A few weeks, perhaps even almost a few months ago, Nokia introduced their flagship handset, the Nokia N97. I’m not a die hard Nokia fan, but what little I did see about the N97 before the official announcement had me relatively excited, and some what happy that the Finish phone company was truly taking the touchscreen smartphone game seriously. That is until I actually played with it. After spending some weeks with the N97 it’s most certainly a decent device, but it’s far from a game changer for the industry or the Nokia brand.
So at this point everyone and their mother knows that Apple has set the touchscreen smartphone bar with the iPhone. While I want to resist the comparison, you know there is just no freaking way.
Out of the box it’s very apparent just how chunky the N97. I don’t wear emo skinny jeans and this handset is very snug in my pocket. So much so in fact that I opted to not carry it with me when I went out to dinner and a few drinks. And believe me, I’m the first to take out the latest kit in the hopes of garnering a comment and striking up a gadget conversation.
But, the N97′s size is within reason. Hidden beneath its touchscreen is a QWERTY keyboard. It took some getting use to the sliding/flipping the screen up to reveal the keypad as the hinge is angled and requires one smooth motion. Fear not, it will only take you a day or two to get acclimated. But the hinge is the least of the keyboard’s problems. In Nokia’s infinite amount of wisdom they placed the d-pad on the left of the keyboard. Last time I checked the majority of humans are right handed, but perhaps that statistic has changed and Nokia is on to something. Additionally, the space bar is off center and shrunken to an almost useless size. Despite those issues the keys are responsive, but after using the iPhone’s touchscreen to hammer out emails I don’t think I can ever go back. For those of you looking for a tactile response the N97 can surely deliver it.
And speaking of tactile, and something the iPhone sorely lacks, is the haptic feedback screen. It’s probably a slight battery eater, but N97 can vibrate to indicate when you’ve pressed an on screen key. This is a feature I don’t mind, but most certainly don’t need and is probably something you can find on other Nokia touchscreen phones running the Symbian OS (I think).
The Nokia N97 comes installed with Symbian 60. The OS is widely used by millions of people and now I know why misery loves company. In order to change, oh say a ringtone setting, you’ll have to navigate and scroll through an endless array of menus. Just changing a network setting requires a degree in rocket science, or someone like me, whose never spent a ton of time with the Symbian OS, would be led to believe.
Touchscreen wise the N97 is more flash than function. It lacks any multitouch abilities so any functions that would have been performed using a directional pad are just sped up in their execution, not enhanced. An unfamiliar Symbian user like me even found it challenging to dial a phone number that wasn’t stored in the the phone’s contact list and the home’s screen widget selection, although useful – there are things like Facebook and Weather – seemed to have a hard time staying logged in or pulling down the correct data.
The saving grace of the N97 is in its optics. On the back of the phone is a 5 megapixel sensor, while the screen side includes a low rez camera for video conferencing calls and the occasional but grainy self portrait photo. Snapping night photos, although not standalone camera quality, still sufficed thanks to the built-in LED flash. The video setting, while decent, is a bit muddled by noise and has a hard time producing crystal clear sound, something that can be easily over looked in favor of the still picture quality.
Battery wise the N97 is solid and for most users they should be able to get a few days out of the device on a single charge. Other features that are worth noting is the dedicated camera button – it activates the shutter and turns the camera on in those celebrity run in moments – and the dedicated home key.
So by now you can tell I’m not a huge fan of Nokia’s N97. For a company of such size and prowess I really did expect more and perhaps that best explains my dismay with the handset. I’m still and will forever be a fan of Nokia as I believe they make solid, long lasting phones but their attempt at a touch centric device is more in vein and playing catch up with the market. They’ve most certainly nailed it from an optic’s perspective but the core phone features, aside from battery life, fall short.
- Full QWERTY keyboard
- Bright screen
- Fantastic 5 megapixel camera
- Chunky, tight for slim pockets
- Touchscreen is clunky
- QWERTY keyboard space bar small & off center