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Why is everybody dissing the Nokia N97?




When the official price of the Nokia N97 was finally announced, I was glad that it was way lower than my guesstimate. Having sold my Nokia 5800, I was preparing to buy the N97 and do a full review until I read all the other earlier reviews. I wondered why all the top tech blogs gave the Nokia N97 a thumbs down?

I’ve tried using the phone for a short while a couple of weeks back but held off doing a first impression since I was planning to buy one anyway. Then the early reviews came out:

Nokia N97 Review: Nokia Is Doomed

Nokia has to know where it stands. At least, assuming somebody actually used the N97 before it went out the door.

Symbian S60 5th Edition only makes sense if it’s a stopgap keeping Nokia in the game (barely) until they put out an actual next-generation OS, just like the underwhelming Windows Mobile 6.5 will do for Microsoft. I’m really hoping for a complete rebuild of Symbian. I am not expecting Nokia to turn to an entirely different OS from a certain Goo-ey company despite recent (and retarded) rumors. Nokia is married to Symbian for the long haul—after all, they paid nearly half a billion dollars for it.

That’s the only way I can fathom them releasing something this unusable into a world populated by the iPhone, Palm Pre, Android and BlackBerry. If this really is the best Nokia can do, the giant is doomed to die a slow death, propped up for a while by the cheap handsets that it sells by the tens of millions. – Gizmodo

Nokia N97 – So Close, Yet So Very, Very Far.

I could go on and on about the N97 – but there’s no point, and no way to do so without seeming unnecessarily harsh. Nearly every element of the phone has one glaring fault that just kills it for me. A nasty lag here, an odd interface choice there. Even down to the media functionality: it’s as basic as can be (we had no trouble with audio files, but we had a hell of a time finding videos that would play on it), but the built in speakers make even your favorite songs sound like they’re being played through a cat. Nokia makes a valiant effort to cram everything into this phone, but doesn’t pull a damned thing off perfectly.


S60 has seemed as if it was on its last limb for some time now; with other interfaces now swooping in for the kill, it’s really dragging down Nokia’s efforts. It may be one of the most popular platforms in the world, but that doesn’t mean its one of the best. Sorry, S60 – it’s game over. – TechCrunch / MobileCrunch

Nokia N97 Review

Nokia tried really hard here, but to be honest, speaking from my personal opinion, the second I saw the N97 announcement I skipped right over it in my head. I’m the biggest N95-4 fan you’ll find — but S60 5th Edition with a resistive screen, horrible keyboard and horrible navigational buttons? No thank you. The problem with the Nokia N97 is — and please don’t take this the wrong way — that this exact phone could have been launched 2 years ago and no one would have blinked. What other phone can you take out of it’s current place, drop back two years, and have no one question where it came from? Take the Palm Pre for better or worse, and bring it back to 2007. People would have heart attacks. What about the iPhone? Well, you know how that turned out. BlackBerry Storm? People would have broken through glass to get it. But, no one really would care about the N97 and that, besides not being a device we enjoyed using, is the larger issue. Nokia has lost its place in the sun when looking at the consumer smartphone market and until they get back on track, RIM, Apple, Windows Mobile, Palm and Android are going to continue eating more and more of their lunch. – Boy Genius Report

Nokia N97 Review: A Tale of Two Bloggers

I had genuinely hoped for the N97 to be my new smartphone. I’m sorry to say that my bitter disappointment echoes the depths of my surprise. I’m sure long time S60 users will feel right at home with the N97 and the hardware certainly won’t disappoint consumers whose purchase decision consists solely of ticking off boxes on a spec-sheet; unfortunately, I’m neither of these. Chris, as you know I’m a man with a taste for elegance: I like my wig powdered, my wine poured through a sieve, and only the choicest of Carolina tobaccos. Clearly, I’m also an aged man by comparison, but it is you sir who is living in the past. You can reminisce all you want about the glory days of Symbian. Misguided allegiance to S60 is in the end simply misguided — and if that allegiance tempts you into handing over $700 for the unsubsidized N97 in the US then you’re just a fool. In fact, maybe you should grab a RAZR and give Motorola’s former CEO Ed Zander a call. I’m sure he’d love to reminisce about staying the course in the face of innovative competitors and dwindling marketshare. – Engadget

I have yet to read a positive review of the Nokia N97 so I held off on the Php34,000 purchase. Come to think of it, the N97 is supposed to be the better sibling of the Nokia 5800 because of the QWERTY keypad and faster processor but it looks like nobody bought into it.

nokia n97

There are several factors IMHO that resulted to such underwhelming reviews:

  • It looks like the S60 platform is to be blamed. Compared to the Android OS, iPhone 3.0 OS and the Palm WebOS, the S60 pales in comparison. If hardware is king, then the OS is queen.
  • The price may have played a role. The Nokia 5800 price was a sweet spot so people forgave its shortcomings. The Nokia N97 was priced at the same level as the iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre and HTC Magic so people will definitely compare them. Add to that the fact that Nokia doesn’t have subscription deals with US telcos, a $700 N97 will obviously look very expensive compared to a $199 iPhone 3GS/Palm Pre.
  • Very high expectations from a market leader. Nokia is undoubtedly the biggest player globally, so if the N97 is the best they can do for a flagship smartphone, people will certainly shake their head in disappointment. If it was, say, Motorola or some small player, I think the slant would have been a little different.

I think Nokia is in a bit of a disadvantage because of their market position. It’s still too early to tell. Maybe they can do better with the N98 or the N99?



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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36 Responses

  1. hungrynez says:

    I just got back from the mall. Got to try the phone, looks maybe deceiving I guess, because the N97 really looks good but having read some comments in this post made me think twice about buying it. Good thing, I forgot my credit card, whew. Thanks for the post.

  2. Jam. says:

    I love to have A n97. And I love symbian. BTW, I ask the price at robinson lipa a while ago and it cost 31,950

  3. Doc Harry says:

    I tweeted my sentiments about the N97 to you a few days back. A laggy E75 is already bugging me, what more with a touchscreen and what has been described as a dinky processor. Nokia and Symbian are where Palm was for the past few years… almost dead in the water till they revise the OS.

  4. Juneau says:

    I think most of the tech blogs are right about the N97. For me, N97 has a good hardware and the sliding keyboard is a plus for me, but it lacks the flashy OS like the pre or the iphone etc. and i think most of the consumers now is looking for a good, comfortable and cool looking user interface OS for their mobile phones.

  5. ampanet says:

    well, the word that sticks to me when i see negative/ambivalent user comments about the n97 is “unimpressed”.

    so i guess, those people were just expecting more from a phone in that price bracket.

  6. Mike says:

    For that price, I wouldn’t even touch the N97. I’d rather spend all that money for a nice HDTV, thank you.

  7. Babsy says:

    They called it the iPhone killer, but reading this post I think it killed it itself.

  8. Vance says:

    from what I read, the keyboard sucks and it need some amount of energy to tilt the screen.

  9. blued888 says:

    S60, I believe, is also to blame. The iPhone has been around for two years now and it’s just lately Nokia has been making advances into the touchscreen market.

    S60 5th edition is not a revolutionizing Nokia OS by any means, I don’t think it’s even an evolution. They have to do better than that.

  10. Icey says:

    I have the n97 and the main reason why I don’t like it is because the keyboard is such a pain in the wrist and fingers.

    I love typing in the e71 more.

  11. Alex says:

    bought the n97 last week upgraded from my slow-ass nokia n96.

    Main Advantages:
    -32GB + expandable microSD
    -vibrant high resolution 3.5″ screen
    -BP-4L battery, 1500 capacity
    -usb charging

    Disadvantages (to name a few):
    -screen not that responsive (compared to iphone, etc)
    -camera seems to be worse than my previous n96
    -overall cpu/interface response is still slowIsh
    -bulky/heavier than i wanted it to be
    -OS still buggy/prone to hangs
    -screen area a fingerprint magnet

    Was definitely expecting more from this phone. Still waiting for the v11.x to be available here. The new firmware update is available on other countries at the moment. hopefully the new update will fix most of the major bugs.

    -Alex
    mp3-codes.com

  12. technophobia says:

    My boss insist on buying this one on the first day they release it.

    I’m disappointed with N97 it’s laggish OS and sometimes weird way of inputting…and it looks weird if keyboard is not shown it looks like an ALIEN TACO…

    and not much software available yet…

    for some software of N97 click below…
    http://technophobia1.blogspot.com/2009/06/n97-free-games-software-applications.html

    iphone or winmobile > n97 for now…maybe there will me n97i later on @[email protected]

  13. Victor says:

    it has really been the phone’s OS that makes a lot of noise. One thing is clear: rebuild symbian. rebuild.

  14. Each new phone in the market has disadvantages:

    iPhone has good OS and Touch Screen but it needs a ‘real’ keypad you can touch.

    N97 is nice with good QWERTY keypad and Touch Screen but it needs to have a Good OS. :)

  15. Mico says:

    Hmm with the review for the N97 i’m now scared to plunk down my 18,700 for the E5730 (in nokia stores)

    I mean they might be using a similar structure and that may mean a poor and responsive phone

    I hope you guys come up with a review for that :)

  16. There’s quite a positive N97 feedback over at http://www.technogra.ph :)

  17. ed says:

    i love the phone.. its that simple.

  18. Justin says:

    I recently bought the N97, after 8 days of owning it, I’m actually satisfied and regretting that I bought it instead of the iPhone 3G S.

    Why Nokia resorted to use resistive touch screen instead of capacitive is for this reason: if you forgot to lock the screen, the resistive touch screen will not respond to “sensitive” touches in your pocket or bag, which is the opposite of capacitive touch screen of the iPhone and other touch screen smartphone.

    Also, the Symbian S60 is a good OS for touchscreen smartphones that it has also been adapted by Samsung for its Omnia HD i890 and Sony Ericsson for its soon-to-be-released Satio.

    The problem of the N97, which major tech blogs didn’t blame, but is the real cause of their disapproval of the N97, is the processor. It uses the ARM 11, which runs at 434 MHz, while the Omnia HD and SE Satio (its S60 competitors), and the iPhone 3G S as well, already sports the ARM Cortex A8 running at 600 MHz.

    So there you have it. The real problem of the N97 is not woth the OS, but with the processor.

  19. Justin says:

    I recently bought the N97, after 8 days of owning it, I’m actually satisfied and regretting that I bought it instead of the iPhone 3G S.

    Why Nokia resorted to use resistive touch screen instead of capacitive is for this reason: if you forgot to lock the screen, the resistive touch screen will not respond to “sensitive” touches in your pocket or bag, which is the opposite of capacitive touch screen of the iPhone and other touch screen smartphone.

    Also, the Symbian S60 is a good OS for touchscreen smartphones that it has also been adapted by Samsung for its Omnia HD i890 and Sony Ericsson for its soon-to-be-released Satio.

    The problem of the N97, which major tech blogs didn’t blame, but is the real cause of their disapproval of the N97, is the processor. It uses the ARM 11, which runs at 434 MHz, while the Omnia HD and SE Satio (its S60 competitors), and the iPhone 3G S as well, already sports the ARM Cortex A8 running at 600 MHz.

    So there you have it. The real problem of the N97 is not with the OS, but with the processor.

  20. @bi3L says:

    when you go to a mall and look at a cellphone showcase… everybody’s going to the touch screen section… be it Samsung. LG or even those china phones… the thing is that the market is moving towards the touch screen genre and Nokia should follow suite. I guess being the leader the mobile market, you can sometimes.. try and dictate what trend.. but like in the movies… no matter what the reviews and critics say… as long as the consumer or people likes it.. then it’s a hit!!!! :)

    http://lovethoughtslovelines.blogspot.com/

  21. i have an N97 phone and i find it really great. Everything is perfect for me. I think the beauty and usability of a cellphone depends on how the owner uses it and it’s purpose.

  22. wow thanks this blog is really helpful. very informative!

  23. Amrita says:

    Nice blog with very good information, I bought my Nokia N97 and I am quite happy because It supports all that apps which I needed like Vopium, Call recorder, mig33 and Nimbuzz

  24. Henry says:

    Things i like on my N97

    32gb built in memory (expandable to 16gb)
    FM Transmitter
    Wifi (wider area coverage than my N95)
    Querty Keyboard
    GPS (working great with google map)
    5mp camera

  25. Ton says:

    The deviated space bar is the issue that broke the deal for me. Space bars are at the middle. Always.

  26. robert z says:

    N97 sucks!!!!too slow couldn’t even catch up with my old iphone 2G…The designer and engineers should jump thru their window for them to die in shame….(like the guy who were charged for stealing the protype of an iphone 4G in china!!!)

  27. irispen says:

    bulok kasi ang UI at CPU ng n97.

  28. Jay says:

    why is everyone saying that n97 is slow? well its not… i just got my new n97 and its very responsive to touch and its really fast… almost like my iphone 3G…

  29. khirstel says:

    please help me…im planning to buy N97 this week before my birthday…so i just want to know if N97 really not nice or its okie…if its not nice which alternative fon i must choose to buy,??Thanks

  30. le says:

    its a matter of how are u famillar with the user interface and how u use it..

  31. Sunofa says:

    Sir Yuga, where do you sell your old mobile phones? Maybe I would be lucky to buy a phone from you… Hehehe mura lang sana…ü

  32. m7 says:

    n97 phone is a very good phone… biggest memory,and its not that slow…s60 is not a bad OS either…its the processor that makes it slower,but not that slow,a matter of a slice of a second..

    this is a good phone guys,you can try xperia sony erricson x10,if you really wanted to have a good phone..but mind you,,the price really is gonna kick your ass…these days,n97 now costs PHP23-25K…enjoy

  33. Manix says:

    i’ve always liked Nokia, and almost bought this one.

    interesting how things turn out to be… now, Nokia even admits their mistakes in the S60.

    wonder how the N97 owners feel by now…

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