I have had the Nokia N900 for a couple of weeks now, and minus the initial issues I experienced with email I have found it

Nokia N900 User Interface

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I have had the Nokia N900 for a couple of weeks now, and minus the initial issues I experienced with email I have found it a bleeding edge device.

In this part of my review, I present to you screenshots of the N900’s user interface and explanations of how it works.


True to 2009/2010 expectations, the N900 offers multiple desktops, in this case four of them (I use only three). Also true to the times, the desktops support widgets. But in addition to widgets, you can stack shortcuts, bookmarks, and contacts as well on each of the desktops.

The N900 supports themes and there are a variety of cool ones available. You can also change the backgrounds, or disable one or two of the desktops if you have no use for such fads as swiping right or left.

If you do choose to use multiple desktops, you will find them a pleasant experience. You move between them by swiping right or left. The transitions feel and work smoothly.

Main Home Desktop
2nd Desktop featuring some bookmarks
home3 USSD widget
3rd Desktop with widgets for loading and checking airtime


Multi-tasking on the N900 is on a whole new level with its “dashboard”. In any application or menu, you will observe an icon at the top-left corner of the screen. That’s the highlighted icon in the screenshot below.

Menu icon
Applications Menu circled and pointed out in yellow in the top left corner

When you touch it, the dashboard is displayed. Touch a second time and your applications menu shows up. But back to the dashboard now.

The dashboard displays snapshots of all running applications on the N900. And it gets even better. You see; its not called a dashboard for nothing. The snapshots are alive – more like video cam shots – showing you the progress of eacch of the running applications. For example, in the dashboard, you can monitor the progress of a web page you are loading in the browser, while also monitoring the mails being downloaded by the email client.

Get the picture? It is novel. It is eye-candy. And it works fine.

The Dashboard

In any menu, tap on any empty area on the display to return a step back and you can so tap your way all the way back to the desktop.

Status Area

At the top of the desktop, just right of the Applications Menu, is the Status Area. This displays the time, network signal, battery icon, data connection indicator, and others, depending on the 3rd party apps that you install.

status area
Status Area highlighted

Tap on the status area and it drops down to show you more details and present you with options to adjust volume, access time and date settings, switch internet connection, change profile, among others.

Though it may sound like something from Android’s notification bar, it is quite different, if you ask me. It does not display any notifications for SMS, email and calls. It is not exactly a notification area, but it works very well. Oh, and yes; it displays notifications for firmware and downloaded application updates.

Drop down notification area
Drop-down status area

The N900’s user interface is smooth and looks good. In addition, thanks to the 600 MHz processor and copious amounts of RAM, it just chugs along. It is miles ahead of Symbian S60 5th edition and rubs shoulders with more modern and more user-friendly interfaces as available on the iPhone OS, WebOS and Android OS.

Simply put, it is a breath of fresh air from Nokia.


  1. pls stop tempting me with n900 my wife is already complaining about the arrays of phones i have used and dumped. each time i read your article on nokia n900 i virtually dream of having it.

    Very nice article though. It’s easy for you to say, Learn from my experience don’t follow me, as there is always the temptation to try it out and confirm if these phones have the features you glowingly enumerated

  2. Arumob,

    Sorry, bros, but I’m not through with my reviewing the N900 yet. You are going to get tempted some more.

    However, I do understand the situation. It is also part of the reason I have limited myself to changing smartphones once a year. Techno-lust can lead to expensive adventures.

    Here’s what I’ll say: pick one of the bleeding edge devices and make yourself use and keep it for a significant period. In your case, you can modify the cycle to 6 months or even make it a year like in my mine. And except the device dies on you, you keep it.

    The truth is that even after a year or two, most bleeding edge devices are still very up-to-date.

    I remember my E90, and I remember Brym’s P1i.

    PS: Listen to your wife on this matter o. I suspect that Brym does too 😉

  3. Yomi, i appreciate your praises about the N900 but other international reviews online keep complaining about the battery life not lasting more than a day at most. If this is true than its just not worth the price.

  4. Hello Mark,

    While I am not sure of how rigorously those reviewers used their N900s, I often use mine rigorously. With intensive use, I don’t get more than 24 hours out of it.

    I would have chalked this down as a negative too, except that the N900 is designed as a laptop replacement – a mobile computer. True desktop web browsing, server management, 15-minute email checks, RSS and Facebook activities, et al, all mean battery life will be impacted.

    I don’t do calls much. I’m more of web, email and SMS, so what I need is more of a mobile computer than a smartphone. I am able to carry my work with me anywhere. The N900 may not be what most people want.

    Thinking of all that I do on it daily, I think it is more of a wonder that the battery lasts as long as it does. Considering what I am able to do on it, the price tag is more than justified. For those who won’t be needing 80% of the N900’s power and functionality, its a bad idea to spend that much on a mobile device.

    The N900 easilly beats the battery life of my Acer netbook (on extended battery) by many hours – and that’s what it replaces. Also in comparison, it beats the battery life of the T-mobile G1 I once had by a gulf. And the G1 had and did much less.

    Plus, the N900’s battery life is not necesarilly worse than that of any of the other shiny new Android, WebOS, iPhone or Windowsphone devices out there. Most need to be charged every day.

    How I evaluate the N900’s value is by looking at what it gets done for me. Based on that, having to charge it once a day is trivial to me.

    If you need a smartphone that keeps a charge for longer, I recommend one of the Nokia’s E-series devices.


  5. the only deal breaker is the price. but one can opt for it if it really meets one’s needs. just like Yomi.

  6. the UI graphics are bright and the Colours are saturated. This may soon be a must-have for me. Yomi, WIll you ever put it on auction on mobilityNigeria?

  7. Most of the features you list on the N900 desktop are actually not new. The beauty of it is that they have been squeezed into a mobile device. But anybody that is familiar with any matured Linux desktop like gnome or KDE have been using most of those features for ages. The power of the N900 is actually the Linux OS running on it.

    So Yomi, as I said before I am happy seeing you use a real OS finally.

  8. sorry guys.. i dont mean to spoil your day.. but was just wondering… the maemo 5 seems to be a new os. Will i be wrong to say the 3rd party apps support for it will be minimal compared to other old os? i actually talked out a colleague from getting it some weeks back while deciding btw it and X10…i prefer the X10 cos of android and all the supports it has from developers out there.

    I know its a matter of time for more ready maemo 5 apps, but i dont think i can be that patient. I’m sure for Yomi to have chosen this phone, he would have done his homework well on the availability of all he needs from the phone. the 32gig internal memory alone is tempting….but cant give up my dream HD2 for it mmeeennnn…

    On the issue of power, i think same goes for most huge smart phones these days. But for all the functionalities they provide, its good enough trade off. Better still, buy extra battery with a charger so you can replace at will easily.

  9. belushi,

    Nothing spoil at all. Here is the response I gave earlier on the issue of 3rd party apps under the topic, Finally, a replacement for my trusted Nokia E90

    Naturally, Symbian has more apps available than Maemo currently, so you are right on that. Still, I haven’t missed anything significant. All the 3rd party apps I ever needed on my E90 have equivalents for the N900. I currently have the following installed:

    – Bible app
    – Facebook app (did I have that on the E90? Not so sure now)
    – themes
    – JoikuSpot
    – Word processor and Office viewer
    – loads of games (though I hardly touch them)
    – weather app
    – barcode app
    – eBook reader

    Plus, the N900 supports widgets, and I’ve got tons of them running on my unit right now. The N900 also has 3rd party apps that integrate IM e.g. GoogleTalk and Yahoo Messenger directly into your contacts list and shows you their status.

    There are others that I haven’t bothered with e.g. twitter apps, News widgets, and SSH clients (I’m going to install one soon).

    So far, if my memory serves me right, there isn’t a 3rd party app that I used on the E90 that I don’t have running on (or available in the Application Manager of) my N900 now.

    The beauty of Maemo is that it has an active developer support because of its Linux roots.

  10. Hi Yomi,

    My requirements from a smartphone are exactly the same as yours (Gmail, Web browsing, laptop replacement, music player, etc), and I’m eyeing the Nokia N900. Couple of questions:

    1. How usable is the N900 as a replacement for my laptop (besides the Web browsing capabilities)? Can I go for a one-week trip and leave the laptop at home, attend sessions and take notes in the N900’s notes/doc application? Is the N900 good enough to create big documents with several paragraphs of text, just as on a laptop?

    2. Which Bible app are you using, and how good is it (besides the whole ‘experience’ factor of using a book Bible)? If I find the iPhone or Android OliveTree Bible app sufficient, can N900 take their place?

    AS (India)

  11. AS,

    1. I have not attempted to work on very heavy Office documents on the N900 yet, so I cannot tell on that score. But it sure handles all documents that I have thrown at it so far. I use AbiWord, a free app. Dataviz have only a viewer edition of Documents To Go and are also not currently accepting payment from Nigeria.

    2. The Bible app I use is Katana. Works very well and is on par with OliveTree which I have used on other mobile OS in the past. It supports multiple translations and has a good search function. The user experience is quite good too.

    Hope that helps.

  12. Yomi posted:

    PS: Listen to your wife on this matter o. I suspect that Brym does too.

    Thanks for one more reason why my P1 is still in service.

  13. Hi Yomi,

    Yes that helps. But regarding 1, my question was more on the usability, not applications. Can the N900 be a decent replacement for a laptop. Can I take the N900 with me and leave the laptop at home, and then use the N900 for creating texts? Is it comfortable/usable? This would be a deciding factor for me to buy my next smartphone.


  14. AS,

    Can the N900 be a decent replacement for a laptop.

    Yes; it can. I actually use mine as a replacement for my netbook. No more bulk to carry around. Just the N900.

    Can I take the N900 with me and leave the laptop at home, and then use the N900 for creating texts?

    Yes; you can. It has a built-in note application, and you will need to install one of the available 3rd party Word processors. I create documents on mine regularly.

    Is it comfortable/usable?

    If you have been used to working on mobile devices, you will find it so. The keyboard is very good, but I hear that the keyboard on the HTC Touch Pro2 is better. You might want to check that out too.

  15. yomi,

    tanx 4 d review of n900. i’ve been using dis phone 4 almost 4months now but i’ve series of problems with it:

    1. mine reboots when using the browser.
    2. can’t load or check credit. ussd issue.
    3. can’t use jar applications.
    4. i cannot initialize the e-mail widget like the face book own which work naturally and;
    5. i don’t know how to make payment to activate the document to go.

    you may wish to help me with the following applications 4 my n900.

    dictionary, bible, other good word processor besides word to go, and a functional ussd application.

    thank u.

  16. 1. mine reboots when using the browser.

    What firmware version are you running on your N900?

    2. can’t load or check credit. ussd issue.

    Go to the Application Manager of your N900 and follow these steps to add the Extras and Extras Testing app catalogues.

    Application manager –> Application catalogs –> New
    * Catalog name: maemo.org extras
    * Web address: http://repository.maemo.org/extras
    * Distribution: fremantle
    * Components: free non-free

    Application manager –> Application catalogs –> New
    * Catalog name: maemo.org extras-testing
    * Web address: http://repository.maemo.org/extras-testing
    * Distribution: fremantle
    * Components: free non-free

    Then search in the Apps Manager for USSD-Widget and USSD Pad and install them.

    3. can’t use jar applications.

    The N900 does not have support for J2ME out-of-the-box, though I have read that the functionality can be added. Do a Google search, as I have not shown any interest in that and so have no information on it

    4. i cannot initialize the e-mail widget like the face book own which work naturally

    Please clarify this

    5. i don’t know how to make payment to activate the document to go.

    You can make payment from Dataviz’s site. Here’s the direct link. But Dataviz is not accepting payments from Nigeria, so good luck.

    I recommend that you install AbiWord from the App Manager. Its a loaded Word processor and completely free.

    For Bible, you can’t go wrong with Katana. Check your App manager for this and for tons of other free applications.

  17. I am writing from Nigeria, I have nokia N900 if i want to check my balance it will just give me incorrect code. Please i just want to know what the problem is. Anytime i dial *556# for my balance to show up, what i will get in reply is incorrect code.

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