At the Nokia World 2008 conference, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo waxed eloquent about the N97 handset, the company’s highest-end phone, and described it as the “world’s most advanced mobile computer.” He went on to say, “We are, in fact, transforming the Internet — putting in your […]

At the Nokia World 2008 conference, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo waxed eloquent about the N97 handset, the company’s highest-end phone, and described it as the “world’s most advanced mobile computer.” He went on to say, “We are, in fact, transforming the Internet — putting in your hands the power to be more in tune with the world around you.” The device has finally launched, and those bold claims by Olli-Pekka aside, the N97 is barely making a wave in this summer of the superphone.

I have had the N97 for nearly three weeks, and my response to the device every time I use it is: Meh! Since it is the U.S. version of the handset, it works fine with AT&T’s 3G network (if you can call it that), but the gadget is underwhelming. After having used the iPhone, Google G2 (or T-Mobile MyTouch) and Palm Pre, the N97 — its outstanding hardware features notwithstanding — feels outdated. It shouldn’t; it has every known software a regular modern mobile phone user wants: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Maps. And yet, it feels like it’s from a different era — like a baseball player, long retired after trying to make a comeback. (In a related post: NewTeeVee reviews the N97, focusing on its video-recording capabilities, and comes away unimpressed.)

If you have been a regular reader, you know I have had a soft spot for Nokia devices. Actually, I still do. The Nokia N73 and 8800 continue to be among my top five favorite phones of all time, and when the opportunity arises, I still carry them around. Why? Because when it comes to quality, Nokia hardware is always top-notch.

The N97, however, doesn’t measure up. And that is very surprising, because it had been one of the most anticipated devices from Nokia. Most know the company is the world’s largest handset maker, and with this gadget, it could compete with new entrants such as Apple. Still, I wanted to see what others thought, so earlier this morning, I asked my Twitter followers if they had any thoughts on N97 and how it was doing around the world. I was surprised by the downbeat responses. The one that was most telling was from @jonfingas, who wrote back: “The N97 to me is Symbian’s inertia coming home to roost. Nokia’s dominance gave it a free ride for the past few years.”

So, what do you think about Nokia’s N97?

  1. I have had for 3 weeks also, and the os and apps really sucks…too bad..

    It has, as you mention, nice hardware features and a good build. But the general feel of the thing is just like back in 2000…its like its still trying to grasp this whole new internet thing…

  2. william Joyner Saturday, July 11, 2009

    Nice new and shiny Nokia phone, are they gonna come out in different colors?

    1. they have two colors i think – white/silver and gray/black.not sure about other colors. someone else might have a better answer than that.

  3. I’ve also had one for about 3 weeks, and I like it. Feels great in hand, excellent weight. The OS – when compared to other mobile OSes that aren’t as old – is dated, but very powerful still. It needs a bit more polish in terms of the UI, but overall is easy to understand for those that are familiar with Nokia and Symbian products.

    I do wish that it were more of a swing for the fences type of device though. The idea behind the widget’s based homescreen can be pushed a lot further.

    Other makes could take a lesson from Nokia with the N97 in terms of making a powerful device that works for a day and a half with GPS on and attached to AT&T’s 3G network. To that end, there’s not much more impressive hardware out there.

  4. I have had it just 10 days. I am/ was a loyal Nokia user since 1995. The N97 is making it hard for me to continue the relationship although to get out would be hard because of my contract. So I may well go back to my N95 and continue to tell others to desist from it.

    Not enough memory, cannot run more than 2 apps simultaneously, WAP usage drains battery at an amazing rate, touch screen response varies from app to app but not always, Ovi wants me to pay £8 for Gravity for Twitter (I don’t think so!), Ovi itself is under-developed, GPS is worse than in iPhone, just 10 days of use of the stylus has worn out the lower half of the screen. Shall I go on?

    The terrible thing is there is no engagement from Nokia on Twitter and other social media channels.

  5. In a word the problem is simple… symbian. Its a very very difficult operating system environment. No one wants to touch it. With few third party apps its doomed which is a shame since from a purely hardware standpoint it has real advantages to a iPhone.

    1. There are tons of third-party applications on the net for the Symbian, try Google or Altavista.
      The problem is that Nokia used to have a “AppStore” for the Nokia Communicator (The 9000-serie / E90 ) that was a disaster. Nokia also has another market strategy because of its position with the operators / “carriers”.
      So, it was “first” with the T9 for texting / SMS. It was first with cameras, and at the moment first with GPS – all because these creates network load, and increase what you spend.
      With full Java support and better browser (Opera) – the phones should be favourites to anyone making embedded applications. The iPhone has opened a market where Nokia has been for 20 years – with 3rd party applications. It is not the other way around. Google returned with 31.7 million hits on free downloads for the N97…

  6. I’ve just sent my review unit back, and honestly, I was glad to do so. First off, I don’t think Symbian, in-of-itself, is the culprit here – I regularly carry the Nokia N79 or any other Symbian-powered smartphone and I think the system works awesome.

    The biggest downfall of the N97, in my opinion, is the overall software experience. The first firmware (v10) was horrendous – easily the most beta software I’ve ever used on a production phone, and that’s including the original N95 (which was abysmal). The new firmware (v11) helped a bit here and there, but it still doesn’t fix what’s wrong.

    The N97, out of the box, works fine, for the most part. It has all the necessary parts, and they basically work as advertised. Unfortunately, none of it is shiny-wow-new. Heck, it ships with Nokia Maps v2.0 installed – Nokia just renamed this to Ovi Maps and launched v3.0 – with Ovi Synchronization, automatic color changes, and a host of other important improvements. Nokia has their new Intellisync-based Nokia Messaging email app, which I think is awesome – doesn’t come on the N97. Some folks have found it lingering in the ‘Software Updates’ app, while others had to download Nokia Messaging from the web – it should have been baked in. After 3 weeks and 2 firmwares, my review unit *still* didn’t have N-Gage, despite being advertised as having it. Ovi Contacts, Nokia’s Blackberry Messenger-competitor was only *just* released for S60v5, and it consistently crashed on my N97, even after a hard-reset.

    The list goes on and on and on. The N97 is a beautiful handset, and on paper, it’ll blow your mind. Unfortunately, as usual, Nokia simply couldn’t execute the software side, which is a darn shame. The N97 *should* have been Nokia’s ‘Ovi Phone’, much like Android has pretty much all of Google baked right in. Ovi is 2 years old this August, and we have yet to see a phone that is really ‘Ovi-fied’.

    1. Hey guys, can anybody tell me how much RAM is free when you buy the N97, coz mine is showing only 5 mb free at any time..

      Also is there any issue with network on N97, coz it always fluctuates.

      Pls reply soon,

      1. phone mem. should be around 20 or 25mb’s. mine fluctuates a bit as well though. not much u can do about it. it seems everyone has different probs I’ve noticed I dont have the issues most people have, but I cant see who’s texting, it jus shows the # and not the name even though it’s usually 1 of my contacts( who wants to memorize a bunch of phone #’s)and my key guard is finicky. The network shouldnt fluctuate rapidly(thats a big problem) but occationaly is normal it may be your service provider and/or your internet connec.

  7. [...] Om Malik / GigaOM – The N97, however doesn’t measure up. [...]

  8. Agreed the UI feels dated but the home screen with widgets is excellent, all the information you need without having to open an application. It would be even better if you could have multiple home screens accessed through the touch swipe of the screen. Guaranteed Apple will include widgets like this in a future version of the iPhone as they drip feed features to keep people upgrading their phones. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone has an amazing UI and is a great phone but the way the market is tied up in the US is a disgrace.

    The most disappointing thing about the phone is Nokia’s marketing/Public Relations/support. The Ovis store is woefully immature lacking basic features like re-download support and for us Mac users we are still waiting for a N97 iSync plug-in to sync our PIM data. Like any new device there are always going to be problems that generally can be fixed by firmware updates, the dissapointment is that Nokia are just not doing a good job of managing the perception of the device.

  9. I had the device on loan for just over two weeks and gave it a mixed review. I don’t think Symbian S60 5th Edition is as bad as everybody makes out, and if you’re a previous Nokia user it’s all very familiar. Battery life seemed better than iPhone and Android devices (I have the HTC Magic / T-Mobile myTouch right now) and the camera is really nice. I also love the N97’s form factor with its 35 degree tilt etc. but the keyboard is not up to par as it should be (like the trusty E71). On the downside, I just don’t understand why Nokia stuck with a resistive touch screen and because 5th edition is still quite new, there is a lack of 3rd party apps, although this will improve. The homescreen widgets are where all phones should be heading and are fully customizable. The biggest issue with the N97, however, is that is does lots but doesn’t do any of it ‘best of class’, aside possibly from the camera’s optics. A really good example is the browser, which works fine but is slow and clunky.

    One thing to consider if you’re reading this in the states, is that the N97 in the UK can be had for free on a £35-40 a month contract. That’s not a bad deal IMHO. Comparable to Android (HTC Magic) but less than iPhone.



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