13
Oct 11

N9 Unboxing

So, as before, the first thing to do is to unbox the N9. And, as before, others have done this in a bit more detail than me, but c’est la vie. On with it:

DHL packet

A quick rip, shred and tearing of bubblewrap later, and the contents are quite minimalist:

Contents of the DHL pouch

Unpacking the N9

Contents of the box

The phone itself, some paperwork, a rubber protector for the case, a USB-to-microUSB cable for charging and connecting to the PC, a mains-to-USB convertor for charging and a wired handsfree headphones set. All neatly packed away, nothing shifting around in the box or ill-protected – in fact the phone itself comes in a sort of all-over peel-off plastic protector.

But enough about the perhiphirals and accessories, on to the phone itself:

N9 face-on

N9 face-on

First impression? Shiny. Very shiny. Every surface is polished and it feels odd in the hand after the solidity of the N900. It feels as light as, or lighter than, the old e71 did. The way the front panel rises off the surface like a glass blister is a bit odd to the touch for some reason, but the feel in the hand is natural – there’s a slight curve to the back of the phone that sits well, at least in my hand.

It also feels quite different from the N900 with its sliding screen – you get a very rigid physical feel from this phone.

Looking at the sides for controls and ports is a very fast exercise indeed:

N9 left side

N9 left side

N9 right side

N9 right side

N9 bottom

N9 bottom

N9 top

N9 top

Basicly, there’s almost nothing there compared to the N900, which was adorned with ports. You have nothing at all on the left, a multifunction button and a volume up/down rocker on the right, the speaker grille on the bottom and the headphones socket on the top, along with two panels which open to reveal the microUSB charging/data port and the microSIM card holder.

N9 top, opened

N9 top, opened

Wait a second, microSIM.

Ah, feck. The N900 uses a normal miniSIM card. How do you review a phone when you can’t use it as a phone?

Well, turns out the difference between a full-size SIM card, a miniSIM and a microSIM is purely physical in nature – cut bits off and you can turn a full SIM to a miniSIM or a miniSIM to a microSIM.

SIM Card sizes

SIM Card sizes

MiniSIM-to-MicroSIM cutting template

MiniSIM-to-MicroSIM cutting template

And there are microSIM adapters that will bring a microSIM back up to miniSIM size as well:

microSIM to miniSIM adaptor

microSIM to miniSIM adaptor

So my plan was to cut down my miniSIM from my N900 to a microSIM for the N9 and use the adapter to move the SIM back to the N900 post-trial. I checked with Meteor on twitter and they confirmed that replacing a damaged SIM wouldn’t be a problem. So, out with the ruler and scalpel and scissors and DIY SIM to microSIM template

Trimming down SIM card

Trimming down SIM card

Unfortunately, it turns out that Meteor’s SIM cards have odd contacts, and if you use the contact pad as a landmark when deciding where to cut, you get the cut wrong – you have to cut through the actual contact pad on the side opposite the angled corner when doing the trimming. So a second trim was required, and then shimming the now-mangled card back into the holder in the right place:

Trimming and Shimming the microSIM

Trimming and Shimming the microSIM

But ultimately, it worked, and I now have a fully functioning N9 to test for the next two weeks. I’ll follow the same path as I did with the N900 trial – I’ll compare the N9 to the N900 and the e71, field test it for a while to see if it can replace a netbook the same way an N900 can, and generally muck about with it and see how well it does the things I need it to do…


10
Oct 11

N9 trial

So a while back, I got offered a trial of a Nokia N900, which worked out reasonably well – to the point where I went off and bought my own, which is still my primary phone today.

However, my N900 is two years old now and starting to show its age a bit. The core functions still run well, but two years is long enough to have found the rough edges – some of them in places where rough edges shouldn’t exist, like in the telephony functions. Yes, it’s more a netbook with a phone function than a phone with a netbook function, but still – the screen rotation and UI responsiveness have caused dropped calls in the past, and I’ve had to reboot from lockups a few times, and if the camera app crashes with the lens cover open, that’s a hardware reset; and there are other small niggles. It’s still my primary phone, and I still maintain that it’s better than an iPhone (or an Android for that matter, though the gap there is smaller); but I have been looking at the Nokia N9 since its initial leaks with avarice.

Original leaked N9 design

Original leaked N9 design

The original N9 has since morphed into the N950, and the new N9 is a more iPhone form factor, lacking a physical keyboard, but I still wanted to give it a try, so I asked WomWorldNokia if I could do a trial with it the same way as I had with the N900. They didn’t have one at the time, but put my name on the list and the other day I got this on twitter:

WOMWorldNokia twitterAnd in my email is the paperwork for the trial, which I sent back that day and this afternoon, the package arrived at work. So tonight I’ll unbox it, and for the next fortnight I’ll use it in place of my regular N900, and we’ll see if I have to try for an upgrade šŸ˜€

Nokia N9

Nokia N9


10
May 10

Why the Nokia N900 is fundamentally better than the iPhone





Nokia N900As I said before, with the trial N900 gone back to WOMWorld, ļ»æļ»æI wanted to compare the Nokia N900 to its most obvious competitor, the iPhone, and the outcome was important enough to do in a seperate post. So here goes.

The thing is, the N900 is not just a phone, it’s more than that. Yes, every marketing department says that every time they bring out a new phone, but in a very few cases it’s actually been true. It was true about the first smartphone; it was true about the first iPhone; and it’s true about the N900. The first smartphone was the start of the smartphone market, the first iPhone was the start of the app store and marked theĀ realĀ birth of the mobile web; and the N900 is the first real convergent device and it marks the first time there’s been a real,Ā compromise-free choice between a walled garden from Apple and an open platform. There are two reasons why this is true, and why the N900 is fundamentally better than the iPhone, and more importantly, why it will remain so, and they are:

  1. Convergence. Right now, you have several communications streams — email, twitter, facebook, IM, SMS, VoIP, voice, and more. Convergence is about handling all of those in a single device, all fully supported and fully integrated, and with the ability to both consume and create content. Nothing else on the market today can touch the N900 for this, including the iPhone. The N900 takes convergence as a design principle from the hardware level on up; the iPhone does not. And the iPhone is not likely to even try to compete with the N900 in this area because Steve JobsĀ does not want convergence.Ā As Charles Stross pointed out recently, computing as we know it is just past a major tipping point that will see mobile computing change the field utterly. Whomever owns the the app store and the communications streams will own that market, and Steve Jobs realises that that ownership is key to Apple’s business model. Which takes us into the second point:
  2. Freedom. What the N900 does is to take existing communications streams (voice, VoIP, twitter, etc) and bring them all to you over one single device using open standards. The point of the N900 is to be a tool for you to use, whereas the point of the iPhone platforms is to be a tool to allow Apple to own the communications stream (ironically, that means that Nokia is now being more like Apple’s earlier days thanks to a change in philosophy at Apple that Slate recently noted). It’s a difference reflected in the nature of the two companies; Nokia makes communications devices to work on standardised networks owned by several other third parties; its productsĀ mustĀ interoperate with others well or it goes out of business. Apple, however, makes products that must not work well with other products or Apple’s business model won’t work and they go out of business. Got an iPod? How do you get music to it? Yup, iTunes. No drag-and-drop, no straightforward file transfer, you have to go via an Apple product, and not just some application they sell to you once, but an application they maintain ongoing involvement in via the app store and iTunes store. The iPhone platforms lock you in, while the N900 allows you the freedom to do whatever you want. The N900 is probably the closest thing to a phone that both Richard Stallman and Steve WozniakĀ would be happy to use as we are ever likely to see.Ā It runs linux, you can code for it in a range of languages, there’s no wierd licencing deal going on, it plays with every existing communications stream out there; even in hardware, it uses industry-standard connectors for the headphones and microUSB ports and other subsystems. This phone is an object example in how to build a device that’s about giving the user a better tool to use; rather than building a better EULA to force the user to use your device; and it’s also an object lesson in why something that sounds as hippie-flower-power as ‘Freedom’ is actually a serious end-user issue.

In an Apple-v-Nokia comparison, the Nokia N900 kicks the iPhone’s backside. In design, the N900 does convergence far, far better. In ideology, the iPhone isn’t even playing the same game as the N900. In price, the N900 costs 25% less than the iPhone (and does more than it).Ā Granted, there are implementation bugs, but comparing what the Nokia represents to what the iPhone represents, I’ll take the Nokia any day of the week. The N900 only lacks polish — the iPhone lacks substance and that’s a far more serious problem.

So why doesn’t Android kick the iPhone’s backside in this way? Because in terms of convergence, Android isn’t quite as far along as the N900 (yet). And because in terms of freedom, Android is just another walled garden but this time with a different name on the wall. Granted, Android’s walled garden is a better place than the iPhone’s but it’s still got walls. The N900 is just that little bit better at convergence and just that little bit better at being open. For example, you use standard Debian repositories on the N900, not an app store. Want to get your software on the N900 from a distribution point of view? You don’t have to go via Nokia. That’s a pretty fundamental difference, and so long as Nokia don’t try to alter that, they’ll have the better product from an end-user’s point of view.

So should you buy an N900? Will I be buying one?

Yes, in short. It’s far cheaper than the iPhone, it does more, it restricts me less, it’s more expandable and usable, and it makes my life a lot easier than any other smartphone or netbook ļ»æwould. It would reduce the amount of stuff I have to cart about the place with the E71 and do the jobs I need doing better than I can do them at the moment. I just need to find a local place to buy from so I can get a fast fix/replacement in the event that bug 6063 shows up again.