The T-Grid: Nokia N97 vs. iPhone 3G

By  |  Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 10:02 am

I hope that we’ll soon stop thinking about new touch-screen phones in terms of whether any of them has what it takes to be an “iPhone killer.” For now, though, I can’t help myself. And while I don’t think Nokia’s new N97, which it just announced at its Nokia World show in Barcelona, will murder Apple’s handset, it looks intriguing from a hardware standpoint, at least. (It’s certainly a more interesting phone than the company’s lower-end 5800 XpressMusic.)

The N97 is a souped-up version of Nokia’s more phone-like N95 and N96 models, but its design reminds me a lot of my old AT&T Tilt: It’s got a large touch-screen on the front, but you can slide the phone’s face up and out at an angle to reveal a QWERTY keyboard below. (You can’t really judge a QWERTY keyboard from photos, but there’s nothing about this one that looks exceptional.) The N97 has a screen that’s the same size as the iPhone 3G’s, but with higher resolution; with 32GB of RAM flash memory, it also has double the memory of the highest-capacity iPhone plus a MicroSD slot for up to 16GB more memory at a time. And its 5-megapixel, video-capable camera certainly trumps the iPhone’s camera.

The phone runs S60 5th Edition, the newest version of Nokia’s Symbian-based smartphone OS. I haven’t used the 5th Edition yet, but S60 3rd Edition, used in the N96, is really, really long in the tooth compared to the iPhone OS. (Nokia’s announcement trumpets the N97’s social networking features, including something called “So-Lo” that involves using GPS to determine your “social location,” but doesn’t provide much in the way of real details.) I suspect that reviews of this phone will give it good marks from a hardware standpoint; whether the software experience can come anywhere near the iPhone 3G’s very high standards is another question.

Tons of specs and more after the jump…

The N97 is due for release next June in the U.S., in an unlocked bring-your-own-carrier version for $650. As that price, if neither AT&T nor T-Mobile picks it up and sells it at a subsidized price, it’ll remain a boutique item, not a mainstream success. Then again, I’m not sure why U.S. carriers wouldn’t want this phone, since it might be quite appealing to folks who want both a big screen (the N97 has a larger one than T-Mobile’s Android-based G1) and a large physical keyboard.

Gizmodo has some brief hands-on impressions. Oh, and here’s a video from Nokia, which really doesn’t tell you much at all:


As usual, the specs below are a first pass, subject to expansion and revision. Nokia’s published specs are fairly skimpy, so I had to guess in some cases…

The phones
Nokia N97
Apple iPhone 3G
Symbian S60 5th Edition
Apple’s iPhone OS
June 2009 in U.S.
$650 in U.S.
$199 for 8GB model or $299 for 16GB model with two-year contract
Data plan
Bring your own in U.S.
$30 a month for unlimited data; $5 a month extra for 200 text messages
Yup, to AT&T
White, at least; other colors?
Black (8GB and 16GB); white (16GB only)
Size and weight
4.6” by 2.16” by 0.625”; 5.29 oz.
4.5″ by 2.4″by 0.48″; 4.7 oz.
Screen size and resolution
3.5″; 640 by 360 (16:9 aspect ratio)
3.5″; 480 by 320
Touchscreen with on-screen keyboard (not sure if it’s multi-touch); slide-out QWERTY keyboard
Multi-touch touchscreen with on-screen keyboard
Headphone jack
Standard 3.5mm
Standard 3.5mm
Yes, stereo
Yes, monaural
Voice dialing
Voice recording
32GB plus MicroSD slot for up to 16GB additional memory
8GB and 16GB models available; no memory expansion
5 megapixels; LED flash; “DVD quality” video capable; second camera on front for video chat?
2 megapixels; no flash; no digital zoom; no video; no second camera
Quad-band GSM
Quad-band GSM
3G (UMTS with HSDPA, if you want to get technical)
Use as tethered modem?
Not sure
“Coming soon” from AT&T
Wi-Fi and GPS
Yup and yup; also includes an electronic compass
Ditto and ditto; no compass
Up to 320 minutes talk time; 400 hours standby; 37 hours of music and 4.5 hours of video; removable
Up to 300 minutes talk time; 300 hours standby; 24 hours of music and 7 hours of video; not removable
Web browser
WebKit based browser; probably supports Flash Lite
WebKit-based Safari; no Flash
Web searching
I would tend to assume so
Yes, via Google or Yahoo
Not stated, but presumably IMAP and POP
MobileMe, GMail, Yahoo Mail, AOL; other services supported through IMAP
Yes, with to-do list
Yes, but no to-do list
Microsoft Exchange support
Not sure, but probably
Instant messaging
Only through third-party apps
Yes (improved version of Nokia Maps)
Turn-by-turn navigation
Yes, possibly at extra cost
No, but may be coming from third party developer(s)
If it’s the same as the 5800 XpressMusic it’s the Nokia NSeries music player and supports MP3, SpMidi, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, and WMA formats; Nokia Music Store
iPod player and iTunes Store; supports MP3, AAC (with or without Fairplay), WAV, Apple Lossless, AIFF, VBR formats
If it’s the same as the 5800 XpressMusic, it supports MPEG4-SP, MPEG4-AVC, MPEG-SP, and WMV9 formats
iPod player, YouTube; movies through iTunes Store; supports H.264 and MPEG4 formats
FM radio
Not that I know of
Wireless synching
Yes, through Nokia OVI services
Yes, through MobileMe
Desktop synching
Yes, through Nokia OVI Suite
Yes, through iTunes
Supports Nokia N-Gage platform
Scads available, including some good ones
Application store
Not sure, but there’s probably a Downloads feature
Yes, the iTunes App Store
Any additions, corrections, or questions?

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43 Comments For This Post

  1. invariant Says:

    No app store. Also horrible touch screen interface from the looks of it.

  2. tchilds Says:

    Feature lists never tell the whole story and beyond brand loyalists, it is ultimately elegance and an intuitive UI that sways lay-users.

  3. Synthmeister Says:

    People were laughing their heads off at the $499 and $599 price of the original iPhone—which was revolutionary at the time—and now this thing is going to cost $650?

    1. 10,000 apps on the App store now. By June, the app store will be creating its own weather and continental drift.
    2. 32Gig will probably be here for MacWorld in January
    3. Why waste space, $$$ and weight on a “better” camera? It’s still crap.
    4. June? June! June is an eternity from now. You would think that these companies would learn from Apple and keep quiet on this stuff as long as possible.

  4. Aktariel Says:

    The N97 has 32GB of flash storage, not 32GB of RAM.

  5. KenC Says:

    Nokia’s always good for specs.

  6. Harry McCracken Says:

    Thanks, Akariel, corrected. (I know the difference between flash and RAM and have no idea why I act as if they’re the same thing.)


  7. Frex Says:

    Synthmeister, you must be confused. People laugh at the ridiculous pricetag because the iphone is garbage. The one decent offering of the iphone is the single thing they don’t control: apps. The camera on the 2 year old n95 is spectacular, the video is VGA at 30FPS which rivals most digital cameras on the market. This will hold at least that same module. There is not a single feature that the iphone holds which this phone doesn’t spit on. Thank god for this release. A dick in apple’s mouth =]

  8. Aktariel Says:

    Ah, the good old vague term “memory.” No worries.

    Frex: I see you obviously don’t like how the Kool-Aid tastes.

  9. Frex Says:

    The apple way of doing things, and their self-righteous ways is not really my cup of tea. I’m glad this phone is such a smack in their face =]

  10. Frex Says:

    Oh wow, the Iphone has Up to 300 hours talk time. I withdraw all my previous statements 😉

  11. Robert Scoble Says:

    The Nokia is available in Black and White. It does have an accelerometer, also a compass, which the iPhone doesn’t have. The biggest difference? The Nokia camera does 16:9 video while the iPhone doesn’t do video at all, unless you have an unauthorized version of Qik, which does 4:3 video, but not recorded to the device itself.

    I have a bunch of photos at and a bunch of videos about the N97 at and my first useage thoughts at (I’m at Nokia World in Barcelona).

  12. Robert Scoble Says:

    Harry, I’m bummed out that you didn’t link to people who are actually on scene here in Barcelona at Nokia World. Gizmodo didn’t come and invest the time. Why aren’t you linking to people with better reports and better videos? Is there some sour grapes here that I am not aware of?

  13. Johan Says:

    Sorry if i seem like a nokia fanboy ( i think i am) but this phone kills the iphone . . . . one of u can goahead and help it to dig its grave, this phone is truly amazing and i will up grade to this from my n95. Letts talk about price 700 vs 199 + (24×30) tell me which is cheaper. . . And people here (americans) need to get out of there lil tunnel and look around them, there are tons of phones that has already beaten the iphone, htc has done it the sony x1 and the g1 also (they seems to have some issues) has done also but ppl here are just so single minded that the take the trash that ppl throw at them, cross the pacfic and tell my how many iphones u see compared to the amount of n95’s that are present in the US. hardware wise, it seems unfair to put the iphone agaisnt this cause it looks like a toy, feature wise the n95 has more than the iphone, it’s a pitty that no carrier will take this phone. Att has refused to any decent phones int the past, sony’s k850 x1, nokia’s n96, n95,other n series phones, ohhh lets not forget the the samsung innvo8 which stack and 8mp cam and amazing features, and also there is the pixon and the lenoir, with touch screen. but wait how many of u know of these phones, goes to my point, ppl here only take the trash that pushed into their face. thanks for reading hopefully u will make the dicision on ur next hadn set. i personally will ask the person with the iphone or watever else they come out with if they want to pit my n97 to be and their apple agains mine and see who comes out on top.

  14. Harry McCracken Says:

    Thanks for the info, Robert, and good point–no sour grapes intended. In fact, I’ll update…


  15. Nikolay Kolev Says:

    People in the States like free phone (or at least very ones). People outside of the States like cool, trendy phones. Well, nothing is free (except the cheese in the mice traps) and cool and trendy stuff is never cheap – those are the realities in life. You can’t be trendy outside of the States, when everybody has the same phone – iPhone.

  16. Cuong Says:

    I think there’s a typo there for the battery life of the iPhone 3G, is 300 minutes talk time and not 300 hours talk time.

    From this source,

    5 hours talk time(3G) 10 hours talk time (2G)

  17. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Cuong Right you are–dippy typo on my part (corrected!).



  18. jonjon Says:

    it has a app store coimg theres nothing the iphone does better at all

  19. simon Says:

    Well, looks like it’s going to be the N97, seems to blast the Iphone out of the water…. and the Iphone even with the update, STILL DOESN’T HAVE FLASH!! What load of rubbish, the only good thing good about the Iphone is it’s looks..

  20. nymusicman Says:

    I’m happy about the $650 price tag. Europe is gett it for 750 euros. Google told me that is about $950. I’m glad I don’t have to pay a thousand for this phone. And watch the videos, the n97 is absolutely amazing. I’m thinking about upgrading from my e71.

  21. Rob Digital Says:

    Jeeze everyone looks at this thing venomously like they hope it kills the iPhone. Who gives a crap? I mean I love my iPhone, but not everyone cares about having super intuitive user interfaces. And I don’t hold that against them.

    Some people want to use a phone for their photography I guess… and that’s cool. Personally, I use Nikon. But no biggie. 😉

  22. s4r Says:

    It amazes me to see iGnorant people defend their iPhone to the end. Instead of talking about how they are disappointed in the lack of features of the iPhone, they talk about how those features never matter to them…probably because they walked in blind buying one and got stuck with a two year contract.

    It still doesn’t sit with me on how someone with such an inferior device, like the iPhone, can actually think they can defend it as a better phone. Either they can’t read or are just stupid. Maybe they don’t know what HSDPA, A2DP, or a-gps mean. It’s actually kind of sad.

    There is a reason why millions of iPhones were sold…there are millions of iDiots.

  23. yhe2x Says:

    alot of people bought the iPhone basically because of the style and don’t care about the specs and probably don’t even know anything about it…even the 3rd gen Iphone that hasn’t come out yet is nothing compare to the N97!

    A good match-up is Nokia N97 VS Samsung Omnia HD (i8910), unfortunately I don’t think there will be a NAM version of the Samsung Omnia HD that will come out

  24. Kristijan Says:
    Sorry pal. If you think that i-phone is better than this phone you are lying yourself. NOkia N97 has radio and it’s better than the I-phone in every point of view.

  25. raggytash Says:

    iphone kills the Nokia 97, i didnt hava iphone i went w th nokia N96 instead bcars Nokia r good phones right? WRONG!!! th N96 kept freezin crashin switchin itself off slow etc.. now i got m iphone and i jus wished i got this in the 1st place 😀 love it t bits. Nokia shud jus stik w th old nokia 3310 reliable.. they cnt make a good phone like apple. apples 2nd iphone n nokia’s 100th n still cant beat haha.. SCRAP NOKIA!!!!

  26. Hadi Says:

    Everyone has his/her preferences whether you are a Nokia user, iPhone user…. Etc.
    I think this article has to be updated to compare to the new iPhone 3G S. To me the most important feature and most used is the internet. With iPhone’s web browser it is just super fast and so easy to surf. Yes, iPhone has some shortcomings but with its ever growing Apps and superb web browsing, i say iPhone wins hands down. 🙂 and also real Qwerty keyboard is just so yesterday to me :p

  27. Aussie Man Says:

    N96 was a fail. Plastic phone with to many features crashed all the time and was hopeless lets hope they improved this one.

  28. aman Says:

    But I guess now Iphone 3G S being announced. We should compare N97 with Iphohe 3G S.

  29. Shawn Says:

    Just got the white N97, love it so far. It’s a breath of fresh air if your not down with joining the ranks of the iphone empire. I have used the iphone before and the only thing that stands out is that the iphone is superior when it come to apps and its touch screen is a little better than the nokia but not by much.
    The N97 has way more room for downloading and the keyboard is a nice touch. The camera, not even gonna go there, N97 wins…

  30. Varun Says:

    Great run down of the specs

    here are some pictorial comparisons of the two phones

  31. John Says:

    The N97 has an FM radio,and uses the ARM 11 processor. I know 2 people who are having major problems. I have had the N800,the touch screen is fine,it’s a 1 year old,there iphone is 8 months old,the N800 came out in 2007,the iphone came out in 2008…
    Apple,why do you suck so much???

  32. ly_ly Says:

    Does anyone know where i can get a user guide pdf file for nokia97i????????????

  33. gtwod Says:

    One simple point, it MULTITASKS all apps. That is why I sent my iPhone packing and went back.

    iPhone – buy it if want one device, instead of crap phone and ipod.

    N95 – ugly phones but more bang for you buck, does everything well apert from looks good

  34. shashank Says:

    guys!it`s not us it`s u all people who use nokia n97 nd who have shelled out 35,000 approx. fr dat phone nd who r insecured by it bcoz u knw dat iphone is a mch superior phone than n97!nokia cn try really hard at making touch screen devices bt they cnnot develop a multi touch screen devices like an iphone!at d first look i also gt mesmerised by d looks of n97and no doubt it hs gt head turner looks bt ny device frm nokia cnnt match iphone coz nseries cnnt even cme near 2 d software experience as of d iphone,thanks 2 d amazing applications by d apple store!my nxt update wll surely b iphone3gS coz of it`s software developments in d newer version nd d same look as d iphone 3g!APPLE will surely make nokia bend down upon their knees dis time!let`s wait nd watch d fun!

  35. Marc Says:

    Probably? Not sure? Apparently? Do your research first please!

  36. bodydetoxdiet Says:

    the Nokia N97 features a large 3.5 inch display with a resolution of 640 X 360 at 16.7 million colors. now that is an impressive video display capability isnt it?

  37. Lestat Says:

    I think people you have to think in what people need for a phone and not what brand is your favorite I own an iphone and I will like to have a better one then that… that is the reason why I was trying the N97 and the feeling is awful although a 5mpx camera is fantastic not all the functions are so smooth as the Iphone (i will like to have all what the n97 offers with the simplicity of the iphone) about being free or not I think that is a business in Europe you can have it with almost every provider. If you will sell something and a costumer ask you for exclusivity under a reasonable deal…what will be your answer?
    In synthesis the best phone will be the one who have all the pros and no cons. A phone for some people is a tool and regarding what you do will be the best otherwise it will only be a piece of tech… peace Lestat

  38. Marc Says:

    True – I have used the Nokia N97, the HTC Hero, many Blackberrys, and owned a Windows phone at one point – and none of them match the interface of the iPhone. Copy and paste on the HTC Hero is a poor experience. Blackberrys have small text and 90’s looking menus. Windows Mobile is just so slow, and Android still feels a bit experimental (the Hero doesn’t even tell you what time a missed call was)

    The iPhone is behind on the technological front, but streets ahead on the UI and quality front. Apple would rather have a camera that started instantly than a decent camera that took a few seconds to load, which is fair enough.

  39. Mike De Leon Says:

    i bought two units of Nokia N97 because i like the style of this phone and also its features. Best phone i have ever used.

  40. Lumes28 Says:

    Dude, this guy obviously needs to update his info about the N97
    price ranges from $400- +
    YEs- accelerometer
    yes theres a 2nd camera for video chat.. something they don’t do here in the US.. aT&T has this its called video sharing but video only goes one way.. instead of both ways
    Web Browser Probably c’mon man!! YES like skyfire!
    Instant messaging probably?! c’mon man! YEs like Nimbuzz!
    MAps Turn by turn Navigation.. FREE!!!
    FM radio YEs!
    Application store YES!! OVI!

    I still choose the N97 over the N900
    and the N97 is tight too.. but that would be like downgrading..

  41. Sienna Richardson Says:

    The Nokia N97 is one of the best phones that i have ever owned. It is classy but feature packed. *

  42. actualites e-fifty Says:

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  43. cell Says:

    thank for info/post in your sìte because very help me (I’m cell phone collector).

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