Yesterday my goal was to test in city environment how N900 – Nokia’s linux base Maemo 5 smartphone – survives real usage: browsing the web, being connected to IM networks during the day the whole time, reading emails, talking on the phone, sending SMS messages, taking photos and listening to music. I have to emphasize that this was not a stress test to the device, but test in real circumstances with real life usage.
Day started with almost full battery. I had charged the phone on previous day and during the night phone had alarm on and was waiting to wake me up. Battery got little bit of new energy during the morning routine, as I hookes the phone to my computer and transferred few songs from iTunes with Nokia Multimedia Transfer software. New 1.4 beta supports also N900, transcoding songs into suitable format for N900 if they happen to be unsuitable for codecs in the device. This also circumvents the small bug which exists in the media player, being unable to play certain mp4-a podcasts ( For example excellent Tieto’s clublife: http://www.radio538.nl/web/show/id=1235619/pid=1231359 ). After that phone was disconnected from external power, waiting for usage.
Around 12.30 I left from home to a meeting, using the phone the whole time and setting up my experiment. My intention was to hold Skype IM online and available all the time, but use other IM networks on the need basis ( by suggestion from http://twitter.com/mvonweis ), I also switched on and off 3G connection to save power on those times when I did not need large bandwidth. While on the metro I connected both gtalk and facebook online, and chatted away the whole travel time. During the meeting I used the browser, email and IM to check data from people who were not participating live in the meeting — and also to kill some time, when my active participation was not necessary.
From 16.00 to 18.00 I spent some time browsing in the city, listening to mp3s and testing the camera quickly in Ruoholahti. Light usage consisted also of few short phonecalls and couple SMS-messages. From 18.00 – 20.00 I had dinner with old colleagues, and during that time phone was mostly idle, though I did give it to one colleague for a quick internet browser testdrive. Again quick phonecalls and few SMS messages.
After the dinner battery was already quite beaten, showing only thin red line in the battery icon. Around 20.20 I switched off internet connection and set my Skype presence offline to save the battery ’till home, which it did.
So my verdict?
I was not thoroughly impressed as in the end I was already saving the battery and getting worried about it running out, but at the same time this test gave me confidence in starting gradually use the device more and more. The experience of really being connected during the day the whole time was great – even though you have had the possibility to be connected via sms messages for ages. When your data plan is not billed by the amount of packets sent and received, barriers are taken down and you can communicate freely with people where-ever they are. From facebook chat I reached friends who were already in their offices working, via Google talk I reached old colleague who was programming at home and via Skype IM I reached colleague who was coming to the same meeting I was traveling to.
Multitasking in N900 works great and even though compared to iPhone multitasking requires little more cognitive effort it was great for a user like me. I could have browser open with data, have multiple discussions going on in different IM networks at the same time and keep also twitter client checking out if others have published something interesting. Slide keyboard in N900 worked great and with little effort I have become used to typing with it in decent speed. Though I might not write long blog postings in N900, I do feel it is sufficient device for microblogging, IM messages and notetaking.
Battery life however needs work and software you run on the phone must be thought carefully to work in such environments. Using processing cycles and network traffic for something stupid and unnecessary is not just waste like in desktop computers but really draining you precious resources away. In few firmware and software updates N900 will be a great device and if larger accessory batteries will become generally available, this device can truly be a hit among people who want to, need to be or choose to be connected all the time.
With all it’s potential for the future N900 gets my thumbs up. Great work Nokia. With this device you have come back to the play as a relevant player in my books.