Nokia N900 Review : Nokia N900 vs. iPhone 3GS - Flagship Battle !!

For some people, choosing which cellphone to buy seems to be the easiest thing on earth to do. When they see a handset, they just know that is cut above everything else and that they have to take it home.

For others though, the choice is not that easy. Sometimes, buyers get torn between two phones;

What does one do in the face of two flagship releases by the most respected phone makers in the world today? When your budget limits you to just one, which phone should you take home?

This is exactly what happened to Morris John M. Filoteo early this year when he had to choose between Nokia N900 and iPhone 3GS.

This review chronicles his story.

N900 “versus” iPhone
By Morris John M. Filoteo, addressed to Mark Milan Macanas of TechPinas

I know you asked for a N900 review, but I thought I’d do you (and the readers) one better by giving you an unbiased, honest-to-goodness, and PERSONAL blog/analogy that’s not too technical, something that I was looking for when I was making my choice on which phone to buy. Most of the blogs I read were written by “extremists” (either Super Mac or Super Nokia fans), so they were always all-out for one and against the other, and that doesn’t really help the buyer decide which one is really better for him/her to get. Both the iPhone and the N900 aren’t for everyone, it’s all a matter of what you really need. Both phones have different target markets, or in Boxing-speak, they’re in different weight categories. I want to try to help people make the choice that’s better for them, and not just a choice based on what’s more popular and what someone else thinks is better. I can’t cover everything though, so if you want a more detailed explanation I suggest you try the phone for yourself and decide. Also, since you didn’t point out to me what exactly you wanted to find out about the N900, I’ll just ramble on about what I think is great about it.

When I thought of getting a new phone, my choices were the iPhone 3GS and the N900. But I was leaning more towards the former, being that I have a Mac and it would be an easy transition since I was used to the multi-touch already, not to mention that I could easily sync the phone to the laptop. (That’s supposed to be the real reason to get the iPhone, and not to show off and get girls, hehe!) But as the weeks went by and more and more reviews came out for the N900, I decided to take a closer look, and I was amazed with what it could do. I’ll admit, what first caught my eye was the fact that you could download various gaming console-emulators (more on the specific stuff later), connect it to the TV through the TV-out, and use a PS3 or Wii controller to play. But I decided I’d put off getting the 3GS until I get to test the N900, which wasn’t going to be available for like a few months later. Luckily (call it destiny) a friend had a relative from the States who was in town and who had an extra N900, so I got to test it. My first impression was that the N900 wasn’t as fast and as smooth as the 3GS, but I also found that it really WAS more powerful than the latter in that it could do a lot more stuff. It’s practically a laptop in your pocket, and that was what I was looking for because I found carrying the MacBook (Pro! Heavy!) everywhere to be quite a chore. So after some serious contemplation, I decided to get the N900 with the thinking that if I don’t like it, I can still sell it for a good price since it hasn’t arrived in the Philippines yet. But as the weeks went by, it grew on me and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

Before we go to what the N900 can do, I’ll try to break down the reasons why people like getting the iPhone. Let’s start with the “serious” reasons. For one, not only is it a beauty, it’s also efficient. Everything’s so smooth and fast, and as mentioned earlier (for Mac users) you can sync it with your laptop. Let’s not forget it’s also an iPod/music player, and it has lots of apps, both for work and play. You can view your E-mail, read PDF files, play games, the whole shebang. For the smartphone newbies, one more cool thing about it is that it started the threaded SMS, which means that you don’t have to go back and forth to your inbox just to read the conversation/texts you’re having with other people. As for the “less serious” reasons, apparently people feel like their social status steps up a notch every time they bring out their iPhone to use in front of other people. Which is sort of true, hehe. It’s really a classic phone, simple to use yet a great experience. Obviously, I wouldn’t know everything about the iPhone since I only get to use it sparingly, like when I borrow my cousin’s, but my assessment of it is pretty fair and accurate, and I am a Mac user. I don’t know if there’s really anything else that I need to know about it.

Having said all that about the iPhone, why would you want to get the N900? Well, for one, it can do everything that the iPhone can do, and more. Follow that line to the letter, everything! It’s not quite as fast and smooth, but it makes up for it in other aspects, like full Internet. In simple terms, whereas in other mobile phones, if you open a site (say, what you can see is a ‘Mobile’ version. With the N900 it’s actually the full site. You can see the live scores, the videos, everything. I’m not really a very ‘techie’ guy, I use the phone really to text and call. But of course I wouldn’t mind if my phone can give me more than what I need. So what does it have that the iPhone doesn’t? It’s ironic because people always say that the biggest edge iPhone has on every other phone is the multitude of apps that are available. But to my surprise, Maemo isn’t exactly too shabby either. Aside from the aforementioned game console-emulators, you have an app (VNC Viewer) that allows screen sharing. MacBooks have a built-in feature of screen sharing, and it’s perfectly compatible with the N900. But, it’s not restricted to the Mac, you can download some software and you can do it with your Windows/Microsoft computers too! It’s useful for workplaces with local networks because it can help save time for the technician. He doesn’t have to go to the actual workplace, you just have to share your screen with him. I don’t really use it, but I know how valuable that is for some people. Another app that’s noteworthy is Hermes, which connects your phonebook to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and gathers individual information. In simple terms, your phonebook will now not only have the phone numbers, it also will have the links to the contact’s FB/Twitter, his/her birthday, his/her photo, and some other stuff that’s on his/her page. If that’s not cool enough, there’s also an app that allows you to use your N900 as a remote control for your Mac, or your PS3! It’s especially useful for presentations, you don’t have to go to your laptop to press ‘Next Slide’ or ‘Menu’, you can just use your phone. There are some more apps that I’ve already downloaded and find to be super cool but I’ll leave it to your discovery. Another cool thing about the N900: you don’t have to convert your DivX movie files for it to play on your phone. Just get it on there and start watching! And don’t worry about the memory, because it comes with a 32GB internal memory, which you can expand (you don’t really need to, 32GB is big enough, seriously). I won’t go to the other actual specs like the camera, etc., I’ll leave it to the big dogs of the tech blog world.

Of course, the N900 isn’t perfect, it has a lot of flaws. For one, it doesn’t have a cool Twitter app like TweetDeck. And while I’m all praises for the available apps, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But then again, those flaws aren’t really enough to drive users away the same way its overall experience would attract them. This phone has a lot of upside, think Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s pretty good, but he hasn’t reached half of his potential, he can still be made into something better, just like the N900. Bottom line, it’s really up to the user. No one can say what’s better for anybody else, it’s really up to you. All I can offer is a student’s perspective on the N900, and if your readers are interested or have some questions maybe I can answer them.

To wrap this up, here are some screenshots of Nokia N900's user interface
courtesy of Morris Filoteo

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  1. You pointed out that iphone has a lot of applications, and you mentioned that Maemo has a lot of applications as well but there is one key difference between the Nokia N900 and iPhone and that is: the iphone at best can run one or two applications at any given time (so you have this scenario of opening one app, closing one app to open another app - THAT SUCKS), where as the Nokia N900 can have unlimited (within reason) applications open at one time. That to me is the deal breaker.

    Right now, I have a crappy twitter client Tweego open (fair point you mentioned this needs to improve), music / multimedia player playing music, Facebrick (excellent built in N900 facebook client), pokerTH (awesome texas holdem game), Prismic Wallpaper Manager (awesome desktop wallpaper changer that is directly linked into, the website (thanks for the site suggestion), 8 other websites that I host open, Wordpress client for N900, the application manager, My Gmail Inbox with 5 email mailboxes, the conversation sms / IM application. Flicking between them is a doddle.

  2. I use Tweego, Witter, and even the built-in Twitter client in Conversations. Witter's cool cos you get to see the reply and the original tweet. The N900 isn't wanting in Twitter clients. It lacks a real quality one though. I hope they make TweetDeck available for the N900 too.

    Yep, that's one thing I decided not to include in the post since I figured it's common knowledge to everyone who's tried using the N900 already. I actually left out a lot of the device's pros (and the cons as well) because like I said I wanted to be unbiased. I'm sure the iPhone has its own tricks up its sleeve, so I just mentioned the ones that I thought were note-worthy and what I thought were absent in the iPhone.

    I hope Nokia steps up to the plate and brings in more improvements to the N900. It really has all the potential to become the clear-cut cream of this year's crop of gadgets.

  3. maemo is an open platform thus new apps are being uploaded almost every day as with any linux based os.

    Also I have tried the n900 and running almost more than 10 apps at the same time ... the phone still runs imagine a 600mhz operating speed and 4 desktops which you can actually customize. Oh and the important thing for me .. My facebook cafe world .. damnn i can play my cafe world on the n900 or even my farmville lolz ..

  4. Actually multitasking is an advantage of N900 but the problem is the availability of application to multi task because the downside of N900 is its new OS and the available application that can run on maemo 5 check this review I compared N900 to N97 so far Nokia N900: one of the best smartphone

  5. i bought one and im so impressed. it is very nice phone!!! very nice phone!

  6. great great nokia. easy to use, it’s practical which i like. processor is faster and the nokia apps and games are fun to use. email and gps keep me in the loop for my business. my daughter and wife love using their facebook on there. great unlocked cell phones. camera and video recorder are crisp and clean and the batter life is great i only charge once a day. very excited to see what else nokia comes out with and what they have to offer. got our last couple unlocked mobile phones at and we love them. 2 thumbs way up

  7. great phone. a little thicker than i'd like. processor is faster though than my old unlocked touch screen phones. simple to use, texting and web browsing is good. my partner loves it for the gps and the wifi and my family loves their unlocked at&t phones for the facebook and games. speaker is really loud and it hooks up to my computer simply. also the camera and recorder are great. got our last couple unlocked cheap phones at 2 thumbs way up


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