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Nokia N9 ‚ a dying breed

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Nokia’s current state-of-the-art handset, the N9 is the first and the last to use the MeeGo operating system. SEAN BACHER puts it though Gadget Ten Task Test to see if it deserves a longer life.

Until the recent announcement of its upcoming Lumia range of Windows phones, Nokia took a backseat while rivals overhauled them with great smartphone designs and easy to use operating systems. The Symbian operating system, on which Nokia handsets were based for many years, had become cumbersome and dated, yet Nokia insisted on using it to the end.

And then came the Nokia N9 last year. Apart from a complete hardware redesign,it does not use the Symbian operating system, but runs the MeeGo Linux-based OS. However, the N9 is not only the first, and probably the last Nokia handset to use this OS.

Is there a reason Nokia is abandoning what at first looks seems like a decent operating system? We put it through the Gadget Ten Task Test to find out.

1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)

The N9 employs a unibody design, meaning that there are no removable parts such as a battery or back cover to access the battery. This seems to be the way many cellphone manufacturers are going and, although it does make sense, it poses one problem: What do you do should you need to replace the battery?

In previous designs you would simply take the old battery out and put a new one in, but now it would have to be taken in as a repair job. The N9 also uses a microSIM, the same as the Motorola Razr and the iPhone 4 and 4S. This means you will need to get your old SIM card upgraded to a new, smaller SIM before you can began using the phone.

On the plus side, the unibody design means there are no sharp edges jutting out. It’s completely smooth and, as a result, compels you to hold it and feel it, even when it is not being used ‚ much the same as many Apple products do.

Charging the phone is somewhat challenging. The flap that covers the microUSB input from where the phone needs to be charged needs to be attacked before it opens. After using the phone for a few days, I was still a little unsure how to open the flap properly.

Overall though, the look and feel of the N9 is superb. Nokia really put some thought into this design and, despite the flimsy charging flap, the N9’s look and feel can hardly be faulted.

8/10

2. Slipability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)

The Nokia N9 weighs 135g, which can considered to be heavy for a phone. However, its weight, combined with its dimensions of 116X61X12mm, means it fits comfortably in a hand while on the move.

It is a great size for tapping out a tweet or text message on the 3.9‚ AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) 16-million colour capacitive touchscreen display with one hand and, despite its heavy weight, it slips comfortably into a shirt or pants pocket without showing too much of a bulge.

7/10

3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)

Nokia pulled out all the stops on the N9, and this can’t be more evident when you see what makes the phone tick. The N9 is powered by a Cortex A8 processor, running at a speed of 1GHz, which is complemented by a PowerVR SGX530 GPU. This boils down to the fact that the phone packs quite a punch.

Angry Birds ran without a problem: in fact, the phone handled the game so well, we decided to up the ante and find a game that draws a bit more processing power. Bring on ‚Need For Speed Shift HD’. The game uses all the phone’s features and processing power, yet it ran without a problem. No glitches and no hang-ups.

Multi-tasking also went smoothly. A simple swipe from the left to the right sends a running app to the background and brings up the home screen from where a new app can be launched. This was repeated over and over until all applications were open, and although I was sure I would receive a warning about the phone running low on the 1GB of RAM, nothing came up. Need For Speed continued to run perfectly despite the dozens of open applications sitting in the background.

Managing open applications was as simple as sending them to the background, but in reverse. Instead of swiping from the left to the right as you would to send an application the background, a swipe in the opposite direction reveals a ‚card‚ with mini windows of the open applications. Click the application to carry on using it or hit the big red X on the right-hand-side to end it immediately.

Overall, the MeeGo operating system combined with the fast processor puts the Nokia N9 at the top when multi-tasking.

9/10

4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)

Despite their dated Symbain operating system, Nokia has always been able to come out tops with its battery life. Now, with the Nokia N9 sporting what is turning out to be a really good operating system, it uses a battery that, well, can be described in one word: Excellent.

So often do phone manufacturers upgrade their operating systems, making them faster and more powerful, but then expect older technology to handle this new operating system. The end result is an absolute abortion, and the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is a prime example of this.

Not so in the case on the N9. The battery life is much the same as its predecessors, if not better. After using the phone for a full day, I checked the battery status and was informed that I still had a further two hours of talk time left, or six days of standby time.

According to Nokia, the Li-ion 1450mAh battery used in the N9 is able to offer 450 hours of standby time and seven hours of talk time on a 3G network. Obviously these times depend a lot on network conditions and actively running applications such as Twitter and e-mail.

All in all though, the battery cannot be faulted, and in fact preforms well above other smartphones, and as a result the N9 scores full marks.

10/10

5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)

Located at the back of the phone is an 8MP Carls Zeiss camera, which is able to capture stills at 3264X2448 pixels, putting the camera into a league of its own. Video recording can also be done at 720 pixels, putting it on a par with the iPhone 4, but not nearly as good as the iPhone 4S which is able to capture HD video at 1080 pixels.

But, what the N9 lacks in quality it makes up with additional features like geo-tagging, face detection and touch focus.

When it comes to browsing, once again Nokia didn’t skimp around. On previous Nokia’s, the atrocious Symbian OS could only be rivalled by one other ‚feature‚ ‚ the browser. Previous Nokia browsers were slow, badly designed and ended up doing their own things half the time. Each time Nokia brought out a new handset, the browser was ‚upgraded‚ but all this upgrade did was confuse and infuriate users.

Not so with the N9, the browser works like a browser should. No more of those pesky logon screens that jump up blocking your original browser screen. For once, Nokia’s browser works properly. It lets you seamlessly browse the Internet with no interference.

8/10

6. Talk to me (quality of audio)

There is nothing that exceeds expectations when chatting on the N9. The sound is clear and I have had no complaints from others trying to hear me on the other end.

In terms of playing MP3s and videos, the phone does well. Although the phone uses only one loudspeaker located at the bottom of the phone, tunes were ringing from the phone clearly and without distortion. According to Nokia, the loudspeaker features Dolby’s Mobile Sound Enhancement, although I personally did not notice any difference in the sound quality. The phone includes a 3.5mm headphone jack for when you need to keep it down while traveling and of course Bluetooth connectivity for wireless sound.

Overall, nothing exciting in the sound department, but the N9 covers all the bases well.

7/10

7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)

Preinstalled on the phone is a Twitter app, an e-mal client, a Facebook app and an app to pick up your RSS feeds. All of these were more than capable of performing their jobs, and unlike many other apps that come preinstalled, I didn’t have to log onto any app store to download a better application.

On the subject of app stores, the Nokia’s Ovi Store needs a special mention. In the past, logging on and attempting to download an application from the Ovi Store was tedious. Sometimes it would log on, and sometimes it had no idea who you were. Most times it would require an upgrade, which was incomprehensible since I was using the latest device and so would expect it to come with the latest version of the Ovi Store.

However, once you slip your microSIM into the phone and boot it up, you are asked to enter your Ovi Store logon details or signup for a new account. Once done, you are never asked again. And accessing the store is as easy as clicking on the Ovi Store icon and selecting what you want to download.

Apart from the decent messaging apps pre-installed with the N9, its ease of access to the Ovi Store scores big here.

8/10

8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)

One the right-hand-side of the phone is a volume rocker and a lock/unlock button. Besides that, the phone is bare. Although it is a great approach – users like simple, easy to use gadgets – there is a problem. What happens when the phone freezes? Is All you need to do is hold in the power button for a few seconds and the phone will reboot.

However, during my tests, the phone showed no sign of freezing at all.

8/10

9. The new new (innovations , unique features)

The MeeGo OS is an innovation on its own. Its ease of use, combined with great multitasking abilities and its reliability makes it quite possibly one of the best mobile operating systems currently available.

8/10

10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)

At the time of launch in October 2011, Nokia said the N9 will retail from R5 999. It is not exactly a steal, but is cheaper than many other smartphones that perform the same tasks.

8/10

The Nokia N9 scores 80/100, giving it a tiny edge over the iPhone 4S.

In conclusion

Nokia have really outdone themselves with the N9. Every aspect of the phone, from hardware to software, has been addressed and refined. So it really is a pity that the N9 will be the only phone using the MeeGo operating system. However, it shows the potential of what comes next.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

email this to a friendnttnntt printer friendly version

I’ve had the N9 for two weeks and just love it!

Thank you so much for your input and noted.

Regards

All this evaporates once you begin playing with the toy. It is the simplest, sexiest and most user friendly phone. Period…

All my friends have iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S IIs. They paid a fortune to buy them. Nonsense !

I am not interested in billions of “apps”” or silly games !

What I need is a ligtning fast, stable, reliable, sturdy, user-friendly smartphone with all the high quality applications and social networks built in.

Moreover, Nokia N9 has a lovely “”swipe”” action. No other smartphone has it.

It is a pure joy to use this phone. You can easily customise it too.

All in all, I’m a satisfied customer and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Don’t be distracted by what others say. Follow your heart 🙂

You won’t regret it at all…

ios5- the new baby

HMMM.. so

Maemo 5 – almost dead

Maemo6\meego\harmatan – soon to have a mid-life crisis

Tizen – the new baby””,””body-href””:””””}]”

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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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