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Can Nokia's latest N97 really beat the iPhone?

Print Edition: July 26, 2009

Can Nokia’s latest N97 really beat the iphione?

Before we start, let me defend myself. I like phones, I like phones so much that I haven’t used a single phone for any sustained period of time for over five years. I don’t, therefore, have too many friends. I’m like the crazy lady with cats in The Simpsons, I just collect phones instead. So now that you all know that I’m a mobile-obsessed psychopath, let’s start on the N97. Design? This is far and away the nicest and most practical N-series device ever made. Keep in mind, Nokia had some brilliant engineering masterpieces in the N-series that looked like bricks. This looks rather nice, and with the keyboard out and the screen at a lovely angle, with the neat “click” the phone makes when you do that, this is ergonomically rather nice. Other than the fact that they placed the spacebar weirdly and thus many of my messages read “Ibshouldbgetbablifebbeyond-bphones”.

Useability? Read previous section for part about the spacebar. The primary touch screen interface is a “resistance” touch-based device, which means unlike the i Phone’s “capacitive” touch that allows for multiple touch inputs, this does not. The widgets on the home screen is a nice concept, though, but if you really want to make use of them, you need to have an unlimited data connection. And the music player isn’t bad at all in terms of audio playback, but it lacks the look and feel of the new iTunes interface. The FM transmitter is a great feature, however, if like me, you spend far too much time in the back seat of Indicas. It is pricey at Rs 35,000, but so was the previous N96. It has 32 gigs of memory onboard, which is a lot and you can download more apps from Nokia’s “Ovi Store” again trying to compete with Apple’s iTunes Application store. And the Ovi Store was a bit of a let down, no decent, free Twitter application was listed. And the iPhone gets Tweetdeck.

Sure, more apps are coming soon, but I wanted more things to play with. The processor isn’t that much better than the N96, but the improved interface did make life easier. That said, Nokia’s Symbian S60 version 5 software is nowhere near the lightened OS X on the iPhone. Heck, the interface on Samsung’s new touch devices is better. Listen, honestly this is a good device, my disappointment with Nokia is that I expected them to do more. The N97 is their best device ever, but it could have been much, much better.

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