Maemo has come a long way from the time it was just an OS used for Nokia’s internet Tablet series – N770 to the N810 WiMax edition.

N900 Dialler

The Maemo on the N900 is a completely different beast, yes beast. The N900 is clearly one of the most intriguing devices in recent times. It’s a PC that doubles up as a phone, a PMP and more. This means the OS for this device really needs to perform. And this is no cake walk. Expect Nokia or for that matter any manufacturer/OS developer to falter here and there.

Let’s look into Maemo v5 a little deeper first shall we.

N900 homescreen #1Homescreen:

The N900 has four homescreens and that allows for tons of customization, because there is just so many things you can add on each screen – widgets, shortcuts, bookmarks, contacts. Now that’s pretty much everything. at 800 x 480 pixels, the N900 surely has one of the best screen resolutions for a Nokia. You will find that placement of these various elements is entirely up to you. It’s like having a huge open space and blocks, you can decide what to put where, you can build your own screen.

Samsung, LG, Apple and others also feature widgets and there is flexibility in placement, but I’ve found the N900 to be truly more inviting in this regard. The openness of this OS is clearly reflected in its homescreens.

As you can see my first homescreen houses a weather widget, a widget for the calendar and a data consumption counter. Now of course you can put any of the elements I mentioned above in any manner and on any of the pages. Basically you can mix it up!

N900 Homesceen #2

N900 Homescreen #3

N900 Homescreen #4

Widgets:

The N900 offers widgets in all sizes and shapes and thats a great thing in my opinion, some even allow you to alter the size. The calendar widget you see in the first screenshot? The one with the date, well it allows you to alter its size within its settings. As you can see above the widgets are of different sizes. What’s even better is that these are mostly third party developers who have designed it. Most of the designers are people or developers I have not heard from. That’s what I like about it. It has allowed people to develop and create and add to the the OS. It also means that if you want, you can create a program, a widget or anything else to increase the functionality of the N900.

Social Media:

N900 Facebook

Of late Social Media and ability to use it on a device has become a key driver of sales and a deal maker in the purchase of a phone. The N900 has it, but unfortunately it’s not as smooth as the Symbians and Androids. Almost all the social media that we create and consume is a browser tap away. The widget shows a predefined amount of posts from your timeline and upon tapping it, it instantly takes you to the browser which downloads the PC version of Facebook. Yes an actual PC version and not a mobile-friendly version. Now for somebody who views this as a phone, it’s downright disgusting and irritating, but someone who sees this as a mobile computer will be thrilled. I was, because I use Facebook just like I would on my PC. Facebook chat loads at the bottom just as it would on a PC – Awesome I say!

N900 web based app - Foursquare page

However one cannot discount that this platform as of now does not have serious programs for Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and many more. There are alternatives and twitter even has a few programs/apps, but they aren’t really perfect and I wasn’t quite impressed enough with them. In this area Maemo needs some serious development.

Social Media is present, but not in the way you are used to. That can be a good thing and not.

Programs:

N900 Menu Screen

The N900 and Maemo is quite raw at the edges you know. If you think this a final ready OS. It’s not. And that my friends in a way is great news. The N900 as you know has IR, Bluetooth and WiFi as means of communicating and transferring data apart from the GPRS/3G connection. Well the amazing thing about this is that the IR port has not software or program within the OS so that you can use it. It has the basics (read drivers) but not an actual program to use it. So this measn you can’t use it. Well actually you can and there are softwares that have been written for allowing you to use it. Me, I use it to control my TV, like a remote.

The N900 also has an FM radio chip, but get this doesn’t come with a software so you can capitalize on it, instead you have to download a program. Now the ‘regular’ Mobile phone guy will hate this and even laugh, but how many phones you know that allow You, the user, the freedom to choose to install or create your own application?

This one thing that a regular user might hate, but then you aren’t regular if you are buying the N900, you are different and you wouldn’t like it any other way. I really like this freedom to do what I want with the the hardware of my device. I for one am impressed with the ability to do ‘more’ with the device. Most of them are like apps, but in the manner of how they function will make you feel they are a program.

Phonebook:

N900 Phonebook Entry

So everyone is now talking about how the Phonebook has become smart and allows one to sync a person’s Twitter account,  Facebook account, etc. Well the N900 was doing this a long time ago and it’s still doing it. You contact’s chat ID, phone numbers, fax numbers, email address, etc can all be synchronized. The final look is pretty neat and swanky.

So if you want to tweet to someone, or make a Google  voice call, or chat you can do it all, right from your Phonebook.

The N900 puts the spunk back into the Phonebook!!!

Conversations:

N900 Conversations

Conversations is basically all your chats and SMSes are stored as threads. So now picking off where you left is not only easier but very convenient to say the least. It’s also another place from where you launch the IM functionality.

It’s rather nice and tapping on any ‘bubble’ will open that message and you can choose forward it or do anything that you want, just like you would on your smartphone.

Conversations is the ‘Messages’ equivalent, but is so much more better and organized.

Applications Manager:

N900 App Manager #1

Now the N900 as we know is a groundbreaking device and it’s OS is pretty different from the rest. Naturally since this is a new OS you won’t find a plethora of applications for it out of the box. But there are ways to increase that by adding categories/repositories to the device. The N900’s Application Manager is the perfect example of an Application Manager should be. It’s a one stop shop for downloading all apps, upgrading and uninstalling them. You will definitely like this approach. We’ve already covered the addition of new repositories in a previous article.

Another very good things and a good step is the details available about an app. The application or the program has a brief description in the listing and upon tapping it a box with three tabs appears, one details the terms & conditions, second a description of what it exactly does and the third details the memory it will occupy and what files will it install. Which other platform allows this much transparency?

N900 App. Manager #2

If that wasn’t enough, if you are connected to the internet perpetually, the Application Manager will automatically identify if there is an update available for any of the applications, widgets, programs installed on your device.

Since this is a Linux derived platform, a lot of PC games have been ported to run on the N900, Duke Nukem, Doom, etc are just a few.

All the applications, widgets and programs are neatly organized into categories and thus sifting through what you want is easy and very painless.

The Application Manager clearly is a brilliant implementation, one that is sure to make you wonder – ‘Why wasn’t this done earlier?’

Media/Picture Gallery:

N900 Media Gallery

The Media Gallery and the Picture Gallery are two separate programs. The Media Gallery relates to the music, video and internet radio links while the Picture Gallery looks after the still images – photos, wallpapers, pictures.

The Media Gallery program is definitely something I like. Big icons clearly displaying the amount of content inside it. This makes the device look like a pure PMP. Tap on music and immediately you will find yourself browsing through them as  albums, genre, artists, or the whole list even. A ‘Shuffle all songs’ icon is there in the Media Player interface so that you are instantaneously in touch with all your music and all you have to do is listen (Clever thinking!) and groove.

The video player plays the fabled DivX format out of the box along with the other expected formats. What’s even better is that there is a third party add on available that increase the formats it recognizes and enables HD playback for other formats.

All of this is clearly in line with giving a PC like experience. One that it manages to do quite successfully.

The internet radio stations are pretty good too! the quality of stations is surely going to make you want to tune in frequently.

N900 Picture Gallery

The picture gallery is a another program and will very neatly list all the pictures in your device. You can choose to filter them by folder, date or even by tags. The settings button will allow you to make further customizations to the program. I found it to be very easy to organize and sort all my pictures and as a program it is quite good and definitely provides a much better experience than Symbian, which I use day in and day out.

Clock and Calendar:

N900 Clock

The Clock is a pretty nifty looking program too. With the time displayed in the landscape mode and below it three big icons – New Alarm, Alarms, World Clocks. Needless to say what it does and how it works. What I should however bring to your notice is how you set the alarm, by far a very unique way to set the alarm, one has to simply roll the ‘hours’ and ‘minutes’ list individually until it displays the desired time and then select AM or PM and the frequency – Voila your’e set. The interface is certainly friendly and easy to use.

N900 Alarm setting

N900 Calendar Options

The Calendar program as you can see from the screenshot shows you all the options available for it. Unfortunately there is no way for you to add anything beyond an event. No memos, anniversaries, etc. However if you have added it to your phonebook, it will show in the calendar.  That is a bit sad, I would have liked if I could add a birthday or anniversary and then link it to a phone book entry also. The Calendar sure needs some work. Luckily there are add-ons available from the repositories to fill the empty slots.

File Manager:

N900 File Manager

The File Manager is more like Windows Explorer. It’s good to see an important feature like this to be internalized and made available to everyone. The fact that you can browse through all the files and open them with the programs assigned to it. You will find it very easy to use.

X Terminal:

N900 X Terminal

The X terminal allows you to actually program. This where the true geeky part exposes itself on the device. You can actually ‘hack’ the device and do more with the device. The X terminal is also useful for doing the factory reset and other such things. I think this makes it very clear you are actually dealing with a mobile computer and not a phone. This is definitely what the hacker asked for! If you like ‘modding’ your phone, this is the device for you!

Games:

N900 Blocks Game

The N900 comes with a few games, though they aren’t as flashy and immersible as some of the LGs and Samsungs come with. The N900 however does have games which you will not get bored of, They are classic games which will always keep you occupied when bored. Though I’d have liked a few action games pre-installed.

That pretty much explains the entire platform.

The only parts not covered are the standard parts.

The Maemo platform’s menu button is on the touchscreen (top left hand corner). This also doubles up as the spot where all alerts, messages get ‘parked’. You need to tap that portion when it is glowing to see all the alerts you have received. When you minimize an application/program the menu button changes and looks just like it was when you receive alerts, but it will not glow. Tapping it then will instantly show you ‘windows’ of programs and application currently running. The applications don’t pause and you will be able to see activity going on in that window. You can close a window when in you are viewing them in this mode.

N900 Multi tasking - Windows

Also if you need to access the homescreen when viewing the windows, all you need to do is tap on the empty screen area. The notification area shows the clock and the signal strength, along with battery strength, connectivity and IM status. Now this is another area where you can add some of the add ons. For example in the screenshots you can see two bars below the connectivity sign – that is the applet showing the CPU and RAM load on the device. Similarly, clicking on the empty space on the homescreen brings up the desktop menu from where you can add all the widgets, contacts, etc. You can also change the theme and background (wallpaper). This area is also a place where some applets can be installed for access. The notification are also allows you to change the profile, increase/decrease the volume, switch on/off the bluetooth and set/adjust the alarms.

N900 MaemoV5

The settings has a lot many personalization options, I could write about this, but this one area which you should explore and experience for yourself. From screen brightness, to memory status, to data consumption, all of it – it’s right there. Though I must admit the Indian PR1.2 update has made the device really slow, another patch is needed to smoothen things over.

N900 Dialler screen with info

Overall the Maemo platform has left me very impressed. The OS somehow seemed to make complete sense, even though incomplete hold immense promise. It’s a pity that the N900 won’t get MeeGo, because this is the perfect device to capitalize on. Maemo by itself is brilliant. This is one word which I must have repeatedly used in this post because it is!!!

I’d rate it at 8.9/10. Maemo certainly has what it takes to compete with Android, iOS and Windows too. With MeeGo it will only become even more competition ready.

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