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Nokia Announces N97 Superphone, Won’t Sell It for Months

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nokia_n97_white_15c_lowresMore than two years after Apple (s AAPL) launched the iPhone, and months after its rivals launched their versions of touchscreen phones, Nokia (s NOK) today started selling a touchscreen phone (5800 XpressMusic) and announced the N97 superphone, which has a touch screen and a keyboard and will be made available sometime in the second quarter of 2009. Maybe. Despite the collective oohs and aahs that can be found on the Internet, however, it would take a lot more for Nokia to beat its competitors, especially Apple and its iPhone. You can buy the Xpress device, which was first announced in October, for $314 unsubsidized, though in India and Russia the prices are higher. As for the 5800 Xpress, a friend of mine recently brought one to the U.S. and after I played around with it for an hour, my response was meh! The touch was OK, just like it’s OK on any other device, but it’s not as responsive as the iPhone. So no, it’s not an iPhone killer, not by any means.

nokia_n97_group_05_lowres The N97 however, seems, like a worthy competitor — in an Aston Martin vs. Infiniti sort of a way, at least. I am withholding further judgment until I’ve had some time to play around with it.

The N97 is a Symbian S60 touchscreen device with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 5-megapixel camera and 32 GB of on-board memory (the Prada II has similar touch-with-a-QWERTY keyboard approach); it also features an upgraded version of Nokia Maps LG. You can bump up the memory by adding a 16 GB microSD card. It features a large 3.5″ touch display with 640 X 480 resolution. And yes, it will be sold in the U.S., where it’s going to cost $650; it will go on sale in June 2009 (specifically June 29, 2009, according to the company). One of its more attractive features is this concept of “social location.”

With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is. The Nokia N97 makes it easy to update social networks automatically with real-time information, giving approved friends the ability to update their ‘status’ and share their ‘social location’ as well as related pictures or videos.

They are taking a cue from other phone makers, like INQ Mobile, which have already released their version of Facebook phones and are finding early success with them. (Scoble has a hands on review of the phone from a social perspective.) From the looks of it, this is an impressive entry. My frustration with Nokia phones is that they are either underpowered or are hampered by the S60 OS, which is not very reliable and makes the phones crash all the time. (Well, more than my iPhone and less than Windows Mobile.) (Related post: Symbian, iPhone and the New Mobile Reality.)

The very fact that Nokia is only now getting out touchscreen phones shows that as a company it is stuck in bureaucratic quicksand, with a culture of consensus that makes it difficult to respond to new challenges. Nokia — and I have been following them for a while — has become one of those companies that, much like Microsoft, is good with announcements, not so great with the follow-up.

There is word that Nokia has a whole arsenal of touchscreen phones coming in the latter half of 2009. Let’s hope they can get their mojo back and start coming out with great devices — especially ones that will make me go back to using Nokia devices on a daily basis. Until then Apple and its iPhone has the pole position all to itself. 

35 Responses to “Nokia Announces N97 Superphone, Won’t Sell It for Months”

  1. Here are my impressions about this phone:-

    The Nokia N97is a trusty reliable phone. Using it for a while now and it is still in really good condition. When it come to pictures we certainly find it in high quality .This phone is a TRUE smart phone OS which means you can download apps for it such as VPN software to connect to your office network
    To sum up , all in all this handset offers everything one expects from his/her cell phone.

  2. abcyesn

    Hey everybody..

    First off, I really can’t wait for the Nokia N97 but!!
    Does anybody know when it will be released in Australia?

    I have been looking everywhere for the release date for AUS, but I cannot find anything.
    I’m hoping somebody knows.. I’ve been on the Aus Nokia website but that doesn’t say; it
    only says coming soon.. So does anybody know the actual release date for the Aussies?

    I came across a website for the Nokia N97 owners let’s help each other on this great phone.

  3. john woo

    here is the deal:
    Nokia makes the best phones in the world the problem that you get what you pay for.
    Iphone has many software problems it is not the most advanced tech in the world.
    nokia N96 is much better than I phone, it does not freeze or crashes.
    in the USA Nokia is useless because phone companies are assholes and retard, they are greedy and monapoley, they want upgrade the network.
    you can’t receive TV or make videophone calls in the USA as you could in other parts of the world.
    american are naive and some are stupid to know the difference.
    viva USA

  4. HI,
    Nokia had touch screen phones much earlier than Apple came into the picture.
    But it was huge and lets say it was ahead of its time. It was a lot cheaper but was not as sleek as the iphone.

  5. Marc’s comment, “I want my phone’s UI to challenge me to think and explore it’s capabilities” cracks me up…

    Personally, I want my phone to work. It’s supposed to be a device that increases my productivity, not a Rubik’s Cube!

    It’s no surprise he has a “custom-built desktop” computer.

  6. Steve Paine

    The N97 is destined for Europe and designed for Europe in my opinion. Nokias content creation capabilities seem to fit well with the Euro crowd. They like a bit of individuality too in my experience. The device is clearly set to outsell the iPhone in this 700 million population market. As one commenter said today “Like it matters to U.S. citizens; we won’t see it for 18 months, anyway,”


  7. This is Nokia answer to…. XPERIA and not iPhone. Thinking is 5800 will be enough to shoot the iPhone out and the N97 should be the thing to shut XPERIA down. Thats marketing and in real life? The high expectations will ruin the party for 5800. As for the N97 – looks like incremental upgrade of the controversial communicator series.

  8. Too thick… too pricey… too complicated to use…

    oooh… ahhh… the iPhone is so thin, priced right and so easy to use.

    Give me a break. You worship your iPhone too much.

    I, too, played with my friend’s iPhone. My verdict, meh. But who am I to refute the hordes of iPhone worshippers?

    I want my phone to be robust in size and features. I want my phone to look like a high-tech device. I want my phone’s UI to challenge me to think and explore it’s capabilities.

    The iPhone’s size and features are not my flavor. It looks like a Fischer Price toy. It doesn’t have an elegant design either, especially not “in an Aston Martin vs. Infiniti sort of a way”. Worse, the UI is so simple that it bored me after 10 minutes of playing with it.

    My employer wanted to take me to the AT&T store so he can give me an iPhone for my birthday. I appreciated his gesture so much; but, I said, “No thanks.”

    For the record my phone is a Sony Ericsson P910i. I’ve had it since August 2005. Also, I’m not an Apple hater, nor am I an MS lover. I own a MacBook to play around with, but prefer my custom-built desktop (running on Windows, of course) for everyday use.

  9. nokia are the biggest sellers of phones in the world and only just started selling touch screans what does that say for the touch screan it obviously is not that important. just a new gimick to help what was a failin company get back on its feet.

    nokia would sel alot more phones inthe US if the cell phone companies over here would pick them up to subsidise them. it is hard to go and buy a N97 for 700 when you can get a iphone or douchberry for alot less. i blame the US companies fo not making them as much of a success in the US and they really should get some better phones.

  10. I like the looks of the phone and it seems really powerful, but for Jeebus’ sake, 2Q 09? That’s a little too late for my taste. By then we should be getting wind of the latest BlackBerry devices, perhaps a new iPhone, a new Android phone or two, and HTC is working some magic with WinMo.

  11. Heather Kennedy

    I’ve only had the 3G since September and I’m decidedly not a Mac person, but I love it. I wouldn’t even look at the Nokia for reasons already mentioned–too thick. I love that I can be tapping away at my iPhone and no one knows if I’m sending an email, making notes, playing a game, surfing, etc.

    The lack of touch screen typing makes it seem too young of a phone for me to ever want. I don’t want to look like a kid texting, yk? Yet I do see the need for a Windows version of the iPhone so to speak. I would love the iPhone to be more durable, but I’m not willing to sacrifice that for the look of a Nokia.

    Interesting review as there are so many factors to consider and success for the N97 may mean different things in different demographic groups or different countries.

  12. Colour me unimpressed.

    Resistive touch screen?
    June 09?

    By then we will probably have a 32GB iPhone with a decent camera/video, and 25,000 apps a click away.

  13. @Om,

    Though I haven’t had the chance to use an N97 as of yet, I agree with Surur here – I expect the N97 to handily outsell the iPhone in the rest of the world. I doubt that the N97 will outsell the iPhone in the US. I own an iPhone, but acknowledge that it has major flaws. Nokia has clearly exploited these flaws, and can take advantage of the iPhone carrier lock ins world wide.

    The question regarding the iPhone is this, why has the T-Mobile G1 and BlackBerry Storm developed significant sales velocity if the iPhone is as dominant as you’re implying in this article? During my years selling packaged software at retail, products that developed strong sales velocity against incumbents usually carved out healthy market shares. Hence, expect the N97, like the G1 and Storm, to carve out a healthy market share.



  14. I always loved Nokia for the best menu navigation and their great mobiles. But here it seems that Nokia is chasing a trend and trying to copy. And this in a bad way as it seems to me. What do we need a keyboard for, while the iPhone has one touchscreen integrated. Why does the N97 look so similar to the iPhone? I am convinced that Nokia makes a good job, but I really doubt if this is a strategically smart decision.

  15. Nokia with S60 is clearly a failure. I mean, Symbian only sold 80 000 000 smartphones last year, vs the sparkling 12 million of the iPhones. That proves what EVERYONE in the world wants is an iPhone, because the sell more.

    Sorry, my mistake. They sell less. This proves most people do not want an iPhone. OK.

    Oh, it doesn’t work that way? Why are American journalists so obsessed with the fruity phone then? Nokia is a proven big seller, so we know this phone will outsell the iPhone, hype or no hype.

  16. its exciting to hear Nokia’s first touchscreen smartphone. their phone’s like N95, N85 were popular models and they always seem to beat in multimedia features. i personally used my friends N95, it had awesome camera and music, only problem it was thick. i m sure N97 will not be far behind in the smartphone race and hopefully they get slimmer in size.