Mobile content creation tool, anyone?
Review Nokia's flagship phone for 2009, the N97 has set sail – backed by marketing expenditure the size of an African nation's health budget. But it's barely got out of port before hitting stormy waters. Some of the disappointment expressed on the web – from phone fan sites and bloggers – is fair; some of it is baffling, but much of it is self-inflicted. Nokia has hyped the N97 intensely, even pitching it head-to-head against Apple's iPhone 3G S, with identical UK launch times.
After putting the N97 through a range of practical, real-world situations, the controversy looks a little paradoxical. The N97 is, indeed, flawed in parts, with a UI chosen through necessity that, painfully, lacks the sheen and lustre of today's top-of-the-range smartphones. Yet, like the Mondeo, it nevertheless does a commendable job at what's asked of it. You can do a lot worse in the £30-£40 monthly contract price range than the N97.
Nevertheless, it's expensive and currently, quite buggy – waiting for firmware updates is recommended. So why the fuss? The N97 is the first Nokia touchscreen device with a full Qwerty keyboard to reach the market. Six years ago Nokia abandoned what would have been its first touchscreen Qwerty Communicator, based on the Hildon UI, just before launch. This appeared as the short-lived ‘Series 90’ UI, which shipped in just one phone, but is now better known as the user interface for the Nokia Internet Tablet series.
Nokia's refusal to use touchscreens even obliged it to rebrand a device from a rival – the Ben Q P31, for the Asian market. The hardware design is borrowed from Asian manufacturers, such as HTC. As Nokia added layers of bureaucracy to its smartphone team, and went through endless corporation re-organisations, rivals stole the laurels.
The N97 is really little more than a 5800 phone with a slide out keyboard, a revised home screen and other software tweaks. It delivers exactly what you would expect from that combination – and would sit comfortably at the high end of the midrange on today's market.
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While the on-board storage provided is very generous, the amount of working memory isn't, leading to occasional problems. With 32GB of Flash built in, the N97 provides the most storage for music or videos of any phone on the market; Apple demands over £500 for a new, 32GB iPhone 3G S. However, you can add a microSDHC card to the N97 to expand that by a further 16GB. On the other hand, the working RAM available to applications is stingy.
I have one and it's amazing!
I have an N97, after finally letting go of my N95. I have had NONE of the memory problems described and find the keyboard very easy to use! No, it's not a traditional QWERTY layout but who cares? The positioning of the space under your right thumb was inspired! I have read a lot of negative reviews which I can only ascribe to lazy reporters copying old pre release reviews! The N97 is amazing to use, feels really well made and is suprisingly light. It is not perfect but it is a very worthy upgrade from an N95! Claiming it is just a 5800 with a keyboard was, quite frankly, moronic!
Ho Ho Ho! Now I have an N97!
I can say my experience with the keyboard differs greatly from Andrew Orlowski in that I find it very useable and can bash out texts, facespace updates, emails etc... a lot faster than I can with, say, my iPod Touch.
I admit I'm still learning how to get the most out of it, coming straight from an N73 (it has a *lot* more that's customisable, for instance) but it's still very intuitive if you're already used to S60.
You won't be jacking in your iPhone to get one of these, the iPhone is much more of a mobile computing platform than a Smartphone, but it is an upgrade from just about any Smartphone out there and now I can point and laugh at anyone with a Blackberry Storm. Ah, sweet vengeance!
OK, fair enough. The iPhone has a couple of capabilities that the N97 can't even begin to compete with - it can change colour and you can fry an egg on it.
Umm - yes, I did.
Thanks for re-iterating my comments anonymous coward. You could just try the N97 for yourself like I suggested before you attempt to ridicule my opinion.
Yes, I did register simply to add my comment. Is there another reason to register other than to add comments?
I feel the review lacks balance and I wanted to share my thoughts on the N97, I think it's a great phone. I have had no problems at all with the keyboard size/layout or the interface. I agree that the touch sensitive screen is not as functionally rich as the iPhone's but it certainly works well for my purposes (it does take a little getting used to though).
Taking everything into consideration, this is one hell of a piece of engineering. Yes, 21st Century Swiss army knife - I stand by every word.
One other thing which is important to me...this phone is damn tough. Have a look at the N97 test videos on Youtube to see for yourself - try that with a [insert latest smartphone of choice].
Was waiting to see...
I was involved with dev of a series 60 device a few years back. Found it unintuitive (how many softkey presses to send a txt???) frustrating, slow and clunky.
Sad to see nothing has changed. Contacts tell me Series60 internals are a mess - that's why they're still producing and releasing buggy handsets.
Nokia are still somehow managing to keep going off the back of the 3300 series years ago, it would seem. I think it's time I relented and bought an iPhone - everybody else is trying to catch up, and failing, with legacy platforms being crowbarred into trying to be slick and responsive, but failing dismally... plus, of course, the existnig major handset manufacturers are struggling under the weight of their own pasts in terms of design methodology.
Good review though, but it feels like all the reviews I've ever read of Nokia handsets. "Disappointing".