Having had my N97 handset for a few weeks now, I've learned to live with a few idiosyncrasies. Perhaps I shouldn't start this review on a negative note, but whilst most reviews I've seen here are positive, they should be tempered with a little more realism and a little less rose-tinted adoration.
Firstly, the N97 is no iPhone killer. The N97 will never match the iPhone for: -
Graphics are an issue because the iPhone (and ipod Touch) have a huge gaming community. Something the N97 cannot even come close to. Whilst there are mutterings of compatability with N-Gage, the N97 lacks a graphic processing chip, meaning no real 3D. What 3D there is will be very slow and low-quality.
Audio quality from the built-in stereo speakers is abysmally tinny. Worse than the N95 (my previous handset). Headphones (and my amp, which I'm currently plugged into) reveal an excellent lack of hiss and interference (something the N95 failed miserably at), even at low volumes but top-end frequency response is dire. The overall auditory experience is similar to having cotton wool in your ears.
Responsiveness... The N97 runs a treacle-like variant of the Symbian S60 operating system. Those who remember the snappiness of older handsets, such as the brilliant nk702, will be left utterly frustrated by the speed at which the N97 responds to touching icons.
My last gripe: There is a photo browser and a video browser. The photo browser browses photos... and videos. It allows transfer (via bluetooth, MMS, email...) of photo and video. The video browser, however, browses only video and does *not* allow transfers. Confusing and non-intuitive. Bad, bad Nokia!
Onward to more positive things though. The touch screen is joyous to use! Just quickly; there are two types of touchscreen available to manufacturers such as Nokia and Apple: resistive and capacitive. Without going into detail, the second type is regarded as 'best' because they are generally more sensitive and permit better-looking screens. Nokia went with the other one.
Now, the advantage of Nokia's screen is you can use just about anything to touch the screen. With the capacitive (which Apple uses), you have to use your finger (essentially anything which will conduct electricity will work). What this means is; you can wear gloves and still use the N97. Better still, the screen is very sensitive and still looks excellent!
More on the touch input. Typing is accomplished either on the slide-out QWERTY keyboard (which is poor for texting, but might be OK for emailing) or by using the on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard is *not* QWERTY, nor can you change any setting to make it so. It's the standard 3x4 grid we're used to texting with on touch-less handsets. Mind you; texting is very fluid and I have no problems with accuracy. The T9 predictive text needs tweaking, but I can live with its weirdness for now.
One option I've not seen mentioned in reviews is the ability to have the phone read texts to you. Yes, it's strange and possibly unique, but the N97 has a configurable speech synthesiser which will read your texts (even recognising and announcing smileys!). Possibly useful for road-warriors?
Music, photo and other file management tasks are well handled. The Ovi suite for your PC is a great accompaniment and works surprisingly well (much better than the old PC Suite). Mac users will be somewhat unsurprised to learn that software support is very limited. Nokia has a poor track-record with Mac support.
An overall excellent handset aimed not at the iPhone market, but the more traditional N-series market (business and pro-sumer). 4 out of 5.