Nokia N97 Mini
Review Nokia’s Symbian-driven N97 smart phone came out in the summer to rather mixed reviews, with most people praising its feature count, but finding it a bit of a pain to use. Now comes the N97 Mini, a little (but not a lot) smaller than the original N97, and with most of its feature count intact, including its 5Mp camera, HSDPA 3G, Wi-Fi and A-GPS, though it now has a smaller screen, as well as reduced memory and battery life.
Nokia's N97 Mini: supports the new free Ovi satnav
The original N97 measured 117 x 55 x 16mm and weighed 150g while the newbie cuts that down to 113 x 53 x 14mm and 138g. It's still a decent handful, but where the N97 felt bloated and heavy, the mini is comparatively sleek and tactile.
Above the touch screen is a 640 x 480 camera for video calls, while below it are touch-sensitive call start and stop buttons, plus a distinctive, offset, hard menu button. Around the sides are a volume rocker and camera shutter button, plus micro USB power/sync slot, and screen lock switch, with power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on top. At the back is the Carl Zeiss camera lens and dual LED flash, standing slightly proud of the rest of the casing.
The Qwerty keyboard snaps open rather brutishly and flips up on that same angled hinge we saw on the original. We like it, but we would have liked it more if you could adjust the angle. The N97’s five-way navpad is replaced with some direction arrows, which is fine, and there’s now room for the keys to spread out a little, making them easier to find under the thumbs.
The space key is still offset to the side though, which feels a bit strange, especially if you’re left-handed. The rubberised plastic of the keys is nice and tactile but they don’t offer much feedback, and we took to pressing them with our thumbnails to ensure we hit them.
Unlike the N97, the mini uses arrow keys instead of a navpad
We were disappointed to see that resistive screen return. It wasn’t much fun the first time round and it doesn’t seem to have improved any either. It’s a little smaller at 3.2in - dropped from 3.5in - but the main problem is its chronic lack of sensitivity, and it often seemed touch and go whether it could make a distinction between our brushed and presses. All in all, using it is more frustration than exhilaration.
Has your brother ever updated the phone? Nokia released two firmware updates (11.0.021 then 12.2.024) wayyy back in july+august which killed most of the stability and glitching bugs, then the 20.2.019 firmware in october which polished the device off a bit and added extra functionality (and is essentially same firmware the n97 mini has used from release) - With this latest firmware your brother shouldn't really be having any sizeable problems, unless he has a fubar unit.
Those are not proper tethering, they are kludges which require clients on the connected device. To tether on Android properly, you need to jailbreak it.
Shame, on S60, you can buy Joikuspot for about 15EUR, and have full standards-based wifi/bluetooth tethering, and work with *any* OS, including certain esoteric embedded things which will maintain a wifi link/have a wireless supplicant, but upon which you can't install client software.
Hell, pay a fortune, and even the iPhone tethers. Android does not, and that just seems like a let down for something which was hyped as more "open". Yeah, I know it used to work, and Google pulled the function at the behest of a telco in the USA, but that matters not a damn to the rest of the work that it affects.
So, meantime, it's a shame, an unjailbroken ANdroid phone does not tether. You can run some slightly marginal kludges on a client machine to get some form of connectivity- but that's not only a pain in the rear, but of very limited use. Having to maintain a zillion different forms of connectivity with defferent OSsen is also more work than it's worth doing. If I boot between MacOS and Linux, I'd rather not have to start up VPN clients and various other crap to get my phone to nearly do something that it's supposed to do anyway.
Ten years ago called, they want their mobile platform back.
The keyboard is the deciding factor
I have the N97 mini, and basically it's as this review says - fundamentally great phone but using it can be a little awkward due to touch screen and OS. But I still like it for the simple reason that the keyboard makes typing a much more productive affair. Not only is it faster (because you make fewer mistakes) but you can you see the full screen while you type.
So that's the bottom line. Why would you want to buy one? Well, hi-res screen, voice navigation and hi-res camera are all nice to have, but not deal makers. But if you send a lot of emails, comment on blogs, or write on twitter whatever - anything involving text input - then the slider format of the N97 suddenly makes it a very attractive option.
Tethering an Android device to Linux
...is fairly straight forward without rooting the device.
There's at least 2 apps I know of - one of which I've used successfully and only requires openVPN on the linux machine - try googling "tethering android linux".
No, don't mind one bit..
The reason is simply that if I am going to spend a chunk of change on a smartphone, I'd want one that tethers with my Linux-based netbook sensibly. The proper Android tethering app needs a rooted phone. It's a bit of an unreasonable obsession of mine. Right now, I have a PAYG candybar, and one of those Mifi thingies for tethering (which works nicely), but there's always scope to reduce clutter.
It's a shame, as Android seems pretty impressive, having messed with G1, HTC Hero and such (looking forward to seeing a Nexus One, also).
Anyway, a fair question.