It seems that this fall has been an interesting season of tech switches for me. Earlier, I acquired the Kindle Fire HD and Nokia Lumia 900 as an attempt to broaden some of my daily interactions with mobile, and now, I’m in the possession of the Nokia N950, a very rare and powerful mobile device that points to several opportunities and challenges that I seem to always throw myself into.
There are a few things which make the N950 so unique, not the least of which being that it was not even a device that was sold – it was only made available via Nokia’s Developer Program. And the only reason why I have it in my possession is that a Nokia developer friend parted with it for my Lumia 900 (because he is developing for Windows/Windows Phone these days and needed a new device for testing).
Another reason why it is so unique is that it offers something not seen except on some very low-end mobiles these days, a hardware keyboard. The N950 has a similar slide-out QWERTY keyboard to the N97 that I used to own (and loved). Weirdly enough, except for a few moments, I don’t think that I’ll be pulling it out all that often. Swype is well-enough done on the 4in screen and I’m finding it ok to get around without it.
The most unique feature (for me, and so far) has been the Swipe UI. You see, with the N950, and the commercial product, the N9, Nokia used the unique nature of the MeeGo platform to introduce a gesture-based UI. This is something that I’ve been a fan of since its introduction. And mainly because I am one of those guys who still prefers to use his mobile in one hand and with a few “blind” actions to get around it. I think that putting so much visual attention on one’s mobile, for notifications or navigation, is just not all that smart. Yet, this isn’t something that other manufacturers have picked up on (yet). So, getting the N950 offers me some space to explore this aspect of mobility a bit more.
And it took all of a few hours before I was so hooked that my use of my normal mobile, the N8, was altered. Even though I had a 3rd-party application (GoToMenu) that does some of the same kind of swiping, its been even more that I have performed and wanted more of the screen sliding that the N9/50 offers. Its really pretty interesting now that I’m living with this device. I don’t even think that I’ve mastered things either. There’s a slide-up to close apps that I rarely use. And a slide-down that opens a quick-launch menu that I frequently forget. For this curious-type, its just kind of interesting, and adventerous.
The Lumia 900 had something similar, in part, when going from the Live Tiles to the applications listing. And again in part when inside any of the hub apps and you panned to greater detail. Decent, but not quite there. RIM and their upcoming BlackBerry 10 devices will be doing similar to this, and a few deets more if the videos prove true. This would be indeed quite interesting, and something worth considering if I end up with another fall refresh like I seem to have had now.
What I wonder though is why other manufacturers haven’t just paid attention to this level of detail to the behavior of a button-less interface for mobiles. Honestly, I think that more can be done. If I manage to get to a level of comfort and ease with MeeGo that I can install Jolla’s Sailfish OS, I will be looking to push the metaphor a good bit further. From that interaction, I’d like to see the idea of an OS, data formats, and interactions take the route of what’s seen with PTPT – more about relationships to content and time and less about the silos.
A gesture to a different type of computing. Perhaps that can be the “new” that makes some kind of sense out of the digital pennies and time-wastedness of this age.