Review: Nokia N9

In a world of metal and plastic smartphones, the polycarbonate unibody of the Nokia N9 is like a fashion model among marathon runners.

NameSmartphone: Nokia N9
At a glance:Beautiful design, robust polycarbonate body and gorilla glass,Shockingly low number of compatible apps,Speedy and responsive
Summary:The best looking and fastest zombie product we’ve ever laid eyes on.

In a world of metal and plastic smartphones, the polycarbonate unibody of the Nokia N9 is like a fashion model among marathon runners. Yes, they’re all pretty slim, but only one is going to turn heads based on looks alone.

That’s shallow, but lets be clear, the lush good looks of the Nokia N9 invite shallowness. And covetousness, of the sort that will have you stroking it and exclaiming: “my precious!” We haven’t yet run into anyone who, upon gazing at its 3.9-inch jewel-bright AMOLED screen and crisp MeeGo icons, hasn’t cooed indulgently.

If I sound as though I’m getting stratospheric with the purple prose, never fear, we’ll come crashing to earth soon enough. But not just yet.

As with Nokia’s previous smartphones, the hardware in general is fantastic. The 8MP camera produces images as crisp and bright as those from the iPhone 4 (though we haven’t compared it to the iPhone 4S). It can record 720p video at 27fps, and the lens is excellent in low light.

The processor, while only single core, is a 1GHz A8, with plenty of speed – and 1GB RAM – to run the streamlined MeeGo interface. Our model came with 16GB of onboard storage, and you can opt for up to 64GB, should you have a large music library – lets be honest here, it’s going to be hard to find enough apps to fill that capacity. The screen is covered by Gorilla Glass for extra protection, and altogether it’s a robust device, unlikely to damage easily. Sound quality is good, and reception on Vodafone was very good, although on 2degrees is was less stellar.

You can add a microSIM through a sliding opening at the top of the phone: a nice touch, given that you can’t otherwise access the innards of the N9. Similarly, the pop-out flap for the microUSB power cable is a nice touch.

MeeGo is surprisingly lightweight as an operating system. Moving between screens uses a combination of swipes – there are no buttons here to mar the front of the N9. Double-tap to wake the phone, swipe up to show the apps, or stroke back and forth between screens within an app. It’s simple, straightforward and occasionally utterly befuddling. Try finding an easy way to show all the photos in the gallery once you’re viewing a single photo, for example, and you’ll gain a few frown lines before you figure it out. Having said that, getting used to it, even for someone as button-dependent as my Android-loving self, was rapid. It’s fast, too. Even maps, which took a little while to load, once loaded allow you to zoom in and out or pan incredibly fast. Even compared to my regular HTC sensation, which usually earns ‘ohh’s of praise for its swift mapping, the N9 is zippy.

I fell in love with the haptic response of the keyboard. It may be tiny, but its responsiveness made typing feel fun, as well as accurate.

But the N9 has flaws. A number of them.

Lets start with the obvious one: there are virtually no apps. I normally want to add a fitness app, some games, perhaps well-used productivity tools, such as a Pomodoro app, Evernote, SpringPad and a nice to-do list manager. With MeeGo, I was lucky to be able to get Angry Birds. It’s not that I’m dependent upon a specific set of apps, per se, but the lack of familiar, very useful favourites is exceedingly disappointing. My best advice to anyone considering the N9 as a phone would be to try every app that’s preinstalled, and if that isn’t sufficient for you, head elsewhere for your smartphone. You should assume that you’ll have to rely on that basic selection for some time, if not forever. We’d give the N9 an extra point, if not more, if it had apps and an ecosystem of accessories to go with it.

Beyond that, there’s at least one other flaw which is similarly deal-breaking for a certain subset of users: there’s no Adobe Flash support.

I admit, I want one purely based on its lush, droolworthy design, but for anyone willing to wait two months, you can have its identical twin with a Windows Phone OS and far more functionality. Just don’t expect it to perform so exquisitely.

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Tags smartphonereviewnokia n9MicrosoftNokiawindows phone 7meegomobile

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Zara Baxter

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