A Small Nokia N97 and X6 Comparison Review

Some weeks ago, I received a Nokia X6 from the good folks at Ideas.Symbian. And as much as I apprecited a new gift, I wasn’t so much interested in a new mobile. Nevertheless, I’ve recieved and have been using the X6, and its started showing me some interesting evolutions in my use of mobile devices, and some larger trends we have in mobile which might often be overlooked.

First, the X6
The Nokia X6 is very similar to my N97. The main differences have to do with the variation of the Symbian^1 Operating System, additional memory, and the lack of a slide/tilting QWERTY keyboard.

It’s because of these differences that the X6 ends up finding itself in my pockets during interesting circumstances. For example, it makes a great bike riding companion. Not that the N97 isn’t sufficient – it probably is moreso – but the X6 fits into my pocket with ease, and the sound quality when using wired or Bluetooth headphones is quite excellent.

This differing use as also allowed me to notice how the touch-screen only form factor has caught on to so many persons. In some respects, the X6 reminds me of the Palm T5 that I used to own, but more phone-like in its approach. Most of the actions are constrained to the homescreen – which contains a contacts carousel, an then two accessible sets of shortcuts to applications. It has become the kind of mobile where I find it easy to keep contact with people.

On the other hand, when I want to treat my mobile more like a computer – like when writing this post – the X6 feels out of its element. The software can be loaded exactly the same, but the lack of a hardware keyboard means that I’ve got to take a mental jump towards either wanting to use my Bluetooth keyboard, or restricting my reading and writing to short bursts.

Mobile Types Defined
And so that’s why I see that mobile is interesting. In the X6 and N97, I have two mobile devices, using the same operating system, having largely the same capabilities and software, but mentally captulting themsevels into different modes of use.

The N97 is my PDA-like, netbook/laptop-like, do-it-all mobile. It feels built to be a mobile computer (even if the lack of memory for running applications runs counterproductive to doing so). While the X6 is a evening mobile. A mobile designed to keep you connected to people and information, but designed more or less to get out of your way when its not needed. It can be a laptop or PDA replacement, but better serves as a communication device.

Conclusions of Sorts
These days I am feeling more and more comfortable going back and forth with the X6 and N97. The X6 doesn’t have my music library, so I use Mobbler in order to pull my last.fm streams and play those.

I use the Phone Switch application to keep contacts, calendar events, and web bookmarks synced between them – choosing this direct syncing method over using Nokia’s Ovi or Microsoft’s Exchange syncing services. But, I do use the syncing service for Ovi Maps and Nokia Messaging Email as these items are proponents of the network/Internet that has always been cloud-based for me.

And I’m no longer afraid of taking pictures with the X6. The camera is of the same quality and featureset as the one on my N97 (5mpx, auto-focus, digital zoom, etc.) and works quite well no matter the device.

What I don’t do on the X6 is work. This post is being created on the N97 with Danais’s MoPress widget. Yes, this could be installed on the X6, but it just doesn’t feel as right on that device. Such is the case with mobiles as communicators – they might have all the smartphone/laptop/PDA-like functionality, but their mental and applied models of use doesn’t endear the user to them.

Its in this remapping of mobile in my head and use where I’ve seen mobile not be understood so well, and where we might be needing to grown up a bit more. Or, maybe that’s just me. Yes, we can cram every software and hardware feature towards mobiles that have traditionally been only-communication based, but there are some mental models and mobiles of use which will always relegate some devices more than others towards not moving from that communication standpoint. That’s where I see the X6, and given when it does and doesn’t do well, its better for my (and anyone’s) user experience to keep it simple, and allow the better points of the device to shine through.

Side Note: I’ll have to come back and link the video of the X6 along with some new pics taken. This post would be better justified with those additional media elements.