A sight to the future?
We first learn about MeeGo about 1 year ago, Nokia needed an OS to replace the old decaying Symbian, and that’s when it teamed up with Intel to deliver the OS that would rule the world just as Symbian did not much ago. But then, on February 2011 Nokia anounced a new shift in their OS strategy. They were going to parter up with Microsoft and release Windows Phone on their new handsets, ditching MeeGo, before any device running it was released.
We saw leaks of the famous N950, the one device running MeeGo and sporting a qwerty keyboard. Later Nokia would announce that they would release the N950 for developers only and the N9 (non qwerty) for the rest of us non-developers, then, there wouldt be no more MeeGo handsets. They will focus on the Windows Phones. This leaves the just released N9 in the shadows, most developers are not very interested in developing apps for an OS that is going to disappear after one device, leaving it in the hands of the MeeGo-Maemo-Linux community. Perhaps one of the best handsets Nokia has released in the last 5 years, you will soon learn why.
The simplest, the most elegant.
The retail box is the smallest Nokia has done until now. You can see how Nokia is making packages smaller every year. Inside there is only the necessary space for the N9, the charger, data cable, headset and instructions leaflets. This goes perfectly with the minimalistic style the N9 has.
The whole N9′s body is made of one pice of soft polycarbonate. The 3,9″ screen is georgeous, shiny, curved and looks like a precious gem, kind of reminds me of an obsidian stone when the display is turned off. Swiping the fingers over the screen is a pleasure, haven’t touched a smoother screen on any other handset ever. There is a micro usb port on the top, along with a 3.5mm plug and the micro sim card tray. The volume, and lock/power buttons on the right side, on the bottom you will find thespeakers and a 8MPX camera on the back with dual LED flash. The whole device feels premium in the hand, and I will say it again: it’s like holding a precious, shiny gem.
To turn it on/off you should press the lock button for 3 seconds. Took me a while to figure it out, of course, I didn’t read the instructions. After the phone has booted up you are greeted with 3 main homescreens. The first one is the news feed, then the app menu, and the multitasking homscreen. In the newsfeed you can set up your twitter timeline along with your facebook feed and news by AP. You can choose what feed to show in case you dont need to read the news on the newsfeed. If you tap on a feed you will be taken to the twitter/facebook app where you can add comments or like stuff. The app menu is classic app grid where you choose what app to open, you may edit the layout by holding the tap.
The multitasking screen shows you what apps are open in a mini window that’s running live. You can close the apps by holding the tap and taping on the cross mark. These 3 homescreen sound pretty simple, but what makes this phone stand above others is what Nokia calls ‘Swipe’ After opening an app you can do 4 kinds of swipe. To do a swipe you must put your finger on the outer border of the screen and move to the oposite directin. You may do a swipe in 4 directions; if you swipe from left or right the app running will go to the multitasking menu and continue running in the background. If you swipe from the bottom you may go to the multitasking menu or if you stop the swipe halfway, a shortcut menu will appear with apps like phone, contacts, camera and broswer. If you swipe from top to bottom you will close the app, taking you to the multitasking menu.
Everything runs smooth and it’s really a joy to use. Of course, there is a learning curve, but after the first 15 minutes you are set to go. Also, reading the instruction manual may help a lot . The integration is excelent. By entering your facebook and twitter account info, your contacts will be saved on your contact book along with your phone numbers agenda. You can then choose to combine them under one name. The message app will integrate facebook chat, and SMS conversations in one convenient place.
The facebook app I must say is a bit laggy and crashes very often, but lets you do most things you can expect. The Twitter app, on the other hand is great, a bit slow, but great in features, that it almost matches gravity for symbian. Still there is room for improvements.
The camera is good. The usual options are there, and, wow! It’s very fast taking pictures, but it doesn’t match the N8 in terms of quality, making the N8 the king of camera phones. Also, the lack of physical button doesn’t help either, so you have to use the in screen shutter to take pictures. This is the reason I’m keeping my N8 too, as my camera phone. The speakers sound ok, enough power and good quality, nothing outstanding. The reception and call quality is 100% Nokia.
The phone is fast, have tried opening 20 apps at the same time and there is no lag. The battery is not that outstanding, I can manage 10 hours with moderate to heavy use, so you should take your charger just in case. There is a map app and a drive app. I still don’t understand why did Nokia made them separately.
I tried the Nokia Store, but there are not many apps out there yet, as I said before, most developers dont want to invest money and time developing apps for an ecosystem that won’t exist later in 3 years. This is also one of the reasons I need to keep my N8, since there is no Whatsapp version for MeeGo and I use it a lot. Leaving the N9 in the hands of the loyal Maemo/MeeGo community
who are very commited to this OS. However, if Nokia wants to sell the phone, they also need the help of commercial apps (hello, whatsapp?).
Is it the end?
As conclusion, the N9 represents what Nokia could have been if it had followed their own path. After the deal with Microsoft, Nokia had to let go the projects they were working and commit 100% to windows phone, they cannot keep 2 top OS, or else they would cannibalize each other, or could they? The swipe part is the most revolutionary of the N9. There is no multitasking button, there is no close button, everything is done by gestures and this is what Nokia intended to: start a new era in UI, based in gestures and leaving buttons (either hardware of software) behind.
The N9 delivers a complete package of power and style, I’m very pleased with the design and I’m happy to see that Nokia is reusing it on its new phone: the Nokia 800 Lumia. I just hope to see more Nokia’s integration in future Windows Mobile phones, maybe we will see the Swipe in a future?
For now we can only dream what the N9 could have been and enjoy one of the last real Nokia device, keeping one shiny piece of history.