Nokia N9 smartphone

Nokia N9 review: The N9 is without a doubt Nokia's slickest smartphone ever

Nokia N9
  • Nokia N9
  • Nokia N9
  • Nokia N9
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Fantastic design and build quality
  • Bright and clear screen
  • Slick and easy to use software

Cons

  • Limited third-party apps
  • First and last MeeGo phone
  • Below average battery life

Bottom Line

The Nokia N9 is the best looking and slickest smartphone Nokia has ever built. It's a combination of superbly built hardware and slick, easy to use, elegant software. However, it's priced too high to compete with iOS and Android alternatives and we can't help but feel it's about 18 months too late.

Would you buy this?

Nokia N9: Features and performance

The Nokia N9 comes pre-loaded with dedicated Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Maps applications and a special NFC-enabled demo of Angry Birds (more on that later). Australian models of the N9 also come with three games — Galaxy on Fire 2, Real Golf 2011 and Need for Speed Shift. The Nokia Maps application offers free lifetime navigation and you can download maps for 90 countries. Once a map is downloaded, this means the Maps application will not use your phone's data connection. This is a real advantage over apps like Google Maps that use mobile data.

The list of supported accounts makes for impressive reading: the N9 supports multiple Mail for Exchange, Google, CalDAV, Picasa and YouTube out of the box and also offers VoIP calling through the SIP protocol. Strangely, Google account support only comprises of e-mail through Gmail and chat through Google Chat — the N9 won't sync your Google Gmail contacts. You can get around this by configuring Mail for Exchange for your Google account, but it's a disappointing omission regardless.

Nokia's pre-loaded Facebook and Twitter apps look the part but both are missing key functionality — you can't check into Facebook Places, you can't attach an image to a tweet and neither app has push notifications. There's a few third-party options for both social networking services in the Nokia Store (formerly the Ovi Store), but selection is thin (around 500) compared to the well-populated Android and iOS alternatives. On a positive note, you can find plenty of apps from non-Nokia Store sources such as My MeeGo. Despite Nokia and Intel essentially abandoning the OS, the MeeGo platform that powers the N9 seems to be reasonably well supported by the developer community.

The N9's pre-loaded Skype app allows you to call Skype contacts through the regular phone and contacts applications but despite the presence of a front-facing camera, there is no video calling option through Skype. The Nokia N9's Web browser is slick and performs well, but it does not support Adobe Flash Web video or tabbed browsing: instead, new windows open separately. Selecting "add to apps" in the options menu on a Web site will add a shortcut to that site on the N9's app screen.

The Nokia N9 supports both individual and combined mailboxes. You can add multiple Gmail, e-mail and Mail for Exchange accounts and view them in "all messages" or view each account separately. Sliding your finger along the right of the screen when in an e-mail list allows you to view e-mail from different time periods such as yesterday, one week ago, two weeks ago and 10 months ago. E-mails are a part of the N9's universal search feature, as are both default and third-party apps, your contacts and calendar entries, text messages and Internet searching through Google. We were also impressed with the on-screen keyboard, which was easy to pick up and useable in both portrait and landscape orientations.

The Nokia N9's 8-megapixel camera won't match the quality of the unrivalled Nokia N8 but it performs reasonably well. Images captured with the N9's camera are sharp but do suffer from excess image noise and the dual-LED flash tends to over saturate images. The camera also doubles as a 720p HD video recorder and will record at 30 frames per second. The N9 also supports a wide range of video and music files. We tested a number of different file types and most played without issue. Conveniently, you can simply plug the N9 into a Mac or PC via a USB port and drag and drop files onto the device, or you can install the simple and effective Nokia Link application that enables you synchronise music, photos and videos from a Windows or Mac computer to the N9 and vice-versa. The N9's external speaker is loud and clear and sound through the included headphones is also impressive.

Curiously, the Nokia N9 has built-in Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, but its not for wireless payments — the technology enables users to pair compatible Bluetooth devices by tapping them against the phone. Depending on the devices, it can also offer the ability to share content. Tapping two Nokia N9's together can initiate multiplayer games and unlock new levels in Angry Birds, for example.

The Nokia N9 does not have a microSD card slot for expandable memory. It comes in 16GB and 64GB models and is a pentaband 3G smartphone, meaning it will work on all Australian 3G mobile networks. The Nokia N9 will be sold in Australia through Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and will retail for $799 (16GB) and $949 (64GB) outright.

Unfortunately, the Nokia N9 has below average battery life. It should last a full day with moderate use, but we ran out of battery well before the end of the day with constant use.

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