Nokia N9 Hands-on

Nokia N9 Hands-on
Nokia fans around the world, we feel sorry for you right now. With Symbian Anna, Windows Phone and MeeGo all spread across different upcoming handsets, working out which camp to pitch tent is no easy feat. Until a few weeks ago, it was all very simple, 'Symbian out, Windows Phone in, MeeGo who?', but that was until Nokia decided to let their N9 shaped cat out of the bag. The Nokia N9 sports MeeGo 1.2 aboard a sleek, mainstream physiques, coupling high grade build quality and a one-hand centric touch UI. Under the hood sits a 1GHz processor with a 3.9” AMOLED display, not to mention an 8MP Carl Zeiss camera with a dual LED flash. Playing with a prototype earlier today, we were in gadget heaven for a full 15 minutes, dampened only by the lack of information surrounding the release of this surprise contestant in the mobile OS race.

Slick, simple, sexy, the Nokia N9 has ‘it’, that x-factor that lets you know, this is cool. With visual flourishes kept to a minimum, the beauty is in the detail, or lack there-of. The matte, high-grade plastic feels robust and is coloured, not painted, so can’t be chipped to reveal white. The convex bevelled display also adds subtle tactility while the lack of buttons just entices you to touch, stroke and swipe.

With an anti-glare Gorilla glass AMOLED display and a resolution of 480x854 pixels, Nokia has added a new screen resolution to its repertoire, and while it won’t blow minds, it’s a solid benchmark to start on. The UI’s use of black coupled with the AMOLED display also turns the aesthetics into a fluid rippling puddle of interactivity in contrast to the jarring staggered visuals Symbian became renowned for.

The Nokia N9 goes easy on the buttons, with none on the fascia and the right side housing a power / unlock button as well as the volume keys. A headphone jack and micro SIM card slot sit on the top end while the speaker lies below. Similarly minimalistic, a metallic strip accents the 8MP camera on the reverse with a dual LED flash sitting quietly to the right.

As far as the UI goes, there are three main screens: notifications, all apps and open apps. These can be swiped through left to right or vice versa. Black is used entirely throughout the UI in the background taking full advantage of the display, so with the simplistic design and panoramic take on menu systems, the Windows Phone 7 influence is undeniable.

Either press the unlock button on the side or double-tap on the display to light up the screen, partially unlocking it. To finish the job, simply swipe across the now lit up display for full access. If you have any notifications, you can access them directly from the lock screen. The notifications page is super straightforward, clean and simple. The apps drawer displays four columns of free scrolling applications. These can be rearranged with a long press and can also consist of shortcuts to things like websites, stripping things right back to a single menu to rule them all. Swiping to the multi-tasking pane and your open apps are displayed in a 3x3 format, pinch in and this zooms in on apps resulting in a 2x2 view. A single tap takes you to the app while a long press lets you close one app or all.

When an app is opened, just swipe it left to send it to the multi-tasking pane, swipe it right to close it altogether. If you’re worried about accidentally closing apps, Nokia have designed the UI so it only registers a swipe if it starts from the extreme left or right. What’s nice is that you can partially swipe apps out, so if you start to swipe, then change your mind, just drag your finger back to reinstate your app to the forefront of the Nokia N9’s attention.

Support for accounts includes all your standard mail clients as well as Facebook and Twitter. There’s also a fully functioning voice guided turn-by-turn GPS that uses OVI Maps as well as everything else you’d come to expect from a modern day smart-phone.

An interesting point is that this handset doesn’t like to be in landscape. In fact, it actively encourages one-handed usage. Even Nokia’s music app, which once switched into coverflow when flipped to landscape, now remains in portrait when the phone is rotated, bypassing some eye-candy but directing the user experience more cohesively at the same time.

The camera app is also an evolution. Adopting touch to focus with an array of scenes and manual overrides such as brightness, contrast, ISO etc. The Nokia N9 takes pictures at 8MP / 8MP wide with a sensor designed with wide photos in mind. While it doesn’t have all the mega pixels of the N8 and the physical sensor size is smaller, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with the lens and sensor seeming to produce good quality, comparable shots. It also shoots video at 30fps 720p. The model we used is a prototype and so shouldn’t be judged as final, though we were impressed on the whole.

With in excess of fifteen apps multi-tasking, we didn’t see any slowdown on the Nokia N9, even when playing video and browsing the web. Performance therefore seems to be great off the bat. It will be interesting to see how the phone's 1GHz processor copes when a range of 3rd party applications are installed and live updates are occurring in the background.

So there you have it, a brief run down of the killer aspects of this new MeeGo handset, the Nokia N9. We love it at first glance, feel and play. Unfortunately though, it ticks the same boxes as Windows Phone 7 acting as whole new OS proposition when Nokia have already committed to another. With the hardware looking identical to the leaked Sea Ray, we’re worried releasing both devices side by side would confuse and fragment Nokia users across app stores, OSs and user experiences. With Stephen Elop’s explicit focus on Windows Phone as the future of Nokia therefore, we can’t help but curb our enthusiasm for the future of MeeGo, no matter how intriguing the Nokia N9 is. Check out the video run throughs for an in-depth look at the OS and stay tuned to PhoneArena for a full review in the coming months.

Nokia N9 Hands-on:

Nokia N9 Demonstration:

Nokia N9 Notifications:

Related phones

  • Display 3.9" 480 x 854 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1450 mAh(7.00h 3G talk time)



1. Nitish kumar unregistered

but other websites say there is a dual-LED flas

2. Tejagamer unregistered

Good Hands On preview.. BTW its 8MP and not 5MP... (4th Para, Before last line)... Hope its good...

3. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

Sorry about the 5MP and single LED flash mistakes! You're right, of course it has 8MP with dual-LED flash! We fixed those.

4. Denio

Posts: 23; Member since: Feb 15, 2011

So you open the dialer and to get back you swipe it. And if you do it with several "apps", you then need to close them at the multitasking page.. I don't like the idea. It seems the reviewer was also looking for a back button for a second. They need to find a way to immediately and easily close an app without moving back and forth and do it in 4 steps.. I open the dialer and close it. That's it. Why would I want everything to be left open?

5. larryg968 unregistered

U can close applications by swiping from top to bottom but its off by default. This has to be turned on

6. Sam unregistered

I see your point - it could get a bit messy to have so many apps open and only being able to close them in the homescreen - but I think that as long as having multiple apps in the background doesn't affect the performance/speed of the phone, then it should be fine. As I understand it, the phone does hibernate the apps that haven't been used in a while, and apps are also updated live when left in the background (e.g. weather app). From the early reviews so far, this beast seems to be able to handle several apps open at once, so I don't think performance will be an issue. Will this powerful multi-tasking drain the battery, however? Still, I think leaving the apps in the background will be very useful as you can easily access your most used apps more easily, and the apps are re-opened at the last stage you used them.

7. Devo unregistered

This phone looks quite amazing so far. I hope that Nokia don't abandon this OS, as it seems very innovative (complete swipe gesturing) and IMO is more aesthetically pleasing than Windows Phone. My main worry would be the app ecosystem, and if Nokia don't plan to continue support for Meego, then why would people buy this product, and why would developers make apps for a dead-end ecosystem? Still, the UI and experience seen in early videos is light years ahead of anything Symbian has offered so far, and I think that while not having a dedicated home button might be a bit disorientating at first, it won't take long to get used to the swiping method. The only thing I was a bit disappointed with was that, unlike Symbian and Maemo 5 (on the N900), there are no widgets and therefore the homescreens aren't really customizable. Still, I can't wait to try one out.

8. jack1059 unregistered

Its crazy to watch this internal nokia battle. Sure elop wants windows as the premier osm but the rest of the company is less than thrilled and want me ego / symbian as the premier os,s. Elops racing to get a windows os phone out and others are racing out meego to cut that off. The windows deal isn't completely done yet. That's how I see it anyway.

9. Josh unregistered

Nokia should just pick android as their OS. Problem solved.

11. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

For those of us who value customization and true homescreens, yes, I completely agree. But there is a large audience who would see value in an OS like this.

16. zuno gyakusatsu

Posts: 257; Member since: Mar 16, 2010

no. problem created.


Posts: 38; Member since: Jun 14, 2011


12. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

I've said it once, and I'll say it again. This IS Nokia's iPhone.

13. fawaz unregistered

so...u cant install any widgets or wallpapers in the home screen????

18. Tom unregistered

No, you cannot put widgets on the homescreens. It seems Nokia has traded customization for simplicity. There are three homescreens - one for events/notifications (including social network updates), the app drawer, and multi-tasking panel. Quite a radical change from Symbian and even the N900. I suppose that some Nokia users will be unhappy with the lack of customization on this phone.

19. yann

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 15, 2010

Dude, you're wrong: The screen with notification can use widgets - see weather widget on the top? And social networks widgets...? What more do you want?

23. BiboKid unregistered

The multitasking view is able to display not just screen shots of open applications, but live previews. Some applications are able to run continuously even on the multitasking view. Developers can take advantage of this. the Open Apps View is "n9's answer" to widgets.

14. vishu9

Posts: 252; Member since: Mar 03, 2011

this is supercool!!!

15. hiren unregistered

awsome...unfortunatly its nt gona make it to i will find my way to replay some money frm my pocked with N9... true wt they say... 'beauty is in simplicity'... android n ios r succesful coz they r simple to use...meego is even simplier...nw this gona hv the same impact on android n ios which these 2 has on symbian...

17. cposey

Posts: 25; Member since: Apr 30, 2011

What carrier is this phone for?

20. ezameht unregistered

MeeGo on the N9 is absolutely awesome. The WP-7 strategy by Nokia however sucks completely. Please Nokia, fire Elop and push MeeGo.

21. redman356

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 02, 2011

as a loyal nokia fan for some time now i am EXTREMELY dissappointed with their stategic moves, i mean is mr. FLOP sorry i mean mr. ELOP

22. redman356

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 02, 2011

as a nokia fan for some time now i have grown increasingly dissapointed with the stategic decisions that mr. elop has been making for some time now , its as though he wants NOKIA to become obsolete. Already in some quarters its being said that nokia is already dead. i mean look at the superb opportunity for nokia to regain some market share with this awesome handset the N9 and even before it starts selling, they anounce that they will not be continuing with the meego platform....... i mean as a business person how stupid can you be mr FLOP I mean MR ELOP.

24. redman356

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 02, 2011


25. dirtymoon unregistered

go meego go meego. fire mr. flop. he's a pillock

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