Friday, September 18, 2009

How about that N900

What you see before you is the Nokia N900 portable internet device and phone. Looks similar to the Nokia N810 internet tablet, but pictures are deceiving. The N900 is much smaller, about the size of my HTC Touch Pro.

The N900 has the same processor as the iPhone, a comparable graphics processor (slightly less powerful, I think), more RAM, 32GB internal memory and a microSDHC slot (expandable up to 16GB). It has a full 3.5" jack for audio and video, it has an accelerometer, and it has a ridiculous capacity for multitasking. By "ridiculous," I mean you have 4 separate desktops, you can have a handful of apps running, have multiple web pages open, be streaming music, etc. It also has Flash 9.4 support. Yeah, get ready for a lot more Flash capable phones in the future, it's a deal-maker.

It's battery life is rated for a 'full day' of of streaming music, surfing the net, watching movies, etc--what they call 'full use'. The term 'full day' can be misleading, it usually means a full work day. People are reporting 12-13 hours with 'full use'--using internet, GPS, and watching movies. Hey, with laptops 'full day' only means 8 hours.

A bigger selling point for the N900 is Maemo, Nokia's open source mobile OS. Android is a cell-phone (and tablet?) OS based on Linux that may some day be expanded to work on netbooks and desktop PCs. Maemo is a tablet/cell phone OS built on Linux, and it's essentially desktop Linux scaled down to work with lower resolutions and less powerful hardware. Both are open source, but Maemo is the more open of the two, and I'm told much easier to port to. I've never tried Android, though I'm anxious to. I have used Maemo (not version 5), and found it very satisfying. Here is a demo video of Maemo 5:

(PSST--The device used to demo Maemo 5 in that video is the N900) There's a video of the N900 actually in use way down at the bottom of this post.

A lot of people have been complaining about the resistive touch screen. I'm constantly shocked that that's actually a big deal to people. There are benefits to a resistive screen--you can use your phone while wearing gloves, you can use a stylus, and the stylus makes handwriting an input option--big deal for Asian markets, they have way more characters than our 26. Drawbacks? I don't think resistive screens can have multi-touch functionality, and people claim they're less accurate and harder to use. I feel like that can be due to the build quality and OS' handling of the touchscreen as much as the type. I would gladly take the N900's functionality with a resistive touchscreen.

No, the real beef with the N900 as I see it is with it's frequencies. Nokia's N97 was GSM. I got excited about the N900 because it's being called a "world phone," which I took to mean that it would work on any network, as the Touch Pro 2 can. Really, a "world phone" means you can take it across continents and it should work on some carrier no matter where you are. The N900 looks like it'll really only work on T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, compatible with voice and 3G data on T-Mobile but only basic voice connectivity with AT&T. I'm with Sprint, which is a CDMA network, and not compatible with GSM. Nevertheless, I am drooling over the N900.

The problem is, I had to look all over to try and figure out what cellular companies the N900 would work on, and I'm still not sure T-Mobile and AT&T are the only two US companies you could use it with. Nokia has the largest share of the smartphone market world wide, and it's been suggested that the US is a PITA when it compared to the rest of the world concerning cell phones. Perhaps we don't have the profitability for Nokia that other countries do. Quick side note: I just read a message board post that said the N900's successor, the N910 would be coming out next year with a wider frequency range, better touch screen, etc. I couldn't find anything esle about this online, I wonder if that person wasn't just making a reference to how it worked with the N800 and it's successor, the N810.

I like Sprint. They have good coverage, they have good customer service (despite what I've heard), they have a good price. I would have no problems staying loyal to Sprint, if they had the N900. You see that? Sprint is a perfectly good company. I did a lot of research before moving to them. I checked coverage, pricing, phone availability, etc. I called a lot of people, asked them who their carrier was and got a lot of word of mouth reviews. Sprint came out ahead. I would throw that all away and jump to T-Mobile without a second thought, if I had the money. I have no problem saying that. That's how much better the N900 is than any other phone I've considered.

You know, people throw the phrase "iPhone killer" around the way they threw around "iPod killer" a few years ago. Any company claiming to release either's killer will probably be ritually mocked. The iPhone is hip and cool, for now. Windows Mobile isn't hip or cool, it's old. What's worse, you get no real stability or extra benefits over the iPhone out of that age, except for multitasking. The Palm Pre is nice, a formidable phone, and at a great price, but it's no iPhone killer. The Nokia N900 could be an iPhone killer, if it were more accessible. I mean, if I didn't have to muck around all sorts of message boards just to find out what carriers I could use it with. I mean, if a good enough carrier "adopted" and subsidized it. I mean, if the above demo were cut to 30 seconds and plastered all over our televisions. I don't know if you noticed, but I really like this phone. Fuck it, I like Nokia, and I'm a N900 fanboy. What of it?

I had a N800. I loved it. I really liked the interface, the browsing, the availability of apps. Really wish I could get a phone that size. For now, I'd settle for the N900. Really, I'll settle for the Touch Pro I currently have, because $650 + Sprint's early termination fee is a little more than I can manage right now, and the Touch Pro does do the bare minimum of what I want a phone to do.

Until any long-lost great aunts or uncles twice removed die, leaving me a massive inheritance, I'll just have to make do with watching videos on youtube:


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