N-powered phone

Nokia N-900 shows what the Gen-Next convergence devices could look likeTo start with, the new Nokia N900 is not much of a phone. This time Nokia has gone into hybrid mode and put the best of their Internet tablets into a phone sized chassis to give the unit the power and looks that kill.Fire up this 181g, 110.9 x 59.8 x 18mm phone and you notice the most important of its features, the Maemo 5 OS. Not many might remember the Nokia 810i tablet — primarily because it never came to India — which also featured an OS similar to the Maemo 5. It also allowed developers to try out various new application stunts on it. Maemo 5 is smart enough to remind us of the Android, particularly because it is built on a simple system of single menus and wide, icon-filled homescreens.

The 3.5″ screen allows N900 to look bigger than other phones in the same range. The brick-top look also ensures that Nokia is not going to make any effort to shed the extra kilos. Not that we mind the weight, in fact it adds a touch of class to the phone.The externals of the phone house the up/down volume key and the centrally placed square power button. The touchscreen lets us navigate through the simplified menus with dramatic ease. Also the sheer size of the bright 800×480 pixels VGA resolution screen is overwhelming. The keys on the QWERTY are nicely sprung with a decent amount of travel, allowing fast typing. The space bar is still on the right, rather than the middle, meaning the layout is similar to that of the N97.

A lovable feature that Nokia has re-introduced is the infrared port. While not many would accept this as a feature for enhancing connectivity, third-party developers can actually use this feature to turn the N900 into a universal remote.The stuff under the hood is equally impressive too. The ARM Cortex A8 600MHz processor might not sound like the Qualcomm Snapdragon, but the phone does run through heavy duty application as a hot knife through butter. The Power VR graphics just add that touch of finesse required to better the screen and its viewing capabilities.

Calling, text and MMS on this phone is, well, not really a primary option, but nevertheless it is there. A really cool function is that you can set the phone to automatically pop open the dialer box whenever it is put into the portrait mode. However, making calls is not as easy as pressing the green button, as the N 900 doesn’t have buttons anywhere on or below the screen. Hence calling is a few clicks away on the phone, literally.While the unlocked T-Mobile phone we used worked well with local networks, the phone defaulted to a 2G network as there wasn’t any 3G around. For a nation which is still struggling to find its third generation legs, this is a great advantage.

Mailing on the phone is wonderful if you are an avid ‘mobile phone Internet user’. Push email from exchange is available, but Webmail is a little more basic. Still we feel the combination of the same along with a well-placed QWERTY is a captivating combination. The range of IM clients on the N900 is excellent and whether it is Skype, AOL or Google Talk it’s very easy to see who is online and click to start a conversation.

The browser on the N900, built with tools from Mozilla, is a great experience owing to its ease of use and functionality. Plus, unlike the HTC Hero, this one can work Flash video also.The camera on the phone is what one expects from normal Nokia high-end phones. Not exactly the kind used by those who love mobile photography, but the 5 MP camera is decent, along with its various editing options to cut, crop or enhance videos and images.

The dual LED flash could have had a Xenon replacement though.The music playback is in also very good, but the Internet radio is a let down. Video playback is amazing for the simple reason that it supports WMV, Real Video, MP4, AVI, Xvid and DivX codec files, which is like ‘wow’. However, it doesn’t recognise M4V file format.The unit has good memory storage with an onboard 32 GB memory and a separate 32 GB Micro SD card. However, there’s one really annoying issue — pop in a memory card and the Nokia N900 will simply refuse to read the files on there until a restart. This is really frustrating if you’re trying to quickly pop a new album on to the phone.

There is a deterrent in the battery too as it can completely drain off in less than a day even if you are not using Internet. Nokia really needs to come up with a new battery to improve on the 1350mAh. The File Manager on the phone was also a let down as it sometimes couldn’t find the on-board memory card.The applications on the phone are nice but not as many as we thought there would be. Give it a year though and lovers of this phone might truly feel the reason why we have ranted so many positives.

The phone has actually been designed for those who would prefer drooling over their gadgets rather party on a Saturday night, or for those who like to be in the news for spending money. Branded more as an ultra computer, the guys from Finland sure have come up with a good product and an even better OS. The big chassis, the slick no-nonsense black outlook, the simple design of the applications and the browser were some of the better features of the phone.

Nokia India has still not officially declared the launch dates for this phone or the price, but the American version costs $500 which means the Indian version might cost somewhere Rs 35,000. This we feel could be a very competitive price because the phone is sure to pull geeks as well as enthusiasts with its good computing and third-party application developing capabilities.On the whole, a buy if you don’t mind the extra bulge in the pocket and if you have the bulge in the pocket to ensure that it doesn’t burn a hole.

-The Indian Express

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