n95 8gb and the City: My trip to New York

September 23rd, 2008

Traveling with my n95 8gb.

So my wife and I recently had a chance to visit New York. Now I really like New York and have been there a few times in the last couple of years. One problem we always have is finding our way around.

Since we don’t have a helicopter or a driver we usually take the subway. The problem with this is that it’s often disorienting to come above ground and then have to figure out which direction we have to go (remember, we’re not from New York).

Now, you can bet that I’ll try to use technology to solve this problem. The first time (a few years ago) I brought a bluetooth GPS receiver, a WM device (I don’t remember if it was a Smartphone or a Pocket PC) and the Navigation software CoPilot. The combo worked horribly and I could never get a GPS fix. Long story short we had to resort to using a Map.

Later I brought a Nokia n95. Since I’m from Canada I didn’t want to pay for data roaming so I used Nokia Maps (version 1) with the built-in GPS only. It also almost never worked. Luckily I also brought a compass and a map. I had previously loaded the Map of New York on my n95 so that plus the compass helped us get around. Old school meets new school.

This brings us to the latest trip. Before I go into details, let me give you some more insight into how we travel. Since we’ve already been to New York a few times we’re not that interested in sight seeing. We wanted to eat good food. I’m pretty picky in that food I eat has to taste really good. Yeah, I’m the bastard that points out that something is too salty when everyone else at the table is raving about their food. Previous trips, we’ve always been unsatisfied with the food we’ve eaten. The other thing we wanted to do was not spend $250 a night on a hotel. Manhattan is a cramped place and paying at least $250 a night for a hotel is not uncommon. Lastly we wanted to go shopping. I wasn’t planning on buying too much but my wife had a few things on her list plus it’s always fun to look.

First off, I downloaded the maps of New York to my Nokia n95 8gb. I’m talking about the latest ones from Navteq. The maps take up less space which seem to help Nokia Maps 2.0 to load faster. I also paid the $7.99 for 30 days of walking navigation. Secondly, I got a AT&T GoPhone SIM with unlimited Medianet so I could use AGPS along with the built-in GPS. I actually got a Motorola c168 plus $25 airtime for $35 + tax at RadioShack! Thirdly, I went to the MTS webpage and saved an image of the New York Subway map to my n95. Now there are 2 maps, one is a regular image, this isn’t the one you want because it doesn’t have all the streets on it. You want the PDF one. I loaded the PDF one, screen capped it, scrolled, screen capped more and then stitched the images back together.

So how’d it go? It went much better this time. There was the odd time where the n95 refused to get a GPS fix but over all it worked well. The problem is all the tall buildings really mess around with the built in GPS. The GPS has a hard time seeing the sky plus the GPS signals bounce off the buildings. Often times when I was walking around, the n95 would report that I was walking inside of buildings.

As far as data usage goes, getting a fix doesn’t really use all that much data. It uses anywhere from nothing to around 10kb. Searching for places using Nokia Maps also doesn’t use that much data; just a couple of kb per place. Looking back, My Canadian carrier Fido charges 6 bucks per MB when roaming in the ‘states. If I didn’t need to use my phone for other tasks besides Nokia maps, I would consider just roaming instead of using a GoPhone SIM.

To improve our culinary experience I looked up places to eat using Yelp.com. While I don’t mind paying a lot for food, from experience I generally don’t enjoy it more than more affordable places. The problem with Manhattan is that food there is generally pretty expensive. At first I tried searching for restaurants by neighbourhood. The problem I found was this usually brought up the more expensive places. Like most things I believe people perceive things to be better if they pay more for it – and while there is such a thing is amazing expensive food and awful diarrhea inducing cheap places we figured we’d stick to the cheaper places. Instead I searched by type; specifically Thai and Soul food.

To save a few bucks on the hotel, we stayed in Jamaica Queens all the way near the end of the E line. It’s about 30 minutes from our stop to Manhattan (Lexington St). From past experience we keep staying further and further from Manhattan and have found it’s not a big deal. The hotel was relatively new, clean, had free WiFi and the room was a good size. We paid around $75 a night so compared to a $250 room we saved $175 x 4 days – not bad.

So here’s how the trip went;

Day 1:

We arrived in Laguardia around noon (don’t ask why we stayed in Jamaica and flew into LGA). I saved the directions to the hotel on my n95 before we left. Take the Q33 bus to Roosevelt and then jump on the Jamaica bound E train.

When we landed I realized I forgot my GoPhone SIM card so I had to look for another one.

We went to the hotel to check in and we were hungry. We decided to check out a local fried chicken place. The chicken had a lot of flavour but overall was nothing special. Next we went to Times Square to eat at Yoshinoya. For some reason, the New York Yoshinoya doesn’t have chicken wings and isn’t as good as we remember the ones in California to be.

I checked the Duane Reade at Times Square for a GoPhone starter kit but they only sell GoPhone airtime cards there. Later we went to the Rite Aid at Grand Central but they wanted 30 bucks for the Motorola c168 starter kit. Not a bad price but I saw the same thing in San Francisco for 15 bucks last week – I’ll pass.

I checked an AT&T store but they wanted $103 bucks for just the SIM. $3 for the SIM with 100 bucks of credit. I don’t generally travel to the ‘states every month so I’ll pass.

Eventually I got desperate and wandered into a RadioShack. There I found a Motorola c168 starter kit for 10 bucks if I buy a $25 GoPhone card – yes! I activated my account and promptly stuck it in my n95. What’s nice about the n95 is that it will automatically setup data so I can use it with the n95. Very convenient. If you’re going to do this remember to configure the APN the positioning server uses. It doesn’t do this automatically nor does it prompt you to enter it if you use the Maps.

We were in the Upper East Side now. I found a Thai restaurant called Land NorthEast Thai. It wasn’t bad. My Wife’s Pad See Ew was better than my Duck. Land isn’t right next to a subway stop so I purchased navigation for Nokia Maps to help us find our way there.

At the end of the day I noticed my n95′s battery was on its last bar. From experience this is normal. All my HSDPA phones have horrendous battery life if you use them a lot. From the iPhone 3G, to the Blackberry Bold to the Motorola Q9h to the Nokia n95. Some are better then others but all are horrible.

I kind of anticipated this so I brought my Iogear Lithium Ion battery charger pack. The pack has a USB port on it and can probably charge my n95 fully 2ish times. It also has a sweet battery gauge so you know how much juice it has left.

It turns out the Iogear comes with a really weak connector which sort of broke so it wouldn’t charge my n95 when I left it in my pocket. It only works from certain angles so I had to put it on a table top to keep it still if I wanted to use it. If you’re thinking of a portable charger don’t consider this one or any of the other ones like it. I think Sharper Image has one too – They probably don’t actually make it, an OEM does). If you do get consider finding a USB to Nokia tip cable as a backup.

Day 2:

Day 2 was the day of the Nokia S60 meet. Before the meet, I had to go to B&H which is near Madison Square Garden. In case you don’t know, B&H is this really cool camera store. They have almost any camera product you can think of. When you order something, the salesperson places the item in a bin and then it gets placed on a track. The bin on the track, travels around the store via a series of rollers – sort of like a model train. Eventually it ends up downstairs where your order is sorted and your payment is made.

Across from B&H is a Soul place called Soul Fixin’s. I had fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and rice with gravy. She had chicken and dumplings. The fried chicken was good but I forgot to ask for dark meat. The mac and cheese was yummy as was the rice with gravy. I’m going to try the smothered chicken next time. Next time I go to B&H I’m going back to Soul Fixin’s.

I relied heavily on the Subway map stored on my n95 (the paper one you can get for free keeps ripping on us). Now I had to find the Nokia store. I’ve been there previously so I recognize the general area (it’s near the Apple Store on 5th nestled along high end fashion retailers). The irony is that my n95 was really throwing me off because of all the high buildings around the Nokia Store. The meet was a lot of fun. Dean Kammen, the guy who invented the Segway among other things was there to talk to us about how we should think of ways to use mobile phones to better the world – interesting stuff.

After the meet we went to Carnegie’s Deli near Times Square. The Corned beef and Hot pastrami sandwiches we had were good but got really monotonous after the first half. I wouldn’t go back but if I did I would share something next time.

Day 3:

We went to a Thai place around Union Square called Rhom Thai, We’ve been there before and liked it so we figured we’d try it again. When we got out from the subway, my n95 wouldn’t get a fix right away. I figured I’d remember how to get there since I’ve been there previously – whoops. Eventually I did get a fix, turns out I went the right direction but was on the wrong street. Oh well. I had duck again while she had Pad See Ew again. My duck was really lean so it wasn’t very interesting. She claims the Pad See Ew is still the best here.

Now Soul Fixin’s got us very excited for Soul food so we wanted to check out this place in Harlem called Melba’s up at 116th street. Despite the fact that there aren’t many high buildings in Harlem, the n95 wouldn’t get a fix. Luckily the directions (from looking at the map) weren’t hard.

I had fried chicken and waffles while she had fried chicken with mac and cheese (Melba’s famous). The waffles were really good. For dessert we had the Red Velvet Cake – wow, was it ever good!

Day 4:

Day 4 we wanted to check out this place near Times Square named Piece of Chicken (more soul food). We actually met up with HowardForums mod Wranger3383 and his wife. It turns out Piece of Chicken is take out only and has no where to sit so we ended up going to a burger joint next door called 5 Napkin Burger. I can tell many jokes about a business with the name ’5 Napkin’ in it but I won’t. Turns out the burger wasn’t bad. I had the 5 Napkin Burger while she had pork chilli (her dish was boring). The place is really decorated.

Later we were around SoHo, we tried this Asian-y fusion place called Mooncake Foods. They don’t serve mooncake there (I dont’ think). I had this strange steak with green ginger sauce and rice. She had chicken salad. Both were pretty good and cheap (at least New York Cheap). I don’t think we’d go back though.

At night we had to satisfy our soul cravings so we found another Soul place on Yelp called Amy Ruth’s (also in Harlem). Amy Ruth’s is right next to the subway stop. Of course, the n95 got a fix immediately when we came above ground – when I didn’t need it. I had Chicken and Waffles again while she had the same thing. We got a side order of Mac and cheese. Wow – the Chicken and Waffles here were amazing – much better than Melba’s (which was already really good). And IMO much better than Roscoe’s in Cali. Next time we’re in NYC we’ll be back here.

Day 5:

Day 5 is our last day. We actually had to fly out of LGA halfway through the day. We checked out, taking our luggage with us into Manhattan. We checked the luggage at a hotel and went to Union Square to eat. We went to the overrated Republic. Turns out we went there a few years ago but I forgot. The food at Republic isn’t that good but it comes really quickly and the service is good. I had duck curry soup, she had wonton soup – yawn. After we wanted to check out Max Brenner Chocolates. Our friend was raving about it so we went. We split a Munchies Waffle: 2 Waffles with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, a small vessel of melted chocolate, some whipped cream and these little chocolate balls that taste like Nestle Cruch bar bits. It was good, we’ll probably visit again next time we’re at Union Square.

GPS worked great so far. We went to Herald Square to get some stuff at Macy’s. After this we had to head to the Airport. We had to take the V to Roosevelt but took the B instead and ended up at 63rd St. With time ticking away we decided to go above ground, catch a bus and take it to the hotel (at 49th).

When taking the bus to LGA I wanted to see the route we were taking on my n95. For some reason it was all screwed up and we kept jumping all over the place. I rebooted the n95 and things were accurate again.

Eventually we got to LGA with 80 mins to spare. We probably should have gotten in sooner but at least the airport wasn’t busy so it wasn’t a big deal.

So that’s the trip. What would I do differently next time? First off I wouldn’t forget my GoPhone SIM card. Secondly I would get a better portable charger. I would also consider playing around with the GPS fix methods. On the n95 you get 4: Bluetooth GPS (don’t need that), Assisted GPS, Integrated GPS (old fashion GPS) and Network Based. I left the last 3 checked for the trip.

Food wise, we’d also go back to Amy Ruth’s and maybe check out some Thai restaurants in Queens.

Howard Chui

Entry Filed under: Phones

3 Comments Add your own

    WOM World / Nokia »&hellip  |  September 24th, 2008 at 5:17 am

    [...] Howard – he of the Forums fame – tells us on his blog that he has been to New York, and to help him find his way round he took an N95 8GB. [...]

    hoeluwershinor  |  October 5th, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    You buttress too much,i like to let you know that nokia n95 is the greatest product to me.i have used it when i was in los angeles and i still using it but my friend Nicholas wanted me to buy Iphone,he said it is as well good and i have checked it out from him.I bought my n95 last two months from ebay and it is now with my cousin.I like you to link me up with someone who will be interested in getting a nokia n95 8gb fairly used. Just mail me on Atokola2000@yahoo.com I will sure get back to you.

    Electrical Supplies  |  September 21st, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I am Nerdbotatron My fiance is a member of these blogs, so I decided it was time for me to join. There seems to be a wealth of information on here, I look forward to assimilating it xD Hmmm, a little but about myself….later

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