With a gorgeous design and screen showcasing MeeGo with its swipe controls, the Nokia N9 is one of the most important – and exciting - Nokia releases in a long time.
Although it’s not out until later in the year, it will be up against some pretty stiff competition from a smartphone market that is growing rapidly and currently contains some excellent handsets. Its main rivals in the mid/high end market are the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and forthcoming HP Pre 3. Plus of course we can’t really ignore the continuing success of the Apple iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy SII.
We’ll bring you a full, in-depth test when we get all the phones together, but here’s how the specs stack up.
Nokia N9: We’re really impressed by the N9. Constructed from a single piece of polycarbonate, without any buttons, the resemblance to the iPod Touch is no bad thing. It comes in three bright colours that make a pleasant change.
Samsung Galaxy SII: At just 8.49mm deep the SII is a stunning sliver of a phone and exceptionally lightweight at 116g. The pay off? Take off the back cover and it feels exceptionally plasticky and flimsy – not what we expect at this price point.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: With its arched design and subtle two-tone blue body, the Arc is a breath of fresh air from the recent spate of monotonous black smartphones. Like the SII it’s light and slim, and although it feels solid, ultimately it lacks a premium feel.
Apple iPhone 4: With a glass screen and stainless steel band the iPhone 4 looks gorgeous and feels solid, well built and a premium. Although the effect is spoilt somewhat if you have to use a bumper...
HP Palm Pre 3: With soft, curved edges HP’s latest smartphone looks stunning and is the only one here with a full QWERTY that slides out, arching to the shape of the Face. As solid-keyboard phones go, it’s one of the better looking.
Nokia N9: The N9 is the first consumer device to arrive in the UK with the MeeGo OS, with three screens for apps, social networking feeds and open applications. It looks very simple looks to be as intuitive and user friendly as its distant cousin the Maemo-running N900.
Samsung Galaxy SII: You get Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, which Samsung has overlaid with TouchWiz, which you can customise with widgets and organise into folders. Samsung’s Reader and Music hubs are good ways of managing contacts and media, but we prefer the social networking of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: The Xperia Arc runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread in pretty much its native form, but with some useful tweaks, including the best folder creation and screen overview we’ve seen on an Android handset. A recent update has improved social networking integration.
Apple iPhone 4: Currently running IOS 4, the iPhone 4 now supports multitasking and folder creation and is certainly one of the simplest user experiences out there. iOS 5 will bring a host of new features, including deep Twitter integration and a notification bar.
HP Pre 3: The latest incarnation of webOS looks to be just as user-friendly as its predecessors, with applications are cards you flick off the screen to close, notifications along the bottom of the screen and a great search facility.
Nokia N9: We loved the screen on the N8, so it’s good to see Nokia has retained the AMOLED technology in this 3.9-inch 854x480 screen, which also includes curved Gorilla glass and an anti-glare polarizer
Samsung Galaxy SII: With a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus 800x480 screen, the S II’s screen is the first we’ve seen to rival the iPhone 4. Colours are exceptionally bright, blacks deep and off-angle viewing is excellent.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: The LED-backlit 4.2-inch 854x480 screen on the Arc is gorgeous, Sony Ericsson’s Reality Display technology ensuring text is easy to read and colours are natural.
Apple iPhone 4: Still the market leading screen thanks to its high 960x640 resolutions and use of IPS technology for excellent off-angle viewing. If we have to criticise, we’d say it’s a bit small now.
HP Palm Pre 3: Equipped with a 3.58-inch screen, the 800x480 resolution matches rivals, but there’s no AMOLED or IPS technology, so it’s perhaps not class leading.
Nokia N9: Nokia has included an ARM Cortex-A8 processor with 1GB RAM; this should prove powerful enough for most tasks and ably match rivals in its category, like the Arc or Pre.
Samsung Galaxy SII: The SII includes a 1.2Ghz dual-core Samsung processor with 1GB RAM, ensuring it is one of the quickest phones we’ve used. We’d have liked a Tegra processor, although you can run Tegra games if you download Chainfire 3D.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: When Sony Ericsson launched the handset we were surprised that as the flagship, it has a mere 1Ghz processor with 512MB Ram. But the Arc never feels slow, whether you are browsing, social networking or using the camera.
Apple iPhone 4: Launched last year, the iPhone 4 has an A4 processor with 512MB Ram. Apple has not confirmed the clock rate (although it's rumoured to be 800Mhz), but we've found it comparable to the 1Ghz processor in other phones. Next to dual-core handsets the iPhone 4 looks a bit old now, but never feels sluggish, but for dual-core gaming? Wait for iPhone 5.
HP Pre 3: Powered by a 1.4Ghz Snapdragon Processor, with 512MB RAM, so unsurprisingly no dual-core goodness here. No it won’t offer the power and graphical clout of rivals, but it’s perfect for the typical Pre 3 user, who wants email and browsing.
Storage and connections:
Nokia N9: The N9 comes in 16GB and 64GB flavours and has a microSD slot. Connectivity is bang up to date, with HDMI, DLNA, WiFi, Bluetooth and also NFC.
Samsung Galaxy SII: Choose from 16GB and 32GB editions, expandable via MicroSD. Along with the usual Bluetooth, WiFi etc it has a dual-use MHL port is used for streaming HDMI and charging via micro UBS. An NFC version is apparently in the offing.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Of the 1GB internal memory, only 320MB is free for the user, but there is a microSD slot. Connections include: HDMI, Bluetooth and WiFi and DLNA.
Apple iPhone 4: Choose from 16Gb or 32GB versions, but as usual there’s no microSD card slot. Connectivity includes: WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay, but no HDMI unless you invest in an adaptor.
HP Pre 3: 8GB or 16GB flavours, but no MicroSD card slot. There’s no HDMI, but you get WiFi and Bluetooth.
Nokia N9: Nokia announced the development of some Qt apps, but more interesting is news that MeeGo will be able to run Android apps using Alien Dalvik software. Could this potentially mean more apps than an Android Phone?
Samsung Galaxy SII: The Android market has 250,000 apps (May 2011) and counting, but Galaxy S II users can also access the Samsung app market, which has 13,000 apps, including some Samsung specific ones, like Samsung Smart View. In reality one app store would be preferable.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Like the Samsung, access 250,000 apps in the Android market.
Apple iPhone 4: Although the Android Market is snapping at growing ever closer, the Apple app store still offers the most choice, with 350,000 apps
HP Pre 3: Apps will be available from what used to be the Palm App catalog; at the moment choice is limited to several thousand.
There are some great handsets on the market now, with more coming. Based on what we know, the Nokia N9 is a well-featured phone, MeeGo looks intuitive and it has a screen it could be a serious rival to the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy SII. Connectivity is excellent too – NFC is step above the competition.
Elsewhere on paper the Samsung Galaxy SII is the powerhouse, powerful, yet stylish, while the iPhone 4 continues to appeal with its fantastic build and app choice. The HP Pre 3 is aimed more at business user, fans of the full QWERTY and the legion of ex-Palm fans that fell in love with OS. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc sits is slightly under the SII in terms of performance, but will appeal to Android fans who want a styling handset with the gorgeous screen.
It’s worth pointing out that the Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Palm and Apple don't have dual core processors and are perfectly adequate for most tasks – and more than enough power for most people.
Updated: with more clarification about the iPhone 4's processor