Nokia’s next smartphone, the N9, is a very desirable slab of colourful polycarbonate.
Following the middling-poor reviews (and reception) of its recent smartphone offerings, this could be their last completely Nokia smartphone before those Nokia-made Windows Phone 7 handsets arrive later this year.
Nokia aren’t going quietly though, with this MeeGo-powered smartphone set to arrive in a zingy summer palette, and a new curvy shape. The back of the phone puffs out ever-so-slightly. whilst the front screen has a subtle curve, ideal for the new swipe navigation system.
You’ll notice there’s no visible buttons on the front of the phone; Nokia’s new phone operating system, MeeGo, relies on a simple, quickly-learnt swipe principle, and Nokia have nailed the touch-screen here; it’s responsive and smooth.
From screen-lock, a double-tap will wake the phone, as will using the power button on the right side of the phone.
Any initial fears we had of lacking some sort of physical input were soon allayed, after a brief tutorial the system works well. In fact, we’d say it was better implemented than BlackBerry’s PlayBook, which still forced users to occasionally return to a tiny power button.
There’s a comprehensive beginner’s guide and we were also able to replay the tutorial again. There were several video clips here, though they weren’t quite ready on this development model.
Swiping from side to side and top to bottom will minimise currently running apps, and also transfer between the three main screens, the multi-ask screen showing which apps are running on the phone, the icon-based homescreen (above), and a news-feed displaying any recent phone activity, like text messages, missed calls and social network updates from the likes of Twitter
Continuing Nokia’s heritage of making the best cameraphones, the N9 has a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera with wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens, improving low-light shots and reducing noise.
The camera is also auto-focus, and we could adjust the focus point on the touch-screen, zooming in on buildings across the street or another N9 nearby. The camera is also able to capture 720p high-definition video at a smooth 30fps and is paired with a dual LED-flash.
The N9 also has a front-facing camera, curiously positioned in the lower right corner of the phone, prepped for videocalling. The phone already has its own Skype app; though, like the current Android version, this doesn’t yet work with video,
Anything you record on the N9 is lovingly replicated on the 3.9-inch AMOLED screen; the same type of screen found on recent Nokia phones and Samsung’s smartphones, like the Galaxy S2.
Thanks to the way AMOLED works, the Nokia icons really pop out of the black background. Videos and photos both look suitably crisp, with the phone capable of a true widescreen ratio of 16:9.
We couldn’t help but tap on those luminous icons, now click on through to see how the rest of the phone looks, and our first impressions of the Nokia N9.
Nokia N9: Auto-focus camera hands-on
Here’s the N9 camera in action; the auto-focus view-finder can follow anywhere you tap, meaning photos are less likely to come out blurry; you can focus on distant landmarks, or go for detailed close-ups.
You’ll find a typical slection of camera modes in a menu on the left, whilst there’s also a handful of shortcuts on-screen
Nokia N9: AMOLED screen
We’ve sandwiched our Samsung Galaxy S2 between two Nokia N9s; the trio of AMOLED screens all look suitably sharp. Turning to the side…
Nokia N9: No-air display
…and Nokia’s no air display really makes the icons seem to float on the screen.
We were wowed by the screen; even the impressive Samsung Galaxy S2 doesn’t manage the same super-wide viewing angle; it looks as good in real life as it does on Nokia’s own press photos.
Nokia N9: Front-facing
The front-facing video camera is oddly placed in the bottom right corner of the phone’s face.
There were two reasons for this; one, we were told, is that it would avoid any unnecessary interference with the signal- another reason behind the polycarbonate shell on the N9- it looks like there won’t be any sort of antennae-gate issue with Nokia’s latest.
Nokia N9: Colour choices
We got to play with both the turquoise (our personal favourite) and the understated black model. Another in hot pink is also set to arrive on the Nokia N9’s release day.
Nokia N9: Connections
The top of the phone houses all the ports. From left; microSIM slot, microUSB slot and 3.5mm headphone socket.
Nokia N9: MicroUSB port
We liked the spring-loaded microUSB port cover, which was also suitably rugged enough to not jump out by accident.
Nokia N9: Camera hardware
On the back, the camera on the N9 has Carl Zeiss optics, alongside a dual LED flash.
The N9 actually has a sensor higher than the 8-megapixel label would lead you to believe; the ‘lost’ pixel area means the camera is able to capture both video and photos in true wide-screen ratios.
Nokia N9: Side profile
On the side you’ll find the three physical buttons; a volume rocker, and the power button.
We could lock and unlock the Nokia N9 through the power button, although a cheery double-tap on the touch-screen can also wake up the phone.
Nokia N9: Tutorials and tips
Here’s the built-in tutorial and guide for the Nokia N9, helpful for those looking to get the most out of the Meego OS. There looks set to be several video tutorials also available here, although they weren’t available just yet.
Nokia N9: Task management
Here’s the multi-task screen; just a swipe away from the icon home-screen, or one swipe away from the phone’s ‘feed’, where it’ll list all the latest entries from your social networks, text-messages, emails and the rest.
You can pinmch to switch between the two views; 2×2 or 3×3, whilst holding your finger on any of the shrunken apps will make a tiny close icon appear, and you can close any unwanted apps.