Nokia N97: The re-reviewMikey 10 comments
A little over six months on, I thought I'd re-review the Nokia N97. This is the first time this site has reviewed the same product twice, but given that I still come across people in my travels who are interested in the phone, it makes sense to see if things have improved since many software updates have been released for it.
The last time I talked about the Nokia N97 it was obvious the phone needed some work. With the Phone OS now big business, Nokia should really retire the aging and embarrassing in comparison Symbian OS.
But OS aside, the N97 by all rights should be a good phone. It has a whopping 32gb of dedicated memory, and physical keyboard, and a large touchscreen. So when specs are deceiving, it means the marketing team are doing their job properly.
Three software updates later and the Nokia N97 should be cruising along nicely, but it seems things aren't any better and in some areas even worse. Here's a few reasons why I can not recommend anybody purchase this phone.
The memory hoax
The 32gb of memory while it does exist, it can not be used for the OS's actual memory. That task has a piddly 128mb reserved for it. Seriously, 128mb. With such a piss poor amount of memory available, the phone constantly comes close to using all available RAM, even when you install apps on the 32gb area. This often causes apps to quit or the phone to just resent when it runs out of memory, and if it manages to survive that then it simply runs like a snail.
There is no known cure for this problem, other than to remove as many apps as you can (which usually doesn't do anything to recover memory from the phone RAM) or to a complete factory reset. I have done this no less than 3 times, and I can tell you that each time is a miserable experience. The Nokia app that allegedly backs up all your programs and settings actually doesn't work for all of them.
Whoever made the decision at Nokia to only commit 128mb of RAM to what is supposed to be a flagship device should surely have their arse kicked for infinity.
The 32gb memory partition is slow
And I mean tediously slow. Slipping through tracks will nearly always take about 10 seconds for the album art to catch up. So you're listing to Queens of the Stone Age but seeing the album cover for Joanna Newsome.
When making a backup of all your data, given this could be several gigabytes, it can take the best part of several hours.
The epilepsy bug
For reasons I haven't been able to work out, every now and then and sometimes when listing to music, the phone will simply black out and become stuck on a permanent vibrate. The strangest part is that the music keeps playing. This happens twice a week or more now.
The sliding lock switch
It's so buggy it's often unusable. When the phone rings the screen will ask you to slide on it to answer, but I prefer to unlock the phone first with the physical switch. This is because sometimes the onscreen action doesn't work. And so the phone gets confused, and sometimes you can't do anything to answer the call or access it at all. The only remedy I've been able to find is to pull the battery and boot again.
Let's not go there. It's a completely different technology (resistive) to other touchscreen phones and is nowhere near as nice to use. If you're used to an iPhone touchscreen (capacitive), you'll be pulling your hair out when you use the N97.
The OVI app store
There's a reason Nokia app store is the laughing stock of the internet. Let me draw a comparison to the iPhone app store. With the Apple incarnation, you can buy 3, 4 5 or 6 similar apps and just keep the one you prefer. This is reasonable because iPhone apps only cost one measly dollar. People won't hesitate to spend a few bucks for a handful or apps even if they know they'll probably discard some of them.
The Nokia OVI store in comparison works like this. You browse hundreds of instances of what can only be described as crapware, and try your best to decipher among the useless comments about whether the software is any use or not. Many of these comments aren't even in English, and there is no way to filter out the other languages.
Then you take a gamble on an app you think might suit what you need, only to find out they are charging an insane amount. For an example, I paid $AU100 for the turn-by-turn voice navigation that compliments the Maps app. I've also paid for various other apps that turned out to be rubbish, ranging from $AU10 to $50.
Additionally, there is a freeware section, but Nokia's definition of 'freeware' is rather loose, given that developers can place their apps in the free section as long as just one single part of it is free. Is it free to download? That's freeware! Is it a trial version with an expiration? That doesn't cost anything, so it must be freeware! Does it periodically send you unwanted spam and connect to the internet and nag you to buy a license? That's freeware!
I can't say it any better than this: The Nokia store is a pathetic joke that has no place in this universe. Nokia should just close it, apologise to the world and say "Yeah we're sorry about that - it turns out the team leader on that project was a meth addict. We'll close it down and start again with something you won't be ashamed of".
I noted in my original article that bloggers have a tendency to give favourable reviews to hardware they had to pay money for. I'm sure this is because they don't want to admit they wasted their money. This is why the best reviews will always come from large organisations that have products given to them, and therefore have no financial burden to justify.
In the case of the Nokia N97, I want it on record that it is surely the most miserable piece of crap I have ever had the displeasure of using. If you're considering buying one - don't. Just don't. Even the iPhone, with it's limited capability and communistic dictatorship approach to software is a better choice.
Not long after I got the N97 I made this video, which should give you an idea of my hatred towards it. Believe it or not the phone has gotten worse in many areas since. Watch it, and consider yourself warned.