Nokia N9 - Story of Nokia's most ignored smart phone in 2021!

Nokia N9
"Nokia n9" by Changhai Travis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the Nokia N9 quite possibly the most innovative smartphone ever made, that just wasn't meant to be. So, why haven't you heard of this phone despite it having an operating system that's at least three years ahead of its time let me tell you its story?

Let's go back to 2010 Nokia's main operating system at the time Symbian was losing a lot of mindshare and market share due to the increased competition from Android and iOS. ever since the release of the iPhone in 2007. 

Due to the legacy core of the OS, Nokia was always playing catch-up when it comes to the user experience. even though Symbian had more advanced features than this competition at the time. 

The solution was to build an entirely new operating system in collaboration with Intel and using the knowledge acquired from developing name-o. Most importantly without the UI constraints of Symbian or any other UI for that matter enter Meego harmattan in 2011 Nokia's secret weapon.


What made me go unique, is that it completely abandoned buttons in favor of fluid gestures to navigate the UI? Something that we've only started to see implemented on Android and iOS about three years ago. 

There was no main home screen but instead three different screens each with a very specific purpose. One for your main application screen, the second is for all your multitasking and another is for your notifications and social media feeds to keep you up to date.

Nokia n9
"Nokia N9" by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The design of the interface was incredible for its time and still looks modern today. Flat icons sharp Nokia pure font fluid animations as well as a system-wide dark theme which worked perfectly with the OLED display. 

The gestures on the N9 were so good, that they still feel through it and intuitive even today. The way the animations work, we could feel even better. 

Using Meego harmattan at the time felt like being in a perfectly synchronized dance time to perfection.

I don't think I've ever enjoyed using a phone more than I've enjoyed using the Nokia N9. 

It just made you want to pick it up and use it for absolutely no reason. It all came down to just one gesture a swipe to do everything. From switching applications to closing them to browsing through different screens. 

Unlike typical home bottoms that littered every other operating system at the time. Swiping from the edge of the screen always took you back to the exact screen you were previously on. 

Whether it's your application screen or your multitasking view and that was very different compared to iOS and Android. That always forced you to go back to your main home screen this felt a lot more natural and made switching between applications a much better experience.

The Meego OS was built for multitasking and it made it so easy. There was the groundbreaking thing about multitasking is that it kept all the applications live even when they're not in use.

So, you could see in real-time what each application was doing on the multitasking view instead of just screenshots of the apps. For the time this was revolutionary you want to have 20 applications open at the same time no problem.


The other incredible aspect of the N9 was its hardware design. never has there been such synergy between hardware and software on a phone. 

From the OLED display, that made the OS look like it's floating on top of the screen, to the seamless integration between the curved glass on the front and the tampered edges of the uni-body poly-carbonate shell on the back.

nokia n9
"Nokia N9" by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It's all made swiping through the interface a joy to use. The phone felt like a solid unibody element that your hand gently wraps around with nothing ruining the flow of the design. 

This was in an era, where the iPhone 4 was famous for its Ice Cream Sandwich-like design in which multiple layers are stacked on top of each other. That was understandably considered peak design at the time.

Don't get me wrong the iPhone 4 looked really good when it came out. But the N9 was on a different level in terms of ergonomics as well as the integration of all elements.

The Nokia N9 was designed in such a way that the volume rocker and power buttons can be accessed from within the interface. But, Nokia added the hardware buttons just for convenience.

The Nokia N9's Hardware was made perfect sense and Nokia somehow managed to make even polycarbonate plastic feel like a very solid material.

The body of the N9 was precision machined from a single piece of polycarbonate with the color mixed in early in the process. This means that even if you scratch the body the color goes all the way through. So, it never loses its original color.

Truly a masterpiece in the design and manufacturing process. But it wasn't flawless. The chrome piece on the back, for example easily scratched and overtime looked really bad and the ports were hidden behind doors to create a seamless design.

But, that also made them an unnecessary hassle to deal with, whenever you wanted to charge your phone. Both issues were eventually ironed out when the Lumia 900 came out.

Speaking of which the Nokia N9 started the fabulous design revolution for Nokia and its design inspired some of the most loved Lumia designs we still admire today.

My thoughts on Classic Nokia N9

So, you might be thinking, What happened to Meego and the Nokia N9? how come we never saw a successor to this masterpiece? 

Unfortunately, Nokia abandoned me go and Symbian in favor of Windows Phone at the time. Even during the presentation of the N9 Nokia said, this will be the first and last device to run on this operating system.

A decision that truly saddens me even today. It made financial sense back then to basically get paid by Microsoft to release Windows Phone devices only.

While Microsoft handles the applications with their endless bit of money. but, that decision might be the reason why Nokia mobile lost so much during a very short period of time.

Windows Phone was just too radical for its time and never ended up getting the traction that it deserves. Because it was too different and for some too limiting. such a shame and we know how that story ends and yet I'm still glad that we got to see the Nokia N9.

Especially, since it ran an operating system that was a game-changer. even if it was never meant to be. This is why the Nokia N9 is in my personal opinion the best Nokia phone ever made.

It was a device that showcased Nokia's software and hardware at its absolute finest rest in peace Meego you deserved much better!

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