Nokia’s N9: An Unexpected Owner’s Review


I didn’t expect to be able to say anything first-hand about the Nokia N9.  I really thought my semi-facetious post a while back would be pretty much it unless I came up with some other abstract commentary to inflict on you all.  And I really haven’t used this meandering blog for device reviews, unless you count one admittedly unusual attempt for the slightly-less-cool N8.

So I was genuinely surprised to receive a sleek black N9 in London last month the day before Nokia World 2011, at a special Champions Day event.  And I’ve used it enough to share some juicy details.

First, however, a disclaimer:

The following review is from a drooling, starry-eyed device nut who is contemplating super-gluing an N9 to his hand.  Don’t expect much objectivity.

So let’s do this. 


There’s been enough mentioned on this aspect, but I have to say it myself nonetheless: this is the Ferrari of phones.  In fact I even suggested on Twitter that Nokia co-brand a red one with the Italian king of cars.  I cannot overstate the sexy elegance.  Yes I have overused that word “sexy”.  Yes the N9 deserves it.  No other cell phone has been designed better.  Most don’t even come close.

Your gaze is immediately hooked by that seductive ebony screen.  The one bordered by an almost non-existent bezel.  The only one that gently arches above the front surface of a cell phone.  Double-tap that gloss black Gorilla glass beauty and be dazzled by the display’s brilliance.

This device is such a work of art that I find myself treating it with much more reverence than its predecessors.  I am using the included slip case religiously, and finally contemplating placing a screen cover on a cell phone… for the first time.  Just hope I find one that does it justice.

The single-body case is almost stunning enough to make me forgive Nokia for the sealed battery.  Almost… but given my discouraging experiences with Nokia batteries, I’m really concerned about the possibility that this one could go bad.  So there’s a risk.

I’m also disgusted with myself for somehow letting the chrome camera trim get a little scuffed.  Probably from riding in my pocket.  Note to self: buy a damned hip case.

Oh, and I really like the robust SIM slot and usb cover mechanisms.  Nokia finally got those right!


I came to this conclusion with the N950, but the N9 just cemented it: MeeGo Harmattan provides the ultimate mobile device experience.  Period.  Yes, I have a fondness for the various Maemo iterations (and a tolerance for Symbian Anna) but this user experience is state of the art.  Swiping is so intuitive, so expected, that I now find myself futilely flicking my finger across the screens of lesser devices.  Other than some oddities with settings drilldowns, I’m completely satisfied.

Notifications and messaging integrations go a long way toward making this a must-have product.  I’m a forgetful sort who gave up on watches when I started using cell phones, and the N9 does a great job of alerting me to what I’ve scheduled and what is going on in my virtual world.  The sleep screen shows the time and icons for alert types– very handy.


At first the N9 irked me with its sluggishness on waking from sleep.  No such thing as a coffee app, unfortunately, so I had to wait for the recent PR 1.1 update to see an improvement.  Sure enough, it now wakes up and goes straight to work.  Nicely done, Nokia!  Especially getting the update out so quickly.

Battery life is… tolerable.  I’m a demanding user of mobile internet so I know to keep expectations low… but I would not have complained if a larger capacity battery had added some size and weight.  My ultimate dream device will go at least a day of heavy use without needing a recharge.  The N9 isn’t there, but it tends to last long enough between recharge opportunities.  I occasionally have issues charging from usb (“not enough power…”) but without some troubleshooting I don’t know if it’s the phone, my power sources or both.


You know me: I’m not really an app guy.  Allergic to Apple-sized content stores, I’m usually content with what the manufacturer includes.  Nokia has done a great job here, preloading the N9 with the usual useful utilities like Maps, Music, Facebook & Twitter clients, a nice integrated Accuweather app and much more.  That even includes Nokia Drive, contrary to some misleading press.

So what have I installed?

  • Solitaire
  • PhoneTorch
  • Recorder
  • File Manager (beta)
  • Radio FM4

…and a really pretty fish wallpaper.  All recommended.


I love the tiny usb-style wall charger.  It’s about time Nokia got on board with that.

Kudos also to Nokia for its environmentally-responsible quest to reduce packaging.  The N9’s product box is very close to zero wasted space.  Other manufacturers, take note: you should be ashamed of your excess.

I enabled Developer mode on mine because I’m trying to teach myself Qt.  I haven’t seen it interfere with any other functionality.  Now if only my code would work…


The most surprising thing about the N9?  The amazing reaction it’s garnered.  Quotes like:

You’ve never seen anything like it, and if you think it’s attractive in pictures, wait until you see it in person — it’s completely and utterly irresistible. –Engadget

The thing with the N9, though, is that, much to my surprise, I really do rather like it. –Gizmodo

After using the Lumia 800 for a day, I am happy to say that it makes my Nokia N9 purchase even more valid and justifiable –ZDNet

The sole complaints from reviewers?  The expected short shelf life of the MeeGo Harmattan OS and the scarcity of apps.

I must now remind the reader: I am really a computer person, not a phone person.  And when I have had to use a cell phone, my past preference has been Nokia sliders and E71-type form factors.  So when I tell you I can’t put this candy bar touchscreen phone down, that’s profound.  The user experience has no equal.

Well done, Nokia!  Now… if your CEO would only change his mind on the platform’s viability…

33 responses to “Nokia’s N9: An Unexpected Owner’s Review

  1. I bought my Nokia N9 a month ago, notwithstanding all kinds of snide and sarcastic remarks and reviews. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. People say: “Nokia N9 ? Poor applications, dead operation system, blah, blah…”

    All this evaporates once you begin playing with the toy. It is the simplest, sexiest and most user friendly phone. Period…

    All my friends have iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S IIs. They paid a fortune to buy them. Nonsense !

    I am not interested in billions of “fart-apps” or silly games !

    What I need is a ligtning fast, stable, reliable, sturdy, user-friendly smartphone with all the high quality applications and social networks built in.

    Moreover, Nokia N9 has a lovely “swipe” action. No other smartphone has it.

    It is a pure joy to use this phone. You can easily customise it too.

    All in all, I’m a satisfied customer and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

    Don’t be distracted by what others say. Follow your heart 🙂

    You won’t regret it at all…


  2. Pingback: Why I am Every Qt Expert’s Worst Nightmare | PHONE INFORMATION RAKUS.US

  3. Nokia N9 is looking cool in button less. It has 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss autofocus sensor, wide-angle lens, HD-quality video capture Camera with 3.9 inch Amoled screen, others features also amazing. I think it’s a nice phone with Meego operating system.

  4. I have had a Nokia N9 for about 4 months now…my dad has iphone 4, and my sis has galaxy, and next to my N9, they just look pitiful, my Nokia puts them to utter shame! all the swiping, is very addictive, and I too find myself trying it on other phones, coz its just so natural!…its the best phone on the market even after lumia launch, even after S3 launch, even after ios5 launch. the n9 is superiour. buy one.

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