How Nokia botched yet another would-be awesome handset

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: June 22, 2011

Oh, Nokia. Where do I begin? I want to love you, I really do. But I just can't.

Yesterday, Nokia confirmed our long-lived suspicions of yet another handset from the Finnish company. The 3.9-inch AMOLED N9 – which many say favors an older iPod Nano – will release later this year with MeeGo 1.2 in tow.

Upon first glance, the N9 is everything that I've ever wanted out of a phone, hardware-wise, since I made the jump to all-touchscreen devices. Just by looking at the mockups of the phone, you can tell that the quality of build tests the superior hardware of Apple's products, despite being composed of a polycarbonate material. Its unibody design and the lack of physical buttons on the face of the device give it a remarkably clean look. And the 8-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens means this phone will have one of the best cameras around.

Inside, the N9 will feature a 1GHz OMAP processor, PowerVR SGX530 graphics (as seen in the Droid X, Pre 2 and Droid 2), 1GB of RAM, 16 or 64GB of storage and NFC. While it may not be the most powerful phone out there, it packs a punch and will suffice as a strong daily driver for the average consumer (think iPhone 4, not the most powerful but still outperforms a large number of phones). And with up to 64GB of storage and Dolby Headphone and Dobly Digital Plus support, it will serve as an awesome media device.

Even MeeGo, another in-house platform made by Nokia, looks great. Graphically, it has come leaps and bounds from where it was just months ago. Although it is rather cartoonish, it looks smooth, modern and pulls aspects of platforms of Windows Phone 7, webOS, iOS and Android together to form an extremely smooth looking UI. Lest we forget that the device is buttonless (minus the obvious power and volume controls). This means that the software will ultimately be gesture controlled, possibly beating iOS and Android to the punch with a “buttonless” device.

“What about apps though, Taylor?” MeeGo will use Nokia's existing application store that Symbian uses, the Ovi Store. So application support will be there, though the Ovi Store isn't known for the best apps out there. It is home to roughly 40,000 applications with around 1,000 being added each week.

With the exception of a dual-core processor, the N9 comes with everything that most cell phone junkies could ever want in a current-gen phone. Everything about the N9 sounds great – except for maybe the Ovi Store. That is, until we take into consideration the future of MeeGo and the former rumors of the N9.

Nokia has said that beginning later this year, their main focus will be Windows Phone 7. Those who buy the N9 with hopes of long-term support will face the reality of MeeGo not being a substantial long-term player. Releasing the N9 with MeeGo is simply Nokia's way of letting the fruits of their labor see the light of day, for however long it will last. The N9, in essence, is a probe device for Nokia's side-project, nothing more.

It's also worth noting that the original rumored N9, now confirmed to be the N950, sported a remarkable looking hardware keyboard. Made of aluminum, the device itself looked similar to a pocket-sized Macbook. It was/is dead sexy. With their announcement yesterday, The Nokia Blog stated that the keyboard wearin' brother of the N9 to be the N950, a phone that will only be made available to developers. This completely blows my mind. Why not just release this phone to consumers, too?

The N9 is yet another knockout device from Nokia that is, more or less, ruined by software. Regardless of how smooth and awesome MeeGo may be, without Nokia's full attention, the platform will not grow or flourish to become a substantial platform like Android or iOS. That said, MeeGo is an open source project and something may eventually come of it.

Despite the inescapable expiration of this device, I may bite the bullet and buy one anyway, simply for the hardware. There is still some, albeit little, promise for MeeGo. Here's to hoping it will either gain the attention of third-party devs or someone can eventually port Ice Cream Sandwich over to the N9. And since their focus is now diverted to Windows Phone 7, maybe we can expect a device along these lines sporting Microsoft's platform. Unfortunately, a lot of this is just wishful thinking.

Who else is planning on picking up a N9 once it is available? Do you think it will be DOA due to MeeGo and little attention from Nokia? Would you buy one if it were running different software like Android or Windows Phone 7?

Products mentioned