Nokia's N97 'iPhone killer' shoots blanks

The N97 would seem advanced, if the iPhone didn't already exist. Instead, the N97 has more minuses than pluses.

I swear if I hear the words "iPhone killer" one more time ...

Nokia debuted the much hullabalooed N97 last week -- although it won't officially hit U.S. markets until June 2009 -- resulting in overall positive buzz.

The rundown goes like this: In the positive column, we have 32GB of storage (with an option to go bigger using a 16GB microSD card), a 5-megapixel camera with dual LED flash that also records video, Flash and Flash video support (ahem, Apple, are you listening?), a full QWERTY keyboard, and Wi-Fi. And oh yeah, it runs a touch-enhanced version of Symbian as its OS, which gets you a variety of widgets to customize. There's also Assisted GPS that works with Nokia's Maps 3.0 application.

And for the negatives? Well, it's aimed at Europe and Asia (the resistive touchscreen is an obvious appeal to users who are using a character recognition database), so you won't get your eager mitts on it until ... oh, maybe six or seven months from now. Many early comments focus on the resistive touchscreen, with the consensus being that you can get used to it, but it does increase the amount of time it takes to type longer e-mails.

It's also said that the superglossy screen is victim to a great deal of glare. Then there's that hefty price tag of nearly $700.

But the killer in the United States is that neither AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to get 3G connections, because the N97 doesn't support these carriers' cellular frequencies. So, until someone unlocks the N97, you're stuck with (slow) 2G. Of course, it probably won't take more than a few weeks for some enterprising user to unlock it.

And even in Asia and Europe, the N97 has no support for fast upload speeds using HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access), which is no help whatsoever for business users.

Then the odd app focus, what Nokia refers to as "social location"(overlapping Twitter-style location apps with your social networking apps), is lost on me -- I couldn't care less if my friends on Facebook know where I'm eating lunch that day.

Another feature that does nothing for me is the inclusion of N-gage as a gaming platform -- I don't use my phone for gaming.

If you can, for a moment, pretend that you live in a world without the iPhone, then the release of the N97 certainly becomes something to anticipate. After all, Nokia is doing some interesting things, even if it's not entirely successful on a business level. The real test is going to be what happens between now and when the N97 actually hits shelves.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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