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Phones.com » Cell Phones » Review of the Nokia N97

The N97 is said to be Nokia's flagship device. It is a smartphone, with a touch screen and a hardware QWERTY keyboard; ingredients that were not present all at once in previous phones. Does it live up to the expectations that come with the territory of being labelled a flagship phone or not?

Look, Design, Feel (/10)

The phone is a glossy beauty, with a big touchscreen dominating most of the real estate on the front of the phone. It has one single hard button on the bottom, with the call and end call buttons upgraded to the touch screen technology. On the top left, there is a proximity sensor, while the right edge has a light sensor and the user-facing camera meant for video conferencing. 

The sides are not cluttered, with a few standard ports and buttons thrown in. The camera is on the back; it has an accompanying double LED flash and a small square cover that slides in and out of place. There is an unusual edge on the back panel, at the opposite end of the camera. This edge is meant to keep the phone level when it is placed on a flat surface. 

The phone slides open, and the screen remains at a tilt. The tilt is not adjustable, but it is a comfortable angle from which multimedia can be watched. The hinge at the side looks strange, however it is very sturdy. 

All in all, the phone looks good. However, it is predominantly made of plastic; the main problem with plastic panels is that they don't age very well. 

Features (/10)

The N97 features a large 3.5 inch touchscreen interface, with resistive technology. The call and end call buttons also have resistive touchscreen technology, with vibratory feedback. The only hard button on the front brings up the ubiquitous Nokia menu. The menu hasn't changed at all, except that the multimedia is now disparate. Initially, the N-series mobiles had all images, videos and music in one place, called the Multimedia Centre. It really makes very little difference either way. 

There are two speakers on the left edge of the phone; a nice feature which gives an added dimension to sound. The sound is fairly good on Nokia phones is general, and the N97 neither falls short nor exceeds those expectations. 

The camera is still a 5 megapixel one with Carl Zeiss optics. There is a double LED flash and autofocus, and a hardware camera flap. There is nothing earth-shattering about the hardware, but the software is interesting: the phone allows DVD quality video recording with 30 fps. Also, the aspect ratio of 16:9 is maintained, which is great considering that is the standard on most televisions. The images are great in the shade, but they tend to lose colour in sunlight. The level of detail is good though.

The web browser is the standard one usually packaged with Symbian. There is the option to enlarge in to full screen and therefore presents a clearer view. There is a small focus frame which can be dragged around to select a section for viewing. Scrolling can be done through the rocker key or through the use of multitouch kinetic scrolling. Kinetic scrolling merely means that the scrolling onscreen comes to a gradual halt after finger pressure is removed instead of immediately. The browser can handle online videos and flash elements without any problems, making the mobile surfing experience very like the desktop one. 

The N97 does not have an onscreen keyboard. This is a notable failure, because it renders messaging with one hand virtually impossible. There was a similar problem with Nokia's Communicator series, where a user had to open the phone to type out a message using the QWERTY keyboard. 

Connectivity (/10)

The phone has the latest in GSM and HSDPA technology, making it compliant with 2G and 3G standards, regardless of location. All the other standard connectivity exists; Bluetooth, GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi and GPS. There is no infrared port. 

There is a microUSB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack doubles up as a TV out. 

There have reportedly been issues with the GPS functionality, where users were finding the phone unresponsive quite frequently. Hopefully, these issues are easily resolved with software patches and upgrades. 

Performance (/10)

There is adequate RAM, so the phone is not slow. All N-series phones have had the tendency to lapse quite often, where the phone shuts down an application when it becomes unresponsive. While this is a good feature, it happens once too often. 

The video and audio modules work beautifully, and the browser is able to process data-intensive webpages quickly and without errors. 

Value for Money (/10)

The N97 is not a significant improvement upon the earlier phones. It is very similar to the Xpress 5800 touchscreen phone that was released ages ago. Therefore, while it is being touted as the flagship phone, it is worth the wait to see the next release from the Nokia stable. 

That being said, the phone does have some great features; however, an N95 user wouldn't find the extra expense value for money.


+ Large touchscreen interface with resistive technology

+ Two speakers

+ User-facing camera

+ Hardware QWERTY keyboard

+ Excellent browser, with Java and Flash support

+ Video recording with 30 fps and in 16:9 aspect ratio


- No onscreen keyboard

- Specifications not largely improved from previous models


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Style: 8.6
Technology: 8.7
Efficiency: 8.7

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