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.

;

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:

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

39 Comments

  1. Sweet, I’m not a fan of this form factor (and the bulkiness) but dammit, it looks exquisite and those widgets!!! Evy * envy*

  2. Sweet, I’m not a fan of this form factor (and the bulkiness) but dammit, it looks exquisite and those widgets!!! Evy * envy*

  3. Nice to see that Nokia is accepting that the HTC form factor works for many people. This includes the tilting screen (as seen in the TYTN II), the comfortable side-out keyboard (as seen on many, many phones in the past), the automatic screen orientation that works via the internal accelerometer built in.

    On of the biggest things that I should credit Nokia on is the USB charging. I can’t believe it took them so long. All my recent phones (except the iPhone) have had this and it’s been a life saver on call-busy days, one charger or PC usb cable to charger everything.

  4. Nice to see that Nokia is accepting that the HTC form factor works for many people. This includes the tilting screen (as seen in the TYTN II), the comfortable side-out keyboard (as seen on many, many phones in the past), the automatic screen orientation that works via the internal accelerometer built in.

    On of the biggest things that I should credit Nokia on is the USB charging. I can’t believe it took them so long. All my recent phones (except the iPhone) have had this and it’s been a life saver on call-busy days, one charger or PC usb cable to charger everything.

  5. hi there
    Do you know when it will be officially released in South Africa please?
    Thanks
    Veronique

  6. hi there
    Do you know when it will be officially released in South Africa please?
    Thanks
    Veronique

  7. Great post! I was thinking about getting the 5800, but you mentioned that the screen was even more responsive no the N97, that i’ll just wait for this monster to land!

  8. Great post! I was thinking about getting the 5800, but you mentioned that the screen was even more responsive no the N97, that i’ll just wait for this monster to land!

  9. Hi Paul, great post and interesting video. I’m very psyched for the release of the n97 (I’m entering all the competitions to win it here in the UK!), but I have read in some reviews that the ‘resistive touch’, which requires you to press down on the screen rather than just gently touching it a la iPhone’s ‘capacitive touch’, is quite clunky sometimes.
    In some videos, reviewers seem to be trying to scroll down a list but instead open items on the list because they got the touch wrong. Did you find the resistive touch annoying or do you eventually get used to it?

  10. Hi Paul, great post and interesting video. I’m very psyched for the release of the n97 (I’m entering all the competitions to win it here in the UK!), but I have read in some reviews that the ‘resistive touch’, which requires you to press down on the screen rather than just gently touching it a la iPhone’s ‘capacitive touch’, is quite clunky sometimes.
    In some videos, reviewers seem to be trying to scroll down a list but instead open items on the list because they got the touch wrong. Did you find the resistive touch annoying or do you eventually get used to it?

  11. I do tap the wrong things at times. It isn’t as clunky as you describe and in some ways I prefer it to the iPhone’s screen because I get vibrational feedback when I press something. I think it takes a little practice to adjust to the quirks though.

  12. I do tap the wrong things at times. It isn’t as clunky as you describe and in some ways I prefer it to the iPhone’s screen because I get vibrational feedback when I press something. I think it takes a little practice to adjust to the quirks though.

  13. @Farhan

    Hi Farhan, I didn’t look at the cables too closely but I didn’t notice anything that stood out to me as an AV cable. I may have missed it though. I don’t know that this is final packaging though.

  14. @Farhan

    Hi Farhan, I didn’t look at the cables too closely but I didn’t notice anything that stood out to me as an AV cable. I may have missed it though. I don’t know that this is final packaging though.

  15. Hi Paul. Good to hear the touch screen’s not too hard to navigate. I have one more question: Does the built-in web browser finally support tabbed browsing? I use an n95-8gb currently and it supports tabs, but only when a link opens a new one as a popup, which I find really strange.
    Thanks in advance – as you can tell, I’m just tying up the loose ends before I take the plunge, I love this phone.

  16. Hi Paul. Good to hear the touch screen’s not too hard to navigate. I have one more question: Does the built-in web browser finally support tabbed browsing? I use an n95-8gb currently and it supports tabs, but only when a link opens a new one as a popup, which I find really strange.
    Thanks in advance – as you can tell, I’m just tying up the loose ends before I take the plunge, I love this phone.

  17. Can you please try out the fm transmitter?

    I’d like to know what the sound quality is like for music on a car stereo. Can you use it for hands free calls on your car stereo? Will nokia maps instructions play over the car stereo?

  18. Can you please try out the fm transmitter?

    I’d like to know what the sound quality is like for music on a car stereo. Can you use it for hands free calls on your car stereo? Will nokia maps instructions play over the car stereo?

  19. hi Paul, in Hong Kong the N97 will be out on 6 June. I ordered the black one, but i didnt pay attention to the keyboard light then. On internet you will see the black one with orange keyboard backlight and some are white, what color backlight on the keyboard do you have?

  20. hi Paul, in Hong Kong the N97 will be out on 6 June. I ordered the black one, but i didnt pay attention to the keyboard light then. On internet you will see the black one with orange keyboard backlight and some are white, what color backlight on the keyboard do you have?

  21. Can the N97 do internet calls like the N95. i.e. does it have a SIP client?

    Have you tried to stress the battery by having skype on all day, using it to play music for a couple of hours, browse the internet and have bluetooth on all day? Is the battery life good enough?

  22. Can the N97 do internet calls like the N95. i.e. does it have a SIP client?

    Have you tried to stress the battery by having skype on all day, using it to play music for a couple of hours, browse the internet and have bluetooth on all day? Is the battery life good enough?

  23. I know there is an on screen touch keyboard as well, but I have not seen any posted pics of it or description of how well it works. Could you please post some…I imagine it will be very useful when you are using the phone in a vertical position and do not want to expand the keyboard.

    Also, I heard a rumor that the on screen touch keyboard was not available when text messaging? This is a huge deal breaker…can you confirm?

  24. I know there is an on screen touch keyboard as well, but I have not seen any posted pics of it or description of how well it works. Could you please post some…I imagine it will be very useful when you are using the phone in a vertical position and do not want to expand the keyboard.

    Also, I heard a rumor that the on screen touch keyboard was not available when text messaging? This is a huge deal breaker…can you confirm?

  25. Hi Swan

    The touch interface works pretty well. It is responsive, pretty quick and fairly accurate. I still occasionally open the wrong thing by mistake but I have been pleasantly surprised to see it pick up small links I touch with my fingers and not get confused by surrounding material. I don’t think it is any worse than the iPod Touch.

    The one thing about the version of the N97 I tried out is that it doesn’t have a full screen QWERTY keyboard. This is probably because it has a physical keyboard. It does have the other options though. As far as I can remember (I don’t have the pre-release device at the moment, I sent it back for some testing) there is an onscreen keyboard for text messaging when the physical keyboard is closed.

  26. Hi Swan

    The touch interface works pretty well. It is responsive, pretty quick and fairly accurate. I still occasionally open the wrong thing by mistake but I have been pleasantly surprised to see it pick up small links I touch with my fingers and not get confused by surrounding material. I don’t think it is any worse than the iPod Touch.

    The one thing about the version of the N97 I tried out is that it doesn’t have a full screen QWERTY keyboard. This is probably because it has a physical keyboard. It does have the other options though. As far as I can remember (I don’t have the pre-release device at the moment, I sent it back for some testing) there is an onscreen keyboard for text messaging when the physical keyboard is closed.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: