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…
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.
“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.
If you buy a Nokia N96 you only have yourself to blame.
Before we go on, please note – if you are new to this site – understand that Nokias are my thing.
Resident expert if you will.
This is my opinion and I give it freely to you, the lovely readers of Mobile Industry Review.
So, in advance – thanks for reading…
If you’re not new to the site, if you’re a regular reader in fact – you’ll know that Whatley Wednesday has been on a bit of a hiatus of late – my creative output instead being poured into The MIR Show.
This has changed.
The Nokia N96 has frustrated me so much that I really had no choice but to put e-pen to e-paper and express my thoughts…
So again, in advance – thanks for reading…
Now, to business:
This is not a review. Don’t expect in-depth looks at the camera abilities – like they matter these days?
This is more of a public service announcement.
Some of you may have already seen the online marketing around the Nokia N96. ‘Face the task‘ is the name of the game and trials like geo-tagging photos, uploading videos, consuming media etc… are the challenges laid out before you.
Never before has a Nokia campaign been so completely on the money.
Using the Nokia N96 has to be THE MOST challenging experience of my entire life. Forget The Crystal Maze. Cast aside the Krypton Factor. If you want a true test of mental strength and stamina then I urge you to go out and purchase this handset at once.
Yes. It’s actually that bad.
You guys know me right?
You know how much of a Nokia fiend I really am right? I currently rock an N95 and an E71 as my two main handsets with various others just kicking around as spares.
So when I say to you that the Nokia N96 is quite possibly the worst attempt at a handset ever to come out of Helsinki you know that they really, really must’ve done something wrong.
Well yeah, they did.
They made the N96.
This device is not new to me. It was first announced way back in February this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Yes, that’s right – a full 8 months ago. EIGHT MONTHS.
In EIGHT MONTHS I reckon you could probably get fairly proficient in a new language, such as French, Spanish or even C++… EIGHT MONTHS is also the gestation period of a deer.
That’s right, NEW LIFE CAN BE MADE in the time that this phone has taken to finally hit our shelves. You’d THINK that Nokia would’ve done something in that time about addressing some of the issues that plague this debacle of a handset…
Instead, in that time we’ve seen the N85 and N79 announced, (both of which are sufficiently sexier than the N96), Nokia’s first touch-screen device the 5800 (aka ‘the Tube’) was finally revealed and on top of that – we’ve also seen the launch of possibly one their best ergonomically designed devices yet, the E71.
But this is not some massive Nokia love in. Not by any stretch. Oh no. Also, in this time we’ve seen the launch of the iPhone 3G and also the recently announced built by geeks, for geeks – the T-Mobile G-1.
It is worth noting at this point that Nokia are not a reactive corporation. No Sirree Bob.
But you’d think after the poor reception that the N96 received in Barcelona, (Christ, I was more excited about the Nokia 6220 – which, for the record, I’d recommend over the N96 any day), they would’ve given the thing an overhaul of some kind. The N95 8GB for instance is just enough of a re-mix on the N95-1 to warrant an upgrade. The N96, while not strictly the N95’s successor, learnt nothing from this lesson.
Since Barcelona I’ve had my hands on this device a number of times – once at a WOM World meet up, where the Product Manager for the N78 (lovely chap named Tim) turned up with a couple on him, I distinctly remember remarking at the time that the screen was lovely and may play a large part in any purchasing decision I might make…
And then again at a Future of Mobile dinner earlier this year (where I recorded and uploaded the following Global Race comparison video).
So far, SO unimpressed.
Regular viewers of the MIR Show will recall a few weeks back when I dialled in to video call my segment over the phone I mentioned that I was indeed waiting for an N96 to arrive from those kind folk at WOM.
Well, late last week, it arrived.
I opened it Friday afternoon, filled it with Whatley Goodness (i.e.: My apps of choice, MP3s, bookmarks etc) and then charged it overnight… Saturday morning I thought I’d take it out for a test drive and upon turning it on I was greeted by a glorious screen.
The N96 does well here. You can’t help but gaze at the amazing Technicolor Loveliness
The first thing I did when I popped my SIM card in? Checked the firmware. V10. Hmm.
I was fairly sure that there was a more recent update, so I checked – Yup, there is. V11 available for download.
Fantastic. Straight out of the box and already it needs an update. The good news is the N96 (along with the N78) supports OTA updates, powered by the awesome people at Red Bend (we met them at the Symbian Smartphone show and they deserve their own write up, Ben? Dan?), and the firmware downloaded and installed perfectly.
Good work Red Bend.
Bad form Nokia – this phone has been out less than a month! How many consumers are going to know about this option without PUSH updates?!
Christ! You’ve SEEN ‘Walking with Normobs’ right? There are STILL people out there with N95s on VERSION TEN FIRMWARE which shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day! BUGGY?! MUCH?!
…and breathe Whatley…
Let’s move on…
Now, the more cognizant amongst you may remember that just 11mths ago I reviewed the Nokia N81 8GB for Mobile Industry Review. If you recall – I wasn’t a fan of that handset.
The look and feel was poor and plastic, the industrial design suffered from poorly placed buttons and the newly implemented ‘key-lock’ switch kept getting stuck.
Take a look at the N81 8GB.
Now scroll back up and take a look at the N96.
Spot the similarities?
I can happily report that ALL of the problems I reported on the N81 8GB BACK IN NOVEMBER 2007 are ALL present in the ‘new’ N96.
ALL OF THEM.
The thing about the buttons – If I place my thumb over the right side of the top keypad, I can cover six, (count ’em) buttons. Six of them.
This is not really so much of a problem on the N95 8GB for instance where the buttons are raised and you can feel the difference between each one without really having to look at what you’re doing but on this handset – the N96 – the keys are flat next to each other, or ‘flush’ as I believe the design is notionally referred to as.
This is NOT GOOD.
Let’s go back to the N81 criticisms for the second of my main bug bears:
“The ‘c’ button is right next to the ‘play/pause’ music button. AARGH! Sorry. I say ‘right next to’ I mean ‘may as well be the same button@.
That’s right – a negative button right next to a positive button. By pushing the button that I want to stop doing something I accidentally push the button that starts doing something.
In this instance Kate Nash starts blaring out at me whenever I try and correct a misspelt SMS!”
Same. Here… and although my music tastes have changed somewhat since this time last year, the result was the same – it happened again.
Again and again and again… Through the the ONE DAY OF TESTING that I gave to this shoddy piece of workmanship I actually lost count of the amount of times I hit ‘pause/play’ when trying to hit ‘c’.
Oh yes, that’s right: ‘One day of testing…’ – I challenge ANYONE to try and use the N96 for a longer period than this without feeling ANY frustrations whatsoever.
Seriously – this has to be the worse handset I have ever had the misfortune to have in my possession.
Parking the buttons to one side for a moment, I mentioned just now that I tested the handset for a day.
This is not strictly true. I actually tested this handset from 8am through to 1pm where upon the ridiculously short, iPhone 3G-esque battery life gave up on me.
Why the short life span?
Well, Nokia – in their infinite wisdom – having learnt their lesson with the low power levels of the BL-5F battery in the N95-1 (giving it a much needed upgrade to the BL-6F in the N95 8GB), have decided to throw this innovation completely out of the window have seen it fit to equip the N96 with the very same BL-5F from the N95-1 stating ‘power saving software upgrades’ as the reason for this apparent downgrade.
One morning of relatively hardcore use – Music Player, Browser, Mobbler etc… and whoof.. Battery, dead.
“Steaming pile of rubbishness” doesn’t quite cut it really. This phone is abysmal.
So what, if anything has the phone got going for it?
Er… BBC iPlayer? Woo!
Had that on my N95 for a fortnight now… nothing new here. 16GB of onboard memory with an expandable option for a MicroSD card? That’s pretty cool. I could do with more memory…
However, WHAT IS THE POINT of carrying around (up to) 32GBs of MP3s if the battery won’t last the day?!
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
…oh and it has a kick-stand on the back too, so you can have a better view of that ominous ‘battery low’ sign when you’re attempting to use the phone for anything more than 5hrs at a time…
You may or not know that I am an active micro-blogger – both on Jaiku and on Twitter, and since Saturday I have vented my ‘distaste’ shall we say, for this device.
Free mobile advice is my thing – and I love helping people with their purchasing decisions. The N96 is no exception to this rule – I have already sent out four emails to various online folk telling them excatly why this is not the device for them and I will give you, dear readers, the same advice I gave them:
If you’re looking for an upgrade to your current handset and you’re giving serious thought to the N96. Go, get one.
BUT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A RETURN POLICY.
Because when you take it back to the shop complaining of just how hideously unusable this appalling excuse for a mobile phone is, you’ll want to be damn sure you’re able to exchange it.
I’d recommend a Nokia N95 8GB. Better battery life, better design, infinitely more stable software and above all, it’s NOT the N96.
However, if you already have an N95 8GB. Nice one. Good work.
It’s what I use and even though I am well into my upgrade period, it is not going anywhere.
As I said at the start of this post:
“Buy a Nokia N96 and you only have yourself to blame.” – and I mean every.. single.. word.
The man has got the iPlayer up and running on his N95!
So I did a little digging and then I found this piece over on Symbian-Freak about how to install etc and, as well as finding the actual file there, I also found out a few other facts.
If your Nseries has Web Runtime (WRT) enabled, you can haz iPlayer.
N95ers out there – hit *#0000# – if your firmware is v21 or above, you have WRT enabled.
N95, N96 and N85 all confirmed as compatible
Current installation only works over a wifi connection
I’ve poked a few friends of mine at the Beeb to see if we can talk to some of the techies there, fingers crossed we’ll be able to bring you a follow up piece over the next few days outlining some of the finer details.
So what are you waiting for? Download it now and let us know what you think!
The o2 servers have gone down.
he Apple Store hasn’t sold an iPhone for the last TWO HOURS..
Can you say: “Worst. Launch. Ever???”
Apparently Apple have drafted in o2 staff to do manual sign ups as the o2 systems couldn’t handle the load.
Bet you wish you’d waited now. Heh.
Oh and by the way, I’m hot-desking at the Mippin offices in Fulham today (Hi Guys!), and I’ve just taken delivery of a brand new Nokia N78 + MD4 speakers from those lovely folk at WOM World.
Expect a review in a couple of weeks.
Morning readers, Whatley here, just got this over MSN from a friend of mine at Nokia;
“Hey Whatley, we are buying Symbian and will donate it + S60 to an open source foundation!”
To which my response was a resounding – “Eh?”
You can read the official Nokia press releases here and here
Now, I’m not a developer. I’m ready to admit my knowledge in this area isn’t great. Ewan’s in the Maldives, the rest of the SMSTN Team are (still) sleeping so it’s down to me to make something of this.
Looking around online there is little opinion up yet – however, unsurprisingly, All About Symbian has the news too and Steve Litchfield says that ‘This is officially HUGE‘.
I dropped the news into Twitter just over an hour ago (at the time of publishing) and got few responses back.
One of my followers and all round smart chap, Jof Arnold, emailed over his thoughts, which he’s kindly given me permission to publish here – I for one am interested to find out what this actually means for the industry as a whole and, more importantly, what’s your opinion on this latest Nokia acquistion?
Over to Jof:
In practice well, that all depends on Nokia and I couldn’t possibly comment on their track history of OSS projects – cos I have no idea.
In theory? Potentially an awful lot. Compare to the iPhone and you’ll see why. Remember all those people trying to jail-break the iPhone? Those projects were successful because fundamentally the operating system pissed off many people; cut and paste; closed apps; no file explorer. Now, had apple open-sourced it fully you’d have a situation where the masses would be contributing huge amounts of their time into making the iPhone just how they wanted it all under Apple’s approval of course.
But, Apple won’t do that and developers are annoyed. Which is why any system that allows developed to tinker with the core operating system is going to be attractive to them. All of a sudden, developers have a conundrum;
Develop for a locked-down system that is only on 10m handsets yet has a cool app-distribution and revenue-sharing system. Apple)
Develop for an open system that has 200m handsets (nokia)
Develop for some google vapour-ware (android)
Impossible to say what will happen, but developers have always had a soft-spot for Symbian. This is potentially game-changing, but Nokia/Symbian’s got their work cut out; despite all this, Apple is a marketing monster and is hard to resist.
Greetings readers, your friendly neighbourhood Whatley here;
While some of us are off gallivanting around the Maldives – sorry, ahem – A DESERT ISLAND, other bloggers, like myself, have to make do with the festival season to amuse themselves here back in the UK.
And what better festival other than the Mother of all festivals: Glastonbury!
Yes, it really IS that muddy. I took that photo myself.
Last year, I think I’m pretty safe in saying;
I was the ONLY person to live blog Glastonbury from a mobile phone.
Yes. That’s right, I blogged the whole darn thing (well as much as my battery would allow) from my Nokia N95-1 (the original silver one, the one with the REALLY poor battery, y’know?).
In fact the only reason my current blog exists is because of my then(?) obsession with Mobile Blogging.
You can go back and read some of my exploits here, here and here if you’d like.
But really, all you need to know is, at the time, the only way I could do this (AFAIK) was through VOX.
VOX has a neat little application that sits on some/most Nseries phones that you can download and is also available as one of the upload options in the Share Online app, also found on most Nseries phones.
Power wise, again only for last year, I had three N95 batteries (BL-5Fs for the true geeks among you) and these two things below:
That on the left is an independent battery charge-base and that on the right, a portable double AA battery powered phone charger.
The former proved itself to be extremely useful, then and indeed over the past year of ownership too. With that handy little device I can always have one battery in my phone, while another charges. This, of course, is all well and good until you go and lose the damn thing; which is what I did a matter of days ago.
The thing on the right, I bought that from Amazon, thing is mind.
It . Was. Rubbish.
In fact I think it actually USED more battery power than it actually gave back. I ended up passing it onto some fellow festival-ite in our circle of tents. It conveniently came with a bunch of other adaptors – not just Nokia; covered SE, Motorola, Blackberry… the lot. You name it. So at least that much was handy about it.
However, for me, it was no good.
And don’t even start me on the quite frankly RIDICULOUS ‘Orange Charge Tent‘.
I mean, who wants to QUEUE for an hour to charge their handset, only to discover that when they get to the front, they then have to wait around for a further two hours to watch their phone charge at an unsecured bar.
Joined up thinking really not their specialty it would seem.
So, how did I stay charged?
Well, while the Orange monkeys were missing out on potentially 3hrs of great music, I managed to find a little store amongst the clothes stalls and falafel vendors, which specialised in phone charging.
You paid a fiver a go and it was kept under lock and key and all was fine. The system the guy had running behind him reminded me a little of chargebox and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were one and the same, I’ll ask them this year and see. Anyway, this little store became a daily haunt for my good self.
In the morning I’d get up, review any content from the night before, write a quick post or two and then upload as much as I could before my battery died. After that I’d mosey on down to aforementioned phone charging establishment, pay my fiver, and then go off and meet friends who I’d arranged to meet at a later time (do you remember when we did that?!).
Later that afternoon I would pick up my phone, liaise with all the folk that had been trying to reach me for God knows how long, and then get off to another stage where upon I’d take more photos/videos that I would later, no doubt upload.
So aside from the not-so-brilliant portable phone charger, last year was a reasonable success.
But what about this year?
Well, my VOX blog is still up and running.
So I’ve got that working just fine, but now look at all the other things I can do!
I can upload via SMS, MMS or Email via Moblog.
I can simply make a phone call and speak a blog post through SpinVox.
I can boot up Qik and stream LIVE content direct to the internet. Not only direct to my QIK page, but if I hit ’55’ while I’m streaming, my 500-odd followers on Twitter will get told about it too!
The plethora of Social Tools now available to the modern, festival-going geek, really, truly, is a spectacle to behold.
I shall be using ALL of those services/apps/tools I’ve listed above, and probably more.
The question is Dear Readers, which ones do YOU think I should be using?
What should your Mobile Geek of Glastonbury be packing in his rucksack to ensure a complete all round mobile performance?
Leave your suggestions below or, if you have anything you want showcased/tested over the coming festival season, email email@example.com