Saturday, July 10, 2010

The N97 Mini - Exposed (Part 1)

Starting today, I will give a detailed account of what I think of the N97 Mini, a phone which is being incredibly vigorously promoted as the next big thing by Nokia. Is the N97 Mini a good phone? Is it worth buying? I will try and put forth arguments both for and against the functionality of this device and let you decide.

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1. What makes the N97 Mini special - Its probably now well known that even though Nokia manged to sell loads of N97s (the original N97), it really didnt fare well among users. Be it the less than sufficient processing capabilities, the 128MB RAM on a high end device, or the camera lens cover which actually ended up scratching the lens instead of protecting it. There was widespread outrage among users, many of whom had expressed it publicly on the web. It goes without saying that the N97 was terrible PR for Nokia, till then considered an innovative company at the helm of introducing ultra modern technologies to smart phones. The Symbian^1 which was then touted as the next big thing didnt help matter either. It reminded most people of their old S60 v2 and v3 phones and the UI was boring to say the least. Nokia had to do something to spice things up and restore 'order', releasing innumerable patches and updates for the N97 didnt work, and so it did the next best thing, reduced the memory and the size of the phone, packed in a weaker battery (1200mAh compared to N97's 1500mAh) and termed it the new N97 Mini. However it did something positive as well, it improved the build quality of the phone and made it look classier. Or so I thought.

2. Okay, but why does it suck then - Hey wait, I didnt tell you it sucks, not yet. Anyway, lets look at the context of the mobile phone arena and then compare N97 Mini's specs. The iPhone 3GS had been released and another iPhone was on its way which was supposed to have a huge amount of RAM and improved processing speeds. Google had released Nexus One armed with 1Ghz processor and an equally powerful RAM. And there was Nokia who was content with giving customers what they thought was the best deal possible, a 434Mhz processor and 128MB RAM in an attempt to compete. Spare me a second while I enjoy a hearty laugh. It had the same dated unusable insanely unprofessional looking (everything is being compared to iOS and Android here) and unevolving Symbian^1. And the price? Quoted price on most Nokia ads in India was/is Rs. 21000 (more than $400). I was one of the few who got mesmeried by the Nokia story (mainly because I had been a satisfied Nokia user till then). I decided to buy the Nokia argument of it being a better device. A decision which would come back and haunt me every single day henceforth.

When I first got my N97 Mini, I was really happy! The white phone looked beautiful and so did the keypad. I loved typing using the QWERTY and the phone soon became my treasured possession. I then started to put the device to the test and see if I could really be 'at one' with it. Shocks after shocks after shocks followed. It was soon clear to me that something was wrong, very wrong.

The phone wasnt lasting long enough, even on normal regular use which included listening to songs, browsing, using wifi to stream music and of course making calls it was hard to make the phone last more than 8 hours. In a bid to improve battery life and performance I changed from a snazzy looking theme to a toned down almost mellow inbuilt theme for my phone. Widgets, something of a huge USP for Nokia, had to be turned off, at least the online ones or else they would consume power and diminish battery life further. I had to reduce calls, reduce internet access and wifi usage to a minimum especially when I ventured outdoors without a charging cable in my bag. Yeah I know what you might be thinking, how was I supposed to use the phone without those features, well it seems Nokia cares little for its 'valued' customers and the sole reason for this uber crap battery life was nothing other than the underpowered 1200mAh battery. And that was just the start. Symbian^1 sucks just as much today as it did when the N97 Mini came out. The UI is outstandingly boring. You would need pure talent to create a boring UI like that. Well, at least they could have copied Apple or Android! That would have resulted in a better looking OS! Anyway. Next came the hardware which was so insanely dated that I could imagine my father getting this phone on his first mararige anniversary! Nokia has a strange fascination with dated hardware, it perhaps stems from a monopolistic attitude it has developed over the years being the no 1 smartphone manufacturer. Its like the company is telling its customers "haha you moron, this is what you deserve, cry as much as you want to, I wont give you a better device." Of course Nokia didnt say this, but frankly as a customer who had bought a new N97 Mini this is what I felt. The application manager constantly keeps crashing and notifying me to close running apps when no apps are running. Multitasking is a pain thanks to the incapable processor and RAM.

And then came the ovi store. What the **** is that? Well its an app store. You mean like an Apple App Store? Yeah, kind of. Are you sh*tting me? Ovi and Apple? That is like the biggest baddest saddest and poorest joke ever! The ovi store is so starved of apps that in a bid to create proper ones, Nokia introduced an App wizard for non programmers! Yeah you heard me right. Well that did help increase the number of apps but what that made the ovi store was an absolute piece of junk. Whenever I see apps mentioned on sites on the web, I'm pretty certain that its either for the iPhone or for Android. I mean there is no proper pdf file reader for symbian platforms! Adobe reader is almost unusable and so are many others. Its a pain to read pdf documents on the N97 unless you have hundreds of hours to spare waiting for pages to load.

I will be posting more such reality checks soon. I have been CHEATED, DUPED AND MISGUIDED by the company I once was a fan of. I know I have been rude at places in this post, but hey, I have spent my money (and a huuge amount of it) on the phone and I have not been delivered what I was promised. I have the right to complain and let others know what they are signing up for when they buy a N97 Mini. Stay away from fanboys, do your research well, especially before you buy a Nokia.

Take care folks, and thank you so much for reading. I'll be back with more soon.


  1. Arnab,
    I should say that I am agreed on many part of your post. Definitely 434 Mhz processor and 128 MB RAM was a terrible decision.

    I wrote about it sometimes back and like yours I was not annoyed by it in first look

    It has a very good build in comparison of other devices, but feelings like Nokia N900 or Nokia E72 sure missing. They taking bit late in upgrading processor and RAM and its been costing them badly. The reason been told to have have a wide market to capture, but definitely N97 Mini or Nokia N97 didn't deserve the price tag if we think of Nokia N900.

    Its the fault with N97 not with Nokia

  2. sorry if I misunderstood you, but the N97 did come out and was approved by Nokia. And same goes for the N97 Mini, price was fixed by Nokia (I'm sure after considering the current market situation) and so was the hardware features. So, how is it NOT Nokia's fault? Nokia is still campaigning about how good the N97 Mini is, I feel awkward about that. Such devices should be either immediately taken off from the market or prices drastically reduced and existing customers compensated.

    After all I paid Rs. 20000 ($400) for this phone! Thats not really a small amount of money. And for a middle class family in India, thats a lot of money to be honest, especially since for a few grands more I would have gotten a far better Android device.

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  5. While you claim that you were mislead by all the positive fanboy based reviews that had nothing but praise for the N97 Mini, there was also an array of reviews that cited that the N97 Mini was still not the flagship device it was purported to be. It appears that you read the reviews with rose-tinted glasses on.

    Unless this was your first smartphone, you should've known that a 434 MHz processor and 128 MB RAM was not going to make for a device that flew through menus & loaded apps effortlessly. It is however, an excellent device for the mid-range user who wants a TS+QWERTY combo, & a very capable camera, while providing free for life voice-guided navigation, & social integration.

    Even though you spent $400.00 on the N97 Mini, which you claim is "a lot of money", it is still subjective. The Nexus One was released with a price of close to $800.00, iPhone4 was selling for over $1000.00 out-of-contract, & other devices are regularly released with a price of $550.00+.

    I own the N97 Mini, & with the latest FW of V.12.0.110, the N97 Mini can easily get almost two days of usage before a charge is needed. Everybody's usage is different, & battery life is based on user consumption, so how long a device lasts is basically a non-issue. Android is notorious for having perhaps the worst battery life of all mobile devices, but users just deal with it.

    You should take your own advice, & do some thorough research before buying a new mobile, & there are countless mobile shops where you can demo a mobile prior to buying. Just because the N97 Mini did not suit your needs, it does not, in any way, mean that the device itself failed. You should've known what criteria must be met to fulfill your mobile needs, & tailored your decision around that.

  6. thanks for the comment.

    this wasnt my first smartphone, and Nokia has forever claimed that Symbian was a lightweight OS which required minimum hardware capabilities. Now a manufacturer making Symbian devices for many many years now is the best judge of that.

    I dont mind spending $400, but I would rather have donated it to charity than spend it on an unusable device. the $800 android phones are still worth it. If you go through my posts, you will find that I have specifically mentioned usage in carious categories. (with wi-fi, with 2G, etc.)

    And in conclusion, the phone also has serious antenna issues. (Havent found any blogs mentioning that) The phone loses 3-4 antenna bars (or more) when u touch the lower back area of the phone.

    And its the lack of softwares which is the final nail in the coffin.