Thoughts on the Nokia N97

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.

18 Comments For This Post

  1. kornel says:

    u will probably end up getting one anyways chippy ;)

  2. Wolle says:

    My opinion: Nice try Nokia!

    But I won’t consider to buy it because of the following:

    – webbrowsing experience on the N95 wasn’t the best and I don’t think the browser changed a lot.
    Im not talking about screen-size/resolution, its about speed, usability and compatibility.

    – on board E-Mail client on the N95 was not very useful – that might have changed now (I’m pretty sure)

    It looks like for Nokia trying to get the iphone touch feeling to the symbian os but looks for me a bit “superimposed”. You can see that in there product videos: “Hey look there also something like album cover flow” in the music player build in.

    I don’t have an iPhone yet but to be honest I checked one out in a Apple store while I was in the states and was very impressed from the usability and smoothness (nothing choppy) response. And the browsing experience was the best I’ve ever had on a mobile device.

    I used my N95 now for almost 2 years – of course with some additional programs you can everything what you want – but you need to pay for that.

    Thats just my opinion.

  3. alfa says:

    I still don’t understand why HTC Touch HD isn’t as good as N97?

  4. Chippy says:

    Who said its not as good?

  5. kornel says:

    because it runs windows mobile. and you either love windows mobile or hate it. oh and this has a ohysical keyboard.

  6. doc_oli says:

    I own a HTC touch pro for some months now (after owning several Nokia devices during the last decade, the last one was a E61i) and I don’t see the big step being made with the N97? Do I miss something? Comparing the specs of the HTC touch pro and the N97, I don’t see too many differences. Ok, the camera will be better and it has more memory, but apart from that? I guess it is a reasonable phone/mid/… but not a real breakthrough. A small comment: one important reason for me to change to a Windows Mobile device was that I really needed a VPN connection. I was not able to have that for my Nokia phone and with the HTC it took me 10 minutes to establish it.

  7. chris_ah1 says:

    Either way the biggest issue after nokia getting it working properly, and 3rd party software providors updating their applications, is the pace of the device. It can do everything, but if it is sluggish like the blackberry Storm, iphone 2 or Xperia then :(

  8. Will says:

    The iPod Touch 2G’s 533 MHz CPU shows that it is possible to get good browsing performance on the current ARM11 devices IF the browser if well optimised.

    The S60 browser is slow and the updated touchscreen interface on the 5800/N97 looks poorly designed. Eldar Murtazin in his review said “my biggest disappointment about the S60 5th edition is its browser” and “Apple’s browser literally destroys the 5800 in terms of ease-of-use and overall performance”. Granted the N97 might have a faster CPU but this still doesn’t fix the interface problem and I doubt it’ll be as fast as Safari Mobile on the iPod or iPhone.

    Opera Mobile’s interface is much better but suffers from slow rendering speeds. Opera Mobile 9.5b2 on my 624 MHz WM6 Pro device feels significantly slower than Safari Mobile on my 533 MHz iPod Touch 2G.

    The Messaging application and its minor update from 3rd edition FP2 still pales in comparison to WM and iPod/iPhone.

    What do I think about the N97… meh. After using devices with S60 3rd ed FP2, WM6 Standard and WM6 Pro, I’d definitely rate S60 as the least powerful and flexible platform. I’d rather take the HTC Touch HD or Touch Pro.

  9. Vakeros says:

    There is nothing that seems better with this than the HTC Touch HD except keyboard. But it is a poxy, almost useless keyboard with only 3 lines. Too much double pressing to put letters/characters/numbers in.
    And 800 x 480 is definitely better for Web browsing. Too little, too late and probably too slow. I do like the sound of the internal memory though…

  10. Pixel Qi fan in waiting... says:

    Did I read correctly that this is expected in Q2 of 2009?

    If so, then to do all that this does, and have a battery lifetime of greater than 1 or 2 hours (full on use), then I since Pixel Qi is saying that we will see devices with the new power saving screens in Q2, then I wonder if Nokia is one company that has adopted the new screens?

    Just a question, has anyone asked Nokia what screen they will be using?

  11. midtoad says:

    Good points Chippy and not surprisingly I agree with most of them as I have an N82 (and an EeePC 701). Doesn’t look like the N97 is a huge jump from the N82 in terms of being something that can replace my EeePC, but… that integrated keyboard greatly improves text inputting over using the N82’s numeric keypad and Adaptxt word completion software. Also the touchscreen will serve to reduce the kludginess of the S60 OS (an example of which is how hard it is presently to zoom in on photos). The only thing I can say is too bad there won’t be a xenon flash on it like on the N82.

    I’m actually hoping that the N97 can replace both of my current devices in addition to my iPod Touch and act as a MID as well as a phone.


  12. reverendo says:

    it seems that the MID is what I call the PDA-Phone… or something veeeeeeeeery similar to it.
    I really don’t understand the hype around the N97. I believe that the HTC Touch HD and the soon-to-come HTC Max 4G both have better specs than the N97… I do understando the the QWERTY kb might seem interesting for those who really need one, but I agree with Vakeros… it just doesn’t seem to be good enough for people who take a QWERTY kb seriously…
    just my two cents

  13. NEUR0M4NCER says:

    People who REALLY want Qwerty will use a netbook/laptop. Even the abysmal Eee keyboard is vastly preferable to typing on a phone keyboard.

  14. Rishi says:

    To me best available today is N96. Best value for money.Web browsing is fantastic. I am using this device and really tracking stock market. its stunning experience in fact i never thought that i will get a device in my hand which allow me to track the stock market on the run. I am in meting or in metro but its never feel me alone any where. see movie in it. listen song and click photo record video see live tv and a lot what can you think.

    Today the best available is nokia N96. true value for money. I havnt wait for N97 or will not wait for it.

  15. David says:

    Is the Nokia N97 screen QVGA or VGA? I have found several sources, but each one says something different. Does anyone know for sure?

  16. Jenny Lee says:

    i got my Nokia N97 from my boyfriend as a birthday gift. i like most of its features and from the aesthetic point of view.

  17. Free N97 says:

    I like this, think I need to set up my own blog sometime.

  18. Nokia N97 Unlocked says:

    Nokia N97 Unlocked Phone with Touchscreen, 3G, 5 MP Camera, A-GPS, 32 GB, MicroSD Slot, and Integrated Ovi Applications–U.S. Version with Warranty (White)

    # This unlocked cell phone is compatible with GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. Not all carrier features may be supported. It will not work with CDMA carriers like Verizon Wireless, Alltel and Sprint.
    # Unlocked quad-band GSM cell phone compatible with 850/900/1800/1900 frequencies and US/International 3G compatibility via 850/1900/2100 UMTS/HSDPA plus GPRS/EDGE capabilities
    # Flip-out full QWERTY keyboard; A-GPS and Nokia Maps; Wi-Fi networking; Bluetooth stereo music; 32 GB internal memory; expandable via MicroSD
    # Up to 9.5 hours of GSM talk time (6 hours on 3G, up to 430 hours (17.9 days) of standby time
    # What’s in the Box: Nokia N97, Nokia Battery (BP-4L), travel charger (AC-10U), connectivity cable (CA-101), wired headset (AD-54, HS-45), charger adapter (CA-146), cleaning cloth

    see more details >>

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