The Nokia N97, Sprinkled With Cyborg Anthropology

Earlier this week, an acquaintance of mine, Amber Case, posted a review of the newly announced Nokia N97 and applied some Cyborg Anthropology to the new handset.

This post is a friendly response to her article.

Keyboard Options

According to Amber’s post, the N97 has a weakness regarding an idea she calls “time value liability”. Meaning, basically, that because you have to open up the N97 to reveal it’s keyboard in order to enter data, the device is inherently weaker than the iPhone because the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard appears as you need it and hides when it’s not necessary, saving time.

N97

N97

Having the opportunity to use the N97, I can refute this by assuring readers that the N97 has two options for data entry. First, if you want to use an onscreen keyboard, there is one that appears when necessary. In fact, the onscreen keyboard can be used both in landscape and portrait mode. Secondly, if you want to have more tactile feedback, you can use the flip-out physical keyboard.

Like the iPhone and mentioned in Amber’s post, the onscreen keyboard dissappears when it is not necessary for data entry.

Price

Yes, the price on the N97 is steep at €550. However, if you purchase an N97, you are buying an unlocked handset that can be taken on any GSM-compatible network. With the iPhone you pay $200-$300 for a phone that is locked to AT&T in the US (and differing networks depending on where you live). If you travel abroad and wish to use your phone for voice and data…you have to pay AT&T’s atrocious international data rates.

Keep in mind that when the iPhone first came out, it was $399 and $499 (and still locked to AT&T for two years). It was when the iPhone 3G was released that they lowered the price to currentl levels at $199 and $299 that AT&T raised the data plan rate $10, negating any actual savings over the life of your 24 month contract. So, in summary, the iPhone is only cheaper at purchase of the handset, not over the life of the service agreement.

Looking at the N97, there is no service contract.

People Have Differing Needs

The iPhone, when looked at objectively, is a one-size fits all solution. There are no options to get a keyboard-included model, no options if you want a higher quality camera, and no options for adding software not in the App Store. In fact, because Apple has crippled the Bluetooth stack, you can’t even add a Bluetooth keyboard, use Bluetooth to tether, or send contacts via Bluetooth.

Nokia, RIM BlackBerry and other handset makers offer models that give customers options as to what they want in a handset.

There are many cell phone customers who are avoiding the iPhone because it doesn’t have an physical keyboard. The N97 isn’t trying to be an iPhone killer, it’s merely another option for people to consider.

It must also be mentioned that the iPhone’s strengths are being shown by the N97. In fact, every cell phone manufacturer has been influenced by Apple’s entrance into the mobile market in a positive way.

Additional Factors To Consider

The N97 features a 5 megapixel camera that can shoot 16:9 video at 30 frames per second. Also, the N97 has 32GB of on-board memory.

Looking at the homescreen of the N97, you can add widgets to the front screen. This means I can add picture contacts of my most-used contacts, RSS feeds, Facebook messages, weather and lots more? Does Apple let you customize the home screen of your iPhone? No, it’s just a list of available applications.

Me? I’ll opt for flexibility and advanced hardware capabilities when it comes to choosing my mobile handset.

  • BMW

    “Looking at the N97, there is no service contract.”

    Surely you’re not suggesting you can use the N97 without paying for service of *some* kind? I get your point about unlocked vs. trapped to AT&T, but let’s not compare a phone + service on one side with a phone w/ on the other. :-p

  • @bmw

    No Brian, I’m not trying to suggest you can get a way from paying for mobile service from a mobile network operator with the N97.

    There is a difference between a service contract and service itself.

    More accurately, I’m saying that the N97 is unlocked, usable on any GSM carrier.

  • Thanks for a great post, and for linking to me. You’re totally the expert on mobile. 🙂

  • Keith

    Great post on the N97! My contract with Sprint is over in March 2009 and I’m looking forward to a switch. I hope the N97 is available through a local carrier by then. Do you have any comments regarding the service of ATT vs. Verizon?
    Thanks!

  • Keith

    I hope you don’t mind, but I have another question. If I buy an unlocked phone, will it work just as well as if on the network it was intended for? Someone told me one time that I might lose some features on an unlocked phone. Also, any thoughts on the Samsung Omnia vs. the N97?
    Thanks for the info on ATT vs. Verizon! I’ve heard good and bad on both, so I guess it depends on where you live. I’ll look further into this.
    I appreciate your help tremendously!
    Keith

  • Keith – I don’t mind questions at all…it’s why I have this blog 🙂

    An unlocked phone will work no differently than an a locked phone when it comes to GSM. The only exception that I know of is the iPhone. If you unlock an iPhone (which requires hacking to do), and carry the device over to T-Mobile, you’ll lose visual voicemail.

    I don’t have any thoughts on the Omnia as I have never seen or used one. If you can wait, I’d check out the N97…it’s a really sweet device.

    -Jason

  • Keith

    Jason,
    Do you have any comments regarding the Blackberry Bold vs. N97? I know the Bold doesn’t have touchscreen, but that being aside, I was wondering what you thought about it?
    Thanks!
    Keith

  • jimmy

    Hi just wondering< being on the Verizon network, which phone is comparable or even better than the N97 ?