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October 26, 2009

Subtle flourishes of the N900

N900-kick-standGLOBAL – Last week I posted an piece on how the Nokia N900 is designed to get better the more you use it, and over the past few days I’ve experienced yet more evidence of this first hand in the form of some subtle usability flourishes that I came across by happy accident… although they’ve clearly been designed with calculated and well-considered intent. Read on to find out more and to share your thoughts.


One less box to fill
Repetition is a bore. Repetition is a bore. Filling in multiple similar fields when you’re registering an account or setting up a new profile is a pain, but the N900 does a few smart autofill tricks to help reduce that deja vu feeling. For example, when you set up email and enter your username for your chosen mail provider, it automatically knows to add that username in front of your corresponding email address for that account. It shaves off a few precious seconds in the process, meaning you come out the other side a touch perkier.


Search skill
The N900 web browser is a charmer, but one of its smartest of subtle flourishes relates to search. Bring up the address bar and if you type in a keyword instead of a proper URL, it knows what you’ve done, and instead of bringing up an error page (as you might expect), it performs a handy Google search and delivers a page of relevant results so you don’t feel like you made a mistake. It’s a great little touch that makes browsing even easier.


Getting closer
You might’ve seen that the N900 has some smart web browser navigation skills, what with kinetic scrolling, double-tapping to zoom in on content and the corkscrew gesture of winding clockwise to also zoom in on content and anti-clockwise to move out. But there’s another way that might feel more natural to some – if you’re on a web page and you simply use the zoom in/out buttons normally reserved for the camera and viewing pictures, you can similarly move in and out of the page, and arguably with the greatest deal of precision. I certainly recommend it as an alternative method of honing in on those tiny details you want to make big.


Sounds like it means it
Last night my wife called to me from the lounge because she was convinced she could hear an odd creature lurking somewhere on the other side of the room – in her words it sounded “like an odd little bird”. Turns out it was the noise the N900 makes when it’s running low on battery. Point is, the N900 is helped brought to life via an awesome and playful little audio palette. Aside from the low battery sound, my personal favourite is the neat sound the N900 makes when you plug it in to recharge – the moment it starts sucking power it creates a cool mechanical noise like it’s just received a power-up in a game.


Take a stand
I kicked myself at the weekend for totally forgetting that the N900 comes with a neat little kick-stand – I’ve been sliding back the lens over to take photos, without stopping to look at the detail of the frame around it, which hides the kick-stand that props the N900 up at an ideal angle for desktop viewing – I now keep it sat up above my keyboard, to make reading incoming alerts even easier.

No doubt, I’ve only scratched the surface of the many subtle flourishes that the N900 is home to, but I hope this small collection helps paint a more focussed picture of what I touched on when I began to explore the idea that this Maemo handset has been designed to get better over time.

Let us know what you think in the comments section due south.