Flashback: Nokia N97 was an “iPhone killer” that helped kill Nokia as a substitute

The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic was the primary Symbian S60 telephone with a touchscreen launched by the Finnish firm. It wasn’t an awesome telephone by any means, however an aggressive worth and a beneficiant retail bundle pushed it alongside to eight million gross sales in its first yr, a good success. But when the 5800 wasn’t good, the Nokia N97, which was presupposed to be the corporate’s prime telephone within the battle towards the iPhone, was an outright disappointment.

Don’t take our phrase for it, right here’s what Anssi Vanjoki, Govt VP of Markets at Nokia, needed to say about it. “The N97 has been an amazing success for us in terms of what number of did we ship and the way a lot cash did we gather. However, it has been an amazing disappointment by way of the expertise high quality for the patron and one thing we didn’t anticipate.”

Nokia was nonetheless the 800 pound gorilla, its identify alone offered telephones. However the gorilla had toes of clay. Smartphones of the previous ran only some apps and accessed a restricted model of the online. Smartphones of the long run needed to take care of websites made for PCs and run apps simply as complicated because the desktop computer systems. And that was properly past the capabilities of Nokia’s platform, each {hardware} and software program.

The iPhone made touchscreens cool and the N97 had a touchscreen too. The three.5” panel had a media-friendly 16:9 facet ratio and was bigger than the one outfitted on the 5800. Nonetheless, it nonetheless used resistive contact, which was all the time the more serious choice in comparison with capacitive contact – if not for its decrease sensitivity (although that was a difficulty as properly) then for its lack of multi-touch help.

Steve Jobs had enchanted the world with pinch zoom and iPhone’s holistic strategy to software program. Symbian S60 Rel. 5 felt like a patchwork of fixes to make an interface designed for D-pad operation to work with a touchscreen.

That’s no straightforward activity, Microsoft continues to be struggling to stability Home windows 10’s interface to work equally properly on a pill’s touchscreen because it does on a basic laptop computer. You may bear in mind UIQ, a department of Symbian designed for contact telephones, however that wasn’t the reply. First, it nearer to Home windows Cellular than iOS. Second, the corporate behind it was in bother and went bust in early 2009.

That may be a moot level anyway, because it wasn’t the display that sank the Nokia N97. Not even the clunky Symbian software program. No, it was Nokia’s mindset, which was caught up to now, that was the true downside. The N97 launched in mid-2009 with a single-core processor clocked at 434 MHz and simply 128MB of RAM. Of that, solely round 50 MB remained free after the OS loaded.

Flashback: Nokia N97 was an ''iPhone killer'' that helped kill Nokia instead

That’s as a lot processing energy as the unique iPhone had and that one launched two years earlier. The N97 was up towards the iPhone 3GS, which had a 600MHz processor and 256MB of RAM.

Okay, hardly a processing powerhouse, however iOS wouldn’t be taught to multitask till the next yr. Additionally, these early implementations suspended all however essentially the most primary actions for background apps to save lots of on sources.

Not Symbian, although, that had supported true multitasking for years. It’s simply that it ran comparatively easy apps, which match comfortably within the restricted sources out there. However after Apple and Google opened the doorways of their app shops, builders rushed to create apps and video games that will have focused desktop computer systems and the N97 couldn’t cope.

Actually, failing to construct a aggressive app retailer might have been a fair greater downside than N97’s underpowered {hardware}. On the time of our overview (June 2009), the Nokia Ovi retailer had “as many as 525 purposes”. For comparability, Apple printed a press launch in November of 2009, bragging that its App Retailer had 100,000 apps out there for obtain (a couple of months earlier than that, the App Retailer had reached 1 billion app downloads). Across the identical time, the Android app retailer had round 11,000 apps.

Listening to all your mates and colleagues rave in regards to the newest and best app or recreation they only downloaded on their iPhone or Android, the warmed over Symbian apps you may run on the Nokia felt antiquated.

Nokia N97
Nokia N97
Nokia N97

The Nokia Obtain! app was an alternate supply of software program

The Nokia N97 had a slide-out design that exposed a three-row QWERTY keyboard beneath the show. That was touted as a bonus again then, however it’s simply one other signal of Nokia’s outdated views. Touchscreen keyboards had been getting extra correct as predictive enter improved and would quickly eclipse their bodily counterparts.

It didn’t take lengthy earlier than typing pace information had been set on touchscreens. Final yr the BBC reported that the typical typing pace on smartphones is 38 phrases per minute (wpm) in comparison with 52 wpm on full-sized PC keyboards. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, however the cramped keyboard on the N97 was by no means going to achieve such speeds – touchscreens had been the long run.

You could disagree with this, however the market provides enough proof in help. Samsung launched QWERTY keyboard add-on that coated the underside of the display. There’s no such add-on for the S9, S10 or S20 – we’re guessing that isn’t due to huge gross sales. Often, an Android telephone with a keyboard will crop up on crowdfunding web site, considered one of them seems to be fairly a bit just like the N97, in truth. However once more, the curiosity from customers simply isn’t there.

Flashback: Nokia N97 was an ''iPhone killer'' that helped kill Nokia instead

On paper, it could have regarded just like the Nokia N97 had the higher hand. It got here with 32GB of built-in storage, which was huge for the time. iPhones topped out at 16GB, as did the unique Galaxy S that launched the next yr.

Additionally, Nokia outfitted its telephone with a 5MP digicam with Carl Zeiss optics and 480p video recording at 30fps. The picture high quality of pictures and movies was good too (although not the chief of the pack). Nonetheless, it was miles higher than the three.15 MP cam on the 3GS.

Flashback: Nokia N97 was an ''iPhone killer'' that helped kill Nokia instead

The N97 had a microSD slot too, so you may carry a big video and music assortment. It additionally packed stereo audio system, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and even an FM radio transmitter, you may get pleasure from your multimedia anyway you wished.

In observe, the Nokia N97 was a shiny exterior draped over a digital relic. Gross sales hit the two million mark through the first three months after launch, however high quality management points throughout each software program and {hardware} improvement left customers dissatisfied.

Flashback: Nokia N97 was an ''iPhone killer'' that helped kill Nokia instead

In the event you watch the total interview with Vanjoki, you’ll see he was hopeful that the software program points had been fastened with an Over The Air replace and the standard management on the manufacturing line had been improved. Nonetheless, the injury was already achieved and Nokia’s “iPhone killer” did something however.

The corporate proceeded to throw the newborn out with the bathwater because it moved to Microsoft’s Home windows Cellphone. On the plus aspect, WP7 dictated a {hardware} platform that was extra superior than what Symbians ran on on the time. On the detrimental aspect, WP7 was each late to the social gathering and never fairly completed. Thus Nokia’s try to catch as much as its rivals fizzled out. It was too late to save lots of the N97, anyway.

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