The 6 Things I don’t like about the Nokia N900 (Updated)

Posted on 15 October 2009, Last updated on 18 October 2009 by

The Unwired View have just published Part 2 of their ongoing N900 coverage which covers 6 ‘things I hate’ about the N900. I agree with most of those points and want to re-iterate the issues of portrait mode and navigation again here in my own list of the 6 things I don’t like about the N900.


Portrait Mode

Thank goodness this is just a software issue because I’m quickly starting to struggle with the two-handed nature of the device. The phone and image viewer applications are working in portrait mode but the feature is missing from every other part of the software. A 2-handed phone restricts mobility and I won’t be able to use this as my one-and-only if it’s not fixed soon. [Solution expect in December firmware release]


Again, a software issue that should be fixed soon. There’s no true turn-by-turn navigation software on the N900. The map application is good, provides a moving map and routing. It also searches quickly but it needs an internet connection.  With no Google Maps application available for Maemo yet, mapping and navigation on the N900 is currently a step down from other phone-based solutions I’ve tried.

Battery Life

Battery life on the N900 is good…if you use the N900 like a smartphone. The problem is that the N900 is so quick, so feature-rich and so good at multitasking that the usage model changes. It’s a portable computer with a smartphone battery and this could become an issue for many. If you are a power-user, buy a spare battery or, better still, a portable USB charger.

APN configuration. (3G-based Internet Access)

The network configuration tool only permits one APN to be configured. On my home network I use 4 different access points for different situations. It’s annoying to have to tweak the configuration each time. In addition, I’m finding that the proxy settings aren’t picked up by some applications and that there is no way to allocate an APN on a per-applications basis. Series 60 can get very awkward but the per-application network configuration is one aspect I’ve grown to appreciate.

IMG_0977 IMG_0975 IMG_1019

Milky, plastic, shiny, dirty resistive touchscreen.

I’m reaching the end of my patience with resistive touchscreens now. Sitting at a bus-stop today I was checking emails through a shiny, milky, finger-printed mess of an experience. Dropping the N900 into my pocket makes me worry about scratches too. A glass-covered capacitive screen is the only way forward for a 24/7 device. Especially an expensive one.

No reflow on web-page zoom. *FIXED*

A 3.5 inch WVGA screen is not an optimal combination for web browsing. I understand that it’s an important design consideration for a pocketable device but it means you have to zoom in a couple of points before you can read the text. Fortunately the N900 zooms quickly via one of three methods. The problem is that if you zoom into a line of text, that text doesn’t wrap into the screen size. Opera 9.5 and the Android browser do this very well and it means you don’t have to worry about side-to-side scrolling when reading text. On the N900 you are left scrolling left and right to read text. Awkward and annoying. Hopefully this problem will be solved with the introductions of Fennec. Per-page zoom-level memory would be a nice feature to add too.

Great news on this issue. Pete comments below that by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-i you can turn on page reflow. I’ve tested it and it works for any zoom level. Thanks Pete!

The battery life and plastic touchscreen issues are the only two issues that worry me about the N900 and given the huge number of advantages and knowing how difficult is to design powerful technology around a small battery I’m happy to accept the battery life issues but when on-the-go that resistive touchscreen is a reminder that not everything is perfect on the N900.

Anyone else worried about the touchscreen or is it just me?

46 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    New article: The 6 Things I don’t like about the Nokia N900

  2. Genís says:

    #Nokia improve and in the #N900 #maemo. Please!!

  3. Brandon says:

    RT @chippy: New article: The 6 Things I don't like about the Nokia N900

  4. Alessandro Tucci says:

    RT @chippy: New article: The 6 Things I don't like about the Nokia N900

  5. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    @Keithbw See my latest article regarding plastic milky screen.

  6. Colin MacDonald says:

    RT @chippy: New article: The 6 Things I don't like about the Nokia N900

  7. Guy Adams says:

    RT @chippy New article: The 6 Things I don’t like about the Nokia N900

  8. Andreas Ritter says:

    The N900 sounded like a very interesting device, but since I read that it uses a resistive touchscreen it is absolutely no option for me. I don’z know why there are still so many new devices using this inferior technology. It has so many disadvantages (absorbs backlight, catches scratches, lowers contrast, no multitouch,…) and the only advantage to the user may be that you can use a stylus, but I never felt the urge to do so on the iPhone.

  9. says:

    as i mwntioned on twitter, the apn issue appears to be a kernel issue (something to do with routing or dns, patches are already bwing pushed upstream), and why mms support is missing so far.

    yet another software issue basicly.

    i think there was talk about reflow either on the mailing list or the forum, tho i am not sure if there ever was a conclution about why it was left out this time round…

  10. pouncep says:

    in many non-english speaking countries. character recognition is almost mandatory for input. imagine writing a complex chinese (or any other language for that matter) character on the iphone. it just won’t work well. also the iphone is able to achieve this due to it’s low resolution. if you have higher resolution, a more accurate stylus is sometimes needed for navigation.

  11. tino says:

    Writing Chinese with the iPhone is pretty easy, both with the hacked version or the official version. You don’t know what you are talking about.

    As for the Nokia n900. Unless Nokia make a 4.3″ or 5″ version, I insist Nokia has abandoned the on going Maemo owners.

  12. Kam says:

    I have iPhone, I’m Chinese & writing chinese using fingertips on the small input area is f*@king difficult, period.

  13. Dunstan says:

    Chippy, do you know anything about this device?

    Obviously, it doesn’t provide 3G connectivity, but I’m still curious as to how it would compare to the N900, particularly when tethered?

  14. AlesE says:

    I guess to each it’s own.
    I for one don’t have an issue with resistive screen. I use my device (HTC Touch Pro2) for notes both in the meetings and quick notes on the go – and I do that by using handwriting – so the stylus is essential to me and since capacitive screens can’t be used with stylus, the drawings and handwritten notes are not really possible.

  15. BRYAN B says:

    I haven’t done anything with Linux in a long time but I still had this post book marked form 2007, Perhaps it has been expanded and can be of use in being able to use Goggle Maps.

  16. Patrick says:

    I would vote for capacitive only if it would provide that it could be operated with a stylus, hopefully they will solve the problem soon (HTC has mentions of patent solution for this, hopefully it will be solved by other producers).

    Sometimes you really need a stilus on such small screens

    I also like jot a note sometimes and i really doubt using fingers would be a swell experience.

    Yes Nokia, give us stylus capable capacitive screens!!! :)

  17. marcel says:

    frankly I’m extremely disappointed with Nokia, a phone like this only with the sat internet slapstick.
    Another thing the guys are already doing the nokia n920, why? say it will have greater and faster display and multitouch capability, why not do that now, absurd, desita of nokia, every year the guys are dragging this nonsense.
    I 2 of damp or 9 already decided archos, nokia let me down too

    I believe that the staff had a nokia lesson with Bill Gates (let’s make every year a small, small technological upgrading so billion won at the expense of the poor things that have to swap the unit each year).

  18. Casper van Donderen says:

    I was also at the Maemo Summit, got an N900 and really don’t understand the fuss about the touchscreen. It is better than the one on the BlackBerry Storm I had till last week and that one is capacitive and gets just as dirty.

    I like the two-handed nature of the device (during chatting etc. most websites (like this one) are optimized for wideacreen). But I have to see when the december update comes.

    With some of my fellow KDE developers we compiled Arora (the Qt-browser) on the device, for now that misses Flash, but that will get fixed (it is a lot faster than Firefox on the device ATM)

    These are my personal opinions as a developer/power-user.

  19. dcboy says:

    When have you ever loved a device, we make concessions, accepting the things we cannot change and hold tight to the few good qualities that should be enough to get us to the next and best device

  20. John in Norway says:

    Like others, I do not want a single function capacitive screen. If you can’t take notes by writing on the screen then it’s a wasted oportunity and they won’t be getting my money. Plus, are capacitive screens still limited to only being used in warm climates without gloves? How pathetic is that?

  21. Alex says:

    To be fair, the iPhone has 2.5 time less pixels than an N900, it’s not meant to even be able to be precise at point&click… Also everyone seems to be pretty happy with this screen responsiveness, which should drain less battery and a screen protector will cost you 10$ you know!

  22. Zach Goldberg says:

    Hey Steve!

    You’re not alone on the screen! For some reason fingerprints are astoundingly visible on this screen and I find myself wiping the screen with my sleve several times per day!

    Agreed on all points. I made a big fuss on Maemo talk about Fremantle’s insistence on keeping my network connections open and they responded “But its an always on device!”. I gave up trying and I’ve left wifi or ATT 2.5G or whatever the device wants on and… i’ve been somewhat surprised. Battery life for me has been more than acceptable. Granted, I generally am only away from charger 6-8 hours max but even in the 6-8 range I don’t usually push the bar well beyond the half mark.


  23. 10 says:

    well, I have Dell XT which uses capacitive screen and Thinkpad X61T which is resistive screen. I know that capacitive one is so much smoother to touch, but I don’t see anything wrong with resistive one. It’s more accurate when using nail. scratches? just have a good cover layer like x61t, it will be fine w/o any protection. I am fine with both. They all are dirty if we use them.

    For phone or smaller devices, IMHO it’s up to UI whether they design solely for capacitive screen or not. If not, it sucks, but resistive one can work with any UI, not that fancy, but work!

  24. Windstorm says:

    I don’t really see the issue with a resistive screen..the screen on my 3 yr old HTC Prophet is scratched all to $%*& and it still works perfectly well. With a pocket sized device the only way to get lots of stuff on the screen at once is to make everything small, and then a stylus is the only way to manipulate objects. Also I don’t get the fuss over multi-touch – I’d feel like a retard sticking more than one finger on a screen that small.

    The biggest issue for me (common to all smartphones) is…lack of an USB port!! You’d think that on devices that have upwards of 32GB of storage space, getting files on and off the device would be a most important consideration, but I don’t know of ANY smartphone out today that addresses this issue! Do manufacturers seriously expect ppl to walk around with a USB cable in their pockets?? I don’t care about 1GHz processors..the next smartphone I buy will be one that has a USB connector (like the Flip camcorders, but with host too)

  25. animatio says:

    wince ports mostly are usb hosts too. mini usb hosts so to say. you may connect sticks, harddisks and keyboards … just to name a few.
    as somebody who works professionally with my smartphone/pda i’m far better off with a stylus than with fingering the device. wince e.g has an excellent writing reconition mode that for me beats anything existing on fingering devices. btw spreadsheet and wordprocessing by fingering is a nightmare, same for database duties ….

  26. yor PAPPI says:

    HEY wuts all the fuss about this phone like others have sum specs b4 they are released.But this is 2 much i happen 2 like this phone an i know the programs will be fixed or tweeked b4 its in yor filthy hands iam sure the same ppl on here complaing about wut u have heard on the cons are the same ppl comenting on the pros when the phone 1st debut . So jus here 2 shut yall up an wait till u get more info or updates

  27. Bizzle9 says:

    All of you resistive screen apologists sounds like bitter old fogies clinging to the past. “In my day we used little sticks to poke the screen! That’s the way it was and we liked it! We ain’t changing to this new-fangled, pressure-less and easier-to-use-finger poking touch screen!”

    Capacitive screens are better. Period. Put away your ridiculous stylus and stop using it to “write notes” while “wearing mittens” when you have a perfectly good keyboard. It’s 2009 for Christ’s sake.

    Resistive screens can only hope to be “almost as good” as a capacitive screen and you know it in your bitter hearts.

  28. AlesE says:

    If you can write a note and draw an usable drawing with your 3 row slide out thumb keyboard then so much the better for you.
    But I bet I can do that quicker and easier with my stylus. And yes I do have a keyboard on my device – much better one than N900 actually.

  29. Carl says:

    Heaven forbid someone would want to draw quick notes on a touchscreen device. Clearly the action of a bitter apologist, yes.

  30. Matta says:

    Answer this:

    If you’re living in Norway/Sweden/Finland/Iceland (or any other country with harsh winters), wearing gloves to protect your hands, and want to answer your beautiful capacitive phone in the middle of the street, how do you that exactly ?

    So please shut up about capacitive being better than old resistive.

    They are DIFFERENT technologies. One is better in some situations, other in other situations. One does not replace other cause of inferiority. I had 5800 for long time. Now I have Samsung OmniaHD (cause of internal hardware and awesome camera). Guess what – I would gladly take my 5800 back (or N97) if it had same processor and RAM like Omnia. I hate that glass-covered oversensitive capacitive screen. I have to be careful when using it with one hand cause I often touch screen with my palm when typing SMS and open something else by accident. And not to mention glove problem again.

    As people had already put – everyone has it’s own joy. I personally like the fact that N900 has resistive screen.

  31. turn_self_off says:

    one combine fashion with function and get some iphone gloves?

    or one can pocket this:

  32. AlesE says:

    Yes, that would completely solve everything. 200 dollars for the gloves and the stylus… I thought that iPhone doesn’t need a stylus.

    Truth is resistive is sometimes just better than capacitive and it’s not neccessarily a flaw, but for the ones that want/need capacitive, I’m sure Nokia will make a device with it.

  33. Windstorm says:

    Haha funny how he thinks writing with a stylus is clinging to the past… you do know they had keyboards back in the 1800s, right?

  34. AnAnD M says:

    The 6 Things I don’t like about the Nokia N900

  35. olivier says:

    Thanks for this. Everything has drawbacks, and I need to know what those are. I’m tired of reviews that gloss over defects (my last 3 phones where huge disappointments due to entirely ‘reviewable’ issues).

    Plus it’s very balanced, not crazed fanboy bashing. Could we have one of those for the iPhone, the Palm, and the new BlackBerry please ? :-)

  36. anon says:

    Hear hear. Each device has its target niche that will be happy with it, when the device doesn’t have to try and please everyone. By focusing on what it can do best, the N900 can be a success. Trying to cater to everybody’s needs would compromise the strong points of a design, as the current level of technology forces you to make choices in it.

    Instead of complaining something isn’t what you want it to be, it’s better to try and find a device that is and be happy with that.

  37. pete says:

    No reflow on web-page zoom.

    About browser reflow: try Ctrl + Shift + I in the web browser to toggle reflow mode. I haven’t got the device to test it.

  38. chippy says:

    Pete. Well done sir.
    You have solved one of my six issues

  39. ColdSun says:

    The screen is too small. I won’t even get to the issue about what type of screen it is because I would never buy a device with a screen that small. The price is insanely high too. No thanks.

  40. TareX says:

    I guess after the HTC HD2, all screen are no longer adequate…

    Then again this screen is smaller than the iPhone’s which is a no-no to me too…

  41. Carl says:

    3.5″ vs 3.5″?

  42. anon says:

    They are both 3.5″, aren’t they? Are you opposed to higher resolution then, TareX? 800×480 is the minimum for a full Internet experience!

  43. gadgety says:

    The GPS is the big letdown and it keeps me from getting the N900, despite its many other very, very tempting upsides. So perhaps the HD2 or Acer Neotouch instead, even though they both lack the VGA out, front facing cam, and that great browser.

  44. Robin Thomas says:

    VGA out, front facing cam, and that great browser are nt the only feature thats missing in hd2 & Neotouch, hw abt a proper multitasking, morethan 26 apps can run at a time, superior video handling & can add more codecs, more map sources eg: google, openstreetmap etc. with maemomaper n lot more features missing in winmo (read the review here GPS is no let down as more & more apps will come with QT4.6 (for apps, faq, tips & tricks visit

  45. Dimon says:

    The biggest N900’s drawback is that meego is not going to be available for it.
    That’s it

  46. Robin Thomas says:

    meego won’t be available officially, but images will be available that can be installed on to N900. But other than the meego interface, all apps running in meego will run in Maemo 5 as well ’cause of QT 4.6 support out of the box, so it doesn’t matter meego is not supported. Mutitouch is not possibility anyway, wats the point of meego then, the meego interface will be emulated in Maemo 5.

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