MIR: Whatley on the Nokia N97

So, the Nokia N97 eh? What do you think of THAT?!

Me? Hmm… Well, you all know what I thought of the last Nseries I laid my hands on and so when it comes to the newly announced Nokia N97, I approached with a certain amount of trepidation…

And my initial impressions? – I’m maybe just a little bit excited…
(but maybe not for the reasons that you’d think)

At first glance the N97 looks like the lovechild of the E90 and the Nokia 5800 but from the outset the QWERTY keypad looks like it’s not too dissimilar from that of the Eseries sister device, with the only change being the directional pad shifting from the right to the left side of the keys…

It’s worth pointing out this far into the piece that I am yet to actually get my hands on this device (the image above was taken a month after I originally wrote this piece), SpinVox commitments keeping me in Blighty for this year’s Nokia World, (more on what’s been keeping me so busy coming up soon). So my thoughts and words are totally and utterly my initial gut reactions/impressions from specs, reports and pictures that have been flying out of Barcelona since late last night…

Moving on…

The touch screen UI, S60 5th Edition for those that care, is perceived to be the same as that in the Nokia ‘Tube’ device that we saw launched earlier this year as part of the Xpress Music range with key DNA from both that and the E90 shining through so far so we’ve got one massive multi-combo mash-up of a device…

However, you could argue that there’s nothing new here.

You could argue that yet again Nokia have failed to innovate.

That Nokia have merely put two and two together and are hoping they hit four, not five – *cough* Like they did with the N96 *cough* – but again, and in complete polar opposite to the the N96, and as I mentioned at the outset – this device actually excites me.

Yes, the form factor is new and is certainly interesting; One of the G1 characteristics that I actually enjoyed the most was the ability to flick the screen up at any point you got bored/annoyed with the touch screen and do things properly as it were, so the addition of the full keyboard under the screen is a welcome feature here on the N97.

The camera is 5MP – standard fare for Nokia flagship devices although; interesting to note that they [Nokia] are not, as yet, leaping on the 8MP bandwagon that Sony, LG and Samsung seem so keen to pursue.

The music – With echoes of the Xpress range being in abundance, the Nokia N97 will of course support Comes With Music (fingers crossed anyway – yes Vodafone, I’m looking at YOU) when it arrives and, if the music quality is anything like the 5800, then Nokia will have that sewn up too. With a WHOPPING 48GB of storage space, (32GB onboard, 16GB expandable memory), I must admit that filling that bad boy up with content is going to be a struggle for even me…

Parking all of that to one side, is there still no real innovation? Is it ‘just’ evolution.
Not that this is a bad thing mind, the N95 8GB was a great ‘evolution handset’, the N97 it seems is another step forward from Nokia (not sideways, or even backwards – again, I refer to the N96).

One thing needs to be made clear right here and right now:

I firmly believe that the Nokia N97 is the replacement for my N95 8GB.

..and here’s why:

One of the great things I love about my N95 8GB is the way it keeps me constantly connected. Constantly. As Ewan Spence quite rightly pointed out,

“Staying in touch seems important to James in his choice of applications. Many of them are concerned with getting information off his device and onto the internet, either to small social groups, or to individuals. Within two or three button presses, Whatley is off communicating to pretty much anyone he chooses. The smartphone for him is all about getting the word out.”

The more data I can consume the better. Anyone who’s seen me at any conference anywhere in the world this year knows that I just don’t carry my laptop anywhere. My E71 and my N95 8GB give me all the connectivity, information and data sharing functionality that I need.

The N97, with its brand new ‘widget homescreen’, presents a real opportunity to get things right; One of my favourite features of Apple’s iPhone is the main menu and homescreen being one and the same.
The N97 looks like it could be going down that route… and then some; Pulling in information from RSS feeds, Share on OVI (although I’m hoping this can be swapped out for Flickr), Facbook, Email etc…

This is the active standby screen that dreams were made of.

Obviously, to keep things in perspective, as with any Nseries device – the proof is in the pudding. More often than not these devices arrive with shoddy firmware that is slow, buggy and prone to freezing/crashing. I’m still researching into the N97 and will no doubt have a follow up piece in the works very soon, but I’m crossing all my fingers and all my toes that at last Nokia may actually launch something with final (or at least half-decent) software.

For the time being at least, the queue for the N97 starts here.

Get behind me folks – we may be here a while.

Whatley out.

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The Nokia N96: Face the Task

If you buy a Nokia N96 you only have yourself to blame.

Before we go on, please note – if you are new to this site – understand that Nokias are my thing.

Resident expert if you will.

This is my opinion and I give it freely to you, the lovely readers of Mobile Industry Review.

So, in advance – thanks for reading…

If you’re not new to the site, if you’re a regular reader in fact – you’ll know that Whatley Wednesday has been on a bit of a hiatus of late – my creative output instead being poured into The MIR Show.

This has changed.

The Nokia N96 has frustrated me so much that I really had no choice but to put e-pen to e-paper and express my thoughts…

So again, in advance – thanks for reading…

Now, to business:

This is not a review. Don’t expect in-depth looks at the camera abilities – like they matter these days?
This is more of a public service announcement.

Some of you may have already seen the online marketing around the Nokia N96. ‘Face the task‘ is the name of the game and trials like geo-tagging photos, uploading videos, consuming media etc… are the challenges laid out before you.

Never before has a Nokia campaign been so completely on the money.

Really.

Using the Nokia N96 has to be THE MOST challenging experience of my entire life. Forget The Crystal Maze. Cast aside the Krypton Factor. If you want a true test of mental strength and stamina then I urge you to go out and purchase this handset at once.

Yes. It’s actually that bad.

You guys know me right?

You know how much of a Nokia fiend I really am right? I currently rock an N95 and an E71 as my two main handsets with various others just kicking around as spares.

Last month I even went to Finland to present to them my thoughts on Social Media.

Of Nokia – You could say: I am a fan.

So when I say to you that the Nokia N96 is quite possibly the worst attempt at a handset ever to come out of Helsinki you know that they really, really must’ve done something wrong.
Well yeah, they did.

They made the N96.

This device is not new to me. It was first announced way back in February this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Yes, that’s right – a full 8 months ago. EIGHT MONTHS.

In EIGHT MONTHS I reckon you could probably get fairly proficient in a new language, such as French, Spanish or even C++… EIGHT MONTHS is also the gestation period of a deer.

That’s right, NEW LIFE CAN BE MADE in the time that this phone has taken to finally hit our shelves. You’d THINK that Nokia would’ve done something in that time about addressing some of the issues that plague this debacle of a handset…

But no.

Instead, in that time we’ve seen the N85 and N79 announced, (both of which are sufficiently sexier than the N96), Nokia’s first touch-screen device the 5800 (aka ‘the Tube’) was finally revealed and on top of that – we’ve also seen the launch of possibly one their best ergonomically designed devices yet, the E71.

But this is not some massive Nokia love in. Not by any stretch. Oh no. Also, in this time we’ve seen the launch of the iPhone 3G and also the recently announced built by geeks, for geeks – the T-Mobile G-1.

It is worth noting at this point that Nokia are not a reactive corporation. No Sirree Bob.

But you’d think after the poor reception that the N96 received in Barcelona, (Christ, I was more excited about the Nokia 6220 – which, for the record, I’d recommend over the N96 any day), they would’ve given the thing an overhaul of some kind. The N95 8GB for instance is just enough of a re-mix on the N95-1 to warrant an upgrade. The N96, while not strictly the N95’s successor, learnt nothing from this lesson.

Since Barcelona I’ve had my hands on this device a number of times – once at a WOM World meet up, where the Product Manager for the N78 (lovely chap named Tim) turned up with a couple on him, I distinctly remember remarking at the time that the screen was lovely and may play a large part in any purchasing decision I might make…

And then again at a Future of Mobile dinner earlier this year (where I recorded and uploaded the following Global Race comparison video).

So far, SO unimpressed.

Regular viewers of the MIR Show will recall a few weeks back when I dialled in to video call my segment over the phone I mentioned that I was indeed waiting for an N96 to arrive from those kind folk at WOM.

Well, late last week, it arrived.

I opened it Friday afternoon, filled it with Whatley Goodness (i.e.: My apps of choice, MP3s, bookmarks etc) and then charged it overnight… Saturday morning I thought I’d take it out for a test drive and upon turning it on I was greeted by a glorious screen.
The N96 does well here. You can’t help but gaze at the amazing Technicolor Loveliness
The first thing I did when I popped my SIM card in? Checked the firmware. V10. Hmm.

I was fairly sure that there was a more recent update, so I checked – Yup, there is. V11 available for download.

Fantastic. Straight out of the box and already it needs an update. The good news is the N96 (along with the N78) supports OTA updates, powered by the awesome people at Red Bend (we met them at the Symbian Smartphone show and they deserve their own write up, Ben? Dan?), and the firmware downloaded and installed perfectly.

Good work Red Bend.

Bad form Nokia – this phone has been out less than a month! How many consumers are going to know about this option without PUSH updates?!

Christ! You’ve SEEN ‘Walking with Normobs’ right? There are STILL people out there with N95s on VERSION TEN FIRMWARE which shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day! BUGGY?! MUCH?!

…and breathe Whatley…

Let’s move on…

Now, the more cognizant amongst you may remember that just 11mths ago I reviewed the Nokia N81 8GB for Mobile Industry Review. If you recall – I wasn’t a fan of that handset.
The look and feel was poor and plastic, the industrial design suffered from poorly placed buttons and the newly implemented ‘key-lock’ switch kept getting stuck.
Take a look at the N81 8GB.

Nokia N81 8GB

Now scroll back up and take a look at the N96.
Spot the similarities?

I can happily report that ALL of the problems I reported on the N81 8GB BACK IN NOVEMBER 2007 are ALL present in the ‘new’ N96.

ALL OF THEM.

The thing about the buttons – If I place my thumb over the right side of the top keypad, I can cover six, (count ‘em) buttons. Six of them.

This is not really so much of a problem on the N95 8GB for instance where the buttons are raised and you can feel the difference between each one without really having to look at what you’re doing but on this handset – the N96 – the keys are flat next to each other, or ‘flush’ as I believe the design is notionally referred to as.

This is NOT GOOD.

Let’s go back to the N81 criticisms for the second of my main bug bears:

“The ‘c’ button is right next to the ‘play/pause’ music button. AARGH! Sorry. I say ‘right next to’ I mean ‘may as well be the same button@.

That’s right – a negative button right next to a positive button. By pushing the button that I want to stop doing something I accidentally push the button that starts doing something.

In this instance Kate Nash starts blaring out at me whenever I try and correct a misspelt SMS!”

Same. Here… and although my music tastes have changed somewhat since this time last year, the result was the same – it happened again.

Again and again and again… Through the the ONE DAY OF TESTING that I gave to this shoddy piece of workmanship I actually lost count of the amount of times I hit ‘pause/play’ when trying to hit ‘c’.

Oh yes, that’s right: ‘One day of testing…’ – I challenge ANYONE to try and use the N96 for a longer period than this without feeling ANY frustrations whatsoever.

Seriously – this has to be the worse handset I have ever had the misfortune to have in my possession.

Parking the buttons to one side for a moment, I mentioned just now that I tested the handset for a day.

This is not strictly true. I actually tested this handset from 8am through to 1pm where upon the ridiculously short, iPhone 3G-esque battery life gave up on me.

Why the short life span?

Well, Nokia – in their infinite wisdom – having learnt their lesson with the low power levels of the BL-5F battery in the N95-1 (giving it a much needed upgrade to the BL-6F in the N95 8GB), have decided to throw this innovation completely out of the window have seen it fit to equip the N96 with the very same BL-5F from the N95-1 stating ‘power saving software upgrades’ as the reason for this apparent downgrade.

One morning of relatively hardcore use – Music Player, Browser, Mobbler etc… and whoof.. Battery, dead.
Brilliant.

“Steaming pile of rubbishness” doesn’t quite cut it really. This phone is abysmal.

Dreadful even.

So what, if anything has the phone got going for it?

Er… BBC iPlayer? Woo!

Had that on my N95 for a fortnight now… nothing new here. 16GB of onboard memory with an expandable option for a MicroSD card? That’s pretty cool. I could do with more memory…

However, WHAT IS THE POINT of carrying around (up to) 32GBs of MP3s if the battery won’t last the day?!

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

…oh and it has a kick-stand on the back too, so you can have a better view of that ominous ‘battery low’ sign when you’re attempting to use the phone for anything more than 5hrs at a time…

You may or not know that I am an active micro-blogger – both on Jaiku and on Twitter, and since Saturday I have vented my ‘distaste’ shall we say, for this device.

Free mobile advice is my thing – and I love helping people with their purchasing decisions. The N96 is no exception to this rule – I have already sent out four emails to various online folk telling them excatly why this is not the device for them and I will give you, dear readers, the same advice I gave them:

If you’re looking for an upgrade to your current handset and you’re giving serious thought to the N96. Go, get one.

BUT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A RETURN POLICY.

Because when you take it back to the shop complaining of just how hideously unusable this appalling excuse for a mobile phone is, you’ll want to be damn sure you’re able to exchange it.

I’d recommend a Nokia N95 8GB. Better battery life, better design, infinitely more stable software and above all, it’s NOT the N96.

However, if you already have an N95 8GB. Nice one. Good work.

It’s what I use and even though I am well into my upgrade period, it is not going anywhere.

As I said at the start of this post:

“Buy a Nokia N96 and you only have yourself to blame.” – and I mean every.. single.. word.

Here endeth the lesson.

77 Comments »

MIR: BBC iPlayer on the N95

Howdy folks, Whatley here,

Haven’t written anything for a while, but this is something I just had to share.

I just got back from filming the latest edition of the Mobile Industry Review Show (live from the T-Mobile event) and I was about to go to bed when I found this video in my Google Reader from one James Burland, he of (the quite frankly awesome) Nokia Creative fame.

The man has got the iPlayer up and running on his N95!

Awesome!

So I did a little digging and then I found this piece over on Symbian-Freak about how to install etc and, as well as finding the actual file there, I also found out a few other facts.

  1. If your Nseries has Web Runtime (WRT) enabled, you can haz iPlayer.
  2. N95ers out there – hit *#0000# – if your firmware is v21 or above, you have WRT enabled.
  3. N95, N96 and N85 all confirmed as compatible
  4. Current installation only works over a wifi connection

I’ve poked a few friends of mine at the Beeb to see if we can talk to some of the techies there, fingers crossed we’ll be able to bring you a follow up piece over the next few days outlining some of the finer details.

So what are you waiting for? Download it now and let us know what you think!

:)

Whatley out.

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MIR: James Whatley at ‘The Mothership’

Here’s regular MIR contributor, James Whatley, in full swing at the Nokia event today:

Read and watch videos of the mothership event – aka ‘Nokia OpenLab’ right here.

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MIR: Stop the Press! The Apple store can’t sell iPhones

Alrighty,

Whatley here – I just got a call from our man on the street, Dan Lane –

(that’ll be the new version of Nokia PC Suite)

Bless Dan – I almost feel sorry for him.

After hearing that the Apple Store might have some iPhones to sell – our hero decamped to Regent Street to see what he could lay his hands on.

Turns out the answer is NOT MUCH.

Dan is still queuing.

The o2 servers have gone down.
he Apple Store hasn’t sold an iPhone for the last TWO HOURS..
Shocking.

Can you say: “Worst. Launch. Ever???”

Apparently Apple have drafted in o2 staff to do manual sign ups as the o2 systems couldn’t handle the load.

Brilliant.

Bet you wish you’d waited now. Heh.

Oh and by the way, I’m hot-desking at the Mippin offices in Fulham today (Hi Guys!), and I’ve just taken delivery of a brand new Nokia N78 + MD4 speakers from those lovely folk at WOM World.
Expect a review in a couple of weeks.

…and I didn’t even have to queue.

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