The Nokia N97 Q&A page (The sequel!) - updated

Published by at

A sequel to the original N97 Q&A, this includes all the original answers and adds those from questions asked in the last 48 hours. If after reading these and my initial Nokia N97 review, you still have questions, then ask away in the comments to this news item. Read on... [further updated 10am Monday]


Retail Nokia N97


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

Steve: Yes. The menu and green keys light up (pulse) 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: Yes, although it's turned off by default. I for one don't really like the qwerty predictive system though, so it being off for new users is probably a fair call. 

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.

Retail Nokia N97 d-pad

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-)

Are you able to scroll the page before it fully loads, or does it still hang the phone , just like any 5800 and you must wait until most of the page is loaded before you can scroll the web page?

This behaviour is the same as on the 5800, but it's less noticeable because of the extra speed of the processor in the N97.

How is the font size on the N97, can the size be increased?

It's fine, but you can tweak it in Settings | Display, just as on the 5800.

Does the outer, metal rim attract and collect dust like the 5800?

No, it's much less of a ridge and it's away from the display

I found the screen lock mechanism on the 5800 to be perfectly placed. Does moving it to the other side of the device change its ease of use?

No, it's just as useable, with fingers rather than thumb.

How hard is it to press the physical menu key? Is it firm like the 5800?

Yes, it requires roughly the same amount of pressure.

As an N-series device, it should be multimedia focused, yet there is no dedicated media keys, nor an easy way to get to the music player/web/videos like the media bar on the 5800 (granted, you could put the music player widget on the home screen, but that's valuable real estate with all of the widgets that will (hopefully) be coming out.) Am I missing something or do I have to go into the menu to start/pause/skip/etc. the music player?

You're not missing anything - but leaving Music player's widget on the home screen isn't that bad a solution for anyone playing music often.

How would you rate the quickness of the UI with and without animations? Is it significantly slower?

It's FAR slower with theme effects 'on', but this is probably due to the early state of the firmware - I'd expect these to be faster and slicker by the time we hit v20 with this.

Are there other options for the homescreen? i.e. contacts, traditional active home screen, blank? 

No, it's the widgets only. But you can swipe to have just wallpaper shown.

Could you check whether (Finnish General Broacdasting c-y site) is playing the videos/audios? So far N810 has been the ony one to do this... 

No, this site presumably uses a more recent version of Flash video?

Retail Nokia N97 keyboard

Is the email client is the new Nokia Messaging, like the E75 ( Or is it the old 'inboxes' S60's method?

It's the old traditional version. Though you could doubtless install Nokia Messaging for the 5800 on this if you wanted.

Is it possible to use the N97 in USB host mode?

I don't think so.

How's the audio quality compared to the N91 using quality in-ear earphones?

Similar to the 5800's.... I've no idea how this compares to the N91's output.

Are you restricted to having just one screen of widgets, or can you have many?

Just the one.

Are any of the animations from CES 2009 or the original N97 demo video present in the phone? There was a lot of emphasis on transition effects in the "experience" video and while I knew the N97 team certainly had the goal to put them in, I was extremely skeptical that they could pull it off, especially without graphics acceleration.

Agreed. The theme effects here are very basic and very slow. I suspect the demo video's screens were mocked up. There are graphics chips in the N97 but they're not used fully yet.

Is internet radio implemented into the music player like the n96 or will we still be waiting for a s60v5 version of nokia's internet radio app?

Its not in the firmware yet, but it will be shortly, I believe. We're still waiting and waiting and waiting for the team to port Internet Radio for a touch-screened device and I have NO idea why it's taking them so darned long.....

You talk a lot in your great "audio unboxing" podcast about big changes through future firmware updates. Presumably most people (who can't afford sim-free phones) will not benefit from these unless they take the risk of de-branding the phone? Or has Nokia come up with a way of separating out their own updates from the Carrier's tweaks?

You're right. Anyone who buys a carrier-branded phone is at the mercy of the carrier's incompetence. As usual. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Whatever the cost.

Does RealPlayer still pause if it's not the application in "focus"? This is very annoying in s60 3.1 when listening to RealAudio files - you can't use the device for anything else at the same time.

Yes, it still pauses and yes, it's still very irritating.

On one of the Nokia preview videos, there was a cool bit where (with auto-rotate turned on), the phone was rotated and all the widgets on the homescreen rotated independently. (I suspect this will only make sense if you can remember the video). Does it do this in 'real life'?

No. Not even with theme effects on.

When texting do the keys go down significantly enough to get a satisfying click or are they pretty shallow and its sometimes tough to know if youve clicked a key?

The haptics are good here and you know when you've hit a key. It's working out which key to HIT that's sometimes tricky. Lighting, layout, space bar etc.

I have an E61i which with it's metal case survives my occasional drops on to a stone floor no problem, unlike other phones I have had. Is the N97 less "droppable"? A case would probably be necessary (ugh!)? There is no hole for a lanyard/wrist strap is there, which would be another solution?

Yes, there's a lanyard hole. And ALL phones are droppable, sadly!

Steve, can you please PLEASE compare the loudspeaker volume DURING A CALL compared to the 5800 and the n95? the n95 had the VERY BEST speakerphone on a call. how is the n97? also how is the music volume? The loudspeaker is one of my very highest priorities on a phone. i'd like to know. thanks.

Its pretty loud, probably comparable to the N95 or 5800's.

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

No, it's separate, but I'm sure one of Nokia's new APIs will handle this. It's up to the developer to hook into it.

Can the email client show HTML?

No, it's the old S60 Messaging, with no HTML. But, again, you'll be able to install the new Nokia Mesaaging (err... same name, different app, go complain to Nokia!)

Has the contact look up process been improved upon vs the 5800? spelling out a contacts name with the constantly changing keyboard on the 5800 drove me to sell it

It's the same as on the 5800, but with the improvement that you can open the keyboard and type the letters for real.

Is it true there is no 'satellite status' which on the N82 shows you the strength of the satellite signals, it is useful for getting a fix? 

No, this is still available in the Location application

I want to know if adding the birthday or any anniversary date in a certain Contact's details automatically adds them to the calender function?

No. Write to Nokia!!

Does the resistive film affecting the N97 screen ! I played with a prototype and once you put the screen under direct light you will notice the Touch sensors (Dots ) !

Under some lighting you can see a dot grid, but this isn't the resolution of the touch screen, it's probably part of it's electrical infrastructure.

Does N97 have panorama (the mix together shot) like in the N86?

No. Dream on!

I've read that the Hinges will break over time? i have an E90 and in less than a year the hinges broke.

The N97 is frailer than, say, the N82, but I'm not too worried. Mind you, if you can break the E90 then you're TOUGH on your phones.....

How are the s60v3 N-Gage games on the N97? I read they are zoomed from 320x240 with 1.5 to 480x360 automatically. Is this true?

Yes, though it's hard to tell, to be honest, the scaling is done fast and smoothly.

Does the phone support over the air updates here in the states?

This and all S60 3rd Edition FP2 and above phones support over the air updates, I believe.

Is SIP and VoIP included?

Not presently. But this will come, with Skype promised, etc.


Do the buttons on the keypad light up in low light conditions?

Yes, the keyboard backlight is very good indeed.

Can you use over the air software updates to update this phone's software?

Yes, though, there are no updates available yet, of course. Updates will work over any cellular or Wi-Fi connection.

How does the physical keyboard compare to the E90's (or other devices, like the 9500) physical keyboard, size and usability wise?

It's slightly smaller than the E90's, with far less keys, plus limited key travel and smaller key legends. I'd estimate entry speed at just over 20wpm max.

Are all N-Gage games of the scaled-up S60v3 variety, or are there wide-screen, touch-based ones? 

Yes and not yet. I dare say full-screen titles will appear though.

Will only 50MB of RAM cut it for heavy phone usage???

Not really. It's fine for every day use but power users will hit the buffers at some point - trust me.

How does this compare against N95 in terms of graphical and processing power?

More raw processor power, but (overall) less graphics power.

Is the internet significantly faster on N97?

Yes, due to a new Webkit version, interface tweaks and a faster processor.

Will the N97 have the capability to save iPlayer programmes and watch them on, say, the bus?

Yes, once iPlayer is made available for the N97.

Realistically, many of us won't be able to afford the £450 to buy a N97 outright, and we'll go to the networks. Are any networks better than others at delivering firmware updates?

I still say that going SIM free isn't that much more expensive - after the first purchase, you've always got the sale of the old device to fund the new one etc. Any comments on which networks are better or worse in terms of keepin gup with updates, guys?

How many SMS's and/or MMS's can the phone store?

Ummm.... many thousands.

Is this stored in the RAM, or in the main memory or memory card?

In main memory by default, or on card if you wish (not recommended).

Can you please test the BBC Mobile Live TV channels to see if they work, it's radio only on my 5800? 

The BBC's services seem somewhat broken in this regard at the moment. Try again in a few weeks?

Also, does the N97 scroll through long lists with more accuracy instead of jumping around e.g. 1000+ songs in music player?

It behaves in the same way as on the 5800. Why not choose songs by artists or album?

N97 camera and LED flash

A question on the browser - does it auto wrap the text of a web page when switching orientation and when zooming? ie, is the text justified to fit the screen or are we still forced to sideways scroll as with the 5800 due to text continuing past the edge of the screen?

Both 5800 and N97 behave properly, showing you a zoomed window onto the full web page. If you can't read the text then try their mobile site?

I never see any auto-rotation clockwise (so that the Nokia logo is upside down). Could you confirm or deny that auto-rotation works that direction? A 360 would be nice, if not a 720 and back. Thanks!

No, it simply rotates 90 degrees left, as on the 5800.

How often do you have to recharge the phone with daily average use? (email, texts, calls, music, etc)

I'd estimate at least every two days.

Just as a matter of "fact"- the N97 DOES take better pics than the n95/n82/n96 and I (personally) think this is due to the algorithms being tweaked a bit.... 

Agreed. In good light, the newer algorithms in the N97 work really well.

Another very reputable site (Eldar) has stated that the N97 has 70MB free ram, any idea how he calculated this? (as you stated 46MB) 

No idea, other than he was 'reviewing' a prototype (don't get me started on that), but the figure for retail Euro devices is 46MB.

Is it a matter that it is 70MB with the homescreen widgets deactivated(if possible)?

Is it even possible to disable the widgets? I can't find a way!

Is it possible to use an external antenna or signal amplifier with the N97? 


Does your Smartphone Show in VGA resolution plays on N97? It doesn't on 5800 :(

No. Err.... the VGA big .m4v file is aimed at Quicktime/iTunes on Mac or PC, or a similar media player. The QVGA (much smaller) version is aimed at playing on smartphones. Try that instead!

Is this phone going to survive a drop, say from about 1m ?

Onto concrete? I'd be scared. The hinge is quite sturdily constructed, but a drop onto a hard surface might well do real damage.

Is the 'dvd quality video capture' really that? this was why I am holding out over main competition 

No, it's not really DVD quality. The N93 onward have featured 'near' DVD quality, as long as you don't mind too much about focussing or frame rate. The N97's video capture is fine for shooting holiday landscapes, but like the N79, N85 and N96, its video focus is infinity and the depth of field isn't sufficient to keep people a metre away in focus. Sadly.

Can I use the Nokia N97 to create and/or deliver a power point presentation?

In time, when Quickoffice finish their editing version for S60 5th Edition and with the right Bluetooth projector drivers, maybe. Not right now though.

Based on what you have seen so far, N97 or Samsung Omnia HD for the power user?

Depends on what you need. N97 for all round use, i8910 HD for intensive video capture and playback. Might not be much in it, both have weaknesses.

How powerful is the flash? You have an N82, can you test them side by side? Could you say it's 50% as effective or... something else proportionate?

Dual LED is still only about 20% the brightness of Xenon for an average pub/club shot, and Xenon freezes action 100x better.

The new Eseries phones have the concept of switchable active standby profiles (work/personal), does the N97 offer something similar ?

No, nothing like that.


Steve Litchfield (and Rafe Blandford where quoted), All About Symbian, 6 June 2009