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1 to Have, 1 to Review - Share on OviIt was a little more than two years ago when I got my hands on the Nokia N97 to review for Brighthand. I had been waiting for a few years for anyone but HTC to come out with a touchscreen device that had a device-length QWERTY keyboard. And waiting just a day after getting the notice that it would be mine to review, I opened the box and fondled it. I’m not lying when I say that I made the decision right there on the spot to purchase the N97.

A few days ago, I did a massive hard reset on my N97. I’m giving this mobile away.

Not Every Mobile Is Emotional

For the most part, I don’t develop much of an emotional attachment to mobiles. Because of my work with reviewing them and seeing the entire industry at large, it has always been hard to grow too attached to mobiles. But, I’ve had a few models over the years that just hit the sweet spot. 

  • The Palm m515 was just amazing. I didn’t know that a color screen could look so good inside and outside. I stretched the mess out of that PDA.
  • The Sony Ericsson T616 was a classic and loved by everyone who owned it. Mine was orange and black, befitting my “Tigger” nickname back then and being just as unique.
  • The Palm T5 was like a black assassin. I could get work done, but it didn’t look out of place in some social settings. I had a great Piel Frama case with it too.
  • The copper colored Palm Treo 680 was nice. Eye catching in a time when everyone was finally getting the point of getting a thinner or smaller mobile. And yet, I could keep with their’s while getting my email and browsing the web. That mobile kept me going when my Dell laptop couldn’t.
  • The N95 was love at second sight. I didn’t like it initially, but for some reason the red one received from the Nokia Mobile Web Server competition just seemed to fit me just right. The battery was just right, the camera was just right (slow), and I could work with it – even though when I got it, the N95 was just falling off the scene.

Then there was the N97. I lusted after the ability. I knew very well that the operating system would be stretched, and it was very much confirmed when the first reviews came in. All of us had problems with our devices. Those that pushed their N97s suffered the most. I knew that I would be in this for the long haul. So I took it slower. I didn’t have the problems most had for a good while. And I was mostly content.

Admitidly, there was no mobile on the horizon that I could see myself going for – none that had the hardware or feature set. And dang it if I was moving somewhere else and getting rid of the mobile web server. No. The N97 was a matter of having the ability, and exercising the right to control not just mobile doings, but social ones as well.

Learning Contentment

It was with the N97 that I finally learned contentment when it came to mobility. Within the two years of owning this device that I clearly went from looking at specs to asking the question of if mobile is enhancing my life, or taking life away from me and others. Did it matter that I had a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus if I never shared the pictures – if I never took photos at a wedding and gifted them to the couple? Did it matter if I had an FM *transmitter* and didn’t at least attempt to be the DJ for my mom who was always looking for new music from me? No. Heck, was I so busy fixing this device that I couldn’t even use it, let alone share anything created on it or seen thru it? No. I could get along with most issues, most of the time at least. I couldn’t mature in mobile without this device. That’s a hard thing for a device to bring anyone to.

And two days ago, I made the decision that I would give it away to someone else.

Planning the Gift

A new friend was visiting from India, and he was learning how to use his new computer. Part of that lesson was to learn how to transfer information from his new laptop to the memory card in his mobile. My two friends sat with one another until it was noticed that a younger hand was needed to open the battery cover to get to the memory card on the mobile. I opened it, but showed them that it would have been a lot easier to just use a cable and then the card would show up on the PC just the same. I watched as they finished that aspect of their conversation – taking a suite of content and putting it on a mobile. There on his mobile was now three videos, one of which had native language with English subtitles, a simple 2 minute video, but enough to teach English to his community in India. I wanted to give him one of my mobiles right there on the spot.

So, I went to my car, where the Nokia X6 that suffered water/beach damage 11 months ago was sitting. I wondered if it still worked. If so, I would give it to this friend. I plugged it in and for the first time in 11 months, the screen came completely on. Then the touchscreen worked. Then I was able to connect it to a PC to verify that port worked. A mobile that looked dead 11 months ago was now working as if nothing happened. I tried a few other things, putting my SIM in it, getting some SMSs out, getting a few calls. Everything worked just fine. Then I saw the cut in the bottom of the screen. This would not make an appropriate gift.

I looked over at my other bag. The N97 had been sitting, mostly unused since getting the N8. I rarely wanted to taking it biking because it felt more fragile for a fall. And I just didn’t have the need of a hardware QWERTY since I’ve pulled back from doing email on my mobiles. Would the N97 be an appropriate gift? I had no hardware issues with it. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a second battery for it ($10 at Amazon, nice) and both have served me well. The N97 would also lose out on the updates hitting many older Nokia devices this summer – updates that my X6 would get. Could I part with such a device in light of the reasons why I had it, and the reasons why I didn’t?

As I talked with the friend from India and others that night, it became clear. Even if he couldn’t use the N97, the mobile would be better in his hands, gifted from him to another in his community, than sitting in a bag/drawer for me. I’d recently given away my N95, and so this would be further trimming of the fat so to speak. So I searched for all the appropriate means to do hard resets on the N97 (both the C:\ drive and the 32GB of internal memory, found at AAS, thanks) and took a breath. If I did one of the resets, there’d be no going back. I don’t recant on these moments when they come up.

I dialed the number (*#7370#). I was asked for the unlock code. I inserted it. Within minutes, the N97 wasn’t mine any more. It was factory fresh. After the initial reset, I did the “three-finger-salue” – involves holding the shift, space, and backspace keys while pressing the power-on button – aka, finger gymnastics. It was completely wiped. I went to the file manager and told it to “format the mass memory.” 32GB of space that had been home to pictures, music, a few videos, and documents galore was now free. I was looking at the same device that I purchased two years ago. A device that in a few days time I would not see anymore.

Preparing the Gift and Looking Ahead

At the time of this writing, the N97 has just finished formatting the mass memory. I’m going to connect it to a PC here, make sure that all the software is updated on it, and then take some of the work from the Kiosk Evangelism Project that had already been demonstrated to my Indian friend, and duplicate it within the N97’s mass memory. Basically, he’ll be able to see and have a suite of content that looks just like what he transferred to his mobile, but this time it will be a much larger suite of that content, plus a web-based user interface that he’d be able to use (I developed this for the project).

Then the N97 leaves my possession. I’ll have only two mobiles, the X6 and my N8. The X6 might stick with me since it has a crack in the screen – unless someone comes along that needs it more than I need to keep it as a backup. I’m not wedded to keeping so many mobiles anymore (as I said in an earlier post). But, I’m also not content in people just getting a mobile for the sake of having it. These devices should enable something more than simply calling or texting someone. It should be more than saying “I’ve got screen, after, screen, after screen of applications that I rarely use.” No. These mobiles should connect us to the things that matter. Educating one another, preventing disease, sharing our spiritual travels. These are the things that matter, and what mobile should foster.

For me, I’m clearly in a phase of life where if it doesn’t improve someone else’s life in those kinds of ways, then mobile doesn’t matter. If all it does is sit as a trinket, then I might as well give it away to someone who can change the world with it much more than I.

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