Scrolling was not as smooth with this handset as it is with the iPhone, and there are occasions when the screen isn’t used to its full capability. Web pages initially open full width, which is great. Tap the Menu button and about 15mm of width is lost to it. Tap an option, such as zoom and a further 10mm is lost. It isn’t for long, but I think Nokia could have made its icons and options smaller, or transparent, to stop them interfering with the browsing experience. Oh, and there is some irritation in that sometimes a single tap is needed to register a choice; sometimes a double one.
On the positive side, the home screen has a widget-like interface that you can populate with up to eight shortcuts. Four sit on one bar, four more on wider bars so that they can display more information such as music controls, showing weather details, or giving quick access to four contacts.
The features list is long. There is 32GB of internal memory and a microSD card for adding more. Wi-Fi supplements HSDPA, and Bluetooth is here too. GPS and a digital compass are built in. There is a huge array of built in apps including the BBC iPlayer, YouTube player, Nokia Maps and – at last – an Ovi Store link. QuickOffice is here, too, for viewing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and there is a PDF viewer. An accelerometer takes care of screen rotation and a proximity sensor turns off the screen when the handset is at your ear.
The camera is a 5-megapixel Carl Zeiss offering with dual LED flash, and a sliding cover protects its lens. Move the cover and the camera software starts running, even when the screen is locked. The camera performed well. The coloured dish, photographed under normal household lights, is sharp and clear, and even the chair was shot with a heavy shadow running over it, the camera coped well. The flower shows off the macro mode to good effect. Colour reproduction is very accurate.
Battery life is rated at 570 minutes of talk on GSM, 430 hours standby. I didn’t have the phone for very long so couldn’t run my usual music playback rundown test. However, based on my experience with it I’d suggest you take Nokia’s figures with a pinch of salt and budget for daily charging. There are plenty of features here and if you use them all as fully as the phone warrants, you’ll hammer the battery. I did.
The N97 is a feature-packed smartphone and has plenty of memory for bulking its software content. But it doesn’t do its Communicator heritage justice and I can’t see the business community taking to it. For consumers, the touch version of Symbian feels as if it is running to catch up with the best of the competition and lagging some way behind.