I found N: first impressions of a Nokia N97

I received a pre-release Nokia N97 from Nokia SA yesterday to take a look at and test for a couple weeks. The version I received is not the same version that will be shipped but it is probably pretty close. In a sense this is a release candidate so there is still a chance the software may be a little buggy and the phone isn’t really supported by 3rd party providers. I’ve noticed a couple quirks which will probably be resolved by the time the phones ship (I understand that the devices will start shipping internationally in a matter of weeks although Nokia can’t confirm any details at this point).

I have set up the N97 to use it as my primary phone and so far I have not been disappointed in any significant way. The touchscreen is even more responsive than the 5800 Xpress. The keyboard is fantastic and it hasn’t taken me too long to get used to typing on it at all (I’ve been using the phone for about 2-3 hours by the time I write this). One little thing that works well on the N97 that didn’t really work on the 5800 is that effect you see on the iPhone when you flick/scroll the screen and the screen scrolls, slowing to a stop. That works quite nicely on the N97 too.

The touch UI combined with a physical keyboard make the N97 a very flexible and useful device. I tend to do most of my typing with the keyboard but the on-screen keyboard comes in handy in situations where it may not be convenient to pop open the physical keyboard (although I am not sure when that would happen). The device is pretty compact, with and without the keyboard extended. Gamers will like it, it feels pretty similar to what I imagine a modern gaming handset feels like (not a gamer myself so I am guessing a bit). A lot was made of the hinge and this form factor in the “making of” video which I recommend you watch.

I’ve prepared a video introduction to the N97 where I share a couple preliminary thoughts about the phone. The bottom line is that I love it already! I am looking forward to spending time with it as my primary device for the next few weeks. I am also incredibly envious of the 10 people who are going to win one of these devices in the Search for N competition!

While you’re at it, check out my post where I talked a bit about my expectations of the N97. I also recommend you check out the “N97 Fondle video” which I embedded in this post. It demonstrates more of the phone’s functionality quite nicely. I suspect this device is going to meet or even exceed those expectations, particularly when the final versions ship and the device is better supported by software like Nokia’s Multimedia Transfer software (which will bridge the gap between the N97 and iTunes to allow me to move media across easily).

I’ve started testing out the N97’s media capabilities and shot this quick video this morning in my garden:

I compared my E71 and the N97 in a series of photos so you can get an idea how big the N97 is. It does come across as a bit of a beast but when you actually have it, it doesn’t look that big at all.

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All in all, this is a very promising start to my time with the N97. If you haven’t already started collecting answers to the Search for N competition clues, you may want to get up to speed. You don’t want to miss your chance to win this beauty!

Feel free to participate in a discussion about the N97 and keep an eye on my updates as I go on FriendFeed:

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