Nokia Ships the N9, a Phone Without Apps

By  |  Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

In February 2010, before the iPhone had any well-established rivals, Nokia and Intel announced a little open-source operating system called MeeGo, intended for phones, tablets and netbooks. A lot’s changed since then, but today, Nokia shipped its first and only MeeGo-based phone, the N9.

The N9 is an anomaly among smartphones based on new software. Unlike, say, the Palm Pre with WebOS or the Blackberry Playbook with QNX, the N9 isn’t supposed to be the start of something big. It’s actually the end of something small–an experimental device built on abandoned software. Earlier this year, Nokia committed to focusing on Windows Phones, phasing out Symbian and casting aside MeeGo as “an opportunity to learn.”

Accordingly, the N9 has hardly any apps. It comes with nine programs, including Twitter, Facebook and Angry Birds, and it can gain more if Symbian developers do some simple porting, but it won’t have a thriving ecosystem like iOS, Android or Windows Phone. The motivation for developers just isn’t there. For that reason, you might expect the N9 to get laughed at and cast aside.

And yet, there’s excitement in some corners of the web for Nokia’s N9. A few months ago, readers flamed me over at Techland for suggesting that this phone is doomed from the start. At TechCrunch, commenters are calling the N9 one of the coolest phones they’ve ever seen. Same goes in the comments section at¬†Engadget.

The excitement isn’t without merit. The N9 promises easy navigation through finger swipes, letting you get back to the home screen or to other apps without using a clunky physical button. And it sports a classy design of unibody polycarbonate and curved glass. I haven’t held one of these phones myself, but I’d certainly like to.

That’s the funny thing about the N9. It’s desirable despite offering hardly any apps, going against the conventional wisdom that apps are everything. With nothing to lose, Nokia ended up releasing one of its coolest-looking phones ever. Considering MeeGo has no future with Nokia, that’s kind of a shame.



4 Comments For This Post

  1. dan Says:

    The great thing about Nokia compared to Apple is that Nokia makes smartphones that fit the lives of the individual. While you might say Apple and list the thousands of apps, I might say Nokia and list the devices on the smartphone of much better quality than Apple and remember that higher numbers do not compare but real world does. I like the pre Anna symbian system best using widgets instead of apps and you might like pages and pages of apps. To say Nokia's app store is not as good as the others blindly forgets that Nokia apps download 1.6 more times than Apple apps. There might be much more games, clocks, screen backgrounds or many other , say we say, weak apps available at the other companies store but …woopie.

  2. TWiT Commander Says:

    With all due respect, you guys are such fscking app-whores. What's the big deal if a phone has no/few apps built for it? Isn't everything going HTML5 anyways?

  3. average joe Says:

    a very recent nielsen survey showed that on android about a third of phone use time is spend using apps (the rest roughly split between using the core functions and internet). of this one third spent using apps, 45% of that time was spent on the top 10 (yes ten) apps and 65% spent on the top 50 apps. if these results roughly correlate with apple, then that's about 449,950 apps competing for 35% of one third of app use time. winning for those app developers!

    and yes, things are moving to html5 very quickly… hence platform is fast becoming irrelevant.

  4. teknoswag Says:

    Apps aren't that important. If it has a good browser, music/video player, decent camera, and email and does all those things really well then it is a good phone.