Nokia's N9, MeeGo and all that: A Nokia N9 review of sorts
I recently had the chance to spend some quality time with the Nokia N9: The glittering debut and sad curtain close for the Finnish phone company's MeeGo efforts. As you would expect from a flagship Nokia handset, it's extremely well-built, with a lovely 'all-screen design' (there are no buttons on the front of the device, just a power button and volume controls on the right-hand side).
After the design, the next most noteworthy thing about the N9 is its screen: It looks good enough to eat. It looks significantly better than the Samsung Galaxy S II's display, and that's saying something.
But really, the most interesting feature of the Nokia N9 was always going to be MeeGo. And it's here things just feel a little, well, flat. I wanted to like MeeGo — I was a big fan of the Intel-sponsored netbook MeeGo UX — but to be frank I was underwhelmed by MeeGo on the N9.
It made me question whether I'm feeling a little jaded by this tech writing thing; I mean, normally I'm the kind of sad person who likes to play with new operating systems. And MeeGo is definitely not without its positives. It's extremely simple to use (one you adjust to there being no physical controls to aid navigation). And then there's that multitasking: One of the home screens is dedicated to displaying windows of running apps, and you can easily switch to or close them. It's a great system. And, yes, multitasking on smartphones is a great thing, despite what Apple devotees might argue.
But overall I was just… unexcited. And that goes for the N9 experience as a whole: It's a nice phone, but it's not spectacular. The hardware is decent, although it often feels just the slightest bit sluggish, perhaps due to the single core CPU.
The on-screen keyboard is decent enough (though I prefer the one on my HTC Desire HD), and, despite — let's face it — this being a niche platform, there are most of the usual suspects available when it comes to apps.
Of course, none of this will matter to the Nokia fanboys whatsoever. Maybe somewhat surprisingly given Nokia is one of the least sexy tech brands I know, they a) exist and b) are quite rabid. Here is a sample of some of the user comments left on the N9 review by my colleague Ross Catanzariti (I should point out, his is a somewhat more serious and comprehensive write-up of the phone):
I didn't like the review too much and is not consistent e.g. with my experience of battery time etc. Review didn't seem very objective or thorough.
LOVE THE STAR RATINGS FROM THE EXPERTS 3.5 STARS. I SUPPOSE THE EXPERTS ALL OWN I FOSS PHONES. THE NOKIA N9 IS A VERY GOOD PHONE AND YOU CAN AT LEAST SHARE DATA WITH OTHER PHONES. TRY DOING THAT WITH A IPHONE IF THE OTHER PHONE IS NOT IPHONE.
Coolest phone atm! Wonderful. No need for 4S now for me.
Nokia N9 is just the best phone Nokia has in his history, it was developed with the consumer in mind and not just as a consumer gadget.
Well I can confirm that the N9 is indeed the best phone Nokia has made in its history. But let's face it: Recent years have hardly been jam-packed with great Nokia phones. As Ross said to me the other day (and repeats in his review) — the N9 would have been one of the best phones ever, and maybe a game-changer. If it came out a couple of years ago.
Still it's sad to see that this appears to be the end of the road for MeeGo; particularly given that if I had to choose between MeeGo and Windows Phone I would definitely go with the former. It's a decent interface and platform, and it definitely had potential. For myself, however, I'm happy enough with Android for now and — like I said — there just isn't a lot to get excited about. So suck it, fanboys.
Addendum: I have to admit, the simplicity of MeeGo's interface is pretty appealing. Maybe I'm just too much of a geek to appreciate it properly.