The long-awaited Nokia touchscreen smart phone has arrived, providing a new take on the Communicator series with a Qwerty keyboard hidden under the screen for easier messaging. Add a highly configurable home screen, decent music playback, GPS and – above all – Nokia’s intuitive ease of use and the Finnish phone-co could be on to a winner.
What We Like
Although it’s good to look at, most of the N97’s strengths lie under the surface. A fast and responsive processor helps you get on with things quickly. Still, the home screen looks pretty nice with its high-resolution display and elements you can change to show a continually updated Facebook slot or the latest weather, for instance. You can also add thumbnails for your four favourite contacts.
Memory is exceptional at 32GB, beating even the top-capacity iPhone when you add another 16GB via microSD card. A dedicated 3.5mm headphone socket means you can listen to all the music you can store with your favourite headphones. Battery life is also improved on the earlier N96 handset and, the battery is removable, so a spare battery is worthwhile insurance.
Nokia’s always been good with cameras and the 5-megapixel autofocus lens with dual LED photo light works well here, with minimal shutter lag. Additionally, Nokia’s Maps service makes good use of the phone’s GPS and A-GPS functions.
What We Don’t Like
Part of the appeal of the N97 should be the Ovi Store – Nokia’s hopeful rival for the iPhone’s App Store. So far, though, the range of offerings is small, led by ringtones, wallpapers and games. This will grow, but is uninviting for now, especially since there are much better app stores on other phones.
Although it looks and feels good, the Qwerty keyboard isn’t perfectly spaced for typing, being just too wide for comfortable typing. It also adds bulk so the N97 isn’t svelte (though, really, not stout either). The touchscreen is responsive, but it uses a pressure-sensitive screen that needs heavier presses than the cleaner-looking capacitive screens used on the iPhone and BlackBerry Storm, for instance.
Internet browsing is indifferent at best as the built-in Nokia browser is showing signs of age. Zooming in and out of a web page is a cumbersome process, slowing things down further. We recommend downloading the Opera Mini browser.
Nokia’s phones are reliable, solid and exceptionally accessible. There will be many people who’ve held back from touchscreen phones because they didn’t want to lose the Nokia user-friendliness. The N97 is a good phone, with lots of good features, but the resistive touchscreen, lacklustre Ovi app store and ageing browser are disappointing.