July 2009

July 2009

Nokia N97 - It's still Symbian


Nokia N97

When you hold the Nokia N97 in your hand and look at that new home screen, you get your hopes up. Then you press the home button and realize that underneath, it is just another outdated Symbian S60 phone.

I had the opportunity to test the N97 for a few hours today and despite some bright spots, I came away disappointed.

The camera is great and there is a shutter button right where you expect to find it, allowing you to use it like any normal point-and-shoot camera. Apple could learn from this. The new home screen allows you to add a few tiny widgets, displaying for example your latest Facebook status - a noticeable improvement that will breath new life into this and coming Nokia phones. The touch screen works, but Symbian S60 was simply not designed for finger based touch screen navigation so the experience is not enjoyable. A slide out Qwerty keyboard sounds great - I'm a long time Nokia communicator user and just love the keyboard in my Nokia E90 - but the N97 implementation is poor. They keyboard is no where near what you have in the Nokia E90 and not necessarily any better than a Blackberry/Nokia E71 -style mini-qwerty thumb board but it takes up much more space.

The screen is in theory great but the user interface doesn't make very good use of it - often the text is either big enough to be read from the other end of the room or microscopical to the point that it can hardly be read at all. The icons and buttons often feels way oversized besides being plain uggly. With Symbian devices having all kinds of screen resolutions and sizes, designing a user interface is quite challenging and so far the result is unimpressive.