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Hands-on exclusive – Nokia N9

Nokia kindly invited us to have a play with their latest N9 MeeGo powered handset. How could we say no?

The Nokia N9, as announced in detail this morning, gave us a first look at the new Nokia MeeGo OS. The plan is to let that take a back seat once Windows Phone 7 comes to Nokia, but after playing with MeeGo it seems sad that such a well-thought-out UI may see an early grave. Or is Nokia trying to soft launch a platform that subtly impresses the world? Either way the N9 in its 16GB or 64GB version is beautiful – in every colour.

The handset feels solid in the metal unibody chassis that holds the huge 3.9in curved glass screen, which is so close to the AMOLED display layer that the richly colourful icons appear to float. It also features a bottom-end front-facing camera to maintain integrity of antenna connectivity – it feels intricately and intelligently designed. Notice any front buttons? There are none. A tap and side swipe unlocks the handset effectively and the swiping doesn’t stop there.

Multitasking has been tested with over 100 apps running and the 1GHz core manages fine. A side swipe sends an open programme to thumbnail form on the multitasking screen, where it can be instantly accessed later. If you simply want to check the last thing you were doing, the open app can be swiped half off the page to what was running behind. Much like Windows Phone 7’s half-on half-off screens, but this one is of use.

Nokia has embraced social media feeds and got it right first time. A side swipe from the homescreen and you can see a complete list of you social notifications from any email account, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and almost anything else you can think of. It also include notifcations of text messages and missed calls. The best bit – simply click on a status, for example – and the app for that feed instantly opens with the full details.

Following in Android’s footsteps, as iOS is now doing, quick accessibility options can be reached from the top of the screen. Turn on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ringtones as well as set your status for the likes of Facebook Chat. They’ve even managed to build a speedy, pinch and double-touch zoom browser that appears to run Flash – no offical comment on that yet though.

The touchscreen is responsive for the most part, especially considering this is a very early version of the handset. Nokia’s even managed to include an intuitive copy and paste method where you simply swipe back across a word to copy and swipe forwards to paste. An impressive jump for Nokia from keyboard-heavy handsets to optimally functional touchscreen input.

Despite no app store as yet for this device, one is in the making. The handset comes pre-loaded with games and apps including Angry Birds and a Wi-Fi hotspot enabler.

Ovi Maps and Drive satellite navigation both look great on the big screen and run at a blisteringly fast rate in spite of being on a single core handset.

The music player works well with big clear cover art and easy access to the Ovi store – it even suggests songs you might like while you listen, in a less invasive way than it sounds.

Nokia was tight lipped on a release date of this NFC-enabled kit, but did say it’s definitely in 2011. With Sony Ericsson entering the dual-core market with everyone else, it’s unlikely that Nokia can afford to wait too long on this release, so watch this space.


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