Nokia's N97 is, for me, one of the most eagerly anticipated handsets of 2009. Yes, I know, we've had Apple and Android stealing a lot of the attention as far as smartphones are concerned, but Nokia was doing well with smartphones long before either of these two got into the game. Its Communicator series has been going for many years, and the N97 is the logical successor to that range.
Nokia's Communicators were thick-ish sizeable handsets with a clamshell design that housed a serious mini QWERTY keyboard and a wide screen. In the early days, they were seen very much as rivals to the non-network aware Psion Series 5 (still yet to be beaten for sheer usability as a mini computer as far as I am concerned).
Why the history lesson? Well, because it matters. The N97 represents a convergence of several lines of development. It is an extension of other N series handsets. Its touchscreen, for instance, is a progression of what was found in the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, while its Communicator heritage could also bring a collective smile to the business community.
Nokia has to achieve a lot with this phone to meet all those expectations and justify the £500 price tag. But while this smartphone is full to the brim with features, I don't think it does enough to sit at the top of the tree.
The N97 is not the beast that Communicators were, but at 117mm x 55.3mm x 15.9mm it is a little on the chunky side. The latter actually grows to 18.25mm at the thickest point, in order to accommodate the sliding lid for the Carl Zeiss optics.
I can accept the chunkiness because the handset houses a QWERTY keyboard. You get to this by sliding top and bottom parts of the handset away from each other. As you slide, the upper part moves to an angle of about 45 degrees, a convention we first saw a long time ago in the HTC TyTN II and which recently resurfaced in HTC's Touch Pro2. It makes viewing the screen with the phone on your desk a pleasure. The sliding process is smooth but the hinge is plastic which makes me wonder how robust it is.