Nokia unveils N9 – Great Design, Hopeless Software

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Nokia has long been considered a pioneer for creating mobile phones that were not only easy to use, but also professionally crafted with care and thought. Unfortunately, the last few years have not been the finest for the Finnish mobile phone giant, as its strategy of focussing on developing devices running its proprietary Symbian software backfired.

Critics were quick to complain about how its touch based interface was desperately tacked onto one that was predominantly button based. Others complained about how devices that looked incredibly modern could contain slow or aging components, something that contributed to it beginning to fall behind its competitors. One long complained of decision was the continual use of more inferior resistive touchscreen technologies instead of the much superior capacitive. It seemed the company was pushing what it saw was the ideal product, instead of gaining a grasp of what consumers thought was ideal.

Rival devices, such as the Apple iPhone, were quick to steal a slice of Nokia’s global market share by offering mobile phones with features that users wanted to use. In Apple’s case, Jonathan Ive’s minimalist design gave the company the ultimate consumer dream: a product that users aspired to purchasing.

The Nokia N9
The latest offering from Nokia is a worthy stab at trying to regain a firm footing in one of the most cutthroat industries. Combining the high quality Finnish design loved by many and the expertise Nokia is renowned for with a range of contemporary smartphone features alongside a cracking set of killer features.

Where the N9 excels:
Less than a millimetre thicker than the current iPhone, the N9 is the first Nokia phone to not include any buttons on the front of the device, aside from the standard volume rocker keys and a physical unlock button on the side. This allows the gorgeous screen to take centre stage along with an innovative curved convex piece of Gorilla Glass which seamlessly wraps around its polycarbonate unibody body.

Where the N9 falls flat:
An unusual choice many journalists have noted was the decision MeeGo on the N9, an operating system that is effectively dead on arrival. Only months ago, the company announced that it would be ending any MeeGo and Symbian development after creating a ‘strategic alliance’ with Microsoft to use Windows Phone 7 on all of their forthcoming smartphones.

The technology weblog Gizmodo summed up the N9 in one succinct sentence: "beautiful hardware, zombie software", a phrase that many technology bloggers and journalists seem to agree with. Unfortunately this is 4 years too late for the once ground-breaking company. The shadow of Symbian will cover the Finnish company for some time to come as former die-hards make the decision to roam over to purchasing a pay monthly iPhone 4. Time will only tell whether the strategic alliance with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 provides the right amount of traction to fight the market erosion Apple has been happily taking.

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