Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Nokia N900 Unlocked Phone/Mobile Computer with 3.5-Inch Touchscreen, QWERTY, 5 MP Camera, Maemo Browser, 32 GB--U.S. Version with Full Warranty N900 Unlocked Phone/Mobile Computer with 3.5-Inch Touchscreen, QWERTY, 5 MP Camera, Maemo Browser, 32 GB--U.S. Version with Full Warranty

I received my n900 just a few days ago from Nokia USA. For the purposes of this review, I will compare it to my previous phone, the HTC G1. My opinions are solely based on the user experiences in the past days with the n900, and since I've never owned an iphone, I will not compare it to such.

Physical layout:
  • The N900 is a pretty beefy phone, and rightfully so. While having some heft to it, the n900 is solid and well-built. The black metal rim is a nice touch without being too gaudy. The slide is not spring-assisted but gives a nice click upon opening and closing. I have not noticed any creaks or wobbles from the screen. Few have complained about the back being hard to open. Although true, I rather have that with the peace of mind that the battery won't pop out if I dropped it (God forbid)! the n900 is of comparable size to the G1, albeit being slightly thicker, and not a problem for me.
  • I don't really understand all the fuss about resistive and capacitive screens. The n900's screen is gorgeous and is incredibly brilliant. There is a little 'give' to the screen, but I've yet to have problems with it. The screen is quite responsive and supports kinetic scrolling. I did have some difficulty clicking on small links in the browser, but that's because your index finger isn't exactly the most accurate pointing device. This was easily solved by zooming in (more on that later).
  • The keyboard is pretty good. It is a different experience coming from the G1 (as you have to type with the 'chin' in the way on your right hand) so naturally, it felt better. The keys have a grippy rubberized texture feel to them, and although the buttons are smooshed next to each other, (like a real keyboard) they have good response. I do miss the 5-row keyboard on the G1, and I don't understand why the n900's screen doesn't open up a bit more. For those with large hands, it might be a little uncomfortable. However, one plus for the n900 is that my thumbs don't have to travel as far to type.
  • I love that the placement of the speakers are on the sides of the phone, as opposed to the back on the G1. I do a lot of talking on speakerphone, and so I'm not forced to flip it upside down during a call. Sound quality is good and the speakers are decent.

Maemo 5/ Software
  • This is the ultimate customization OS. When they meant open source, they really meant it. The 4 desktops make things a lot easier to navigate. For example, one page is devoted to my common phone contacts, another utility apps, the third has bookmarks to frequent sites (the homepages of those links are previewed on the desktop, fyi), and so forth.
  • The way Maemo multitasks is ingenious. The "overview" page where you see all your actively running programs makes navigating between windows and programs very easy and efficient. One thing to note is that you have the ability to close out any of those windows upon your choosing, as opposed to the G1 where the 6 app limit neither allowed to you open more nor shut them down, making it very sluggish, especially during critical times (ie texting someone directions while running gps).
  • SMS (called conversations in Maemo) is pretty similar to the G1, but has one added step - conversations either in text or IM by the same person are displayed in the same window. The ability to have the other person's contact image in the text box (that is if you set one up for that person) is a nice touch. I personally don't care about MMS, so no gripes there.
  • The email client is pretty decent, I set up my gmail account with a few simple steps, but it isn't nearly as accessible as the gmail app on the G1. For example, I haven't found a way to delete an incoming email when it first comes in. I have to leave the letter, go into the inbox, back into the email, then delete it.
  • Browsing experience is comparable to the pc, and is nothing short of awesome. Full flash means I can access full youtube pages, and among others. I think the "swirling zoom" gesture is pretty neat, and helps me to click on the smaller links. I figured out that using your index to swirl zoom produces the best results. Alternatively, you can double click the screen or use the volume rocker. Going to previous pages not only allows you to go to the last page, but scroll through the entire history of that window. Neat.
  • Applications-wise, there are not many out there, but I'm certain many will be out soon. You can also access the Maemo repositories for more (google it) but be careful as many of them are still in development and are potentially dangerous to your phone. Noteworthy apps include Hermes (connects your social sites, like facebook to your contacts so you get contact phones, birthdates, etc) and Qik (live streaming recording).

  • Fast, fast, fast. Need I say more?
  • No hang ups yet, since I can close apps at my own will.
  • The camera is good, that is for a 5mp phone camera. It will never compare to a dedicated camera, but is more than effective for quick shots to upload on facebook.
  • The FM transmitter is a great add-on. Now I can share songs without having to look for an aux cable.
  • Battery life seems to last a little over a day with some text and internet. Wifi is on all the time when I'm at home. My G1 would be down to around 70% by noon.

Of course, no phone/mobile device is perfect. Here are some things that came to my attention:
  • The volume rocker is on the right side (in portrait), meaning it is nearly impossible to use as a zoom when the screen is up. Same goes for the lock switch, which is on the bottom (in landscape). Would have been much better on the sides, as it would be easier to lock after a phone call, for example.
  • Copy and paste is kinda sporadic. While you can copy all you want on webpages, I couldn't copy a phone number from one contact to another in the phonebook.
  • The stand is nice, but it swings out way too deep and feels a bit too weak. I'm afraid I'll break it someday.
  • *Little portrait support as of now, but I think it'll be fixed soon.

So there you have it. My impressions of the n900. There is still a lot of exploration to be done, but I can honestly say this is the best phone/mobile device I've ever owned. In spite of a few shortcomings, its an amazing piece of technology. A lot of things I didn't mention probably will be fixed within a firmware or two so that isn't a problem. I hope this helps anyone who is on a fence on buying one, good luck!
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