Nokia N9 smartphone (preview)

Nokia N9 preview: Nokia's N9 is the first smartphone to run the MeeGo operating system

Nokia has lifted the lid on its first smartphone to run the MeeGo operating system, the Nokia N9. Featuring a 3.9in super AMOLED display, 1GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel camera, the N9 aims to "disrupt" the ever-populating smartphone market.

Check out our guide to the best upcoming smartphones in 2011.

Techworld Australia feature: Nokia N9 vs. iPhone 4

Described by Nokia as appealing to the "style conscious consumer" rather than serious technology buffs, the N9 is Nokia's first-ever "pure touch" smartphone. It has no keypad or home button on the front — the only physical controls are on the right side in the form of volume buttons and a lock key.

The entire front of the Nokia N9 is taken up by a 3.9in, super AMOLED, edge-to-edge display. It also uses gorilla glass technology that Nokia says prevents scratches and cracks, and the glass is curved for a more natural swiping motion.

The N9 is a candybar handset constructed from solid polymer, and according to Nokia it uses the same material often found in ice hockey helmets. The company says the polycarbonate casing is coloured all the way through in the manufacturing process, so scratches, dents or marks from everyday use will not show up. In a subtle hint at Apple and its iPhone 4 antenna-gate fiasco, Nokia also says the N9's construction means it will provide superior antenna performance over most other competitors' smartphones.

The MeeGo operating system running the N9 is focussed on simplicity and according to Nokia will "cut through the clutter associated with traditional smartphone design." Amongst the user interface features include all apps available in the immediate home screen, a separate screen for notifications and events, full multitasking, notifications on the lock screen, embedded Facebook and Twitter clients, and a unified mail inbox.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on an early version of the Nokia N9, and were impressed with the combination of sleek hardware and intuitive software. The N9 user interface looks similar in parts to the webOS platform that now powers HP's range of smartphones and tablets (which are yet to hit the Australian market), and the swiping gestures and general usability were both slick and intuitive. We were also impressed with the on-screen keyboard, which was easy to pick up, along with the swipe gestures from edge-to-edge that take you back to the default home screen — though these will take some getting used to if you are coming from an iPhone or Android device.

Sadly, the Nokia N9 does not support the ability to create folders for app sorting, does not support Adobe Flash Web video, and does not have a microSD card slot for expandable memory. It also has a non-removable battery. The phone is powered by a single-core 1GHz ARM A8 processor and 1GB RAM. The N9 will be available in 16GB and 64GB models in three colours — black, magenta and cyan.

Third party apps will be downloadable through the Nokia Store, formerly the Ovi Store, but obviously being a relatively new platform, the number of apps on offer will pale in comparison to the iOS and Android platforms.

Curiously, the Nokia N9 also 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. During a demonstration, Nokia's product and technology marketing manager Kurt Bonnici demonstrated tapping two Nokia N9's together to initiate multiplayer games, and also to unlock new levels in games like Angry Birds (yep, Angry Birds will be available on the N9).

Other features include an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash that doubles as a 720p HD video recorder, a front-facing camera for video calls, free lifetime navigation and free downloadable maps worldwide through the Nokia Maps application, and the standard connectivity suite of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.

The Nokia N9 will launch in Australia in Q3, but Nokia says it is aiming for a release around the August time frame. Pricing has yet to be announced, and although no carrier details have been confirmed, the Nokia N9 is a pentaband 3G smartphone, meaning it will work on all Australian 3G mobile networks including Telstra's 850MHz next G network.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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