Nokia N97: No iPhone Killer

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Another iPhone killer has emerged....

This one from Nokia, the world's largest cell phone manufacturer. How can I be so certain that it will fail?

1. The product name is lacking. You can't fall in love with a "N97" or a "N810" unless your name is C3PO or R2D2. Nokia has gotten away with not differentiating their product names for so long because they've had great specs, an adequate user experience and some good marketing. In this new competitive smartphone field, you need to be able to form a connection with your device. Nokia isn't creating that. For techies this doesn't matter (I had a Nokia N95 and used to know their whole product line) but for the other 90% of the population, this is a big differentiator. Something like "iPhone" or "Chocolate" or "RAZR" will always beat a set of numbers and letters.

2. Nokia's specs are great but are also not absurdly better than iPhone. Nothing below will be a game changer for most consumers, especially when not integrated as well as they are on the iPhone. There is no killer app feature.

  • 5 megapixel camera with flash

  • 3.5", 640x360 resistive touch screen (not glass)

  • QWERTY slide out keyboard

  • 3G, WiFi, GPS

  • 32GB on board expandable to 48Gb

3. Apps Store. While there are good apps available for the Symbian platform, developers are forced to, yet again, retool their apps for this phone, its screen size and its processor. Not nearly as many will as are putting out great Apple Apps Store content (10,000 apps and counting - about 1/10th are good). The Apps Store is a hit with everyone involved including webmasters who advertise apps on their sites and get commissions. You can't create a whole ecosystem like this overnight.

4. Nokia is no longer the de facto Smartphone. In fact, its numbers are dropping dramatically, while Apple's are skyrocketing. Google's Android platform is also capturing imagination while Blackberry is coming out with some (relatively) exciting models.

5. Symbian is no longer the hot platform. Apple is obviously hot, but the new kid on the block in the open source space is Google with its Android platform. Mindshare is waning for Symbian.

6. The user interface is clunky. Just watch the video below. It seems way more complex than necessary, and slow.

7. It is a third thicker than the iPhone. Probably due to the QWERTY keyboard, this won't feel nearly as good in a tight pocket or even on the ear for a long call. Also the iPhone is one piece of hard material while the N97 is the flip variety. While these aesthetic issues may seem minor, the difference in feel will be significant. (Thanks commenter)

Phone 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm
N97 117.2 x 55.3 x 15.9mm

8. There are websites devoted to the iPhone interface. The N97 is just another face in the crowd mobile platform that won't get specialized webpages developed like the iPhone.

9. It will be available during the middle of next year. By then the next iPhone will be right around the corner - likely with a lot of the N97's differentiating functions and more.

10. All of the other iPhone and iPod killers before the N97 have failed. This isn't much different. Look at the Toshiba G900 released last year. Better specs all around, but barely noticable. I don't want to be a Ballmer here: "No chance!" but I really can't see where this Nokia phone hopes to differentiate itself. I am sure you Nokia fans can help me in the comments.

This story, "Nokia N97: No iPhone Killer" was originally published by Computerworld.

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