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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
The Nokia N9 scores 80/100, giving it a tiny edge over the iPhone 4S.
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
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I’ve had the N9 for two weeks and just love it!
Thank you so much for your input and noted.
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
Maemo 5 – almost dead
Maemo6\meego\harmatan – soon to have a mid-life crisis
Tizen – the new baby””,””body-href””:””””}]”
Amazfit Bip – An unassuming smartwatch competitor
The Amazfit Bip has everything a smartwatch needs: notifications, heart rate monitoring and a month-long battery life, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The Amazfit Bip is one of the most appealing devices in the smartwatch lineup from Huami, a low-cost brand backed by Xiaomi.
Coming in at around R1500 depending on where you shop, the price point puts the Bip into the budget smartwatch space. Combined with a large set of offerings, it makes one wonder: “Why aren’t more smartwatches like this?”
Aesthetically, the rectangular face is similar to the Apple Watch but, on closer inspection, is more reminiscent of the Pebble Time smartwatch. Ergonomically, the Bip has a single button which mostly acts as an unlock button and a back button in menus. The watch strap is made of hypoallergenic silicone and is replaceable.
The Bip has an always-on transflective colour screen with a backlight for darker situations. This kind of display is very similar to a 90’s Gameboy, and happens to be quite the power saver. The display is covered with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla glass with an anti-fingerprint coating, giving that extra bit of knock resistance.
The unit is 18 grams without the strap and 32 with it on, making for an extremely light smartwatch that’s roughly half the weight of the Apple Watch. While the Bip is rated IP68 in terms of waterproofing and dustproofing (meaning it can withstand 30 minutes of being under 1.5 meters of water), Huami’s website says that it should not be used while swimming, diving or bathing, and should not be taken into a sauna. When the Bip we used got dirty from rock climbing, it was washed with a soap-free cleanser (as Fitbit recommends) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
The number of sensors in the Bip is astonishing: heart rate sensor, accelerometer, geomagnetic sensor, barometer, and GPS. This sensor set is usually reserved for the premium smartwatch market but budget Bip packs all of these. Most interestingly, the geomagnetic sensor allows for compass readings (as well as assisting the GPS in locating the watch while it’s moving) and the barometer for measuring elevation by detecting changes in pressure.
Battery life has been optimised to a month of regular use, with some reports measuring up to 45-days with the heart rate sensor off. Huami claims the smartwatch can last for 4 months with only step and sleep tracking on. The 190mAh battery was run down in 28 hours with the GPS, barometer and heart rate sensor set to permanently on.
The built-in software is basic and lacks app support but redeems itself in other areas. Firstly, the customisation of watch faces is limited but can be easily changed with a third party app. Notifications are handled well, available for viewing only, and require the phone for replying or other interactions.
The menu options become available with a swipe left, notification settings with a swipe down, past notifications with a swipe up and the weather with a swipe right. The menu has options for checking one’s current status (steps, heart rate, distance, calories), followed by quick activity tracking (running, cycling, walking weather (a five-day forecast with icons), alarms, timers, compass and settings.
The companion app, Mi Fit, is well-designed and syncs quickly with the Bip. Mi Fit is where the watch and sync settings can be fine-tuned. Mi Fit also gives very detailed sleep analytics, including showing how much time one spent sleeping compared to other Mi Fit users.
Overall, the Bip is an attractive smartwatch for those who are looking to purchase a device that provides value for money while being highly-functional.
Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range
For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.
It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.
Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.
Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.
Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.
Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.
On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.
Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.
What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.
In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.
Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.
It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.
Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.
Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.
The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.
The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.
The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.
The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.
For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.
At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.
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