Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nokia N97 Review - Software

The Nokia N97 is the first Nseries to run Nokia's touch screen optimized S60 5th operating system and only the second Nokia phone to use it. I've had the N97 over a month now and made it my primary phone so I hope to give you a good idea what it feels to use the phone. In my first N97 review I covered the hardware aspect which is only a part of the phone. Here I will be reviewing the software that powers the N97.

Thanks to WOM World for supplying me the N97-1 in this review.

More after the jump!

S60 hasn't gone through much of a change - great for people already familiar with S60.

Nokia E71 with S60 3rd edition, Nokia N97 with S60 5th edition, and N82 with S60 3rd edition

Firmware Updates
It's not common to see firmware updates being reviewed so early in a product review but I want to emphasize to both current N97 users and prospective N97 owners on the importance of updates and Nokia's dedication to their products.

During my review process Nokia had updated the firmware for the N97 from V 11.0.021 (15-06-2009) to V 12.0.024 (04-08-09). This gave the N97 much better response and screen redraw speed throughout the phone. I also ran into less system errors and reboots. To put it simply, the N97 is still a work in progress, much like the N95, and Nokia is two or three firmwares away from a great phone.

Thankfully Nokia has included a very convenient easy to use over-the-air firmware upgrade software powered by Red Bend. Just start SW update under Applications and it'll automatically check online for software updates and one click downloads and installs it just like Microsoft's Windows Update.

Nokia's software update is a fabulous tool to help keep your phone working at its best.

Operating System

Home screen
The much hyped widget based home screen is a big customization improvement to S60. There are still limits as you can only add each widget once. So you can't display an Accuweather widget for both your home city and the city you're visiting on the home screen. But Nokia has given the user much more flexibility by including 2 shortcut widgets so you can add up to 8 application shortcuts and 2 contacts widgets to put 8 of your favorite contacts. Too bad Nokia didn't include 2 e-mail widgets so users can follow both their work e-mail and their personal e-mail. To configure any of the widgets, click Options > Edit Content and click on the widget you want to edit or tap and hold the widget to change the positioning. One annoyance with the home screen is that a slight flick of the finger on the widgets will hide them all instead making it more useful like revealing another home screen. To re-enable the widgets you can flick your finger again on the empty space or click Options > Show content.

The e-mail widget is improved over previous incarnations allowing the display of up to 2 of the latest e-mails and number of new e-mails or just displays the number of new e-mails.

Double clicking and single clicking isn't annoying as I thought it'd be but it gives the impression the phone is too slow and not capturing all touch input. You just have to realize that it's not an iPhone but S60 done up with touch so you still get scroll bars.

Screen rotation is fast enough. There is a noticeable delay where the screen goes blank with just the background color but it is very livable. The v12 improved the screen redraw speed considerably.

Nokia has gone through S60 and reorganized many of the menu items - more so compared to previous attempts. If I wasn't so accustomed to S60 I would think they made some good decisions to grouping similar functions together.

For example:
App manager is now in settings. Use Organize > Delete to remove applications.
Connectivity in Settings
Music Player, Radio, Music Store all merged into the Music application
Landmarks, GPS data, and Positioning all merged into the Location application

There's no smart dial on the homescreen. It would've made the dialpad much more useful.

Nokia, please add the letters to the numbers for the next firmware.

It would have been nice if Nokia included the letters associated with the numbers in the dialing user interface. Otherwise making a call to something like 1-800-CALL-ATT would be difficult. They fixed this on the N900.

When you finish an incoming call while the phone was locked and "Show call duration" is enabled, the N97 immediately locks after finishing a call so the call duration popup is quickly lost. This doesn't happen on S60 3rd edition so I believe it's a usability bug. I still hate how S60 doesn't keep call duration for each call; even my 3 year old SE W810i did this.

Scrolling with the narrow and small scroll bar is very frustrating. In a long note like this reviewing I'm writing, the scroll bar is narrow and small making it difficult to select and stopping it at the right spot in the file is hard as slight movements scroll a lot. This is where kinetic scrolling is sorely needed.

Input methods

One of the draws to the N97 is its full QWERTY keyboard but for those times when you just can't be bothered to open up the phone or need one-handed operation, the N97 offers numerous input methods:

T9 for the older schoolers

It even works in landscape

Handwriting recognition

The handwriting recognition is fairly good. I just had problems with having the N97 recognize my 'i' which turns into 'j'.
Handwriting recognizes both lowercase and uppercase input but it makes fewer mistakes with uppercase.

Typing software - it doesn't have some of the little usability enhancements found in Blackberries for typing like capitalizing 'I' when it stands alone or placing a period after hitting space twice.

Predictive typing is disabled by default but it's something every user should consider turning on to address some of the poor keyboard layout. For example, if you need an apostrophe you can just hit the period and the software will suggest apostrophe above which you just hit up on the d pad to accept. I never used predictive typing on the E71 but it makes a difference on the N97

With predictive typing turned on, the N97 is sluggish and can't keep up with my typing - and I don't even type fast!

Unfortunately the N97 does not offer an on screen QWERTY keyboard, as found on the 5800, for the few people that want it.

Bug - with keyboard locking turned on, if you leave the phone open, let it dim and autolock, the N97 won't unlock even if you open it or hit unlock key. I had to take out the battery to reset the N97.

Included or Nokia Software
For a smartphone to be successful it has to include some useful software and Nokia spent a lot of money in the last few years differentiating its products with a wealth of included applications like Ovi Mail and Nokia Maps.

The S60 contacts holds information the same way it did in previous versions of S60 with each contact having first name, last name, various phone numbers, and various details. The number of contacts limit is the memory of the phone.

For S60 5th edition, they've added an additional page as above that makes calling, texting, and video calling easier to click but it's 1 more click to look up phone numbers. You can no longer switch to the details of the previous/next contact by hitting left or right on the Dpad.

Mail & Mail for Exchange
If you've used Mail or Mail for Exchange (MfE) on other S60 devices such as the E71 or N95 then you won't notice any new features. Mail handles e-mail, text messages, Bluetooth transfers, and MMS. MfE provides Microsoft Exchange synchronization support to your Nokia S60 device through the Mail client (more details can be found in my MfE article). If you're planning to use the N97 for personal e-mail I highly suggest installing Nokia's new Nokia Messaging to replace the built-in client which features simple wizards to help set up your email account and boasts HTML support. Unfortunately MfE users are stuck with the built-in client.

Some changes to the Mail client are:
The top tab for Inbox, Sent, Draft, etc. is not scrollable.
Scrolling through a large list of e-mail is difficult as the scroll bar gets smaller as number of e-mail increases. When the scroll bar is small, the slight movements put you somewhere else on the list, likely not where you wanted to be.

Mail still doesn't support HTML or rich text email so all email appear as pure text
Also the much used Search, found in the latest S60 devices, does not support mail for exchange.

Oddly, turning off date grouping was found under messaging > other.

Bug: The mail indicator at the top of the standby screen won't disappear even after having read all my messages and email.


This is a big improvement over existing S60 devices. The event details now open instantly in contrast to the E71 where you needed to wait a second. Each of the listed details is also a link to the full description of the event. The Change view, add meeting, and add to-do note buttons at the bottom are very useful. With the N97s much larger screen, the week view is much easier to read than on the E71.

With the phone locked, the N97 will blink with the meeting alert once very quickly and not blink again as my E71 does (fixed in v12) and repeat as the E71 does.

Nokia Browser
Powered by Apple WebKit, the same technology found in the iPhone and Android browsers, the Nokia Browser was one of the first firmware embedded full browsers. Unfortunately, the Nokia Browser hasn't undergone much of a change since then and still runs an old version 412 of WebKit while the iPhone and Android run version 528. The Nokia Browser is considered slow to render pages when compared to more contemporary browsers. Many power users have switched to the faster and lighter Java-based Opera Mini, which now supports touch.

The browser is one of the few included applications that support kinetic scrolling. While scrolling it will display a thin scroll bar on the right that gives you a visual indication of where you are on the page but you cannot click on the scroll bar. I found it slower to get to the bottom of a page with kinetic scrolling comapred to the Dpad.

Like previous Nokia browsers, it does not include the built-in function to open new windows. Navigating the multiple windows opened by Javascript is clumsy at best requiring about 5 clicks.

With the added CPU speed over the last generation of S60 devices like the E71, page rendering was faster and the in-browser flash played smoothly.

My computer ran into problems so my n97 became my computer. Too bad the browser doesn't support activeX which is required for my work.

Gone is the flashy but useless carousel photo viewer in the N95. Replacing it is a very plain but functional photo viewer:

Pulling up the full image takes a long time - much longer than my N82. You're treated to a zoomed in version of the thumbnail while you wait. Zooming it done through a scroll bar.
Bug - photos crashed a number of time when zooming in on specific photos.

Photo Browser
This is a little beta project of Nokia's but I thought it'd be nice to include here to show my readers that Nokia is trying to improve the user experience but hasn't gotten it stable enough to include it with the firmware.

All those white outlines boxes should have photos in them but the software is slow pulling the thumbnails

The photo browser is much more geared to the touch screen of the 5th edition with support for kinetic scrolling and nice eye candy while scrolling. Too bad that pulling up the full photo is slow like the included Photo application. Moreover, zooming on this app is fairly useless as it magnifies the area directly below your finger so your finger blocks what you're trying to see.


The music player remains the same as previous S60 devices.

To have your newly loaded music appear in the Music application, you may need to click Options > refresh library.

Ovi Store

Many users have complained about Ovi search not working well. AllAboutSymbian even made their own. You'll need Ovi account to download anything, including the free things. You'll find a few useful applications like Bloomberg, AccuWeather, and Drawing in Ovi but absent are useful staple software like YouTube.

Nokia Maps

When I got my N97 I immediately upgraded Nokia Maps to 3.01 v09wk26 b02. Unfortunately, a number of users have reported that Nokia Maps 3.0 causes the GPS to become unstable having difficulties holding a satellite lock and giving jumpy data.

Realplayer has been the default video player with S60 for as long as I can remember. As expected, it will play mp4 and 3gpp formats but doesn't support the popular DiVX format.

Realplayer has been touch enhanced and made to look less cheesy and cumbersome than in S60 3rd edition

The flashplayer powers flash within the Nokia browser but you can also open flash FLV files within the included File Manager in Office.

Great to play those saved FLV videos from YouTube but lack of play controls limit its usefulness.
Bug: For FLV videos, audio shutters near the beginning and audio shutters after a few minutes of play it will shutter again and continue.


It's a fun simple application. No OCR support to convert notes to text. There are only a limited colors and editing tools. It's also not vector based.

You can even open photos captured with the N97 and make some interesting drawings:

Third Party Applications
No smartphone is complete without even more software! The main draw to a smartphone is the wealth of compatible 3rd party software to make the phone more useful to the user.

Similar to the transition between Nokia's older S60 2nd edition like the N70 to S60 3rd edition like the N73, the transition to 5th edition breaks compatibility with a lot of applications. Although some of your older S60 3rd edition application may install, not all will run (i.e. Garmin XT version 4) and not all will work well (i.e. Mobitubia doesn't have back button). So before you make the jump to a S60 5th edition, make sure your favorite applications or a viable alternative are available. Unfortunately there aren't a large number of applications designed specifically for S60 5th edition just yet.

Big bug - open PhoneTorch and leave in default settings, turn on light, open camera lense cover, and close camera lense cover. The N97 will now display lines and then reboot.


Garmin now works on 5th edition and, of course, works with the internal GPS.
Bug - Gamin is still buggy with frequent crashes, performance problems, and map drawing bug in landscape mode.


Changing Connection doesn't let you choose the specific connection so you're left guessing if it's using WiFi or your carrier's network

It would've been nice if Nokia displayed the left and right soft keys on the screen for non-compatible S60 3rd edition software since 5th edition doesn't include left/right keys. I tried Mobitubia on the N97 but couldn't navigation back as it's done with a soft key which isn't displayed.

The Nokia N97 software makes some great improvements to much used functionality like the calendar and Nokia Maps. However the N97 felt like a work in progress even after the firmware update to v12. I encountered more than a handful of times I've had to either restart the phone or pull out the battery to fix the phone. There are a number of navigation inconsistencies throughout the operating system such as scroll bars or kinetic scrolling, single clicking or double clicking, and using soft keys or holding your finger on the screen. And a final big sting to S60 5th as a smartphone platform is the lack of quality 3rd party software compared to its competitors. I'm hoping the rumoured v20 firmware update in October will fix much of my N97 software complaints.

Continue to N97 Review - Multimedia & Conclusion > >

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Nokia Nseries and Eseries vs. iPhone: CPU and Battery Life

* Updated 09/09/2009 - Added iPhone 3GS, Nokia E72, N86, Nokia N900. Merged the many tables into one table.

* Updated 10/22/2008, 10/1/2008

After almost a year since the iPhone was announced and more than half a year since it was launched, the iPhone to some other phone comparisons have started to die down. So just to add some wood to the dying fire, I'm here to state:

Current Nokia smartphones can't match the general computing performance of the iPhone


Nokia N82/N95
Texas Instruments OMAP2420
330 MHz ARM1136 + 220 MHz TI TMS320C55xDSP + PowerVR MBX 2D/3D Graphics Accelerator + IVA
Nokia E71, E66, N79, N85
32bit Freescale MXC300
369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N96
32bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12
264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhone
Samsung S5L8900
620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3G
Samsung S5L8900
835MHz (downclocked to 412MHz)
Nokia N86, N97
32bit Freescale MXC300
434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E72
32bit Freescale MXC300
600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900
Texas Instruments OMAP3430
600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GS
Samsung S5PC100
600MHz ARM Cortex A8 + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU

Source: Semiconductor insights, Engadget, PDAdb.net
BoingBoing, iPhone 3G FCC filing

More after the jump.

From the configuration we can see that Nokia has placed a higher importance in call performance (probably from the inclusion of 3G video calling) with the use of a dedicated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) unit, namely the Texas Instruments 220 MHz TMS320C55xDSP).

Does the iPhone lag behind because it lacks a DSP?

No, not really.

In the following chart you will see the ARM1176 perform almost as good as the C55x:

Moreover you can see the ARM1136, found in the Nokia phones, perform almost as good as the ARM1176 with a similar clock speed. Too bad the iPhone packs a ARM1176 with almost double the clock speed.

Two is always better than one right? It could be if you're using both CPUs at the same time. With the flexibility of the Symbian S60 operating system on Nokia phones, you can initiate a video call while editing Microsoft Word/Excel documents in QuickOffice and seamlessly switch between them. The Apple iPhone hides the multitasking from the user and you don't have video calling so you will likely have the iPhone to your ear where you can't really do anything else simultanously. And that's when you realize 1 CPU on the iPhone is good enough if it could handle both DSP operations and general CPU usage as you rarely get to do both at the same time.

So when you're only using the general computing CPU, say for watching a video, the iPhone can process more frames and provide a snappier interface than the Nokia phones.


So here comes a drawback to the two processor set up on Nokia phones. They're power hungry compared to the iPhone since it has to power two CPUs. Even though each of them uses less power than the high clocked iPhone CPU, putting them together in a package creates a higher power usage situation since one is powering the UI while the other is handling cellular operations.

Now to add the nail to the coffin, Nokia has equipped their phones will less powerful batteries:

N95 - 950mAh
N82 - 1100mAh
N95 8GB - 1200mAh
iPhone/iPhone 3G - 1400mAh


The Nokia phones are equipped with a dedicated DSP CPU and a general ARM CPU while the iPhone makes due with a higher clocked general ARM CPU. The iPhone user interface doesn't emphasize the multitasking capability by hiding it from the user so a single processor design works well enough for it. Nokia equips their phones with two CPUs with one focussed on heavy DSP tasks like 3G calling while the other handles all other CPU tasks. The preferred design is based on how you use your phone. But with a more powerful battery and a single chip design, the iPhone will win in the battery life competition.

Use a Microprocessor, a DSP, or Both?, BDti, 2007/04/04
DSP Design Line

Update 10/1/2008
Nokia's latest S60 phones (E-series and N-series) have switched from the Texas Instrument dual core N82/N95 to a Freescale single core in the E66/E71/N79/N85. Oddly enough, a single chip design was used in the N96 like the iPhone. However, the Nokia N96 phone use an older ARMv5 instruction set architecture as opposed to the ARMv6 of the iPhone and other Nokia phones. The iPhone continues to overshadow the Nokias with a higher frequency.
Nokia E71, E66, N79, N85
32bit Freescale MXC300
369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N96
32bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12
264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhone
Samsung S5L8900
620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3G
Samsung S5L8900
835MHz (downclocked to 600MHz) ARM1176JZF + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU

Source: iPhone 3G FCC filing

My original article wrote about the benefits of having a CPU with DSP combination and Nokia continues this with most of their latest phones except the N96. The latest Nokia phones do not have the 3D graphics accelerator as the N82/N95. It's too bad Nokia didn't outfit all their N-series devices with 3D graphics accelerators so N-gage games can stand out from standard Java games. Nokia's switch from a dual core to a single core design and leaving out graphics acceleration will improve battery life.

Nokia continues to outfit their phones with smaller batteries:
E66 - 1000mAh
E71 - 1500mAh
N79 - 1200mAh
N85 - 1200mAh
N96 - 950mAh

It is surprising that Nokia's next flagship phone, the N96, has such a low frequency and uses a single chip design compared to other Nokia devices. Out of all the Nokia phones, only the E71 has a larger battery (1500mAh) compared to the iPhone. I think it was a bad decision for Nokia to include low powered phones (like the N73) as being N-gage compatible when they could've differentiated their N-gage games from other games if 3D hardware acceleration was part of the N-gage platform.

MXC300-30: 3G Single Core Modem Platform
ARM1136JF-S - ARM Processor
ARM926EJ-S - ARM Processor
ARM1176JZ(F)-S - ARM Processor

Update 10/22/2008 notes: Revised clock speed for iPhone 3G, mentioned downclocking for iPhone, revised to refer to 3D hardware acceleration

Additional note: The Nokia N96 does support DSP and hardware video acceleration for 2D/3D with its STn8815A12 chipset. Read more at STMicroelectronics. Oddly enough, the JBenchmark scores for the N96 in the 3D category do not come close to the N82/N95 which feature a separate chip for 3D acceleration. The benchmarks more closely resemble the N85 that does not have 3D hardware acceleration.

Source: Mobile88, Mobile Arsenal

Update 09/09/2009
It's been almost a year since I updated this posting and things have only slightly changed with Nokia putting out Nseries and Eseries devices with a higher clock speed. Apple, not to let any competitor catch up, gave the iPhone 3GS a thorough updating with the new ARM Cortex A8.
Nokia N86, N97
32bit Freescale MXC300
434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E72
32bit Freescale MXC300
600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900
Texas Instruments OMAP3430
600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GS
Samsung S5PC100
600MHz ARM Cortex A8 + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU

Source: PDADB.net, Nokia N900

As I had suspected, the 32bit Freescale MXC300 used by Nokia in their Nseries and Eseries phones for the last year and a half had more capability than Nokia was using which explains the jump from 369MHz to 600MHz.

Since this post is about CPU to battery life I decided to look up the battery life of the Nokia E71 and E72 because they both use the same Freescale solution and same battery but the E72 uses a higher clock frequency.
BP-4L 1500 mAh
BP-4L 1500 mAh
10h 30min/4h 30min
12h 30min/5h 42min
Standby (GSM/WCDMA)
17 days/20 days
20 days/24 days

Source: Nokia E71 Specifications, Nokia E72 Specifications

Very oddly, even though the E72 has a higher clock speed and same battery as the E71, the E72 has a much better life so there is much more to battery life than just CPU and battery capacity. Influences could be better firmware and hardware design.

Unfortunately, 600Mhz is the upper limit to the Freescale solution so Nokia had better find a better solution to keep up with their high-end competitors. I suspect Nokia will continue to use the Freescale solutions in their mid-tier devices, for its good balance of speed and battery life, well into 2011.

This is where Nokia's latest smartphone, the N900, comes in. The N900 discards the pathetic Freescale solutions and returns to the more powerful Texas Instrument solutions to provide the necessary speed to run today's applications and rich multimedia. This extra power puts it inline to compete with Apple's iPhone 3GS. If you don't believe me about how pathetic the Freescale solution is, try comparing the playability of Vampent vBagX on a E71 to the older N95.

The Nokia N900 will be a very exciting product for Nokia. I'm hoping to see a performance comparison between the N900 and the iPhone 3GS to see which will take the crown as the most powerful consumer smart phone.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Nokia N97 Review - Hardware

Anticipated by millions of people for over a year, the Nokia N97 is Nokia's flagship product for 2009. It features the new S60 5th edition touch focused user interface with a slide out QWERTY keyboard and all the multimedia goodies that distinguish an Nseries like 5MP camera, wifi, and integrated GPS. The box contains the phone, AC-10U charger, CA-101 USB data cable, Nokia Wired Headset (AD-54, HS-45), Nseries pointer, screen wiper, and Nokia CD with utilities and programs.

I've had the N97 over a month now and I want to share with you my experiences with it. I wanted to make this one big review but there was just too much to talk about the N97 that I'm breaking it out over 3 posts: Hardware, Software, and Multimedia.

Thanks to WOM World for supplying me the N97-1 in this review.

More after the jump!

I originally received the N97 with the V 11.0.021 (15-06-2009) firmware but midway through my review Nokia shipped the much improved V 12.0.024 (04-08-09) firmware. As with all Nokia S60 devices, Nokia has been very diligent improving the user experience based on user feedback. Nokia also makes it very easy to update with their fantastic over the air (OTA) software update. The next firmware, V20, is rumored to arrive in October and will carry significant user experience improvements like OS wide kinetic scrolling.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia N97-1 (RM-505)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 900/1900/2100
Weight: 150 g
Dimensions: 117 x 55 x 15.9 mm
Battery life (stand by): 700 hours (WCDMA), 280 hours (GSM)
Battery life (talk): 320 minutes (WCDMA), 320 minutes (GSM)
CPU: 32bit Freescale MXC300, 434 MHz ARM1136JF-S
RAM: 128 MB

My phone was manufactured in: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Finland.

The N97 closed:

The display half of the phone is very flat and undecorated.
The top has a thin slit for the speaker rather than the usual Nokia grill. 3 circles are beside the speaker slit: the proximity sensor, forward facing camera, and light sensor. The bottom has two touch sensitive call keys and a really stiff multimedia key.

The multimedia keys is very stiff. I wasn't fond of the call keys because they don't consistently respond in every part of the OS.

The N97 opened:

Opening up the phone will slide the display out and up at a nonadjustable 35 degree angle to the QWERTY keyboard half of the keyboard. The slide mechanism is smooth and assisted so it'll snap open. Closing it requires a little more force but it'll also snaps to the closed position. The slide mechanism is very sturdy and never felt loose - very comparable to the E65 in slide quality. I've never had the phone accidentally slide open and the slide mechanism doesn't feel it got any looser over the month of usage.

The fixed screen angle makes it easier to see the screen when the N97 is sitting on the table but doesn't do much to improve the typing experience.

Keyboard lighting

The N97 while closed:

The N97 while opened:

There was little to no light leaking or spilling. It's nice to see the D-pad finally lighted on a Nokia phone.

The N97 doesn't look like the typical Nokia Nseries of its era. Its use of circles and round corners give it a softer appearance unlike the sharp square-ish designs found in the N95 or N82. The N97 is also surrounded by a chrome trim to give it a higher class appearance that is more typical of Nokia's Eseries line of phones.

From left to right: Nokia E71, Nokia N97, and Nokia N82.

The SIM card card holder is a slide out type which is a lot easier to switch SIM cards in and out than the E71.

In terms of thickness, the N97 is almost double the thickness of a E71:

Nokia N97 compared to the Nokia E71

But the N97 is inline with other high multimedia phones:

Nokia N97 compared to the Nokia N82

Wow this screen is huge for a Nokia! It's a 3.5 inch TFT LCD displaying 360 by 640 pixels with 16M colors.

The widescreen and size make watching movies on the N97 enjoyable

The screen is a resistive so it requires you to push on the screen unlike the capacitive screens found on the iPhone and many Samsung touch screen phones. However, unlike captive touch screens, the resistive touch screen does not require human touch so it is still usable with your gloves on or a stylus pen. Since the screen requires pushes, the screen has a slight flex. Although a number of reviewers bemoan the use of resistive over captive, in practice you don't notice it as much since the accuracy is still impressive right out of the box. You can also go through the calibration wizard if you're picky. A sore point to the touch screen is that the N97 doesn't currently support multi-touch. The vibration feedback for the touch screen was comfortable - being noticeable but not overwhelming.

The higher screen resolution of the N97 mark a significant improvement over the 320 x 240 pixel screens of previous S60 phones. Text and icons no longer look blocky. Screen legibility is on par with the N82 under sunlight the E71 is better however. Noticeable lines run diagonally on the screen when you reflect light off the screen. While closed you can see the top layer having a top right to bottom left by light reflecting off the screen while the lower layer runs top left to bottom right seen by looking closely at the screen in the dark

Sadly the software blanks the display while the phone is locked. It would've been nice to have a clock and phone status displayed like the E71.

During my month of normal usage, I noticed a few numerous hair-thin scratches, only visible by reflecting off the screen that slight distort the screen, appear. My N82 has screen scratches after a year or usage but my E71 hasn't yet.


As enjoyable using the kinetic finger swiping to navigating pages may be, it was easier to click small links found in a group of links, like a tag cloud, using the d-pad. Having the option of using both the touch screen and physical keys is a strong selling point of this phone.

D-pad is shallow. Used nails to left and right side a lot. Some reviews have commented on the unusual left placement of the D-pad but this makes a lot of sense for gaming and you compare it to most video game consoles where the D-pad is always on the left.

The keys are very shallow so there isn't a lot of feedback when you push them. A number of times I didn't know whether I pushed the function key at the bottom right for number input. Part of the issue is that different keys provide a different feedback such as the 'H' making a click sound while my 'M' key is a lot more muted. Keys also vary in stiffness such as the 'O' character was stiffer than 'H'.

The placement of the function key is so far bottom right that it's hard for my right thumb to reach making apostrophes, numbers, or anything needing the function key a chore. If you're coming from the E61 or E71 then you'll immediately notice the 'Z' character no longer sits below the 'A' character. I made a number of typographical errors hitting the CAPS key instead of 'Z'. Highlighting text is difficult with the keyboard as the shift key is far to the left along with the d-pad. Someone at Nokia was listening as the newer N97 mini addresses many of the key placement issues.

Why are the decimal, comma, and apostrophe all on the same key? They are the keys I use very often. I much prefer the E71's keyboard putting comma period beside each other and don't require a function or caps lock key press.

The flatness of the keyboard and spacing made it less enjoyable to type on the N97 and directly influenced the reduction of emailing from the N97 compared to the E71.

The N97 keyboard compared to the E71

Overall the N97 keyboard is useable but not great. It pales in comparison to other Nokia QWERTY equipped phones like the Nokia E75 or Nokia E71.

Build quality
The battery cover hinges are small and fragile so don't break them by forcing the battery cover on.

The battery cover creaked and the area around the lock/unlock key (extremely annoying as the unlock key is so frequently used) but the rest of the phone was solid.

The key lock is frequently used but also creaked the most so it keeps reminding me of bad build quality

I remember worrying about the display ribbon being exposed behind the hinge but I haven't heard of anyone complaining about it. Under heavy usage, the bottom half of the phone gets noticeably warm.

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