MIR: Whatley on the Nokia N97

So, the Nokia N97 eh? What do you think of THAT?!

Me? Hmm… Well, you all know what I thought of the last Nseries I laid my hands on and so when it comes to the newly announced Nokia N97, I approached with a certain amount of trepidation…

And my initial impressions? – I’m maybe just a little bit excited…
(but maybe not for the reasons that you’d think)

At first glance the N97 looks like the lovechild of the E90 and the Nokia 5800 but from the outset the QWERTY keypad looks like it’s not too dissimilar from that of the Eseries sister device, with the only change being the directional pad shifting from the right to the left side of the keys…

It’s worth pointing out this far into the piece that I am yet to actually get my hands on this device (the image above was taken a month after I originally wrote this piece), SpinVox commitments keeping me in Blighty for this year’s Nokia World, (more on what’s been keeping me so busy coming up soon). So my thoughts and words are totally and utterly my initial gut reactions/impressions from specs, reports and pictures that have been flying out of Barcelona since late last night…

Moving on…

The touch screen UI, S60 5th Edition for those that care, is perceived to be the same as that in the Nokia ‘Tube’ device that we saw launched earlier this year as part of the Xpress Music range with key DNA from both that and the E90 shining through so far so we’ve got one massive multi-combo mash-up of a device…

However, you could argue that there’s nothing new here.

You could argue that yet again Nokia have failed to innovate.

That Nokia have merely put two and two together and are hoping they hit four, not five – *cough* Like they did with the N96 *cough* – but again, and in complete polar opposite to the the N96, and as I mentioned at the outset – this device actually excites me.

Yes, the form factor is new and is certainly interesting; One of the G1 characteristics that I actually enjoyed the most was the ability to flick the screen up at any point you got bored/annoyed with the touch screen and do things properly as it were, so the addition of the full keyboard under the screen is a welcome feature here on the N97.

The camera is 5MP – standard fare for Nokia flagship devices although; interesting to note that they [Nokia] are not, as yet, leaping on the 8MP bandwagon that Sony, LG and Samsung seem so keen to pursue.

The music – With echoes of the Xpress range being in abundance, the Nokia N97 will of course support Comes With Music (fingers crossed anyway – yes Vodafone, I’m looking at YOU) when it arrives and, if the music quality is anything like the 5800, then Nokia will have that sewn up too. With a WHOPPING 48GB of storage space, (32GB onboard, 16GB expandable memory), I must admit that filling that bad boy up with content is going to be a struggle for even me…

Parking all of that to one side, is there still no real innovation? Is it ‘just’ evolution.
Not that this is a bad thing mind, the N95 8GB was a great ‘evolution handset’, the N97 it seems is another step forward from Nokia (not sideways, or even backwards – again, I refer to the N96).

One thing needs to be made clear right here and right now:

I firmly believe that the Nokia N97 is the replacement for my N95 8GB.

..and here’s why:

One of the great things I love about my N95 8GB is the way it keeps me constantly connected. Constantly. As Ewan Spence quite rightly pointed out,

“Staying in touch seems important to James in his choice of applications. Many of them are concerned with getting information off his device and onto the internet, either to small social groups, or to individuals. Within two or three button presses, Whatley is off communicating to pretty much anyone he chooses. The smartphone for him is all about getting the word out.”

The more data I can consume the better. Anyone who’s seen me at any conference anywhere in the world this year knows that I just don’t carry my laptop anywhere. My E71 and my N95 8GB give me all the connectivity, information and data sharing functionality that I need.

The N97, with its brand new ‘widget homescreen’, presents a real opportunity to get things right; One of my favourite features of Apple’s iPhone is the main menu and homescreen being one and the same.
The N97 looks like it could be going down that route… and then some; Pulling in information from RSS feeds, Share on OVI (although I’m hoping this can be swapped out for Flickr), Facbook, Email etc…

This is the active standby screen that dreams were made of.

Obviously, to keep things in perspective, as with any Nseries device – the proof is in the pudding. More often than not these devices arrive with shoddy firmware that is slow, buggy and prone to freezing/crashing. I’m still researching into the N97 and will no doubt have a follow up piece in the works very soon, but I’m crossing all my fingers and all my toes that at last Nokia may actually launch something with final (or at least half-decent) software.

For the time being at least, the queue for the N97 starts here.

Get behind me folks – we may be here a while.

Whatley out.

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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

40 thoughts on “MIR: Whatley on the Nokia N97”

  1. I agree, that home screen's whats gotten me excited about the N97. That, and the formfactor. I cant wait to check one out up close !

  2. This looks to be the perfect device for Palringo.–call it “anyway, anyone messsaging”–anyway you're connected, any service, any network: the way we quickly connect with the people in our lives. Or in James' words, even easier to “get the word out.”

    And, when our location appears on Symbian (very, very soon), then look out…..

    So we can;t wait to see Palringo loaded onto the N97!

    kerry ritz

  3. I'm second in line for this bad boy! Sounds like it covers all bases and as you say then some. By the time it comes out I think there will be more 8MP handsets on the market so it's something they should keep an eye on. I'm sure Apple are thanking Nokia now for seeing what they're going to be doing and trying to beat it.

    I welcome competition, it only makes the experience better for the consumer.

    An excited iPhone owner (whom all handsets previously had been Nokia)

  4. i has a little play with one last month – its nice form alright – oddly it didn't seem as big as it looks in the comparison photos – i wouldnt of said it was bigger than the 5800 but apparently is!

  5. Gah… what a massive disappointment. The hardware will, I'm sure, be very good. Inside, however, will be a crap browser, crap gallery, crap PIM applications, crap access point handling, crap interface and crap media player.

    Power users can '3rd party' their way out of the problem, but frankly why should they have to?

    If I put this device next to my 3 year-old E61 too many of the same problems exist.


  6. @whatleydude, i think i am closer to the front of the line than you being as i live in Espoo rather than London 😉

    I am seriously hoping that as Devices is now once again one devison, the build quality of the E series finally comes to the N series, and as both Whatley and Ben have said, Nokia *must* get the software correct for this as it comes out of the gate!

  7. You've just GOT to laugh at the other comments here criticising software that is 6 months away from being complete (not counting future firmware updates) and that no one here has handled or use. You look real clever, guys…

    Rather than the “It's not totally perfect, therefore it's crap” tone that others like to take (people now rather insecure about that locked in iPhone contract they have, I'd wager) let's compare it to what else is out there. The iPhone is even more of a joke in comparison to the N97. The review above compares the N97 camera to some mythical 8MP device. How about vs. the iPhone camera, which now looks like it belongs on a Fisher Price toy from Argos? Hardware on N97 is universally superior, without ANY of the pointless iPhone restrictions. The N97 also makes Windows Mobile, and devices running it, pail into insignificance.

    Sure, N97 is not perfect (a Xenon flash would have been nice), and yes the iPhone UI is STILL slicker in some ways, but less so than it was (N97 touch has been improved to be more responsive to light touches). But this dismissive, reluctant-to-say-anything-nice attitude from so many is just blatant jealousy or that old habit of criticising the big boy that so many seem to revel in for no reason.

    And to finish, lets consider sales to date of the platforms. iPhone = 13 million (2G+3G). Symbian = about 250 million across over 297 phone models. 'Nuff said 🙂

  8. Alex, are you in the UK? I'd like to get you on camera discussing this as I think the viewpoint needs airing. Or perhaps you could do an op-ed on this?

  9. Hi Alex,

    James Whatley here, author of 'the review above' (although it's clearly a 'point of view' based on stats and releases plus a large dose of prior experience with Nokia handsets).

    I thought I'd address some of your points:

    1) “The review above compares the N97 camera to some mythical 8MP device”

    – Where does it do that? I wrote the thing and I'm pretty sure no reference to 'mythical devices' was made. I think what I actually pointed out was that Nokia ARE NOT jumping on the 8MP bandwagon. Go have a read, I'll wait.

    2) 'How about comparing it to the iPhone camera?'

    – Well what'd be the point in that? We all know the iPhone camera is crap, everyone knows that and unfortunately this piece *isn't* an iPhone vs N97 post. Nor is it a link-baiting “OMG iPhone KillerZ!” post either for that matter. Merely a point of view on what I think could be the next big thing from Nokia.

    3) 'You've just got to laugh at the other comments here criticising software that is 6 months away from being complete (not counting future firmware updates)…'

    – So two things here; first that 6mths thing? Dude, have you *read* my N96 article? (I link to it in the piece above – go on, go take a look – I'll wait, again) That phone was 8mths in the making (from announcement to shipping) and by the time it got here the firmware was still guff!
    This is something that we have come to expect from Nokia and, as I said in the post above, (you have read it right?) it is something that I really, really hope they get right this time.

    The second point refers to the '..not counting firmware updates…' comment. Brilliant. Love it. Talk about give a guy enough rope. Dude, ask ANY normal high street walking, £30pcm spending mobile user 'Excuse me mate, what firmware have you got?' – 'Are you up to date?' – 'Have you updated your firmware lately?' – he/she will look at you like you are from Mars. I know this because I ask this question of my N95 owning buddies (and perfect strangers too – go on, go watch the show and you'll see – I don't mind waiting… ahem) on an almost weekly basis. Until Nokia get the PUSH UPDATES working (which they are close to – go look up a company called Red Bend, that's right – research – want me to wait here?) then this argument is a misnomer. I'm sorry, but it is.

    4) Have you played with an N97? Do you *really* know that it makes Windows Mobile 'pail(sic) into insignificance' ? REALLY?

    5) 'Blatant Jealousy' – Right, where's that then? I'm dying to find out…


    Caught me with 10mins, I don't normally entertain misinformed fanboy trolls. Dude, if you're not here to have a constructive conversation then you're in the wrong place.

    Really. Ask ANYONE on this site, *I* am a Nokia Fan. The post above is based on opinion and experience. I don't mind discussing it at all, hell – that's why I write here – the discussion is always more interesting than the posts, but if you want to get offensive and act like a muppet – then you may as well be living in your own reality distortion field.

    Whatley out…

  10. Counting sales to date makes Grease a better record than Graceland.

    Or the Astra a better car than Aston Martin.

    'nuff said.

  11. The software's not 6 months away. It's S60 v5 which we can (have) all played with in the 5800. Reliability and performance may improve but basic function won't.

    I'm reluctant to say anything nice because Nokia, a class leader as you point out, should do better on its software. Hardware, is I agree, very good from Nokia.

  12. So, basically it's a tarted up N810 but running S60 rather than Maemo Linux.

    The problem – as I see it – is that Nokia just doesn't have the focus for something like this. They have too many phones with too many disparate options to begin to have a comprehensive strategy.

    Look at the N810 – a great device which is floundering because the 6* people who were working on it full time have now moved to other things. There's a rabid fan community who are hamstrung by Nokia's lack of effort.

    I want to like this device – but I'm afraid it will be an N95 8GB style disappointment. Yes, that's right, disappointment. A device with so much promise which is ultimately let down by a company who want me to upgrade my hardware on the promise that they'll get it right next time.

    Hmmmm…. I'm more bitter than I thought. Time to step away from the keyboard.

    *I guess
    (I am obliged to say that I work for Vodafone – but this is my personal opinion.)

  13. S60 is a dog of an Operating System that requires the constitution of Barbara Woodhouse to train over a period of months via a multitude of firmware updates and multiple instances of FAIL. The hardware however looks great. I will happily pay £50 per year for a solid compile of Android that runs on this from a third party. If anyone can offer me this I will have the nirvana of hardware and software that us usable.

  14. But not to replace the entire e-mail app, web browser etc. You're talking about refining the OS – I'm saying the basic way it does some things is crap.

  15. There is yet to be made a handset/OS that can compare to the work of sublime form, function and all-round usability that is the Volvo Estate.

    But you knew I was going to say that.

  16. Nice preview…
    I like the look of this, a lot. I have recently bought an iPhone despite being a bit of a Nokia lover (I live in Japan and the iPhone looked like the best choice, Nokias are available, but not well supported by the carrier, Softbank). What I used to love about Nokia was the ease-of-use, the interface and the fact that I could get geeky and customise it myself. Apple seem to have nailed this.
    If I was in the UK now, I would be regretting my decision, because this phone looks like exactly what I would want. It just remains to be seen if it is as ergonomic and magical as it could be.

    Also: am I the only one that is glad his distractions are a few button-presses away, rather than constantly tempting him?

  17. Alex.

    Nokia have excellent sales figures DESPITE their operating system. People rightly buy them for the good looks, excellent ergonomics and bombproof reliability. My party piece when debating hardware with iPhone users is to throw my 6500 classic at the wall and invite them to do the same with their iPhone. To date i have only had to glue the plastic top piece back down and it still works flawlessly.

    I do not and will not use an S60 device because the usability at all levels of the operating system is absolutely rubbish. S60 always requires pouring over the manual to figure out how to do simple tasks and figure out where this and that setting has moved to since the preceding N something or other. The fact that there is a constant too and fro between third party developers and the Firmware updates because one breaks a piece of functionality and then the OS update breaks the app etc makes a totally mockery of all the hard work Nokia do designing and building great hardware.

    I hope that the newly formed Symbian Foundation will correct this cycle of FAIL but really suspect that it can't/won't. Just give up with your flaky code and get with the programme. Either write your own highly optimised and streamline custom Linux OS or bite the bullet and use the one you can have right now. Android.

    Oh yes, Alex Kerr. I for one would really like you to disclose what your vested interest in Nokia/Symbian is, care to share?

  18. nice piece James.
    The beauty of the widgetized home screen is also that it should be based on the Web RunTime Kit which the recent N-Series devices support. And best thing about this? You only need to know how to write html and program some simple Javascript to build an app. Nice. :)) – Not a lot of people know that.

    I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one of these. Having fallen in love with the N85 way before I got one, then loving the N800 and N810, it's the perfect hybrid of these, for me (I have never had an E Series)

  19. nice piece James.
    The beauty of the widgetized home screen is also that it should be based on the Web RunTime Kit which the recent N-Series devices support. And best thing about this? You only need to know how to write html and program some simple Javascript to build an app. Nice. :)) – Not a lot of people know that.

    I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one of these. Having fallen in love with the N85 way before I got one, then loving the N800 and N810, it's the perfect hybrid of these, for me (I have never had an E Series)

  20. I’ve had my LG Xenon to the last year, but I only recently discovered this internet site, Up until now, I never genuinely looked into using the cellphone as anything at all but a voice and SMS device, but whilst it was out for repair I was making use of a Motorola KRZR as being a back-up and I actually hated it. I’m also a former employee of Rogers Wireless, in which I had been a member in the Network Operations group; they are the ones accountable with the inter/intra-site transport, switching and base-station network. While we in no way got to play with as well significantly customer hardware, I do know for a simple fact there may be ‘un-branded’ firmware obtainable for every single phone in existence. Before a carrier decides to carry any mobile phone they get a base model from the manufacturer that they demo and put by means of tests – locating one particular of these demo units would probably be less complicated stated than completed however. Most with the time, they just get passed of to pals or loved ones members who do not even realize that the mobile phone is unlocked and unbranded.

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