It is not easy for me to say this, and frankly I can’t believe I am. If you follow me on twitter, you would know that I have become furious at my N9 recently. To me, the N9 is one of, if not the most, innovative devices of the last decade. When Marko Athisaari announced the N9 in June 2011, I knew I had to have one.
Not only is the N9 the first (and most likely only) commercial MeeGo-Harmattan device, it is also the last N-Series device. It also brought an amazing design language, both hardware and software. The “Fabula” design language has since lived on in the Lumia 800, Lumia 900 and evolved in the Lumia 920. I am certain we will see further evolutions in the later generations of the Lumia range.
When Nokia announced the N9, they announced they were going bold, and bringing the device to market in vibrant colours like Cyan and Magenta. We hadn’t seen mobiles be this colourful, and renowned for their colour, since the Nokia 5110. (Albeit, there were some devices, such as the N8, that were colourful, but were still subdued compared to the N9.) They also brought a new type of construction, using a solidly coloured polycarbonate unibody, which would prevent scratches showing, and provide awesome signal.
On the software side, there was some real innovation. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the mobile industry centred around seas of icons (later evolving slightly to widgets as well) and a centralised “home” key, to take you back to a main screen. The N9 challenged that. It introduced a new way of interacting with your device, and they simply called it Swipe.
The Swipe UX on the N9 was really something. It removed the need to have any buttons on the screen, and showed us the first all-screen smart phone. Instead of forcing a user to adapt to a certain way of doing something, Nokia attempted to make interacting the N9 something that was natural.
To this day, just over a year since having my N9, and about 9 months with my Lumia 800, I still swipe down to close, or double tap to wake up other devices. Being able to swipe from any app and go back to where you launched that app from is something remarkable. There is no need to start from the very beginning, just the beginning of that app.
Harmattan took a unique approach on a smartphone OS, placing heavy emphasis on Notifications and Social networking, and Multitasking. The “Events” homescreen acts as a centralised notification hub, containing notifications, and also Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds, as well as Weather. No need to have to open an app, as its all a swipe away.
The multitasking screen shows you your open apps in real time. You can load a web page, swipe, and see it loading in the background. It gives the user an entirely new way to look at multitasking on their smartphone, especially as there is no “tomb-stoning” of apps. There is still a sea of icons on the N9, but there is not such a huge emphasis on that.
Swipe UX was designed to provide you with information at a glance. Nothing on the phone does that better than the Standby Screen. You can see the current time, your ringing profile, and any notification you may have. No need to open an app. No need to unlock your phone. No need to even touch it. Just look!
There is no doubt the N9 is targeted at a niche market. This is obvious by Nokia including “Developer Mode” in the settings. There has been a huge community evolve around modding and even just helping other users. This community isn’t a feature that can just be added to a mobile. It is something unique that we have seen with Nokia’s Maemo devices.
We have had some amazing things brought to us by community members, such as MAG, bringing us Unrestricted-System-UI, DrunkDebugger, who brought Nitdroid, thp, who brought apkenv and billboard, itsnotabigtruck, for the single best app, inception, TGalal, Knobtviker and Cepi, for bringing Wazapp, a client better than the official version, and so many more. There have been people like Arie (@everythingN9) and Andy (@AndyHagon) who have done their best to keep N9 users updated with tips and tricks to maximise their N9 experience. Obviously I can’t name everyone, because the community is huge!
It is no secret I have been a keen modder of my N9 from day one. The endless possibilities make me feel like the N9 can’t ever be old. Sure, its hardware may get outdated, but it can always be refreshed and feel brand new, like its had a massive update. If the N9 can’t do it, the community has the attitude that they will find a way to make it happen. Its this kind of passion that has kept me such a strong Harmattan “campaigner”, or as some say “fanboy”.
Sadly the time has come though. I am too busy balancing work, uni, a girlfriend and blogging, to spend time modding my N9 in order to make it work. When it works, it works amazingly well. Sometimes though, it decides to act up, and when it doesn’t, it isn’t a simple reboot that will fix it. I need a phone that I can depend on, and use it every day without worrying if today it will stop working.
For the above reason, the decision has been made to make my Lumia 800 my daily device for the time being. If I can get my hands on a Lumia 920, I will definitely make the switch. However, in no way is Windows Phone 7 my ideal solution, but it just works, for the most part. It has trouble with emails that use custom domains but hosted by gmail, lack of centralised notifications still annoy me, the fact WiFi won’t stay on when locked and the pathetic battery life on my 800 is irritating. I won’t even begin to mention how bad the camera is in comparison.
While it has been a great ride with the N9, all good things must come to an end. I will still be one of the biggest fans of the N9 and MeeGo-Harmattan, and continue to mod and play around, but it just will no longer be my daily device. I am hoping the Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8 fixes all my annoyances with the Lumia 800.