terms of my ability to use.

I’ll see if that changes with next year’s travels.

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