N97: The Live-With Review

I was asked earlier today if I would note some of the reflections that I have with the N97 with it being a number of months since reviewing and purchasing it. During this time, I’ve been one part excited, another part challenged, and very much content with my purchase.

The Excited Moments

Some of the more excited moments with the N97 has been just its sheer versatility. I use this device hard. There is rarely a workday that goes by where I don’t need a charge by 5pm.

These days, normal use has me connected to 3 email accounts with Nokia Messaging (that might drop to two), listening to music anywhere from 1hr to 4hrs (depending on whether I pop in earphones at work or while bike riding, or if I use the FM transmitter for the client commute), and several hours of web browsing.

I use Skype during business hours as it has been great in saving me much money – I’ve even reduced my post-paid contract to the lowest possible level because of it.

Beyond that, I connect my Apple Wireless BT keyboard to it to write blog posts, respond to emails, or write on several threads. I also keep my eye on the Maemo/Meego, Ideas.Symbian, and Google Reader websites, so I tend to have the device on very, very often.

Compared to every mobile device I’ve had in the past, its sheer ability has been wonderful to behold and discover. And yes, I’m not always as mobile as I’d like to be, yet, I’m finding that I am not just productive with the N97, but learning how mobile and computing lives in several types of contexts.

The Challenging Moments

Hence the challenge moments. The N97 is less the multimedia computer than the N95. Its much clearer to the point of Symbian though than any mobile. Its a very solid communications terminal, and at the same time, its not quite a PC yet.

Some of this has to do with the fact that it shipped with some iffy firmware. Once v20 came out, the N97 that showed up in the ads started to shine through.

Yes, memory issues get me from time to time. I notice still that the heavier apps will eventually shut down, or even causes the device to do a half-restart. And its challenging there. Sometimes more than others.

And yet, there’s been this peace about these challenging moments. On one part I’m living with the current plateau of the Symbian platform, and on another part, I know that the next Symbian platforms are hacked onto this. Its a lot like having the Treo 650 – its was a half generation ahead of where it should have been, and sometimes the software responded as such.

The Content Moments

Which is where I can say that I’m getting very content with things. When I moved to the Symbian platform, this was the device that I wanted. I didn’t want the half-step of having a Symbian and Maemo device (the N75 and N800). I wanted one platform that spoke to my needs and did so well. I feel that the N97 is just about there.

Yes, I’ve had the N900 and it does show where Nokia is going. However, it doesn’t match in the communication’s polish that Symbian has. Its not a feature issue, its an experience issue.

I’ve grown to be quite content with other aspects of the N97 such as the browser (still chokes on a few sites, but overall, not bad), and Nokia Messaging (RAM hog). I’ve liked the applications and games that have come from the Ovi Store. There’s room to improve there though – and some of the recent games and improvements to Ovi Maps speak to that happening.

In seeing a lot of mobiles come my direction, I’ve got a weird perspective on the N97 – its actually a pretty solid mobile. A very solid one if you aren’t tied into iTunes or Google in fact. Its one of those kinds of devices that enables you to kind of live part of your mobile life on your terms, and then with those things you cannot, there are several solutions (some more polished than others).

Of items that I’d like to see in future updates:

  • better Skype integration
  • better RAM handling with Nokia Messaging
  • threaded SMS
  • updated browser engine (and updates to Flash if they are going to keep that marketing point)
  • some tuning to the battery and camera
  • and some more versatility with the homescreen widgets (they are passive displays only)
  • (one more) integrate all the major IM services into Ovi Contacts

I know for a fact that there’s a lot coming in terms of these minor issues with Symbian^3. In fact, I’d not be remiss to tell anyone who is looking at the N97 to hold-off for the Symbian^3 devices (possibly June at earliest, mostly likely Fall). There’s a lot of polish that’s been done, and Symbian kind of just works well.

I would not trade my N97 for any device that is available right now. I’m really that content with it. In terms of a device that can be better, it would need to be something along the lines of the Microsoft Courier or Nokia Morph concept devices. Its not the “perfect in every way” package, but like Mario in Mario Kart/Smash Bros, tends to do good enough in so many areas that its just hard to look away from it.

This was also posted at Brighthand.

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