Nokia N9 Review: A Complete Walk Through: Meego/Harmattan Software and User Interface/Experience

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As most or all of our readers may have knowledge that we were having Nokia N9 for long two weeks to review it. Well we have tried to spend a lot of time with Nokia N9 and tried to keep publishing articles for this and that thing about N9 as we were going on with it. You can explore the articles related Nokia N9. And if you were following me on twitter, you also might have seen other reports when I was talking about any issue – I had objections with – or a feature – I loved – in Nokia N9. Don’t worry I’ll try to cover them all as well because they were just a quick shout. Here it’s going to be as detailed as more than 7000 words. I hope you will get not bore of reading it. However I still have tried to exclude many parts discussing in detail where I believed you won’t need any hard details for them.

A complete walk-through with Nokia N9 powering MeeGo/Harmattan: It’s hard to leave once you’ve spent a great few weeks along.

 

But there are a few kinks that needs to be take care of before buying according to your requirements.

We’ll be covering following topics about Nokia N9 in this article.

You also may know that Nokia N9 is the only device (and will be no other) with MeeGo OS which is Linux based like N900 with Maemo OS. If you need, you can find a lot on the internet about what is actually the MeeGo and the history behind its evolution. Here we are about to give specifics of Nokia N9 with MeeGo OS which we have experienced in past few days.

The very first thing anyone would start telling you about Nokia N9, I believe, will be the stunning unique uni-body design of polycarbonate built N9. If you have missed the article where we have reviewed this beautifully packed device in its design, you can check that here. At that time when we published the review, it was titled as “The only design of its kind”. Now that Lumia 800 has also been launched with the pretty same outfit but it’s still valid to say “The only design of its kind” for Nokia N9, because the design of N9 still talks to the user interface inside as “No hardware button for main operations.” and the curved glass does mean to have its function with the “Swipe Interface” to help swiping easily from the edge of the screen.

Before heading on, I once again want to tell you that the whole experience with Nokia N9 was “Awesome”. Now let’s move on and I’ll show you what we’ve experienced with N9.

UPDATE: As we were writing a detailed review about Nokia N9 with its stock software version 10.2011. Hence a big software update PR1.1 (version 20.2011.40-4) has been rolled out for Nokia N9, we’ll try to cover new features as well in this review where applicable but will not be able to give much on this update.

MeeGo Harmattan User Interface

The user interface of Nokia N9, or MeeGo/Harmattan, is the most important part of this smartphone which makes it unique from any other smartphone currently existing. Without being biased to N9 I can say that I never saw such a completeness of a user interface being flawless on its first arrival. There always have been expected flaws or errors whenever a new software version is released. And in fact they actually are, which then meant to be fixed with next software updates. But with N9 I didn’t feel that what needs an update to fix something – well there could of course be, but comparatively N9 was perfect with its initial software and user interface.

Why am I praising the software and user interface of Nokia N9 that much?

That could be the question you might have been mixing up in your mind right now. Well in simple and straight to the point. Due to not having any hardware button and relying completely on touch gestures, I had been expecting a few dead locks in operating N9 which on experiencing N9 finally I didn’t face any flaw in the interface which I was really expecting. Everything looked just awesomely finished.

Nokia N9 Swipe User Interface

In simple “It’s lovely! – It’s addictive!”.

The most important part of any user interface is that it has to be user friendly – The more user friendly it is, the more it will be appreciated. I already have said on twitter and still will say that it is what could have changed like, the original iPhone did in 2007. I really mean itN9 could have been the game changer, if and only if it was the primary flagship from Nokia. But it’s not. Anyway still it has guts to gain a lot of attraction with no doubt.

Isn’t that being a lot of text? I believe now I should tell you about some specifics of the main operating interface of the Nokia N9. Let’s move on.

Home/Main Views

Currently (and with no assumption of any change in future) N9 comes with 3 main/home views (aka screens) each with its own purpose. They can be dragged from right to left or left to right with simple swipe gesture in the according direction.

  • Events View; is at the most left view of home where you are served with the Twitter timeline and Facebook news feed as well as all your notifications/alerts including Missed calls, New/Unread messages, New mail alerts. Secondly they all are linked to its main content so when you click an event you will be taken to its relative application at the content linked to it.
  • Application Grid View (middle view) gives the application launcher interface with vertical scrolling pane with application icons in 4 columns. As a normal behaviour, you can long press on the view to activate the edit mode and then you can rearrange the icons or remove the icons from the grid. Removing the icon actually will remove the application from the device.
  • Open Applications View (the right most view) presents thumbnails of the applications currently running in background (idle mode). It’s really good that they are arranged in the order as the thumbnail of the application will be populated at top left position – the application which you lastly accessed. However by default it’s 2×2 grid of thumbnails but you can pinch-in to resize the thumbnails to provide a view of 3×3 grid. To go back to 2×2 grid, just use the pinch-out gesture. You might want to check our tips & tricks to see how it works. Just like Application Grid view, you can long press on the Open Application view to initiate edit mode of the thumbnails to close an application. However the pinch gesture doesn’t need to have the edit mode activated, it can be done without long-pressing and entering edit mode.

No Widget Support

Ok! there is no widget support in N9’s home screens or views. Seriously I appreciate that because I, personally, never found them very useful. Rather they only require more battery to consume. Do tell me if you stay at live widgets to see or scroll through all mails right on your home screen? I only check alerts if there is a new email or a new message and would prefer to go into the mail app to check thoroughly. Well it’s personal choice. If you like to prefer live or simple widgets on home screen then you will miss them on Nokia N9.

The Swipe Interface

Swipe Interface is the biggest part of the overall user interface in Nokia N9 or MeeGo Harmattan. To get away from a running application, you swipe the screen away (from any edge, top, left, bottom or right), you will be returned to the one of the Home views. That view will be the last accessed view you had before running that app.

Above screen showing: Swiping away the Phone (Application) from left-edge

For example if you have launched an application from the Application grid view, Swiping from (any) edge of the application screen will return you to the Application grid view. Or if you launched Twitter application by tapping an event from Events view, Swiping away the Twitter application will return you to the Events view.

By default Swiping action (from any edge) always sends the application away but keeps it running in background. However you can set if you want to close the app when you Swipe it from top edge. Click here to check how you can do that.

Lock Screen & Notifications

It’s good or bad, whatever but wallpaper can only be set for the lock screen. Main home views only have a black background colour as you have seen above. Wallpapers can be chosen by going through Home view > Settings > Wallpapers. But Lock Screen does serve more than just a wallpaper. the status bar indicators, big clock and date. Plus notification alerts are also presented on the lock screen.

UPDATE PR1.1: A new music control is added to appear on the lock screen.

To unlock the screen, A simple Swipe gesture is performed from any edge of the screen.

Above screen is showing screen unlocking behaviour by Swiping from left edge.

That’s still not it. If you remember the behaviour of short cuts on the lock screen introduced with Nokia Bubbles (The Bubble Lock by Nokia Beta Labs) which later also were adapted by and added into Android Original and Custom ROMs. Well it was really a cool idea to directly launch an application from the lock screen while unlocking it.

The notifications shown on the N9’s lock screen can be dragged on either of the sides, to left or to right. This action will launch the according application to show event/notification detail.

In above screenshot, the missed call alert was dragged to the right side causing the lock screen (with other elements) slipped to left and launch the Phone application with recent calls log tab active.

Quick Application Launcher

Quick Application launcher is a single row of 4 icons which appears on a special gesture from bottom edge no matter on which application you are currently on. It can be initiated from the lock screen as well. Only Home views are, where you can only drag views or scroll panes but can’t Swipe away the views. So the Quick Application launcher will not be initiated from the Home views.

Swiping up from the bottom edge of any application and holding for a moment will reveal short cuts to the Phone, Messaging, Camera and Web (probably the frequently used applications perhaps.)

In above screen, the Quick Launcher was initiated by Swiping up the Web application. Click here to check the illustration of this behaviour.

Status Bar

Top horizontal bar is the status bar in Nokia N9’s user interface and is available throughout the interface. It’s accessible from any where in the interface whether you are in an application or on Home view. However full screen games won’t allow this status bar to appear.

The behaviour of this status bar is a bit different and not just like the ones in Android, iPhone or Symbian Belle. Only tapping once on the status bar drops down the menu containing short cuts to settings related to indicators shown on the status bar.

Permanent indicators

  • Battery
  • Time

Additional indicators, visible only when applicable

  • Operator
  • Cellular network
  • Notifications indicator
  • Transfers
  • Internet connection
  • Bluetooth
  • Location services
  • Presence
  • Silent profile
  • Ongoing/Incoming call
  • Active alarm

Music, Photos and Videos

Extremely intuitive interface in Nokia N9 doesn’t leave Music player, Photos or Videos applications unfinished.

Simple collage of album arts images in the upper half screen is actually enabled with the shortcuts to the “Albums” and a shortcut to play “All Songs” or the “Now Playing” when applicable. While the lower half screen shows the standard categories in which you can browse music and then play. The music player on the other hand is rather simple with the showing the Album art again in the upper half screen and the player controls at the lower half. The Song detail is rather more informative listing most of the common details about the media.

Photos application is also simply presents the grid view of photo thumbnails with an option to switch between groups. Tags can be edited as well as photo itself can be edited with various functions.

Editing functions like Auto-fix all, Rotate, Brightness and contrast, Crop, Resize, Red-eye eduction, Straighten, Flip are supported.

Videos application on the other side is just single scrolling pane with big thumbnails of the videos where you can play them instantly. Player control is nice and user friendly. But the related videos feature impressed. It directly fetches the related videos from YouTube when you go for the details of a video currently playing.

All of these Music, Photos, and Videos can be shared on social networks or can be sent via different mediums. We’ll discus the sharing content separately below.



Accounts & Synchronization

As a part of fully integrated user interface, each and every account Nokia N9 supports, is needed to be configured within this “Accounts” application. No matter what kind of this account is, it can be a central Nokia account to avail any of the Nokia services e.g. Nokia Store, Nokia Maps etc. It can be an email account. It can be an Active-sync or Mail for Exchange account for your private or corporate email accounts as well as to sync your contacts. It can be Facebook or twitter account. For instance you can integrate your Nokia N9 with following service.

  • Nokia Account for Nokia services, Maps, Store, Contacts Sync.
  • Google for Mail, Chat and Calls
  • Mail for Exchange for syncing mails, calendar and contacts
  • Skype for Calls and Chat
  • Facebook for Standalone facebook app as well as for chat and sharing local content and links
  • Twitter for Standalone twitter app and sharing local content or links
  • Flickr for sharing photos and videos
  • Picasa for sharing photos and videos
  • YouTube for sharing videos.
  • SIP for Voip Calls and Chat
  • Other Mail accounts – to manually work with specified interval.

I am not going to cover each of them but a few of them are worth talking about which I’ll be doing below but a few I must mention here like SIP Account. I thought that I’ll be able to configure it with our own official SIP server but it wasn’t like that. Rather it seems to be only working with public/paid Voip service which you can signup with an email address. This SIP account, while requiring me to enter an email address, didn’t work for me as we, in our private VOIP network, use a simple short code as an identity. I tried to fix it to work with it but no use. However it’s good for one having any public VOIP service.

N9 On-Screen Keyboard

If I didn’t mention about typing feasibility on Nokia N9, then it’s important to tell about how much easy or difficult it is to type on Nokia N9’s virtual keyboard before talking about Messaging, Chatting or Email in later sections below. Well in simple words typing on Nokia N9’s virtual keyboard is way much better than the typing on other Nokia devices. I can say that now it’s comparable to the on-screen keyboards in Android and iOS at some extent. Although selecting text, copying and pasting is also similar to that as in iOS and Android devices with a popped up magnifier feature. But actually still there is a room for improvement in selecting text. I’ll still prefer the ones in Android and iOS which really help providing starting and ending nodes to modify selection points.

However typing accuracy and fluency on N9’s keyboard is really impressive with a real taste of haptic feedback.

UPDATE PR1.1: Swype keyboard has also been added via software update. It wasn’t available with stock software version. Checkout the Swype keyboard in Nokia N9

I think we should stop it here talking about the user interface. In fact I don’t remember if I have missed something to tell about. What’s more important to tell about N9’s user interface is that you will miss it (I believe that) in any of the cases if you leave N9 or N9 leaves you. Whatever phone you will have whether it’s iPhone, Android, Symbian or any other Nokia Device, or whatever it is but not MeeGo Harmattan, you will be swiping all the way and double tapping on the lock screen. Then you will suddenly know that it’s not N9.

Social Networks and OS Integration

Social Networks like Twitter and Facebook applications, as already mentioned, are pre-built within Nokia N9. In fact both are bundled into the OS and you won’t need to worry about loosing them. Even if you format or clear your N9, these applications are not going to leave the device. That’s actually a good thing to be.

Usability of both of the applications are very nice when talking about navigation throughout the the network features. For example Facebook application reflects the interface somewhat the way an official Facebook application provides for the iOS and Android platforms. But overall it’s not fully featured. For example one of the most important functions, now a days, is the location sharing that is not yet supported.

Screens from standalone Facebook Application

Likewise the Twitter application is also very well designed to navigate throughout the social functions Twitter currently provides. With a simple navigational tabs at the bottom of the screen provide way to the timeline, mentions, direct messages and search. Profiles and their tweets can be explored as well as you can explore the people’s following and followers lists.

Again the location sharing was not supported also in the Twitter application initially. One more most wanted feature that is photo upload via Twitter was not possible in Nokia N9. But PR1.1 has brought the these two features into Twitter application.

UPDATE PR1.1: “Photo Upload” feature has been added to the Twitter application. I am just adding this update here after confirming from a friend on Twitter who’s luckily still testing Nokia N9. Thanks Nitish!

PR1.1 Screenshot: Credits to Nitish

If you notice in the screen shot above, there is not only one additional icon that is for photos (to upload a photo obviously) but there is another icon representing “Place Mark” on the right-bottom corner of the composing area above the keyboard, that tells the location sharing has also been added to the Twitter application. I am not sure if the same has been added to the Facebook application but I believe so.

Apart from lacking the features both the Twitter and Facebook applications are designed carefully to support friendliness.

Well these are standalone applications if need to mention, but that’s not all. When talking about integration of the social networks with other services within the platform/OS, I found the N9 really impressive. Your Twitter contacts and Facebook friends are integrated into the device contacts along with your Phonebook in a well categorised way that they are not mixed up to avoid issues for later syncing or transferring contacts in your Phonebook.

In addition to the contacts/friends integration, Facebook Chat feature is also integrated with the core Messaging user interface also with taking care of the friendliness to identify between the conversations mediums. We’ll cover that in detail in Messaging section below.

Sharing Content

Sharing content, photos, links, videos, web pages are the most common functions within social networks. In fact it is the only function on social media if look closely – “Sharing content”. Nokia N9 did it also in a very impressive way with a generic standalone sharing interface which can be initiated from any where within the platform, from any other third party application or system application e.g. web browser. By providing an option with the content to share it, made it really simple.

But it depends what content is applicable to be shared on which social network or what medium. Currently there are following possibilities you can share content in Nokia N9.

Photos can be shared or sent via following Social Networks or Mediums

  • Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, MMS, Mail, Bluetooth, NFC

Videos can be shared or sent via following Social Networks or Mediums

  • Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, MMS, Mail, Bluetooth, NFC

Links or Web Pages be shared or sent via following Social Networks or Mediums

  • Facebook, Twitter, Text Message, Mail

Unfortunately we missed the photo sharing via Twitter directly from the photo gallery, which even wasn’t added in PR1.1.

Messaging, Chatting and Email

Now let’s talk about the Messaging and Chatting. In Nokia N9 or MeeGo Harmattan, they both live together to provide as much easiness for your messaging and chatting needs as possible. I do appreciate that way. As hinted above in Social Integration section when talked about Facebook Chatting, Chatting interfaces of Facebook, Skype and Google Talk are fully integrated with the core Messaging Interface of Nokia N9 that you don’t really feel any difference. Only what you see is an icon with the tiny composing box under the conversation to inform you that what medium or social network you are using to send this message.

Conversations on Nokia N9, including Chat Facebook, Skype, Google Talk Facebook Chat Conversation on Nokia N9

System decides, like always and mostly is done in any smartphone, if it’s a Short Text Message (SMS) to be sent or a Multimedia Message (MMS), depending on the content you write or add into the message composer. For example a message with attached photo, video or music will automatically be sent out as a Multimedia Message rather than a simple Text Message.

The thing to tell is that the user interface is really simple in N9 from starting a message to write and adding smilies into it and then if needed attach multimedia content.

Message Composer in Nokia N9 Message Composer in Nokia N9 Message Composer in Nokia N9

A standalone Mail application (separate from the Messaging application) is included and work with the mail accounts you set up in Accounts application. In Nokia N9 there are total of three possible ways a Mail account can be configured, however I couldn’t find any limit that how many mail accounts you can add at maximum.

So what the three ways are they?

  • Google Accounts; that works with Google Apps accounts as well.
  • Mail for Exchange; seems to be the standard feature of today’s smartphones.
  • Other Mail Accounts; to help any mail account to sync emails with specified interval.

Configuring Google account, in my point of view, is mainly for Google Talk and Chat integration. However syncing emails with “Always-on” option is also provided.

With Mail for Exchange you can configure any public email service that supports ActiveSync protocol. e.g. you can add both Gmail or Hotmail. A good news is that you can add more than 1 exchange accounts in N9 which before was limited to add only one account in Symbian devices. Optionally, as always, you can set device contacts and calendar to be synced with Exchange.

Other Mail Account option is also provided to set up manual email delivery from any public email services. It doesn’t support “Always-on” functionality.

After experiencing with Symbian^3, Anna and Belle, now with MeeGo as well, I feel like still missing (Blackberry like) old Nokia Messaging Service that was possible with S60v3 devices e.g. E72, E52 (The real Push Email with intermediate Nokia Email servers) However both above the Google Account and Mail for Exchange account, it’s possible to configure an “Always-on” which works even better with Mail for Exchange for quickest email delivery on arrival but with Google Account I experienced some random delays over times and worked fine sometimes. By the way it works the same way as Google Sync and Mail for Exchange work with Android and iOS devices.

Web Browser

One of the major jobs of a smartphone is to help consumer, browse internet speedily and efficiently. The browser in Nokia N9 is fully powered by most of the HTML5 functions scoring up to 255. Still I can’t resist mentioning what I mostly missed in N9’s Browser was the File upload feature.

Well File System and File Reader APIs are completely not supported in N9’s browser. I missed this feature even more when Twitter wasn’t supporting to upload photos nor photos could be shared to Twitter via in-built sharing application, then I headed over to the browser to manually upload picture to twitpic and it failed me too. Thanks now that PR1.1 at least added the feature of uploading photo via Twitter App

If talking about the user interface of the web browser, then it again didn’t impress me as much as over all MeeGo/Harmattan user interface did.

  • First of all the browser can open multiple new windows as well as can open links into new windows. But it’s not tabbed browsing.
  • All the browser windows are seemed to be treated as separate threads in the system and show up separately in Open Applications view, where you can switch to other windows as well as can close a browser window.
  • What else from within the N9’s browser you can do is, to share the link or page, subscribe to its feed and add the bookmark in your Application Grid view.

Other settings for the browser can be configured by going through Home view > Settings > Applications > Web e.g. default search engine, pop-up blocker or clear cache. Well these three options are all in browser settings.

No Flash support is another lack of the browser but HTML5 video support is available in the browser so playing videos will not be a problem if the website you are visiting does deliver videos with HTML5 rather than only Flash. For example YouTube now delivers videos to HTML5 based browsers and video playback is performed by the device’s embedded player.

In a prototype tests when N9 hasn’t yet been launched, it has scored up to 272 leading any other mobile device at that time but now the Safari mobile browser in iOS5 is currently leading with 296 scores. And if counted 255 for MeeGo/N9 it would go down at 4th place after BlackBerry OS 7 at place 3rd according to the html5test.com results.

But these test results seems to be older than any recent updates as N9 with MeeGo Harmattan is currently scoring 255 while the above chart is still showing 272. There may be (or may not be) changes in other devices scores as well.

Browser Remarks

Final remarks about the browser are mixed. It worked great with fully featured JQuery and ExtJS based web applications where animations and slides are the most important features to present web pages. Desktop versions of websites also were impressive in rendering, zooming, scrolling, panning.

Rendering content was also fine. Scrolling was smooth with no hard complaints. Text re-flow can make trouble. Well overall the functions, which the browser officially supports, worked great.

Lacking the support for a few features is another thing to consider if you actually need them. No Flash support and File upload support can make it less impressive browser for me. Though a few other features like selecting and copying text are not supported. Specially to mention that the text you type in Nokia N9, as told above, can be selected, copied, pasted etc. but in the browser you can’t do the same while in form fields where I think it has to be implemented for easiness of filling up forms.

Contacts, Calling, Skype and Google Talk

Integration, Integration and Integration. Yes! it won’t be false if you say the N9 is a package with all the services integrated along inside it.

Likewise other integration (above) calling in Nokia N9 is also impressively integrated with Skype and Google Talk. Once added the accounts, Calling facility via both the Skype and Google Talk is made available to you right from your device Contacts and Phone application.

Like in following contact card “Maroof Saeed” (right most screenshot), all of the available services were automatically integrated as they were matched in Contacts/Facebook/Skype/Gtalk and his actual Mobile Number. This contact now can be called by any of the services available with a “Call Icon” and where Chat or SMS icon is available, the same can be initiated by tapping that icon.

The good thing is that it won’t mess up contacts and instead will keep them categorised (shown above). Same contacts are merged on the fly to show the services integrated to them. Only the Phonebook (actual phone contacts) will be synced or transferred to other devices when needed, which is also what I appreciated because mostly managing this integration mess up your original contacts entries.

Best part of it is that you can switch from Mobile call to Skype call (and reversely) right on the dialler pad (Phone Application). While using Skype you can call a contact in two ways.

  1. Skype credit needed to call worldwide on any mobile number or land line number
  2. Skype friends can be called via Skype-to-Skype service which is free of cost. You need of course to choose from contacts.

You might be wondering that Google Talk switching option isn’t available along with Skype? Well Skype supports calling to non-Skype destinations that you can call any mobile number or land line number via Skype, which isn’t supported currently via Google Talk officially. (If you are thinking about Google Voice service which allows you to make calls mobiles and landlines then that’s not integrated with N9. In fact it either isn’t possible with Google Talk anyway.) So to call Google Talk contacts, you need to go through Contacts rather than the dialler pad.

Productivity and Office Suite

This is one of the bad things for executives or individuals who use Word/Document or Excel Workbooks intensively as well as if they need them to be editable in their smartphone. Nokia N9 is yet not supporting to edit documents and only a viewer application is pre-built into N9 that supports viewing documents in Word, Excel, Power point, PDF and Open Document Formats. Following are a few screenshots showing documents and application features.

Yes! this is also the disappointing part of Nokia N9 for me as well. Let’s if some third party come with a solution for office documents editing.

 

Calendar, Clock and Events

Clock application in Nokia N9 is way too simple apparently as to me it looks like a demo application or a mock-up more than a final product. Lack of information and editing controls e.g. when in analog mode of clock, the full date is not displayed. Only alarms can be set through this interface as shown in middle screenshot below. digital clock looks a bit better.

I don’t know why it looks like not a finished application to me but it could have been filled with editing controls and buttons as for changing date and time you can not find an option from within this Clock application. To change date and time you need to go through Home view > Settings > Time and language > Time and date. I believe a short cut control buttons in the Clock application would have been the better option.

However setting date time with rotational controls looks nice

Calendar on the other hand does have a nice layout and design with few hidden swipe gestures. The current view (Month/day) can be navigated to next or previous by swiping left or right respectively.

Multiple calenders can be managed with colour coding. As well you can sync calendars via Mail for Exchange account

You can sync your calendars with any on-line service supporting CalDAV protocol. e.g. You can sync your calender events and entries with Google Calenders via CalDAV option in accounts

Connectivity and Multimedia Features

Well Photos, Music and Videos also come under multimedia features but has already been covered in the User Interface section above. Here we’ll discus those multimedia features as a part of connectivity as Nokia N9 also facilitates delivering media onto big screens or onto sound systems.

  • First of all 3.5 mm AV connector is the standard what Nokia has been using to support Video out feature rather than to use this 3.5mm jack only for Audio out. To avoid lengthening this post, you can check out a separate post for TV/Video Out Feature in Nokia N9.
  • Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) supports Bluetooth Stereo Audio. Also used for sharing content.
  • NFC (Near Field Communication) for easy pairing and sharing – we could review this feature at all due to some limitations, so we’ll try to arrange a set up to test NFC applications with Nokia N9 or may be some other device later but not making it a promise.
  • High-Speed USB 2.0 with micro USB connector for transferring data and charging
  • WLAN Support with 802.11b/g/n, WEP, WPA, WPA2 (AES/TKIP). Wi-Fi Hotspot is also supported and a pre-built application for that purpose comes with Nokia N9
  • For GSM communications, rather than a standard SIM card, the Micro SIM card is what you will need for to stay with Nokia N9.

Camera

Regarding the user interface of native camera application in Nokia N9 is simple but navigation is not quicker on the view finder. Leaving a shortcut to “Photos” application, there are only two shortcuts on the camera interface. One for the capture/recording and the second one is the switch to toggle between Still Photo or Video. These are aligned on the right side of the interface while on the left side there is a shortcut to go to settings. On the top side of view finder there is the scroll bar to control zoom level but the zoom level can also be controlled with the hardware volume rocker key.

At least the settings shortuct is well hosted on the left side that it tells about the current settings e.g. it shows the selected resolution, the scene mode, flash information, and face detection.

Well I am not much impressed with the main user interface on the view finder, I believe there could have been more controls over the view finder to quickly adjust with the commonly used options e.g. resolution switcher, flash switcher and macro controls can also be adjusted easily on the screen rather than going into settings and change the values and come back to view finder to see if that helps.

But yes it does capture still shots faster. I am not covering the camera results in this review and will keep it reserved for later part may be with comparison shots from other devices. It’s already been huge article to read.

Maps and Drive/Navigation

Nokia Maps and Navigation no doubt is one of the major parts of Nokia devices which no one on the globe will deny to accept its credibility over any other GPS navigation solutions, standalone or bundled with smartphones. Not to mention its functionality being most useful but one big reason to vote for Nokia Maps and Navigation is that it’s fully free for life for Nokia devices.

In Nokia N9 it deserves the same appreciation for giving the same experience while driving with more intuitive user interface.

The interface on Maps and Navigation is pretty straight forward from searching near by or far location, choosing a destination and starting the navigation. As always both the day and night modes are there in the application.

With big bottom buttons to navigate through the application as well as in-navigation controls to change views e.g. from 2D to 3D and Satellite with some more settings.

Apart from specifically the Nokia N9’s Maps & Navigation interface, I always wonder how come the Urdu voice guidance has been provided since more than a year even there is no detailed map data for Pakistan region. It’s disappointing. Yeah! I know Urdu is not only spoken in Pakistan. But it always works when you start navigation on the blank map information when there is nothing for the automated girl voice to speak for. Of course when there will be no road on the map where you are navigating through, what the girl will guide you about?

Well still I found a good option in Nokia N9 that is to share any location (Point of Interest – POI) via the Maps interface over the social networks as well as via text message or mail. I guess sharing POIs is also available in Symbian^3 or Anna but only via SMS and Email – talking about sharing any POI from within the Maps application.

Again the sharing a POI also used the same generic sharing interface that we have talked above in sharing content section. That’s really ann impressive part which I liked the most in Nokia N9. Such generic applications are what make me feel that it’s the OS or Platform which has a power to create a great machine or device.

While appreciating the Nokia Maps and Navigation, I also have my bad feelings about it. Not for this Nokia N9 but generally what I feel when seeing Nokia Maps service in Pakistan.

About maps and navigation I won’t praise as much as people around the world do for Nokia Maps and Navigations. Because here in Pakistan Nokia Maps are really of no use till date. Even though there are a few POIs local to Pakistan listed in the Nokia Maps services, I don’t really know how Nokia couldn’t manage to bring detailed Nokia Maps data for Pakistan. Even when NAVTEQ has brought street level maps data for many Pakistani cities then why Nokia still couldn’t bring them live to its devices.

I really hope Nokia will be doing something for this issue because GPS navigation has been and still being adapted here in Pakistan and consumers do appreciate the existing navigation solutions to support their easy drive. I believe Nokia Maps will give the hard competition to existing services here which are paid and that’s the only reason for not a huge strength of consumers use that.

Store, Applications and Games

If not already you have done, then now you need to go and read another post about pre-built applications which came with Nokia N9. However following are the list of applications and games which you will get just out-of-the-box with your new Nokia N9.

  • Facebook, Twitter, Skype: I am sure you haven’t yet forget the detailed information I have provided above about these standalone applications which came with Nokia N9 in as much integrated form as you can’t resist appreciating.
  • Foursquare: Foursqaure application is pre-installed into Nokia N9 but it’s the official Foursquare application from its original developers unlike above Facebook, Twitter or Skype which were developed by Nokia developers in-house.

  • Joikuspot Wi-Fi tethering: Don’t tell me that you won’t need such stuff :) Consumers do want it all they way and try to get as much solutions as they can. Wi-Fi hotspot application is pre-built in Nokia N9 which gives you the option to share your data connection over the Wi-Fi network.
  • Accuweather: A healthy application (even though not with great detail) for weather reports, as also an important service or application, is pre-built into the Nokia N9.
  • Swype: The most appreciated keyboard type in new smartphones that has been provided for Android and Symbian, is also has been the native support within Nokia N9. (Swype is the additional add-on support for Nokia N9 that came after upgrading to PR1.1)
  • Track and Protect: Track and Protect is the anti-theft service that provides information about lost devices as much as up to the location based coordinates. The application is come pre-installed into Nokia N9. Though you may need to purchase the service license separately.
  • Games: Galaxy on Fire 2, Real Golf, Angry Birds Magic and Need for Speed Shift HD are the games which you won’t need to go to store, purchase and download. These games also come pre-installed into the Nokia N9 and are ready to play instantly.
  • Other applications: I guess I already have explained a lot about these applications but just for a review purpose, have them rewind as there are a few other little utility applications so that you wont doubt about their availability in Nokia N9. Let’s start from Mail, video player, Maps and Drive/Navigation, Feeds, search, calculator, Calendar, Contacts, music player, web browser, messaging, photos, photo editor, Nokia Store.

More apps available at Nokia Store, including fMobi, 4squick, Sports Tracker, a few more games e.g. Bejewelled etc.

Finally the Nokia Link is not the application for N9 but a support for the computer connectivity that will be installed on PC or Mac for easily syncing photos, music and videos with your Nokia N9. You can read more about Nokia Link here.

Final Words and Ranking Lists:

If you ask me to rate Nokia N9 on the scale of 5, then I won’t mind about rating it 4 out of 5 and only -1 due to the not as much range of applications as compared to others. But overall experience with Nokia N9 is as much unique as I seriously don’t think that I’ll get on any other device from any Manufacturer including Android or iOS. The most important role in Nokia N9 to make it a perfect out-of-the-box device is its user interface. And if I list the features in an order of what I like the most will be go down as.

Without categorising a special feature of Nokia devices.

Best:

  1. User Interface till date (with no offence to other devices).
  2. Social integration I’ve ever experienced along with Messaging and Chatting.
  3. Calling and Chatting integration of GSM calling with Google Talk and Skype.
  4. Integration of sharing content via a well generic interface.
  5. Typing on an On-Screen Keyboard or on Swype keyboard. (Only typing. Not covering user friendly features)
  6. Single interface for handling Accounts and Synchronisation.
  7. Connectivity options at all.
  8. Most of the useful applications pre-built into Nokia N9 as a part of the core OS as well as added applications.
  9. One and only part of N9 is the Browser which I can list in all of the three lists. In “Best” list, is due to that it can really load pages instantly and can render them impressively as well as the scrolling is the smoother part of the browser. Wait to see why I listed in my “Good” and “Average” lists as well.

Good:

  1. Low volume in Voice Calling but clear. Really need to increase the volume while in voice call.
  2. Typing, being my one of the best experiences in N9, supports lesser on-screen features to make it a good user friendly keyboard like the competitive keyboards were already providing. As already told about lesser options to edit text in browser.
  3. Browser itself is however good in rendering and presenting the web pages, in fact at the 2nd place gaining the most html5test score, is having a less interactive user interface with less options of selecting texts on the page and even in the text fields.
  4. Power Consumption of Nokia N9 with average daily use is good. I believe a battery lesser than 1450mAh capacity would have dropped Nokia N9 from this “Good” list. It does the job for your whole day with one full charge if you use it as primary device. What you will do the with it the whole day? Calling, Text Messaging, Browsing, Facebook and Twitter chatting, May be Google Talk and Skype etc? Well that’s fine with it but it doesn’t mean you keep doing all that for 24 hours in the day. I did mention the normal/regular use as a primary device with all the other things you do in your real life apart from getting into your phone :)

Average:

  1. Nokia Maps (only for Pakistan). It surely will be in my “Best” list if there were the great (or least) set of detailed maps data for Pakistan.
  2. Not much but a good set of application range is available over Nokia Store to serve Nokia N9’s users.
  3. I’ll add N9’s Browser also in my most lesser impressive list as well as in above “Good” list due to lacking the support for Flash and my mostly used function which is to upload files via the browser.

Bad:

  1. No Office Documents Editing Support.

Making a decision: To buy? or not to buy?

In simple “The most amazing phone, you will EVER buy”. If you read reviews on-line regularly then you surely know why did I state something like that.

  • Nokia N9 may not be the best phone for you if you truly concern about the wide range of applications availability over the Nokia Store. And you even want more than the application support which have been mentioned above in the review. But just for the concerns, I must tell you that there is an growing number of applications being developed for Nokia N9. Also check here.
  • If you have doubts if it will have future support for the updates. You might need to re-consider that for how long you usually keep a device and then move on with new ones? Anyway Nokia has planned a support-full future for this and only MeeGo device.
  • If you consider the price being too high for it. Well there is a big confusion when people usually compare prices of the devices. You must compare prices of two contract based carrier locked phones or two unlocked phones but do not compare an unlocked and locked phone. For example Nokia N9 costing 480 Euro (or around $650 USD) for 16GB variant is just same in the price with an unlocked iPhone 4S which is for $649 USD. Where as 64GB variant of N9 costing 560 Euro (around $755 USD) is way lower price than the 64GB iPhone 4S which is for $850 USD. Second; Nokia ships way more devices than any other manufacturer does, hence you get pretty good deals in a few later days. N9 is not going to have competition I believe in near future.
  • If you are an office guy and use Word, Excel documents editing on your phone then be informed that it’s not currently supported out-of-the-box in Nokia N9. In fact I didn’t find any third party solution as well.

Along with a few “Not to buy N9” reasons above and some quick concerns to think over, there are most things one will like to buy N9. Well for those, you can just read a section above where I’ve put my Ranking lists for N9 in different categories.

The packed Nokia N9 gives a lot out-of-the-box applications and services as already have told. But once again you must consider the situation of the availability of applications and HD games which currently lack in quantity. If you really want those, you shouldn’t buy Nokia N9.

Now is the time to have a feedback on that such a long and detailed review for Nokia N9. Would you like to tell your opinions in the comment box below? I’ll really like to have your input.

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