N97 Lifer Review

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For those of you who read Top Gear magazine, the lifer reviews are not people who review things after a few hours or days with the product. They write their review after a significant amount of time with it which is usually months or close to a year. As you probably have figured out by now, this blog entry is my review of the N97 after 3 months with the phone.

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I must say, when I first got the phone I was very exited with it as it is actually my first premium quality handset. It looked great and felt great, the hardware that is. When I started it up, its interface was what I liked, polished, simple and FAR better than my Sony Ericsson P1i. It would have been nice to have the crazy transitions found in the Android based HTC Hero, Palm Pre or the vaunted Apple iPhone but for me that was not a requirement. While I do not mind the overall look of the interface as much as other people online who just can’t stop slamming it, I do have some gripes regarding the interface.

For one thing it is not as smooth and intuitive as the aforementioned phones. While it gets the job done, I do get the feeling that it could use an update. The interface feels very long in the tooth and they are times where I felt that things very buried too deep under too many menus. I also wish there were multiple home screens/work spaces like those found in the HTC Hero. In the N97’s home screen there is this somewhat bizarre two screen thing going on. The default one has all your widgets and shortcuts and when you swipe your finger the right or left, it basically clears all your widgets. The empty screen basically just gives you an uncluttered view of your wallpaper that does not seem overly useful. At this time of writing, my phone’s firmware is RM-505 V12 and there is this very weird bug whereby the transition effects would just disappear once in awhile for no apparent reason but other than that all the earlier bugs found were resolved or at least those that I know of. Kinetic scrolling would be coming to all parts of the phone when Firmware V20 is released, currently I still have to drag the scrollbar on the side of the screen which while is easier than expected, is not the most intuitive way of scrolling. Currently only the Web Browser has kinetic scrolling.

In terms of performance, this phone was a step up from my previous phone the P1i most of them time. Due to the ridiculously low system partition (C:\) space, I guess some slowdowns are expected when running loads of apps. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that all the apps that can be installed on the mass memory was re-installed on mass memory for me (Facebook, Ovi Contacts, Friendster etc) and the speed was so much better after I was forced to hard reset my phone which wiped a lot of crap from my phone. According to what I read, the OS optimizations and system partition space increase will address this problem in the next firmware (V20) . The default Symbian S60 5th Edition task manager is one of the areas where I actually miss my UIQ based Sony Ericsson P1i. The default task manager in the N97 and S60 5th Edition in general is just pathetic when compared to the P1i, not to mention its competition. 

When the press people in Nokia said this was a phone focused on media capture, they really meant media capture. Why you might ask? Well this thing’s media playback capability is very lacking. It does not allow me to play WMV, AVI or M4V. All of which are very popular media formats for online video podcasts and not to mention desktop video. On a brighter note on its multimedia capabilities, it does support Real Media and has a very good camera. The camera is not as good as a N86 and is eating the smoke of some Samsung. LG and Sony Ericsson mid range feature phones but it is more than sufficient for my needs. I am not very into photography so for folks like me, as long as the image is not blur or grainy, its good enough for me.

Its PIM functions(calendar, notes and tasks) were very good. Nothing I can really complain here. I am not a CEO with loads of meetings and all that so I guess my word does not really count. I basically use my phone to store my contacts and keeping my events in the calendar plus storing the minutes of the meetings in my company that relate to me. I also use Mail for Exchange and Ovi to backup my data to Google and Ovi respectively and those work well too. One thing that I wish that they did much better is Ovi Contacts which basically tries to emulate Palm Synergy/Motorola MotoBlur whereby it tries to tie in all your contacts into a single view from MSN, Facebook, Yahoo and all that. In this case however all that they can tie in is Google Talk and Nokia Ovi Messenger. I wish they would bring in the other ones such as Skype, MSN, Facebook and Yahoo which have much more use, at least in Malaysia they do.

The Ovi suite is a mixed bag. I do like the features that it provides but the interface just seems a whole lot more clunky when compared to iTunes and the fact that it is a memory hog does endear it to me. The only tools that I used often are Nokia Music and Nokia Suite. For pictures I use Picasa and due to the bad codec support of the N97 and the very slow and memory intensive video conversion in the Ovi Suite, I use Real Player to convert the files and just copy over the video via Ovi Suite or Windows Explorer. I heard the new Ovi 2.0 which got released yesterday is very much improved. Will blog abut it when I get the time.

The Ovi service while not perfect, is very good in my personal opinion. The services are not as good as the Google services like Google Calendar, GMail and all that but in true Nokia fashion, they get the job done. Its calendar and contacts is now my main PIM backup service with Google being the backup in case of Ovi actually ending up like Danger/Microsoft’s Sidekick fiasco.

My wish list :

  1. Integrated Music Player + Podcast Player – While they are currently loosely linked as in the music player can access the podcasts downloaded, it is not seamlessly integrated. Like say when I listen to the podcast in the podcast player, it would show as played in the podcast player but shows as new in the music player. They have already integrated the Video Player with the Video Podcast player, why can’t the integrate this?
  2. Better Codec Support – As I stated earlier, the codec support in the N97 is not the best in the world. Adding support for .m4v and .avi is not too much to ask now is it?
  3. Better Nokia Messaging Integration – Currently the UI does not really blend with the phone and Nokia Messaging is accessed as a separate application. Integration to the central system messaging or even better integrated to Ovi Contacts and Contacts like Motoblur.
  4. Wider Network Support – Ovi Contacts would really rock of they integrated MSN/Windows Live Messnger, Facebook, Linked In & Tweeter. Again this is done to great effect in Motorola MotoBlur and Palm Synergy.
  5. More Home Screens – See HTC Hero’s 7 home screens and you will know what I mean.
  6. Threaded Messaging – This can be seen in the iPhone, HTC Hero and for gods sake it has been done on the latest Ovi Suite. Please put this into the messaging center.
  7. Task Manager – As stated earlier, the task manager in the N97 is really weak. The multi task management in the Palm Pre and HTC Hero just seems to much more intuitive.

Those are what I REALLY want in the N97 and I hope that they can do it soon as I really like this phone, just that it could be so much better and the competition is starting to really supersede this phone.

Nokia N900 Preview

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Two videos that preview the latest Nokia N900 smartphone.

Nokia N900 preview @ Amsterdam (part 1) – BelgiqueMobile.be

Nokia N900 preview @ Amsterdam (part 2) – BelgiqueMobile.be

Not quite the iPhone killer IMO but definitely something that would make things difficult for Google Android Phones. More importantly, I WANT ONE !!