Let’s be clear from the start: Apple makes the best smartphone money can buy. It also makes the best tablet and the best ultraportable laptop. Beautiful to look at, a delight to use and fashioned with precision from nothing but premium materials, the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air triumvirate represents the very pinnacle of mobile computing.
So why look any further? Well, truth be told, most people shouldn’t. But we’re guessing that our readers, with a gnawing urge for individuality, may share our growing frustration with Apple: the ubiquity of its products.
Look around any London tube carriage, any boardroom, any branch of Starbucks and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Apple (until relatively recently the underdog) was the only game in town. Everyone, it seems, is carrying a gadget designed in Cupertino – prompting us to recall the words of General Patton: “If everyone’s thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
So, what is a thinking man to do?
Android has always felt a little too geeky for us so our first suggestion is to go Microsoft. Yes, honestly. Windows Phone is actually quite innovative and has the design sensibilities, minimalism and confident aesthetics that you expect from Apple not Microsoft. The best way to experience it is on HTC’s new Titan.
But the device that true ‘tech mavericks’ will want to get their hands on is the Nokia N9.
Powered by an all new operating system, the N9 was to be Nokia’s flagship smartphone until its CEO Steven Elop announced a dramatic strategic about-turn earlier in the year: the Finns are abandoning their own operating systems in favour of Windows Phone.
Luckily for geeks everywhere, the N9 was so close to being ready at the time and – one suspects – so close to some product managers’ hearts – that Nokia is going to release the N9 in a few markets anyway. It won’t be officially available in the UK, but for those of you willing to buy a grey import or pick one up on your travels will be buying a standout device, a true original.
Nokia has always been fantastic at designing and building hardware. The N9 is perhaps its best design yet. It has a glass, slightly curved 3.9 inch OLED screen that incorporates ClearBlack technology and integrates seamlessly into the body of the phone.
The N9 comes with Carl Zeiss optics on its camera unit so it produces photos that have no right being this good, coming as they do from a humble phone.
What makes the N9 really standout compared to the ‘great hardware / lousy software’ Nokias of old though is its brand new operating system called MeeGo. From the moment you double-tap on the screen to ‘wake’ the device, MeeGo is a breath of fresh air: elegant to look at, easy to use (save for power and volume keys, there are no buttons, you navigate home by swipe gestures) and packed with innovations (I particularly like the notification view which amalgamates things like your missed calls, Twitter messages and Facebook updates into one continuous scrolling stream).
Don’t miss, coming up soon:
This article originally appeared in Magnificent Man, December 2011
Beyond Cupertino: Venturing off the well-trodden path to Apple’s door – Part I
We’re guessing that our readers, with a gnawing urge for individuality, may share our growing frustration with Apple: the ubiquity of its products. So, here’s are guide to the best alternatives. In Part I, we look at smartphones.
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