Nokia gave me a N97 Mini trial!

Over 10 years ago, my first phone was a Nokia – the Nokia 6185.  I was an employee at Circuit City in  ’99 when it came out for Sprint.  It was a magical time.  My next Nokia was the 8860 (when it came down to a few hundred bucks, down from its $800 price tag).  Afterwards, came the 8890.. (’02 – ?), then the 6170 (’05-’07), the N76 (’07-’09), and then my current phone the N95 8gb for over a year now.  I may not be a nokia expert, but I have used many.   And I do have a fanboy passion for them as I do for the Apple (every product except the iPhone – I’ll get into that later).

In ’06 I bought my wife the 8801 as an Eid gift and in ’08 the N82 as a Bday gift.  (She did replace her N82 recently though with an iPhone 3gs – more on that later).

The N95 8gb’s been frustrating me a bit though.  The biggest being that I can’t do 3g with it because I’m with t-mobile.  But even if I had that, it seems the things I can do are very limited.

I visited the (soon closing – more on that later) Chicago Nokia Store on 8/9/10 and 8/10/10 when I was out there.  There I played with a few phones but it was really the N97 Mini that caught my eye and the N900.

When the opportunity presented itself to get the trial after my lucky tweet that @womworldnokia replied to (although I did also fill out the form for the trial after I found out about it from Andre on http://dev.nokia.wordpress.org), I went with the N97 Mini over the N900 because I did like that more from playing around with it.  Also, if I recall correctly, the N900 wouldn’t switch to portrait mode when held upright on the demo.  I should have and will probably go with the N900 though – I’ll get more into that later.

Let’s get started on my hands-on experience with the N97.

On Friday, 8/20 I got the DHL guy JUST as he was leaving with my N97 Mini phone since he didn’t have authorization to leave it.  So that was a crisis avoided. I was flying out Chicago in just a few hours so I’m glad I didn’t miss that.  Finally later that night, I got to unbagging (the DHL package) and unboxing:

So first impression.  The phone feels great in my hand.  It’s got a little weight on it which feels good.  (However, later I would feel maybe there was a little too much weight).

I want to have close to a new phone as possible so I look online and found the instructions to reset which involved holding down certain keys and powering up. Now my phone’s good to go.

I spend some time playing around and exploring.  One thing I noticed was that the back was scratchless, and at the time of this writing a weekish later, the back still looks good.

I didn’t move contacts over because I just set up google sync to bring over my calendar and contacts.  Downside to this method though is that you lose the default numbers and the groups you have set so in retrospect

I then started putting the apps on that I use.  My main app is Gravity by Janole.

The other two main apps are Gmail and Google Maps, but neither seemed to work with my N97 Mini.

I also have been meaning to put a wordpress app on, I wanted to give http://dev.nokia.wordpress.org/ a better shot (had tried it once with my N95 8gb). I also threw on Opera since I’m not a fan of the Nokia Browser.

My other usual app is Sports Tracker, I’ll get to that a little later.

So the next few days I was using, using, using.  I found things I liked and found things I didn’t like.  I love the touch screen.  My next phone will definitely be touch screen.  It  makes everything so much easier.  I like the way that I can click on the clock to get to the alarm and also control the profile via touch.  It was a little confusing to figure out how the home screen is set up but finally I got it. My set up is the clock on the top, apps across the next two rows, and then email preview and twitter preview (via gravity) rather than Facebook.

The camera is great and seems to be along the lines of my N95 8gb’s.  I took the phone with me to Chicago Comic Con on Sunday 8/22 and took the following pics: http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=268106&id=535397537.  I remember when I compared pictures between my wife’s N82 and my n95 8gb, her phone seemed to take better pictures. Not just at night but even in daytime, many of my pictures would come out blurry.  I noticed some blurry pictures with this so I think it compares more to the N95 8gb over the N82.

My problems with the phone

So I discussed the plusses.  But there are some minuses too this device and/or Nokia’s OS too.

1) It is not easy inputting on this device.  It depends on the kind of person you are but the pull out keyboard was hard to type on for me because the keys were so small and hard to press.  The virtual keyboard is really hard to use.  the tactile feedback helps but it is still easy to mistype by hitting wrong keys or think you hit a key but it didn’t go through and you’ve moved on.  It takes a while to really input anything and may last few phones – N95 8gb, N76 (this one was so so), 6170, 8890, typing w/ the keypad was a breeze.  I could say what I want and if the T9 wasn’t flawed (last word you put in – even incorrectly – learned and moved to front of cycle, barely remembered any new words), I could outtype anyone. Much of my usage on this phone is with one hand while I’m walking, driving (yes, I know I shouldn’t), etc so I’m using the virtual keyboard and it is very hard to type something.  As a matter of fact, for twitter, the system is very flawed because when you are typing something with a keypad, you go into a “typing mode” and you can’t see your character count which you need when tweeting.  See the pics below:

If I was to pull out the keyboard out right now and start typing, I would be fine.  as I type, the character count would increase and I would know as I put my tweet in.

However, when using the touch screen, notice how the character count and everything is gone now. This makes tweeting really difficult.

I also felt the virtual input was more awkward when I go into the new word learning mode. The backspace is in a new place.

Finally the tweet’s done and fortunately I’m within my limit. Otherwise, I would have to go back in and trial and error it.

But as you can see, it’s not easy to use the virtual keyboard.

2) That was the biggest problem, the second biggest was the confusion when I enter an area with wifi, for example my house.  The phone didn’t work like the iPhone which kicks into wifi mode once it detects wifi and all the apps start using it.  I had to configure my apps to do this and for some it was easy like with Gravity.  With Opera though, you had to change it manually.  There was an option for system default but I had that set as my cell phone’s data plan. Maybe there’s something I am doing wrong but there were many occasions where at home I would look on my screen and see both the edge notie and the wlan notice.

3) Even though I Tried, I couldn’t get Opera to be my default browser. When I clicked on links within Gravity, it would fire up the Nokia Browser

4) Battery life is nothing spectacular.  I won’t go out and say its bad because it seems along the lines of many phones.  But I pretty much will be charging daily or twice a day – once at work too.

So those are my gripes with the phone – at least for me.  Maybe for someone else they aren’t a big deal.

I also got to use Sports Tracker finally last Wednesday where I went out for a nice bike ride: http://www.sports-tracker.com/#/workout/shahryar/43v7j75qqk5fu2eu

This is a great app- especially because you can take pictures and upload those but to do this, it would be nice to have something to mount your phone to your bike – and with a bungee cord so you can take pictures while riding.

That’s it for what I’ve observed from using – at least for now.  I plan to visit this page again soon and make some updates in my last remaining week with the device.

Where to go from here?

The flaws I listed above are strong reasons for me at least to look for something else.  It’s looking like it is going to be the N900 for two reasons: 1) because of the T-mobile USA compatible 3g band and 2) because of all the crazy things I keep hearing you can do with the N900, I ultimately will go with that it seems (hopefully will be able to trial that next).  In the future, it seems the N9 is the big deal but I don’t think that’s out til late this year and will probably be expensive so I don’t see myself owning it until next year making now really the time to have the N900 so I can get a nice full life out of it (apparently there have been some really nice deals on the N900 like the $199 + Trade in deal).

However, using the N97 Mini for the week made me realize that the most important thing for me with a device is ability to input. That’s what I do the most so all the other bells and whistles can be nice, but if I can’t input with ease, I can’t go with the device.

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