Sunday, December 6, 2009

Struck by Maemo - A first look into the N900

The N900 is Nokia's awaited new mobile phone, although the super corporation markets the phone as a mobile computer. Rightly so as it is a continuation in Nokia's internet tablet line, but the ability to make normal phone calls on the device has raised the interest of the device and brought it closer to a mass market. Another attention raising fact about the N900 is the Maemo 5 operating system that's never been seen before on a Nokia mobile phone. The selection of Mameo 5 as the OS is driving people to declare the previous Nokia phone OS, Symbian dead. Here are some of my initial thoughts on the device.
This preview was written on the N900.

The first thing I noted about the N900 was its hefty weight. As a mobile salesperson I've had the chance to try out a number of prototypes (and even dummy-phone mock ups of the device) and it certainly is larger and heavier than my previous device, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Every time I got to use the device I felt the size justified, however.

Maemo 5 is a wonderful OS that impresses and delivers above all functionality and pleasing design. In my experience this the first Nokia design in a while that looks as nice as it feels, while providing all those functions and features you (don't) need.

Setting up my e-mail, IM clients and contacts was a breeze. In addition to that, it was fun. The e-mail application in Maemo 5 is very simple, neat and sits in perfectly with other parts of the OS. In comparisant to the Nokia Email client that looked OK, but really stood out from the general UI this was a pleasant surprise. Nokia's Symbian phones had the ability to set up your e-mail inboxes in the same menu as your SMS inbox was, but I never got along with this feature.

I spiced up my contacts by downloading Hermes, a client that will pull your friends' Profile pictures from Facebook and attach them to your contacts. This way every time they call, you'll see their image. This simplified things for me in the sense that before I used to pull my friends pictures down from Facebook manually (and into my phone's limited memory, ugh!) and assign them to contacts. What would result was my friends (especially the female kind) noting that my image of them was "so last month, I look terrible" that from now on, I'll let "them" update their images on my phone for me. :)

Another excellent thing about the N900 is the integration of SMS, e-mail, Skype and other IM accounts directly into the system. Now when I open my contacts, I can see their MSN and Skype status and decide to call them, Skype them or IM them with one click. I am determined to move more and more of my mobile traffic to be covered by my data plan.

The camera in the N900 is superb as well. I've never had a mobile camera this good and as I don't own a seperate pocket camera, I don't think I'll ever l get one now. Sure, it is a bit sensitive about the surroundings being too dark, but pictures turn out alot better than on the 5800, let me assure you.

The web browser is also very good, as expected. Being an internet tablet the browser is the center piece of the whole device. Based on Mozilla Firefox it's light, fast and gets out of your way when you surf. You can make all borders dissappear and have only the webpage on the screen. What I like to do is scroll the webpage by using the keyboard. This way no borders or tool icons will get in the way if I'm simply reading the webpage. The web browsing experience on the N900 is superb.

What's become apparent while writing this review is the quality of the keyboard. It has a wonderful click to it and pretty much all computer short cuts (such as ctrl-c, ctrl-x...) all work just like you're used to. With the easy e-mail integration apps for taking notes and sending them, this truly is a mobile computer with great communication capabilitites.

The media player in the N900 is my biggest gripe, as it doesn't quite function with the stability and usability I had hoped for. Missing is an equaliser, although sound quality is very good in the device. Using my old SD card from my 5800XM, the device scrambles up my songs into a somewhat random order, where as everything wes perfectly alligned on my previous device. I think that I just need to understand how it puts my songs into order, however. At the moment if you connect your N900 to your PC, there's no way to browse the contents of the memory card. This is probably due to lack of full-out support for the device in Nokia PC and Ovi suites. Really waiting for this to be fixed!

There are some rough bits to Maemo 5 still, however and as I'm typing this the device has received no updates, and therefor I feel this is only the beginning. Scheduled for release is a software update addressing the small bugs I've encountered I'm sure, and we're still waiting for the arrival of Qt.

If you want a phone that will enable you to communicate on the go, you don't mind the size and want to be part of something completely new for Nokia, the N900 is your choice.

© Christopher Peake 2009

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