Maemo vs. Android

Since I can probably declare my Nokia N810 dead after a rather undeliberate exposure to not really fresh water, I’m on the lookout for a workable replacement. Seeing that Apple, despite all its glossiness, is quite a pile of crap when it comes to software developement and free standards, I thought there was only one choice: Android.

That was, until I found out that the next Maemo device from Nokia, the N900, also dubbed “Rover”. There’s also real pictures available, not mockups.

The N900 would then, of course, be pitted against the HTC Hero.

Now, first, hardware. A quick comparision:

HTC Hero Nokia Rover
CPU 528 MHz Qualcomm® MSM7200A™ 500/600 MHz OMAP 3430
RAM (physical) 288 MB 256 MB
Dimensions (L⨉W⨉T) 112mm ⨉ 56.2mm ⨉ 14.35mm 59.7mm ⨉ 111mm ⨉ 18.20mm
Weight 135g 180g
Display 3.2″ 320×480 (HVGA) 3.5″ 800×480 (WVGA)
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850,900,1800,1900 MHz, WCDMA 900,2100 MHz
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.0
  • Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850,900,1800,1900 MHz, WCDMA 900,1700/2100,2100
  • WiFi: probably, Bluetooth: probably 2.0
Storage 512 MB internal (~150 available), SDHC slot (16 GB) 32 GB internal, SDHC slot (16 GB)

So in essence, the Rover trumps the Hero in storage capacity and screen resolution, has a slight advantage in CPU, succumbs in RAM and weighs more. But of course nobody has yet been able to touch the Rover from a reviewer’s point of perspective, and if it is anything similar to the N810, the sliding keyboard will wiggle all the time and annoy you.

The main question would probably the choice of operating system: Do you want Google’s shiny Android mobile phone operating system? Or do you want Nokia’s Maemo 5/Fremantle, a Debian port initially designed for mobile devices without phone connectivity?

From a nerd or hacker point of view, maemo is very interesting, since it’s basically an embedded Debian, with all its advantages and disadvantages. But you have to ask yourself: so far, the other Nokia Internet Tablets have been good secondary devices. You have your mobile phone for your RL connectivity, and the NIT, probably connecting to the Internet via your phone, handles the CPU-churning Internet activities. The question arises whether the new generation of smartphones actually requires this kind of distinction.

On the other hand, you have the Android operating system, specifically designed for smart mobile phones. This alone gives it the advantage of being more streamlined to mobile phone needs, which helps quite a bit in usability.

The great advantage of the Maemo system, as opposed to anything around at its time of inception, was it being almost completely open source, and based on Debian. So, with a fair bit of luck, you could just compile a Debian package in the right build environment, and it would probably run on your maemo device. And since you had GTK as your windowing basis, well, developing your own apps was easy, too.

But with Fremantle, Nokia’s changing to Qt to keep up the spliffyness with iPhone OS and Android, which will make all the old GTK applications look a bit out of date. While this may be a ‘good’ move to go towards mobile phoneness, it will probably alienate the fanbase to no end to sudddenly have to do Qt. I’m guessing this will end bad.

On the other hand, people claim about Android being from evil evil Google, and thus not trustworsty. What I’m asking myself, especially after writing down why I’m more inclined towards the Android OS, and, thus, the Hero: is it worth waiting for the Rover, being ‘reduced’ to my S60r3 phone until I can decide whether it is better or not?