Nokia N9 hands-on: First look

GSMArena team, 22 June 2011.
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Tags: Nokia, MeeGo, Touch UI

User interface

Nokia N9 is the first handset to run on the MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan platform and it only comes two years after the last of the Maemo kind, the Nokia N900. The leap however couldn’t have been bigger.

Well, it appears that the wait has been worth it as MeeGo in its current version offers a is already a pretty cool platform. With no need of any hardware buttons and a real taste for multi-tasking the brand new OS is really innovative. You can check it out in action in the following video.

Add to that the impressively novel swipes navigation (a swipe starts off the edge of the screen like on the BlackBerry Playbook) and centralization of everything in a total of three homescreen panes, and you get one neat mobile OS. You can check it out in action in the following video.

You see what we are talking about? No need to press the power key - you can unlock the screen by simply double-tapping on it. And a back button? Well why would you need it if you can just swipe from edge to edge and be back to the app drawer or task manager.

Nokia N9
The lockscreen

If you slide the lockscreen up a bit, it reveals four customizable shortcuts. A nice touch, indeed.

When you are past the lock screen, you get to the three homescreen panes. Now don't think of them as homescreens in the traditional sense of the word as they are everything but traditional. Instead those are just the three panes that you revert to when there's no app running.

Here's the deal with them - the first pane holds all your notifications (including social network updates), the second one is your app drawer, where all the installed apps reside, and the last screen is the multitasking cards pane. Here's a brief look at each of them.

Nokia N9
The N9 apps screen

The events screen gathers all your notifications, including the call log, messages, social network updates, etc. There's also an indication of the current weather conditions in the upper right corner, which you can click to access the detailed forecast for the coming days. Clicking on any of the notifications sends you immediately to the app that triggered it, so you can do something about it immediately.

Next there's the app menu, which is a plain list of icons representing all the applications installed on your N9. There's no grouping of any kind at this point, be it categories or folders, but you are free to rearrange the icons as you see fit.

To enter edit mode you just press and hold one of the icons for a couple of seconds. In that edit mode you are also allowed to uninstall apps by clicking the red cross in their upper right corners. You should bear in mind though that you can only uninstall the apps you have installed and not the preinstalled system ones.

Finally, we came to the multitasking screen, where you see a neat grid of apps that are currently running on your N9. The two view modes (2x2 grid or 3x3 grid) are alternated by a pinch-zooming gesture.

Nokia N9 Nokia N9
The task manager displays a 2x2 or a 3x3 grid

If you have more applications running than can fit on one screen, you can scroll the list of thumbnails to get to the one you are looking for. Normally, you wouldn't need to do that though as the most recently opened apps appear on top of the list.

An interesting feat is the browser behavior, which adds a thumbnail for every page you have opened so you can manage them straight from the task manager. It’s as if your browser tabs and history are all integrated in the task switcher.

Everytime you exit an app it doesn't actually close but is minimized to the task switcher. Now depending on the app it would either be suspended or it will keep running in the background. Either way, it will resume from exactly where you left it when you reopen it by clicking its thumbnail.

If you run into performance issues you might want to try and close a few of those apps for real. We didn't see any issues with a list of 12 thumbnails but heavy users will probably end up with more, so we shouldn't rule out the possibility.

Anyway, to close apps you just click and hold one of them until the red crosses appear. Along with them you will notice a close all shortcut at the bottom of the screen, which might come in handy if you need to free up all the available resources.

The final Nokia N9 UI element is a bit harder to spot. By clicking on the status bar above some of the screen you reveal a pop-up, which let's you quickly adjust volume, change your profile or switch off some of your N9 radios.

Nokia N9
The pop-up that appears when you press the bar on the top

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