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Nokia N900 Smartphone Review

By on November 25, 2009
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Nokia’s latest Smartphone takes a giant leap into becoming a full-fledged handheld PC.

Editor's Score
Features:
Performance:
Value:
The Verdict:
The N900 is an extremely powerful device that feels more targeted towards geeks than the average Smartphone user.

Since the N900 is a mini-computer and almost all computers have a landscape screen format, Nokia assumes that you will want to use the N900 is a landscape format all the time. So almost all the applications are designed to be operated ONLY in landscape mode at the moment which means that you’ll be using both of your hands. The accelerometer doesn’t switch to a vertical/horizontal orientation automatically on the O/S level. Instead, the application specifies whether it wants to work horizontally or vertically and except for the phone application, everything else on the N900 currently only works on a horizontal format. This didn’t work well for me as I would much rather use my phone in a portrait mode for almost everything including reading my text messages or emails or tweets. But the N900 forces me otherwise.

n900_keyboard2

If you can get past that, the way the N900 functions is pretty impressive. Its based on Maemo 5 which is more of a full-on Linux kernel than any other Smartphone device in the market and could potentially allow you to run many many applications with little tweaking. Multiple applications run at the same time on the N900 with the only limiting factor being the amount of RAM available. Switching between applications is very Mac like- just tap the top left side of the touch screen and you get a preview of all open applications- and you simply tap on the one you want to get to. It is somewhat the equivalent of keeping the Blackberry key pressed on your Blackberry but with a much better visual experience as you’re looking at an actual snapshot of the program instead of its icon.

Somewhat like the N97, the N900 has a desktop that supports widgets and shortcuts. The desktop extends to four screens that you can get to by flicking to the left and right. Information such as you calendar, the weather and Facebook updates can be placed on the desktops as widgets along with shortcuts to applications or your favorite contacts. Navigating the N900 is, somewhat restricted by the resistive screen. While Nokia has tried to make the N900 finger friendly, I ended up selecting stuff lots of time when I actually wanted to scroll between a list of things. The best workaround is to use your finger nail when you want to scroll and the finger to select. And although kinetic scrolling is supported, its not as fluid as the iPhone. From what Nokia told me, it was impossible to use a capacitive screen with the current resolution when the phone was being developed. Hopefully the technology will exist when the follow up to the N900 comes along as that will do wonders for this device.

n900_phonebook

The phone application on the N900 needs work a bit of work. Since there is no hardware key to bring up the application, the easiest way to get to it is to press the power button which shows a list of commonly used tasks and select the phone app from there. Alternatively, you can set the N900 to switch to the phone app whenever you hold the phone in portrait mode. This works sometimes but not every time. Another annoyance is that clicking on an entry in your call log brings all associated numbers for that contact instead of immediately dialing the number on the call log. What I do like is that the phone application allows you to associate VoIP with your contacts and allows you to call them using their mobile or VoIP number. I also like the way how Nokia has placed blocks of alphabets on the right side of the screen instead of the entire list of alphabets as done on the iPhone. The blocks allow you to select letters more easily.

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About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

Comments
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  • Sucker

    Strange, you got this phone in dubai. the phone quality is worse than ever. worst phone of all nokia till date.

  • calvin

    This is the worst nokia, i have ever used, it is already started freezing and unlike other touch screens which have some smart keys,this one doesnt have…. I have used nokia for about 11 years and I have always stuck to nokia, preordered this n900m and only got dissapointed …. I might be the only one dissapointed , but the only difference from n97 is that of the maemo, but whaT is the use of the maemo, bla bla bla when the interface is not even friendly…. if it was palm top , it would have been fine, but a smart phone really needs to be smart. This phone is bulky and you really have to keep it somewhere … but not in your pocket. I have always criticized the iphone, but in this case i really dont know what to say now

    • fdk

      If you're not a tech freak, N900 is not for you. The things you can do with a N900… :) Anyways, the phone is a bit bulky.

  • MC

    What is the obsession with capacitive screens? The Iphone has the magnifying bubble when trying to enter text, but it is still woefully inaccurate. Now think how bad it is going to be at double the resolution. Resistive are also better in sunlight (killer feature out here in the Middle East, I’d have thought), and you can use any old object to press it. IPhone’s screen is almost too sensitive for my fat fingers.

    I’ve never had a problem scrolling resistive screens and can’t believe you actually made that part into a whole article.

    Maybe also mention that the lack of portrate apps is on the list of things to address for the Maemo devs and will happen. This is very much the equivilent to Iphone software 1.0 so by the time it is developed, it should be something special.

  • markzenegar

    The Nokia N900, which we used for a week, runs on Maemo 5, a lightweight version of Debian, one of the major Linux distributions that Nokia chose to Android. An ambitious strategy, even foolhardy for a Nokia is increasingly isolated on the front of the smartphone. But moreover, it was dealing with a telephone, an Internet Tablet or a Pocket PC? The manufacturer of mobile computer speaks and highlights the “extreme speed and unparalleled performance” of its mobile. The camera will be available in early December in The Phone House stores, for about 650 euros, excluding subscription promotion.

    For more detail you can move at :

    http://www.techarena.in/review/24395-nokia-n900-mobile-phone-review.htm

  • logan frye

    ya this phone is getting a lot of bad reviews but I like it. touch screen is awesome and pictures are incrdible, feel like i paid 500 for a camera. i upgraded from the nokia N97 and bought a n900 and BB9700 from gsmallover.com and gave my wife the bb cuz she’s obsessed. i’m going to keep this one until a better nicer nokia comes out so i’ll keep my fingers crossed!

  • imp

    Used this phone for almost 2 months now and it is brilliant. Good keyboard, great screen, great web experience, loads of my usual Linux apps. It's better after each OS update
    One caveat – I'm techy. I would not recommend it for anyone not of the geek genus, but then it was never ment for them.

    That said, maps is pretty pants and it needs deaper profile customisation so emails and IMs don't wake you up at night. Mail could be faster too.

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  • logan

    great phone. a little thicker than i’d like. processor is faster though than my old unlocked touch screen phones. simple to use, texting and web browsing is good. my partner loves it for the gps and the wifi and my family loves their unlocked at&t phones for the facebook and games. speaker is really loud and it hooks up to my computer simply. also the camera and recorder are great. got our last couple unlocked cheap phones at gsmauthority.com 2 thumbs way up

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