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Review: Nokia N9

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When we think of smartphones, simplicity isn’t always the first word that comes to mind.

But that’s the word Nokia is using in the widespread marketing of its latest mobile device – the eye-catching N9.

From the buttonless device to the easy-to-navigate user interface, the Nokia N9 goes a long way to deliver on that promise. 

Recently Nokia has lost a lot of ground in the smartphone market while the iPhone and Android devices are on the rise.

Nokia has already committed to a partnership with Microsoft to produce smartphones from 2012 running the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

The Nokia N9 smartphone running the MeeGo operating systemBut you won’t find Windows anywhere on the N9.  MeeGo is the software powering the new Nokia device which is easy to use and simple to navigate.

The N9 will appeal to users who have perhaps never owned a smartphone before and want to move to a device that offers all the benefits without the steep learning curve.

To navigate users stroke the screen. There are three main views – the apps, the open applications and the events stream.

The apps are arranged in a grid on the home screen and can be navigated using the multi-touch screen.

A simple sweep from right to left reveals all the open applications arranged in tiles large enough to easily identify the app and even see the content within it.

Sweep from left to right and you come to the events screen. It is where users can aggregate their Facebook and Twitter news feeds into one and even filter them to see one or the other or both at once.

To close an app simply drag your finger from the top to the bottom of the screen.

And then it’s a simple swipe back to the home page and all your apps.

There is no home key to bring you back to the main screen just swipe gestures. Users can go from an open app back to the home screen in just two swipes.

DESIGN

The Nokia N9 is made from polymer that is the same colour – either blue, pink or black – all the way through so that any scratches or marks won’t show up on the device.

The product is dominated by a 3.9-inch AMOLED display which is housed beneath gently curved scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass.

The only buttons are on the right edge of the N9 – volume up and down and a sleep button. That’s it.

The USB port used to charge or connect to a computer is located under a small lever door on the top edge while the sim card is right next to it and can be hot swapped without the need to turn off the device.

The Nokia N9 uses a microSIM – the same which is used for the iPhone. A clever move if anyone ever wants to switch from an iPhone to the N9.

PERFORMANCE

The N9 is powered by a 1Ghz single core processor with 1GB RAM so users can expect a smooth performance.

Not quite as fast as other smartphones on the market but still fast enough to get around the device reasonably quickly.

The screen responsiveness was good most of the time. There were times when we pressed an app icon and nothing happened.

The Nokia N9 is simple to operate with swiping gesturesSwiping between screens users need to remember to sweep all the way from the edge of the screen. It did take us two or three attempts sometimes.

The reason for this is so that there are no accidental swipes to the next screen while using an app.

But that didn’t help us playing Angry Birds, which is included on the device, when we closed down the app with an over zealous swipe during the game.

APPS

Right out of the box the Nokia N9 has lots of pre-loaded apps for a complete experience including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Skype.

There’s also built-in mapping with maps supplied by Navteq – a company Nokia acquired. Maps, including many world maps, and services like turn-by-turn navigation are free with users only footing the bill for the data they use.

There is also handy 3D mapping which might not sound like a big deal in our hometown but is a godsend when helping you get around a foreign city.

Users can integrate their Facebook and Twitter connections into the device so not only can their news feeds be collected in one place, things like contacts and pictures are also accessible from those section of the device without having to open the actual app.

The N9’s browser has a very Google Chrome feel and is one of the better browsers we’ve used on a smartphone.

The Nokia N9 has three main screen - Apps, Events and open applications

Pages loaded quickly and looked just like they do on your computer – including Flash objects and banners.

Mail will always be close at hand with the ability to set up various types of mail accounts including Exchange which is used by a lot of corporate users.

And the for the first time the N9 allows users to set up more than one Exchange mail account – a feature a lot of business users will relish.

CAMERA

Nokia smartphones have always featured good cameras and the N9 is no exception. The 8-megapixel camera delivers vibrant pictures with good colour and definition.

The only fault we found was that some pictures taken in bright sunlight looked a little washed out.

An image we took with the Nokia N9

The N9 can also shoot high definition 720p video at 30 frames per second.

This quality is helped along by the Carl Zeiss optics which are also included along with a dual LED flash.

There is also a front facing camera which, interestingly is located on bottom right hand corner.

NFC

NFC (near field communication) is something we’re going to see in a lot of future handsets but the Nokia N9 has already has it on board.

It’s an easy way to share and connect simply by bringing the N9 in contact with another device.

N9 users can use NFC to share pictures or files between device simply by touching the backs of the device together.

The Nokia N9 has NFC for easy sharing and connecting to other devices including speakersNFC basically creates an instant Bluetooth connection without the need to search and manually pair.

Users can use NFC to pay for anything yet or link it to an online account just yet but it’s a good bet those types of services will services in 2012.

Another great use of NFC was demonstrated with a pair of yet-to-be-released Nokia speakers. Simply tap the N9 to the top of the speaker and you’re connected and able to stream your music wirelessly.

BATTERY

Battery performance of the N9 was above average with the ability to get through more than a day and a half between charges and that was with constant emailing, connections to wi-fi and web browsing along with calls and texting of course.

The device took a couple of hours to full charge with the tiny USB wall charger.

VERDICT

Users who have been disappointed by recent Nokia releases will see the N9 as a breath of fresh air.

One of the first things we thought when we got the N9 in our hands was “that’s more like it”.

Nokia has managed to combine simplicity and the latest features which will make the N9 appeal to a broader range of users including those entering the smartphone arena for the first time.

Nokia N9

Price: $799 (16GB – black, blue, pink), $949 (64GB – black only)

Three and half stars (out of five)

www.nokia.com.au

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