The Nokia N97 Q&A page

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Plenty of good questions are starting to come from readers, so I thought I'd gather them together here and answer them more formally. See below. And add extra questions about Nokia's newest flagship to the comments on this thread and Rafe and I will do our best to answer them in the main body of the piece. [even further updated]

Retail Nokia N97

Does it have a "breathing light" like E71, E75 and the 5800 ?

Steve: Yes. The menu and green keys slight up slightly - it's a very subtle effect though.

Slightly worried that not even 4 mins into unboxing a retail £500 handset it already reset itself

Steve: In fairness to the N97, we were hammering it a lot at the time, trying everything out. Under normal load it has been more stable.

Rafe: Steve possesses a special ability to make new devices crash or reset. It is too early to come to any final judgements, but we'll certainly be commenting on overall software stability.

With the home screen widgets that periodically update themselves (the Facebook one for example) how often do they connect to the internet to update, and is this user definable?

Steve: It varies according to the widget, I think, but you can set all homescreen content to 'offline' mode with one Options menu tap if you're worried about data.

Can you please try out the fm transmitter? I’d really like to know what the sound quality is like for music on a car stereo. Etc. [question shortened]

Steve: This will be part of my research into the N97's multimedia functions, next week. Haven't tried it yet.

Rafe: Clearly there is a 'quality cost' when switching MP3 encoded digital files to a FM signal. The N97 has the same is the same as the N79 and N85 in this respect (and to my ear similar quality through FM). The quality will depend on environmental circumstances (e.g. it's better to have the phone near the aerial), but generally will be similar to a good FM stereo radio station.

What is the physical size of the camera aperture compared to the n82/n95?

Steve: It is the same, as far as I can tell. You'll get similar camera stills and video compared to the N85 and N96. Don't get me started on video focus though 8-(

Does a 32GB Micro SD Memory Card work on this device?

Rafe says: Yes they should, theoretically work, but without doing actual testing its not possible to confirm this 100%. Nokia typically quote a maximum supported microSD card capacity, but experience suggest any card size within that category will work (i.e. SD up to 4GB, SDHC up to 32GB).

You're the only one to mention the "video" chip on this device, no other reviews have told us anything about this. Please explain what this is and how it has improved the graphics performance vs. 5800 or "other Nokia Phones"

Rafe: Nokia have not made a formal statement on this, but I've been told, on more than one occasion, that the N97 has a higher than usual number of custom chips. This can refer to both the hardware and the software optimisations made during hardware/OS integration.

The most important of these are for encoding and decoding video and audio. They do not have a direct impact upon general graphics performane. As a consumer, what you'll notice is improved audio quality and smoother video playback and recording.

How much RAM is available after boot?

Steve: 46MB. This will rise to around 55MB after a few firmware updates, I'm estimating. 

Screen sensitivity: A lot of poeple have been saying this is more sensitive than the 5800, is this the case? How does it compare to the Capacitive iPhone?

Steve: The screen is slightly more sensitive than the 5800's, but not as much as the iPhone. But I'm not sure anyone will be worried about such small differences - and in any case, many times you don't WANT the phone to keep doing stuff just because you accidentally brushed the screen.

In the Facebook App, the flash demo on the Nokia promo website indicated that you can accept events invites and "save it on your calendar". I think this is an extremely powerful tool, however is this saved calender "linked" so updates of the event also update in your calendar (i.e if the event is postponed, does it update itself)? Also is there a link in the calendar event leading you back to Facebook / App?

Rafe: The events are not 'linked', which means the events are not updated on the phone if the date changes on Facebook. There is not a link from the Calendar leading back to Facebook, but you can customise the calendar entry.

Without opening the keyboard can you send a text message?

Steve: Of course. Using the on-screen handwriting or numeric keypad.

I have the N82 and is there anyway to compare the actual hardware? The N82 takes some amazing pics... and I would love to go to the n97 but I am afraid of losing quality.

Steve: The N97's camera will be as good, or better than the N82's for non-flash photos. Insert usual Steve moan about lack of Xenon here... 8-)

What's up with the Skype thing. Is it in or is it out?

Steve / Rafe: It's coming in an update, which is scheduled for Q3. Watch this space as we'll bring you the news when we know more. This will be the first of several significant software upgrades for the N97.

When closing the qwerty does the screen still flip to portrait even if you hold the device in landscape?

Steve: Yes, but this default behaviour can be changed. Turning on display auto-rotation to match the accelerometer is a simply toggle in settings.

Anyone know if the hinge on the N97 is alloy or plastic.? I'm led to believe it's lightweight alloy, and the framework continues within the device to add to the strength?

Steve: That sounds about right, the hinge parts are certainly much stronger than they look.

Is the magnetometer output included in the GPS data so that any GPS-aware application will benefit from it?

Rafe: Yes, it is accessible via programmable APIs. It is available as part of the standard S60 5th Edition sensor framework.

If you are using 3G data and you walk into range of a known wifi hotspot, will the N97 automatically start using it? Or do you have to prompt it?

Steve: It currently behaves much as on the 5800, i.e. it uses S60 'Destinations' but won't actually intelligently switch. 

Can you confirm that the battery can be replaced (one of my dislikes with the iPhone)?

Steve: Yes, it's a standard 1500mAh battery and can be swapped over, of course.

Rafe: It is the BP-4L battery, which is also found in the Nokia E61, E63, E71, E52, E55, E90, N800 and N810. You can buy an extra battery for between £15 and £25.

Any improvements with integrating e-mail/calendar/contacts/tasks with Microsoft Exchange? My N73 has basic features, but it's not that reliable.

Steve: Yes, sync with Microsoft Exchange has improved hugely in recent years.

Rafe: The N97, as with other recent Nokia devices, ships with Mail for Exchange as part of the Nokia Messaging suite / email wizard. This has come a long way since the days of the N73 and you should find it much more reliable. There's also a homescreen widget so you has 'see' new emails and quickly access the email client.

Have you encountered any problems with the call send/end keys, with them being touch sensitive? e.g accidentally ending (or making) a call.

Rafe: We'll be testing this out, but I do not forsee any issue here. The N97 has a proximity sensor which deactivates the touchscreen and the touch sensitive buttons when you hold it up to your face to make a call.

How many items are there on the Ovi store for N97?

Rafe: There are currently (June 4th) around 700 items for the N97 in the Ovi Store (including 200 applications, plus 100 games). However new content is being added all the time - Nokia are still working through the content submitted for launch period.

How's the call quality? Is it typical Nokia - Loud and clear? How about the speakerphone?

Rafe: As is typical from Nokia products, both call quality and speakerphone are very good. We've not done that much testing yet, but we'll certainly report anything unexpected. Incidentally, this is a generally under-considered area when comparing devices. There are significant differences between manufacturers and products and it is an area where Nokia has always excelled.

Does it come with a stylus and if so, can that be inserted into the phone as per 5800? If not, do you think the phone does not need one? Is there a soft qwerty keyboard for use in landscape with the case closed?

Rafe: The N97 does come with a stylus (may vary in some markets). However it is separate from the phone and can not be inserted into the phone. Throughout the UI and most applications, finger touch is more than sufficient. However handwriting recognition does really need a stylus, and some people may find small web links difficult to 'touch' accurately without a stylus.

There is not a soft / virtual QWERTY keyboard available when the device is closed, although there are virtual numeric key pad (with T9) and handwriting options available.

Do you know of any developers, such as Gravity, who will be launching a home screen widget for Twitter and is it possible to publish a photo of the stylus ( if you havn't lost it yet )

Steve: Heh. We haven't lost it, no. The homescreen has its own API/extensions so yes, I'd expect Gravity's developer to be looking into this.

Does the N97 have predictive text like the E71 from the qwerty keyboard?

Steve: No, what you type is what you get. For better or for worse! I for one don't really like the qwerty predictive system, so it's not big loss as far as I'm concerned.

People have been commenting the 5800 facebook app to be "slow" and "buggy". Is this the case with N97?

Steve: No, it's fine on the N97, at least for my limited useage. Remember that this device has a faster processor and a tweaked Web engine.

Does the N97 come pre installed with BBC iplayer in uk? I think the 5800 did. How good would be viewing iplayer on that 3.5inch screen! If not pre-installed, can you install it and does it run ok?

Steve: No, but I'd wager that it'll be added to the Beeb's 'compatibility lists' shortly. Patience!

Does it have the switch application to transfer the contacts? 

Steve: Yes, though it's a little hidden in the Settings hierarchy.

Where is it better to install applications? In the internal memory or the 32GB mass memory?

Steve: Either will do fine for most applications.

Xvid/Divx playback. Please let us know, and be critical

Steve: The Nokia S60 devices don't do DivX/XviD at all, it seems. I presume the Samsung devices either use an open source codec, or have licensed one. Every flavour of MP4 I flung at it worked ok though.

Can you check to see if n-gage is installed as a default application? 

Steve: Yes, fully in the firmware.

Can the pound (#) key on the keyboard (or some other key) be used to quickly select/unselect an item? Alternatively, have they come up with some GUI method for selecting a large group of items with ease?

Steve: No, but, the usual S60 qwerty technique of using the 'shift' key to do multiple contiguous selections works.

Is there cut, copy and paste?

Steve: Yes, but not with hotkeys (Ctrl C etc), annoyingly - it has to be done via 'Editing options - Copy' etc on the Options menu in each application now.

How much improvement is the N97's web browser engine over the 5800's?

Steve: The kinetic scrolling and default full screen help a lot, as does the faster processor. I was quite happy with this side of things.

Could someone tell me where the gps antenna is located? I want to know if it is like in the N95 where you need to open the keypad to access the antenna.

Steve: No, the GPS antenna seems to be in a more sensible position and positioning works whether the N97 is open or closed.

Could you test using windows vista or anything else and see how fast the write and read speeds are to the internal 32GB flash drive

Fast, I'd estimate 4 or 5MB per second. We'll do more benchmarks in due course.

I read that the ribbon is exposed and likely to become a problem for some users. Kindly expand on your thoughts regarding amount of exposure and likliehood of running into problems

Not sure where you read that - providing the phone is looked after then it shouldn't be a problem. This isn't a builder's yard phone, this is an executive tool, to be cased and pocketed cleanly etc.

Would you comment more on the sliding cover for the camera - is it solid (movement and build) and does it clip in to place or is it likely to move about in a pocket?

It's spring loaded and I think it unlikely to become activated in a pocket.

Does hitting the "end" key exit the application or just put it to the background?

Usually exits.

How transparent are the home screen widgets? If you put a personal picture as the wallpaper does it hinder the readability of the widgets like the 5800 home screen?

No, the effect is quite subtle and everything stays readable. Also, did you know that a side swipe on the home screen clears the widgets away, revealing the wallpaper? 8-)


Steve Litchfield and Rafe Blandford, All About Symbian, 4 June 2009