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Ask Slashdot: Life After N900? 303

Rydia writes "Since it first released, I have been in love with my Nokia N900, and it has satisfied all my needs for a mobile with a high degree of control and utility. Sadly, the little guy is showing his age, both in battery life (even with the powersaving kernel options enabled), and performing in general has been left far, far in the dust by phones that are now considered quite old. The time has come to find its successor, but after a thorough search of smartphone options, I can't find any handset that offers everything for the power user that the N900 did (much less a hardware keyboard). I'd like to avoid supporting Google/Android, but there don't seem to be many options. Have any other techies found a replacement for their N900?"
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Ask Slashdot: Life After N900?

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  • Google and Android (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @03:55PM (#46074683)

    I'd like to avoid supporting Google/Android, but there don't seem to be many options.

    Why against Google and Android?

    • by Fuzzums ( 250400 )

      For one because you would expect something that can be customised and configured, but instead droid devices uses an all-or-nothing security model and come with tons of pre-installed uninstallable sh..tuff.
      And g+

  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @03:55PM (#46074687)

    It's a niche project, but looks like getting a good techie phone is niche these days. Uses N900 displays and casing, so resolution is not getting any better, but has lots more processing power.

    Jolla might be an option once they get the QWERTY "other half" available.

    • (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:28PM (#46074947)

      I'm intrigued by the Neo900, it would be nice to switch to something that is simply an improvement without worry about compromise and sacrifices.

      I bought a Jolla and it has it's ups and downs. The interface is slick and smooth. The android app support works reasonably well (it's definitely not perfect, but has been good enough for most things I've tried). The sailfish sdk is a lot nicer than the old maemo sdk. The other half idea still seems like it will be nice once things start coming out (or I make some myself). The terminal application is actually fairly nice, though the on screen keyboard is still not as nice as a hardware keyboard.

      On the downside, it lacks the 1700MHz band that the n900 had, which makes it worse to use in the US. I think there are some other bands that US carriers have for LTE that the jolla doesn't have but neither did the n900. I read somewhere that the FM (yes, I used to use both transmit and recieve on my n900, occassionally) antenna pins aren't actually wired up, so even if someone activates that functionality in the bt chip, it wouldn't really work. LTE support hasn't actually been implemented in the software yet. The settings seem sparse and missing some options that would be nice. Of course the lack of a hardware keyboard is annoying, as is the lack of IR support (I used it all the time on my n900). Jolla still hasn't publicly released CAD files to make it easy for people to design and print their own other halves. And I feel a general sense of the device not being complete (worse than the n900 when it came out) and that the developers are still almost as closed off and unresponsive as the maemo and meego team at Nokia. I was hoping for a little more openess once they actually released a phone.

      Overall, I think I'd lean slightly toward the Neo900 for the short term (particularly for US users), but I still have hope that the Jolla will actually develop into something even nicer, eventually, maybe.

      • that the developers are still almost as closed off and unresponsive as the maemo and meego team at Nokia.

        Technically, the developers *are* the maemo/meego team at Nokia. Or were formelly, before splitting away.

        but I still have hope that the Jolla will actually develop into something even nicer, eventually, maybe.

        Unlike most other open project (like openmoko, for exemple), Jolla, because of this background, have probably much more know how and experience putting actual phone on the market. So I'm also expecting that in the long run they are going to do quite well.

        They already managed to sell a phone which after all is more or less decent.

      • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:31PM (#46077239) Journal

        I think it's important to establish what makes the N900 great. Can't speak for the OP, but this is what I'm hoping for in a phone once my N900 finally gives up the ghost. "Hoping," notice I said, but I'm not holding my breath.

        1. Scriptability. First and foremost. *I* want to be the one in control of the phone [], not some app developer vetted by The Place That Decides What You Can Do With Our --I Mean Your-- Phone (or "AppStore" for short). I want to write a bash script, or a python script, and tell me when my beloved has sent me a SMS containing the word "URGENT".

        2. Freedom. Yes, I mean openness as in open source. Yes, I do know not everything in the N900 was open-sourced, but a heck of a lot of it was. That let a lot of people hack it, for the benefit of the community. And it didn't void the warranty. There's something to be said for a phone that does not need you to join the Apple club with a credit card, or sign up with Big Brother Google before using the phone -- you really are independent.

        3. Portability of software. It's awesome that I can run Gnumeric on this thing, but even more important that I run Vim.

        4. Three things you can change: the cell phone provider, the battery, and the memory storage card. Mainly a criticism compared to the early iPhones; not sure if they still apply. I understand that there are unlocked iPhones now (which still cost more than the N900 did) but you can't change the battery. Android phones will take microSD now, I think?

        In fact, to lower my chances of being forced to make do without a good alternative, I bought a second N900, and regularly synchronize the spare so I can have it up and running in case it's needed quickly. I wasn't seeing anything on the horizon, and figured I'd probably have to hang on to my pair of N900's for at least another 3 years. This Slashdot discussion is very useful.

        There are, of course, lots to hate about the N900. Most of it deals with the slow swapping caused by the relatively small RAM, versus the large RAM that would be needed by a truly multitasking computer/smartphone. (Compare this with the iPhone that was out at the time, which did not multitask. Do iPhones multitask yet?) The user interface is also unintuitive and poorly thought out. Wish it had been given a chance, but once Elop came on board, there was zero chance of that.

        As I've said before, the N900 is a piece of crap --but it's the BEST piece of crap in the world!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Scriptability. First and foremost. *I* want to be the one in control of the phone [], not some app developer vetted by The Place That Decides What You Can Do With Our --I Mean Your-- Phone (or "AppStore" for short). I want to write a bash script, or a python script, and tell me when my beloved has sent me a SMS containing the word "URGENT".

          You may want to check out Tasker, it does this sort of stuff.

          Freedom. Yes, I mean openness as in open source. Yes, I do know not everything in the N900 was open-sourced,

          Then whats the problem with Android?

  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @03:56PM (#46074695)

    Oh god yes please. Sometimes I have to do some amount of scripting on my phone, and a hardware keyboard is a complete necessity. On the Android side, I've gone from a Samsung Epic to a Motorola Photon, but I can't find a good next upgrade path. At this point I don't care about Android or iPhone or anything as long as I can get a slide-out keyboard with brackets on the keys.

    • by Dracos ( 107777 )

      I'm still on the Epic, because the Photon Q's non-removable battery made it a non-option.

      • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
        About a year ago I purchased a Photon Q for much the same reasons as the person who posted the original comment. I was extremely weary of the non-removable battery. A year later and it is still the most solid phone I have ever had. Also, the keyboard is a full five rows and one of, if not the best keyboard I have ever used on a phone.
    • It's no hardware keyboard, but the Hacker's Keyboard [] is quite useful for scripting/cli purposes. Unfortunately it only works well in landscape mode, which ends up severely restricting your vertical space, and some apps insist on using the stupid "full screen text box" input method in landscape orientation which is completely useless, but by and large it works as well as one can expect for an on screen keyboard.

      If you've got a big, high res screen (Nexus 5, S4, etc) it's actually a pretty decent solution,

    • Bluetooth keyboard? Almost all platforms support it.

      Also, I have this vague terror about any sort of important scripting being done from a device with a sub-5" screen. No offense, but I kind of hope that I don't rely on those services ...

    • by Brama ( 80257 )

      I find that MessagEase is an excellent keyboard for scripting. In fact, I like it better than a hardware keyboard. All the letters, numbers and other printable characters you need are available with a single swipe. Nowadays, after special request, it also includes Ctrl, Alt and F1..F12. Vim works wonderfully well once you master the non-standard layout.

      The only major drawback is that it eats screen real estate. I'd recommend a Galaxy Note with a nice big screen for that, although I get by well enough on a H

  • by pijokela ( 462279 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:00PM (#46074719)

    I got one from preordering and I really like it a lot. If the thing you like in n900 is the community and the hackability, you will like Jolla too. Most importantly, I'm able to use it as my work phone already, so it's not just a plaything. So far there has been a steady stream of updates and apps. If you are in US, getting one is probably not very easy, but maybe you can get one from ebay or something? (Check the frequencies etc. first.) []

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:18PM (#46075249)

      To be specific. The main part of the engineering and designer team that made Maemo on n900 moved on to make N9 and n950 (unpublished successor to the n900), and after Elop closed the development moved on to make the company called jolla.

      Their OS is evolution of the line which started with the Maemo tablets, culminating in n900 and N9/n950. The phone is in beta phase through you can buy one. One of their specialities is the special separate back panel system, which apparently has a digital connection to the main phone, allowing you to replace the standard back cover for one with keyboard eventually when one is developed.

      Overall, if you're looking for n900 successor today, jolla is about the only thing that comes to mind.

      • by dwater ( 72834 )

        > n950 (unpublished successor to the n900),

        Hrm, imo, not really...only in that it had a keyboard. Otherwise, it was very different. I would call it an unpublished N9-with-keyboard-and-no-NFC. I forget if there were any other differences - oh, it was quite straightforward to replace the battery on the n950, unlike the n9.

  • Samsung's joke on Nokia :) Reasonably happy, but not 'in control' as with Maemo. And no HW keyboard of course.
  • Neo900 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:01PM (#46074731)

    There's a Neo900 project attempting to make a modernized version of the N900, software and hardware. I don't know if they'll succeed and be able to do it at a price one can afford, but you might check it out if interested. If you don't visit forums you might wish to.

    I like my N9, but not the way I loved my N900. I especially miss the h/w keyboard.

    There's also the Jolla phone, but its availability and network compatibility is limited now (e.g. current version might work in the US but as 2G only, the only modem offered in it is designed for European market, or part thereof, no idea what rest of the world situation would be like). And again, no h/w keyboard.

    • The biggest thing I noticed when moving from the N900 to the N950 (and, therefore, also N9) was the improvement in audio quality. The n950 made the n900 sound distinctly bland and wooly.

      So, I now wonder if the Neo900 upgrade replaces the audio bits so that the audio improves too. Do you know?

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:04PM (#46074763)

    Have any other techies found a replacement for their N900?"

    A sledgehammer, but it really is a poor substitute. They aren't as strong as the N900 was. As I understand it, the replacement program for the Space Shuttle suffered a major setback after they were discontinued; they're having to rely on conventional heat shielding now to re-enter the atmosphere.

  • Android is OK-able (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:06PM (#46074775) Homepage Journal

    Hats off to you, sir, for holding out longer than I could with my Palm T|X.

    Currently I'm rather happy with CyanogenMOD on my HTC myTouch Slide 4G (and the slide 3G before that). Too bad they haven't updated the myTouch Slide line for a while, since they'd carve out a nice little niche for themselves being one of the only major Android manufacturers that did physical keyboards.

    I'm about to break down and just get a Nexus something, and pair it with an external portable keyboard (there are various cases that help make this more portable).

    Also, I think you'd enjoy running full ARM linux on an Android device, but look at the forums for []
    and check which ROMs support the loopback module (or make sure you can build one for yourself). Not all of my third-party ROMs bothered to do this, so I only have a full chroot Debian distro behind one or two of my Android devices :/

    But let us know how you turn out! My musings were plopped down here: []
    and maybe a few more relevant posts here: []

    • I also would put a vote in for the MyTouch 4G Slide. Not as good as the n900 but it has been a decent replacement
      and being mainstream it does have the advantage of having things like wifi hotspot, vendor support, and plenty of apps.
      Make sure it is the HTC version and not the recent replacement which isn't near as good.
      If you are trying to avoid android another option is to get a bluetooth keyboard case for an iphone. The case basically
      attachs a physical keyboard to the iphone.

  • is itself a major problem these days. I'm using a Droid 4 because it's one of the few with any kind of keyboard available. You may or may not like Android, but you can always put CyanogenMod on it, if you want to move further away from the carrier's grasping tentacles.

  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:22PM (#46074901)

    Congratulations, you made it far longer than I did. My N900 started to show hardware problems about a year ago, and radio problems/disconnects were the last straw. I loved the versatility and control, but ultimately I needed the damn thing to make calls and browse. I nabbed a Nexus 4 when they got cheap, and have adjusted reasonably well. I had a fair look at the iDevices, but wanted something faster and with a bigger screen. I coveted the Galaxy Note series, and might have been happier that way, but I wanted something closer to the N900 size. Recently got my kid a Moto G -- and currently it seems to be the best deal reminiscent of the size/screen of the N900. But still there is the lack of a hardware keyboard... there's just no substitute for input-intensive apps. Maybe Jolla will solve that.

    If you do head in the direction of Android, these might make it easier:
    - Have a look at Cyanogenmod, and see if you can find a sweet spot with hardware you like and a recent version.
    - Read up on App Ops, the utility that allows one to have granular permissions for applications, and restore a modicum of privacy control.
    - Don't be afraid to disable all the default apps/Google+/hangouts/crap. Android works just fine with the processes disabled.
    - Have a look at bare android/Samsung's overlays/cyanogenmod before you commit to them, there are significant differences.
    - Try getting an older phone and experimenting with it before you jump. I obtained a Galaxy S1/Vibrant, learned all about the boot loaders, firmware, and OS installation, and tried out various roms before settling back on Cyanogenmod. (Then I taught the kids how to do it, and gave the phone to my 10yo -- never too early for mobile hacking.) All of the features aside, the process restored some of the sense of control that I had with the N900. Some of it real, some of it not, but at least I knew were I stood wrt the device I was using most frequently.

    • I didn't have an N900, but I know them. My primary concern was always a hardware keyboard. I've moved through my share of hardware keyboard phones, mostly the very solid line of HTC WinMo phones(Kaiser, Mogul, etc). The closest thing I could find nowadays that at least gives me something close to a hardware keyboard while being an actually solid phone is the Galaxy Note series. The Note 2 is cheap now that the Note 3 is out and is still a very solid device. It's Android, which OP doesn't want, but oh w
    • by radoni ( 267396 )

      Settled on a Huawei U8686 (T-Mobile Prism II / Android 4.1.1) for $70usd new. What I've learned compared to the N900, follows.

      - survive with screen protector a drop to concrete from pocket
      - small hi-res screen is unnoticeable size in pocket
      - replaceable battery
      - wifi / bluetooth / GPS
      - microSD storage expansion
      - standard SIM card

      N900 is better:
      - Camera autofocus and flash with excellent optics quality (affects usefulness as 2D barcode scanner)
      - Keyboard and Resistive touchscreen work always even in

  • If you're really bent on having a hardware keyboard, the Blackberry Q10 is pretty decent. There's zero apps for it, but I guess you didn't mind if you held on to your N900 for so long.

    Otherwise, get a ridiculously overpowered/underpriced android phone like a Wiko. They got for like $200 without a plan and run a recent Android on very decent hardware. This way you can try it out without sinking too much money into a samsung or htc phone if it turns out you can't stand Android.

  • by opk ( 149665 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @04:27PM (#46074935) Journal

    Currently, they seem to be the best option If you want to avoid supporting google. Personally, I'm sticking with my N900. I wouldn't mind something newer but don't see a need to spend a lot of money when my N900 still works fine.

  • There are a few android phones like motorola droid or the lg enact with slideout keyboards like the one in the N900 (not sure if as comfortable too). They aren't too powerful, nor with a big resolution screen, but probably would be an improvement. With a bit of luck you can install cyanogenmod on them, or even ubuntu touch or others built from android base like firefox os for extra hackability.

    If you want another kind of phone, Blackberry Q10 have a keyboard and a good screen resolution for that format. An

  • I loved my Amiga, too. That doesn't mean I want to go back to those days.

    Life has moved on. Time for you to do the same.

  • If you are ready to live on the edge (you must be since you brought the first mass-produced Maemo phone), buy a Nexus phone and try Ubuntu for Android [].

    Since Google makes no money on sale of Android phones, not using the Android part would mean you are not supporting Google/Android (whatever reasons you have for it).

  • Neo900 OpenMoko GTA04-based platform in N900 slider-case. Support many Linux distros, may be interest OpenSource SW & HW hackers.

    Monoblock Jolla Phone with a SailFish OS -- more user-oriented platform designed by former NOKIA Maemo/MeeGo developers.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:07PM (#46075163)

    Its got (or will have once it goes on sale) all the good things about a N900 plus a faster CPU (not as fast as the latest iPhone or Android device though), better cellular radios and more.

  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:21PM (#46075263) Homepage Journal

    On thing to consider is getting a Bluetooth keyboard. You can also use a regular USB keyboard with most any smart phone with a USB OTG cable. Of course, carrying around a separate keyboard may not be convenient depending on how you use the device. I would think someone probably makes a small Bluetooth keyboard designed to be carried with a phone.

    Hmmm. Maybe I should Google that? Hey, what do you know? You can get a Bluetooth keyboard that is designed to attach to your smart phone, sliding out just like a built-in keyboard would.

    I haven't used one, but with a number of options available, this is likely the best route to go. You might want a small one that you carry with you, and a full-sized one that you keep at home or work for more extensive use.

  • by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:22PM (#46075271) Homepage

    It's got a hardware keyboard, Linux underneath, homebrew scene going strong and a bunch of apps that you might find useful, ymmv. Battery life is 3 days with powersaver and data switching on/off on demand. Really everything you could ask for if you want a decent specced/priced smartphone which is a bit newer than your n900, sports a great capacitive touchscreen and since obsolete ecosystems seem to be your thing, welcome on board: www.

  • Firefox OS (Score:4, Informative)

    by THE_WELL_HUNG_OYSTER ( 2473494 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:23PM (#46075273)
  • Well Rydia... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hsien-Ko ( 1090623 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:36PM (#46075741)
    Does your N900 cast Fire or summon Odin?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:59PM (#46075893)

    You want great hardware with a LOT of software options and a high degree of hackability?

    Buy an iPhone (or iPad mini) and jailbreak it.

    You aren't feeding your personal information to advertisers or Google. You have great customization of privacy per-app, built in - which you can further customize with jailbreak utilities.

    Furthermore NO device is as hackable in the correct sense of the word as the iPhone is, because most apps are written in ObjectiveC if you want to modify some small aspect of an existing app you can do so.

    If you really need a hardware keyboard, key a good Bluetooth keyboard (just as you would with any Android device as pretty much all of them are touchscreen only now).

    You also get a lot of great VNC and terminal options on iOS that you can simply buy.

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:18PM (#46076011) Homepage

    I bought it on ebay about a year ago and I love it. Why do you need to replace your N900 if it works? And if it doesn't work, why not buy another one? I'm sure you can find one online.

  • I'm currently giving a try at leaving my beloved n900 behind with an S3. The hack-ability of the n900 was fun to have but it wasn't something I relied on. I actually like the n900 as a good phone. The real motivation was to move to more modern hardware ( better radio, better battery life, some extra CPU , etc.) but the biggest reason was to be on a supported platform. Any apps or such that come out are either Apple or Android. Things like work apps and latest apps of any type were off-limits on the n900. Bu
  • Im also lookign to replace my N900 (which i like), previously had an OpenMoko Neo (which was a great talking piece, bad phone).

    Im currently keeping an eye on the fairphone, they are just finishing there first batch of 25,000 phones and looking at a new order soon. Second release is usually a good one to get in one as they have had a chance to find and fix hardware bugs.

    The replicant project has done a review of the fairphone, there biggest criticim of it is that it doest have good hardware isolation to prev

  • I had a similar issue with my phone (top of the line back in 2005), battery lasting less than fourteen hours some days (more roaming searching) and bulging. Got a brand new battery on eBay for a few dollars with free shipping, hopefully good for another decade or so.

  • really go to any radio shack or mall and fucking look for a phone that suits your wants and meets your budget, why is this a question on slashdot

  • I sent a friend's N900 off for repair last year and an unused one came back along with the faulty one which they hadn't bothered to repair.
    I'll probably use the faulty one (which I have now) as a GPS or something since the fault does not completely disable it.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
    Backlit LCD screens suck immensely in bright sunlight, so here's an alternative I hope will catch on: []
    Pocketbook and Yotta has similar concepts but lack of touch on the Pocketbook addon for the Galaxy S3 looks like a huge drawback to me.
  • I was facing the same problem as you are, and I would have gotten myself an N9 if Nokia hadn't announced that they would ditch Meego completely. That day I decided I was done with Nokia for good and I was forced to find a viable alternative.

    To me it was Android on a Galaxy S2, but - and this is important - one built entirely from source. Granted - there are still things I miss from my N900 (the keyboard mostly), but a rooted Android device comes close these days.

    Personally I would look for any Android dev

  • Neo 900 (Score:3, Informative)

    by kamathln ( 1220102 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @05:08AM (#46078739) Homepage []

    Seems like the best alternative for a hacker right now.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.