Nokia World 08 Live Report

Nokia World 08 Live Report
Second update 4AM EST - added second page - Nokia Messaging and Nokia Maps 3.0
Updated 8PM EST - added N97 hands-on experience


Hola chicos! umh, we mean Hello friends! We are here in Barcelona, Spain for the annual Nokia World event. The leading phone manufacturer hosts a two-day event, allowing the mobile community to meet closer with Nokia’s products and services. We are also part of the show, so we can bring you some information straight from the horse’s mouth.

Nokia announced its new Nokia Messaging service, which will attempt to give email and IM access to more users, by cooperating with wireless providers to make it more affordable. The Nokia Maps app got upgraded, with more features and higher map quality.

However, the star of the show is definitely the new flagship model, the N97. It was presented by Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President, Markets. After mentioning the success of the N95 (15 million units sold), he gave the definition for a perfect mobile phone. The N95 is surely a good device, but doesn’t meet many of today’s standards. According to Mr. Vanjoki, the new phone should have large screen, quality camera, lots of memory, etc, etc. The new Nokia N97 is said to meet all of the requirements. It is coming with 3.5-inch 16-million colors touchscreen with 16:9 ratio and 640x360 pixels resolution. Free memory should not be a problem, with 32GB built-in and slot for up to 16GB microSD card. The second S60 phone with touchscreen brings a few improvements to the operating system, so check our hands-on below.



Hands-On 

Those not remembering the euphoria overtaken the community when the N95 was announced, here is an excerpt from our coverage of the launch event at that time: “At the Nokia Open Studio 2006 event in Manhattan, New York, Nokia officially announced their new models of the series, including the new revolutionary (really) N95,  …”. We usually ridicule Nokia when we hear the execs repeating and repeating the phrase “Multimedia Computer”, but around Q3 of 2006, the N95 was really something that could be considered such and caught everyone’s attention. At that time, the now all mighty iPhone was something in our dreams, and all manufacturers were caught in the “best features packed in a device” game, with no much attention paid to how the users interact with it. Time passed, the iPhone materialized and well it didn’t have gazillion mega-pixel camera with smile, anger and whatnot detection (plus a lot of other things) but changed what users expected from their phones. Even though not the first touch based driven device, it is definitely the gadget that set off the whole trend. Most manufacturers took note, went to the drawing boards and more or less similar devices started to appear left and right. Nokia did not immediately take action and the 5800 XpressMusic, their first touch-based devices just recently made is commercial debut. The N97 seems similar to the N95, in terms of raising the bar by offering myriad of features, good touch-based interface and software capabilities and options. 

Our first impressions are based on the several working units available at the event.  Keep in mind that those are very, very early prototypes, which lock up constantly, in addition to all sorts of error messages, so we’ll share here our general thoughts and feelings. We were told the devices present here were actually hand-made and the first on which the hardware and software meet in one unit. 

After having this out of the way, the N97, just like the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, runs the new S60 Feature Pack 5 with touch screen support. The display is 3.5 inches and based on our very short experience with the device seemed superb in terms of contrast and brightness.

The next positive impression is the widget driven home screen. For some strange reason, saying widgets brings up the ill-faded solution we say in Samsung F480 and OMNIA, but thankfully Nokia have done a lot better job (they already have experience with widgets from their N810 Internet Tablet). Total of 6 can be shown at the same time on the home screen and all are with fixed size, so pretty much their order can be rearranged.  By the time the N97 launches, there should be plentiful available.


We wished we could spend some time with the N97 before we can give our judgment about the UI, but from we saw, it seems very similar to the one in 5800 and overall left us with very satisfactory feelings. This is all we can say for now.



It is really hard to name exactly what the new N97 looks like. It is a mixture of several devices, namely the 5800, N79 and ….. the N810 Internet Tablet, which has similarly situated d-pad of the left of the keyboard. In terms of size, well, for those of you living in the US, it is almost as large as the Samsung Instinct. If you want to see how it does compare to your current device, or one you know well, use our Size Visualization tool. The added hardware has taken its toll on the weight which reached 5.3 oz or 150 grams which is well balanced and does feel very good in hand. 
World’s first is the never seen in any other device before screen tilting. This revolution … ops sorry, it is already 1AM and the long day and lack of coffee starts to show its effects on our memory.  The screen really does tilt to 35 degrees when the keyboard is slid-open, very similarly to HTC Tilt (TYTN II), but unlike it, it cannot stay flush. Despite being early prototypes, the tilting mechanism seems very robust and smooth. When set on a table with the screen tilted, it is perfectly balanced and doesn’t tip over (this was mentioned several times by the presenters, so we guess is VERY important).



The keys on the keyboard seem well space out, with good tactile feedback. Again, given the pre-pre-release condition of the device, this is all we’ll say about it.

The front features two touch-sensitive buttons and one real one for invoking the N-Series multimedia menu. On the left are the volume rocker and the camera key, with the miniUSB and sliding lock key. The power button and 3.5mm jack with TV-out functionality are located on the top. 
While we write this, we are sure some of the comments will be: “How come the camera is still 5MP? This is lame, look at Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson having 8MP …”. Like it or not, this is what the N97 offers. We personally are not disappointed a lot from the megapixel count, but more about the lack of Xenon flash.  At least we all get Cars Zeiss imprint on the back ?



Overall, we like what we see. It seems like an excellent all-in-all device, offering everything one could ask for – full keyboard, large widescreen display, GPS, S60 touch UI, 3.5mm jack, 5MP camera, good browser, 32GB of internal memory, plus slot for more. What else could you ask for?

The Nokia N97 is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2009 and have unsubsidized price of around 550 EU or $700 USD. 

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