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Everyone’s Invited to the Nokia N97 Party, But Will Anyone Pay the Cover Charge?



nokian97_1124887cOne Kevin C. Tofel at jkOnTheRun passes word that all of New York City is invited to welcome the Nokia N97 to the States. Sounds like fun with a capital “F” for Finland. (Hah! More like “Funland.” Get it? ‘Cause they’re fun.) Too bad hardly anyone here is going to line up for what is, by most measures, the most advanced smartphone to date.

No, that’s not sarcasm: the N97 looks like an outstanding piece of hardware. Looking through the specs, most of its features beat the Palm Pre, iPhone 3GS, and G1, and in some cases, combines the best of all of them, like 32GB onboard storage + microSD expansion. (Lack of multi-touch control is one notable exception.) Nokia makes incredible phones, no doubt about it. The problems lie with the pricing and software.

First, it’s $700, no subsidy. Yeah, I know people lined up to pay almost that much for the first iPhone, but two years later, people aren’t going to pay that. Nokia really needs to partner with a U.S. carrier and bring down the purchase price if they want to break into our smartphone market. The N97 is a superior device, but not a lot of people will pay 2-4 times the price of its competitors.

Second, the software lags behind in the consumer arena. S60 is a solid OS that gets the job done. But I’ve been looking through the interactive demo, and I don’t see the “dazzle” that the Pre or iPhone or even the G1 deliver. Part of that, I think, is due to the lack of a capacitive touchscreen and reliance on the landscape-oriented keyboard. I see a lot of two-handed operation and scrollbar usage in the demo.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else has checked out the Ovi Store, Nokia’s marketplace for apps, but I found it very unappealing. It’s not the lack of apps that bothers me (more will come), but there just isn’t enough information on the apps there to lure in buyers. It really needs work.

Spec-wise, there’s no comparison between the N97 and its competitors. But if consumers cared about specs more than price and interface, we’d all be using Nokia phones already. Anyone ignoring that and buying this bad-ass device anyway? If so, what makes it worth $700 to you?



  1. Jose R. Ortiz

    06/11/2009 at 2:42 pm

    I pre-ordered mine about a month ago but then again, $700 is normal for me since I have not purchased a subsidized phone since 2003. I’ve always opted for unlocked/unbranded devices either straight from the manufacturer of from importers. I’ve actually paid more for phones that do less. In this case, I pre-ordered for $600 on Amazon which I think is a great deal seeing as how I paid almost $1,000 for an unlocked iPhone from Australia that I don’t even use!

  2. Stuart

    06/11/2009 at 3:30 pm

    I agree 100% with Jose. I never use branded or locked phones. I like having access to all the functionality that Nokia provides. I happen to really like Symbian and some of the unique apps that it provides.

  3. AvneeshShrotria

    06/11/2009 at 5:51 pm

    I love my NOKIA….. no way i would replace it with anything else….

  4. archiwiz

    06/11/2009 at 8:58 pm

    I very much prefer unlocked Nokia phones, and phones that are especially competitive in the European and Asian phone markets. I bought my last phone as an import for over $700 2 years ago and I’m still getting oohs and ahhs over its capabilities. Like Stuart, I really like the unique apps for the Symbian platform, and the fact that I can customize my phone however I like. I would have pre-ordered this phone from Amazon, but I’m just waiting to see if Nokia comes up with a newer version of the E90 within the next six months.

  5. bluespapa

    06/12/2009 at 7:05 pm

    The choice of resistive rather than capacitive touch makes the UI look clumsier than it should be. Odd choice. It really could have been dazzling, but simple things like scrolling and swiping feel wrong compared to iPhone and the Pre, it isn’t worth the $700.

  6. blash

    06/14/2009 at 6:37 am

    Yeah, put a capacitive screen on it and load it up with WebOS or Android and it becomes a solid buy. The S60 platform looks OK from the videos but like I said earlier, software is more important than hardware.

    Nokia would do well to sign with AT&T or T-mobile to offer this for $299 after a 2-year contract. For better or for worse, that’s how it works in the US. We don’t have vending machines with pre-paid SIM cards yet.

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