But before those arrive, June 26th will see the launch of the Nokia N97. In a nutshell, it’s the Finnish phone giant’s flagship mobile phone for 2009. And by common consent, it's one of the most powerful mobile devices ever to hit the market.
We got a hands-on, sneak peak at the N97 today. Here’s a whistlestop tour of the device, taking in everything from its specifications, usability and our take on how it’ll fare in 2009’s handset battle royale.
After losing out on market share in recent years to the likes of Apple and RIM’s BlackBerry handsets, Nokia has a lot riding on the N97. Happily, the latest in the high-grade Nseries of phones seems to have more than delivered the goods.
A glance at the specifications and whopping onboard memory tells you that this could be the most powerful multi-media mobile phone yet seen. And, coupled with the phone’s good looks, it’s clear that Apple and RIM have a fight on their hands for handset supremacy.
The accent on multi-media evident in the N97 suggests that rather than business users, Nokia sees the phone as appealing principally to the consumer market.
Long, rounded edges and an elegant form factor means that tablet mobile phones always give off an air of sophistication that missing from more compact handsets. The Nokia N97 is no exception. It’s a truly beautiful device to behold.
That’s something that’s more than matched by the build quality. The N97 feels solid in your hand and the shiny metallic finish oozes class.
In keeping with Android phones and the iPhone, the Symbian-powered N97 is all about applications and the opportunity they offer to change the functionality of your handset whenever you like. There’s certainly no shortage of apps to choose from.
Although it only opened this week, visitors to the Ovi store can choose from over 20,000 launch titles. That includes everything from goofy games and ringtones to hard-headed business applications. Once you’ve downloaded them these you can be accessed quickly via the widget-based system, more of which later.
The N97 also comes equipped with a significantly better music player interface than that seen on the N96.
Nokia N97 specs and hardware
• Although the N97 can’t compare with dedicated cameraphones, the snaps we viewed taken with the five megapixel camera were of superb quality. Helped in no small part, we're sure, by the top-grade Carl Zeiss lens.
Video capture, meanwhile, is just as impressive. At some 30 frames a second, the picture clarity is of DVD standard and is actually faster than TV.
• The N97 is the first mobile phone to boast 32GB of onboard memory. That’s a huge amount and enough to make a lot of netbooks look fairly puny. Better still, you can boost this by up to 16Gb with a memory stick.
• Vodafone will be offering the N97 packaged with free Nokia MD-8 speakers. We tested these and found they complemented the music player to good effect.
• The display is an impressively large 3.5-inches, which offered a video viewing experience well ahead of most handsets.
Ease of use
In keeping with all the best Nokia handsets, users have a choice of operating methods. Owners can either use just the touchscreen for navigation or the full slide-out Qwerty keyboard.
We found the touchscreen intuitive and easy to use. That’s due in no small part to the widget-based system – a first for a Nokia mobile phone - on the homescreen that allows you to customise the layout and access all your most used apps and services within seconds.
However, for those moments when you want to de-clutter your display, Nokia has installed a breezy fast function that simply requires you to drag your finger across the screen. Alternatively, individual widgets can be easily removed by pressing and holding the relevant icon.
A handwriting recognition function is supported. But at present no stylus is available, which means that for the time being at least you’ll be using your fingers.
Fast 3.5G (HSDPA) connectivity means that web browsing and downloading applications was an efficient and wholly satisfying experience. Support is also provided for Wi-Fi and WLAN.
Overall mark: 9/10