Sunday, July 05, 2009

Nokia N97 Review

So we've finally received our Nokia N97 and have had a chance to put it to the test for about a week, and we even recently updated the firmware to version 1.1 (which, by the way is a definite improvement in the UI transitions of the device). Like others that have had time with the N97, we have found things we love and hate about the hardware and software. But hey, everything under the sun casts a glimmer and shadow. Anyways, on to the review...

Much like the first time using the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, the keyboard and navigation pad arrangement on the N97 took some getting used to. There is quite a bit of a learning curve for those that have not had experience with a QWERTY thumb-pad before, but luckily the inclusion of a touchscreen makes the transition more bearable to new users. The slider mechanism is definitely solid. Strangely, it reminds me of watching Karate moves performed when opening and closing. I don't know how else to explain it. I just snaps in and out of place with great precision. I like the fact that there are so few hardware buttons on the device, aside form the keyboard, and unlike some have noted, the single menu button on the face of the N97 is perfect. USB charging is a welcome transition from the micro power adapter of my previous Nseries devices like the N95. The screen lock slider is a bit "outdated" though. Nokia should have put some effort into developing a touch gesture method for locking and unlocking the phone. Speakers are nice and loud, about the same as my N95. The camera door is nice, but a bit cumbersome to open as it has a very smooth surface. And of course two LEDs are better than one on any device with a 5MP+ camera. The styling and accents of the device overall are very sleek and futuristic. Nokia has done a marvelous job at putting so much functionality into a device that looks and feels so natural. Speaking of functionality, the battery life and 32GB of storage is enough to make netbook users super green with envy. The large screen is set nicely in the middle of the device, making it symmetrical in portrait and landscape modes. The touchscreen works as well as expected, and the device provides nice vibratory feedback when tapping menu items. The sensors give the device a sort of "intelligence" that is quite remarkable. I especially like the built in compass sensor (magnetometer). I believe it will be greatly used in future location-based and directional-based applications like Google Maps and will provide the necessary information for augmented reality to be built upon. Well that about covers the hardware of the N97 in this initial review. On to the software...

Like any other computational device in the world, software is key to making it worth having. It is the heart and soul of any computer, and it gives each device a purpose. The N97 is no different, and S60 5th edition makes it all happen. The Symbian OS provides a very complete computing environment on many Nokia phones, but S60 5th edition brings an easy to learn, easy to use touch user interface that is both familiar and fresh to the seasoned Nokia device user and novice alike. However, the N97 has a far more reaching computing potential than the OS, UI, and familiar device applications. This is a truly connected device, and its the integration with the web is where it will need to shine most to seriously compete with the likes of Android devices, Apple's iPhones, Palm's devices, the plethora of Windows Mobile devices, and etc. The home screen widgets are an obvious good idea, but even this is limited in some way or another. Why not allow for multiple home screens, and why only two shortcut panels and contacts panels? It's a move in the right direction, but Nokia needs to move faster in that direction. The few widgets I've used so far have been very good, and I'm sure can get even better with more development time. The Facebook, AP News, AccuWeather, and Slideshow apps are great examples of how future applications should work. There's just so much potential for software growth and evolution on a device like the N97. The touchscreen, accelerometer, magnetometer, primary and secondary camera, microphone, speakers, vibratory feedback, light sensor, GPS, wifi, bluetooth, HSDPA, and more provide more than enough of a hardware foundation for developers to make some amazing things happen. It will be the software that pushes the limitations of the device in order to show its full potential.

Needless to say, the N97 is one heck of a device, and we are very excited at the prospects of its future. Expect to see a lot of great new things from NET9 and our new Nokia N97 soon.


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