Yesterday I gave my views on the apps and services I use most often on my iPhone and compared them to what the N900 had to offer, the iPhone won 3-1, but a lot of the comparisons were a draw.
So today I’m going to tell you what I think of the hardware & the OS. I’ll point out right now that I’m comparing the N900 to MY iPhone, which is a 3G, and not the newer 3Gs
In the box are the usual wires, some headphones, a wall wart charger and a USB lead. I was dissapointed that the N900 didn’t use a standard mini USB cable like so many other devices do, it means you are tied to their peripherals much like you are with Apple’s. The box also contains an AV lead which you can plug into a TV and play your media through, very nice.
In terms of looks, the iPhone wins hands down, it’s more polished, their apps all share the same UI and follow (in the main) the Apple guidelines. The N900 UI doesn’t look as polished and many of the apps handle similar tasks in different ways.
In terms of size, the iPhone is about half as thick, 10mm longer and the same width, but they weigh the same as far as I can tell. The screen on the iPhone is slightly larger and when you’re using your fingers it’s capacative screens is much more responsive than the N900, but you can use a stylus on the N900 for much finer control.
Call quality and making calls on both devices is very easy, and the N900 has excellent audio quality, but it has dropped 2 calls in the 3 days I’ve been using it.
The Maemo OS has one massive advantage over Apple’s iPhone OS, it’s free and open source. I can download tools and develop apps for it, just like the iPhone, but I have the choice of 3 languages and 2 GUI toolkits. The latter is what causes the inconsistency in part, but the next version of Maemo will switch to use Qt as it’s toolkit. Another barrier to entry for iPhone dev is that you need to fork out $99 a year to be able to run your apps on an actual device.
I’m trying to write a better Twitter client for the iPhone, but how far I’ll get in the 2 weeks before the phone goes back, I don’t know. Development on OSX has to be done using the provided VM image, which has a 800×600 resolution and runs like a dog on older Apple hardware. I’m hopefull that developing PyQt apps will be easier though, one demo suggests you can deploy to the device just by copying the source over, which will be a great improvment.
Apple also put another wall in between the developer and getting their apps out, and this is either a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. It’s a good thing as it can act as a quality filter (however low they set the bar) or it’s a bad thing because it means they can refuse any app they fancy, or make an eReader have an adult rating because you can use it to read The Karma Sutra.
With the N900 anyone can upload apps to Nokia’s Ovi, which has the same quality gates as the App Store, or you can install stuff via a normal debian package, as a company you can even create your own repository and people can add it to their phones. The Ovi store is where developers can sell their apps, and like Apple, Nokia take a 30% cut of what you sell it for (minus costs) and have a €50 fee to join the store.
The documentation for Maemo is also very good, with plenty of examples, an easy to follow introduction, but these are focused on C or C++, but Meego.com has some basic tutorials for Qt. MeeGo is what the next version of Meamo will be called, after it’s merger with Intel’s Moblin.
So with all these things in it’s favour the N900 is ideally positioned to explode, but there’s 1 thing standing in it’s way … adoption. Developers won’t write apps for it unless they can see they could make some money, and people won’t buy the phone unless they can see the apps they want available for it. Just look at all the apps that were available when the App Store launched, Nokia can’t rely on a build it and they will come strategy, they need to work with developers of all kinds to build the kind of apps people expect to see when they buy the phone. Offer developers the hardware & the support they need to build their apps and not just rely on creating a website and releasing the phone, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply unfortunatly.
So, out of the 2 phones, I think the N900 wins, it’s dev tools, better hardware spec and open source nature just beat the iPhone. If I was a new user looking at the 2 devices I’d probably go for the N900.
Last week I was getting quite pissed of with the amount of time my iPhone is taking to wake up from sleep mode, which means I miss quite a few calls because I can’t slide the answer slider!
So this week I took delivery of the new Nokia N900 for a 2 week trial, and here are my inital impressions.
I’ve drawn up a list of all the stuff I use my iPhone for to see how the N900 compares…
- Web Browsing
- Google Reader
- EBook reader
The web browser that comes with the N900 is very slick, just as good as the Safari based one that comes on the iPhone, it uses the Gecko rendering engine which is the same one that firefox uses, so it’s probably safe to assume that anything that looks good in Firefox will look the same on the N900.
Verdict: A draw
None of the native twitter apps I tried are very good. Maeku doesn’t let you view @ replies or direct messages and kept telling me I had exceeded my rate limit when other apps worked fine.
Verdict: iPhone Wins
A side effect of the browser being so good is that some services don’t recognise it as a mobile browser, so won’t let you browse their mobile site. The Google Mobile suite of apps being a prime example. Visit http://m/google.com/reader (or any of the mobile sites) and you get redirected to http://www.google.com/mobile/more/ and as yet I havn’t found a workaround.
I tried to use the full site, but displayed on such a small screen, it doesn’t work very well.
Verdict: iPhone wins
The N900 uses Nokia’s Ovi for it’s mapping, and they look lovely, the N900 comes with a built in compas which lets the maps rotate as you move which is really nice, it helps so much with orientation. I was trying to find a building in Sheffield and the rotating maps made it much easier to work out where I was going. Admitidly, I only have a 3G iphone, not the newer 3Gs which also has the magnetometer.
Having said that, the directions are for driving only and the satalite view is much more detailed on the iPhone.
Verdict: In this limited test, the N900 won.
There are many posts about people struggling to get their phone synced to Google for contacts and calendar, but I had no problems when I followed these instructions
Verdict: A Draw
Ok, so these 2 are pretty frivolous, but I’m using them quite a lot at the moment, so I’ll include them here. There are no native apps at the moment, but they both have mobile versions of the site.
Verdict: Harsh because it’s not the N900’s fault, but the iPhone wins
I havn’t had chance to use the ebook reader yet.
So at the end of the first post, the iPhone is ahead on apps, but that’s not really a suprise to anyone is it. Part 2 will compare the device & OS itself, and I expect a much closer contest.