Nokia N97: First Impressions

I’ve spent a grand total of three hours with Nokia’s N97 “flagship” smartphone, and I have to say – it’s looking to be a mighty impressive device, and a worthy upgrade to the 5800 XpressMusic. But it definitely ain’t without its flaws.
For those who are new to my version of First Impressions, they’re just a bunch of random thoughts running through my head as I’m using the phone. Apologies in advance if they’re a little too jumbled.
- The Nokia N97 looks, and feels, stunning. Build quality is top notch all-around, with one exception: the back cover.
- The keyboard: definitely flawed. Problem one: the bottom row of keys is a mess. We’ve got an uppercase key where the Z key should be, and the result is a row of keys that are shifted over by one. Throw in the location of the space bar (to the right of the M key – brilliant!), and using it becomes more of a chore, rather than a joy. Finally, problem three: Some of the keys are way too mushy, while some are decently tactile. And strangely, having a period/comma key next to the L key did NOT bother me.
- Keyboard, part 2: despite what I’ve said about it, the keyboard is still faster, way faster than typing on the 5800′s on-screen display. And slightly less error-prone.
- Related note on keys: I don’t know when companies will ever learn that putting keys on the bottom corners of the phone is just a bad idea. It was a bad idea with the Xperia X1, and it’s a bad idea with the N97. The menu key is situated in the lower left corner of the phone, making it damn near impossible for me to press no matter which hand it’s in. Usability guys…
- The screen: It’s big. I think this is the first display I’ve seen on a Nokia phone that is actually viable for watching movies/TV shows/YouTube. And gaming, reading ebooks..
- The slide: it pops open with such force that it feels like I’m going to injure myself or other people around me. That makes it all the more satisfying though.
- Lock key: the lock key is now on the opposite side. It also seems that whenever I unlock my phone after a couple of seconds, the backlight does not turn on. I have to re-lock and unlock to get it working again. I had the same problem occasionally with the 5800, too.
- Improvements over the 5800: I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the N97 fixes issues that I came across with the 5800 XpressMusic. A couple of useful applications that Nokia neglected to add, like Active Notes and a Paint program (except there’s no more stylus – the irony) are now here. The Home screen can be customized to add widgets and extra shortcuts (but you can only add 2 rows of shortcuts, meaning 8 total), whereas the Home screen on my 5800 is nothing but four shortcuts and a background. Touch sensitivity is noticeably better also.
- And finally, the browser: I love it. It’s fast. It now displays a progress bar when you’re in fullscreen mode. It could, however, make better use of the keyboard – the only button that I’ve found works (other than the 5-way keypad) is the 0 key, which enters fullscreen mode. And unless I’m doing something wrong, when you’re in fullscreen mode, you can’t go to a web address unless you exit the mode. Huh?
But it does display this site correctly. I love it.