Saturday, April 16, 2011

Living with my Nokia N97

For anyone who knows even a reasonable amount about phones, Nokia's ads for their smartphones look rather optimistic.

'Over the competition I am towering'? I don't think so, not with an aging Symbian platform, resistive touch screen, not so class leading hardware and so on. I bought one because Android was still an infant at that time, and the iPhone wasn't available in India. Even if it was, I think the closed Apple environment would have put me off anyway.

Having survived (both me and the phone) for over 2 years, I think its a good time to talk about what made sense and what didn't.
The good:
  1. 32 GB internal storage. Yes! 32 GB! Will you ever need another portable storage device?
  2. The tilt slide design which makes it extremely comfortable to watch videos or just browse around
  3. Ovi online and Ovi Suite which I think is a great triumph in organizing smartphone data from multiple sources
  4. A home screen that never feels cluttered
As you may have noticed, those features are rather unique to the N97 or at least Nokia phones.

The bad:
  1. A 'resistive' touch screen with no multi touch.
  2. Hardware which runs out of breathe when you don't want it to
  3. Extreme flash flooding while using the camera. I had to fix this manually by lining up the camera glass covering with a permanent marker!
  4. An Ovi store for apps with not so many apps in comparison to the Apple and Android market
  5. A default email manager which feels like a slightly modified text messaging system
  6. And now the worst sin of them all - a mere 75 MB memory out of 32 GB devoted to the main phone memory! That's as bad as being given wings to fly but permanently confined to some underwater city.
The ugly and the beautiful:

It has the same element for phones as Alfa Romeo's have for cars - a personality. I cannot recall the number of times it decided to do things on its own or plainly refused to do them. The GPS especially loves to update the location at a leisurely pace and sometimes, forgets to update it altogether.

Sometimes I get the impression that Nokia has accidentally built a phone with artificial intelligence and should reverse engineer its own product to unearth this stroke of ingenuity.

But most of all, just like Alfa Romeo's, you will develop a love-hate relationship for this phone. It will drive you to madness with its shenanigans. Every other time though, you will be so amazed that it is actually working well that you will be overcome with a great sense of joy and amazement. Now I don't know how many other phones can give you that experience.