Following my first part of the N9 preview, here is my second part where I will go through its UI which is the most unique part of the N9. I’m sure most of you by now have been to swipe.nokia.com (if you haven’t, go there now) so I won’t try to make this very long and will just what I think so far of it and how it felt when I used it myself during the media event.
Basically, Nokia N9 has a whole new touch user interface not seen on any other phone in the market. Some people say it looks the same as iPhone/Android in that you an swipe home screens to the side. For the uneducated, this might seem the case. But the user interface is radically different once you get to know what it really is. As the official UI model diagram below shows, the whole UI has 5 main screens all up and you basically swipe to get to any of the screens once unlocked. (unlocked by double-tap then swipe!)
1. Lock screen
2. Foreground Application
3. Task Switcher (home)
4. Quick Launcher (icon menu)
5. Notifications & Events
Sounds super basic huh? Every phone has a lock screen. So nothing new there. But once you swipe unlock the N9, you are now in the 3-way home screen which comprises of screens 3, 4 & 5 mentioned above. These 3 menu’s rotate in carousel manner just by swiping. Then from the task switcher which is a thumbnail (live thumbnails btw) of all the currently running apps. You just select one and that application comes to the foreground covering the entire screen. Now, if you want to go back to the 3-way home screen, just swipe the screen left or right and you are back. Such cimplicity is sooooooo hard to design and actually implement. Yet, Nokia Meego Harmattan UX team has done it. Amazing job.
Now, I won’t go into more detail. By now, I’m sure you all have watched at least 1 to 20 or so hands on videos on youtube and the like. But in actual use, you really get to appreciate how seamless and natural it feels. Just by reading the above paragraph, you now know how the N9 UI works and so you’ll have no trouble navigating through the N9 as if you had it for months.
Some complain that there are no desktop widgets. But with the task switcher being an integral part of the UI and how the OS runs all the launched apps in the background in real-time, you can easily switch between apps just as fast as flicking through multiple desktops in Android phones. Also, the task switcher’s thumbnails of the currently running apps are not static snapshot image of the apps. They are fully “live” and so you have the ability to see what’s happening on the screen of multiple different apps. Once example was the compass app which even while showing in a little thumbnail, it would rotate around as you rotate the N9. So in theory, you can have multiple different apps showing in the homescreen and you can use it as if they are just various active thumbnail-sized “widgets”. Also, there are already talks of widgets being somehow put on to the lock screen. (unofficially) So really, I don’t think we can really judge until it is released into the wild. The potential is there. We’;ll just have to too who taps into what and how it gets changed. (for better or worse that is…)
For those who crave more information about the N9 and its UI and have been to swipe.nokia.com and seen the videos, I also recommend you go HERE if you haven’t already as they have a good section on the UI design.
Also, Nokia Conversations has posted a whole bunch of full resolution screenshots of the N9’s UI.
Meego 1.2 Harmattan OS
Now this is a big section and I’m no expert to go deep. So I’ll write it in a simplest way possible. The “Meego” OS used on the N9 is not the standard MeeGo OS from MeeGo.com. It is more Nokia’s own OS called Maemo 6 (code name Harmattan) with MeeGo API compatibilty and a whole new UI. Simly put, it is an upgraded, simplified version of Maemo5 that was used on the Nokia N900 mobile phone. So instead of it being Fedora based and having an RPM package management like the real MeeGo OS, Nokia N9’s Meego Harmattan OS uses a Debian-based linux with DEB package management just like the N900. This might not mean much for 90% of the N9 buyers but for some, this is good news as it means it’s not too different from the N900.
For those who likes the technical details, you can go HERE for a full listing of what’s different from the Maemo5 Fremantle OS.
Many are worried that N9 and its one-and-only OS won’t get many apps support from 3rd paty vendors like the N900. My answer is both Yes and No. Yes, that it won’t get as many apps as iPhone/AP7/Android. I’m sure you all expected that anyways. But still, it will get more apps than the N900. I’m sure of it. I expect N9 to sell at least 5 times better than the N900. (I’m being very conservative there as it might be more than 10 folds) Heck, N9 even comes with Nokia’s own full version of Maps app. N900 didn’t even get that! N9 also made far more buzz from the get go of the announcement than the N900. Even engadget, gsmarena etc are all in love with the device. Now to me, that is saying something about the success of this device and that means more devs. More 3rd party devs and more community devs than N900 ever did. Guaranteed. (I’m quite confident about this. lol) I hope Nokia Betalabs creates fun and interesting things for the N9 as well. (Even existing apps such as the Sleeping Screen or Bubbles would be awesome)
btw, did you know that it comes with a special NFC enabled version of the Angry Birds game? You just tap the phone to another N9 to unlock more levels within Angry Birds! I really hope this trend allows for more games and apps to support NFC.
Umm. I had big plans for this article but little time. So I am going to end this here. But really, there wasn’t too much more to add as I don’t have the device still and by now, I’m sure most of you read heaps about the N9 from everywhere else with much better photos, videos and write ups.
All I’m going to say is that N9 really made me excited and that isn’t very easy to do. Even the almighty Samsung Galaxy S2 didn’t excite me that much and although I did buy it as it was the fastest and the best Android phone upon release, the same-Android OS/UI/UX just didn’t get me too excited once I had it in hand as it gave me virtually the same experience as any other Android phone anyways. (Yes, it still was/is the best multimedia phone and I even overclocked my SGS2 to 1.5GHz and that was pretty cool.) But yeah, I wanted a more seamless multitasking / integrated experience which the Android just doesn’t provide right now. (I also own iPhone4 btw…)
Umm. Where was I again? Oh yeah. N9. It has twitter/gmail/caldav/skype/facebook etc fully integrated, good web browser(s), beautifully smooth and unique multitasking UI, good video playback (even 720p MKVs), good audio playback (even flac, ogg etc), NFC which actually works with many accessories (including my NFC-enabled BH-505 bluetooth headset), Nokia Maps navigation, proper debian linux based OS with xterminal and a good camera is enough to win me over and make me use this as my main phone as soon as it comes out.
Now all I can do is wait…………………..
Make sure to check my Nokia N9 tidbits article every day or two to see if I found anything interesting to share.