Nokia N97 Hands-On

I have been able to play with a Nokia N97, Nokia’s first full-display smartphone, and let me tell you that this is the most exciting N-Series phone to date (even if I really like the E71, read review). The first thing that struck mewas the size ofthe phone: itis much smaller and thinner than the official product photos would let one believe (uh-oh, someone might be getting into trouble here). Secondly, the user-interface, while familiar to S60 users, is finger-friendly. Thatsounds like a “duh”, but most Windows Mobile “touch-phones” aren’t (See our HTC Touch-Pro review). I will reserve my final comments and judgment for when the final software is released (sometimes in the first half of next year), but so far, I’m liking the direction in which this product going.

The physical design is very solid, and the first thing that I thought was: “hey, I wish that the T-mobile G1 was like this”.

Keyboard

The keyboard keys are not completely flat, which allows greater typing speeds, especially when comparingthis keyboard with thoseon devices like the HTC Touch Pro (read review) or other dual touch+qwerty phones. When you flip the keyboard, the phone automatically unlocks itself. There’s also a proximity sensor that will lock the touch display if it senses that the phone is near your head, or in your pocket. In general, there’s a lot of smartness and the phone mostly does “the right thing”. The N97 also has a virtual keyboard so that you don’t have to open it if you just want to type a short message or a password. The only thing that I found to be odd, is the location of the “space” button on the right side.

Display

If you look at the photo gallery, you will see that the display hinge is really solid. It opens in and out nicely, and has a nice click. The display itself has a 640×360 resolution, and while it’s not the sharpest one out there, it does look very nice. It has a resistive touchscreen, which is supposed to be less sensitive to the bare finger than a capacitive touch screen, but resistive technology is stylus friendly. I have not used it long enough to come to a conclusion on this subject, but nothing bothered me on the spot.

Web Browsing, Apps

Unfortunately, I have not been able to try a lot of apps, including the browser. Nokia is still working on the software and I believe that they want to show it under its best light. Having worked in a big tech company, I can certainly understand that. The expectations are high… As a word of advice, I would recommend Nokia to refresh the design of its user interface to make it sexier. It’s understandable that the company wants to keep things familiar with previous versions, but there are certainly ways to refresh the design without losing years of S60 habits.

Conclusion

Nokia fans are understandably in the starting blocks. Nokia has pulled off a great phone design. Now, it’s all about how the software and the final user experience will be. We can’t wait to try it again. Nokia will have to work out the pricing (with contract), the application distribution method andportfolio before it arriveson the market. It’s challenging, but Nokia is one of the rare phone companies that has some control over all these points.

Tech Highlights

  • 640×360 touch display
  • 32GB of internal memory (can be expanded by another 16GB via SD card)
  • A-GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • 5MP Camera with double-LED flash (Carl Zeiss lens)
  • Standard 3.5mm audio connector
  • $700 w/ contract

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