First impressions of the white Nokia N97

It looks like The Boy Genius Report was the first to post a US-based review of the Nokia N97 NAM (he received his black one before my white one) and after reading through it I have to say I agree with a few of his observations just about everything. They wrote that the hardware is top notch, the phone call quality is standard amazing Nokia quality, and the connectivity options are awesome. BGR does not like the keyboard and I do agree it could have been much better, but like any QWERTY keyboard you can adapt and it is highly personal. I do all right with it, but prefer other keyboards (even the E71x) much more. The display is not as good as all the capacitive ones he listed, but it is high resolution with very clear fonts and is as good as it gets today for resistive touch screens. I also really like the matte pearl-color, off white back since it seems it will never scratch and there are very few areas for finger prints to mess things up.

I also saw TechRadar’s review after checking out some discussion over on Howard Forums and you may want to read this one as well. So, now that I did a quick run through their review and my thoughts, let’s move on to my own initial take on the device to help you decide about the device.

Out-of-the box experience

The Nokia N97 comes packed in a fairly compact and very attractive black box. The Nokia N97 is embossed in an open form factor on the top of the box and the whole outside box stands out as something of high quality inside. Opening up the top flap reveals a solid black divider that then is lifted up to reveal the Nokia N97, battery, and stylus mounted in a black plastic shell. Thankfully, the battery is the fairly standard 1500 mAh BP-4L version that is found in my E71, E71x and Nokia N810 so I have a few spares around to never run out of power. The stylus is the oddest thing I have ever seen and at first I thought it was a small USB drive. There is a lanyard so you can attach it to the N97, but I have no plans to do this and it will probably never be seen outside the retail packaging. It reminds me of the Samsung OMNIA stylus I had and never used either. The top of the stylus is a triangular shape and not your typical pointing skinny stylus.

Below the plastic holder you will find the A/C adapter (unfortunately it is not the compact travel one found in other recent Nokia packages), USB to microUSB cable, wired stereo headset with media controller module, and several pamphlets (user guide, warranty, and Nokia Maps info). There is no TV out cable seen in just about every other Nseries package and there is no Amazon Video On Demand credits (seen in the 5800 package). I have a TV out cable, but I would think they would have included it for new buyers, especially at the $700 retail price of the N97.

First thoughts in hand

I had a fully charged BP-4L battery so I popped that and my AT&T SIM into the N97 to get things started. The N97 has a nice heft to it, but does not seem as heavy as I thought given the long form factor and overall size. This is the first time I have seen the white model live and I really like the back matte finish that has a kind of pearl color to it. This device is NOT a fingerprint magnet and it seems like it will not scratch either, both of which are good things for an expensive device. The camera lens cover is large and works great. The hinge opens up much better than I thought it would and as you start to slide it open it assists you in getting to the open position. The hinge feels much more robust than the Touch Pro2 and is impressive. The display is fairly high resolution and fonts are crisp and clean too. It isn’t as thick as I thought it would be either. Overall, I like the feel in my hand and am impressed with the quality of the N97. Now, let’s take a closer look at the hardware parts and pieces.

Walk around the hardware

The display is bright and clear, as well as having a good size for getting things done. It is a resistive display, but so far I am finding it to be sensitive enough for me to use without ever having to touch the display with a stylus. There are still times when you use a single tap for selection and double tap to activate something and that does take some getting used to for new S60 touch UI users. It is not an iPhone, G1, or Pre and I really do want to see capacitive displays come to Nokia in the near future.

There are only three hardware buttons on the front of the N97, including send, end, and a menu button. There is a front facing camera above the display and I hope this eventually works with a Skype client for video calls.

I was very pleased to see the keyguard switch, similar to the 5800 XM, on the left side of the N97 and I use this all the time. A microUSB port is on the upper left side and a cool touch Nokia added was a bright white light next to this to indicate charging status. Stereo speakers are mounted on the left side that make them on the front when in display open/laptop mode.

Swinging around to the top you will find the power button and 3.5mm headset jack.

The right side contains the volume rocker and camera capture button. A lanyard opening is the only thing found on the bottom of the N97.

The 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and shutter slider is found along the upper part of the back. I really am liking the matter finish back of the N97 and it feels great in your hand.

This is a Nseries device so where is the media button? Shoot, even the excellent drop down media menu on the 5800 is something I would like to see on the N97.

QWERTY keyboard

The main design feature people are probably interested in is the QWERTY keyboard. The display slides up smoothly with a great transition feel and design. On the white N97 you will find the main characters are gray in color while the alternate characters are blue. These alternate characters are entered using the right lower blue arrow/FN key. The thing is you can hardly see the difference between the gray and blue color (check out my photo below). It is very evident in low light conditions where the characters are lit white or blue though. The characters and symbols should be larger font on the keys too and at times I have to lift the N97 closer to see them all. The space bar is over on the right and I thought this was going to be a major issue, but actually my right thumb is finding it quite easily since it is just about where my thumb rests. This is a thumb QWERTY keyboard after all and not a laptop keyboard where both thumbs need to press the space bar.

The keys are well spaced, but more are needed to speed up efficiency. I especially want a comma, @ symbol, and question mark without having to press a FN key first. There does not seem to be any predictive functions either and no shortcuts from the keyboard. I need to test out some things with Quickoffice after I get the creation version loaded up.

The left directional pad also has very little feedback and I need to spend more time with it to see how functional it will be for me.

Where is my memory? While the N97 does come with integrated 32GB of Flash memory (about 29GB available) there is very little ROM RAM on the device. I saw only 37.9MB of Flash ROM when I went to install my first program and was blown away by this low amount. My Nokia E71x has a whopping 100MB available for application installation and I think this is PATHETIC for the N97. This may get to be an issue with all of the widgets that have to run on the home screen and I just don’t understand why Nokia would limit the ROM RAM so much. I understand it is a cost thing, but for $699 there really should be NO limitations on the device, right?

Walk around the software

I think the main software feature of the N97 is the widget home screen so let’s take a look at that first. You get 5 “slots” on the N97 to load up with widgets. There are several widgets included on the N97, such as Facebook, Weather, Messaging, Amazon, AP News, Bloomberg news, Music Player, Share Online, Calendar, FM transmitter, Hi5, Slideshow, Shortcut 1 and Shortcut 2, Favorite Contacts I and Favorite Contacts II. For the two Shortcut and Favorite options you can add up to four specific items (contacts, application shortcuts, or bookmarks) for each widget. I currently have Shortcut 1, Favorite Contacts I, Facebook, Weather, and Messaging loaded on my N97. For some, like Facebook and Weather, you need to maintain a connection to have the widget stay updated and logged in. There is also an option to Download Content, but this just takes you to the main Ovi Store page and not even to a widget page. Nokia needs to make sure it goes right to a page of widgets to be useful. I would love to see Gravity and a RSS feed widgets added soon.

The widgets can be useful, but I still like the standby screen customization options found on the Nokia E71 best. I know this is not a business Eseries device, but it sure would be nice if adding this kind of display was available as an option.

I think the N97 menu pages are quite a mess with some icons representing folders and some apps with no real organization at all. There are several apps in the Application folder and again it is real chaos in there. I always customize my folder arrangement anyways, one of the excellent customization functions on the S60 platform, but new customers may get a bit overwhelmed by this disorganization. You can check out my screenshots below to see what it looked like before I cleaned things up.

Ovi Store is included on the device and when I first launched it I was prompted to upgrade to the latest version that just rolled out a day or two ago. The Ovi Store works fine so far and I did find that RoadSync in there right away. UPDATE: I hard reset my N97 to test out and get back to a fresh device for further testing and then found that the Ovi Store wanted me to pay for RoadSync again, FAIL! Nokia needs to get some issues resolved with the Ovi Store (ability to redownload and maybe even download via a PC so you can archive your installation files) very soon or I will stop buying from the store and many others may as well.

Nothing else in the software department stood out to me initially so I’ll spend more time with the device and follow-up after I try out the media capabilities and more.

What should have been loaded? I was a bit surprised to see that Nokia Internet Radio, Nokia Email, Mail For Exchange, and N-Gage were not preloaded on the N97. I know this is a Nseries device, but with the keyboard and very expensive price I expected it to be capable of everything and have the latest Nokia Messaging client (like the excellent one found on the E75). It doesn’t even have the very capable Nokia Email client loaded on it so I had to login to the website and have the setup SMS sent to get that running. Since the latest Nokia Messaging client was not loaded, I expected to at least find MFE on it, but again it was missing. I bought the RoadSync client for just $10 instead of trying out MFE. I also read that N-Gage was supported on the N97, but it was not preloaded and when I went to download it I received an error that my device was not compatible with the N97. I was also disappointed to see that the version with QuickOffice loaded on the N97 is only available for viewing and not for document creation. Come on Nokia, this is your flagship device so let’s get everything loaded on it.

3rd party apps I tried: I loaded up the following applications right away on the N97:

  • S60 Bible
  • Screensnap
  • Astraware Board Games
  • Gravity
  • Hava Player
  • LightSabre
  • Nokia Email
  • RoadSync version 4
  • Mail For Exchange
  • Nokia Internet Radio
  • Spb Puzzle
  • Spb Wallet
  • Spb Brain Evolution
  • WordMobi
  • YouTube
  • Mobbler
  • N-Gage

They all seemed to work just fine, except for N-Gage, WordMobi, Mobbler, and Nokia Internet Radio. I plan to try out a few more soon as well.

Amazon Video On Demand and Zune

I thought it was cool and quite enjoyable to purchase and view Amazon Video On Demand movies on my Nokia 5800 with the little kickstand accessory and used it several times on the train and airplane. I am pleased to say it works perfectly and videos look fantastic on the N97. Nokia and Amazon really should try to plug this capability a bit more since it helps to have an easy movie experience similar to iTunes and the iPhone/iPod Touch. The added benefit of using the N97 is that it props up as part of the device design so you can comfortably enjoy movies on the go with the N97. This will be perfect for flights where the N97 can rest on the tray table.

Another thing I tested out was the support for my Zune Marketplace subscription content and unfortunately that does not work. I think this is just an added benefit for the E71x and am not knocking the N97 for this since very few devices, other than Zune players, actually work with this and it is kind of a pain to reconnect and get the license every month anyways.

Final first thoughts

I like the hardware of the device more than I thought I would so far and plan to test out the camera (still and video) a lot more this weekend at our soccer tourney. I need to spend more time with the keyboard since I currently do not find it to be that great, but I am adaptable. $650 to $700 is a hefty price to pay and I think Nokia could have done more to make the device better (RAM, keyboard, several apps and widgets). That said, Nokia stated there will be some big updates coming to the N97 in the future so I am curious to see how much these add to the device. I like my E71x and 5800 and think most users may be happy with these lower cost alternatives that meet just about all their needs. As a power user who enjoys the S60 platform the N97 may be just the ticket.

I plan to spend MUCH more time and will be posting several times next week about the N97. Please feel free to post any questions you have or things you want me to try out on the N97 below and I’ll try to get to all of them soon.


89 Comments to First impressions of the white Nokia N97

[…] Nachdem nun auch in Österreich bald das neue Nokia N97 rauskommt, hab ich mir im Nokiaexperts Blog eine Videoreview des N97 […]

June 18, 2009

Miller, I do have the white one, can u tell me where u got that screen protector from??

[…] over a week ago I posted my first impressions of the white Nokia N97. I spent all of last week with my AT&T SIM living in my N97 before picking up a 32GB iPhone 3G […]

[…] be joining yours truly (from, ‘natch) to talk Palm Pre, BlackBerry Tour, Nokia N97, and our very own iPhone 3GS/iPhone […]

[…] will be joining yours truly (, ‘natch) to talkPalm Pre,BlackBerry Tour,Nokia N97, and our very owniPhone 3GS/iPhone […]

[…] be joining yours truly (from, ‘natch) to talk Palm Pre, BlackBerry Tour, Nokia N97, and our very own iPhone 3GS/iPhone […]

[…] be joining yours truly (from, ‘natch) to talk Palm Pre, BlackBerry Tour, Nokia N97, and our very own iPhone 3GS/iPhone […]

[…] will be Rene Ritchie (from to talk Palm Pre, BlackBerry Tour, Nokia N97, and the iPhone 3GS/iPhone […]

Andrea Berger
June 25, 2009


That’s a very interesting review of the N97. I guess that phone will be pretty successful.

I wrote an article about the Nokia N97 too. If you’re interested visit our blog.

best regards
Andrea Berger

June 26, 2009

please tell me this, because i cant really seems to find it anywhere: can you watch movies on the n97 and/or the n96? i really want to know if its possible and if it is if its practical
thank you in advance

Luke Jones
June 30, 2009

Having been a Nokia fan for some time I was keen to get my hands on the new N97.

I recieved it last Friday and eagerly opened up the box, inserted my SIM and the battery and turned it on. What an anti climax! The touch screen is not responsive at all, it seems to work when it wants to not when you want it to. The S60 operating system is so old and slow, it is painful to use. Soldiering on and desperate to find something I liked and could boast about to my iPhone toteing colleagues I set up the email application. Again, a dissapointment. Why on earth, have Nokia not provided HTML support for emails, yes there is an icon you can click which brings up a poorley formatted HTML version of the email.

Nokia appear to have blown thier budget on the design, the phones one good point. The slide out keyboard is a dream to use, it’s such a shame they didn’t invest more time and money on designing a better operating system.

Anyone who has used an iPhone, Palm Pre or Blackberry will sneer at the N97 in contempt. Nokia have insulted thier client base by releasing such a poor phone and will lose thousands of hardened Nokia fans to other mobile phone makers. I for one have already returned mine in exchange for a Blackberry.

Shame on you Nokia!

July 6, 2009

your nokia n97 was made in china or finland? because i saw the made in china black version today it looked very cheap and trashy. i want the white one made in finland but its not available. the chinese matirial is very cheap the n97 chinese black version looks like total ass so i was wondering yours was made in finland?

Matthew Miller
July 6, 2009

The box of my unit shows Made in China. It is good quality and I doubt there is much of a difference between the Chinese and Finland made products.

[…] posted my first impressions of the white Nokia N97 about three weeks ago and have since followed up with several experience posts. In that initial […]

Nokia N97
July 10, 2009

So how well does the white Nokia N97 shrug off fingerprints?

[…] posted my first impressions of the white Nokia N97 about three weeks ago and have since followed up with several experience posts. In that initial […]
July 13, 2009

Thank you for your very looong review. It contains a lot of useful information abut the N97.

July 17, 2009

Camera quality is really impressive

August 2, 2009

N97 black or white? Black looks better! 😉 Andi

August 11, 2009

I was really impressed by Pre-sale show by NOKIA and enticed with it.Raving reviews, going as far as calling it “best in its class”, speaking of a “bright and beautiful screen”, and even saying the resistive touchscreen was “fast and responsive all that stuff played a great in my decision to go for it. It is costliest among its peers in India and value product drives the market.

Initially , it was a fun time and envy of others.

But within 20 days the device crashed and was given for service vide service Job 298465550/090731/108.I think the N97 menu pages are quite a mess with some icons representing folders and some apps with no real organization at all. There are several apps in the Application folder and again it is real chaos in there. Three times the device hanged. Phone locking up, unable to upload enhanced applications, hanging , Board getting heated, applications are not working .

I advice for “wait and watch” for any new buyers and does not fall prey to gimmicks of sales talk.”Let the buyer be aware”

CDN, India

August 13, 2009

I’ve been using my N97 for about a month now. It’s been great so far. Initially I had a lot of hanging and crashing, very strange behavior when holstered i.e. Camera running, widgets disappear etc. Turns out, if you have a holster with a magnet latch, it wreaks havoc on the N97. Stay away from magnetic cases/holsters. Once I swapped back to a non magnetic holster, things were smooth.

The camera is AWESOME! so is the video! I have an iPhone 3GS as well and the N97 video/picture quality blows it outta the water. One of my favorite apps on it is Qik.

The keyboard is very comfortable to use. Takes a little while to get use to the space being on the right, but other than that, it’s great to use. I jsut wish they had added the “Blue” key on both sides of the keyboard.

Call quality and speaker phone are both outstanding. Bluetooth connections to headsets seamless.

The battery life is surprisingly good. If you are a heavy data user, don’t expect the battery to last longer than a day.

The web browser was not too bad. The touch screen can get a bit annoying at times when browsing. You end up clicking on a link instead of scrolling. I found that scrolling with the D pad on the keyboard was actually a lot easier.

The build quality is outstanding! I have a “Made in China” black version, and definitely do not agree with the previous comment of it being cheap build quality. I’ve had the N95 8GB, N96 as well, and this is far better built than either of them.

September 5, 2009

No, currently you can’t do SIP calls (natively) on your N97, because N97 (still) doesn’t have native SIP client.

September 29, 2009

Nice, looking forward to get mine soon.

Nokia N97 First Impressions
October 9, 2009

[…] a huge BGR fan, but not of this review, which finds hardware faults where there aren’t any. Nokia Experts review is much closer to my experience using the N97 for two-and-a-half days. Like NE’s Matthew […]

December 17, 2009

I have just bought the Nokia N97. When I receive text messages, most of the time it only shows the number and not the name. The sent items is fine. Any ideas, anyone

January 1, 2010

I had the white N-97 and loved it . . . BUT during the day in certain rooms lit normally, the key pad lights would come on. That meant the character on the key was lit with a white light on the white key. White on white. The thing was simply unfunctional during the day. I needed a way to turn the key pad lights OFF. You can turn them on by putting your left thumb over the top left sensor. BUT there is no way to turn the key pad lights OFF when you don’t need them. THAT is a major manufacturing flaw. In my case it was a fatal flaw and I replaced it with the less pretty black one. I’m really surprised no one else has complained about this with the white hand set.

January 2, 2010

this is the worst mobile phone i had in my life,it’s just so horrible,i can’t believe was freezing any time and i often couldnt accept calls or hang up when i finished conversation,the touchscreen is plain stupid,keep pressing numbers with my cheek,even accidently delete the voice messages while listening to them! the internet is slow,you cant upload picture in email,couldnt transfer the pics and music into or from the phone,it said the memory was full-when all it had was like 40photos in the whole 32GB space! After 4months of use the battery started playing up and you had to charge the phone for 2days to get energy for a few hours of use,but after 2weeks the battery just died and doesnt respond to charger,its just dead and i have to use my old nokia phone which have a constantly dying battery too,plus i cant get my pictures and phone numbers from the nokia 97 memory because the failed battery.All i’m saying is AVOID! AVOID! AVOID! this phone.cheers x

January 4, 2010

Thank u for the overview!!This was really helpful.I just got my Nokia n97,actually i won it from Vodafone at a recent contest.I luv the phone,can’t wait to try it out xxxxx There are so many things to do with it,it is so complex i luv it he he

January 28, 2010

Hi Matt. I am 19 years old and one of the user of N97.
I have been using it for 6 months.. Oh God, it sucks!
I don’t what’s the matter with her (for me, my N97 is a girl)

my problems are:
1. I hardly taking picture using her. every time, i have to take a picture. then, she will freeze. i have to wait around 5 minutes for the next capture. WHY?
that is so irritating.

  1. i cant open my music folder at all. every time i do so, she will freeze. again.. oh, no!

Matt,please help me! i have no idea what is going on with her.

[…] a huge BGR fan, but not of this review, which finds hardware faults where there aren’t any. Nokia Experts review is much closer to my experience using the N97 for two-and-a-half days. Like NE’s Matthew […]

July 13, 2010

I purched New N97 White from Extra Riyadh, on 11/07/2010 ,it is Dischared on 12, and i charged and it is Dischared on 13 when i am in office. for me its new thing but what is see is battery is not good,(this is made in china). Touch screen is not so good like apple phone, and there is no shake change songs, i am very much disoppointed by this.

August 17, 2010

N97 GPS has never worked properly, my N97 was stolen recently and I got a iPhone 4 – wow a phones that does more than SMS and Calls! I really wonder what this company is a about – terrible OS implementations and lousy hardware on there most expensive phones. I supply my employees with Nokia C-5’s, 6730c’s, 5530’s and the like, I find Nokias cheaper smart phones a great value. This value does not seem to scale up to their expensive phones – which actually perform slow and badly – the extra money does not bring you happiness as does from Apple – sad for Nokia – but I kinda know their culture and I dont think it can be fixed in time for them to continue as a major player in the smart-phone business. I hope Nokia continues as the have with grate work at the lower end of the smart-phone business: they do great at this I think.

August 26, 2010

Thank you very much for this review.I just bought a N97 white mini.I am a novice in instaling and downloading everything necesary in the rightplace.With my previous phones it went very easy.I have just followed trught the instructions,but with this Nokia i find it very very difficult.I went and asked in the shop where i bough it if they can do thata for me and the woman there said no I have to do it.Is that true or was she as lost as me?
Are they able to provide this service if i ask or not?
Any idea how can i get everything instaled on my phone?
This device beat me up, but i stil love it and want to make use of all it has to offer.Please respond only if u have really sothing worth reading.I will not waste my words on stupid low remarks.Thanking u in adavance,

September 4, 2010

The Nokia N97 is a bestseller at our Shop. Hope the N98 coming as soon as possible.

October 12, 2010

pls i want 2 if there is any diff btw nokia n97 32gb made in china, india, finland, hungary, etc.

Kylee Pro
April 7, 2011

I’ve lately began a blog, the knowledge you provide on this website has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all your time & work.

May 23, 2011

I do agree with Don about the light on the white key pads. It’s awful and boring too

Table Protector
July 5, 2011

It is good that Nokia N97 is available in the white colour. I am eager to buy it. I see all the images of Nokia N97 in white colour.

child cribs
December 27, 2011

First impressions of the white Nokia N97 | Nokia Experts…

A father said to his son, “When Abe Lincoln was your age, he was studying books by the light of the fireplace.” The son replied, “When Lincoln was your age, he was President.”…

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