Despite its deal to use Windows Phone 7, Nokia has pushed ahead and released a phone running a variant of its ill-fated MeeGo platform.
It was almost as if the Finnish giant decided to tease the tech world, saying "look... we can make good hardware and software".
What's it feel like?
As is expected, the N9 is a beautiful handset, made out of polycarbonate (plastic, really) yet still feeling expensive thanks to the rubber/matte finish. The device tapers off at both ends in a similar way to the Nokia N8 too.
But while the N8's backside had that ridiculous hump for its 12MP camera, the N9 has a rather stylish-looking back, with a silver strip housing an 8MP sensor.
The drop in megapixel count is rather unfortunate, although the camera still takes some excellent photos and 720p video. Still, 1080p video recording would've been a welcome feature.
On the side of the N9 you'll find a volume rocker and power/unlock button, while the top houses doors for the mini-USB and micro-SIM ports. The bottom of the device features a speaker grille, producing a satisfying amount of oomph.
Probably the most notable hardware decision was to forgo buttons in favour of an all-touch interface. It makes for a clean look, with the Nokia logo and front-facing camera being the only features present on the front.
In terms of hardware features, the device pales in comparison to the N8, which had HDMI-output, USB-On-The-Go, an FM transmitter and SD card support. However, the N9 does feature near-field communications (NFC) capabilities.
The NFC chip allows users to wirelessly communicate with other compatible devices. One fantastic example was the ability to play music through speakers by simply touching the two devices. And with Google embracing the technology, we're bound to see more uses for it. But right now, it's a feature that will most likely remain dormant for most users.
From Symbian to MeeGo
The one area where the N9 trounces its predecessor is in the software department, ditching Symbian for the MeeGo Harmattan operating system.
The all-touch interface is a great idea, with users swiping upwards to minimise applications and laterally to go through the different home-screens. One of the most pleasing features is the typing system though, which produces some ridiculously satisfying haptic feedback as you hit the keys.
The N9 features three home-screens, not nearly as much as an Android device, but each one varies wildly in functionality.
The first screen simply displays a list of applications, much like iOS or Android.
The second screen serves as a notification aggregator, displaying all of your texts, instant messages, subscribed tweets, Facebook updates and weather alerts. It's a neat way of keeping up to date, but a way to filter accounts would've been welcome.
The third screen plays host to all of your multitasking antics, displaying a list of running apps and folders. For the most part, the apps don't simply lay dormant, with social networking feeds continually updating and music playing in the background.
Nevertheless, the multitasking system is smartly executed, allowing users to either minimise or close applications outright.
In the social networking department, the N9 does a great job as well, with native support for Skype, Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa and YouTube. The integration is pretty slick as well, with users able to seamlessly share their photos and other media to the different networks.
As for connectivity, the handset boasts a speedy 14.4Mbps cellular connection, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS (along with Nokia Drive) and the aforementioned NFC capabilities. The web browser is also speedy, even beating Safari on my iPod Touch at times.
In the multimedia department, the N9 also does a great job, letting users chuck their favourite DivX clips onto the device – no conversion needed. The handset also includes a convenient shortcut to the Ovi Music store, with some decent deals to be had.
MeeGo isn't without its problems though, with the platform in need of some optimisation here and there. The handset tends to stutter quite often, especially while multitasking, with delayed scrolling and apps taking a few seconds to open. Even the notifications screen stutters and flickers under the weight of Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Is it worth a buy?
Nokia's latest smartphone features a unique user-interface and a beautiful design. It's just a pity that this will be the first and last device to run the MeeGo Harmattan operating system.
The Nokia N9 is well worth a look if the lack of apps doesn't deter you, with a recommended retail price of R5999. Just don't expect software updates a year after its release.
Score: 8 out of 10
Note: To check out a few sample photos, click here.