If there's a mobile device festooned with as many radios, input options, software sources and configuration menus as Nokia has managed to cram into the N97, eWEEK Labs has never seen it. But the N97's many features start to shine with continued use, and the form factor is sturdy and pleasingly portable. The price, though--$700--is a tough pill to swallow.
Nokia's N97 may be the world's most feature-packed smartphone. At least, if
there's a mobile device festooned with as many radios, input options, software
sources and configuration menus as Nokia has managed to cram into the N97, I've
never encountered it.
Take the unit's input options, which include a touch-sensitive display, a
slide-out keyboard and, for good measure, the dynamic duo of a handwriting
recognition application and a tiny stylus that doesn't fit into the device
anywhere. The stylus does sport a little lanyard for stringing the tool onto
the side of the device-or perhaps onto your keychain.
If all of that strikes you as awkward, you have the right idea. Particularly
compared with Apple's line of iPhone devices-across which Apple has resisted
adopting any feature that it couldn't implement elegantly-the N97 is a
conspicuously clunky device with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink design
In Nokia's defense, the cell phone giant has managed to fit the N97's many
features into a form factor that's both sturdy-the unit's slide-out keyboard
mechanism feels much more solid than the one that graces T-Mobile's G1-and
pleasingly portable. At 4.6 by 2.18 by 0.63 inches and 5.29 ounces, the N97
isn't much larger than Apple's
What's more, while my getting-to-know-you period with the N97 brimmed with
more dissatisfied grumbling and online help forum fumbling than I cared to
endure, I came to appreciate the product's broad feature set once I began to
get the hang of using the device.
I tested the N97 in and around eWEEK's San Francisco
offices on AT&T's wireless network. However, the device isn't currently
offered by AT&T or any U.S.-based wireless provider, so there's no option
for subsidizing the unit's $700 purchase price.
Nokia's N97 ships with Version 5 of the company's S60 interface, which runs
atop Symbian OS Version 9.4. This most recent version of the S60 platform added
support for touch-screen interfaces and for Adobe's Flash Lite 3.0, both of
which the N97 takes advantage.
While support for Flash struck me as an obvious benefit, I had a tough time
coming up with a Flash application I was burning to consume in a mobile device.
I tried to access the Flash-based music streaming site Pandora.com, with no
success, but found that N97's Flash player did allow me to view the Flash-based
slideshows (and advertisements) at eWEEK.com.
Nokia's N97 is powered by a 434MHz ARM11
processor, which delivered good performance overall during my tests, even when
I ran multiple applications at once. Support in the N97 for arbitrary
background applications is one of its best points of differentiation versus the
iPhone, which reserves background process rights for Apple's own applications.