Posted by Mike Evans in Nokia on July 7, 2009


At the risk of adding to the overload of coverage at the moment, I’ve put together a video review of the Nokia N97. You can read more on Nokia’s latest top-end N-Series phone on my detailed Nokia N97 review. Words can only say so much, though, so here are several videos showing exactly what I’m banging on about in my review!

More videos after the jump.

Before I start with the videos, a few clarifications need to be made.

Rumblings in the mobile blogosphere

When I uploaded the videos onto YouTube, I inadvertently released a hailstorm of arguments. Quite a few people commented that I’m an Apple fanboy, or a useless reviewer, or that I found the touchscreen sluggish simply because I’m not using my nails. Whatever, the negative comments all aimed to show that I was wrong, that the review was flawed, and that the Nokia N97 is a much better phone than I gave it credit for.

Well, it’s not and I stand by my comments! Here’s why:

Touchscreen issues

The Nokia N97’s touchscreen is slow and sluggish and difficult to use. Apparently, that’s because I’m using my whole finger and not my nail. Some of the comments on YouTube included:

  • “…please don’t use the full portion of your thumb on a resistive touch device. “
  • “…’you have to touch so hard on the screen’ … you? need nails on your fingers… ive never used the cursor key.”
  • “…Use your nail damet,? ofcourse it doesent react when you use the soft part of the finger, use the nail, try that.”
  • “u need to use ur nail to touch it? – grow some nails! “

My response: why should I? I don’t need to use my nails on the T-Mobile G1, nor do I on an iPhone. Why, then, should I expect to on Nokia’s flagship top-end touchscreen smartphone? The N97 comes with a stylus if, like me, you don’t have much in the way of nails. WTF?! Again, neither the G1 nor the iPhone need a stylus as their touchscreens work so damn well. So why should Nokia’s require one?

iPhone Fanboy? Not exactly!

All this talk of Android and the iPhone leads me to another set of comments accusing me of being biased against the N97 because I’m an iPhone lover:

  • “…nokia isnt competing again apple.what phone when 1st launch doesnt have any bugs?.. symbian is a very solid os. stop being fanboys.”
  • “Poor review by a very clearly? fruit fanboi…”

Let’s put things in context.

I own a T-Mobile G1 that I pay for myself. I decided against the iPhone because at the time its hardware spec was too low, the contract too restrictive, and I abhor the way Apple locks its users into its own little universe of iTunes and the App Store. iPhone apps are great, but Apple wields just too much power regarding what app can and cannot be sold on its App Store, and I’m loathe to buy into a company with such restrictive general practices.

So, I’m not an iPhone fan, I’m an Android fan. Not as pretty (certainly in the G1’s case), but much more open, better hardware (in general), and although Google has its faults, I much prefer its open outlook to development than Apple’s closed and restrictive approach.

Equally, I’m not against Nokia. Far from it. Before the G1, I had a Nokia E90, which is, to all intents and purposes, a Nokia N97 without the touchscreen. I loved the E90. I love Nokia. I should have loved the N97 and indeed wanted to.

But it just wasn’t a patch on the G1 or the iPhone

However the Nokia N97 lovers want to see it, the fact of the matter is Nokia is competing with both the iPhone and Android phones. They’re all touchscreen smartphones with similar specs designed to seamlessly browse the Web, and with similar price points. How could they not be direct competitors?

As competitors, the N97 has to at least match, or hopefully beat, both its rivals. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter that I struggled with the N97’s interface because I’d only given the manual a cursory glance. The G1’s manual is just a pamphlet that to this day I’ve never read, yet despite this, I’ve never had a problem with using it as it’s just so intuitive.

So yes, I could have read the manual further, and I could have used my nail or the stylus; but doing either of those things would instantly have made the N97 the weaker of the three phones, as neither manual nor stylus is needed in order to use them. Usability is the key to the success of the iPhone, which is why Android and now the Palm Pre focus so much on providing an equally good experience. Poor usability gives a poor overall user experience, and phones these days need to be giving great user experiences, as the Palm Pre is showing.

Nokia seems to have missed this fact and have designed the N97 in the same mould as the Nokia E90. And this is my central point. With the N97, Nokia are competing against their own older models – not with the real competitors, the iPhone, Android and now the Palm Pre.

This isn’t said as a rant against Nokia. It’s an honest opinion.

And to show how honest it is, Nokia kindly sent me this phone to review, so if anything, I should have been indebted to them and given the N97 a rave review. But I didn’t, because the N97 doesn’t deserve one.

I’m still indebted to Nokia, of course, and want to thank them for lending me the phone. I just hope they can turn things around quickly and start releasing much better phones in the near future like we all know they’re capable of.

Right, ramblings over (sorry!), on with the video review!

Nokia N97’s Camera

Nokia N97 Web Browsing

Nokia N97 – Video, user interface and conclusion