The new Nokia N97

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December 2, 2008 Gizmag's Dave Weinstein attended the Nokia World Conference this week in Barcelona. This is the first of a series of articles on the flurry of announcements: Nokia has announced its next generation flagship device, the N97. Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's Executive Vice President Markets, unveiled the device as walked through the design process that yielded a powerful device that aims to capture the hearts and minds of the public as a primary internet and communications terminal as well as an entertainment and gaming device.

The early prototypes displayed are quite promising, the device design is a practical compromise between form and function, and Nokia is demonstrating working devices with fairly complete software today, a full 6 months before their intended shipping date.

Overall, while our initial impressions are quite positive, we do have some reservations about the design:

1. Nokia chose a large and bright 3.5" display, with screen resolution a non-standard 640x360 pixels, for the device. By itself, this isn't much of an issue, and while the display is large, bright and responsive, it seems like an odd choice considering that flagship models from Sony Ericsson (Xperia X1) and HTC (Touch HD) are already shipping with 800x480 displays, and Nokia is 6 months away from shipping with 640x360. Web browsing and mapping, both considered core features of the N97, benefit greatly from larger resolution displays. 2. Nokia has invested a lot of time and effort into designing a hinge mechanism to smoothly open the N97 and simultaneously tilt the screen and expose the qwerty keyboard. While they have accomplished their goals in this design feature, it unfortunately leaves space for only 3 rows of keys on their keyboard, so many keys found on other smartphone implementations are missing or awkwardly placed. Only time will tell if users are comfortable with the keyboard layout, but our initial impression was that we would have liked a 4th row of keys and a "numeric keypad" overlayed in a more traditional way.

Despite these reservations, we are impressed with fit, finish, and speed (even of the early prototypes) of the device. The software that we saw demonstrated was stable and performed well, and looks to be close to finished production quality. There is no doubt that Nokia has created a world class device that will make a significant impact in the market when it is ships 2009Q2.

See earlier report on the N97 here.

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