Let me get this out of the way first. I want one of these things.
I’m talking about the upcoming Nokia N97, which the Finnish handset maker unveiled this morning at its annual shindig, Nokia World, in Barcelona. For a long time now Nokia has been telling consumers not to think of its Nseries line of smartphones as phones at all. Instead, they’re ‘multimedia computers’, says the company. With today’s introduction of the N97, a device that’s designed to not only compete hard against consumer-friendly smartphones from the likes of Apple, HTC and RIM but also has a bit of the Netbook appeal in its sights, that pitch is sounding a lot less lofty.
The new Nokia N97 combines a 3.5 inch widescreen touch display with a slide out QWERTY keyboard, a first for the consumer-targeted Nseries. But it’s the way in which the screen tilts up at a thirty five degree angle when the physical keyboard is exposed that has me smitten (see video below). Perfect for viewing videos or typing on the device while its resting flat on a table rather than being held in the hand, and much more like using a conventional laptop or ‘palmtop’ such as the old Psion 5. The only disappointment here, on paper at least, is that, as with the XpressMusic 5800, the N97’s touchscreen is resistive not capacitive, meaning that operating it with a finger won’t be as responsive as it could be, a decision that Nokia presumably took in order to cater for the Asian market’s need for handwriting recognition via a stylus. Why not release two versions, one resistive and one capacitive, for different markets?
As you’d expect for a flagship Nseries device, the N97 packs in lots of familiar Nokia goodness, and then takes it up a notch. In addition to the 3.5 inch (360 x 640 resolution) touchscreen with haptic feedback, there’s a 5 megapixel camera (Carl Zeiss optics and dual LED flash) that’s also capable of shooting 30 frames per second ‘DVD quality’ video, Assisted GPS and compass sensors, WiFi, tri-band HSDPA, Bluetooth and USB, and a wopping 32GB of internal memory that can be optionally expanded to 48GB with the addition of a 16GB microSD card — see All About Symbian’s breakdown of the specs.
The N97 is undoubtedly Nokia’s most social networking-friendly phone yet too, and brings the company’s ‘connecting people’ slogan into focus with something tangible and up to date. Building on the XpressMusic 5800’s ‘contacts bar’ feature, the N97’s home screen has been turned into a fully customizable social networking aggregator that offers dynamically updated widgets for popular sites such as Facebook and MySpace, along with Nokia’s own Ovi suite of web services, email, SMS, weather and more. Additional widgets will be offered through the bundled download app, and while not on the same level as the iPhone’s App Store or the Android Marketplace, could provide third-party developers with a much lower barrier to developing Internet-enabled applications for devices running S60.
All in all, and without actually getting my hands on the device, the N97 looks like it will deliver the Nokia phone I’ve been asking for. All of the Nseries’ media consumption and production features, combined with a physical QWERTY keyboard and the email efficiency of the business focused E71 and earlier Eseries lineup.
I hope to have a full hands-on preview as soon as possible — the N97 won’t hit the market until sometime in the first half of 09 — but for now, here’s a bunch of videos of the device in action…