Nokia’s Series 60 operating system has been around since 2001, so it’s perhaps not all that surprising that when you place a Series 60 handset next to an iPhone or Android phone the OS looks a little tired. Maybe this is why Nokia has decided to use a completely different OS on the N900, its latest Internet tablet/mobile phone hybrid.
Instead of Series 60 it’s opted for its newer Maemo operating system, which is based on Debian Linux. This is not the first time it’s used Maemo on one of its devices – the OS previously put in appearances on the N770, N800 and N810 Internet tablets – but it is the first time it’s been used on a device with mobile phone functionality.
In terms of looks, the N900 is certainly not the most attractive phone that Nokia has produced. The design is big and brutish, something that is highlighted by the fact it’s around twice as thick as most other touchscreen phones on the market at the moment (it measures 59.8(w) x 110.9(h) x 19.5mm (d) and weighs 181g with the battery).
Of course, like Nokia’s N97 and E75, this extra girth is in part due to the slide-out keyboard hidden within its frame. However, the keyboard is not quite as good as the ones on those devices. It doesn’t slide out very far from the case, so there’s only room for three rows of small and cramped keys. The limited number of keys also means there’s a lot of shared functionality between them. For example, there’s no room for a row of numbers across the top, so instead they’re accessed via the top QWERTY line using the Function key. It’s a similar story when it comes to punctuation.
Rather than use a capacitance screen like the iPhone and HTC Hero, Nokia has stuck with a standard resistive touchscreen. However, it’s definitely one of the better resistive displays we’ve come across, as it’s quite sensitive and does a good job of registering finger presses (there’s also a stylus tucked away in a slot at the top of the phone).
Furthermore, the 3.5in display looks fantastic as it’s very bright, produces life-like colours, and has a relatively high resolution of 800 x 480, making text and graphics look pin-sharp. By default, the screen is set up to vibrate slightly to give haptic feedback when you touch it, but this can be turned off in the menus if it’s not to your taste.