Review : Full Nokia N97 User Review

nokia-n97After a full week using my new Nokia N97, I can officially say that it’s quite a great phone. Mind you, it’s still far from perfect, but the experience in itself was more rewarding than when I got the iPhone. It has all the features that you can think of and none of the awful limitations of the iPhone. This is a list of pros and cons that I found when using the device.

  • Battery life, compared to the iPhone is great. I can run the phone for about 2 days of heavy use without charging, so that is definately a big plus. Although in comparison, that battery diddnt last as much as it used to do on my Nokia N95.
  • The phone suffers a bit due to the underpowered CPU and/or poor graphics rendering. The user interface animations are sluggish and the graphics in the games are poorly antialiased. This is a feature that should be addressed in a future version of this phone. This however doesn’t make the phone slow or unresponsive, it’s just the animations that are not so good to look at. It probably needs a RAM increase as well.
  • The device operating system feels a bit unfinished. It appears like no (or just little) customisation has been done to port the Symbian Operating System to a touch interface. It also still has a scroll bar where-as, most phones have kinetic scrolling, which is missing in this phone. (Kinetic scrolling has been recently added thanks to a software upgrade.
  • There is a MAJOR lack of widgets. One of the main features that is being advertised on the phone is the ability to customise your home screen with widgets like weather, email, Facebook etc… however these are basically the only ones available. Nokia really should have done much better and release more widgets to increase the customisability of the home screen. – I was quite disappointed with this one.
  • The keyboard is awesome, I managed to get used to it in a few days. It’s very quick and responsive, and perfect for people with larger fingers since the keys are well spaced apart. However it does have a very weird space bar position (you can get used to this easily though) and I seriously miss a right side shift button. Also, inserting symbols is not as easy since you have to either keep the character switch button pressed all the time, or else double tap it for a “caps lock” effect. There is also a SYM button that brings up an on screen character map, however this one allows you to only select one character at a time, meaning if you want to write several symbols at once (say… :-) ) you would have to use a combination like this (SYM button + Tap : on screen, SYM button + Tap – on screen, SYM button + Tap ) on screen) – which is way too long. If a feature to allow you to tap multiple symbols at once exists. I haven’t found it yet.
  • Another issue I have with the keyboard is with the Fullstop button. The button displays a fullstop symbol and a comma on top of it. This usually means that a press of this button will print a fullstop, and a Shift + button press will display the charachter on top (which is a comma) – on this phone, this is not the case, and the buttons are reversed, and the symbol at the bottom is actually printed on screen with a shift + button press. I don’t know if its a “feature” or a bug – (i hate it like this!) – This issue has been fixed with the release of the Firmware Update 12.2.024
  • Menu Double click – some items in the menu require a double click… why? isn’t this quite useless?
  • Email reading is not stellar. The software works well, its quick and very responsive, however I  believe that it’s not capable to read HTML email. most probably there might be an HTML capable email client for Symbian available, however I didn’t find one yet.
  • App store is seriously lacking in applications. This is bound to improve on a daily or weekly basis. However for now, the applications available on the OVI store are very little, and years away from a great app store such as Apple’s. However on the plus side, you can find loads of applications on other sites simply by looking on Google.
  • PC Synch is incredibly awesome using the OVI manager. It automatically synchronises the phone contacts, messages, music and photos automaticallly when you connect the device. very handy indeed and very nice interface.
  • Maps 3.0 is a great application, expecially if you live in large countries. It has a great interface, and it also has information for travellers and also map overlays to pontpoint several touristic places, accomodation, services, transportation etc… but the maps for some smaller countries like Malta, it’s extremely bad. It’s not even close to the iPhone version. The zoom level for Malta is very low, and just gives you a slight idea where you might be located. This application however (unlike the iPhone) allows you to download the maps into the device, and therefore be able to use the map application offline, saving you loads of money while roaming.
  • Camera, its absolutely awesome, its one of the best I’ve seen on a mobile phone. The level of detail is great and colours are nice and vivid. Not as vivid on night shots though where the colours looked a bit dull. (Examples below) I did notice however that with the Flash OFF feature, the LED lights still turn on for a few seconds. Some very helpful users at the N97 Geeks forum told me that most probably, the flash goes on for autofocus. However this defies the purpose of a flash off feature since this makes it unusable in situations where a flash photo is not permitted! There doesn’t seem to be an auto-focus off feature.

Nokia N97 Photo SampleClick the image for the FULL photo

  • On the phone I have 2 applications that I never plan to use JoikuSpot and Boingo that I never plan to use, however they seem to be “protected” and I can’t uninstall them from the phone. Why?
  • Web browser on the phone is good, and it supports flash, however I found a browser called Digia @ Web which actually works a lot better than the default application (And it’s FREE). Same goes with the Photo viewer. There is a beta application which is downloadable from the Nokia beta labs which works a lot better than the default viewer.
  • Most Nokia phones running the s60 Symbian OS can make use of the N-Gage gaming application, that usually works great. However yesterday I tried to install Age Of Empires on the N97. The installation went smooth and it successfully installed. However the game failed to load, and after a couple of tries and reboots, I gave up and uninstalled the game.
  • Customisability is a feature that is completely absent from the iPhone. By downloading themes from loads of sites on the web, you can customise the appearance of the phone. The themes are able to change the appearance of the wallpapers, operating system icons, animations and more. there are tons of themes available. You can even customise the Nokia n97 to look like an iPhone.
  • Screen is absolutely gorgeous, the quality is great and the colours are also very bright and vivid. This doesnt disappoint.
  • Firmware updating is handled much better than the iPhone’s updating since it keeps all your settings, applications and files so you dont actually have to re-install all the software you have made on the device everytime you update it. This is absolutely great! – you are still advised to back up your data in case something goes wrong.

This is the end of the review for now. I plan to add and modify additional points to this post as we go along since new firmware updates might bring improvements to the phone’s usabiliy and more functions could be added or improved. Keep reading!

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