Review: Nokia N9 elegant communicator

2012-02-16 16:52

Cape Town - The Nokia N9 will probably become the forgotten phone from the mobile giant because their direction changed so dramatically after the deal with Microsoft, but it deserves an honourable mention.

In reviewing the N9, it wasn't a case of a quick check on the specifications and waiting for the next device in the queue. No, the N9 lived with me and it was a revelation in terms of functionality.

At the launch on the device in Cape Town, Nokia said that the phone mimicked natural gestures and represented a challenge to top-end smartphones.

It is surprising how easy it is to operate the N9 with its 1GHz processor. The swipe functionality is almost psychic in its ability to detect what the user's intention is.

One touch on the brilliant 10cm high-definition display brings up the apps, and a swipe either minimises them, or takes you back to the homescreen. The display, mind you, handles direct sunlight with ease.

Idiot proof

There are no buttons on the face of the N9 and initially, there was momentary confusion about how to use it. Recessed buttons on the right side wake it up and control volume.

The simple design is elegant and nothing seems out of place. Indeed, when comparing the N9 to the recently released Lumia range, you can see the family heritage.

Some of the features include Nokia's own mapping program which works as well as any GPS unit on the market.

The 8 megapixel camera was a welcome surprise in its speed and optics. Taking photos is almost idiot proof, and the maximum aperture of f2.2 is great for low-light shots.

There is a dual flash to light subjects and the Carl Zeiss lens does a great job of capturing the moment.

Nokia has not been able to match Google, Apple and Research In Motion in rolling out apps for the N9 and indeed, critics might argue that this is a nowhere phone because the MeeGo operating system is being discontinued.

But this smartphone does so many things really well, that there is not really much need to download hundreds of apps to augment the phone's functionality.

That gives one a sense of the phone's European heritage in that it feels more like you're driving a Volvo than a souped-up Toyota.

To the "What's that?" comments, it was always sufficient to respond with "N9" - the brand is well recognised.


For those who are somewhat price conscious, the N9 differs significantly from smartphones running Google's Android operating system, in that it doesn't chomp through your megabytes like a fatty at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Nokia though, has made some blunders with the smartphone: There is no memory card slot. Despite generous onboard storage of 16GB and ease of copying content directly via the USB cable in the box (it also doubles as a charger), I missed the ease of using a Micro-SD card for music, pictures and video.

The use of a micro-SIM is annoying because they were designed for super small devices and are not supported by most manufactures. In fact, with display sizes increasing, the use of a micro-SIM seems unnecessary.

In terms of software you would expect from a premium device, you also get a document editor that is compatible with the latest version MS Office, as well as a PDF reader.

What has perhaps gone unnoticed is that the N9 also plays a wide variety of video formats, even playing videos that higher-priced smartphones just scratched their screens over.

Talking about price: The N9 isn't cheap, but with the launch of the Lumia in South Africa, the N9 is becoming slightly more accessible at R269 on contract, but on the other hand, the iPhone 4S costs R299 on a 24-month contract, so perhaps a price reduction on the N9 is due.

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  • Retardus - 2012-02-17 10:46

    The last of a Dieing Breed. Farewell overpriced DUMB phones that only allows you to do what the manufacturers decide for you...

      bgmilne - 2012-02-22 12:46

      Funny, the N9 (and its predecessor the N900) are definitely *not* dumb, nor restricted to only what the manufacturer wants. The only real disadvantage the N9 has over any other platform is smaller number of apps (only few 10s of thousands), and possibly some closed source components (though the platform and the majority of the software included in the firmware are open, the actual 'Swipe' UI is closed). You seem to be confusing 'Nokia' with 'Symbian'.

  • Wim - 2012-02-17 12:50

    Amazing how things have changed.Five years ago the word "Nokia" could be used to refer to your phone - like "I'll contact you on your Nokia. Please switch off all Nokias. "Even those of us with other phones at time accepted that Nokia was dominant, even in high end phones.If the observations of this review and the previous have merit, then dying Nokia must by now really regret jumping ship to another major sinking ship: Windows Phone.

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