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The N97 – Nokia’s First Touchscreen Smartphone

Nokia N97
Nokia N97

Nokia has unveiled details of its first touchscreen Nseries smartphone: The N97. As posted earlier, Nokia was expected to make this announcement at their Nokia World 2008. What is the N97? It is like the N96 with a slide out full QWERTY keyboard. Think of the HTC Shift — which has both touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard. Like its Nseries predecessors, the N97 has “the works”. Quadband, wireless LAN, A-GPS, 5MP camera. Most importantly, it is touchscreen, and it is expected to be available in the first half of 2009.

The N97 is marked with several revolutionary features for the Nokia Nseries smartphones. The first of which is the touchscreen, of course. Nokia also recently launched the 5800 XpressMusic with touchscreen features, but that doesn’t quite count as a smartphone. The next would be the slide out full QWERTY keyboard. Full QWERTY keyboards have been available with the Eseries, but this would be the first for the Nseries. The N97 will also have a whopping 32GB of memory built-in, and expandable with microSD memory cards up to 16GB. Other niceties include the 640×360 16:9 16 million colour widescreen display, and 1500mAh battery capacity. The whopping battery lets you playback video for 4.5 hours and music for 37 hours in offline mode.

Alas, after all the excitement settles down, the N97 unfortunately has little other spectacular improvements. It is rather large, volume-wise, although that might be expected to accommodate a full QWERTY keyboard. It is also rather heavy at 150g. The camera is still 5 megapixel, and sadly continues to adopt the dual LED camera flash from the N96 instead of Xenon flash from the N82. It’s wireless LAN connectivity is still the same 802.11b/g, with no support for the newer 802.11n standard. But I guess the phone has no need for such high data rate. The N97 doesn’t have DVB-H digital TV featured in the N96. Read the full N97 specifications.

So while the touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard are certainly remarkable features of the new N97, some of the other Nseries smartphones may continue to hold their own. But still the N97 will definitely put Nokia in the running against the likes of HTC smartphones, Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s Blackberry.

Since many readers come to this site in search for iPhone information, let me say a few things to compare the iPhone with the N97. The iPhone still wins hands down the “cool” factor. But I will prefer the N97 for its better feature set: a real keyboard (which, in my humble opinion, is always easier to type on if you really need to hammer out anything more than the most trivial message), better camera, higher display resolution, video recording, and generally better complement of software features and other applications.

How much will the N97 cost? 550 Euros (S$1066) before subsidies and taxes. This is quite exciting, because it doesn’t cost more than the N95 8GB when it was launched.

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