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N97: Greatest disappointment of 2009

Immediately, I disliked the N97's keyboard, tiny space bar and clunky touchscreen interface. I gave it time, and now I hate the thing even more for wasting a week of it

The haggard offspring of a one-night stand betwixt horse and sheep would be a frightening beast indeed. Whether body of a sheep and head of a horse, or body of a horse and legs of a sheep, such a mammal would perform neither a sheep's, nor a horse's tasks terribly well. Nokia's N97 feels like the spawn of a similarly ill-advised liaison, but in this case involving the iPhone and the N95. And it, too, should receive both barrels squarely to the face.

I gave the phone the benefit of the doubt, and ditched my N95 for a week in favour of using the N97 exclusively (I also use an iPhone for email). Immediately, I disliked the keyboard, the fact that the space bar is tiny and sat over on the right-hand side, and the clunky touchscreen interface.

But I said to myself, "Self, give it time. Give it time." So I gave it time, and now I hate the thing even more for wasting a week of it. But it's not just the keyboard. The resistive screen and menu system join forces to produce something that feels more ancient than the sum of its parts.

I can't find anyone in the office who actually likes this phone. We gave it a fair review, with Flora acknowledging the very points that gave the phone its initial potential: great camera, loads of memory, ample connectivity. But when you get used to using it as your main phone -- particularly when your recent handset history goes Nokia 6680, N80, N95 -- you realise, "Hey, I've been using the same interface for about six years."

And it really shows on the N97. This OS, interface and outdated resistive touchscreen have ruined what should be a great handset -- a mobile stuck in the black hole of developmental ignorance. With phones such as the Palm Pre, the iPhone 3G S and Android-powered devices hitting the market, it's imperative for Nokia -- which has a history of making superb handsets -- to completely rethink its OS design strategy, and not just assume that something that works on a small display can simply be stretched to work on a touchscreen.

Maybe with Symbian going open-source, the N97 will be one of the last handsets I have to use that disappoints me this much. Incidentally, this year is the first year in my entire mobile-using life that I'm signing a contract for a phone that isn't a Nokia. I think that says it all.