The beauty of MeeGo is its simplicity. The OS is comprised of 3 screens, a fixed notifications bar at the top and hardly any layers. Screen one is a four column view of your apps. Screen two, multi-tasking, providing thumbnails of open-apps. Finally, the third screen offers a dashboard of Twitter and Facebook feeds while also indicating notifications and weather. Journeying between screens is achieved by a horizontal swipe, with all three screens cycling through a loop, so you always have somewhere to go whichever way you swipe.
Screen one, the apps screen is single layered, so no folders in sight. It looks neat and clean while allowing for basic customization. With a long press, all the app icons gray out, with small crosses appearing next to specific apps. This grayed out screen enables re-ordering or uninstalling of apps
The second screen, multi-tasking displays a thumbnail of each open application. These can be scrolled through, tapped on for quick access or long-pressed for further options. These options allow you to close windows one by one, or close all.
The final screen in MeeGo's minimalistic arsenal involves updates. These include both Twitter and Facebook, with the option of including news articles from the pre-installed AP Mobile news app. There is the option to display either 50, 100, 200 or 500 items with an update interval ranging from 10 minutes through to 24 hours.
The notification band at the top of the display indicates battery, network, Wi-Fi, Facebook chat / Gtalk status and time. This can be expanded by a tap, allowing you to select a profile, choose your chat status and your Wi-Fi connection.
The locking mechanism on the Nokia N9 takes full advantage of the physical convex quality of the screen. It requires a two stage unlock, firstly, a double tap or press of the unlock button. Second, an edge to edge swipe across the sleek fascia, with the tapering edges indicating that at the end of your swipe, you have indeed reached your destination.
All this talk of swiping alludes to the final point to note about MeeGo's UI: managing windows. With any window other than a main screen open, a swipe from bottom edge to top edge, or either horizontal edge across will send the application to the multi-tasking pane, and send you to a main screen. If you wish to close an app completely, simply swipe down.
This step by step explanation goes to indicate the beautiful simplicity of MeeGo, at its heart, it's an operating system that's easy to get to grips with, looks charming and adopts gestures more fundamentally than any other major mobile OS before it, with the exception of perhaps HP WebOS. While it can jitter and slow down, and there are a few kinks to iron out in terms of functionality (swipe up won't close video player), had we not already known MeeGo's future, we would have anticipated it to be very promising.
As far as key phone tools, the dialer and phone functionality works well. Every button, icon and drop down menu is touch optimized and looks charming. Adding a contact is a piece of cake and the Nokia N9 synchronized easily with our Google contacts. Unfortunately, the calendar wasn't so easy to sync, but sill performs well, with a split panel view and attractive UI.
Messaging on the Nokia N9 is a treat. The keyboard offers amongst the best haptic feedback you're going to experience, while the keyboard in landscape is well laid out and easy to get to grips with. The portrait QWERTY is a touch thin for comfortable thumb typing, though we got used to it pretty quickly.
There is support for a range of accounts, with the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter integration also coming in the form of fully functioning apps. There is also support for Skype, Flickr, Picasa, Youtube, and other accounts such as mail for exchange.
There are also a range of other useful applications on the N9, such as notes, document viewer, RSS feeds, AccuWeather and AP Mobile, not to mention some pre-installed games, including trials of Angry Birds, Galaxy on Fire 2, Need for Speed Shift and Real Golf 2011. Finally, MeeGo also sports a useful search function that enables you to trawl the entire phone for whatever it is you're after.
As far as the market experience goes, Ovi Store is sorely lacking. We were able to find a screenhot app and some additional new apps, however this isn't the handset to buy if you're looking for an engaging app experience. In the Nokia N9's defence however, most of what you'll ever need is pre-installed on the device.