At the time the N9 was released most “technology” writers dismissed it pretty quickly since it was to be the only Meego device. In my opinion, as a result it never received the reviews it deserved, though a few technophiles have written very favourably about the N9 and the Meego OS.
When I bought my Nokia E7 I seriously considered the N9, the deciding factor was the flip out keyboard on the E7. While I'm very happy with the E7 I've still had a hankering to try out the N9 with its Meego OS. Especially knowing that there are developments of Meego derivatives taking place.
Recently I decided if I could get an N9 for a reasonable price I would buy one. Considering I was buying it more to have a 'look see' than as my full time phone I set a budget of no more than $400 for brand new or no more than $250 second hand, $250 being about 60% of the going price brand new.
I started looking on Trade Me to see what was out there. One thing I quickly learned was most people selling second hand had a grossly inflated opinion on what a second hand phone was worth. Many were expecting more than the current brand new price. Who is going to pay that when they can get a brand spanking new one out of the box along with a warranty? In the end patience paid off and I picked up a brand new one as a run out model for a very very good price.
I've had the phone a well over a month now and have had a good chance to form impressions about the phone. Like any device there's the good and the bad. Mostly it's good, very good in fact.
I'll get the bad out of the way first. As I have already mentioned the main reason I bought the E7 was the fold out physical keyboard. Coupled with this was the ability to created and edit documents. The N9 does not have a physical keyboard this is a major drawback for me. Does anyone know of a Nokia 950 that needs a good home? The 950 is the Meego version of the E7.
While the N9 does have a very good document viewer there is currently no document editor/creator for the N9, this is also a big drawback for me.
The other minor issue is some apps (I'm thinking Maps and Drive, Sportstracker here ) need a bit more polish, though to be fair there's not much imcentive for development in this regard since Stephen Elop killed off Meego's future with Nokia. Having said that there is a good selection of slick apps with plenty of individuals supporting the Meego OS. There's even a New Zealand earthquake app in the Nokia Store.
After reading what I've written so far you might be wondering was the N9 worth the money. In my mind it certainly is. I started off using the N9 thinking I'd put the sim card in for a week or so then just use it from time to time. That was over 6 weeks ago and the sim has been in the N9 the whole time.
The Meego OS is nice to use and very smooth with some very nice touchs. Like any OS there are differences that mean some things don't happen the way you are used to but overall I think Meego is very good, especially for an OS that was brand new and has only had one update. What other OS has been as bug free and well featured from day one. No doubt some of the features I’ll mention here are not unique to the N9 or Meego, I mention them to as much show what Meego and/or the N9 can do.
Out of the box it's well featured, a fully featured SMS with a good cut and paste function (which also allows cutting and pasting from webpages, notes and documents), a very good document reader, the usual good music and video players as we’ve come to expect from Nokia, plus a photo editor, WiFi hotspot, Skype, Facebook and Twitter apps for example, pius the obligatory games like Need for Speed and Angry Birds.
I mentioned the nice touches earlier. For example the calendar icon on the apps screen shows the current date not just any number, the open apps not currently in use show on a separate screen, they are live in this state, e.g. the clock shows the current time. The open apps screen can have a large number of apps open, these can be arranged to show 4 or 9 apps at one time and then scrolling up or down to see other open apps. The change between 4 or 9 being achieved by pinching or zooming with two fingers on the screen.
There's been a bit of thought gone into how things work and are displayed. The alarm setting procedure is quite clever. There is two concentric circles representing the face of a clock, one for hours one for minutes, each circle has a 'bubble' which shows the selected hour or minute. To set the alarm you drag the 'bubble' to the desired time. Very nifty. Once an alarm has been set it is kept in a list for future use, this is very handy for as I have a variety of wake up times with my job.
There's some other nice touches. When you scroll by touching on the right of the screen in contacts or email a small 'window' appears and shows the letter of the alphabet for the first letter of the contacts name or the date of the emails allowing a fast scroll to quickly locate the name or item. Theres also another clever oprion, by 'pulling' down at the top of the screen in email or messages a search box appears. In the case of the email search typing in anything associated with the content of the email will return a list of emails with that content.
There is also the very good Nokia search function that will search the phone for anything you may be looking for plus also use Google as well
Meego has some similarities to WebOS, and I guess there's no surprise there since one of the WebOS team worked on the Meego project at Nokia. The swipe across the screen action to change screens is very similar to Nokia Belle and some other OS's. The swipe down to close an app works very well and is very easy to become used too, this is very much like the the swipe up to close on WebOS along with the "wooshing" sound that accompanies the closing action.
There's only three buttons soft or physical, and they are located on the right hand side of the phone. There's the Lock/Unlock button and the Vol Up/Down buttons. Unfortunately there's no dedicated camera button. As well as using the Lock/Unlock button a double tap on the screen also unlocks the phone
Also included out of the box is the Swype keyboard. This has taken a bit of getting used to and it is slowly growing on me. It's a bit like adapting to predictive text. If you wish to change back to the traditonal input keyboard all you do is swipe from left or right in the keyboard area of the screen and the other keyboard moves into view. No need to go into a menu to make the change. The ability to change inputs like this was discovered by accident
The more I use the phone the more hidden features I find. In the first few days of use I was trying to increase the text and ring tone volumes. I couldn't find a menu option, there was a speaker volume which did help somewhat but didn't do the job properly. A google search showed other N9 owners were having the same issue. There were a few suggestion and possible work arounds but no real solutions.
It seemed that there was no way to properly control the tone volumes then pretty much by accident I found the solution. Unlike other Nokias there isn't the choice of profiles like Silent, Meeting, Normal etc. However there are three settings or profiles, Silent, Beep and Ringing which are accessed by tapping at the top of the screen to open a "status" screen. To activate the desired profile you tap the appropriate "button", I eventually discovered by accident that the Ringing profile "button" is also a slider bar where you set the desired ringing volume. Problem solved!!!
The phone it self is a well designed, well made and great looking device, it feels great to hold, being a good size and weight and not particularly thick. Also included with the phone was a cover, which is about the best fitting cover I have seen for any phone, it's almost impossible to tell there's a cover on the phone. I wasn't going to bother with a case either except one came with the phone and I decided to make us of it. The polycarbonate body seems to be up to job of taking the knocks and bangs of everyday use and still look great without the need for a case.
I've decided not to bother withn a screen protector especially due to the curved screen and the fact that you swipe from the screen edges and I feel a protector would detract from the user experience.
As I continue to use the phone I’ll put more comments on here about my impressions but for now I’ve decide to post what I’ve written so far. Also I’d be interested to read what other N9 owners think of this rather unique smartphone.