Tag Archives: Nokia N9
Here's Part 2 of my Nokia N9 unboxing. This video picks up where Part 1 left off with the phone out of the box but not powered up yet. It shows the boot up animations, initial set up and configuring a Wi-Fi connection.
I was pretty impressed with how easy it was to get the phone up an running without a SIM. The Nokia interaction designers have recognized that some of us, including developers and international travelers, will want to use the N9 without an active SIM. Unlike many smartphones, the N9 didn't complain about the missing SIM or waste my time with a mandatory account registration that wouldn't have worked without a connection. I was able to power on, set the time zone and language, setup a Wi-Fi access point and start browsing in just a few minutes without any roadblocks. The N9 even let me go online using Wi-Fi without any of those annoying "Allow Wi-Fi connection in offline mode" dialogs so beloved by Symbian's designers.
After I shot this video I picked up a T-Mobile prepaid SIM and popped it into the phone. The N9 lets you hot swap SIMs so I didn't need to turn the phone off and back on to get it to recognize the SIM. Like most recent phones, the N9 identified the SIM and automatically created valid network data and MMS APN connections. Thoughtfully, it did not go online automatically without asking to waste any of my limited PAYGO data allotment. When I launched the browser for the first time out of range of Wi-Fi, there was prompt asking me if I wanted to use the T-Mobile mobile network for just this session or automatically as needed.
The first time you do turn the phone on with an active SIM it will prompt you to log into or create your Nokia account. You can skip this step if you want but you won't be able to use the Nokia (app) Store until you do.
I've been very pleased with the N9 so far. Its distinctive industrial design which wraps a large, bright screen in a slim and light package, is a pleasure to hold. But it's the "Swipe" user experience and Linux based OS that really make the N9 special. Nokia's MeeGo/Harmattan team did an amazing job to come up with such a smooth, polished and intuitive interface combining exceptional ease of use with great power. The beautiful interface hides a full PC desktop class Linux stack with X-Server and window manager. A "Developer Mode" menu option enables a highly usable terminal shell and a wealth of command line development tools and utilities, making the N9 as apealling to Linux code wizards as it is to technophobes. Every time I use the N9 I'm both amazed and apalled that Nokia could spend years and millions of euros designing such a beautiful, usable, powerful and open platform only to throw it all away.
NokiaConnects (formerly WOMWorld/Nokia) has sent me a Nokia N9 loaner to try out and review. I am very excited about getting a chance to try this rare, limited production device. I've honored it with my first ever un-boxing video which is embedded below.
If your wondering about the way the video ends, yes I did eventually figure out how to turn the N9 on. I had to (horrors!) look in the manual, but it's really very easy. I'm editing another video where are I walk through powering up the phone and doing initial the setup including adding a WiFi connection but I won't keep you in suspense. The power button is the unlabeled silver button on the right side of the phone just below the volume rocker. I initially mistook it for the camera shutter button (silly me) and never tried pushing it.
Today at Nokia Connection in Singapore Nokia introduced its long awaited MeeGo handset, the N9. It's a sleek, slim and seamless stunner with a body carved from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic. The 3.9 inch (854x480) screen occupies almost the entire face of the phone. The glass screen curves gently into the body at the sides and the only keys are a volume rocker and lock switch on the right side.
The user interface as demoed in the video above is unique and very attractive. There are three vertically scrolling home screens; the first is an application launcher consisting of grid of icons representing all your installed apps, the second is a task switcher showing running apps and allowing you to switch between them or terminate an app or all apps. The third screen is dedicated to notifications such as missed calls, texts, emails, Twitter mentions, Facebook Chat requests, unread RSS feed items etc. The phone's lock screen also displays notification indicators. A horizontal swipe in any direction switches between home screens. Sliding a running app off the screen in any direction reveals the last viewed home screen and puts the app in the background. In the demo videos I've seen the UI looks to be very intuitive and easy to use.
A neat feature is the inclusion of NFC based "tap to pair" technology that lets you connect the phone with an NFC equipped Nokia Bluetooth headset or speakers by simply tapping the phone on the audio device.
Here's a gallery of N9 press images:
Although Nokia refers to the N9's OS as MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan, the developer documentation suggests that Harmattan is actually the latest iteration of Maemo, Nokia's open source Linux OS, and a direct desendent of the N900's Maemo Freemantle. Harmattan does support most MeeGo APIs so porting a MeeGo app to Harmattan should be relatively easy. Like Freemantle, Harmattan uses the .deb application packaging format rather than MeeGo's RPM so at least a re-ppackaging is needed to a MeeGo app running on the N9. There's also Qt support facilitating the porting of Symbian Qt apps.
The N9's specs are good if not spectacular. The CPU is a single core 1 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 OMAP3630, which is close in specification (same CPU core and similar GPU) to the A4 CPU used in the iPhone 4. In the demo videos I have seen the user interface seems very fluid and responsive so it appears that the CPU and graphics subsystem are up to the task. While some may bemoan the N9's non-removable battery and use of a micro-SIM, the pentaband 3G radio is a win for globe-trotters and North American users. The camera also looks very promising. It's an 8 MP device with an auto focus (thankfully not EDOF) Carl Zeiss lens.
Although pricing hasn't been officialy announced, Nokia's Executive VP of Sales Colin Giles told Cnet Asia that the Nokia N9 will set you back $660 for the 16GB model and $749 for the 64GB That's remarkably similar to the iPhone 4's unlocked price of $649 for 16GB and $749 for 32GB. Availability is said to be "this year".
The biggest question about the N9 is the role it and Maemo/Harmattan will play in Nokia's future. Although there is speculation that the N9 may be Nokia's last Linux based device, I'm hoping that will not be the case. I've come to accept that Symbian has reached the end of it's usefull life and that Windows Phone, with Nokia enhancements, can become Nokia's primary smartphone platform going forward. But I think that the world's largest manufacturer of mobile phones needs to have a flagship phone that is not beholden to someone else's OS and design decisions. Hopefully that's the role that the N9 and its successors will play.
I believe that It's a misconception that Nokia CEO Steven Elop has stated that the N9 is Nokia's final MeeGo or Maemo phone. Actually he has refered to MeeGo as Nokia's platform for future disruption and that a (not necessarily the last) MeeGo phone would be released in 2011. The infamous Feb 11th slide (below) shows that MeeGo will be recieving funding (albeit reduced) even after Symbian is gone.
Nokia N9 specifications
- Networks: Pentaband WCDMA 850, 900, 1900, 1700, 2100, Quad band GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900
- Speed: HSDPA Cat10: 14.4Mbps, HSUPA: Cat6 5.76Mbps
- Display: 3.9” WVGA (854x480) AMOLED display with curved Gorilla glassTM, no air gap, anti-glare polarizer
- Memory: 1024MB RAM, 16GB/64GB storage
- Camera: 8Mpix auto-focus Carl Zeiss, wide-angle lens, 2x LED flash, Video capturing MPEG-4 SP 720p @ 30fps, 2nd camera for video calls
- Size / Weight: 116.45 mm x 61.2 mm x 7.6–12.1 mm (L x W x T) / 76 cm3 / 135 g
- Connectivity: BT 2.1, GPS, A-GPS, WLAN 802.11abgn, NFC, 3.5mm AV connector, micro USB connector, USB charging
- Processor: ARM Cortex-A8 OMAP3630 1 Ghz with PowerVR SGX530 graphics core
- Audio: MP3 player, Audio jack: 3.5mm, Supported codecs: mp3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC.
- Battery: 1450 mAh Operating Times:
- Talk time: (GSM/WCDMA) up to 11 h / up to 7 hours
- Standby time: Up to 450 hours (WCDMA), up to 380 hours (GSM)
- Video playback (720P): up to 4.5 hours
- Music playback: up to 50 hours
- Services and applications
- Free maps, walk & drive navigation with voice guidance, public transport routing
- Ovi Store & Music
- Mail for Exchange for corporate email. Private email support with easy activation.
- Facebook and Twitter integration
- Web browser with wide HTML5 support based on latest Webkit2 core
In addition the the N9 a second MeeGo Harmattan device was announced today. It's the N950 which will be produced in limited quantities and made available to developers as a long term loan. The N950 has the same CPU and RAM as the N9 but sports an aluminum body and slide out QWERTY keyboard. Developers can apply to receive a N950 through the MeeGo Community Device Program or the Nokia Developer Launchpad. The N950 makes a cameo appearnce in the video below from the Nokia Developer Forum.
My mobile dream is a handset with the full power of desktop Linux and X-Server. I saw that realized with Nokia's Maemo. The N900 was an amazing device when it was introduced 3 years ago. But today it's starting to show its age in areas like performance, screen technology and unfashionable thickness.
I was very excited to have the opportunity to attend the MeeGo Conference in San Francisco because I expected that the N900's successor would released or at least announced there. I also hoped to see new MeeGo phone or two from other vendors.
There were a lot of exciting rumours leading up to the conference including a leaked Nokia video showing the unreleased N9 phone running Harmattan, Nokia's next generation of Maemo which also includes MeeGo API support. Another rumor had LG announcing a phone at the conference. The Maemo/Meego community was wild with anticipation. A thread discussing the leaked video and the N9 on the Maemo Talk forum garnered over 2600 posts in two weeks.
The reality of the MeeGo Conference was that no new handsets were shown or announced. Although Nokia was a major sponsor of the conference, there was almost no mention of Nokia or of MeeGo handsets in the Conference keynote.
I'm not sure what happened. I do believe that the N9 announcement and release is still imminent. The conference seemed like it should have been the ideal place to announce it. The developers and fan base were there in force with at least half the attendees carrying an N900. But something got in the way.
The N9 rumour seemed especially credible because of the leaked video. Several prominent members of the Maemo Talk community claimed to have inside information that the N9 would appear and might even be given to attendees. But Nokia seems to have decided to delay the announcement. Perhaps the N9 release is seriously delayed. Or maybe open source politics got in the way. The new phone runs Nokia's Harmattan blend of Maemo and MeeGo rather than pure MeeGo and that may have ruffled the feathers of MeeGo's other sponsors. I think a likely explanation is that Intel didn't want to showcase a product running a processor from arch rival ARM.
Although not related directly to handsets, there were a number of significant announcements at the MeeGo conference. The biggest was probably Nissan announcing that it would be using MeeGo in future vehicles.
MeeGo 1.2 was released for Netbooks, Handsets, Tablets and In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems. The new release focuses on stability and adding low level functionality to the MeeGo Core rather than UI changes. Nokia also released the MeeGo 1.2 Developer Edition for the N900. Tablet vendors 4tiitoo (WeTab), Linpus, China Standard and Red Flag Software all announced that they would adopt MeGo 1.2 for their next releases.
There were many vendors showing off interesting products in the tech showcase area of the Conference. I was particularly impressed with Nomovok's Steelrat, a MeeGo compliant custom UI layer targeted at OEMs. Steelrat is highly customisable Meego front-end optimized for touch, graphics and animation. According to Nomovok's Tatu Nieminen, Steelrat is being used in numerous MeeGo based tablets, handsets and in-vehicle systems that are soon to be launched soon by some very big name companies.
I also got to play briefly with a new tablet from i-Buddie at the Conference. It's one of the first devices to use Intel's new Oaktrail Atom CPU which has performance comparable to the Pinetrail processor used in the ExoPC while consuming only half as much power. The i-Buddie is a bit smaller and much lighter than the Pinetrail powered ExoPC, but the claimed battery life is still on the low side at 4-6 hours of "active use" vs 4 hours for the ExoPC. Update: @tnkgrl pointed me to Chippy's blog post which has a video of of the i-Buddie in action. The post reveals that the i-Buddie is also known as the ECS S10 and has a quoted weight of 660g, which is in iPad2 (605g) territory and far less than the ExoPC's 950g.
I guess I will have to wait a bit longer for my N900 replacement. I was assured by several Nokia folks at the Conference that it will arrive this year. Unfortunately, other than the vague and unrealized rumor of an LG MeeGo phone, no other handset vendor seems committed to MeeGo currently. I think that will change when Intel finally delivers on their promised handset CPU, but that won't happen before next year.