Truthfully, this is the kind of review that doesn’t exist on major tech sites. See, they get devices when they come out, have a few weeks to make an impression, and then keep it moving. Me on the other hand, has to purchase devices when the budget allows, and therefore interesting comes later, lasts a bit longer, and is filled with just as much disappointment as there is joy.
It’s with these remarks that I start a review of the Nokia N9. It’s a device that for all others and purposes was dead on arrival almost 2 years ago. And yet one where a distinct mark of mobile and Nokia (as a company) has been left. Innovative user interface (swipe gesture, 3 main screens, open source ecosystem, etc.) have all been marks that indicate where mobile was going, is still going for some, and has failed for some.
One can make the statement that before this device, mobiles were just about whatever the device enjoyed. After this device, the entire industry started to point to more about what (social) it enabled. So, I get a device that comes up a bit short, at least according to the standards of what is modern. And yet, it’s something that just might fit.
Hardware in Short
I’m already familiar with the hardware in part. The design is an evolution of the N8, and essentially a tweak and loss of the keyboard fun the N950. It’s not heavy, but has a good sense of weight in hand. And after my lady took hand of it, after I made her put the N8 then N950 in her hands, she said “wow!” To me there is something similar of an examination. It’s just a well-designed piece of kit.
Three buttons. Volume up and down, then power. Nice, simple, and to the point.
The ports for the micro-USB and SIM card are covered. I don’t seem to miss having a memory card (then again I also have the 64GB version of this device, who cares about space). Will I care about not having a removable battery? That is yet to be determined. But at some point I probably will.
Comes with a slip case. I’ll use it for a while.
It’s in my pocket. Guess that says all about the hardware that really counts.
Software and the Setup
The N9 uses what is basically a hybrid of the once experimental and near-mass market ready Maemo (Linux) operating system and some pieces from the merged Maemo and Minimo (sp?) operation MeeGo. That is one part its pleasure and another part its pain.
I’ve spent a gentile time the past days downloading apps for it (a few that I’m already using on the N950, its sister device). Favorites such as Situations, Notekeeper (an Evernote client) and Different Tack (a Twitter client) were some of the first to be installed. But, other than that, I’ve not really seen much worth playing with. I’m still wondering where a decent file browser app is (decent for me is one where I could access the local file system alongside my Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive directories – I thought something like this would have been done by now).
I spent a greater amount of the setup time getting various services plugged into the system. That part is admittedly kind of fun. You see, I input the credentials to services such as Dropbox, Twitter, Evernote, and Google Calendar, and then its not simply that I have “an app for that,” but that as many of the apps on my device that need those services can take advantage of it. Really makes for a flexible and personalized mobile. The new BlackBerry 10 devices are doing it like this – it makes too much sense when you think of your mobile as being a center of your communications, not the center of what one company wants to keep you inside of.
Speaking of which, I really wish the Gallery, Music, and Video apps were able to get feeds from my similar online services. I’ve got pictures on Flickr and Dropbox that I’d love to see in the gallery (with a nifty icon on those pics that are located on both online service(s) and the device. For music, I’ve got to download the app that allows me access to my Amazon Cloud Music… but its not coming thru my music app. Grrr… integrated services would make sense if they were done throughout.
I did have to tweak the MMS and internet settings since I’m using Simple Mobile (and have Truphone as a backup). But, other than that, software on this mobile is simple. It really should always be personal like this.
Of Early Niggles and Jaunts
So far, the N9 has proven itself as a seasoned device in the hands of a seasoned mobile user. I’ve not needed to do any unnecessary tweaking or anything like that, but I have had to unlearn a few things.
For example, Situations is an app that’s needed because there’s not a profiles feature in the traditional sense (ring volume levels, but not profiles, still better than Windows Phone and iOS which have neither). Thankfully, three quick profiles in that app is all that I really need in order to make sure this device stays away from being annoying at any point in my day.
For as much as the slip case is pretty nice to have, it makes the N9 feel like my older N8. I’ve got a black slip cover, it nearly matches my glasses. I’ve got another pair of glasses that are caramel colored, would be neat if there were a slip cover to match that. And perhaps a green one as well (as @anabee said nicely, “1st world problems”).
One of the 1st tests for this device will be when I’m able to get back to doing another workshop. I’ve downloaded an app that will allow me to use my Zeemote Bluetooth controller. That should be fun. I’ve also got to text the TV-Out functionality for any niggles there.
I have to use Swype. I liked T9 a lot. It worked, it was fast, and except for the fact that I still can’t spell, it was just comfy. I use Swype on my Kindle Fire HD, and guess that I’ll just become a bit more tuned to it.
It’s been a few days at this point and I’m starting some to see what the battery life will look like. As with most mobile devices, if you press it then it won’t last the day. I’ve made a point to use Situations do that I can avoid putting out on the charger at night, and hopefully I can keep that up. In also not constantly connected to Skype, email, or IM so that does merit done gain a bit. I wonder what a better battery would look like inside of this device, its already plump enough in the middle.
A Mobile Apart
I started to wrap up this “review” and realized something about the N9 that’s been already brewing within me… I’m not really needing to pay attention to it. Its actually now to the point that the N9 is setup enough that I can go without needing to be on my Kindle Fire HD for anything more than email, blog reading, and sketching (is a normal Kindle, perhaps Paperwhite, in my future). I’m finding that the N9 as I’ve set it up doesn’t bug me, I don’t feel a need to fondle it (unless the included slip-cover is off), and frankly, it just has a nice muted beep or ping when there is something that needs my attention. I’m not sure if that was per the purpose of MeeGo, or even how the N9 was designed. But as a mobile, it feels quite apart from the “attention needing” mobiles of other platforms and owners.
Gosh is the screen beautiful. I knew that I should have waited and went for that “Clear Black” display when I got the N8 (the C7 had it; I reviewed it for Brighthand at the time I got the N8 and it was a nice screen). I’m almost being too careful with it right now.
Having the N9 for the past few days has accelerated the search for that MotoActv fitness watch. I don’t think that I’ll need to have the N9 in my pocket all of the time, but when its there, it will be the case of me knowing that I don’t mind being contacted by others. Its not a bad thing to put down the mobile and live. In fact, I think that a mobile that’s solid enough to be put to the side and then be ready right were you left it is a pretty powerful device indeed… and a smart one.
The N9 will get many more words on it written here. At this point, I’ve written enough and taken enough pictures (mostly with my N8, ode to the retired solid citizen). What impressions are to come of the N9, MeeGo, open source anything, and me doing more with mobile besides consuming stuff will indeed be interesting. And if there are developers, marketers, or even mobile companies (hint: Jolla) that want to come along for the ride, I’m here. Probably not paying attention to the N9 at the moment, but it will let me know that you want to take that step forward.