10 things to know about Nokia's N900
16th Sep 2009 | 13:39
All the knowledge about the new mobile powerhouse
10 things to know about Nokia's N900
Nokia has announced a new device that it hopes will keep it at the sharp end of the mobile industry, the Nokia N900, but what's so great about it?
We delve under the bonnet of Nokia's latest handset and bring you all the things you'll need to know before deciding whether this is the model for you.
1. It's not a phone
Not necessarily something we agree with, but Nokia is adamant this isn't a phone. Instead, it's saying that it's a small computer/slimmed-down netbook (depending on who you talk to) thanks to the new Maemo 5 operating system (OS), which is based on Linux.
Essentially, it's a unit with a 3G chip in it for voice and data with a similar form factor to a phone, so it's really just semantics what you want to call it.
But the pivotal thing is Nokia wants people to see it as a computer, meaning higher-powered applications and a stronger focus on developing an ecosystem around the phone.
2. New OS
As mentioned above, the new Maemo 5 OS is designed to offer powerful new options that we haven't seen on Symbian-powered devices before.
While Maemo has been seen on previous internet tablets from Nokia, this release is important as it makes the OS more finger friendly than ever before. It also allows a high level of customisation, a wider web browser and more location based services too.
It's built on Linux, meaning it's a much more open platform to play with and develop. The theory behind this is the developer community can really get their teeth into playing around with the possibilities of the N900, something which has served Apple and Android well in recent months.
3. Powerful processor
Nokia's been shrewd when thinking about what hardware to pack under the hood, going for the high end TIOMAP3microprocessor with ARM Cortex-A8 core rather than the headline grabbing Snapdragon from Qualcomm.
It's the same as that seen in the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre, but more importantly it's fused with 1GB of RAM and OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration. This means slicker application transitions, minimised slowdown and a wider array of possibilities for developers to play with.
4. Slick multi-tasking
Another key feature of the N900 is the multi-tasking on offer thanks to the new Maemo OS.
Of course, multi-tasking has been around for a while on the Symbian platform from Nokia, but this takes it to another level for seamless use.
Not only does the new processor allow you to run a huge number of applications at the same time, the UI offers a one touch approach to seeing all your open programs at once. If you want to get rid of something, simply press the 'x' in the corner of the panel and it's gone.
Admittedly, it's not as cool as the Palm Pre's cards system, flicking them away to shut them down, but the sheer number of applications you can have open together, and without slowdown, is very impressive.
5. Improving old technology
One of the surprising things about the Nokia N900 is the presence of a resistive screen (which means it works by ever so slightly flexing to make contact with a circuit, rather than working off the electrons transmitted by your finger).
Given all Nokia's other touchscreens have been resistive it's not that surprising, but as the X6, announced at the same time, has the more advanced capacitive screen type, we'd have assumed Nokia would have put it on the N900 too.
But the resistive effort is very, very good from the Finns, reacting in a similar way to a capacitive screen. And this means the phone can be used with a stylus - crucial for the Asian markets and a big help for spreading the popularity of the phone.
Nokia N900: High resolution screen
6. High resolution screen
The touchscreen type might be older, but the screen itself is pretty much cutting edge. Nokia has placed a WVGA screen on the N900 (800x480 pixels crammed into a 3.5-inch display) to make everything seem pin sharp.
Combined with some decent grunt from the processor, the new screen type means video, and importantly for Nokia, web pages will display quickly and in high resolution, giving you a similar experience to that seen on the PC.
And with 32GB of storage on board, video is clearly going to be an important part of the new N900, so Nokia is making sure you can watch it in the best way possible.
7. First for Firefox
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the announcement for the technology industry is the fact the N900 will be among the first with Firefox Mobile, the potted-down version of the popular desktop web browser.
The browser included within the N900 is actually built on Firefox founder Mozilla's technology, but Firefox Mobile will offer all the treats of the larger browser on a mobile phone.
This means tabbed browsing, intuitive web search with the Awesome Bar, and even synchronised bookmarks across your desktop and mobile experience.
Given the N900 is based on the ability to multi-task easily, this is a very important element for the new device.
8. Tagging photos
Some people are more aware of 'tagging' than others, but the N900 lets you tag photos for easier retrieval and uploading.
We're not talking a Facebook-style list of everyone that's in the photo (although you can do that). Instead, you could tag a gig you went to under the band's name, the location or the people you were with.
The next time you go out with the said group or see the band, the tagged photos can be retrieved under that heading, giving a new way to follow your 'photo journey'. And it will be even better when using them online, as you can collaboratively tag the photos to enable a shared experience too.
9. Cheaper than expected
One of the surprising things is how much the N900 costs. Admittedly, it's not loose change cheap, as it costs £500 in the UK.
But given that's the same price the N97 debuted for a few months back, it's not a bad effort at all from Nokia.
And if you're after the N900 for even cheaper, you can get it in Europe for €500 (£445) or head to the US and pick it up for $649 (around £390 over here).
It's not nice to see such disparity across regions, but it will once again help the popularity of the device.
10. One for the artists
Finally, Nokia is keen to see the N900 extending beyond the traditional realms of a mobile phone by trying to extol its virtues to other groups, such as visual artists.
The recent installation at the London OneDotZero event showed that the new device can control and shape messages on the wall, and the new PUSH N900 competition encourages the public to think of ways the N900 could control things in a new way.
So if you think the mobile should be able to control the TV, and Nokia deems it a good idea, then it will help fund that and develop a device too.
It might not sound like much, but if a device is picked up by a wider community than tech-heads (as is the case with the iPhone) then creative bods will help broaden its appeal even further, resulting in a richer experience for owner of the N900.