Nokia's mystery device? The Nokia N97

Nokia officially unveils the Internet-focused Nokia N97, a full-QWERTY smartphone with a touch screen. Will its style and substance compete with the iPhone, G1, and BlackBerry Storm?

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
3 min read
Nokia N97 Nokia

Twenty-four hours after teasing us with news of a major product announcement, Nokia officially took the wraps off its mystery smartphone on Tuesday at the Nokia World 2008 conference in Barcelona, Spain. And despite some close guesses, no one got it quite right, so without further ado, let us introduce you to the Nokia N97.

Part of the company's high-end N series of multimedia computers, the N97 trumps all previous models with a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard and a tilting 3.5-inch touch screen (anyone else reminded of the AT&T Tilt or Sony Ericsson Xperia X1?). Yes, there's the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, but the N97 includes phone capabilities and is designed for the "needs of Internet-savvy consumers."

For example, the smartphone provides easy access to a number of social-networking sites, and the Web browser supports streaming Flash videos. The N97 also introduces something Nokia calls "social location," which uses the capabilities of the integrated A-GPS sensors and electronic compass to automatically update users' social networks, or let them share their location via photos or videos with friends.

The Home screen can be personalized with widgets of favorite Web and social-networking sites. Finally, the N97 is fully compatible with Nokia's Ovi Internet services, which include the Nokia Music Store, Nokia Maps, and the N-Gage gaming platform--though these services have yet to fully launch in the United States.

The Symbian-based smartphone also features a music and video player, a 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and a whopping 32GB of onboard memory that can be expanded with a 16GB microSD card.

The quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone is HSDPA-capable handset, but it currently supports only the 900/1900/2100MHz bands (AT&T's 3G network runs on 850/1900MHz, while T-Mobile runs on 1700/2100MHz). There is integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, however.

The Nokia N97 is expected to ship in Europe during the first half of 2009, with an estimated price of 550 euros ($695). As Crave reader UKStory1355 humorously and astutely noted in our blog post yesterday, "Like it matters to U.S. citizens; we won't see it for 18 months, anyway," there is no official word on when we'll see the N97 stateside. Heck, we're still waiting for the Nokia N96.

Of course, there's always the possibility of buying the smartphone unlocked, and who knows? Maybe Nokia will surprise us.

Obviously, the Nokia N97 takes a jab at other popular touch-screen smartphones, namely the Apple iPhone 3G, T-Mobile G1, and Research In Motion BlackBerry Storm, but will it succeed? It certainly has the substance and style to take on the big boys, but will it go the way of the Xperia X1, in which the lack of a U.S. carrier and a high price tag will severely limit its adoption in the States?

Either way, we think that the Nokia N97 looks like a pretty sweet device, and we're looking forward to having some personal hands-on time with it. Above is a Nokia-produced video of the N97. I'd love to hear your initial thoughts.