In the tech world at least, it seems 2009 is the year of the smartphone. Apple's recent announcement of the iPhone 3G S — set to hit Australian stores on 26 June — has kicked off what will be a very juicy line-up in the coming months.
Although the Palm Pre — perhaps the closest competitor to the iPhone yet — is yet to be confirmed for release in Australia, another smartphone is set to go head to head with the iPhone juggernaut in the meantime. We are of course speaking of Nokia's N97.
First announced back in November 2008, the N97 is Nokia's premier release for 2009 and will be the Finnish giant's flagship multimedia phone. It is Nokia's second touch-screen smartphone to be released in Australia, following the 5800 XpressMusic.
So, how does it stack up against the iPhone 3G S?
The Nokia N97 is slightly longer and narrower than the iPhone 3G S, which is an excellent feat considering the full slide-out QWERTY keyboard tucked under the display. Interestingly, both of these smartphones come in white and black versions, though Nokia has yet to confirm the availability of the white version — the model used for nearly all of the N97's promotional and advertising material. Following on from the N95 and N96 smartphones, the Nokia N97 is certainly far sexier than its predecessors, though it doesn’t quite match the unmistakable style of the iPhone. Still, for those who can't quite grasp the idea of an on-screen keyboard, the N97's QWERTY keyboard should appeal.
The Nokia N97 and the iPhone 3G S both feature 3.5in TFT touch-screen displays, but the big difference lies in the technology underneath. The iPhone 3G S uses a capacitive touch screen, meaning it can only be operated by your finger and not by using a stylus or other object. The N97 on the other hand uses a resistive touch screen. From the limited play we've already had with the device, it is one of the most responsive resistive touch screens we've come across. This is good news as capacitive touch screens are generally much more responsive than resistive ones.
The iPhone 3G S naturally runs Apple's proprietary iPhone software. A big part of this is the App Store — allowing quick and easy downloads of tens of thousands of applications, all specifically designed for the iPhone. The iPhone OS is also lauded for its ease of use and design, and it's not hard to understand why. These days, a great phone is just as much about its software as its hardware, and the iPhone is a great example of this.
Nokia's N97 will run the Symbian S60T interface, a touch-screen version of the popular and widely used Series 60 OS. Nokia has also recently launched an application store specifically for Nokia devices, the Ovi Store. Of course, it's only in its infancy so it's hard to compare to Apple's app store, but there is great potential for improvement and a wider range of apps.
Using the iPhone feels natural; transitions between screens are superb, animations are excellent and the overall ease of use is outstanding — and all of this has only improved with the iPhone 3.0 software update. The Nokia N97 has some nifty features of its own, though, the best of which is without doubt the live, fully customisable home screen. Users can customise their content in seven different spaces on the home page, by adding applications and widgets. A great example of this is the Facebook option, where live feeds from Facebook are displayed on the home page and one click opens the Facebook app.
Apple's iPod integration is one of the outstanding features of the iPhone. Music and video playback is simple and easy, and the iPhone 3G S adds video recording and MMS messaging — two features that were missing from previous models. Nokia holds the edge in imaging, though, with a 5-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, Carl Zeiss optics, a lens camera and a front-mounted VGA camera for video calling leaving the iPhone 3G S 3-megapixel camera, which has no flash, for dead.
The N97's specification sheet makes for very impressive reading: 32GB of internal memory with a microSD card slot, TV-out, HSDPA capabilities, GPS, over-the-air updates and an FM radio are just some of what it has to offer. The massive memory in particular is impressive — with a 16GB microSD card, the N97 can potentially boast a whopping 48GB of storage. The iPhone 3G S boosts the previous maximum of 16GB of storage to 32GB, but there is no card slot for extra memory.
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