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First look at Nokia N97 Mini
Imagine there’s no Nokia N900 and its brand-new OS, what would Nokia have left on their hands? The right answer is S60, that will be utilized in a plethora of new devices, as the number of smartphones in the company’s portfolio will increase dramatically. But will we see any completely new concepts, or get simply more of the same? Unfortunately, over at Nokia they decided that a variety of modifications of certain models was the best way to go, for it allowed for faster time-to-market and lower development costs. And on the other end of the chain, users get more or less the same phone, but with new feats here and there, such as better camera, more memory or richer sales package. The price Nokia thought was reasonable to pay for these benefits was the discontent of those who’ll have to buy an expensive gadget only to learn that it’ll be available tomorrow with reworked features and more appealing sales package.
Take, for example, the Nokia N97 and Nokia N97 mini. How are they different? Imagine someone armed himself with a hacksaw chopped around a centimeter off the original N97 – exactly the area occupied by the navigation key. The shortened lip gave this modification it’s current codename – “mini”. Same N97 on all fronts, but a bit smaller than the original. I’m curious what name they’ll use for the Nokia 5800i (with it being identical to the good old 5800, yet without WiFi connectivity); I suppose it’d make a lot of sense to call it “mini” as well, rather than waste a new index on a variation of the 5800.
It’s very challenging for me to articulate how I feel about this practice – while I do understand the phone maker’s intentions, as a user I would really like to get a flagship device and not think about the possibility that in 5-6 months’ time there will be a new, improved version.
But let’s get back to the Nokia N97 Mini’s positioning. Generally speaking, it’s still the company’s flagship device, like its predecessor, although it targets those who got put off by the original N97’s chunky casing. As far as pricing goes, Nokia’s hands are really tied up – they can’t afford to drop the mini’s price below a certain level, for it’s a flagship solution, however it’s impossible to put it at the same price point with the original N97, as then the sales of both phones will suffer. Below the Nokia N97 Mini (in terms of price, that is) are several devices that are yet to be announced, but that aside, they limit Nokia’s choice even further. In fact, we’ll preview one of these phones tomorrow (we have no secrets here, so brace yourselves for another debut).
In this situation, the Nokia N97 Mini’s price technically should be around 170 Euro lower than that of the N97, but they’ve got so little room that all Nokia can squeeze is 100 Euro (in some regions it’ll be a bit bigger thanks to the absence of some services). In Russia, for instance, Nokia will ship the N97 mini with a whole battery of services, such as unlimited navigation license and something from the OVI package; needless to say these extras will beef up its already hefty price tag. I suppose it goes without saying that this approach is uncalled-for to say the least, for consumers aren’t obligated to buy pre-installed services and must have the option of ditching them. In fact, a few demos would me more than enough, especially when it comes to navigation in Russia, where Nokia still can’t offer more or less passable maps.
I view the Nokia N97 Mini as a well-tuned version of the original phone. It sports a metal battery cover, superior build quality, yet as a trade-off for its more compact casing the mini’s QWERTY keyboard has been trimmed down as well. As you might remember, the Nokia N97’s thumbboard was far from perfect and required some practice, and the Mini’s keys are even worse – in fact, they could’ve dumped the keyboard here altogether, but opted to keep it in order to maintain resemblance with the original model. All in all, I didn’t quite like the Mini’s thumbboard, but I have to say that I’ve got pretty big hands, so maybe some people will feel right at home with the N97 mini.
The N97’s 32 Gb of built-in memory have been reduced to 8 Gb; the camera hasn’t changed at all, however Nokia have thrown the lens cover away. The phone’s software also features kinetic scrolling (which will be introduced in the N97’s second firmware scheduled for mid September).
To get a better idea of the N97 mini’s size, see how it stacks up against the Nokia N900.
Honestly speaking, I don’t feel particularly enthusiastic about Nokia N97 Mini – it’s not the most petite phone around, by any stretch of imagination. And at the same time it packs in a downgraded keyboard. If the price gap between the N97 and N97 mini was around 200 Euro, it would have become really sought-after. But at only 100 Euro it’s not all that interesting. But worry not, Nokia is preparing a bunch of other touchscreen-enabled phones, some of which don’t carry thumbboards, yet target the same segment as the Nokia N97 Mini. One of them will be previewed tomorrow, and I think you’ll understand why the Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition and the Nokia N97 Mini have got a rival in the making and why Nokia will reveal only shortly before it lands on most markets. The answer to the latter question is exceedingly simple, though – the 5800 Navigation Edition and N97 mini need several months to generate some sales, and a simultaneous announcement would have created needless commotion and shown that the abovementioned devices wouldn’t last too long. I haven’t decided yet whether I want to release previews of all four models or give them to you bit by bit, as their announcement is still pretty far-off. I don’t know what else to write about the Nokia N97 mini – I’ll try to answer your questions via Twitter and our forum. But I believe the screenshots and images available in this preview have already said more than enough about this phone.
Published 25 August 2009
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