Mr Mo's Nokia N9 review

Nokia N9
I have had the Nokia N9 for a couple of weeks now and have put it through my regular work schedule – and pushed it some more too.

It is not everyday that a smartphone like the N9 comes along. This dude packs a rare combination of holistic aesthetics with functionality like no other – and I’m afraid that includes its newer cousin, the Lumia 800.

The N9 In Summary

Strengths

  • superb hardware design and performance
  • Very good display
  • Very good battery life
  • Excellent user interface
  • One-handed use and fluid desktop interface
  • Superb social networking integration

Weaknesses

  • Limited 3rd party apps
  • Limited production units and distribution

If you want to stop there and find out whether I recommend the N9, my answer is a Yes; go buy one.

If however, you want to get the juicy details, do read on.

Operating System and User Interface

The N9 runs Maemo 6 Harmattan branded as MeeGo. True to tradition, the N9’s user interface is sweet and fluid without skimping on functionality.

Its older cousin, the N900, was king of multi-tasking in its day. The N9 handles multi-tasking like a champ – and without draining the battery like the N900 used to.

N9 user interface

As a matter of fact, the N9 is a miracle in terms of performance – a 1GHz processor, a fluid interface, and multi-tasking in a sleek shell. It is paradise for both geek and non-geek alike.

The physical shell and the UI are a seamless blend, and the swiping gestures are natural and intuitive. Navigation is almost 100% by swipes. No button is present, and none is required to interact with the OS.

Display

At 3.9 inches and a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels, it gives a pixel density of about 251 ppi.

While the specs read good, non-geeks don’t care about specs. The N9’s AMOLED capacitive touchscreen is gorgeous to behold and to use. The curved glass, with anti-glare polariser translates to sharp images in every condition – indoors and outdoors. Even under direct glare of the tropical sun, you do not lose any legibility. Text and images are sharp and clear.

Web Browsing

N9 Web Browsing
The built-in browser is a mix of simplicity and advanced standards. The interface is clean and offers little by way of options, but it is fast and is one of the top HTML5-compatible browsers in the mobile space.

Sadly, there is no Flash support. I also noticed a bug – when entering text in a text box and the text overflows, there is no way to scroll through the text. This is a serious usability issue for people who use the browser for submitting info online.

Updated: The real issue is with interacting with text input fields – you can’t scroll through or highlight text, and so cannot copy or paste either.

Also, the option to copy text from web pages isn’t here either, which definitely limits usability. Shame, really.

It seems a limitation specific to the browser, as Firefox Mobile 10 on the N9 let’s me highlight and copy text both off web pages and text input fields.

So, if you need those features desperately, Firefox Mobile to the rescue (and with a more excellent HTML5 score of 314 too).

Email & Sync

Email rocks on the N9 – Mail for Exchange, Gmail, regular POP3/IMAP. All have worked well. With my Mail for Exchange account, my contacts and calendar entries are synchronised seamlessly to my device.

Organizer and Office features

The calendar is superb. The notes app is cool.

There is a Document viewer that supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF. The option to edit is not available. I would have expected that a device at this price point would include editing capabilities, so I am a bit disappointed there.

Multimedia

Multimedia on the N9 is good, but coming from the N8, it pales in comparison.

Let’s get it right: the N9 stands well on its own with a good 8 megapixel camera, a good music player and nice video playback.

However, let’s put the controversy to rest once and for all, the N8 beats the N9 in all these areas. N8’s camera performs better. N8 audio quality and volume is better. N8’s video codec support is better.

I must add here something that ticks me off – there is no physical shutter button on the N9 (though it’s twin sister, the Lumia 800 has one). It’s a big deal for me, as this absence means that I can’t take self-portraits. Yes; I love my face. Yes; I’m vain. Thank you.

The N9 also lacks an FM Radio and Transmitter as found on the N8.

Gaming

Games purr nicely on the N9, whether its Need For Speed, Angry Birds, Real FootBall or any of the other available titles.

The 1GHz CPU, graphics accelerator and accelerometre do a fine job of
keeping games running really nice.

Battery life

Honest to God, I was skeptical of how the N9’s 1450 mAh battery would hold up. I am glad to announce that all my fears have been wiped out. My N9 goes for a full day and a good chuck of the next on a single charge.

See my previous article, A look at the Nokia N9?s battery life, for details.

Built-in Apps

The N9 is on solid footing with regards built-in apps. The usual suspects are there on any smartphone platform, plus some nice integration of social networking and allied services.

Integrated apps and services are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, and SIP.

Wifi Hotpot functionality is built in too.

3rd Party Apps

This is the only serious issue to be picked with the N9. The available 3rd party apps are limited, so if you are after hundreds of thousands of apps, please don’t look in this guy’s direction.

The N9 has the basic needs covered well – social networking especially. So if you are like me and don’t need or use 3rd party apps much, you are good with the N9.

My Conclusions

The N9 is spectacular and sublime. It screams and whispers.

It is death and also fresh life. It is the beginning and the end. There will be no more Maemo/MeeGo devices after this. Yet, it is Nokia saying, “Take a look at some of the nifty stuff that we are bringing you on other devices“. In other words, expect to see elements of the N9?s user interface on some upcoming Nokia products. This is just Nokia showing off.

The N9 is open and closed. It is functionality and aesthetics married in superfluity. It is what no other device is.

The polycarbonate unibody of the N9 is nothing short of outstanding craftsmanship. The N9 is the sexiest phone on the block It is a phone that you want to be seen with.

The OS and UI are superb and intuitive. They work. They flow. They wow! The N9 is a drop-dead absolutely stunning piece of work.

If you are a mobile enthusiast, you should get one.

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31 comments

  1. when entering text in a text box and the text overflows, there is no way to scroll through the text. This is a serious usability issue for people who use the browser for submitting info online.

    You forget to mention these other missing features:

    1. Copying from or pasting to text input
    fields or text areas is not supported

    2. It’s not possible to copy text from a
    Web page

  2. A post brimming with effervescent enthusiasm!

    .. Even under direct glare of the tropical sun, you do not loss any legibility….

    All phones sold in tropical Africa needs to be like this, i swear!

    …..limited, so if you are after hundreds of thousands of apps, please don’t look in this guy’s direction….

    I won’t
    Ny phone must ABSOLUTEly have gazillions of apps with which to play. What is spicy in life without lots of VARIETY?

  3. Nice review
    My biggest fear is boredom. With limited 3rd party apps, the phone is bound to be a bore after the novelty wears off.
    Apps add spice like a poster said..
    Imagine iphones without the plethora of apps.
    Imagine android without the plethora of apps..

  4. Variety they say is the spice of life and can be seen in everything in nature, mobile apps is no exception.
    I love to do a lot of things on my phone hence N9 is a no go area for me.

  5. great phone. wish nokia had given it a chance to nurture and see it battle with the rest in the field. I especially love the build, just as on the lumia.

  6. Although it lacks some of those things i wud loved it shud have comings frm n900, like the fm transmitter,Microbrowser,flash etc but i still love this phone.I already knew for now must phones can only be a back-ups for my n900 despite its own weakness too.As for apps though viable, but how many apps have i been remembering to use with the integrated ones i have working on my n900.

  7. how many apps have i been remembering to use with the integrated ones i have working on my n900.

    Interesting… The whole essence of owning a smartphone, i imagine, is using it to the utmost – via an over abundance of software..
    IMAGINE having a dvd player on which one does not play lots of disks! If there are only a few dvd_tyoes available for that player, it is not worth the space on which it would stand on my wooden shelf!

    I would eventually be bored stiff with the dirth of titles.

    A mobile OS with compelling software titles will eventually win ne over.
    Some SOFTWARE are so gooood that it is worth buying a phone just to run them..

    1. Interesting… The whole essence of owning a smartphone, i imagine, is using it to the utmost – via an over abundance of software..
      IMAGINE having a dvd player on which one does not play lots of disks! If there are only a few dvd_tyoes available for that player, it is not worth the space on which it would stand on my wooden shelf!

      It is at this point that I must say this fixture on abundance of apps is an over-generalisation of the essensce of owning a smartphone. That’s simplistic.

      The essence of owning a smartphone – indeed of owning anything – is personal need. This is something that varies.

      I use my smartphones more than most people on this planet, and yet I have never, ever used more than a handful of 3rd party apps. There are plenty of people like that. Actually, the statistics show that the vast majority of people use their smartphones that way. A geeky type like you and others here may pine about hundreds of thousands of apps.

      However, most users rarely need more than the basics – essentially instant messaging and social networking. They almost never bother with much else.

      Fact: inspite of the vast array of apps available on iOS and Android, for example, most users on those platforms never download more than a handful of apps.

      To reiterate: the essence of owning a smartphone is meeting individual needs – and those needs are not mostly geeky. So, app lovers and hunters know where to look. People who need phones to revolve around their daily lives know where to look. For some, smartphones are not toys, so the issue of getting bored with them because of a lack of apps does not arise.

      Just saying.

  8. There is no FIXATION (fixture?) on overabundance of apps.
    Before Apple re-invented tablets, and made it widely poplular, people did not even realize they need a tablet. Now, they are buying tablets in droves.

    Understanding that is the only thing SIMPLISTIC about my assertion. It is is a simple conccept to grasp.

    Now, let us graduate from kinder-garten.

    It is ok to own an SUV you never ever use off a macadamized motorway. It is your choice. You may be happy to just be seen cruising the jeep. Maybe that massages your ego into shape. Sure, But that does not invalidate my claim that a smartphone WITHOUT an overabundance of apps is crippled. I said that much about the Samsung Jet which I saw as a DUMBPhone..

    The essence of owning anything is your personal need. Sure. But that does not mean that -that limited need represents the frontier of what is possible by that parochial need.

    You say you use your smartphones more than most people on planet Earth. Pah! Yet you generally denigrate the need for CHOICE. A handful of apps? Please. I can recommend to you apps you will not be able to do without. Once you allow your mind grasp this SIMPLE concept! Smell this coffee – Sir!

    You are able to choose efffectively when you have various options available, no? Yes, that guy that drives that powerful SUV ‘uses’ it too – even when he never gets to utilize all the traction control, electronic stability control, brake force distribution, antilock braking system. You may spend lots of time using a few apps, get your work done, but is that really USing? Your definition. You USE, but you DO NOT UTILIZE.

    You say smartphones are not toys for some people. So they can not get bored bcos there are no gazillions of apps. You may have a tepid point there. Smartphones are TOOLS. A toy is a tool too. Having many apps available does not necessarily make that TOOL a toy! It just broadens the scope of what is possible with the awesome device on which you spent good mega-bucks.

    To SIMPLIFY my point, your smartphone is only as powerful as the variety and multitude of quality apps available for it. And that is an incontrovertible FACT!

    Just saying!

    1. EyeBeekay,

      Yada, yada, yada.

      Again your simplification shows in your response. Let’s take the analogy of the SUV.

      The SUV came as a result of the need for an off-road utility vehicle. Fact. You know, for when you have to go on Safaris and hikes and the like.

      Yet; the majority of SUV owners on this planet never use theirs off the road. Needs. You may call it ego. That’s your business. If it meets the needs of their egos, a need has been met. Go suck a lemon.

      Manufacturers and designers may throw out a product but are never able to fully grasp how each individual will use those products based on their specific needs.

      Take Facebook. Fact: its designed for you to connect with people you know. Yet, most Facebookers use it more to connect with people they have never met. That is meeting a need that the developers probably didn’t envisage.

      You conveniently use the iPad as a yardstick for your apps argument. Actually, you should go all the way back to the iPhone. The original iPhone sold in droves, not because of apps. You see, it had no 3rd party apps. Nothing could be installed on it. It was a dumbphone that Apple shoved down people’s throats as a “smartphone”.

      Why did it sell, inspite of its being a dumbphone? It certainly wasn’t the apps. It met needs, apps or not.

      You presume arrogantly to be able to define my needs in saying that there are apps that you will introduce to me and I wouldn’t be able to do without. That’s nonsense and mere grandstanding on your part, of course. Mobility is my business and I can probably draw up a much longer list of mobile apps than you can 😉

      I am aware of those apps. I publish their news, even install and play with them on almost every platform – and never use over 95% of them again after the initial play. I do not need them. Many other people out there do not either.

      You are not certainly a better person because you use more apps on your smartphone than the next person who doesn’t. For all you care, you may be trapped in the Matrix, and a slave to a passion that you are powerless to break – a hopeless app addict.

      Open your eyes: the world does not revolve around you. As it does not around me either.

      Smartphones are as powerful as they meet the needs of their users. Nothing more. Some need lots of apps. Some need just a handful. Both needs are valid. You are being vain in castigating other people’s needs.

      PS: By the way, were you not the guy who has been parroting the mantra “Nothing is wrong, and nothing is right”? I didn’t think you were serious then. I still don’t 🙂

    2. You say you use your smartphones more than most people on planet Earth. Pah! Yet you generally denigrate the need for CHOICE. A handful of apps?

      No; I do not ever denigrate choice.

      Feel free to quote wherever I have said that people should not be given a choice. I have repeated only that the majority of people do not need many apps. That is not denigrating choice. That is making a statement of fact. You should be able to tell the difference.

  9. I am disappointed. Was actually fortifying myself fir a barrage from you.

    By the way…

    .
    .
    .I have repeated onlythat the majority of people do not need many apps. That is not denigrating choice. That is making a statementof fact.
    .
    .
    I have repeated onlythat the majority of people do not need many apps. That is not denigrating choice. That is making a statementof fact.
    .
    .
    .
    THAI is NIT a statement if fact. AND i can SPELL the difference.
    The FACT, put correctly -is…

    I have repeated only that the majority of people do not USE (NOT need) many apps.
    .
    .

    They NEED it they just need to be shown- the way Apple showed LOTS of people they NEED a y tablet..

  10. Just seeing your earlier response. I actually found the response weak and hilarious.
    You did not address what i was trying to pass across. Am not disappointed – though.

    You badly drifted off the subject. It is not about app addiction. You are a hardware junkie yourself! it is not about being a better person. It is not about arrogance or grandstanding.

    Well, let us agree to disagree on this one.

    Really, i am disappointed on this weak tactic of leaving the subject of the discussion- WHICH is- CHOICE is good. What is wrong with abundant choice? Just answer That one, and format the prevarication!

  11. So,what is YOUR conception- That YOU claim I am MISCONCEIVing?

    We dont need MANY apps? Most people do NOT need / want / use NUMEROUS app.

    What EXACTLY is YOUR argument here- if ANY?

  12. Hi Yomi. I’m quite amazed your N9 battery lasts you a full day and more. Mine barely lasts half a day. I’ve had it for over a week now and from what i’ve read online i may be the only person experiencing poor battery life on the N9.

    I also noticed after charging my battery level doesn’t get beyond 98%. Could this mean something? Please advise me on what i can do to get better battery life cos am sooo frustrated by this. Almost as bad as my N900 🙁 Thanks

  13. Yes i’ve gone through full recharge and discharge like 3 times. But i may have messed it up in between cos i’ve had to recharge before the battery has run out in order to stay connected. I realide i use the phone quite alot. When i first got it i couldn’t put the beauty down and was browsing, downloadong apps, skyping, etc.

    But i thought i’d get better life with my regular usage of abou 2hrs of calls, 1hr of browsing & downloading mail. I’ve set my mail sync to twice a day and manually sync in between to reduce consumption. It seems there’s something consuming battery in the background when idle. I’ve read some other complaints on some sites. Is your usage about the same as mine?

  14. Ben,

    Yes; my usage is about the same as yours, if not more.

    There is the possibility that you have a defective unit – or a defective battery.

    In the meantime, are you sure that you do not have a service running in the background all the time e.g. Facebook or Skype?

  15. I thonk there must be a service running that i can’ see. Skype etc are usually offline till i need them. I’ve installed Battery-usage app and today my average idle condumption is 19mA whileon the days i experienced battery dain the average idle consumption has been over 100mA. I’ll observe and see how it lasts and try to find what’s doing the damage. Thanks for tips.

  16. The N900 seems really great. Lovely unibody craftsmanship and a stellar UI. But it’s blemishes keeps throwing itself at me. And that’s the lack of apps. I’m not bothered about Nokia’s continued support because I hardly use my phones over 2 years. 3 years at most, if I’m cash trapped! The other problem I see is the impossibly copying and pasting in the browser. That’s the problem I also have with my Symbian ^3 phone. I’m unable to copy from the Mail box or the browser. I able to do copy and paste on iOS for instance. I’m quite quite perturbed that Nokia is yet to implement this in its phones.

    The N9 would otherwise have been a grande phone. Just that I wouldn’t want to be a first and last adopter, I wouldn’t want to experience the capabilities that Nokia is flaunting on this showmanship piece. Instead I’d wait for the real thing. Especially when Windows phone gets matured enough in Windows phone 8. I’m sorry to say that I pass on both the N9 and the Lumia 800. I’d is and wait for the Nokia Apollo touted to run on WP 8!

    Meanwhile I’d upgrade E6 to Belle whenever it’s ready and hope the shortfalls will be corrected.

  17. BTW Yomi, does the N9 support java. I noticed that there is a forward incompatibility in Symbian. My Nokia 5230 supports Java games and books but my E6 doesn’t!

    And 2ndly, Yomi, do you know how to make opera mini the default browser on a Symbian ^3 (Anna) phone? I’m getting really fustrated with the default Nokia browser that came with it. Is that option available on the N9? Changing the default browser?

  18. Yomi&Ben, Same with me. If the Internet on my Nokia E6 is not active, my Jokuspot Gives an error message when I try to share the hotspot. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with Ben’s N9’s hotspot app? Poor network services.

  19. @Afewgoodmen

    Yomi & Ben , Same with me. If the Internet on my Nokia E6 is not active , my Jokuspot Gives an error message when I try to share the hotspot . Perhaps that ’s what ’s wrong with Ben ’ s N 9 ?s hotspot app ? Poor network services .

    This is one thing Android does a whole lot better. I can start the hotspot with or without active internet connection, connect my laptop and with the help of File Expert, I would be able to move file and folders between my phone and laptop through the WiFi connection. I hardly move files these days through cable connection.

    1. Harry,

      I agree. Even with internet sharing via WiFi, Android seems more robust. I have a Galaxy Gio here and inspite of Glo’s instability, keeps the WiFi connection alive without any error messages. Won my heart instantly!

      On any of my Symbian or MeeGo devices, the WiFi connection would have been broken again and again each time Glo internet service sneezed.

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