There’s A Special Spot In Hell For The Nokia N9

After a few hours with the N9 in my hands, I was even more convinced (as if that was possible) of why Nokia had to make the decision to go with Windows Phone as its main Operating System. Despite the sheer joy of discovering a new OS, using and abusing the swipe gestures, and marveling at the well thought-out package between Meego and the N9’s hardware, I have to say that Meego is simply not up to par with other OSes at this point, and the N9 also comes with some terrible decisions.

I am therefore fairly certain that despite deserving its own spot in heaven, the N9, even on PR1.1, should have a special spot in hell as well.

The wonderful display that isn’t

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I barely knew anything about the N9 before trialling it, but the one constant I saw in many online comments was that the screen was awesome. Imagine my jaw drop in horrified disappointment when I turned it on for the first time and could see everything slightly blurred and pixelated. I tried to track down the display resolution settings (which do not exist, obviously), then I asked the question on Twitter, only to be told the screen technology is Pentile. I will not bore you with tech details but suffice it to say, if you have slightly poor vision, you won’t see a thing and it’ll be crisp and wonderful for you. But if you have good/great vision, you’re in for the most magnificent disappointment of your geeky life. Everything looks blurred out, you can count every pixel, and anything white on a black background shows with purple edges on the left and green edges on the right.

It’s downright FRUSTRATING. Tragically UGLY. And the problem is that once you see these pixels, you can not go back, they’re all you can see on the screen. You won’t enjoy the curved screen, you won’t enjoy the AMOLED colors, you won’t enjoy anything, because everything is blurred.

This is a screenshot of how things should be on the N9

This is a photo of how the screen really displays them. No, I did not move my hand, it’s a focused macro image, but the display IS actually that blurry. Also look at the Camera icon and notice the purple edge on the left and green edge on the right. That’s what actually creates the blurry effect, every white writing has those two edges, which means that nothing is really sharp. UGLY.

The Google Account that isn’t

When asked to add an Account to import my contacts, I saw a Google account option and was pretty happy that it was finally a simple step to get my contacts onto a Nokia phone. Fast forward 10 minutes, my Gmail is setup perfectly but I only have 45 of my >600 contacts imported. I force another sync but nothing happens. I wait. And that’s when I see it: it only imported my GTalk contacts! I search for a solution online and it turns out I have to use Mail for Exchange to get my Google Contacts. Mail for freaking Exchange! If they thought many people don’t want to have all their email buddies in their contact list, just ASK US. Do not just stupidly assume it. Gah. Mail for Exchange. The tragedy.

The Notifications screen that isn’t

See, when a phone comes with a Twitter and Facebook applications out of the box, that are tightly integrated into Contacts and work really well, and when the said phone has a Notifications screen of sorts, you add 1+1 and you expect to be actually NOTIFIED about replies and messages on Twitter or the aptly named Notifications on Facebook. Apparently, that concept was foreign to whoever worked on the N9. They thought “hey, notifications screen, euh, let’s put the weather, date, missed calls and messages, ta-daaa, useful!”. I’m pretty sure someone came up and asked “and Twitter and Facebook?” so the team looked in puzzlement, and in their all-inspiring wisdom decided to slap the whole Twitter timeline and Facebook Newsfeed on that screen. Not the real notifications. Not the stuff that matter. Useless.

The landscape mode that isn’t

There’s a landscape keyboard on the N9. And the phone actually works in landscape. Yes, we have to state that, because if we don’t, no one will see it. The main phone UI, the settings, the Twitter and Facebook applications… NONE of these work in landscape. So you’re forced to type on a cramped portrait keyboard, oh, and suppose you’re browsing the web or viewing a photo in landscape and want to go back to the menu, hey, you have to turn your phone back as well!

I know that all of iOS, Android and Windows Phone don’t have a proper landscape mode, but it is not justifiable for them, and it is not justifiable for the N9 and Meego. I want to read, browse and use my phone in landscape. And most importantly, I want a landscape QWERTY all throughout the UI. Because I’ve tried portrait QWERTYs, with and without Swype, and they’re uncomfortable. Aside from the iPhone/iPod Touch, all modern phones have awkward proportions that make them much more long than wide, so holding them and typing, you feel cramped and like the phone is going to fall from your hands. I know many of you got used to it, but that’s not an excuse and it’s still not in many people’s genes. I had to find a position worthy of Kamasutra with my fingers and hands to hold the N9 and type, and I am not happy about it. *insert a very angry emoticon face*

The fancy Swipe that isn’t

While the swipe gesture is wonderful and natural and all, there are certain circumstances where it’s downright frustrating.

  • First, there is no consistent way to go back specifically to the menu, notifications or multitasking. There’s only a consistent way to go back to any of the three, depending on where you were before opening the current application. Let’s say I was on the notifications screen and I opened a message from there, but now I want to switch back to twitter: I have to go back to the notifications screen and then swipe to get to the multitasking view. Irritating.
  • Second, swipe interferes with switching photos in the Gallery. I can’t remember how many times I closed the gallery when all I wanted was switch images.
  • Third, swiping the keyboards actually interferes with the Swype keyboard (not a typo, they’re different things), especially with words starting with P. If you’re using Swype and you’re writing “pretty”, the gesture from P to R is most times registered as a “swipe” not a “swype” and the keyboard reverts to the regular one. That’s one of the reasons I deactivated Swype.
  • Last, swiping to select words to copy/paste: it took me a google search to figure out how it’s done. Because the gesture is a swipe, not a slide, not a select, it’s awkward, and works 5% of the time for me.

The camera button that isn’t

Look, when I hold a Nokia, I expect a decent camera. And when the Nokia I hold has an 8MP camera with Autofocus, I expect an actual camera button, not an onscreen silly excuse for a button. Tis all.

Everything else that isn’t

So where do I start? The earphones included in the N9’s box are the old, oooooold, regular earphones, not the in-ear type that we saw with most of their high-end smartphones since 2009. I thought the old ones had died a death worthy of their horrifyingly uncomfortable nature, but they’re resuscitated! Miracle! Not.

When importing contacts from several services, the Merge function should work automatically, but most times, you’re left with duplicates or triplicates of the same contact, with the same name. Worse? My Gtalk contacts imported with the Google Account did not merge with the Google contacts imported via the Mail For Exchange Account, even though they have the same name AND the same email address. If you know a logical explanation, please tell me.

Then there’s the fact that you can customize close to nothing in the N9’s UI. You can change the lockscreen wallpaper, the ringtones, and… that’s it. Nothing else. Themes, icons, colors, none of that. The N9 is already set for you, from the box.

So there you have it, the more I use this N9, the more I’m convinced that there’s a special place, somewhere between heaven and hell, for all the joys and frustrations it brings.


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  • hater

  • himanshu

    this fake my screen is nice i have no problem about screen.

  • raspinoblog


    Nice review and very educative.

    But i disagree with your first assumption and point been the reason Elop decided to switch to Windows Phone OS.

    Elop gave a valid reason and that the “OS was not ready”.

    Your first point is a hardware issue, not an OS issue, it is purely a management decision to go with this particular screen type, despite that fact that there are many technologies out there.

    The second  point is true, The OS need fine tuning to help it compete well. My personal experience is that my Facebook account keeps on asking me for password everytime I change my internet connection or service provider both on the wireless and the 3G internet connection.

    The rest of your point is just your personal experience with the phone they are not problems if you think they are, then let me tell you something, they are design styles and you have the right to complain, your trying to see it working in a way you want it. Surprising i love the design style and have used it  for almost a month now and i can use the phone with one hand, i hardly look at it when operation the Nokia N9

    You need to learn all the gestures that comes with it, that way your complains would change to wow, how smart of Nokia to had ethos and then decided to go Windows Phone OS.

    From your article it looks like your not a fan of N900, therefore you might not appreciate the Nokia N9,.

    The whole blogshpere and everyone who truly loves gadget would say you have written a nice review, but the problems that the Nokia  N9 give you, are not listed here. 

    We the users have some personal problem with N9, but those pro elms have been overlooked due to the coolness and unique OS that is better and sweeter than all the OS’es listed out here.

  • Chris

    I think your review unit has a faulty screen, so I’d still look into that before passing your final judgement on the issue.
    However, the rest of the points you made are sound. In addition I would add, that the general lack of customizing anything in the system trumps my enthusiasm towards the device. And I don’t mean customizing as in hacking it, but making it look more like me on an everyday basis. Slowly this will change, though with community contributions.

    I think the N9 is in a way very much in key with what WP7 will bring. A static image that is beautiful, but just unchangeable and instead of going after functions it goes for looks. Everything and anything that was ever criticized before, justly or unjustly, about aesthetics has been addressed – with its own caveats.

  • Daisy110no

    Your on smack i have an N9 and the screen is nothing like you suggest It’s perfect…

  • vineet yadav

    now you would forgive any android manufacturer or apple if they made such mistakes but not nokia,no………….. why this prejudice against nokia?
    anyways i’m just happy nokia dropped the n9 and went with the windows phone 7

  • Dragan

    My Nokia N9 is crisp and clear. No blur or pixels.

  • Manuvmenon

    i just couldnt believe ur words on the display. so u mean the N9 display is worst for an average person. (in ur words good/best vision). crap. i have never seen this in any of the reviews on net. i do saw some comments on pentile display. true,. but that not the normal view. when u zoon in , then and then only u ll find the difference. also these cons u have mentioned, i feel is not that serious. but again that depends. and as u can see on the different reviews N9 has one of the best cams on a phone. only N8 and iphone 4s betters it. and about customization, its not android to add so called widgets.. true. but just compare with iphone. same ryt? 

    i found ur review very biased towards some other OS.. may be android. and simply useless. sorry for that.. 

  • vhaturgo

    china phone? lol

  • I’m really surprised to read this negative assessment, especially the part about the “blurry” icons.  Mine are crystal clear…???

  • Hashir Rashad

    First thing, I haven’t tested an N9 my self. But your article seems a bit pre-mature, given that you are an N9 virgin and played with it just for two days before to come up with this. No comment on the screen, you need to see it to talk it. But in a comparison video with iPhone 4S I found N9’s screen much better than iPhone’s. Its a video though. Google contact issue, I agree, its never been easy with a Nokia keep all your contacts synced. With MfE i have lost my contacts several times in N8. but here the point it they have integrated only the Gtalk. I don’t think it deserves such a harsh criticism despite the natural disappointment. apart from the screen issue and physical camera key, everything else is software related. I guess any new platform needs to be given a fair time before criticism. WP 7 was not even half perfect as N9 meego (its not actual meego i guess), and iOS took 5 iterations for it to be appealing to a Symbian geek. From your article I really understand why Elop took the decision to switch to WP. 

  • guest

    It can be a problem for photograpy geeks, when they zoom the pics on the screen

  • As pointed out in the post, regarding the Pentile display, if you have slightly poor vision (which is what everyone these days has), you won’t see any blurry effect. But if you do have perfect vision, this is the first thing you will see: the pixels, the blurriness, and the purple/green edges.
    Many commenters have pointed out that they don’t see it, I say good for them. For me and the 5% of the people who do see it, well, it’s a tragedy for an otherwise perfect display.

  • Bwmcconnell

    Return the phone, it’s faulty. The screen is clearly suffering from the well discussed purple hue that plagued the first N8’s.  Nokia service is really much better so call them and rerun the thing whole it’s still in warranty.

  • carman58

    Brilliant pair of articles Rita, enjoyed both, as I enjoy the N9, but having seen your article I tried some macro shots of the screen and you are as always, correct. Fortunately my vision is not 20/20 and I’m not intergrated much with Google, so I’ve managed to avoid much of your frustration. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your thoughts and techy experience 🙂

  • Ammar

    You have a faulty phone. I have a fully functional N9 and the display is amazing. I also have a SAMOLED screen’d Galaxy S with me atm and the pixel issues you’re mentioning are far worse on the Galaxy. Seriously get a new N9

  • Ammar

    and secondly at least USE THE PHONE for atleast a week before posting impressions. Every word in this article is screaming ‘amateur and ill informed’. 

  • Frederico Santos

    I agree with Pentile, it’s frustrating. I agree with google account management (if you want the whole shabang of calendar you need CalDAV actually). I agree with notifications. I must call you a re-tard for the swipe things except for the P swyping, that makes sense.

    The most ANNOYING and irritating bug of all is the fact that in PR1.1, after rebooting your device, every time you change networks (wifi to 3G for example) you need to input your passwords for all your accounts that you wnt to use… that alone made the N9 useless to me….  But this is a rage hate article, you need to write it less emotionally.

  • Ihab

    You are just a n9 hater.this phone is just fine .your critics made it as if its the worst phone in market.your critics isnt sufficiant,nor relevent nor accurate.simply you lack knowledge(despite that you are right about the screen but its not that bad!!!!).

  • Rustyknight17

    Helli again RIta , pretty good review , though I don’t envy u the dubious distinction of being the first and so far only , negative reviewer …
    Ur complaints in the Pentile display r well taken . My sight isn’t as goodas urs , yet I see the blemishes u mentiined in the pics . That said , the few other reviewers and users who also mentioned this seemed to think it was NBD ( No Big Deal , with a couple of exceptions ) ; the blemishes r faint and don’t interfere witn normal use and the high resolution makes up for these . Judging from the pics I’ve seen , would have to agree . Still , if it bothers u …
    MfE , never used it as I don’t have enough contacts lol , but I understand it’s a bit of a pain . Still , if I had 600+ contacts , I’d consider MfE cheap at twice the difficulty !
    The earphones , would have to agree , but since u r a n9 virgin , I’ll politely point out that the rest of ur complaints can be accounted for by 2 things
    First the n9 is the first and so faronly , commercial Meego device , though Nokia seems to be working ih a successor . This beingnthe case , there r bound to be issues .
    Secind , Nokia designed the n9 to beas simple and intuitive to use as possible – it was designed for the average user , not geeks like us ..
    Given all this , ur criticisms seem overharsh , to ssy no more . Cheers !