nokia n9 magenta cyan and black nokia n9 magenta cyan and black nokia n9 magenta cyan and black nokia n9 magenta cyan and black

What’s Nokia N9 and why it still matters today.


Steve Jobs and iPhone 2G in 2007

The smartphone market begun in 2007, when Steve Jobs’s presented a new kind of device, with one side completely reconfigurable for both the interface to content: the iPhone. (applause!).

Since then there have been just over 10 years, and we have passed through generations of hardware, gradually getting better and with more and larger displays. This using an iterative and so slow method.


Where there was not much variety was the appearance of the software or the operating system. From the point of view of the mainstream public, after iOS, we have seen it coming Android, copied from them to the legal limits.
Then there was also the Windows Mobile, widely publicised, but — fortunately — it reached many few real users.

There is another very good operating system that has not reached the general public, for sure not in the United States — where it has never been officially launched — remained a niche because of the choices of its creator, Nokia: this Os is Meego Harmattan from the legendary N9.


In the early years of this decade, Nokia dominated the mobile market : in 2007, the presentation of the iPhone 2G, had a 49.4% share.
In subsequent years the proportion drop to 34% in 2010, and 3% in 2011 after the choice of Windows Mobile.

The fall was swift. According to figures from analyst firm Gartner, Nokia’s smartphone market share in 2007 was a dominant 49.4%. In Subsequent years, it was 43.7%, then 41.1%, then 34.2%. In the first half of this year, it had plummeted to just 3%. (BBC)

In response to the introduction of the iPhone, Nokia began, after an initial reluctance, to design a phone also entirely touchscreen powered, starting an ambitious plan working hard on industrial design and in the user interface.That efforts takes as a result the Nokia N9, a phone pioneer in its era, which contained a number of innovations that were later fished in Apple and competitors products years later.

Nokia N9 was a phone pioneer in its era, which contained a number of innovations that were later fished in Apple and competitors products, years later.

The design

Nokia N9 was also a piece of art in Industrial design, its glass is curved to facilitate the swipe, the gesture on which the UI is based.
The 4 colors chosen are vivid, neat and well differentiated: Nero, Cyan and Magenta, to which White is added a short distance away.
The plastic is coloured internally and this makes the phone resistant to aesthetic deterioration in case of scratches.

Watch this video focused on the presentation of design. A lot in Jony Ive style, but we were in 2011.


In this video, Marko Ahtisaari, Head of Product Design at Nokia explains the design of the Nokia N9


  • the SWIPE: a gesture that leaves the edge and reveals additional content or allows you to change quickly screen.
    Seen in iOS more and more gradually up to an iPhone X that six years after remove the home button.
  • Multitasking: a marked focus on multitasking in 2011, with the displayed active processes on a dedicated screen. (Edit: multitasking Meego is also true multitasking, similar to the PC: even videos continue in the background. Try with iPhone.)
    This mode of representation will be resumed very closely on blackberry z10. iPhone X takes swipe from the bottom to access the multitasking.
  • the curved glass: Nokia n9 has a pleasant slightly curved screen and with very rounded corners. This in order to to eliminate the perception of the edge during the swipe. The entire body resumes these lines, in fact, also the back is curved.
    This Industrial Design feature is in many today’s smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, iPhone 6, 7, 8, X.
  • a unified News Screen: other phones had ‘areas or popup dedicated to notifications’, but only the Nokia N9 had a whole fixed screen dedicated to notifications and news.
    Information was among other aggregated according to the source, just as now happens in iOS 12 (7 years later).
  • NFC. The promising Near Field Communication seemed destined to become a disruptive tech in 2011, and the Nokia N9 implemented solidly for the exchange of contacts and pairing with compatible audio speaker.
    The adoption of technology continued at a slow pace, but consider that Apple Pay, today works via NFC, in its “locked version.”
  • Tap to wake up. The ability to activate the device via two taps on the screen was introduced pioneered by Nokia engineers: this was allowed by the AMOLED display that allows low consumptions on standby.
    Ca va sans dir”, this function is taken up initially by some LG devices, and lately by many phones including iPhone X.
  • notifications on lockscreen. We now we take them for granted, but Meego Harmattan had preview lockscreen notifications with direct access: doing a swipe over them opens the app-related.
The three screens that make up the sleek interface of the Nokia N9 Harmattan

Nokia Bad choices.

As we have seen, in 2011, Nokia had finally at hand a high quality product that can compete with iPhone 4s (and even more so with the high-end Android). Nokia had finally taken care of both the hardware and the software with great spirit of innovation.

What happened in the months following the launch N9 should be filed under “directional wrong choices,” and I will not go forward on this issue here.
(Maybe later).

There is a small anthology of post in the web, about the backstory when, in that winter 2011 Nokia decided to put the Windows Phone into the body of the Nokia N9, and then work with the Redmond giant, until to be bought.

The N9 body was used for the first Lumia series, but there aren’t form-function reasons. Windows phone didn’t had swipes.


In short, this phone probably came too soon to succeed for some ideas, but too late — one year at least — in order to save the fortunes of Nokia and regain market over competitors.

Indeed, it was launched in late 2011, after years of crisis, with the Nokia leaders that in order to to avert bankruptcy, had already decided to close the project Meego, in favour of Windows Mobile to be carried out with the support of Microsoft.

No chance of success then, although in some countries, some sales were discrete albeit without any advertising campaigns. The opposite respect Lumia 800/900 that were widely publicised, with no success.

What would have become to Meego and Nokia n9 making different choices we’ll never know, but looking at what the Nokia engineers did in 2011it gives us an idea of the potential that could have been achieved today, with contemporary hardware, and an iterated software.

Thanks for reading

Original article is published on Medium: read the original!

Jolla Devices Staff

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