Cannot Play Sound When Testing On Android Phone Official Nokia N97 Review

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Official Nokia N97 Review

Over the past month I’ve had the privilege of using the Nokia N97 as my daily driver, a device I use every day. When Nokia first announced that the N97 would replace the previous N95 device, I immediately started reminiscing about when the N95 was my go-to device. In the end I ditched my N95 because I needed a device with a QWERTY keyboard and went back to my E90. Without trying the N97 I had a lot of confidence in the device because it carried a full QWERTY keyboard and a better display than my E90. My time with the N97 has come and gone and now it’s time to see if the device has lived up to the hype and if it carries the N-series title with the same features as the device it replaced, the N95.


The N97 is available in two colors: black light and white light. With a weight of 150 grams the device feels light in your hand, but strong enough to withstand the daily wear and tear of being in your pocket and even the occasional drop. The N97 doesn’t feel as sturdy as the N95, but the sliding mechanism is excellent and you won’t have to deal with any of the hinge-related issues seen on previous Nokia designs.

Beneath the large 3.5-inch screen is a three-row QWERTY keyboard with four channels on the left. When I first started using a physical keyboard I had trouble changing the small keys and placing the bar on the far right. I can tell you for sure that you won’t break any speed records on this keyboard, but it can handle long emails and random text messages. I have no hesitation in recommending the Touch Pro2 keyboard over the N97 keyboard, just put the N97 keyboard is too small to compete with it. However, if you’re comparing the N97’s keyboard to the Motorola Droid you’ll have a very close battle.

When you pull out the keyboard on the N97, the screen tilts to a fixed angle of about 45 degrees. This is a matter of personal preference, but as a former HTC Tilt owner I enjoyed the angle and found it to be good for texting. It would be nice if there was a way to adjust the angle, but since I always leave my phone on my desk next to my computer I appreciate the fixed angle. I realize this may be confusing for some of you out there, but I recommend giving it a chance for a few weeks before making your decision.

Photography / Multimedia

Carl Zeiss Optics has been the longest-standing Nokia brand. The N97 takes a page from the N95’s book by using the same 5-megpixel camera but adds a dual LED flash for better nighttime photos. On the front of the N97 is a QCIF (176 x 144 pixels) video camera which is useful in Europe, but has no purpose here in the US.

In a recent comparison I did between the N97, Motorola Droid and HTC Touch Pro2, the N97 came away with the competition. This should dispel any notion that the N97 is suitable for replacing your point and shoot camera. I recommend checking out the photo gallery if you want to confirm what you are looking for.

I have to say that the lens cover of the N97 is known to cause self-harm and in the review unit I received from Nokia I can confirm that this problem still exists. If you want to buy an N97 I recommend that you find a place near you so that they can take care of this issue if your unit has the same problem. If you can’t find a service center in your area just make sure you buy a new device with the latest updates.

To help store your 5-megapixel photos Nokia has included 32GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot that can read up to 16GB cards. The combination of internal and external storage is a real bonus worth considering when comparing the N97 to other audio devices. While the iPhone has 32GB until the big version is released, the N97 can have 48GB or more if 32GB microSD support is added. If you take your music library on the go, the N97 will not disappoint.

After filling up 48GB of music you can start using the N97’s built-in music player. The music library will include tracks and artists, albums, genres and authors and you have the ability to create playlists on the phone and change the sound with the built-in equalizer. After listening to new music you can use an internet radio app or FM tuner which works very well. The real drop in audio quality software is RealPlayer. It’s about time Nokia included a video player. 3GPP and MPEG-4 support are good, but today we expect more in the video player and this issue should be addressed in the Symbian update of 2010.

Software / OS

As much as I love Symbian it is time to update the User Interface (UI). Fortunately, Nokia heard the Symbian community loud and clear and will be completely revamping the Symbian UI next year. However for prospective N97 buyers this will do very little to address the recent issues of aging. On the one hand Symbian offers superior battery life, multitasking and a large application library. Currently, Symbian lacks the polish and style found in Android and iPhone OS, has smaller email addresses and often requires more fields to enter the options you want.

I realize that all the problems I mentioned for Symbian will be addressed next year, but for now they are still important. However in my opinion the battery life I’ve had on the N97 over the past month compared to the HTC Touch Pro2 and Motorola Droid has made me overlook the OS’s shortcomings. Apart from the battery life, the stability of Symbian is fantastic and I had to force close many apps in Android and faced constant lag on Windows Mobile 6.5, Symbian just ran. Stability and battery life will always outweigh the style and polish found in other Operating Systems for me.

Ovi Store is Nokia’s answer to RIM’s App World, Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market. The quantity and quality of applications is impressive in the Ovi Store, but the biggest weakness is the interface. Compared to the Android Market or the Apple App Store, I found it a little more difficult to navigate and ultimately didn’t appeal to me. RIM and Palm’s webOS are struggling in the end when it comes to their respective app stores. If I were to rate the top three stores I would put the Apple App Store first, followed by Nokia’s Ovi Store and third the Android Market.

Screen / Language

Entering the world of Touchscreen phones was a bold move by Nokia. When the iPhone was first released Nokia didn’t seem interested in the touch screen and quickly rejected the idea of ​​going back to business as usual. A lot had changed during that time and luckily Nokia realized the need to have multiple customer contact points to communicate with them. Unfortunately, the N97 has a built-in connection barrier that requires a strong connection for the device to respond. Although HTC’s Windows Mobile devices have also used touch screens I found the Touch Pro2 to provide a higher level of accuracy and ease of use. To its credit, the Nokia N97 touchscreen is great for a company that is just entering the smartphone market, but if the device was 100% digital without a QWERTY keyboard it would be the same as the original BlackBerry Storm.

Beyond the touchscreen, the 3.5-inch 640 x 360 pixel screen is beautiful with 16.7 million colors. The screen isn’t the best on the market, but it beats the iPhone 3GS in terms of resolution and made playing video and browsing the web very enjoyable. Inside the standard Symbian UI you won’t notice the power of the high resolution screen, but as soon as you open your home page in native mode you realize it’s beautiful.


Depending on the model of N97 you buy you will have different connections. In the Global edition I reviewed the device supported WCDMA 900/1900/2100, Quadband GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA, GPRS, A-GPS and WLAN. The US version drops the 900 MHz WCDMA band in favor of the 850 MHz band used by At&t while the Chinese version drops WiFi and only has E-GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz support. From my experience browsing the Internet with At&t’s 3G network on the 1900 MHz frequency here in Los Angeles, the N97 performs like a hero. Data speeds were on par with the iPhone 3GS, but the N97 really shines when it comes to making phone calls.

The sound quality on the N97 is the best in recent memory and for a GSM phone this is very impressive. To this day calling on the Verizon network with a standard Motorola Razr is still my benchmark for testing cell phones and I have to admit that the N97 phones impressed even my friends on Verizon. When it came time to use the speakerphone it became clear that this would be a distraction for the business client. After using the amazing speakerphone on the Touch Pro2, the N97’s volume is almost a whisper low and I often have to hold the phone up to my ear to hear the caller on the other end.

The WiFi signal on the N97 was higher than the iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid and At&t Tilt 2 (Touch Pro2). Thanks to the very low power consumption and very strong WiFi reception I was able to use the N97 in my house and out by the pool without worrying about my connection losing. This is a great opportunity for me as I receive horrible people at home at At&t, often no show work at all and two very nice places.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Nokia N97 is much higher compared to the N95. In terms of how it stacks up against other top smartphones in the market it excels in camera quality, OS stability and battery life. It will take some time to get used to the three-row QWERTY keyboard and the unfamiliar space, but it’s worth the wait. As the Symbian OS begins its 2010 update, the N97 will remain the same and the major weakness in UI design will grow as Android and Apple improve. Looking at the graphics, the N97 is a big step for Nokia, but it’s also a weakness that we can’t ignore. If you want to use the N97 like previous Nokia devices that didn’t work, the N97 is great, but if you’re hoping to use the touch screen as your input method please be careful.

Current Nokia owners will see the N97 as a no-brainer upgrade. It’s the best Symbian phone on the market and I wouldn’t mind using it as my everyday device. With prices coming down for the N97 the biggest competition is the N900 with its premium Maemo OS. Personally, from what I’ve seen of the N900 this device tackles many of the weaknesses in the N97 and opens up many more. I used to love the N97, but now that the N900 is available in many countries around the world I would need more money for the N97 to stop buying the N900.

I want to let you know that before I started using the N97 I was using an iPhone 3GS. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the iPhone 3GS or maybe I’m just looking for a device that can do important tasks well without thinking or dealing with complex home menus. At the time of writing this review I was also testing the HTC Touch Pro2, Motorola Droid, and LG Chocolate Touch so I feel that my ability to rate the N97 based on similar devices was accurate. With that said I would like to take a moment to thank Nokia and WOM World for getting me this device so quickly, without their help this review would not have been possible.

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