So, I was in the market for a video/mp3 player and ended up with the Nokia N8 device.
I bought a Zune, but for the fact that the Zune HD I got had a bad screen flicker issue, I would’ve ended my search for a multimedia device. I had the Zune HD for less than 14 hrs before I returned it to Amazon. Obviously, I’m not a software dev so I don’t know if this was a software/hardware issue. However, I went to Mother Google only to find out that this has been a longstanding issue so I’ll wait for the next iteration of the Zune HD device. 🙂
In the meantime, I got seduced by the allure of having a device that could do “it all”. I was torn between the Nokia N900 and Nokia N8. The price and internal memory (32gb on the N900 vs 16gb on the N8) were in the N900’s favor, but after reading the brutal reviews on Amazon & doing some research on the N900/Maemo future, I decided to bet on the Nokia N8.
I had considered the current King of Android Phones: Samsung Galaxy S (dubbed “Samsung Captivate” if you’re on AT&T), but the price of an unlocked one was a little more than I could stomach. Random aside: I was a little turned off by the obvious similarity to the iPhone that the Samsung Galaxy S. 🙂 Anyway, without further ado, here are some things I’m loving with the Nokia N8 and why I went with this device (against all the “rules” about never buying version 1.0 of any device):
- Takes 12 megapixel (mp) pictures: The fineprint with this is that even though the images are 12 megapixels, the image quality is not near my 12 mp Nikon D90; nor is it meant to be. For a cellphone, it’s damned good and I’m already taking pictures way more than I did with my ancient G1 running Froyo. That said, Nokia actually commissioned the creation of a movie filmed entirely with the Nokia N8! Warning: *don’t* import pictures using the “import videos/pictures” dialog because you might accidentally import & delete images for your Ovi Maps application.
- Has integrated GPS and an A-GPS receiver with free-forever turn-by-turn navigation in Ovi Maps. With the Android and iPhone, I would have purchased software for this functionality which means a yearly subscription.
- Has HDMI-out which means I can simply connect my HDMI cord (which I have) to my external monitor (which I have) to view my pictures/video or other items in HD glory. I did this with HP 2159m monitor and it works as advertised i.e. plug and play! Video playback works beautifully and this is definitely one of *the* features of the N8. If you don’t want to pony up cash for the $34.95 app by MobileWays.de which lets you capture screenshots remotely, your best option is simply hook your phone up to your TV! 😛 I’ve got the pics to prove it too. If I ever have to do presentations, all I need to do is:
- load up my .ppt/.pdf/.txt (viewable with Quickoffice which is preloaded on the N8)
- Use the provided mini-HDMI connector to connect your N8 to the HDMI cord which you should then connect to the device (TV or monitor) that you need to project.
- Control the show with your fingers.
- Comes with 16gb of internal memory which give you enough room to download maps for the Ovi Maps application and load up on videos. If you need more, get a microSD card.
- Nokia gets an A for packaging.
I love how clearly everything in the box is labeled and the fact that Nokia didn’t nickle-and-dime its users by making us buy an extra accessory. They put protective coverings (thin plastic film) on the main phone screen and the camera on the back of the phone. Even though the main phone screen and camera are protected by the much talked about “Gorilla glass” (video), I’m keeping the protective covering on and on the lookout for a case to keep my phone in. I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to do all the functions that the Nokia N8 is capable of doing without buying an adapter here or a cord there.
Here are the included accessories for the Nokia N8:
- the mini-HDMI adapter for connecting your phone to your TV. YAY!
- the USB on-the-go adapter which will let you connect an external USB device presumably a flash drive) to your N8 and view or browse the files! YAY!!
- stereo earphones were included (duh). The included earphones are awesome and a little too good at keeping me insulated from the world.
- wall charger (duh)
- cord to connect the N8 to your computer for transferring files/videos/music etc. The N8 comes with a common mini-USB outlet.
- Everything you need to tap into this phone’s awesomeness is either on the phone or provided as an accessory!
- I *heart* USB On-the-go. Dead simple to use. I attached my 8gb usb stick and opening files took about 1 – 2 seconds. Not a big deal. Going back to the whole presentation scenario, if you don’t have a laptop with you, you can simply plug up your USB stick to the N8 and using the mini-HDMI connector to present on the monitor! 😛
- Sound on the N8 is awesome. I’m not an audiophile, but even I ‘heard’ the difference and how ‘clear’ my music/video is. Whether it’s audio recording or listening to music, the sound stays true.
- Bluetooth 3.0: This means the Nokia N8 can work with various bluetooth devices at the same time AND increased data transfer speeds. I’ve experienced faster transfer speeds, but I haven’t performed any “scientific tests”. Playing my music over the Bluetooth connection was smooth and high fidelity. 🙂
With the good stuff out of the way, here are my biggest gripes with the Nokia N8:
- The Ovi Store. I *can’t* believe Nokia is still struggling with creating a simple marketplace for Apps! For starters, attempting to purchase a simple item, say Angry Birds, from the store is impossible with my credit card. The apparent and only option for purchasing apps from the Ovi Store is to have your ATT phone account billed!! So, yeah. I haven’t been able to buy any paid apps from the Ovi Store yet. *sigh* I’m not kidding: I had to remove my AT&T SIM card in order to ‘trick’ the N8 into letting me pay with a credit card. See this Nokia forum post for more.
- The lack of QWERTY input on the N8 is inconvenient and leads to a lot of tap-tap-tapping. The ‘good’ thing is apps like Opera Mobile and Gravity have control over the type of keyboard that can be brought up in *those* applications. Granted, the N8 has some wasted real estate that they could’ve used to increase the N8’s resolution and in turn, add the QWERTY keyboard. Nevertheless, I wasn’t as turned off as the Nokia N8 reviews I’d read only made me believe I would be.
- The Font. Nokia, how painful would it be to commission a custom font for your latest wannabe-iPhone-killer? Really? It makes this pricey phone look like a relic from the Nokia E-series. Again, it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I’ve lived with worse devices and part of me suspects that I’ve come to expect less-than-perfect devices as a way of life. Still, Nokia has driven off some of who would’ve given the N8 a second look with their stinginess.
- Wi-Fi vs. MediaNet : WiFi works as advertised, but the N8 really bets that you have a data plan and like with the E71x, I’m having to dig into the Connection/Networking settings to make sure “Easy WLAN” is the default. Not a huge problem, but it’s just one that should be taken care of when you first get the phone in order to avoid “access denied” or “connection failed” messages if you don’t have a Data Plan and are using the N8
- Camera menus: In Portrait orientation, some Camera menus are still in Landscape orientation. This means you have to use 2 hands to take the phone. Not a dealbreaker for me, but people who don’t want any fuss would have easily skipped over this phone. It’s nothing a software update won’t fix, but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. For a “camera phone”, you’d think such a “bug” couldn’t have snuck in there. Besides, for all the hype about it being a 12 mp cameraphone and having Xenon flash, most of my pictures have been taken *without* the flash because it’s a little too intense.
- Default Browser Woes: So, there is a setting in the N8 that allows you to set *your* default application to open things like photos or accessing the internet. I downloaded and use Opera Mobile. However, for some reason, the N8 didn’t get the memo that Opera Mobile is my browser of choice. It’s quite irritating enough because opening links from applications in the N8 simply takes me to the crappy browser bundled with the N8. *sigh* Talk about death by a thousand cuts.
- A little less clicking and a little more finesse. Nokia isn’t known for sexy user interfaces like Apple. I knew this especially as I’ve owned a Nokia phone, the Nokia E71x, before. However, to see this carried over into an otherwise fully-loaded device like this is a little disappointing and quite frankly, unimaginative. This recent Engadget article interviewed an SVP from Nokia and I have *some* hope that there will be some improvements. With the N8, there are some user interface issues that are hard to ignore.
- Call Buttons. Nokia made a curious decision to not have dedicated “Call” or “End” buttons where the “Call” symbol is the ‘Green phone icon’ and the “End” symbol is the “Red Phone icon”. All my phones have had this button so I’m retraining myself to use the “Call” menu which Nokia placed on the bottom right. Furthermore, my previous phones would typically bring up a list of previously dialed numbers whereas Nokia decided to display the Dialer and included an extra step to see your previously dialed numbers. It’s not a dealbreaker, but then again, quite annoying.
- The Nokia N8 feels like a utility belt. It is a kickass phone, but the software ‘wrapper’ is lacking. I like the 3 “homescreens” idea, but I got a little concerned when I couldn’t find an easy way to get to “Settings”. Now, *that* would’ve been a dealbreaker but for the fact that I figured out you had to do the following to get to your settings:
- Tap the “Menu” and tap on “Edit Homescreen”
- I got rid of the topApps and Social Screen widgets. To get a Widgets filled with App shortcuts, you need to select “Shortcuts” and this will bring up a widget with 4 slots for app shortcuts. These slots may already be pre-filled, but all you need to do to edit the widget is:
- Tap on the Widget and a little box will pop up with two options: “Settings” and “Remove”. Click on “Settings” and you’ll have the opportunity to add App shortcuts or Bookmarks to your widget.
- When using the “Option” menu, clicking away from the resulting pop-up box does NOT close the pop-up box. You have to click “Cancel’ to exit from the “Option” menu box. Again, a click could’ve been saved here by making the Options box go away if I clicked anywhere BUT the Options box. I’m ‘retraining’ myself again, but it’s a little annoying.
- Possible Quality Assurance issue? This is probably just me listening to the internet people again. 🙂 iPhones are made in China so I think my N8 will be fine. However, enterprising eBay sellers are seizing on this perception of Made-in-China products as sub-standard and now selling Nokia N8 devices made in Finland as “originals”. I got one of the “Made From China” devices (purchased from Amazon) and my N8 feels just ‘fine’. However, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on the N8 for any ‘issues’. 🙂
- Overall, the Nokia N8 is filled with these little annoyances that reduce the experience. Couple that with the confusion about where Nokia intends to focus its efforts i.e. Maemo/Meego/Symbian. One of my big pet peeves with device manufacturers of today is that they don’t improve on products. In my limited experience, they (meaning cellphone manufacturers) simply flood the market with various devices instead of picking (or creating) a flagship tool and improving on it!
Apple has this mindset of creating/inventing beautiful devices and this is why they’re laughing all the way to the bank. With Apple, I can only buy 1 phone: the iPhone. Google attempted this with their release of the Nexus One and they lost their nerve because their money maker is search.
My concern with the Nokia N8 is that it would soon be forgotten, but it appears that Nokia ‘promises’ to keep up with updates that will significantly enhance the phone’s functionality and not just security updates. The money quote is in this Engadget article:
You can buy a Nokia smartphone confident that any improvements introduced later to the Symbian platform, such as the user interface, can be made available to download on your device as well. No need to wait for Symbian^4 – the improvements we were planning for Symbian^4 will be introduced as and when they become available. In fact, we will no longer be talking about Symbian^3 or Symbian^4 at all – it will be one constantly evolving and constantly improving platform.
I’ll end this article for now with my raw impressions after using the Nokia N8 for less than 48hrs.