Nokia N900 Preview

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The Nokia N900 will be the first in a new series of devices from this company. Its design isn’t radically new, but this will be the smartphone running Maemo, an open source operating system based on Linux.

It isn’t going to be released in the U.S. until later this month, but I got some time with a pre-release version and recorded a video demo done by a Nokia employee. I also wrote up some of my first impressions.

Video Preview

First Impressions
I was a long-time user of an earlier Maemo-based device, the Nokia N810, and I was surprised by how different the N900 will be from its predecessor. Fortunately, most of these changes seem to be improvements.

There’s no doubt what the biggest change will be: the N900 will be the first in this series to be a phone. The earlier models — N810, N800, etc. — were handheld computers without cellular-wireless capabilities. This one change leads to many of the others.

The N900 will have a WVGA screen and a landscape-oriented sliding keyboard, like most of its predecessors. However, this touchscreen will be considerably smaller: 3.5 inches vs. 4.1 inches. The reason for this is obvious: the N810 was a somewhat large device, larger than most people want to hold up to the ear to make a phone call. So Nokia had to shrink the new version a bit.

Nokia N900The display is still fairly large as smartphones go, and so is the keyboard. In my preliminary testing I had no problems using either.

This upcoming model will run a new version of Nokia’s open-source Linux-based operating system, Maemo 5. This has been significantly redesigned. Part of this is to add phone functions, plus the new user interface puts much more emphasis on widgets. It also offers multiple homescreens that users can flip through, a feature that’s become common in smartphone UIs in recent years.

It will include a web browser based on Mozilla technology, and full Adobe Flash 9.4 support. I’ve been impressed with the capabilities of this browser for years, and Nokia keeps improving it.

The N900 will also have an extensive suite of software, including support for both consumer e-mail systems and Exchange ActiveSync. It will also include a video and audio players, tie-ins to social networking services, and much more.

Getting Developers on Board
There have been quite a few people curious about why Nokia is releasing the N900 and the N97 — two devices that have a great deal in common — at roughly the same time.

According to two separate Nokia employees, the main point of the N900 is to get a Maemo-based smartphone out to developers, so they can create applications for it. The company is following a strategy also used by Google, who put out the T-Mobile G1 last year mostly to get developers interested in Android.

The N97 is based on Symbian S60, a more mature platform. Thus it is probably a better choice for the average consumer than the N900.

Nokia wants Maemo to be ready to become the operating system for all its high-end smartphones, while S60 will continue to be used on mid-range and entry-level devices.

Other Details on the Nokia N900
The Nokia N900 will have 32 GB of storage, which is going to be expandable up to 48 GB via a microSD card.

This mobile Internet device will be a GSM phone with HSPA 3G.  The N. American version will support both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 3G networks. It will also have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

In addition, it is going to have a 5 MPx camera and Carl Zeiss optics

Image Gallery

Pricing & Availability
As mentioned earlier, the Nokia N900 is set for release by the end of this month.

Those who wish to pre-order it can do so on Nokia USA website, where it is $650 for an unlocked version. This includes a free Bluetooth headset. In Europe, it will sell for EUR 500, excluding sales taxes and subsidies.

 

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