February 4, 2010
The mighty iPhone vs the Nokia n900
After seeing a slashdot post about people running OS X on the Nokia n900, I read some more info about the n900. It seemed like great hardware, and was debian-linux based, so it seemed like a good platform to play with. Enticed, I found it on Nokia's site, complete with a 14 day return policy.
I should mention, I have/use an iPhone 3GS. Apple ends up pissing me off to no end, but I really end up liking the 3GS. It's a great phone/browser/apprunner/notetaker/calendar/ipod/etc. If it wasn't locked down so tight, I would like it even more. So really I end up disliking the idea of the iPhone, but liking it in reality.
The n900 is pretty much the opposite -- the idea is great. Having a phone I can ssh into and install g++ and make on and build stuff and run on, is great. On paper, everything's there. This is what I found:
So I sent the thing back. It didn't last 24 hours. The dealing with root fs, I could get past that. The lack of AT&T 3G support, that made the decision easier. I really tried. I wanted to like it.
- Screen: the screen looks good. It's high resolution, but the touch sensitivity of it isn't great, it ends up feeling clunky.
- Storage: on paper it has 32GB of flash. This is great. What's stupid is that the root fs is only 256mb of NAND memory, and while you can install extra packages via apt-get etc, if those packages aren't carefully designed, it ends up filling your root filesystem. Even the obvious things like making /var/cache/apt point to the big disk, they could do, but haven't. So basically you have to do one of many hacks if you wish to install much. The biggest thing I found was moving various /usr/[share|lib|bin]/xxx directories -- all stuff nonessential to booting -- to the bigger disk and symlinking them. Anyway, it's dumb that you should have to do this. Complete pain in the ass. I eventually got everything I wanted installed, but if the point is to have an open extensible phone, you gotta make it do that out of the box.
- WiFi: support seems solid. When the phone is sleeping, you can still ssh to the phone (if you installed OpenSSH, which is easy). RAD.
- SSH: awesome. Fast, the thing really feels quick. It is 600mhz, and for command line linux that is super fast. I remember my P133 being quick, too.
- Web: the browser is pretty solid, and flash support kinda works (wasn't really fast enough for YouTube, but there seems to be an app for this).
- Keyboard is usable. Better than the iphone's, for me, but not fantastic either.
- No AT&T 3G support. I don't care whose fault it is, but come on?!.
- Camera: quality was decent. The video recording was pretty good, sound seemed better than the iPhone 3GS's. Here's a youtube video we did as a test (apologies for the content).
- General UI: Some things are super fancy (nice blurs, transitions), but other things are not even half baked. There's a nice standard for "close window" or "go back" button locations, but 90% of the time the buttons for those are not visible, yet if you click them they are there. Silly stuff.
- Multitasking. Mmmm. so good. I like. Hear that, Apple? It's not even a pad...