Nokia N97 is Latest Challenger to iPhone

Finnish maker tries to recapture smart phone growth with touch screens

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Nokia says it's joining the rush to touch-screen phones. The company unveiled its second model in a matter of months, and commited itself to tappable displays across its entire line as it tries to regain its slipping dominance in smart phones.

The new N97 model looks chunky as Nokia chose to keep a full-size keyboard that slides out from behind the screen. At least the keyboard slides out smoothly and not clunkily as with T-Mobile's G1, reports TimesOnline in a hands-on review. The phone also comes with an impressive 5-megapixel camera and 32 GB of memory.

Still, it doesn't look to me like the hardware alone will win back market share for Nokia, especially at the expected price of about $700 (before carrier subsidies, if any in North America.) Maybe cool new software will. Nokia is trying with what it says is a Web browser better than the iPhone's, as well as widgets that make it easy to customize functions and location-aware applications.

One in particular sounds fun: The "Point and Find" software works with the camera to help users get information on landmarks they're looking at. Seems to me to one-up the G1's ability to spin Google street-view photos as a user spins.

Nokia is a laggard in touch screens, despite having developed an early model some four years ago. The success of the iPhone and other competitors meant the Finnish company was the only major maker to sell fewer smart phones last quarter than the year before.