Happy 2nd Birthday, N9!
I’m two days late with this post. Two days ago, September 27th marked the two year anniversary of when Nokia began shipping the mysterious but equally compelling MeeGo-powered N9, a device that everyone knew was being born into a cold, cruel world; its parents had, months prior to its release, already abandoned it for another, unrelated non-Nokia operating system.
“Since we announced the Nokia N9 in June this year, the feedback that it has gotten from discerning and avid smartphone users across the world has been nothing short of fantastic,” said Ilari Nurmi, Vice President of Marketing, Nokia. “With the innovations in industrial design, user interface, and the Qt developer experience, the Nokia N9 sets the bar for how natural technology can feel, and represents the first in a number of products from Nokia that will be brought to life in similar fashion.” – Nokia, 9/27/2011
Since that time, the N9 received three official OS updates, each bringing a variety of functionality improvements and new features, even if they were seen as almost insignificant (a musical note icon for the ‘Beep’ profile? Ooh!)
Despite having been told to stand outside the door in the cold Finnish wind while Windows Phone got to sit by the fire and sip cocoa, MeeGo Harmattan was both popular among the geekarati and was also seen as a flash of brilliance by the tech media. But unfortunately, everyone knew that while the N9 was a sublime piece of kit, the lack of support and development of the OS meant that sooner or later it would become more obsolete in a world of fast-paced smartphones bulging with big name apps.
For me, none of that seemed to matter for the entire time I used the N9 as my main, daily phone. Indeed, it wasn’t until I picked up an 808 PureView over a year later that I didn’t use any other phone, even if I did have a collection of Symbian devices calling out at me from my sock drawer. The lack of apps for MeeGo problem was mostly solved by the community, and so I had 4squick for Foursquare, Tweetian for Twitter, SoundWave for Shazam, Wazapp for Whatsapp… the list goes on and on. And it still goes on, with developers still updating and maintaining their beloved N9-friendly apps.
Some apps like Foursquare and Twitter and Facebook were native for the N9, but as Alvin Wong points out in his extraordinary, beautifully written N9 editorial recently, these native apps simply broke from neglect. Ever-changing APIs and behind-the-scenes tweaks and changes suddenly only went to the ‘Big 3’ and MeeGo (and Symbian) began to get left behind. But thanks to the amazing MeeGo community, many of these functions still remain, well, functional, and I tip my cap to all of them.
But why did the N9 muster so much love and praise, even if it wasn’t the SGS2 of it’s year? Well to be honest, I could write a thousand words right now on the N9’s beautiful physical design, the thoughtful aesthetics within the operating system that just make sense, the way that the Swipe UI is the only UI paradigm that screams “this is how it should be done!” (and yet only BlackBerry has really taken the idea on properly in an expensive smartphone) BUT – all I will do is point you in the direction of Alvin’s post over at UnleashThePhones.com:
The N9 is now two years old, and while it is not up there with the big guys, it is still an absolute pleasure to use. Sure it’s not the fastest or zippiest as you open apps, but there are unique things about it that draw you back into the interface like nothing else can.
Swipe, tap, done. That’s why I love it still, just so simple. No clunky homescreen button a la 2007. No cludgey multitasking screen that requires more swiping and scrolling.
Two years later and we’re still thinking: what if? Maybe, just maybe, by the end of this year, Jolla will show us that very possibility. Shame Nokia didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t though.
Happy birthday, N9! :^)