By: Billy Garcia, guest blogger
I received my brand new Nokia n900 on November 25th (pre-ordered on September 13th) and have been using it daily ever since.Â I have also previously owned and still use the Nokia n810 internet tablet (no phone function), which I ended up using mostly as a GPS device and to make Skype calls.
I believe that a distinction needs to be made on what type of device the n900 actually is. I would prefer to refer to it as a â€œMobile Computing Deviceâ€ that is also quad band GSM and 3G capable cell phone. It literally is a desktop computer in the palm of your hand. I don’t agree with comparisons made with other types of carrier based phone devices, which I will explain later. A better comparison may be made with the Apple iPhone 3GS. See this article http://bit.ly/M9tgZ
Before actually receiving the n900 I thought it would be rather bulky and cumbersome to carry around because of the slide out keyboard. It’s about the same size as the iPhone but a little thicker. But after having had it and using for a week it’s not as big or bulky as I first imagined, so that’s a plus.
As I said earlier this is a â€œMobile Computing Deviceâ€ and has what I would call three operating contexts or modes of use. They are â€œApplication Modeâ€, â€œDashboard Modeâ€ and â€œDesktop Modeâ€.
Each mode or context can be accessed by a simple screen tap. There is one other context and that is the connectivity view available from any desktop. It will display options and status for WLAN, bluetooth, USB, GPS, & AT&T 3G internet. It can also display and update your location using the GPS or cell signal. This is configurable and you control the granularity down to the street name or no details at all.
- Application Mode
As the name implies this mode is used to select and launch installed applications. You can also access the “app managerâ€ from here to update or load additional applications. Below are some of my favorite applications in no particular order:
Hermes â€“ This will fill in the gaps in your contactsâ€™ address book. Photos and birthdays for your friends on social networks like Facebook and Twitter will be used to update your contacts list. It works great! I used it to add photos to some of my contacts.
Mauku â€“ A desktop widget that allows you to post short blog posts known as Tweets to let your friends know what youâ€™re up to at any given time. Or simply post a Tweet whenever you feel like sharing a thought with the online community.
Pixelpipe – With Pixelpipe you’re able to publish text, photos, videos, and audio directly to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, and many other supported services. MMS support is coming soon.
Mail for Exchange & Email client â€“ Allows you to sync to your corporate MS Exchange server and receive company email. This was a pleasant surprise and completely enhances the usability aspect of the n900 for me. It synchronizes Calendar, Email and Contacts. It can also operate with other mail services such as Gmail.
Media Player â€“ Plays back video music and audio. It also has a built in FM transmitter that allows you to play back to a preset station on any FM radio. Works well but I have not checked out completely.
- Dashboard Mode
When an application is launched it is immediately placed on the dashboard along with other currently running applications.
The most recently accessed application will fill the display until it is closed or minimized. It is possible to keep all applications running and switch to a new context or mode. For example, to answer a phone call or check email etc. and then switch back.
All applications that are on the dashboard stay running until they are explicitly closed. This is what is known as true Multi-tasking. The iPhone does not have this functionality.
- Dashboard View
See multitasking demo here.
- Desktop Mode
In this mode you are able to switch to a desktop through a screen tap, which is very similar your Windows desktop on your home or office PC.
But, in the case of the n900, you have four available desktops that you can scroll through by swiping your finger or stylus left or right on the touch screen. Each desktop allows you to have easy access to your favorite Apps, Contacts, Widgets, Web places and other shortcuts.
In the case of an application, it will appear as an icon that can be launched simply by tapping on it. In my case I have my desktops arranged according to function.
Desktop 1 Contacts â€“ Shortcut to my favorite contacts with thumbnail photo for each that was retrieved by the Hermes application. You can easily fit up to 8 contacts on one desktop screen. If a contact subscribes to say an IM service such as Google Talk then their current status will also be displayed.
Tapping on a contact’s thumbnail will also allow you contact them by as many services as they subscribe to; Phone, IM, Skype, email etc.
Desktop 2 Messaging â€“ Here I have shortcuts to Email, Phone, Address book, MS Exchange Calendar widget and Weather widget. The calendar widgets displays today’s date as well as my next four meeting appointments. It will also pop up a meeting reminder 15 minutes prior with the meeting details, which I had previously configured in my Outlook client.
Desktop 3 Multimedia & Web â€“ I have Google search, media player and YouTube shortcut here.
Desktop 4 Social Media & Messaging â€“ I have a Twitter widget, Facebook widget, SMS & IM shortcut.
Of course each desktop can be customized to each user’s liking and any application or widget can be placed on any desktop.
The phone is like any other cell phone with options for custom ring tones, etc. I must admit that really only use the actual phone function and don’t really care for all the extras, so I can’t provide much more details than that.
There is also a built in 5 mega pixel camera with LED flash that can also record videos.
In addition, it also has a built in GPS receiver. One thing about the GPS is it currently does not have turn by turn navigation. That feature will be available at the end of the year. That was disappointing because I really relied on the GPS with the n810.
- Overall I would rate the user experience and performance to be exceptional.
There is little to no lag when switching between modes or when starting applications and even when multiple apps are running on the dashboard.
So after a week of exploring, learning and fine tuning I am finally comfortable with using the n900.
I think it is also safe to say that it is the â€œbestâ€ mobile device I have ever owned.
I do realize that no device will do everything perfectly but the n900 does many things very well. I have now come to rely on it for email (work and personal), IM, phone, SMS and keeping updated with FB and Twitter (If only as a casual user).
I have no regrets and can’t wait for new features to be added in the near future.
Billy Garcia is computer engineer, who has been working for Hewlett-Packard in New York City as a Pre-Sales Infrastructure Architect since 1993.