The Nokia N97 is the greatest and latest Nokia flagship, meaning that is the most important model from Nokia. The N97 is Nokia’s second touchscreen device after the 5800, it packs every feature ever imagined on a mobile phone, but do they blend well to create the ultimate Nokia mobile phone? We will analyse the N97 closely and find out if its worth what Nokia is asking for it, a small fortune.
The N97 has a breakthrough design, with this model Nokia abandoned the old form factors we were all used and bored to use: bar and dual slider. When I showed my Nokia N85 to friends and family they did not react to it, ”it just looks like a regular phone to me” said many, the answer with the N82 was even worse. And I don’t blame them, the N82, N79, N85 and other Nokia devices look just like regular phones, you placed an iPhone next to any of those and they looked from the past era. The truth is that the power was inside of the devices, because the devices itself did not reflect their capabilities, they passed unnoticed.
The N97 is a whole different story, the design of the device is just advanced. Not to mention the hinge and opening mechanism that amazes everyone who sees it or uses it. The N97 does not look like a regular phone anymore, everyone that sees the N97 knnows immediately that is the best smartpphone out there, because it looks like it. Lots of heads turn when walking with the N97 in hand, and its because the N97 is just beautiful.
The Nseries line from Nokia always had problems with build-quality, for example, the N85 generally gets a crack below the D-Pad after some months of use, and I won’t start with the other Nseries suffering from bad parts and assembly. With the N97, it was the first Nseries that all this problems from the past changed. The N97 is built like a stone, when closed I was worried about the screen being wobbly just like in the N95 or N85, meaning I was worried of the upper screen moving around while being closed. Fortunately, its not the case with the N97; I slide the screen with my finger in every direction but it just don’t move, is af the N97 was a monoblock. When opened the N97 is also solid, the mechanism that opens it is solid, everything is solid on this device but one thing: the unlock key. The unlock key from the N97 SUCKS, and there is no other way to say it. And it sucks both in the hardware and software aspects. The unlock key is just loose, and after using the superb unlock key from the 5800, the N97 unlock key just feels like a joke. The software problem of tthe unlock key is that sometimes it unlocks the phone, other not. I have to slide the unlock jey 2-3 times 50% of the time, the N97 just won’t start up at the fist unlock attempt. Hopefully all this will be fixed with a firmware update, of course the hardware part not.
– Exterior Buttons and Camera Slider: Screen
The N97, although a touchscreen phone, has hardware buttons. In the front there is a menu key and two touch green and red buttons to end start calls. On the right side there is a camera button and a volume up/down button. On the back there is a camera slider. The camera button of the N97 is the best camera button I have used in a Nokia device, being the N85 the worst. Volume key is also allright, I just have to highlight that the back part of the camera slider is blue, it might be a cleaning cloth because the camera is always clean even though I put my fingers on it.
Now the most important part of the hardware aspect of the N97, the touchscreen. The touchscreen is like a big button, and the most important one obviously. The N97 has a resistive touchscreen meaning that it feels pressure, the iPhone uses a capacitive touchscreen, meaning it feels the electricity from your body, but it won’t work with pencils and stylus. The resistive touchscreens tend to be less responsive than capacitive, and although the N97 screen is less responsive than the iPhone’s, the difference is so subtle that it really does not matter. The N97 has a VERY responive touchscreen, much better than the 5800’s screen, its almost as if the N97 had a capacitive screen. The good thing about the resistive screen from the N97, is that long nails from ladies, gloves and stylus will work.
The N97 has plenty of sensors, it has an accelerometer, a light sensor and a proximity sensor. It also has a digital compass but I am not sure if that classifies as a sensor. The N97 has the fastest time from any other Nokia phone when using the accelerometer to turn the screen, the light sensor also provides a smart screen brigthness in every lightning condition, in the sun the N97’s screen performs very well.
QWERTY Keyboard/ D-Pad
The N97 has a full QWERTY keyboard and an internal d-pad. This rare 3 line keyboard has been critiziced by many and praised by others. We stand in the middle, keyboards from smartphones are all about getting used to unless they are completely unusable. As long as you feel the click, which the N97 provides, have a backlight, which the N97 also has, and your finger does not press two buttons at the same time, which is not the case with the N97, you will be okay after you get used to the keyboard. The only con of they N97’s keyboard, and that is not a matter of getting used to, is that the coma is two strokes away, not practical at all.
Now, the d-pad is a whole different story. The N97 has a d-pad at the left side of the kayboard, it is a rubber d-pad with good feedback but without too much area to press, it is a standard d-pad not too good but not bad at all, the E71 is still the kind of d-pads.
So that is all we have to say about the hardware of the Nokia N97, not everything is perfect. We will give a 9.5 for the two-stroke coma and the horrible unlock key. Now we will continue with the software part of the N97, go grab something to drink and take a break, it might be long!
Software/Features and Specs of the N97:
Where to start? The N97 has everything current smartphones offer, the N97 has lots of features, features never before seen on one single phone together.
The N97 sports a 5 Megapixel camera with Carl-Zeiss Lens, Auto-Focus and Dual-Led Flash. Since my first shot with the Nokia N97 I knew it had a great camera. To have a point of comparison we will use the N85, another 5 Megapixel phone with same camera specs. When comparing a shot from both smartphones, we can see that the N97 has more color, look at the green of the car with flash from the N97 and the look at the green of the car with flash from the N85, same goes with no flash although the difference is less obvious (look at the red from the phone). The camera of the N97 is amazingly good, the video camera also records in 16:9 (widescreen/movie) ratio at 30 FPS which is DVD quality.
One of my favorite features from the N97 is the FM Transmitter, with this useful feature you can broadcast music from your N97 to any FM Radio without more accessories, just turn on the FM transmitter and you are ready to go. Thee N85 had the same feature, and to compare both FM transmitters I did a test. I placed both phones in a car and turned the FM transmitter of the one, then I kept putting it away from the cabin until the music could not be heard anymore. I tested both like that and the N97 reached substantially more than the Nokia N85 as the picture shows. The N97 has a very strong FM Transmitter
-GPS / Navigation and Digital Compass
GPS units are very useful when driving in unknown and even known places, and the N97 is a GPS, a map and a compass too. There are many mapping applications for the N97 but mainly there is Nokia Maps and Google Maps. In Google Maps, the N97 locates itself with GPS under 18 seconds in a cold start, with Nokia Maps it can take even more than that. I compared the locking time from a Garmin Nuvi and the N97, note that the N97 has A-GPS which first locates the phone with towers and makes the GPS locking process faster and easier, the Garmin Nuvi does not have this but is a full featured GPS. The locking time of the N97 is far superior, but navigation is still more comfortable and accurate with a full featured GPS like the Garmin Nuvi. The N97 is a good GPS unit for short distances, for long distances it is still pretty good but you will need a car holder and a car charger, so can the N97 replace a GPS unit? Yes it can, and it does it pretty well, the 32GB of memory allows you to have and download the maps from the whole world for free, and the voice guided navigation is comparable to a GPS. Not to mention the big touchscreen of the N97 makes it a better GPS than some low end dedicated GPS units.
The N97 has the S60 browser with Flash Lite support on board, the browser of the N97 is probably the best mobile browser out there, just comparable to the iPhone browser which wins slightly because of the better final rendering and multitouch which makes zooming a joy. Unlike the touch web browser of the 5800, the N97 does not have a full screnn button, it does it automaticallly and it does it pretty well.The fullscreen web browser renders and shows pages just like a regular PC, you will just need zooming in some pages with too much elements on their layout. The stability of the browser is good, note that I did not said excellent; the browser of our N97 has crashed and closed a few times when loading busy sites, although unconvenient, opening the browser again does the trick. The kinetic scrolling is also useful on the N97’s browser, that meeans that when scrolling the site keeps scrolling when the finger was lifted from the screen, iPhone like.
-Interface / Widgets and OS
The Nokia N97 runs S60 5th Ed, also known as Symbian Foundation’s first OS, Symbian^1. The N97 has a modified homescreen where you can choose 6 widgets to display. In my homescreen you can see the email widget, two shortcut bars, the music player which shows controls when music is playing and the FM Transmitter activation button. You can change the order of this widgets, and you can also choose how many do you want to display. But those aren’t all the widgets the N97 haas to offer, there are more, preinstalled come: Facebook, Bloomberg, Calendar, Contacts, Weather and more; you can also download widgets from the Ovi Store. As some widgets use data, Nkia has included an Offline mode for the homescreen, I personally like to use widgets that don’t use data. You can also slide your finger and all widgets will disappear. What we have to say about widgets is that they are God send, finally we can customize our homescreen and make it ours.
The rest of the user interface is pure S60, nothing to mention here. You can install N97 Software, N97 Themes and N97 Games . The OS is pretty fast and responsive, fortunately the phone has not crashed under the heavy tasks we have applied to it. However, one curious thing we found out is that when the N97 receives a call while being locked, it shows this iPhone-like screen that asks you to slide your finger to unlock the phone or answer the call.