Nokia N900 Review

Updated on 30 January 2010 by

Contact Management, Account Presence, Sharing

One of the things I really like about Maemo is that they bake a lot of services directly into the OS. For example, I can add my email account, skype, Gtalk, and several other communication services to the device, and all of my contacts from those services will flow into the contact manager on the N900. While this will certainly create a huge mess for anyone not willing to sort through it, it does provide some awesome functionality for the person who will take the time to straighten everything out (merging contacts and consolidating friend’s services into a set of single contact information). One can set their availability right from the status bar on the N900’s home screen, and you if your services are set to available, you’ll be able to receive IM’s and calls through any of the services that you have set up.

For example, I can set up a contact and add their email, phone number, Skype account, and IM account. Then I can stick a contact shortcut on one of my desktops. At a glance, I can see if they are active on any IM networks. With one click, I can see which IM accounts they are active on, I can call them through Skype, or call them with Skype credits, send an email, SMS, or just call them through using the N900 as a phone. None of this is managed through some secondary application — it is built directly into the system, which makes it easy to access as well as system-wide. There is a cool little LED on the bottom left of the front of the device which gives you email/IM/etc. notifications by flashing.

You can also share several things from your device rather easily as long as you’ve added some accounts. I could add my flickr account to the N900, snap a picture, then click “Share with service inch and click my account. Off the picture goes to flickr. That easy. The same goes for Facebook and a lot of other sharing services. This is one of the things that is done well on the N900.

Web Browsing

screenshot05 I feel that web browsing is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, part of the N900. The built-in web browser is a Mozilla based application called MicroB, and it is designed with web standards compatibility in mind. When I test devices, I take a lot of short notes in Google Docs. This is the first mobile device that I’ve used where I could reasonably have my Google Docs note document open in the background, and continue to use the device, and simply take notes as I go.

I’ve even used the N900 to take a video, then uploaded that video to YouTube, directly from the N900’s web browser. This is seriously awesome. There isn’t even a file browser on the iPhone, and yet here is the N900 which can upload videos to YouTube without any special software whatsoever. Very cool.

The combination of a fully web compatible browser and the ability to multitask effectively really make the N900 feel less like a MID or a phone, and more like a pocket computer (a ultra mobile PC if you will). While this has many advantages, it also brings with it the issues that come with having a tiny computer. Hold that thought as we segue to the next section.

Appification vs. Web Compatibility

Since using the N900, the two sides of this argument have been fresh on my mind. Allow me to remind you of the issues:

On one hand, we have phones like the iPhone in which the primary way people interact with the phone is through applications. These apps are often just specially designed interfaces which link out to websites or web services. The advantage here is ease of use. The application is specifically designed with the phone in mind and the way that the user will interact with it. Thus, they can provide a much more user friendly experience than if the user attempted to use the site, that the app communicates with, directly. The disadvantage is that a specific application needs to be created for each and every platform out there, and everything starts to become proprietary. That means that if Facebook wants to provide a Facebook app for many of it’s users, it needs to invest the time and money into creating an individual application for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm WebOS, Maemo, etc. But they might only want to invest in a few of these platforms. If you happen to be on a platform that they don’t care about, you won’t get an app to provide a good experience for that site. And if your device lacks a fully compatible browser necessary to use that site, then you miss out all together.

The other side of the coin is that without this “appficiation inch of the web, companies don’t need to create many different versions of applications. Everyone can access the same site as long as they have a fully compatible browser (like the one on the N900). The issue here is that web-sites are evolving into web-applications. I mentioned being able to use Google Docs right on the N900. That was a great experience, but when it comes to a highly complex web-application like Facebook (now with it’s own in-line instant messenger…), the experience is much worse on the N900 than if there was a well made app made specifically with the N900 in mind, despite the fact that the N900 can handle the site very well through it’s browser.

The best example of this is probably YouTube. The N900 has full flash support in it’s browser which is great. You can see all flash content right where it was meant to be. But you have to bust out the stylus just to click the full-screen button on the player, and it’s often hard to tap the play/pause button when you want to because the site simply wasn’t designed to be interacted with on an 800×480 screen with touch input. If I could have it my way, I’d rather click the video and be popped out to some application which pulls up the same video with a finger friendly interface.

I still don’t know exactly where I fall in this debate, but I will say that attempting to use complex sites, while definitely possible, is hard on the N900 — Expect to be using stylus (*cringe*).

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10 Comments For This Post

  1. Ruben van Gogh says:

    Nice and honest review. Having owned a N810, which died after a very intense period of using it as a daily device for everything (as lyrical writer – even wrote a complete opera on it), I think the N900 is a far better device (if not the size had shrinked to 3,5 inch). But I love the hew maemo OS.
    But with Abiword on it, I don’t complain – being able to use and convert to so many different documentformats.
    Nevertheless I hope for a new 4,3 – 5 inch maemo with slider keybolard in the near future.

  2. mastereye says:

    I’ve heard that the device has a built in FM transmitter. Is that true? Would be very handy to use something like that in a car.

  3. jim says:

    Firefox Mobile is out for Maemo.

  4. jpmatrix says:

    n900 or archos5IT ???
    that is the terrible choice i have to do :))

  5. raon says:

    Nice review, thanks. You described the UI as ‘Inconsistent’ this doesn’t seem to changed since OS2008, I gave up my N800 because of frustration with the UI, especially the on screen keyboard.

    @jpmatrix I’m currently very impressed with how Android scales up on the Archos S5, easy to learn, easy on the eye and fast.


  6. benz145 says:

    Yeah I had the similar frustrations with OS2008 on the N810. For me, the issue was that half of the OS was designed to be navigated with the finger, and half of the OS was designed for a stylus. It was really annoying to have to swap between these two UI implementations (sometimes even within the same application). I was really happy to see that Maemo 5 is just about fully finger-friendly. Now though the weak interface design just kills me. Applications are cluttered and lack any consistency beyond a few basic requirements (like having the buttons for switching apps and closing an app at the top left and right).

  7. Mike says:

    Mmmm, a honest review maybe, but a bit critical. Prior to the Nokia N900 i was using the Nokia N95 and the Nokia 5800XM. The Nokia N900 is a breath of fresh air in every sense. I agree it’s not for everyone, especially when I showed what it could do, most people were overwhelmed by the basics of not have phone keys on the phone.

    This device is definitely aimed at the person who spends hours surfing the web or social networking, IM and all the other goodies that go with this applications (Facebook, flickr, youtube, stumbleupon, twitter, last.FM, podcasting etc).

    However, you only highlighted the hardware that has already been covered by a dozen or so other website reviews. There is so much more about the N900 than the faults you have pointed out.

  8. Andrew says:

    Short and nice. I offer even shorter: “200% device for linux funs”. I have been using n810 for two years. It is nice design and materials. New Nokia n900 has get the same problems as previous one like lack of office apps, crazy GPS, apps instability. There is only good app working nice from a box is Skype. There is an only way to use Maemo is to install selected and stable apps (like Crazy Parking) and never try to update otherwise it stops forever sooner or later!!! Sorry for Nokia offering raw materials for users instead of readymade device. I have said goodbye to Maemo forever… Have a nice day!!

  9. logan says:

    great great nokia. easy to use, it’s practical which i like. processor is faster and the nokia apps and games are fun to use. email and gps keep me in the loop for my business. my daughter and wife love using their facebook on there. great unlocked cell phones. camera and video recorder are crisp and clean and the batter life is great i only charge once a day. very excited to see what else nokia comes out with and what they have to offer. got our last couple unlocked mobile phones at and we love them. 2 thumbs way up

  10. car gps navigation| says:

    Suggest you try for up to the minute information, they manufacture/sell GPS units.. For my own sake, I hope not, unless they plan to phase it in gradually because I just purchased a new GPS hand-held unit and it WASN’T CHEAP !!

3 Trackbacks For This Post

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  2. Pinguins Móveis » Blog Archive » Pinguins de fim-de-semana says:

    […] Mais uma resenha do N900, agora do Carrypad. […]

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