Nokia N9

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Reviewed by illuminuldis (Currently owns)

Conclusion: The best designed smartphone I have ever held, and worth the cost if you can do without the apps and love linux and truly open-source platforms.

Pros: Innovate UX, Top-notch industrial design, durable components, open-source/customizable, great native apps/integration, one-of-a-kind experience

Cons: Lacks an eco-system of apps & services to match iOS, Android, WP7; occasional software glitches; camera performance is spotty.

When you hold it, it feels like a premium smartphone. The N9 feels cool to the touch and is very durable, thanks to its one-piece polycarbonate shell and curved gorilla glass.

The UI feels natural and intuitive, making navigation for first-time users a breeze. The UI is consistently handsome, with squircles peppered throughout the OS and native apps scrolling and presenting themselves with fluidity and consistency.

The screen is a gorgeously curved AMOLED with ClearBlack Display tech, projecting deep, rich blacks. But there are some examples of red accents showing up on the screen while white elements are being displayed.

Voice quality is excellent, as is the overall speaker quality. Predictably, the stock headphones are garbage, though the included case fits well.

Pre-installed apps like mail, maps, browser, drive, and music are attractive and well-designed, though the browser is not nearly as fast as iOS or Android, with webpages exhibiting significant checker-boarding even when claiming to have fully rendered. Pinch-to-zoom is smooth, and its scrolling and "bouncing" physics can rival an iPhone.

I received my N9 with some bloatware that was pre-installed by the retailer, but once I flashed my device to the new software version (PR 1.1), the performance of the device improved markedly. Occasional software glitches persist with the new firmware, including lag in loading apps and others sometimes crashing, but overall the N9 works exceptionally well.

You'll find a few nice apps here and there, but overall the store is weak, lacking key titles available on other platforms. There are some high quality games (Angry birds, Samurai Vengeance, Roboto etc), and more apps and games trickle into the store every day, while third-party websites enable sideloading. Emulators, such as Emumaster, essentially expand the number of gaming titles into the hundreds, if not thousands.

The camera should be better, given its 8 MP Carl Zeiss lens and f/2.2 aperture, but a grainy look with green tinges ruins some photos. Nokia is expected to update the camera software on the N9 and its Lumia 800 cousin, and it can't come soon enough.

Since MeeGo is essentially open-source, there are tons of adjustments, effects, and gestures you can add either through apps or direct coding.

Overall, the quality of the device as a one-off makes for a uniquely innovative, if unfinished, experience. For the same price you could buy a top-notch Android or iPhone, but unless you need the ecosystem, the N9 is just as good, if not better.

The Breakdown

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  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 10
  • Display 8
  • Camera(s) 7
  • Reception / call quality 9
  • Performance 8
  • Software 9
  • Battery life 8
  • Ecosystem 4
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