Palm is fortunate that the Nokia doesn't yet have any U.S. carrier partners for its N97 smart phone. The phone, which was unveiled on stage at D: All Things Digital conference has some very impressive features.
But, because the phone isn't subsidized by a carrier, anyone who wants one will have to pay $699. The soon-to-be-released Palm Pre will cost $199 with a two-year cell phone contract. The 8 GB iPhone also sells for $199.
At the moment, Palm is getting a lot of attention ahead of its June 6 release of the Pre, which impressed me and a lot of other people when it was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. If the N97 was competitively priced, it might have put a damper on early Palm sales but at three and a half times the price, the new N97 is a nonstarter.
Nokia didn't allow D attendees to try out the phone so all I know is what I saw during the demo. My impression could change once I actually get my hands on one but--based on what I saw--it looked quite good. The GSM phone is likely to work on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the U.S. as well as most networks in Europe and other parts of the world.
Like the Palm Pre, there is both a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard. The iPhone only has a touchscreen. The N97 comes with a whopping 32 gigabytes of internal memory plus a microSD slot for those who want even more memory. The Palm Pre has only 8 GB while the current iPhone maxes out at 16 GB.
The N97 has a 5 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeis lens. Most important, the lens has a cover to protect it from being scratched or soiled by coins, keys and pocket lint.
Nokia, which acquired Navteq in 2007, incorporates Navteq's mapping technology which includes turn-by-turn directions and a point of interest data base that's dynamically updated with such things as gas prices.
One possibly useful feature is a text to speech engine that can read your e-mail out loud. Like most text-to-speech software, it speaks in a robotic voice that many people find annoying but it does make it possible to listen to your e-mail while driving. Of course, you still have to configure it, which could require you to take your eyes off the road, but once you press the play button it can read all of your recent messages.
It also has a built-in FM transmitter to stream audio to a car radio.
By Larry Magid
Copyright 2009 CBS. All rights reserved.