Nokia N900 review, pt2. First impressions. 6 things I hate about N900
Let’s continue with my first impressions about Nokia N900 Maemo 5 handset.
Check out the first part of Nokia N900 review, for the things I liked most about it. And, to tell the truth, they are just the start of the things I really like about this handset.
But before I go on, and continue to sing praises to Nokia N900, there are some things that I just have to get off my chest.
These are annoyances I encountered using Nokia N900.
I know that Nokia N900/Maemo is a work in progress, not expected to reach it’s full potential until Maemo 6 comes out next year, and that the device I have uses a pre-release firmware. I am taking this into account.
Also, before I begin, I want to say the the number of bugs and missing features that I encountered so far, were few and far between.
But they still were there, and are worth talking about.
(Initially, this post was called “8 things I hate about Nokia N900”. But two of them turned out to be a non-issues, so they are only the things I used to hate for the first two days. And don’t pay much attention to this “hate” thing. It is purely an attention grabber I am only annoyed, irritated or disappointed by most of them, and none are a deal breaker that will make me like my N900 less.)
Anyway, here we go.
6 things I hate about Nokia N900. Listed in no particular order.
1. Almost exclusively landscape orientation. Lack of portrait mode. This one’s a biggie. When Maemo devices were only internet tablets, exclusively landscape orientation made sense. But N900 is not only the tablet anymore. Yes, it is mobile computer, and a great internet browsing device.
But N900 is also a thing, that is meant to be used as a smartphone. And, in a lot of cases, smartphones are meant to be used with a single hand. Which, if not impossible, is extremely hard to do in a landscape orientation.
Thank god Nokia made dialer app work in portrait mode. This way I can, at least, make calls holding the phone in one hand. But the portrait mode, for now, is exclusively for the phone calls – dialing the number on keypad, or selecting a contact to call.
It does not even extended to SMS. For even the shortest message I have to switch back to landscape mode.
Some applications and interaction modes work also best in a portrait mode, which is impossible to do for now.
Fortunately, the absence of landscape mode is not some strange design decision on Nokia’s part. They simply did not have enough time to include that before the device launch.
Nokia knows the problem, is working on it, and will provide fix in time. In fact, during Maemo Summit last week in Amsterdam, head of Nokia Maemo group promised portrait mode support in N900 browser by the end of the year, with pervasive portrait support throughout the device later.
2. Password entry while browsing. It’s a small thing, but pretty annoying.
Usually, on a mobile device, when you press a key entering hidden symbols for a password field, the actual symbol pops up for a short while, and then is replaced with a star.
This does not happen with N900 browser. When I use physical keyboard to type in a password on some site , all I can see in the entry field – are the stars. It does not show what symbol I entered, even for a short while. Then, when the password does not work, I am left guessing whether I forgot it, or just made a typo on those tiny keys. Trying to figure out which one it is, by entering password again and again, is no fun, and can leave me banned from some sites for hours.
Fortunately, there is a sort of workaround for this problem. Close the device, and use virtual keyboard instead. When you encounter password, or any other data entry field, tap on it. Virtual keypad with a separate data entry field pops-up, and works as it is supposed to work on any full touch mobile device.
But I still would like to have similar functionality when using physical keyboard as well. Including pop-up data entry field for forms. Those forms are mighty small on such a small display. And all that zooming in and out when filling in the forms can be a real pain in the behind.
3. Small icons with big “Close” fields in ‘Desktop setup” mode. I don’t know if there is any easy way around it, but moving shortcut icons, when setting up desktop panels, is real pain.
Maybe it’s just my big fingers, but the icon size to “close” button size ratio is really small. Which results in me accidentally removing the icon, instead of moving it to some place else, more often then not.
4. Not enough desktop panels, or space on them. I am already starting to run out of the space for widgets, shortcuts and bookmarks on the 4 desktop panels I have available to me. Even with an extremely limited amount of widgets and apps available for Nokia N900 for now.
I dread to think what I will do when app and widget development for Maemo 5 takes off.
So please, Nokia, in some future firmware upgrade, give us the possibility to have more desktop panels. Or at least make some of them scrollable.
5. Maps and Navigation. When I travel to some place, Maps&Navigation apps become a key for the mobile device I carry. Right now, I’m planning my trip to SEE 2009 in London, and want to take the N900 as a main mobile device for a ride. However, available maps and navigation options, make me think hard about that.
I am used to using Google maps and Ovi Maps 3.0 on my trips. For some things Google maps are better, for others OVI maps shine. Neither of which are available on Nokia N900 yet.
What I am left with right now – are Ovi Maps 1.00. Which are kind of OK for many things on the go. But when you are used to much better OVI Maps 3, and the latest in Google maps, this “kind of OK” thing sucks. And it is a significant step down from the mapping/navigation experience, I got used to on my 3 year old Nokia N95.
No PC/cloud Ovi syncing, no easy way (that I found) to download maps in advance, no street view, inferior search, etc; Duh.
Please, Nokia, Google, port your latest mapping apps to Maemo 5/N900 as soon as you can. I really need them.
6. Which brings us the problem of general lack of apps for the device.
I also know, that adding Maemo.org testing catalogue to N900, gets you quite a few additional cool beta apps right now.
And then, with the QT 4.6 integration, many more apps are on the way in the following months. Whether ported from Symbian and other platforms, or developed exclusively for Maemo.
It’s just me, being impatient, ranting and venting. Still, could we have all the cool apps I played with on Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile and iPhone, running on Maemo. Tomorrow, please!
Things I hated about Nokia N900 for the first two days. But found a solution
And then there are a couple of things I fumed about for the first two days, and have already made them a part of this post. They are somewhat related – issues with locking and unlocking of Nokia N900. But it turns out it was mainly my bad, with the solution right in front of my nose.
Still, I hate to waste all of that text and ranting passion, and some of you may be having the same problems. So I’ll keep the already resolved complaints here, and then tell you why they are not the problem anymore.
Device unlock screen with no info at all. This one’s a rather smallish thing, that, I think, can be easily fixed. But it’s extremely annoying to me.
Since setting up Nokia N900 as a mobile computer, security was one of the key things I was worried about. With passwords to my all e-mail accounts, sites like Google Adsense, this blog, Facebook account, etc; stored on the device, and only a click away, I was extremely conscious what can happen if my Nokia N900 gets stolen by a person who knows what to do about it.
Fortunately, Nokia N900 provides a possibility to lock the handset after certain amount of time. And it works pretty well.
Except for one thing. When you want to check what’s happening on N900 after it’s locked, all you get is the screen with a keypad to enter the unlock code.
Now, I haven’t been wearing a wristwatch for more then 10 years now. I always use my mobile for that. You know the drill. Want to know what time is it? Take out the phone. Press a key or two. Done.
Except that now I have to use unlock switch, and then enter the full unlock code, every time I want to check time! Oh, and that portrait/landscape thing I talked earlier about? Yes, the unlock keypad is available only in landscape mode. So I have to use both of my hands for the whole thing.
Status/message notifications on the device unlock screen, showing how many calls I missed, e-mails and messages received, would be nice, too. But please, please, please put at least the friggin clock on the unlock display ASAP!!
Unlock key on the right/side bottom of N900. And whose bright idea was that? When in landscape mode, and holding the device with two hands, it works OK. But in portrait mode, and when I hold N900 in the palm of my hand, the unlock switch is at the bottom of the handset. Do you know how easy it is to get to that switch, at the bottom, when you hold the device in the same hand? Just try it
Solution.Well, it turns out I was raving and ranting about these unlocking things in vain. Nokia N900 already has resolved these issues very elegantly. Instead of using “Screen lock/unlock” key or sliding keyboard to activate a touchscreen, use “Power On/Off” key instead.
When you press the power key, display backlights, and a screen with time, date and a very iPhonish slider appears. Swipe the slider and the screen unlocks.
I would still like to see missed calls, message info on this screen, but my main itch –no easily accessible clock – has been scratched away.
There you have it. These are all my gripes after playing with Nokia N900 quite intensively, for the last 3 days.
I guess I could talk about one other thing – lack of MMS support on Nokia N900. Which is true. For now, Nokia N900 does not support MMS messaging. But I haven’t sent a single MMS message in my life. So I simply don’t care about this.
Overall, for a device with pre-release firmware, and an OS that is one generation away from completion, there are amazingly few bugs and things that piss me off on Nokia N900. Whatever I try on it, you are much more likely to hear shouts like ‘Wow!”, “Holy crap, that’s cool!” from me, instead of “F*&k”, “What a piece of crap!”, “Bollocks!” that I got used to, testing many other Nokia and non Nokia devices.
And now, off to singing praises again and more N900 testing. Expect the next review installment of the review early next week.