N97 mini smartphone

Yesterday, I gave you a sense of the adventures I had during the Nokia N97 mini tour as we traveled via RV from Vancouver to Calgary. Today, we take a look at the device that they were aiming to promote with this tour, which is currently continuing its way east toward Montreal and Toronto.

The Nokia N97 mini smartphone was originally released in November 2009, but it has only recently been picked up by Rogers Wireless in Canada. It is a Symbian-based smartphone, not unlike my Nokia E71, but it is a definite upgrade over my E71. For starters, it comes with a 3.2-inch 360×640 pixel touchscreen display with haptic feedback. This means that under certain circumstances, it will vibrate slightly to acknowledge your input.

Other notable features includes the slide-out QWERTY keyboard, built-in Wi-Fi, 8GB of internal memory, microSD expansion slot, 5MP primary camera, 3.5mm audio jack, stereo Bluetooth, 3G connectivity, and a digital compass. It has an ARM 11 434 MHz processor, so it’s not quite as snappy as the 1GHz Snapdragon Android smartphones that are currently flooding the market.

Nokia N97 mini

Even so, I found it be quite responsive, even when I was multitasking with several of the applications. The QWERTY keyboard is a little too “squishy” for my preferences, but is something that you can get accustomed to over time. I did like the customizable home screen afforded by the Symbian OS v9.4 S60 rel. 5 platform.

This meant that I could add and remove different content “bars” on the home screen, as well as individual icons within some of these. Among the types of content available were shortcuts, Associated Press news tickers, weather, Gravity (Twitter), and more.

N97 mini smartphone

I didn’t expect the world when it came to battery life on the Nokia N97 mini, since it is a 3G smartphone and most last less than a day under moderate to heavy usage. Even so, when we went through our Banff hike for an hour and a half, using the GPS-utilizing Sports Tracker app and taking several photos along the way, I didn’t experience a single bar of battery lost.

SportTracker on the N97 mini

The battery didn’t last very long, however, when I used something even heavier like the JoikuSpot application (which converts the phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot). I also found that the phone, especially the metal battery door in the back, got incredibly hot when using an application like JoikuSpot. Be careful.

What about the camera? Here are two test shots for you to consider; one indoors with flash and one outdoors without flash.

Sample Photo from Nokia N97 mini

Sample Photo from Nokia N97 mini

I’m quite impressed with its abilities as a camera phone. It’s not all about megapixels, to be sure, but have five megapixels of resolution is more than adequate for most intents and purposes. It’s a definite improvement over my E71, but I still found some exposure issues under uneven lighting conditions. You can see a few more sample shots through my Flickr photostream. The macro abilities are quite good for a camera phone as well.

All in all, the Nokia N97 mini is a solid smartphone that should justifiably be considered when you are looking for a new device. It’s easy to get pulled into the iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android crowd, but don’t forget that Nokia is the number one cell phone maker in the world for a reason. The build quality is fantastic and the UI is getting there.