Thoughts on the Nokia N97

Posted on 02 December 2008, Last updated on 11 November 2019 by

I have deliberately left out any personal opinions on the N97 today for fear of being overcome by the hype surrounding it, but having just had a strong cup of tea, it’s time to put my own thoughts down here. Does the N97 cut it for me as a mobile Internet device?

The N97 looks rather stunning doesn’t it. Its hitting the MID market square on and including Web, photography, navigation, location, video, audio, connectivity and productivity like no other device has done before. Just look at the sites that are covering it. LaptopMag, WhatHiFi, Mashable, DailyTelegraph, UMPCPortal! This is exactly where Intel want to be with their MIDs in 18 months but it looks like Nokia is well ahead of them in terms of design and software. They’ve taken other concepts and refined them too. The HTC advantage had a great screen but was a little large. The E90 was small but not very stylish and the iPhone is stylish but a little lacking in the ‘creation’ of content. The pricing appears to be very competitive (the E90 still retails for over 600 Euros, the N97 is coming in under that) and if there’s a reasonable amount of power under the hood and a high build quality, the old communicator range from Nokia will probably phase out fairly quickly.

Of course my first thoughts are that I want one. It looks like a great gadget to have around and something you’d be proud to own. I have always enjoyed the S60 environment and adding the new home screen, touch capability and OVI features will make it even better but there’s a number of things that I’ll think carefully about before I add this to my wish-list…

Processing power

The N82 uses a relatively high powered processor but when you really want to start using that device heavily and productively, it’s as slow as a dog. Web pages take forever to load. Snapshot photography needs 10-seconds preparation time before it’s ready and its easy to run too many app’s and clog up the system. If the N97 doesn’t make a big step change in this area by using a new generation of processor with 2-4 times the general purpose processing power, its a no go. There are no CPU specifications available as yet but if I don’t see something along the lines of ‘Cortex A8 @ 600Mhz’ it’s not the device for me.

Too much in one device?

When that battery runs out, you’ve lost the lot. It’s one of the reasons I’m thinking of taking my voice device down to something even simpler, cheaper and smaller than an N82. I keep getting caught out with battery life on it because I use the Internet features too much and in under 3 hours, the device is dead. The last thing I want is to be without voice and SMS. The N97 has 4 hours 3G talk time (a good indication of Internet-active time) which is better than the N82 but would still require keeping multiple batteries charged for my kind of activity.

Jack of all trades, Master of None?

That old chestnut doesn’t really hold true when going mobile because having any device, however bad it is, is far better than having no device at all. If you’re a specialist though, you won’t be able to live with a consumer-level experience. If you run all or part of your business on the Web, you need the best quality Web access that money can buy and the N97 won’t be it. The same is true for photographers. The 5MP cam might have auto focus but there’s no powerful flash and no zoom. The same is true of video fans. H.264 in DVD quality connected to a TV via an analogue composite cable is just laughable. I run my business on the Internet and therefore I don’t want to make compromises in this area. I’ll continue to choose a device that is built around web productivity rather than a consumer-level Internet experience. Fortunately for Nokia, I’m in the minority with my need for pro-level web access.

Convergence means waste

This is one of the big issues for many people. If you’re already a DAP, Digital camera, PMP or mobile phone owner, you can rarely step into a convergent device without having to give up something that already does one of the jobs well. Do you throw your iPod away and commit to Nokia Music? Do you give up on the car navigation unit your wife bought you? Do you try and move documents onto Ovi and leave the new netbook at home? I bought an N82 this year and I’ve been looking after it well and intend to get the best VFM possible out of it. Nokia has been looking after it well too because since I bought it I’ve been able to add Nokia Mail, Maps2.0 and Nokia Messaging. The new versions of those software app’s are also coming to the N82 (I understand.) The camera on the N97 doesn’t have the Xenon flash of the N82 either. The N82 is smaller too. I even have a couple of UMPCs here too so although the N97 is looking like great value when you consider all aspects of it, for me it means having to waste perfectly good devices. In times like these, where I have no idea what’s going to happen to my business in the next 12 months, I’d be stupid to waste money like that. [Note: I notice that Nokia addressed this in one of their keynotes by citing an example where Barcelona said ‘no’ to the Eifel tower and therefore missed a great opportunity!]

So obviously the N97, when all things are considered, is not the phone for me. For others that run business on or via the web, or are even pro-sumers requiring a higher level of video, audio, navigation or web support, it’s probably not the phone for you either but for those consumers that didn’t quite take on the N95 or N96 in the last 2 years, for those that couldn’t quite commit to the iPhone contracts, for those that want that jack-of-all-trades single convergent device in their pocket, for those that have bought a netbook and want just two mobile consumer electronic devices, this looks to be about the best smartphone there is right now. Possibly the best consumer MID there is right now too.

Nokia N97 specifications and information in the database.

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