How Does Meego Compare to iOS and Android?
Nokia recently announced the N9 smartphone, which runs the relatively unknown Meego operating system. The hardware looks fantastic, but few are familiar with Meego, so here's a quick look at how it stacks up against Apple's iOS for iPhone and the Android operating system.
At first, Meego doesn't look like much of an innovation. It uses the same basic touch screen navigation and apps that millions of people have already experienced on any number of smartphones. But there are some key differences that make Meego a new experience.
Meego has tweaked the concept of a home screen and thrown out the Home button completely. Instead, there are three basic screens that can be swapped at any time: the app screen, the event screen and the multitasking screen. The app screen almost needs no explanation: Icons for every app on the phone are found in a scrollable list, and icons can be rearranged at will. This obviates the need for multiple app screens available in Android and iOS because the user can simply order the apps as wanted.
The events screen pulls double duty, combining system notifications with what Nokia calls "events," which is just another word for updates from social networking apps (including Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds, all displayed together). While iOS and Android have all these components, they aren't combined so simply or so thoroughly into one place as they are in Meego.
Meego's greatest strength is undoubtedly the multitasking pane, which completely trumps anything iOS and Android can offer (at least for now). In fact, Meego multitasking is more reminiscent of HP's webOS or the QNX operating system in the BlackBerry PlayBook . The multitasking screen shows live cards of the running applications, ordered according to what the user was doing last. It's easy to instantaneously switch between apps, or just see what they're doing in the background.
These three panes operate as a substitute for the traditional home screen interface of other mobile operating systems. But you'll remember we said earlier that Meego also throws the ubiquitous Home button out the window. So how does the user get back to these main screens? With a little swiping.
Nokia's N9 recognizes when the user swipes left or right from the edge of the screen, regardless of what app or widget is currently displayed. The swipe gesture takes the user back to one of the three main screens (depending on the direction of the swipe). The app keeps running in the background, and consequently shows up in the multitasking screen, but the user can now open another app, check events or switch to a different running app. The swipe gesture makes the Home button completely redundant.
Another advantage Meego has over iOS and Android is the built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) compatibility. NFC technology makes it possible to sync with devices and make transactions without needing to use an app or set up a connection. Simply tapping the devices together sets up a link. There have been dozens of rumors about NFC tech coming to iOS and Android, but for the near future, Meego has them beat.
So far it seems like Meego can certainly hold its own against the iPhone and Android smartphones. Preliminary tests even indicate its performance, especially with HTML5, is at or above average for these platforms. But certainly there are some drawbacks, right?
Yes, there certainly are.
As we've seen before, the software makes the system. In other words, one of the biggest indicators of a platform's continuing success is the number and quality of apps available. Meego is at an obvious disadvantage here. We don't know exactly how many Meego apps there are, but it's obviously nowhere close to the hundreds of thousands of apps available for both iOS and Android.
Finally, and possibly most important, Meego is on its deathbed. Yes, the Nokia N9 is the first commercial smartphone to carry Meego, but according to Nokia, it may also be the last. It seems that Nokia has released a Meego phone more out of respect for the engineers who worked on it rather than expectations of profit. Nokia has turned instead to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as its smartphone platform of choice going forward, and there aren't any immediate plans to keep supporting Meego.
So for all its great features and innovative design, you may not want to get too attached with Meego. It doesn't seem destined to survive very long in this fast-paced market.