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Exclusive news just in for the Nokia N97 Members Club: the Nokia Nseries flagship will start shipping to stores worldwide from this week! Keep an eye out for more online updates about when the devices will be available for purchase in your country.
Those members who have pre-ordered their new handsets will be one of the first in their country to receive the new Nokia N97. Expect an email from the online store shortly with delivery dates.
If it's going to start shipping to stores this week then perhaps it's going to be for sale in parts of the world within the next few days. Though it was recently announced that in the UK, the N97 would be available on June 19th from Nokia's flagship store in Regent street. So perhaps it's the US stores that are going to receive stock this week.
Exciting times. Keep your eye on the postbox, you could have an N97 dropped in there any day soon!
Axel from blog-n97.fr contacted me yesterday to let me know he'd finished his review on the N97. Though it's in French, but he's given me permission to translate it fully in to English, so here it is.
The Nokia N97 that I had the chance to test is still in Beta, the firmware is not a production version. I'm sure the bugs and any slow downs will be resolved before the final release. WiFi used was not very good quality (relatively low signal).
When I filmed this test (excluding applications), it was about 6 am after a short night, so I may sound a little bored, but I was just tired! though very excited to test out the beast. Normally I'd use a tripod for the filming, but it was too heavy to take to the hotel.
This is obviously a white Nokia N97.
Unpacking and contents of the box
N97 The box is black with a matt finish, it's rather nice. The top of the box shows the name of the phone "Nokia N97" written in silver and an embossed drawing of N97. The side of the box also has silver writing. Overall the box has a very high end feel.
Upon opening the box, the phone is presented at the top, in a black plastic tray and comes with a stylus type "USB key" (though smaller) which is very practical.
N97 demo video (in french) but provides a great insight in to the handset.
Contents of the box:
Classic Nokia Hands-free
USB / Micro-USB Cable
Charger AC-10E micro-USB
Charger adapter micro USB to Nokia classic charger
Standard Nokia headset
CD containing Ovi Suite Package
No TV cable, we will verify that.
External appearance of the N97
The N97 is compact despite its keyboard and its hinge. No game is detectable which is really nice and reassuring. It holds very well in hand as a whole and not as a phone in two parts. You can easily manipulate the phone one-handed through the design of the phone (eg with 5800 I have a little trouble with the stick to a hand).
The screen is 3.5" widescreen (16:9) (the screen would usually be brighter but in the images there's a screen protector covering the screen). At the top of the phone you'll see the proximity sensor is square with rounded edges (quite large), the earpiece for voice calls, for the video camera and light sensor. The Nokia logo is displayed in the chrome bezel at the top right of the phone. At the bottom of the phone you'll see the menu button (silver) and the red and green buttons to start and end a call, they're touch sensitive.
Over on the left side you'll see the stereo speakers, button lock / unlock which is very handy to prevent accidental key presses. And micro-USB port.
On the top, you'll see the "power" and the 3.5 mm jack / TV output. Over on the right side, volume (+ and -) and the camera button and below the microphone for voice calls or audio input. The back of the phone features the Tessar Carl Zeiss optics 5 megapixel with Dual LED video light (which I could not test it, forgive me, sorry). Access to the battery is as usual behind the rear shell.
The main material is plastic, but very good quality plastic. The screen is also made from plastic, but much thicker than that of the 5800. The outer edge of the phone features an attractive chrome bezel.
The hinge is perfect, see the video and pictures, it opens and closes with easy with a very nice solid swing and no noise. The hinge may get dust in it, so please check from time to time. Axel Meyer from Nokia confirms dust wont effect the performance of the hinge. Once closed the phone feels very solid. The 40 degree angle of the hinge allows for a very cool video playback.
The QWERTY keyboard is also made of plastic, the keys are slightly raised, allowing for easy key press. The space bar is on the right (a little difficult at first but with a little help is very useful) and there are directional arrows to the left. On the white version, the letters are in gray and "functions" in blue.
When you use the keypad it lights up and the effect is quite nice. Please note that in this unofficial release, all the letters are not illuminated with the same intensity and there is also some leakage of light above the keyboard (see photo). There call and hang button don't suffer from any light leakage. The keys when pressed make a pleasant noise.
The phone starts up quickly with a light and vibration. The HomeScreen is rather enjoyable to watch (here with a blue theme). The content of the widgets can take a long time to load but again this isn't a final release and so it could be much faster in the final release.
You can move the widgets, remove and add. The placement of widgets is quite intuitive and the system is reactive.
The N97 has an accelerometer which allows the phone to automatically adjust, depending on the orientation of the handset. Transitions are very fast.
By default you have access to contacts and numbering on the home page (in addition to the "Options"), the numbering is good, with large keys.
A long press of the menu button opens the window menu to display open applications, from this window you can close an application or open it.
AccuWeather: Weather widgets
Agenda: display rapid appointment and duties
Amazon: access to amazon catalog
AP News: Associated Press, recent news
Bloomberg: latest news
Contacts 1 and 2 Favorites: Quick access to contacts
FM Transmitter: quick access to the FM transmitter
Hi5: we need an account, a priori, but quick access to the application Hi5 and display the latest events
Player audio: audio player on the HomeScreen
Online sharing: quick online sharing
Shortcut 1 and 2: shortcuts to some applications
Slideshow: Reuters latest news with pictures (a slide show)
Embed e-mail: configure e-mail, then displays the latest e-mails received
Facebook: view the latest events and quick application to Facebook
You can also display the time (digital and analog, direct access to the confirguration the time and alarm), date (with direct access to the agenda) and the mode (quick mode changes, as the "power").
Menu, Messages and Calendar
Pressing the "menu" takes you to the main menu, it displays the same icons as 5800 by default, the new icons from Nokia which are quite beautiful, I think. You see the calendar, contacts, music, web browser, messaging, photos, Ovi Store (shop), Nokia Maps (Maps), videos and TV settings, games and applications.
In options, you always show open applications above and then display list (see the menu items in a list rather than grid view by default), Organize (to move the icons in the manner of HomeScreen, very practical and intuitive), Help, and Exit (exit takes you to the home page).
The agenda is more conventional but very handy on the big screen of the N97, you have several displays, by month, week or day (accessed through the icons below). Entering an appointment or task is very fast with the physical keyboard and quick access.
Messaging is very much like the 5800, New Message, Inbox, e-mail (you must configure an e-mail), Sent Mail, Drafts, Outbox, Delivery and My Folders. The interest lies in patterns of attachment to post a message: alphanumeric keyboard (tactile), handwriting (well run) and, of course, the physical QWERTY keyboard.
In general, the scroll in the menus can be done in two ways: by using the scroll bar on the side or by touching an item in the list and dragging it down. The scroll bar works well, though isn't exceptional and we would have liked to see the kinetic scrolling (like on an iPhone or Android).
Last, in some menus you just touch it once to open the option, sometimes twice. There are several reasons, sometimes you need to select files or elements (for example in the photo gallery), where double-clicking. In addition, this feature is inherent in Symbian 5th edition. However sometimes the lack of logic in this system, where it is sometimes double-clicking in lists where a single click would have been possible (music for example, to browse through artists, etc.). Some people think that double-clicking allows scrolling by touching icons but scrolling mode is already present in the menus of applications (for example) but is simple click.
Photo & Video
Taking a photo is very simple, you can either open the camera cover which turns the camera on, or you can press and hold the camera button. The shutter speed is very fast and the pictures are of good quality with its Carl Zeiss optics. There are lots of options presented on the screen just to adjust your shot (zoom, flash, macro, white settings, etc).
Once the photo taken, you can easily share via MMS, e-mail, bluetooth and the sharing tools online available (Flickr, Ovi and other services).
Navigation in the photos is quick and makes use of the accelerometer. To move from one image to another, a flick of the finger to the right or left to zoom in double-tap the screen or use the zoom bar on the left side of the screen.
To take a video, it is the same process except that you select "Video mode" in the application. To start shooting, you have to press the red button "record". The N97 records in 16:9, which is simply brilliant. The large screen provides a perfect view. Contrary to what is said in the video, you can shoot with the LED on, simply select the "bulb" before filming.
Web browsing on the N97 is enjoyable thanks to the big 3.5" screen. The browser supports scroll kinetics (taking into account the strength of the scroll) and responds quickly. In the video you'll notice that youtube does not yet work, do not worry, on my E71 and N95 Youtube in desktop mode works perfectly, imagine how awesome it will be on the big N97 screen. The N97 supports flash, it is expected, just not fully implemented in the version I tested.
On the right of the browser you have several options, the first icon on the right (3 lines) opens a shortcuts window, very practical. The second icon allows you to change the site by entering a new web address, then just zoom (via a small bar and - you can also zoom in / zoom out by double-tapping the screen). The last option is ... "options" to display all available options (the button shortcuts presents the main functions of the menu) including the search in the page or viewing options.
The N97's web browser also includes a RSS reader.
Video and music are a strong point of the N97. Why? Massive 32GB storage, 3.5" jack and nice music player!
With 32GB (expandable via Micro SD, upto 48gb) about 420 albums. A good package of music! The 3.5mm jack lets you connect your favorite headphones.
The music players simple yet effective. The tracks are sorted in different ways, Artists, Albums, Playlists, All songs, Podcasts, Genres and Composers. If the song has album art, it will be displayed in the list as as well as the playback view, big buttons let you move forward / backward and play / pause. You can adjust the volume with the volume buttons on the side of the device.
The menu "options" in the drive provides access to playback modes (random, etc.), the FM transmitter (the magic that allows you to send your music to car radio or any other radio in fact), EQ (pre-defined modes) , parameters, options to manage the playlist and use the track ring.
It's difficult to test the maps locked in a room. But I was able to manipulate the interface in its non-final form and here is what I think.
Nokia Maps load quickly, very quickly, which is really great because it's been a negative aspect to this application. The maps are beautiful and accurate! In my version, the finger scrolling is really slow, I guess this problem will be corrected quickly and knowing Nokia!
The red button on the top right of the map allows you to focus on its position in the video button does not work because I was not LBS.
All the interface is controlled via the touchscreen, you can search directly by selecting the "zoom" and using the zoom bar + / - to the left of the screen. In the options you can change the mode of the map (map, satellite and ground, which shows the terrain, not visible in the video because I'm in a town!) Favorites (to launch quickly navigate to your usual places), the history, traffic information (practice), tools (to connect to the network, move the map in 3D mode (not bad), deactivating the positioning, turn off the compass (on the phone to always show the true north), take a screenshot, settings), dash, shop, and licenses (to purchase licenses if yours is expired) ...
Expect a much more comprehensive test right out of the beast!
The Ovi application of the N97 is great. Objectively, I believe that the application is very high quality and has enormous potential. Let me explain.
In my view, the potential for a smartphone today is largely in the applications and possibilities that are offered by the device. A good OS with good hardware will make a good phone. A good OS with good hardware and applications accessible easily and quickly, provides an excellent smartphone. Just look at Apples iPhone.
Nokia has a huge challenge: to distinguish it from the app store by apple, or at least get to the same level.
Entering the heart of the Ovi N97 Store (called "Store" in the icons) will start quickly, you can browse the catalog without having an account but it is essential to have an Ovi account to download software. The software is classified under several classes available at the top of the screen: Suggestions (recommanded, depending on the products you have already downloaded, Ovi Store offers products that may interest you), Personalization (wallpapers, ringtones , etc.), Audio & Video (trailers, various videos, pay-series (speed racer in several episodes in the video), sounds ...), Games and Applications.
When you're connected and you open a book, you can download the product, send the page to a friend, check the rating and description, write a review and read the opinions of others.
If you click on download to download the file directly. During the download you can continue browsing in the store (or do something else with Ovi Store in the background). Once the download is complete, the application offers a menu based on the product downloaded: set as wallpaper (for a screen), set in tone (for ringtones), watch / listen ( for sounds and movies) and install (for applications and games) during installation you can continue to navigate the application. The installation is complete, you can even launch it from the Store.
Video and TV
It is difficult for me to talk about the "TV" of N97, as I could not test this feature and will therefore not dwell on the phone's video player.
With 32GB of memory you can store about 45 movies (at a rate of 700MB per movie), 5 full seasons of your favorite shows. The battery should last about 4.5 hours with continuous video playback. Which is great for a phone.
The 16:9 screen makes video playback a pleasure. Then of course you have the 40 degree hinge which further enhances the viewing.
Navigation in a video file is done directly with your finger on the touch screen with a progress bar playback, to pause or manage the same thing (for the volume you can also use the buttons) .
The N97 can also configure the video stream, to view podcasts mobility for example.
The N97 is also an interesting device for games. Its design allows you to play with either the touchscreen or with the arrows on the left side of the QWERTY.
The Ngage application is not installed by default but you can download it. Otherwise, to play, download games on Ovi Store, the catalog is still small at the moment but will grow quickly!
I tested a pre-installed, game Guitar Rock Tour, Guitar Hero. For those not familiar with the concept, it's a game of rhythm and speed, tapping the notes at the correct time. Very cool and popular game.
This is where it becomes both complex and interesting. There are many applications pre-installed in the N97, namely (some phone functions, others are third party applications):
Clock (with a widget)
Office (allows you to edit and create Word, Excel and Powerpoint)
Online sharing (to share your files across multiple platforms, including very practical coupled to the camera to quickly share your photos on Flickr for example) (has a widget)
FM transmitter (transmit audio via the phone's FM on a car for example) (has a widget)
Joiku Spot (turn your phone 3G WiFi terminal, attention to outside package)
AccuWeather (has a widget)
Amazon (with a widget)
Associated Press News (with a widget)
Bloomberg (has a widget)
Facebook (with a widget)
Hi5 (has a widget)
Reuters Slideshow (has a widget)
Boingo (WiFi utility)
QIK (Live broadcast what you shoot)
Guitar Rock Tour (games are also displayed here)
Out of the phone or when we have tested for a longer period and final version, we will complete testing of each application.
It's quite strange that in "Applications", "Camera" is present but not "Ovi Store, which is itself an application. In all cases, you can move icons and save an application that you like especially in the first screen menu or the shortcuts in Quick's homepage!
How are we already at the conclusion?. Rest assured: this test is only the beginning of a long series of more thorough testing of the N97, when we have a final version in hand, we will make detailed tests of each party, pushing the N97 to its limits.
In the present state of things, namely to have tested a non-final version of the N97, please see the table below with the positive and negative points of the phone.
Quality of finish
Physical keyboard, hinge system
HomeScreen system and widgets
InternalMemory up 42GB
Wide screen 16:9
3.5 mm jack
Touch screen technology chosen: some may think that resistive technology is less efficient than the capacitive.It is a question of how to use (with sub without stylus, etc.)
Interface: single click / double click,difficult to understand at the beginning
Interface: scrolling via the scroll bar or by dragging the icons, no finger scroll in the list directly
Sim Free: 699 Euros (Europe), Â£499 (UK) and $699 (US)
Special thanks to Axel from Blog N97 France for allowing us to translate this in to English
We're all too aware that Nokia are making efforts to break in to the US market, I think it's long overdue. Nokia have been one of the market leaders in the UK for many many years, with an army of loyal fans.
Blow 1: I was first surprised to learn that US customers ordering direct from Nokia are set to receive a free bluetooth headset, whereas no such offer for those in the UK.
Blow 2: It was then noticed that Nokia UK didn't list a stylus as being bundled with the N97, whereas the US website did. Nokia have confirmed the UK N97 will indeed not be packed with a stylus.
Blow 3: In the US, the N97 can be pre-ordered for $524.25 from Nokia direct, whereas it's going to cost those in the UK Â£499.00 which at current conversion is $795.461
Blow 4: Many rumors suggest the N97 will be launched in the US almost 4 weeks earlier than the UK.
Blow 5: At launch the N97 will apparently only be available in black with UK carriers.
Blow 6: This is a global blow, the Nokia N97 will not be shipping with Skype, contrary to earlier announcements.
Yet, all that aside, I'm still excited about the launch. I hope Nokia don't continue this trend of giving a lesser deal to it's UK customer base. I appreciate they want to win over the US, but great hardware and marketing will do that, not throwing in extras, that's just going to upset the rest of the world.
Edit: The N97 on the US site is now $699, so only $100 cheaper, but still cheaper. But that's the same with anything we buy.