Sunday, January 3, 2010

[N900 REVIEW] Part 9 : Application Manager and Games

Posted on 13:33 by SlipKoRnSaad

It's all about the apps these days, or so some folks think. The magic actually comes when a good platform with appealing hardware and a great OS meet with a large selection of applications. Maemo 5 is a new OS and the N900's job in part is to get developers on board. Given Maemo's open source history, applications have so far been free and many have been ports from Linux. With Maemo 5 we're starting to see more "Joe Normal" apps instead of geeky ones. These include Documents To Go for viewing MS Office docs (currently the only pay-for Maemo 5 application, it costs $9.99 after the 30 day trial ends), an AP news widget, several weather widgets, games (so far mostly 2D though we expect some impressive 3D games given the Nokia's serious GPU and OpenGL ES 2.0 support), sketching applications, Witter (a Twitter app), a Facebook widget and more.

Application manager

Everything absolutely clear, easily accessible and free. No comparison to Ovi Store ...

Installing an application is pretty easy. All you need to do is download an installable file and the application manager launches automatically. It will then guide you through the installation process, which is pretty short in most cases ! No more 100 popups like on Symbian to accept licence or confirm installation, 2 steps are enough ! ;)

The thing you'll love about the Maemo platform is the fact that you can add repositories, in a simplified way, that means that you can add a storage location from which software packages may be retrieved and installed, even though the N900 supports installing software directly from a file (downloaded with the WWW browser, received via Bluetooth, copied from the PC, etc.), you will quickly realize that getting and installing software via the Application Manager is a much better and more convenient way, not just to install the software but also to be automatically notified about any updated versions (including the firmware, oh yeah !), additional files or plug-ins ;)

All you need to do is to add details of a repository to the Application Manager and it will check the repository and list all applications contained in it. You can add as many repositories as you can only find and the App Manager will monitor all of them and list all software they contain !

There are three different community driven repositories and you can see how it actually works to add more !

N900 support for installing local .deb files had been removed from the Application Manager (for security reasons and to ensure that users will be installing only compatible and complete (i.e. without missing dependencies, etc.) software via the repositories), making repositories the only way to install applications. More advanced users, however, will still be able to install .deb packages manually, e.g. using the good old dpkg command in the X-Terminal but you can enable Red Pill mode (an Application manager mode that disables certain safety features, and allows access to certain additional settings) to be able to do WHAT YOU WANT !

To track new applications and repository activity you can use AppWatch for example ;)

Games :

Nokia's own Bounce game is a 3D showcase of what the N900 can do. It's as impressive as an iPhone 3D high quality game and we can't wait to see more. And yes, you can play it while the phone is hooked up to a TV!

Here's a brief demo of my little old cousin playing it on the N900 !

It certainly looks capable of going toe-to-toe with iPhone 3GS when it comes to rich 3D games but the N900 has another advantage over Apple's device: full Flash support in its Web browser, so you can login to Facebook and play Who Has The Biggest Brain? So, Browser games could be a really exciting area for this device !

Here's another demo of 3D Baseball founded on youtube :

However, i wished the N900 had multi-touch for racing and football games. If it's about a patent from Apple i do wish nokia would have designed a directional pad with a button in the middle and two separate A and B buttons on the qwerty for gaming purposes.

Anyway, forthcoming Qt includes multi-touch and gestures which means that Nokia will bring them to their Symbian and Maemo phones.

Other coolest thing is the ability to get a good retro gaming use with a host of different emulators, so you can play MSX, NES, SNES, GBA (WTF?), Game Boy, ZX Spectrum and so on ;)

Ps : Nokia OVI Store for Maemo is expected to go live sometime this month ;)

What's hot :

- Installing an application is pretty easy
- Powerful hardware as enabler for huge developer community
- Possibility to add as many applications repositories as available
- Automatic notification of available update including the firmware's one
- Restoring a backup make the App Manager redownload your software from the repositories (with latest versions)

What's not :

- The availability of third-party apps
- The lack of automatic notification for new applications (out of the box)
- Basic application manager's UI, i'm looking forward to see something like this !

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