2009 is indeed without a doubt the year of the smartphone. From that viewpoint, I'm really an early adopter since I have a smartphone since 2007. In retrospect, my current Nokia N80 has been the most fun mobile device ever. It has consolidated my MP3 player, my GPS, my internet communications device, my PDA and of course my mobile. But technology moves forward. Initially, smartphones were designed with the business user in mind. But then came the iPhone; and changed all that. Big touchscreens for everyone (thank you Apple). My initial idea was to acquire a second-hand N96 device, and wait a year for Android to mature. But an idiot changed my plans, and I decided to wait for the next Nokia device, the N97.
The N97 is important : Nokia produces mobile phones for everyone, and controls 40% of the market. The N97 is their top line model, and therefore a direct competitor for the iPhone. Nokia has released the 5800 Expressmusic as their first touchscreen mobile, and it has been a smashing success. The N97 is Nokia's aim at a new N95 success story and their new flagship device. Nokia decided to continue with Symbian as the operating system for their smartphone line, with some additions for touchscreen support. They probably did this to provide a solid base and a broad range of applications for the N97. However, the result is S60v5, and has some strange and sometimes confusing behavior, like single/double tap in lists. I applaud the stability of the operating system, but I'm quite sure that the N97 will be my last Symbian powered mobile.
If you take a look at the competition, the Nokia N97 has some serious opponents. The iPhone off course, with its glorious eye candy, and many available applications. Whether you like it or not, the iPhone has become the mass standard for smartphones. Unfortunately, as with many Apple products, the hardware is pretty impressive, but the resulting functionalities are pretty limited. My new mobile must support a GPS (and I'm talking about voice guided satnav, Apple, not about a map software which pulls data from the internet), and that pretty much ruled out the iPhone.
Android is the new kid on the block, and a very interesting one. Crafted in the dungeons of Google, this open and attractive operating system is the new standard for HTC mobiles. Unfortunately, Android software still is limited (but growing with a fast pace), and it fell out the list of candidates for the same reason as Apple, because of the absence of GPS software.
The Palm Pre came late to my attention : it looks like Palm really took the good things from the iPhone and even went a step beyond that. This resulted in a gorgeous looking interface, which got quickly copied by HTC in their Sense UI interface for the Android.
In a next blog post, I'll explain my experiences of one week of playtime with the N97.