Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo already hit the nail on the head with his spot-on assessment of the N97: Nokia is doomed.
So I won't spend much time shooting a dead (well, dying*) horse dead-er, but having manhandled the N97 for a few weeks, I've also got a few thoughts.
First off, I'm no fanboy. But I have been seduced by some of Nokia's handsets. I carried the N82 for a year. At the time, Symbian felt utilitarian and easy to use. The 5 megapixel sensor, xenon flash and Carl Zeiss optics were pretty stellar. So much so, I used the phone as my main point-and-shoot on a trip to Japan, where I snapped some reasonably ok pics (not amazing, but good enough).
I carried the N95 for a spell in 2007. Same deal. Solid hardware. Ahead of its time. And like a lot of us, I started scratching my head about when, how, and if consumers (and cell phone companies) in the U.S. would ever see the light. Sure lesser offerings from Nokia have been entirely forgettable. But that's besides the point. When the company swung to the fences, Nokia tended to deliver.
That said, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the N97, the company's first legit touch screen. Well, here's what I found:
1) A clunky touch screen interface that merely mimics a non-touch OS. The Pre, iPhone and G1 all require the user to speak in elegant gestures that, in turn, make you feel elegant. Quick flicks, simple pinches, and de-pinches that are &mdash forget easy and practical &mdash actually FUN to do.
The N97, on the other hand, offers no magic. If you want to scroll through your contacts on the iPhone, you press and drag, and watch the list rapidly flow before your eyes &mdash then bounce when it hits the bottome. With the N97, you're stuck dragging a clunky nav bar or holding your finger in one spot (top, bottom) to get the list to scroll.
2) The hardware is both lackluster and not the least bit luxurious. The mostly-plastic frame makes the phone decidedly lightweight (a plus), but the hinge &mdash as several reviewers have noted &mdash is a little awkward to us. Same with the relatively cramped, too-minimalist keyboard, which I never really mastered or cared to.
The more I handled the phone, too, it started to feel cheap. Less like a flashy status symbol, and more like a basic, no-frills handset I got with an upgraded contract (unfortunate, considering that's far from the case). Evoking the word "cheap" is shameful for any product that boasts a price tag this high (see below).
3) $699?! (now reduced to $629). Nuff said.
*Nokia's profits are dropping faster than a virgin's pants at a free brothel**.
**Feel free to out-analogy me in the comments.