Nov 5, 2011

Posted by in Featured, Mobile, Reviews | 17 Comments

Nokia N9 Review, the last of its kind

When Nokia announced early this year that they will be releasing their one and only MeeGo handset before focusing on the WP7 platform, we weren’t too excited about it. However, we were clearly surprised when they unveiled the beautiful piece of device that is the Nokia N9 last June.

Nokia N9

We were able to try one out for a couple of weeks and got a few gawks from people who saw it. We were also delighted how Nokia implemented the MeeGo OS on the N9 which made it easy to operate. Continue to read our review to see how this phone appealed to us.

Design

The Nokia N9 comes in three colors: cyan, magenta and black. We got the black one right here and and it’s oozing with class. The unibody look with rounded edges gives this phone a fun or serious look depending on the color you choose. The size and weight felt like it was molded for my hand.

Nokia N9

The curved 3.9-inch Gorilla Glass display dominates the front of the phone giving it a clean, glossy look. You might not want to place this phone face down for fear of scratches but the included rubber casing somewhat protects the curved glass. There are no physical buttons in front and the only thing breaking the monotony is the Nokia logo and the front-facing VGA camera on the lower-right portion.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9 Nokia N9

On the right are the volume buttons and the Power/Sleep button. There’s no dedicated shutter button here unlike its twin, the Nokia Lumia 800. On top are two covered ports, one for the microUSB and the other one slides out for the micro SIM. Beside that is the 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom side is bare save for the speakers.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9

At the back is the 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss optics situated on a metal strip bearing the Nokia logo and on top of that is the dual- LED flash. The design is really minimalist although I find it really appealing. There are no detachable panels so don’t expect replaceable batteries here. There’s also no slot for any expandable storage so you have to make do with the 16GB or 64GB internal storage.

If you want to know about the included accessories, here’s the Unboxing of the Nokia N9.

Display and UI

First thing you would notice when the N9 boots up is how crisp and clear the screen is. The N9 has a 3.9” WVGA (854 x 480) AMOLED screen with Nokia’s ClearBlack display for deeper blacks and vibrant colors. I kid you not, the display on this one just blew me away.

Navigation through the N9’s UI is very simple. All it takes are swipes as there are no menu buttons nor widgets to think about. Reminds me of how navigating is done on the BlackBerry PlayBook but more simple.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9

On standby mode, the screen only displays the clock. When you press the Wake button, the lockscreen shows your wallpaper and any message or call notifications and also scheduled events. The lockscreen can be unlocked by just swiping it off the screen.

Nokia N9

There are only three screens involved here that can be accessed by swiping your fingers left and right. The main screen is made up of a four-columns filled with icons that like the ones used in Nokia’s Symbian OS. Navigating is done by scrolling up and down and a problem I see here is the amount of scrolling needed when you already have lots of apps installed. This was a problem on the iOS and was solved with the use of folders.

Nokia N9

Next is the multitask screen which shows apps that are running in the background. Videos are paused when you swiped out of it while the browser continues to load the web page even in the background which is nice.

Nokia N9

Then there’s also the news feed screen which aggregates feeds from your social network accounts. It can get crowded quickly and there’s no way to filter which feed source you want to view. Notifications can also be viewed on this screen.

Nokia N9

The status bar on top can be accessed by a single tap on top of the screen. You can select profiles and view network settings from this pulldown screen.

Setting Up and Performance

The Nokia N9 is powered by a single-core 1GHz processor and runs on MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan OS which is something new to us. It’s not a problem at all. Once you get the hang of the navigation, setting up accounts (there’s an Accounts app) is very intuitive and you must do so to fully maximize this smartphone.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9 Nokia N9

The built-in Facebook app works well and is somewhat integrated to the phone. Facebook friends can be linked to your own contacts and Facebook chat works seamlessly with the the N9’s messaging app. If you’re a heavy FB user, the N9 won’t disappoint you.

Nokia N9

The onscreen keyboard looks nice but is basic-looking. Reminds me of the keyboard on iPhones which requires a lot of layout switching for special characters. Coming from an Android smartphone, I didn’t find any trouble touch-typing on the Nokia N9 despite the small keys. There’s a slight haptic feedback on each keypress which is a nice touch for this phone.

As for performance, switching between screens and background apps is fast… most of the time. I would encounter a bit of lag when swiping. Like the phone is not being responsive enough and sometimes it would even hang and I need to sleep/wake my device. I figured it’s when the feeds are refreshing but I asked other tech guys and they say their review units were pretty breezy. Must be isolated to my own unit. Hmmm.

Multimedia and Gaming

I’m pleased to tell you guys that I was able to play a number of different video files without having to convert anything. Just transferred them on the phone from my laptop via drag and drop and it played a 720p FLV file, 720p mp4, AVIs and MKVs. Watching it on the gorgeous screen gives a high-quality viewing experience.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9

Music files are also automatically detected even if you put them in different folders. The music app is very easy to use with a tiled display for all your albums. The included earphones should be replaced with better ones though.

Nokia N9

Games are restricted to what the Ovi store has to offer although there are a few games made/ported for the N9 already installed (Angry Birds, GoF2, NFS Shift and Real Golf 2011). Loading the games are very snappy and we didn’t see any frame stuttering at all.

Nokia N9

Web browsing is fast and renders smoothly although MeeGo doesn’t support Flash so it’s something to consider if you really want Flash components to play on your phone’s browser. Pinch-to-zoom is supported as well as HTML5. Tabbed browsing is not supported but instead, each new window is a browser of its own in the multitask screen.

Camera and Sample Photos

The Nokia N9 has an 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss camera that is VERY quick to focus. In fact, one of the features Nokia boasts about this phone is how quick it is to take good pictures.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9

There are a number of basic camera settings you can set on this phone’s camera app as well as basic editing after a picture is taken. Quality of photos range from nice to noisy. It produces really nice outdoor daylight photos with nice colors but indoors will give you grainy but still usable shots.

Here are some sample photos taken with the N9:

[nggallery id=22]

The deal here is that you won’t feel bad leaving your point-and-shoot camera at home and shooting with the N9. This one can also shoot 720p HD videos by the way. Camera’s better than my HTC Sensation if I might say.

A thing I need to point out is that the front-facing VGA camera doesn’t work with Skype for video chats (audio only).

Nokia Drive

One of the strong suits of Nokia smartphones is their Nokia Drive (previously Ovi drive). This app turns your Nokia N9 into a GPS device for your car. It’s absolutely free and you can get directions despite the sparse amount of POIs.

Nokia N9

It’s not the real deal yet since you have to manually add your POIs that kinda defeats the main purpose of a GPS unit which is knowing how to get to a place you’ve never been to yet. However, the app is there and it’s up to you to make use of or not.

Battery Life

The 1450mAh battery rating on the N9 is just average but it gave me a day and half worth of usage when 3G is not turned on. That includes a bit of gaming, a bit of photos, a short video and a lot of FB, Foursquare and Twitter. It’s pretty safe to say the one day is the average lifespan of a single charge of this phone.

Verdict

On its own, the Nokia N9 is one gorgeous-looking smartphone which is powerful yet simple and easy to use. Users coming from feature phones won’t have to deal with the complexity of owning their first smartphone with the N9. It even has a built-in WiFi hotspot feature to turn it a wireless 3G modem.

Nokia N9

What you need to understand is that Nokia decided not to continue development on the MeeGo so what you see here is what you get won’t be making any more MeeGo phones. They will continue support and software updates for maybe up to two years but that’s it. Apps are very limited and heavily relies on ported ones from the Ovi Store which is bare compared to the Android market or the App Store. If the N9 sales will prove otherwise then let’s hope that Nokia will have a change of heart with MeeGo.

If you’re fine with the basic functions of a smartphone and the staple apps you can think of then the Nokia N9 is a device that we recommend. It’s fast, looks beautiful both inside and out and is a very capable smartphone despite its known limitations. If you love the exteriors but want a more future-friendly phone, then the Nokia Lumia 800 is the best alternative.

We don’t know how much the actual unit costs yet when it becomes available this month but Smart is already offering it for pre-order to their postpaid subscribers. Will keep this updated once the prepaid price is announced.

UPDATE: We got the suggested retail price, it’s Php24,990 for the 16GB and Php29,450 for the 64GB.

Nokia N9 Specs:
ARM Cortex-A8 OMAP3630 1 Ghz, PowerVR SGX530
3.9” WVGA (854×480) AMOLED display with curved Gorilla glass, no air gap, anti-glare polarizer
MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan OS
Pentaband WCDMA 850, 900, 1900, 1700, 2100, Quad band GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900
1GB RAM, 16GB/64GB storage
8Mpix (f2.2) auto-focus Carl Zeiss, wide-angle lens, 2x LED flash
Video capturing MPEG-4 SP 720p @ 30fps
2nd camera for video calls
Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, A-GPS, WLAN 802.11abgn, NFC, 3.5mm AV connector,  micro USB connector, USB charging
Colors: black, magenta, cyan
Weight: 135g
Battery: 1450mAh
SRP: Php24,990 (16GB), Php29,450 (64GB, black only)


  1. This will be the last pure Nokia. The last Nokia smartphone that I’ll be buying.

  2. Thanks for the great review pala Calvin.

    Sa SG medyo expensive, ang N9 16gb = SGS2 in terms of price. At mas mahal pa ang 64gb.

    Between N9 and lumia 800, N9 pa rin ako. The last of its kind diba. Whereas sa WP lahat almost parehas lang, brand and physical appearance lang different. You get the same platform experience so its a bit hard to choose Nokia over hTC, Samsung and LG.

    Back to N9, kelan kaya ang official launch?

  3. I’m not much of a Nokia user but the N9 has all the bells and whistles that you find in a smartphone.

  4. Is this waterproof type of phone?

  5. Looks neat. Nokia is so yesterday though. Just saying. :) kudos to nokia for keeping up!

  6. another nice review sir. if i would be replacing my phone today, this would be it. too bad i just bought a new phone a few months ago.

  7. Hintayin ko na lang to sa tipidpc :)

  8. sir, sagot lang dito — “problem I see here is the amount of scrolling needed when you already have lots of apps installed. This was a problem on the iOS and was solved with the use of folders.”

    una sir, ung sa lots of apps, ndi na cguro dadami ng sobra apps sa meego, unless, lahat ng available e, iddownload mo.. hehehe

    pangalawa sir, alam ko pwede ka rin gumawa ng sarili mong folder dyan..

    pangatlo sir, ung “folder”, native and very basic na functionality ng nokia phones, symbian and meego alike.. na sa iOS e, software update pa sa mediocre phone ng apple.. hehehe..

  9. i saw this in one of the stores here in china…the design is really appealing gorgeous phone esp d white one but i have a hard time dealing with the sales person you see they dont(limited) speak english here(language barrier)so i backed out hehe..i know theres a lot of good phones out there to choose from d likes of sg2 or iphone4 but dis is d only phone na impress aq design wise (phone crush) but i read that nokia is abandoning this device so any advise as to what i will buy this or d lumia 800? im not a tech freak or something as long as i can text, call some net browsing ok na..will buy dis june when i get back in d phils..

    • well the n9 runs on meego which is unique by itself pero if you want more support for the platform, go with the windows phone counterpart instead which is the lumia 800.

  10. hi calvin ask ko lang kung ang mangyayari same lang ang applications ng n9 at lumia 800 what would you choose between the two? I’m thinking of replacing my phone and nokia gusto kong next phone. so what will be it? THanks!

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