The Nokia N9 introduces an innovative new design where the home key is replaced by a simple gesture: a swipe. The industrial design of the Nokia N9 is an example of extreme product making and craft. The body is precision-machined from a single piece of polycarbonate and flows seamlessly into beautiful curved glass.
Exterior, Controls and Screen
Our first impression of the phone is that it is a very, very attractive device. The Nokia N9 is a one piece polycarbonate slate, and it has a minimalist design. There are no front-facing buttons, just a volume rocker and a lock/unlock button on the right side of the phone. Its 12.1mm thick chassis tapers off at the edges, giving the edges a sharper look.
First thing you’ll notice is the 3.9-inch AMOLED touchscreen which takes up the front of the N9, and we are pleased how little bezel space there is left. The AMOLED touchscreen displays 480 x 854 pixels. The AMOLED screen display is clear and bright, it also handles colours very well too. With Nokia’s anti-glare technology, we could see clearly under sunlight too, and the screen is protected by damage resistant Gorilla Glass.
Tucked neatly away on top of the phone is the slide out micro-SIM slot located at the top of the phone, and right beside it there is the micro-USB port. The 3.5mm headphone jack is located here as well.
Its eight-megapixel camera and the LED flash are embedded in the back of the phone, so there are no protruding lenses. The speaker grille is barely noticeable at the bottom of the phone. We did experienced difficulty to removing the micro-SIM slot or opening the micro-USB slot which is essential for charging the phone.
Inside the chassis, the device is powered by a 1GHz processor, 1GHz of RAM, and the Nokia N9 comes with 16GB or 64GB internal storage.
Software, Applications and Games
Aside from its exciting design, the Nokia N9 is loaded with the Meego v1.2 (Harmattan) operating system, which Nokia claims, it will only use once on the N9 before discontinuing it. Meego is designed with the N9’s buttonless chassis in mind, meaning it will rely on finger gestures to operate. Nokia has given Meego a distinct look when compared to Symbian. The apps are given that uniform, rounded aesthetic, and basic functions like the phone and clock application are spruced up to increase its visual appeal.
Double tapping the lock screen (or pressing the physical standby button) and the phone will activate, you will then have to swipe end to end (from left to right or vice versa) to unlock the phone. To exit an app, you merely swipe from the top of the screen to the bottom. Once the phone is unlocked you can start swiping to find three screens - social feeds, home screen and finally the multitasking page.
Social feeds combines all your social network into a continuously updated wall, all you have to do is sign in to your favourite social networks either through the app itself or the Accounts app. The home screen is self-explanatory - it has all your applications, which you can reposition with a long press. Then the multitasking view has all your running apps appear as little condensed windows, you can then permanently turn them off by holding down an app and tapping the X button. You can also opt to turn them all off with the close all button.
There is also a notification bar tucked away at the top of the screen, which is accessible with a tap. It shows the classic Nokia profile albeit simplified - there is only silent, beep and ringing. There is also volume control here, connectivity options as well as quick social media management.
As for apps, Nokia promises to keep updating the Meego platform with applications ported from the Symbian platform. The phone itself is preloaded with social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, and there are gaming apps as well including Angry Birds, Galaxy on Fire 2, Need for Speed Shift and Real Golf 2011.
You can download apps and music from the Nokia store and Ovi Music respectively. The onboard web browser only supports one page, so multitaskers need not apply.
Camera, Video and Audio
Nokia devices are usually attached with high-powered cameras with Carl-Zeiss optics, and the Nokia N9 is no different, it comes with an 8-megapixel imager that shoots 3264 x 2448 pixels, it has autofocus and dual LED flash.
Despite all the megapixels, the N9’s camera is a bit of a let down, it has plenty of noise when we left it on auto mode and will require a few tweaks to clean up our photos significantly. Speaking of tweaks, there are plenty of them in the N9 – flash, scene, face detection and much more. The N9 will be able to record 720p video.
Multimedia playback on this device is enjoyable - the N9’s audio is improved by Dolby Digital Plus, so playing music on the N9 is a good experience. Watching videos on the 3.9-inch screen is a great viewing experience too.
The N9 supports HSDPA 14.4Mbps, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. The Nokia N9 also comes with a Near Field Communications (NFC) reader. NFC allows you to transfer data by bringing the phone physically close to a reader. But since NFC is a relatively new in Malaysia, the only practical usage is to use the N9’s NFC as a control for Nokia’s wireless speakers and headphones. A standard micro-USB port allows data transfers. Plus, the N9 can also turn itself into a WiFi hotspot and allow five devices to connect simultaneously.
There is a minor worry about the Meego platform. As Nokia focuses on its Windows Phone 7 hardware, will we still get firmware updates or continued app support? This may deter users who keep their smartphone for extended periods of time. Photo-enthusiasts may also be put off from this device, as the camera performance could be better.
Maybe its a bit to early to call it Nokia’s return to form, but the N9 gets a lot of things right which including its great design, a good screen powered by a surprisingly good operating system. It ties in well together for an intuitive, enjoyable experience. Will Meego win Android and iOS fans over? Perhaps not, but it will give Symbian users an OS to jump onboard before Windows Phone 7 comes along