I have finally been able to get my hands on the Nokia N97 and in this post I bring you my first impressions based on time spent with the device on two separate occasions. At both times, it was a production N97 running the v10 firmware.
BLACK v/s WHITE
I was lucky enough to play with both the white and the black (its actually a very dark grey) version and the build quality on both was phenomenal. The slide was so tight that if I hadn’t studied the N97 online for so long , I won’t have known the direction that I needed to slide the N97 in order to reveal the keypad.
The biggest decision for people to make once they decide to get the N97 is white colour to pick. When I laid my eyes on the Black, I immediately knew that there was no way I would skip this for the white. The white isn’t half bad, infact it even enjoys the advantage of being comparatively finger print free as regard to the black sibling. However, to my eye the white had a more plastic feel to it and looked far less regal.
The keyboard is a hugely contentious issue for the N97, despite it being the first Nseries QWERTY device. Pictures make it look nice and large, however in real life it is not that big. This is probably because the N97 itself looks larger in pictures. So to give you a better idea I took a picture of the keyboard with a standard one rupee coin.
The first time I wrote a sentence on it, it took ages. The next sentence was faster and so on. Its basically a question of the mind adapting to the layout. When I played with the N97 again today, I coped much better with the keyboard and infact found the spacebar to be nicely placed, in the same position where my thumb would usually rest since this is a thumboard and not a keyboard where you would be able to use fingers.
The tactile feedback on the keyboard is okay and the D-pad on the left also does a okay job. Nothing special but at the same time nothing I would cry about. What I would cry about is the fact that there is no dedicated comma key and that a long press of the top row of the keyboard (which also houses the numbers) doesn’t place a numeral on the screen. For some reason Nokia thinks that when I long press ‘Q’ I want a series of QQQQQQ’s. Silly. Thankfully, this can be fixed via a firmware update and I’m counting on Nokia to pull through.
Nokia has actually nailed it with the design of the N97. Its packs a lot in a size that is not much bigger than the E71 in length and almost the same size as the 5800 in thickness. The tilt of the screen makes for very comfortable access to the screen while typing on the keyboard should you need to select something.
I also really liked the rubberised back on the N97 which in my book gives it a rich feel. Popping out the back over in order to access the microSD slot and the SIM slot is a bit of a task, but this is something you shouldn’t be needing to do considering it packs 32GB of inbuilt storage.
The versions I played with were identical to the ones that would retail in India so some aspects in this section will not apply globally. One such example is the applications Nokia is going to bundle with N97 in India. Utilities like Smart Guard, Wavesecure, Keypad Lock (for the swipe to unlock screen) will be onboard with a huge catalogue of local widgets available for download. Check out the complete list here.
While sending across a video I shot with the N97 to my Macbook, the N97 clocked an impressive 184 KB/s. The best I have seen other Bluetooth 2.0 Nseries/Eseries devices do is about a 100 KB/s. Surprising considering the fact that the N97 uses the same Bluetooth specifications as the older devices.
The N97 that is going to retail in India will also come with a case/pouch, pictured below. As you can see it is a slip-me-in design with the inside being made of soft cloth. It also has a hole to attach the stylus to it and I really liked this ability. The reason for this is that if the stylus is tied directly to the phone, it will invariably scratch the device when in the pocket. With this the phone will be inside the case, protected, while you will also be able to carry the stylus along.
Another good news for those of you in India is that the N97 package will also include the BH-703 bluetooth headset at no extra cost. This is suppossed to be true for the first shipment only so I am not sure if you will be able to take advantage of this later on. This move is similar to the one we saw in the US where the N97 pre-order came with a free BH-703 as well. Really well done Nokia India!
Lastly, to wrap things up – here are a few pictures with some commentary thrown in.
(The case is a nice addition, not too large in size so it won’t add to the bulk much)
(The stylus holder is a neat addition as well)
(The N97 fits snugly inside, but since I’m not a case person I don’t see myself using it)
(The proximity sensor on the N97 should prevent an accidental call pick up while taking out the phone)
(Most people hate the stylus that comes with the N97, I don’t)
(The ribbon that powers the screen. Since it doesn’t get stretched in any position, I doubt that it will be an issue at all)
(The keypad lock is amazingly convenient and very responsive)
(The camera key and the volume rocker both are pleasant to press)
(The back along with the camera shutter is something that looks good to me)
As you can see my initial reaction to the N97 is mostly positive. I did not get much time to look into the software, so may be there are a few grey areas there, but all in all it seems to me that Nokia have a potential winner here. Also, have you managed to check out the N97’s latest video – ‘Don’t Call It A Comeback’ video. If not, check it out now.
This is the first time I’ve seen Nokia come out with such a bold statement, it clearly shows how confident they are of the N97. I just loved the new connecting people screen (rumour has it that this took some convincing with the brand team!) and the ‘towering over the competition’ phrase in the lyrics. Killer stuff.