The Nokia N900 is probably one of the best smartphones ever made. By the time it was announced, in 2009, the market was already dominated by Apple and Android phones. Its beautiful design however is one of the last Nokia ever made, before switching to the “classical” big screen brick that all smartphone have nowadays, like the Nokia N9. The N950 doesn’t count, as it was only exclusively distributed to developers.
The phone is a stone. It’s robust, feels so well-built, the slide keyboard is spot on. The pen slides perfectly and it just stays in place once it’s pushed. The kickstand feels a bit fragile, but if you’re not pulling it too hard, you shouldn’t have any issues. The display has an amazing for the day 3.5" TFT 800×480 resolution (iPhone would launch their “Retina display” iPhone4 about 6 months later). The sound is pretty good if you want to listen on the stereo speakers, but it’s very very good if you’re using a 3.5mm jack (which it still has). It also comes with a ton of accessories in its beautifully-designed black box made of recycled cardboard, inside we can find a pair of in-ear headphones, with a spare rubber ear muffs thingies, the AC-10E wall charger, the CA-146C adapter from micro-USB to the classic Nokia wall charger plugs, the CA-101 which is a standard USB type A to micro-USB able, and the CA-75U TV out cable, that has a 3.5mm jack at one and and 3xRCA plugs at the other end.
Let’s make a short round-up of awesome thing this phone had in 2009 and that now are either forgotten or considered obsolete (even if super cool)
➕ USER-REPLACEBLE BATTERY – yep, back in 2009, Nokia still had a removable back plate, and you could just yank out the battery and replace it with a fully charged one. No external batteries needed, the battery could pretty much last you the day, and new BL-5J batteries (1320mAh) can still be found on ebay and stuff.
➕ Physical camera shutter button – to feel like you’re taking photographs, not instastorysnaps.
➕ Physical keyboard – maybe this is a bit obsolete, with larger screens and better ducking auto-correct systems and predictive input, but it still has a cool factor.
➕ Infrared port – there are only a handful of modern phones that still have an IrDA port, and kids nowadays will never know the fun of changing TV stations at the sports bar when their team is attacking.
➕ Dongles and cables - there is only one dongle included in the package, and this is only needed to be able to charge the N900 with older Nokia-standard chargers. However, this is pretty useless, as the N900 charges just fine with the wall charger provided, or any other micro-USB cable connected to a computer. Nevertheless, it’s included in the box, along with wall charger, data cable and TV out cable, which would cost you like €150 at an Apple Store nowadays.
All in all, it’s a great phone, one that would still be usable in 2022 to some extent, especially if you’re not that into the web3.0 scroll-forget-scroll-forget loop.
Video used for playback is a 2005 rip of Coma - In Mine In Soapta – 360x272 pixels, at 19.1MB :)
The operating system is fairly advanced, has pretty much all features you would expect from a modern smartphone, with a customizable homescreen, where you can add widgets and shortcuts. The settings app is pretty developed, the user having access to a ton of settings, customizations and fine tuning (like screen calibration). You also have access to the filesystem, and you can mount the memory of the phone as an external drive, if you connect it over USB. You can also use Nokia Suite, but it’s definitely outdated and didn’t meddle with it. The best part of Maemo, though? Underneath, it’s Debian! So running Linux under an ARM8 processor, means that the possibilities are limitless.
The media player is fairly decent, not as good as the iPhones' iTunes-based player, but it does the trick pretty well. The video player is okey too, although you can’t choose aspect ratio or crop, and the codec selection is limited, most videos do not play. I tried to take a screenshot of one that worked, but I think the player blanks the screenshot by default. It also has an FM radio, but no one is using these on the road anymore.
Having a physical keyboard (a very good one, even for my wiener-thumbs) makes it perfect for a lot of things, including even server related tasks. It also runs Flash Player. Not sure how it’s relevant in 2022, but it still works. The web browser is outdated, has issues with Let’s Encrypt certificates, and it couldn’t render the photos on my blog. It also couldn’t render the SVG logo and icons. I didn’t try twitter or facebook because there’s nothing interesting to see there, but this phone is so old and old-school, it even has an RSS Reader, so you can import your favourite sites <3.
Maps still work, and all other standard apps seem to be fine: calendar, calling, email (although I didn’t configure any account) or Notes. On the multimedia side, it even has an Internet Radio section in the player.
The camera makes very good photos, even in low light, the Carl Zeiss lens system feeling very well, the physical two-position shutter button reminding me of the old point-and-shoot pocket cameras. Photos in low light are blurry if the subject is moving, but it can be overcompensated by flash. The macro function is also super nice, allowing you to get close to a few centimeters of the subject. The photos in the gallery are straight from the camera, if you click on zoom and save that photo, you can check the EXIF data. Luckily, the camera doesn’t geotag the photos (not sure if there’s a setting for that), so privacy is still cool. I also took a few photos in sunlight, but I was in a moving car and didn’t have anything great to shoot (the garbage truck, lol). More photos soon.
I tried to take a screenshot of the camera interface, but it seems it has the same issue as taking snapshots of videos (it renders them blank). I also forgot how cool it is to have a physical cover to protect the camera lens, and get an alert whenever you have it closed. By the way, the ring around the camera also doubles as a kickstand.
On the connectivity part, there are a ton of applications that can be installed, but I’m gonna focus only on the X Terminal, XChat and Pidgin, as are old enough, but useful enough to be worth mentioning.
The Maemo operating system had a ton of fun stuff, most likely because it’s based on Linux and it’s easy to port stuff. It had classig games like Mahjong, Blocks (a tetris clone), to Angry Birds. It also had a disco ball and a seismograph app. There’s also a 3D version of Bounce, but it didn’t appeal to me as much as the original did.
The Maemo operating system comes with a bundle of nice wallpapers. I’ve added a few below and also added a link for the full set below.