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Nokia N9 hands on review

Tech and Innovation

Posted on October 26, 2011

6 min read

First impressions of the N9?

This is possibly the sexiest mobile phone ever created.

The combination of an infinity-edge like form factor (read:3.9in, super AMOLED, edge-to-edge display) is just amazing to look at. It is a truly inspired design. Even the back isn’t entirely flat, instead featuring a curved, polycarbonate unibody design making it absolutely scrumptious to hold in your hand, yet placed on a table it still lays relatively flat.

In the box

In the box is the device, a cover, a set of stereo headphones, and what is possibly the coolest power supply ever invented. A tiny little white round plug with a universal USB output. Brilliant idea, should be universal and global! The input on the N9 is micro-USB so cross compatibility with other devices is good also.

The screen itself is the same, not flat but slightly curved, just enough to feel exactly right in your hand or placed against your ear. Again, simply stunning looks. I challenge you to act bored when you first glance at this phone – it is that beautiful to look at.

Available in stores as of 14 October when the whole world was talking about another phone, this new little baby from Nokia snuck quietly into stores without much fuss. But let me tell you it truly deserves a closer look. Why? Well first up just because it is so amazing to look at and hold, and simple to use.

Operating system

Even though it may ship with a seemingly bespoke OS, MeeGo is a really clever and ingeniously simple OS that just works. Not a button in sight, no home or back button, the experience may feel confusing at first, especially for those of us used to using a different type of smart phone.

The UI features three basic home views (events, applications and open apps) with the primary control being a single swipe gesture. Locked screen had me stumped for a while. How do I unlock it? Double tap to wake, then swipe up to unlock. Swipe left to right or vice versa to access any of those three views. Magnificently simple. Once adjusted I found myself tapping other devices to unlock them, then being annoyed that they did not. In fact the swipe function is so elegant and simplistic it really deserves a big pat on the back, I especially like being able to swipe down to close an app, it feels intuitive.

Everything I tried worked, it may not be perfect, but on the whole I actually started to fall for it, and it’s quirky OS. Perhaps that has something to do with my fierce allegiance to Nokia for almost 15 years. Perhaps it is the fact that function takes precedence over ‘must-do-everything’. Functional, simple, elegant.

Take a look at this ‘Nokia N9 Journey’ video from Nokia – everything about it says precision, elegance and quality.

Features

The standby screen is classic (you can switch it on or off), a subtle digital clock that floats across the screen in a low opacity accompanied by notification icons. Little @ symbols for email, a speech bubble for SMS – the other notifications are lacking a little – but I think it could be a setting thing, as I did see an IM that I had a DM on Twitter at one point with the screen locked.

Camera

All up though there are some amazing features to really enjoy. The camera is FAST, point click and shoot. Did I say eight megapixel sensor, Carl Zeiss F2.2 wide-angle autofocus lens, dual-LED flash and 720p HD video recording? Holy cow, this baby is loaded! And image quality is as good as my amateur eye can tell, nice crisp lines, balanced colours that look pretty natural and it has a built in flash that did some weird things to my mind’s eye but I don’t have the tech-talk to tell you just what that means precisely. Just know that the camera does NOT suck.

Maps and GPS navigation

Ever used Drive with Ovi Maps? Now’s the time! It is amazing. Great quality in the maps with 3D street view that is functional and helpful, especially the way it displays recognisable landmarks that give you point of reference in major CBDs. Zooming in and out on landmarks is mesmerising.

Connectivity

Really cool feature of the N9 is the Near Field Communications capability built in out of the box. This means that you can ‘pair and share’ with other device. All you do is touch another NFC-enabled phone to share a photo, video or contact with a friend. You can also use NFC to connect phones and play multiplayer or connect to any accessories supporting NFC, like the Nokia Play 360° wireless speaker. Just one tap and you’re paired.

Dolby Sound

Sound quality is exceptional, with Dolby Headphone for a great spatial sound, but I am not a fan of the headphones that have no volume control on the remote – ok getting picky here.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

And finally, share the love with a built in Wi-Fi hotspot straight out of the box. Great for sharing and travelling, this means that if you have other Wi-Fi only devices then you can share your data across those devices with a simple swipe and activating the Wi-Fi hotspot on the N9.

Wrap up

So in summary the N9 is a high spec device with amazing built in features that work straight out of the box with minimal fuss, and when you consider these things; NFC built in, GPS with turn by turn voice navigation on Ovi Maps, Wifi Hotspot, integrated social stream, Skype and all the standard smartphone capabilities you can think of, it suddenly seems quite a seriously capable phone for someone who wants the simple things to ‘just work’ without too much fuss.

And that’s what this super sexy smart phone does. It just works and looks really, really pretty while doing it.

Oh and for extra bang for your coverage buck, it gets the Telstra Blue Tick of approval to boot! This makes it a great option for people living and working beyond the city fringe.

Pricing

Telstra is offering the Nokia N9 on some great-value Freedom® Connect Plans. For instance, customers can purchase the Nokia N9 on the $59 Freedom Connect Plan with a $20 per month handset payment, after using an included MRO Bonus (for eligible customers) over 24 months (min cost is $1,896) which offers $550 worth of calls and MMS plus unlimited text messaging to standard Australian numbers and 1.5GB of data for use in Australia. Telstra also has a range of Business Maximiser plans to keep Nokia N9 business customers productive on the go.

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