After ordering a N900 two and a half months ago, the wait finally ended on Wednesday when I got to unbox my N900. I decided that I had to share my thoughts about the whole experience and would be very interested in your feedback to see if you felt the same way too. My first experiences of Nokia touch phones came at the turn of the year with the 5800 XpressMusic. After 18 months or so of using the solid N95 8GB I at last got into the semi-modern world of touch. To be honest, with all that my friends with iPhones rant and rave about that product I wasn’t really expecting much. However, to my surprise, the 5800 was fairly quick and a lot more stable than the N95. After a week of getting used to how the screen reacted I was hooked. I even noticed myself touching the car radio and any other screens expecting them to react like everything was a touch screen. Since the order was going to take such a long time, we kept getting reminder emails that the orders would be fulfilled soon and to familiarize ourselves with the new device. I had been investigating alternatives for the applications that I used on the 5800 and along with the availability of the maps (functionality) I was a bit disappointed. Then, of course, came the announcement of the N8. Man, I want one of those. I really wished that I could have gotten one of those instead of the N900 – this was compounded by another mail reminding us to familiarize ourselves with ways of working with the phone: on the same day as the N8 release. Perhaps if I had the N900 in my hands I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about it. But I could trace my order and the delivery still wasn’t even scheduled. Then, on Tuesday came an email from postal services – there was a package. Come and get it. I was working from home but couldn’t wait to see what it was. I was trying not get my hopes up too. When I arrived at work the next morning, I went to straight to get the package. It was a pretty large box – with a lot of padding inside. But there was a rather cool black box in there too. It had arrived. My N900 was here.
Impression of the box: absolute contrast to my Apple products. Matt black cardboard (undoubtedly recycled) compared to the shiny brilliant white of the Mac mini for example. Open the box revealed the phone and its accessories. First thought was that the phone was pretty big. I have played with one before – but it was large: almost the same size as my 120GB WD portable hard drive. Sure I will not be bothered by this for long though. To my disappointment there wasn’t a SD included in the pack, I suppose I will be getting this myself at a later point in time. USB cables, charger and headphones completed the contents along with the manual that I glanced at to check how to insert my SIM card.
Wireless & Email
So the SIM was in, the half-charged battery inserted and time to power up. So far so good. Now it was time to do some installations. First was to get onto the company wireless and download the corporate email and calendar settings. This would have been quite tricky. As the phone is a unix based system you need to get software from repositories (not difficult when you know how) but these were hosted within our company networks and required first configuring local wireless access. However, a 3 page instruction manual made this actually quite painless. Mail and wireless all set up in a few minutes. Next off was to see how things worked on the phone in general. This is a learning curve, and I guess it will take a while though basics seem easy enough. The touch screen takes a bit of getting used to. Again, having just got used to the 5800 this is really like starting again. So with email, wifi, calendar and contacts all set up it was time to grab some of the applications that I was familiar with on the 5800.
Facebook and Twitter apps first. For Facebook I have a home-screen widget that displays notifications and latest activities. This is OK, clicking on any of the texts within takes you to the Facebook web site. Would be open to suggestions on this one for sure. For Twitter I am using Witter. This is pretty good so far. These apps are an replacement (or trying to be) for Snaptu. However, a combination of “conversations” with the Ping FM Gtalk bot at least make posting very easy. Given the amount of battery life the home-screen widgets use, I have come to the conclusion that surfing Twitter and Facebook using the web browser is more than OK. See web browsing below for more thoughts. For chat accounts, I use Pidgeon: this supports Facebook, GTalk, our work chat software and various other protocols. It is a bit buggy, but it does the job pretty well.
For media I have been holding off getting a Spotify premium account as I was unsure if it would work on the N900. Yaspot works for me. The outstanding feature for me here is the ability to “transmit” the sound to any FM radio. This is great for the car and our downstairs living area. With the use of a VNC client I control iTunes on my mac and stream this through my Apple TV.
While Maps on the N900 is functional, it is no way the same kind of service available on newer Nokia devices. No map downloads, that I could find and no voice navigation. Lets see what the future brings for this, but at this point it is quite disappointing. The maps themselves work but the display is not so good and without the “free voice” using this in the car is slightly tricky – especially since I haven’t found a way to stop the screen from fading every couple of minutes.
I know Firefox is available, but I have just started with the built in browser and to be honest I think it is good enough. It is very fast, renders pages pretty nicely and of course is well integrated within the system’s email and SMS etc. Will be sticking with this for now as I am “off the fox” at the moment :-) Most of the pages I have visited so far work fine in the browser – it is very usable.
This is very disappointing also, there is not much to chose from here. Maemo Select and the office Maemo sites offer many applications and recommendations, so the limitations of Ovi are not a hinderance.
Did you know you could actually talk to people on this device too :-) In fact, with the help of the Hermes app you can link your contacts together with Facebook details. Now clicking on a contact allows you to call, email or “IM” the person from one place. The call options too include VOIP client support and Skype. This is a brilliant feature I think. You almost don’t need a SIM card at all … bet the operators aren’t too happy about that though.
The down side
There are a few downs to this device. While not as simple to install software as Symbian Nokia phones, if you have any *nix experience this should not be a hard tool to use but the actual lack of applications is a downer – especially the maps. Battery life is pretty poor. I must say I have been using it constantly during my waking hours, so perhaps this will improve when I go to a more normal usage. In addition I have tried to eliminate all applications that are pinging the network on a schedule or otherwise. This should improve the life a bit too. Finally, the touch screen is very difficult to master – at least at the beginning. This is become easier in time as I get used to the way the screen responds so although I have listed this as a negative it won’t be one for long. It should, however, be easier for a novice to get to grips with!!
Despite the few small negatives I just listed and the fact that is feels like Nokia have dropped this product I truly love this device. It is great for browsing, messaging & calling: this is only the start. It is very fast and does have a “wow” factor. It is a phone to be proud of and show to your friends!!
The thoughts, views and opinions posted on this site do not necessarily reflect those of my employer – there is no insider information..