Edited to include some of my gripes, if you just want to see the list, scroll to the bottom
This is going to get an instant dismissal from the Nokia faithful, but bear with me and I guarantee you will see what I see in some capacity.
Lets get one thing straight first, I love what Nokia have done for Linux, from their first offerings pre-770 to what they do today, they do a great job. I know many of the current (and past) team that care so much about how Linux will someday become the default smart-phone choice that I somewhat feel a little sorry that they pioneered a route that may be occupied by others.
Nokia was there way before Google decided to bring Linux to a phone-sized device, Nokia was there long before Internet tablets were considered a cool technology, and Nokia continue to fund many of the projects that matter for Linux users so its with a heavy heart that I declare my dislike for the n900.
When Nokia had a Linux based tablet, it was consider unique and very cool for the geeks that used Linux. It was a great playground for developers and a marketing tool to inform people just what could be done with innovation and a lot of hard work. Fast forward to today and we have Google bringing a Linux based phone OS to the mass market, ARM challenging for supremacy using Linux, and even Palm resurrected their business based on Linux, so what is Nokia’s reply, the n900.
Lets not doubt that the device is a great attempt to bring a full operating system to a smart phone. But it fails so miserably on many occasions. Nokia had such a head start that the likes of Google and Palm should of gone to Nokia to license their stack because of their years of maturity, but no, they thought 9 to 12 months of in house R&D could better what Nokia had to offer and guess what, that turned out right.
So when Nokia bring out something resembling a phone that plays in the Google Android, Apple iPhone, Palm Pre and even other “dumb phone” eco-sphere you instantly compare them. I really want to like this phone but at every opportunity it does something that isn’t what I want. Email (modest) is terrible (bugs, slowness, imap headaches), the browser is fast but back navigation is form over function and zoom in/out tends to be random, the calendar app never syncs past my initial Google calendar sync, screen presses are hit and miss … I have a list longer than both my arms . Software faults, hardware incumbency, complete failure in some cases leave this device not on a par with its predecessors but behind because of its lofty ambitions.
Some things are great, the keyboard is surprisingly good, the screen has a great resolution, media playback is excellent, the camera is second to none for a phone but I simply can’t use it as a day to day device, and believe me I’ve tried. I’ve put my sim in the the n900 more than a dozen times and kept it there for periods of time but I have to swap it back out every time. Coming from a professional Linux developer (an ARM developer at that) this isn’t good and on more than a few occasions people have asked me whether or not they should purchase a n900. I have had to say “not yet”.
I know what Nokia and Maemo are capable of but the n900 fall’s frustratingly short. Its a step too far for Nokia and I’m sure that the next iteration of devices will be great, but will that be too late?
 Some bugs/problems I’ve encountered:
- imap folders not cached so each mail check takes *minutes*
- modest email client capitalizes inbox to INBOX randomly on one of my accounts making the folder inaccessable
- imap changes not registered sometimes, i.e. I read an email on the n900, its still unread when I check with another client.
- n900 is practically impossible to use one-handed
- lack of portrait mode really is a problem
- maps application is near useless, often can’t find the current location and its really slow
- some calls get routed straight to answer phone even though I have a signal
- some calls don’t connect (i.e. I get network failure) and checking the number with another phone is fine
- browser back button (not keyboard back button) brings up a UI history of your browsing which is form over function, makes going back a frustrating experience
- device is heavy and sometimes cumbersome to use (try lying on your back and operating it with keyboard open)
- screen touches sometimes don’t register even though you get the ‘click’ sound of a press being made
- zoom on the browser (little circles with your finger) can be quite random
- scroll bars are not shown by default meaning options that are off the screen can be difficult to spot (I have to always try to scroll just in case there are more option)
- Google calendar can sync via the exchange setting, I find it sync’s once and never again