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Firmware update wishlist for the N900: 35 things that need sorting in the Nokia N900 (software wise)

| December 22, 2009 | 50 Replies

We all know that the N900 is a work in progress. Nokia famously proclaimed the N900 to only be “step 4” of a 5 step route to Maemo glory and smartphone perfection. Well words to that effect anyway.

Hardware wise -I won’t go into this too heavily though there are three main aspects that resonate amongst reviewers that needs some attention:

  • the N900 seems too large for mass market.  Everyone seems to have gotten used to anorexic phones. Realistically it’s not that big, it’s more short and fat. The N900’s  size is acceptable but would prefer it to be slimmer.
  • The keyboard needs addressing. The top row is a touch cramped whilst still only being 3-row [Nokia said this was to optimize combination of screen/keyboard use]. Whether the successor will still have one is not 100% certain.
  • The resistive screen – it will be the last time we’ll see it on a flagship device as it’s already been confirmed that the successor of the N900 will get Capacitive screen with multitouch. [Symbian too] Though the debate shouldn’t really over the technology rather the responsiveness and accuracy of the screen, for now capacitive’s feather light touch makes any touch UI miles better

Software wise, Nokia with Maemo are on the right path. Combined with the hardware it’s a true multimedia powerhouse with multitasking prowess that’s to be revered. Usually the first round of firmware is plagued by bugs but not so with the N900. There are a few but they’re hard to replicate and don’t really interfere with the operation.

Fortunately, as we’ve seen with Symbian and S60, things can gradually be ironed out with firmware updates. So any issues you might see today, may not be there in the next firmware session.

i.e. These N900 ‘issues’ CAN BE SORTED ^_^

Below I’ve listed out things in order of importance (to me)- from what needs sorting now to wish lists[non essential but would be nice]. These are mostly achievable in the N900.

The following are just my opinions, feel free to offer up other suggestions to what I believe are “issues” or even just disagree that they’re issues in the first place.



  1. MENU/MULTITASK/DESKTOP view confusion: This is probably one of the biggest causes for concerns because it makes the Maemo 5 UI appear less intuitive than it actually is:
    1. The menu button is contextual.
      1. If you have no apps running it’s just a menu/desktop button.
      2. If you have an open app, it becomes a menu/multitask button
      3. Getting back to the desktop is the confusion. You can only do it by going into multitask view and pressing the empty spaces around the windows. This causes confusion for first time users expecting menu button to bring them back to the desktop
    2. Once you get your head around this Maemo logic, you’ll find it’s actually the best solution for navigation especially when you’re multitasking tons of windows.
    3. However for the sake of “pick up and play”, if you don’t get this logic, the N900 will be frustrating to “navigate”.
    4. Solution? Possibly a separate “button” for desktop/menu and “Multitask view/Desktop” –
    5. This needs some sort of workaround – additional buttons is just an idea – there could be gestures [swipe left[aka down] for menu, right[aka up] for multitask, just press for desktop in a given area on the screen – maybe in successor have a gesture area for this?]
  2. Portrait Mode. Proper one. Not one via a bug. Web Browsing now has Portrait in  this firmware update
    1. The N900 is designed for landscape use and 90% of the time I’d prefer it like that. Web browsing, typing out messages/emails/tweets, watching video, taking photos, using maps etc.
    2. However when you’re on the move and only have one hand free (maybe you’re holding bags/luggage/shopping or just on the move) the most convenient way is to be using the phone in portrait.
    3. Not only are controls easier with one hand in portrait but your grip of the phone will be more secure. E.G. Music player.
    4. Portrait mode has been mentioned to be coming soon.
  3. Ovi Maps opens slightly faster in firmware update, and has slightly improved UI

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    1. Just in general the whole thing. Might deserve its own post.
    2. Needs to be faster at loading
    3. it takes too long to load. Sometimes I just want to quickly see where I am. But the N900 wants to go and make a cup of tea first.
    4. GPS is certainly very fast though. Is it masking the load time with picking up GPS signal?
  4. Make it easier to get into call mode.
    1. Strangely, the hardest task I find on the N900 is to make a call  despite there being a number of ways to get into call mode – 1) press power>phone 2) press a desktop shortcut 3) rotate phone in portrait (if enabled – and works only during desktop/multitask view) 4)menu>phone 5)select a contact  shortcut in desktop 6)go to phonebook from desktop 7)go to phone book from menu. 8) Start typing out a person’s name in desktop/multitask view
    2. None of these are as easy or quick as pressing a green call button to activate phone mode.
    3. But since the N900 does not have call/end keys there must be another work around.
    4. Solution? Rotate phone to portrait was nice but it needs to be much faster or
    5. Change the power button “double tap” shortcut. At the moment double tapping the N900’s power button locks the N900. But we’ve already got a lock switch for that? I’d much prefer double tap=phone mode.
  5. Rotate to launch call mode” needs to be a lot faster
    1. I‘ve just mentioned it, but it deserves being a point in itself.
  6. When in “call mode” I’d still like the option of being able to send a text message and not just a call fixed in firmware update
    1. At the moment in call mode, I can only call people in call list
    2. It would be nice to be able to send a text also – really useful for missed calls.
  7. Long press to get secondary symbols
    1. To get to the secondary symbols via keyboard you have to press “alt” . See N900 keyboard shortcuts
    2. On the N97 with V20, you just long press and the secondary symbols appear
    3. It would be great to have the same option on the N900. Whilst we’re there, please don’t make the activation wait too long. 0.5  seconds is long enough.
  8. Make it easier to get the rest of the symbols
    1. At the moment you must press shift and alt to get the rest of the symbols that aren’t available via secondary keys
    2. However it doesn’t always show up and sometimes freezes the keyboard so it doesn’t function anymore [though the frezing could be caused  by a testing app not intended for public use]
  9. Download full message in Nokia Messaging
    1. Nokia messaging is a great solution for instant emails on the go
    2. However, like my N97, I’d like to be able to click on an email and see the entire message instantly
    3. On the N900 currently it only downloads parts of the email (and you see this in the notification) and then downloads the rest when you open it.
    4. The option is there to download full but you can’t select it (it’s stuck to saying partial message)
  10. Scroll bar
    1. The N900 has excellent kinetic scrolling.
    2. However, I don’t want to be flicking the screen so vigorously like I’m trying to light a fire  to get to the bottom of a list or long web page.
    3. Scroll bar is really useful to quickly position the page in more or less one motion.
    4. The N97 used to have this problem but now it’s fixed there. N900’s turn please.

  11. More consistency in Photo and Video viewer – most recent either all at the top or at the bottom but not mixture of both
    1. At the moment, when in “Photos” app, newest photos appear at the bottom
    2. when in video, the newst videos appear at the top
  12. File manager needs to put most recent files at the top
    1. Taditionally oldest files appear first in file managers
    2. However, when you want to upload a file, e.g. photo via web browser (e.g. twitpic/facebook), your images are listed with the newst photo at the bottom of the list.
    3. It takes a while to get to the bottom [Point 10.  Scroll bar would help]
    4. Solution? Have most recent files at the top
  13. Option to share videos in video viewer
    1. For me, I like the ease of not having to look for a cable to send files over to my pc.
    2. I just bluetooth my files – it’s easy enough with photos but not so with video.
  14. Icon that says share so I can select photos and send them via Bluetooth
    1. At the moment you can share photos by hitting settings>share. Then you just select the photos you want to send.
    2. But this isn’t entirely obvious that the title bars also house settings/options.
    3. Solution? Perhaps have an icon for share or make the settings a little more obvious that a little triangle.
  15. In video viewer, when sorting out by “Camera/Films” put the option of both categories at the top so I can switch quickly in between.
    1. At the moment, if I want to get to a “film” I must scroll, scroll, scroll, and scroll!
  16. When leaving a video, can we just pause it instead of exiting the video please?
    1. It is possible to just pause the video if you press Ctrl+Delete to quickly go into multitask view [see other N900 keyboard shortcuts]
  17. Camera needs more options. Camera Grid/Colour tones at least
    1. N900 has an excellent and touch friendly camera UI
    2. However, it would be nice to have the camera options that the much of the other Nseries are blessed with.
    3. Colour tones for black/white,
    4. camera grid for assisting in composition?
    5. Contrast
    6. Camera Grid – helps compose photo
    7. Sequence mode – Bust shot (I’d also like the old sequence mode where you can set phone to take photos in longer intervals, 1s, 5s, 10, 30s, 1m, 5m – a niche feature but great for time lapse photography)
    8. Self Timer – don’t leave people out in group photos
    9. User defined settings – I like to save high contrast/high exposure/black and wide in the N97, and it’s nice that I can select this mode and not have to tinker about with these settings (not that the N900 has these options anyway)
  18. Could do with an additional shortcut button in camera for 1 click switching between video/photo
    1. Probably the most used camera setting is switching between video to photo mode.
    2. Therefore it needs its own dediated button – which on a touch screen you can just make up.
    3. Solution? A button for video/camera mode for instant switching.Perhaps even a switch so we swipe one way for video the other for photo?
  19. The screen brightness app should be an option by default
    1. Like previous Maemo tablets, there was always an option to change the screen brightness
    2. It might be first thing in the morning and you don’t want to be blinded by the N900’s screen – you don’t want to have to go into settings for this.
    3. Or you could want to save on battery life (or many other reasons why you’d want to be able to change brightnesss quickly)
  20. Ability to make playlist
    1. At the moment, the N900 has playlists but only ones you’ve imported
    2. Please can we have the ability to make playlists on the N900 itself like S60 music players?

  21. Quick add-playlist button
    1. After point 20-playlist is done, whilst we’re there, can we have a dedicated button during music playback to quickly add this song to a default list?
    2. e.g. you’re playing all songs or a new album, you want to “bookmark” or add to your playlist of fav songs but don’t want the hassle of going through “add to playlist, select playlist”
    3. Like in Midomi music identifier, perhaps have a star icon. If you press it, it lights up yellow and instantly added to your default playlist/favourites.
  22. Equaliser
    1. Not essential, but would be nice to have the option.
  23. Could I get N800’s Bluetooth skills whereby I can browse my PC’s files/phone’s files all from the file browser?
    1. Previous tablets had the ability of browsing files of phones and pcs conneccted over bluetooth
  24. Web browser would be good to have the option of “not fit to width”
    1. N900 has an excellent browser, and the wide 800 pixels minimises the need to side scrolling.
    2. However, it would be nice if again, like previous tablet, you could change how the page was rendered so for even wider pagers, it did not try to squash it down to 800 pixel width
    3. Instead you could browse a side designed for 1024/1280 and it’ll appear perfectly proportioned. e.g. WordPress gets squashed a bit.
  25. Reorganize menu view [there’s an app for this that auto reorganizes apps]
    1. At the moment the menu is locked to a 3×5 grid of icons.
    2. Additional added apps are accessed via “more”
    3. Although you start of with 3×5 it can display 4×5 icons.
    4. Perhaps like iPhone, have static number of apps  -say 4×5 and when you swipe (in a given direction, e.g. down), you go to another 4×5 set.
  26. Ability to modify menu app locations
    1. When I wrote this list, I had a S60 frame of mind where I needed to modify the menu to get some sort of coherence of the application locations
    2. In Symbian having folders helped me organize my apps so that I had 2 click access to 144 apps.
    3. But I’m not sure I need this anymore, especially with the panoramic desktop giving me instant 1 click access to apps I frequently use.
  27. Menu icons to rotate about it’s own axis when in portrait
    1. In aniticaption for portrait mode, I’d like to suggest that apps rotate about their own axis instead of rejumbling their positions like it does in S60
    2. See this post: Instead of icons moving around, their in the same position on the grid except rotated.
  28. Ovi Store fixed in firmware update
    1. You can get apps from App Manager but people want the application store
    2. We know this is coming for the N900. Some have even gotten early access.
  29. Video light for video
    1. The N900 has dual LED flash. Supposedly one of the reasons for Nokia sticking around with Dual LED (apart from apparently being good enough) is that you can use it for video.
    2. The N900 currently cannot use DUAL lef for video light.
    3. Whilst we’re there, is it possible to give us the option of turning video light on/off during video recording?
  30. End current task should be the ultimate kill switch (before having to actually turn off the phone)
    1. You can quit an application by pressing X, either within the app or multitasking view.
    2. Alternatively you can press power button>End current task
    3. On the rare occasion an app freezes this is mighty helpful.
    4. However, it would be nice if the kil switch  “end current task”

  31. Say caller’s name
    1. This is a feature on S60 phones whereby, as you can guess, the caller’s name is spoken by the text to speech [intermittently during your set ringtone]
    2. This is useful in that if you haven’t got your phone with you, you can hear who it is that’s calling and perhaps increase the urgency to answer if it’s your girlfriend or not so…if it’s your girlfriend :p
    3. It’s also useful if you’re on a headset and haven’t can’t get to the phone’s screen
  32. Voice Dialling
    1. This is not available by default on the N900.
    2. Voice dialling is neccessary if you’ve driving and need to make a call via headset (though preferable you should just make a call when you’re not driving)
  33. Video call?
    1. There’s a front camera on the N900 but current firmware does not support it
  34. Possibility to use front camera directly anyway
    1. There is a mirror app but that’s oddly grainy
    2. Plus it would be nice to have the option anyway to use the front camera
  35. MMS
    1. I don’t use MMS. I can’t ever be 100% sure the person will  receive it properly. They might not have the right phone or right mms settings or MMS isn’t included in their phone plan.
    2. However it would be nice to have the option

Additional points I forgot and your suggestions

36. Have Hermes functionality built in

  • Hermes app lets you fetch contacts from facebook and twitter
  • It would be nice to see this built in to the contacts app
  • Even nicer is if contacts automatically updated and synced
  • Perhaps Nokia could do this Via the Ovi Contacts. But instead of forcing settings for sync, all we’d need is our log in details.

37. Bluetooth progress bar   fixed in firmware update

  • At the moment, when you send a file over bluetooth, the only indication it’s happening is from the dashboard settings (in desktop view).
  • When sending something over bluetooth it would be nice maybe to see a live/animated progress bar
  • Maybe just animate the current static bar or have a tiny icon that changes according to progress?

38. 4 directional, 5 page homescreen

  • Just throwing up an idea – the current solution is fine.
  • Currently the N900 has a panoramic 4 desktop homescreen. I have one main, one work, one for news and a random connections one.
  • From my main one I can swipe left to get to the “work” homescreen or swipe right to get to the “news” homescreen. The fourth homescreen is hardly used because it takes that extra swipe.
  • What if from the main middle homescreen I could swipe up and down? This way I could possibly have access to 5 homescreens  all one swipe away from each other. See “9 homescreens on N900
  • More homescreens = more space for app shortcuts = less need to use the traditional grid menu.

39. Improve word completion

  • N900 can suggest words as you’re typing them and uses words you’ve previously typed
  • Is there a way to modify/delete words that have accidentally been inserted inserted [Everytime I press J it goes jjjaosdihaosiehogbaoishd – was in my pocket and that word got added to the dictionary]
  • Autocorrect feature?
  • a way to cycle through suggested words

40. T9 keypad with multitouch [ Via talk.maemo.org]

  • If we do get portrait mode, it would be nice to have maybe a portrait keypad,
  • N97 style aka alphanumeric keypad, but with multitouch should you want to type two but in portrait.
  • Again, it’s one of these things where it’s nice to have the option

41. More profiles [ Via talk.maemo.org]

  • At the moment N900 has Silent/General/ and Offline
  • Perhaps give users cusomizable profiles
  • Timed profil

42 Timed profiles[ Via talk.maemo.org]

  • On the N97 you have a nice option to set a profile and after the set time, it will expire and return to the previous profile.
  • It helps me as I sometimes forget I’ve left my phone on silent and I miss important calls.
  • After say, a meeting, the phone would go back on silent
  • But please make timed profile settings available in desktop view. In N97 this is stupidly buried in settings where probably >1% of its users know where it is.

43 Set different ringtone per contacts [via talk.maemo.org]

  • Much like #31, “Say callers name” this can help identify contacts without looking at the screen
  • It might also be nice if you could set ringtone for groups of people

44 Consistency of highlighting text with touchscreeen

  • When typing out text, it’s not always consistent whether you can highlight it with the touch screen
  • Sometimes you can highlight text with the keyboard open [e.g. web address bar]
  • Sometimes you cannot [conversations – you must go into virtual keyboard mode]
  • You can however, always highlight text using Shift+arrow

45. Support for Bluetooth keyboard

  • All previous tablets have supported bluetooth keyboards.
  • N900 is touted as a pocket computer, not just a smartphone.
  • What’s more pocket computer than a near full size pocket keyboard?
  • N900 has a great keyboard but nothing apart from mind reading could match the speed of touch typist.

46. Consistency in contact/phonebook view to make quick shortcut letters accessible

  • When scrolling through contacts opened from phone app in portrait, you get shortcut letters, e.g. A-C so you can quickly jump to those contacts with either first name/last name of A-C (depending on how you set the phonebook)
  • But this is not available in landscape
  • This is not available through contacts app.

47. Make it easier to group contacts/filter phonebook contacts

  • When adding additional IM accounts, it’s great that you can quickly filter out to show only certain account contacts, e.g. just facebook or just those online.
  • However, it would be great if there was a way to filter out just phonebook contacts (currently only possible by disabling other IM accounts)
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Category: Maemo, Nokia, Nseries, Rant, Suggestions

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