REVIEW: Nokia Takes Kitchen-Sink Approach to Smartphones with N97 - Page 3

The N97 comes with a 5.0-megapixel camera fixed on the back of the device and teamed with a pair of LED flashes for taking pictures in low light. The trio sits behind a lens cover that I could slide open and shut manually. Sliding open the lens cover brought the unit's Camera application to the foreground, and sliding it back returned me to my previous location in the device UI. The camera enabled me to capture video in 16:9 aspect ratio, again illuminated by the N97's LED flash lights.

Also of note is the N97's second camera, a front-facing unit for placing video calls-a feature that I did not test.

The N97 ships with a 1,500-mAh lithium-polymer battery. Nokia advertises talk times of up to 9.5 hours in GSM mode and up to 6 hours in its 3.5G mode. I've yet to put these numbers to the test, but, anecdotally, I found that the battery stood up well to frequent use of its radios and push messaging features during my tests.

Nokia's N97 offers a full complement of messaging options. I synchronized my Exchange e-mail, contacts, calendar and task information using the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync application, and linked the device up to a Gmail account via IMAP.

That said, I prefer the iPhone's e-mail application to the one that ships with the N97. I think that the Apple software makes better use of screen real estate and fetches messages more promptly. However, I was intrigued by the N97 e-mail client's support for reading messages via text-to-speech.

I spent some time testing Nokia's new Ovi application store, but found that the majority of the applications that I ended up installing were not available through that channel. For instance, the folder on the device that houses the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync application starts out mysteriously empty, and the Ovi store makes no mention of the application. I had to run a mail setup wizard to prompt the N97 to pull down the needed bits from the Internet. Certain other applications are available only through a folder on the device marked Download. For others, such as the screen shot application mentioned earlier, I had to hit the open Internet to find what I needed.

Support for multiple application channels, in contrast to Apple's tightly controlled App Store model, can be a real benefit for the N97. I appreciated, for instance, the unit's support for Java-based applications such as Google's mobile Gmail reader or Opera's mini Web browser. I would, however, like to see Nokia do a better job presenting trusted software channels to the user.