Review : Nokia N9 – One Of Its Kind

Introduction

When we first heard about Nokia N9 through rumors and saw it through leaked images we’re so excited to have our hands on it. A phone with lots of potential to be a true flagship for the Finnish company but unfortunately it’s like a son who got thrown under the bus by his own mother. The phone glares through every aspect, be it design or the OS. It’s going to be the only one of its kind, forever. Let’s keep the tragedy aside and focus on the review.  So before we move ahead have a look at its specs,

  •  1GHz ARM Cortex A-8 processor,PowerVR SGX530 GPU
  •  1 GB RAM, 16 or 64 GB mass memory (depending upon the variant)
  • 3.9″ AMOLED ClearBlack display with Curved Glass, Corning Gorilla Glass, FWGA(854×480) Resolution
  •  8 MP Auto Focus camera, Carl-Zeiss optics, Dual LED flash,
  • Unibody Polycarbonate Construction
  • Quadband GSM/EDGE, Pentaband WCDMA (3G)
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP, NFC
  • MeeGo 1.2 (Harmattan), Full Touch only phone

Design:

This is the most important aspect of the N9 for which it’s been praised from the moment Nokia announced it. The design of the N9 is like never ever seen in mobile industry. It’s tough, solid yet attractive and beautiful. The phone is made up of polycarbonate and it’s a unibody construction. That is there are no separable parts of the body except for the microSIM card slot and microUSB port door. The color is mixed with the material of the phone itself instead of painting it from outside. The benefit of this is that it becomes somewhat scratch resistant and any scratch, if you manage to get one, is barely visible.

The another aspect of this design is the display and the glass above it. There’s no space between the display and the protective glass. So when you see things from some angle it feels like they are printed on the glass itself. This gives the lively feel to the experience. Nokia has used the scratch resistant ‘Gorilla’  glass from the now well known brand Corning. This glass has especially been curved to complement the gesture based UI. The curves act like guides to your fingers. Additionally Nokia has added a polarization layer to the display, ‘ClearBlackDisplay’ in their terms. This polarization boosts the visibility of the already great display. Even in strong daylight everything on display remains perfectly visible. The AMOLED display has good contrast and just like any other AMOLED display it renders blacks perfectly and offers great viewing angles. Plus the resolution is also higehest we’ve ever seen on Nokia phones. Lately they have been using nHD resolution on all size of displays like ‘one size fits them all’. This new resolution is crispier and gives more clarity to on-screen objects.

 

Moving ahead there isn’t much on the exterior of the phone which needs explanation. The right side of the phone houses the only hardware keys of the phone. There’s a volume rocker and a power/lock key and a 3.5mm audio jack on the right side.

Power/lock key and Volume Rocker

 

While on the top there’s a microSIM card slot as well as microUSB slot. Your normal size SIM card won’t work here so you’ll either need to cut it using a special cutter or get the new microSIM from your operators. Few operators have started keeping microSIMs now so we guess you should get one easily. On the front of the phone, except for the display which we discussed earlier, there’s a ambient light sensor and proximity sensor which sit together at the top right corner. The earpiece is situated above the Nokia logo on the phone. The front camera is situated at the bottom right corner. The front camera also boasts VGA resolution.

Top of the N9.MicroSIM tray,microUSB port and 3.5mm jack
Earpiece,Ambient and Proximity Sensors
Front Camera
Notification LED

 

The left side of the phone is completely bare while there’s a loudspeaker grill at the bottom. For the matter of fact we couldn’t find the microphone anywhere on the phone so our closest guess would be that it’s inside the loudspeaker grill. The back of the phone boasts 8 MP Carl-Zeiss camera and dual LED flash. There’s a secondary microphone very closely located near the LED flash for active noise cancellation.

Bare left side of N9
Back of the N9
8MP Carl Zeiss Camera,Dual LED Flash

Hardware:

At the heart of this phone is the ARM Cortex-A8 processor running at 1GHz clock speed and it is complemented by 1GB of RAM which is again highest on Nokia smartphones. The graphics department is handled by the PowerVR SGx530 GPU which does the job perfectly. The handset also boasts the pentaband WCDMA (3G) radio which makes it a true globetrotter.

The OS and the User Interface:

The Nokia N9 runs on the MeeGo which is a Linux based OS. MeeGo though sounds new it’s not the completely new concept.MeeGo is the child of two companies whose marriage didn’t last long to say. Nokia already had their Linux based OS and the user interface Maemo. We saw the Maemo 5 running on the Nokia N900. And Intel was developing their own Linux based OS Moblin. Both the companies decided to merge their OSes in each other and MeeGo was given a birth. While it retains the Linux as its backbone, both the user interface and user experience are raised to such levels which no other OS/company has been able to attain. The UI is created with maximum simplicity in the mind. There’s no pressing keys to navigate and open menus or switch applications. All things are controlled by the gestures. Even unlocking the phone works without any hardware key, that is ,you just need to tap twice on the lock-screen and it unlocks the phone and then you need push away the screen which you there.

The Lockscreen.Swiping it in any direction will unlcok the phone.

All you get as a part of the UI is a set of three panes which have different functions associated to them. The main menu is at the center of the three.  When you’re in main menu and swipe from the left to right it takes you to the feeds screen. Here you can see all your feeds from Facebook and Twitter. It also notifies you if you have new mails or missed calls in a separate notification area. This screen also shows current date and weather. If you again swipe from left to right you’ll reach the third screen which shows open applications or just call it the task manager.  Here you can see all your apps in either 2×2 or 3×3 grid. You can end each app individually or all at once.

 

You can put the currently open app in the background by swiping from three directions except from the top. Swiping down from the top when an app is running will simply close it.

The concept of the notification bar has become so popular and it’s useful too even MeeGo has got one for itself. At first the notification bar of MeeGo and that of Symbian Belle look similar but the one in MeeGo uses different logic. It’s not pull bit-by-bit as it is in Belle rather it’s ‘tap-to-open’ and ‘tap-to-close’ concept, similar to the bada OS. There are toggles for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi/Internet are available but they are also different than their Symbian counterparts. When closed, notification bar has indicators for 3G/GSM networks,battery level, Wi-Fi, new emails and few others along with the clock at the end. Opening up the notification bar gives you more control. Apart from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth you can quickly change the profile or increase or decrease the ringing and general volume. You can also control your availability on chat networks like GTalk and Skype and Facebook as well.

Performance:

Given its hardware specification, one would expect N9 to run flawlessely and smoothly. But in our case it showed many hiccups. It would slow down noticeably when there were many apps open in background. Still the internet browsing experience even with heavy sites was good. Our N9 also dropped  regular mobile network very frequently and couldn’t connect again until we re-inserted the SIM card. We guess all these has more to do with software than hardware. The battery life was another issue. The battery lives less than 24hrs once fully charged with moderate usage, you can activate the power saving mode though.