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Nokia N9: Wow.

On the February 11 conference Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced Nokia would start using Windows Phone 7 as its primary OS, with MeeGo reserved for “future disruptions” to change mobile technology. The Nokia N9 has just been announced as that first disruption.

Following from the N900’s lead, the N9 features integrated Skype in Contacts, Phone and Messages, as well as coming pre-bundled with Angry Birds Magic (utilising the present NFC), Nokia’s industry-leading Maps, and the phone can be a Wi-Fi hotspot without a third-party application, so you can use your laptop to browse the web using the phone’s 3G. Facebook and Twitter are integrated tightly, too, with new tweets, mentions and events going straight to the Events view so you never miss anything important. This new device also utilises Dolby technology, combining Dolby Headphone and Dolby Digital Plus to offer an unparalleled surround sound. The camera is also impressive: not just the 8MP wide-angle Carl Zeiss optics or the HD 16:9 widescreen video recording, but the fact it is the fastest camera on any phone to take a photo from the moment the camera is opened to the shot being taken. Also announced was Qt being the app-development platform, cross-compatible with Maemo 5, Symbian and soon S40, opening up new apps to each OS at the same time. At present, Nokia is the only phone maker to use pentaband chips and the N9 is no exception. Beyond the impressive specs, though, it’s not the usual ingredients that make this device so impressive or intriguing.

The Nokia N9 boasts a number of new approaches to how we interact with our phones. In September 2010 Peter Skillman, Nokia’s smartphone design chief, explained that the current mode of using a phone by opening an app then tapping the home button is like walking out of the front door of your house to enter another room. The N9 changes this and introduces a new swiping gesture to navigate around the phone. The new technology is the curved glass of the screen, where swipes can be registered by entering off the screen, rather than the usual left-to-right/right-to-left sweep. This is how the user can swipe within an app without returning to the home screen. Also boasting live multitasking like Maemo 5 and WebOS, the N9 takes things a step further: with a simple multi-touch gesture the multitasking pane is transformed from a four-panel view to a nine-panel view, meaning less vertical scrolling to find the pane you want.

The N9 has been built with the hardware and software both in mind to work seamlessly, so the unibody polycarbonate exterior with the 3.9” curved AMOLED Gorilla Glass screen offer an experience never before seen on a mobile phone. It is the first all-screen mobile phone with no front-facing buttons at all, and unlocking is done by simply double-tapping the screen. This unified hardware/software means that, as with Symbian and iOS, fragmentation will not be an issue and the software is tailored to run excellently on a smaller processor, hence this device being a single core processor rather than dual-core. Regarding the OS, Elop announced in February that MeeGo was not ready for public release, and indeed the N9 is running MeeGo-Harmattan – Harmattan being the codename for the release after Maemo 5’s Fremantle, so this can be seen as the natural successor to the N900. While it hasn’t been said why MeeGo isn’t yet ready, Nokia has made up for lost time by releasing MeeGo-Harmattan.

The new technology, plethora of features and stunning new design and interaction will put the N9 firmly in the high-end range of smartphones, and the Events view, boasting social media, RSS and other communications, will appeal to almost everyone. For those who have long admired Nokia’s hardware but longed for a fresh OS, this could be just what they were waiting for. It’s so good in fact that even Engadget, famously anti-Nokia, are raving about it and the latest podcast is pretty much a MeeGo edition.


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