Stephen Fry's Review of the Nokia N97 (and also iPhone 3G S) and awfully long rant.

| June 20, 2009 | 10 Replies

As a long time Nokia fan, it is disheartening to hear such crushing words about what’s meant to be Nokia’s best ever phone to date.



What’s worse is that we all knew what Nokia needed to do, yet for purposes beyond our comprehension (perhaps to cut costs in an attempt to be mass market friendly), there were too many compromises in the Nokia N97. That just should not have been for the flagship!

Here’s the flesh slicing snippet from Stephen Fry’s review, just about the N97:

….I am panting to try out the Palm Pre and the HTC Magic and have been looking forward to Nokia’s new entry for months and months.It distresses me more than I can say therefore to announce that the N97 is a crushing disappointment. The candybar design is handsome enough (not dissimilar to the iPhone and also available in white or piano black) and offers the best slidey-outy keyboard I’ve yet come across. Nokia’s Ovi Marketplace (their equivalent of the iPhone App Store) allows the simple OTA downloading of apps (including live-streaming Facebook and news widgets) which is all good. But the Symbian S60 operating system that drives the device is achingly old-fashioned, sluggish and unfriendly.

Setting up ‘access points’ is fiddly and horribly yesterday. I am aware that Nokia want to position this as a kind of ‘My First Smartphone’ for users who might be put off by the radical nature of the iPhone or the businesslike qualities of the BlackBerry, but a resistive touchscreen (another way of saying a touchscreen you have to keep tapping until it decides to obey you – damn it, they even include a stylus) that displays blocky icons that remind you of the ugly horror of their E63 unit is no way to inspire confidence in the Finnish giant’s commitment to modern smartphones.

It really pains me that I can’t rave about this device. I love what Nokia has given to the market – I was devoted to the Communicator for years – but no one who has used an iPhone would do anything other than laugh, weep or bray with contempt at the N97. It just isn’t good enough and that is a terrible pity. It is nothing like as godawful as the BlackBerry Storm, but then nothing is.”


Oh dear, here comes the rant.

A lot of of the ground achieved by the hardware of the N97 is absolutely mauled by the pathetic looking Symbian S60 5th Edition UI. Although S60 OS is very mature and has been able to do a lot of things Apple’s iPhone is taking years to put in, the UI for the most part appears to be old S60 3rd edition with a touch screen just slapped on. Very few things are optimised for finger friendly gestures. A lot of things are buried in a labyrinth of menus.

Don’t get me wrong. I love S60. But as I may have mentioned before – right now, to Nokia, S60 is a limb gone gangrene that just absolutely needs to be amputated. It does not have the slickness that people (er iPhone users) have become accustomed to.

Maemo Harmattan?

I am very doubtful that S60 will ever receive an overhaul overwhelming enough to rival iPhone’s UI, and hoping that the rumoured Maemo Harmattan (or any other New OS built from scratch) will be the “salvation” Nokia so desperately needs .

OS and UI aside, I really do hope that Nokia will resolve the issue of just making one badass device with the best hardware (just having capacitive would have appeased some of the anger of having to add a tad bit more force when poking the screen). Nokia  – until you make a phone all other manufacturers can look up to:

  • Please, save the whole sifting and separating of devices to meet different markets when it comes to your bloody flagship. We know Nokia’s capable of making the ultimate convergence smartphone. Do it!
  • Don’t make a half-assed flagship phone that’s just “good” in the knowledge that in 6 months you’ll announce a better one which is what the predecessor should have been. Focus all your attention on getting one phone right and be totally amazing, than have several “just good/great” phones. [See rumoured N900/Rover]

Hopefully, Nokia can do this before Apple’s grip with their App Store becomes too great. Apple could, right now, release a pile of shit and call it iPhone 4, but it will still be extremely desirable to many, simply due to its bountiful library of Apps. It’s a bit sad that Nokia used to appeal to customers that way – you bought a Symbian S60 phone because of it’s Apps, even if another handset may have superior hardware. A bit like as Fry said, Apps go beyond what the phone could do (as set by the manufacturer), instead flourishing and evolving with the ingenuity and creativity of the new applications. The problem with Nokia is that really, only people “in the know” could actually find and install those applications.

Now, with Ovi Store, Nokia is trying to reclaim what little presence they had in terms of apps, (and also with ringtones and wallpaper -_- ). But it’s doing it with a fragmented base (different phones/different OS), and spearheading it with S60. Yes it’s good, in that there are a lot of S60 devices. It allows Ovi Store to somehow grow some roots with people, and establish an awareness of Nokia’s services. But being S60, it also embeds a rot. A rot that will continue to harm Nokia’s position in the high end smartphone war if S60 UI remains prehistoric. To get rid of the rot:

  • Nokia needs to relegate S60 to lower end devices, focusing resources on maybe a new OS for higher end handsets (with emulation capabilities to run S60 library of apps)
  • S60 UI needs to get a bigger face lift than Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson combined. Either be up to date with current expectations in UI or totally blow us out of the water by exceeding the expectations on how intuitively users can interact with their devices (instead of hopelessly attempting to catch up and cringe-worthily failing).
  • (Deserves own post, but the implimentation of Ovi Store – yes it’s in its infancy and desperately needs guidance to maturity)

Maybe the answer will not come from Maemo Harmattan, but what ever the Symbian Foundation is cooking up?

We can just wait; in hope that Nokia will pleasantly surprise us.

Although, with all the wait and hope for an improved/revamped/brand new Nokia OS, I’d sooner just love to see a Nokia Smartphone with WebOS/Android or even iPhone OS. But that is but a dream.


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Category: 5th Edition, Nokia, Nseries, Rant, Reviews, S60, Suggestions, Symbian

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Hey, thanks for reading my post. My name is Jay and I'm a medical student at the University of Manchester. When I can, I blog here at and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@) or email me directly on jay[at]