I seldom really get excited about a phone. Maybe, except the iPhone which I have used for about a year. I believe it is now about time to move to a better offering. That is if one exists. My choice phone is one that should have killer specifications in the hardware. And more importantly, it should also have a suave, impeccable and intuitive user interface. I believe that user interface makes up 70% of a phone. Like some people say, it is what you see that you get. The features complement the UI.
What then has engendered me towards gunning for the Nokia N8?
The hardware of the N8 along with its Multi-media monster features impresses me a lot, but at the same time, the software, especially the user interface dissatisfies me a little. With this compromise, could I still make the jump, and go for the N8? I don’t know that for sure, although I feel I will make my ultimate decision after it finally comes out! The Nokia N8 definitely has some cutting-edge features. These include USB-On-the-Go, wireless Keyboard syncing, multimedia features like the 12-megapixel camera and HDMI-out. Thereafter, the software appears stale with little modification from the omnipresent Symbian S60 UI platform.
I have to point out at this stage of this article that this article is not a hands-on experience, but from deep research on the internet inclusive of viewing of dozens of YouTube videos from Nokia’s site and also from third party Reviewers and videos on the web.
Size: The N8 appears to be lightweight, measuring 0.5-inches thick. It would be good to compare this with the soon to be released iPhone 4 which I wish to choose from (The iPhone 4 is only 0.37 inches, making it thinner).
Screen Size: The face of the phone is quite plain as most, if not all touch screen phones are. What design could you put on a touch screen? The front has a 3.5-inch 640-by-360-pixel display dominating its face with a single hardware button below it (just like the iPhone 4). This hardware button allows you to change from the homescreen and menu screen. It can also act as a task manager when held down to allow you to visualize all open applications. (the N8 display size is the same in size as the iPhone 4’s, but pixel density is much lower)
USB-On-The-Go: You can connect and view the contents of a USB flash drive or other phone from your Nokia N8. This is one of the first phones to incorporate this feature. I hope this feature becomes replicated in other phones. The iPhone 4 does not have this!
Wireless syncing with a Bluetooth keyboard: You can use a wireless keyboard to type on your N8. This feature is also present on the iPhone 4.
Third party applications: Of course Symbian OS has a lot of apps, but whether the specific Symbian OS ^ 3 device, the N8 would have a lot of third party apps at launch I cannot rightfully say now. This is in contrast with the iPhone 4 with acclaimed 200,000 and more apps. I believe third party apps have a big role to play in a smart phone’s usability!
- Camera – The N8 has a rather large Carl Zeiss 12-megapixel camera with Xenon flash. Nokia claims the 12-megapixel snapper is the largest sensor on any phone and is reputed to take amazing photos. (In comparison, the iPhone 4 has only a 5 megapixel snapper with LED flash. The Nokia N8 trounces it here clearly).
- Front facing Camera – There is also a front-facing camera which will work for video calling. This is similar to the front facing camera on the iPhone 4. Apple calls their video calling feature, Facetime.
- 720p HD video Recording – Additionally, the N8 video is at the HD level, 720Pixels. This is laudable but not the first. The Apple iPhone 4 also has this function. While I couldn’t confirm the frame rate of the Nokia N8, the iPhone 4 has its own at 30 frames per second, which is herculean for a phone.
- HDMI out – Need I say this? The Nokia N8 has HDMI out which can transfer video and graphics to a screen at the HD format of 720P. Even the mighty iPhone 4 cannot attempt that! You can thus play High definition videos from your Nokia N8 phone to your LCD or Plasma TV and your Home Theatre!
User Interface: From the dozens of videos that I watched on the capabilities of the Nokia N8 on the web, the user interface was something that did not give me a WOW factor compared with the other features of the phone. I still prefer the slick operating structure of my tested iOS.
Some months ago Nokia indicated that they were revamping the Symbian user interface when they announced their new open source Symbian S^3 open source OS. I hoped then for a more modern looking and suave UI with good looking icons and major UI changes than what I saw in the YouTube videos of the N8’s UI.
The Symbian ^3 user interface resembles the previous version of Symbian to a large degree, although with a little added features here and there, along with some tweaks in some other places. Thank God Nokia informed Eldar Mutazin earlier in his disparaging review of the Nokia N8 that it was only a pre-production copy he reviewed. But then I failed to see dramatic changes in the UI of the N8 videos from recent videos on the web. Here is hoping that there would still be some more changes and revamping of the UI in the commercial copies of the Nokia N8.
Despite my gripes with the UI, there are still some obvious improvement over the previous versions of the Symbian 9.4, series 60 version 5 UI that is found in Nokia N97, Nokia 5800 and the likes. Examples of these improvements included in the N8 include:
- Multi-touch gestures in the browser and photo gallery. There is nothing better than multi-touch technology in a touchscreen Smartphone to improve usability and dexterity.
- Fewer taps required for navigation.
- Simpler multitasking system.
Other Important Features;
Other areas in which Symbian phones top others apart from the Android OS devices is the value-added feature in the guise of their superb free navigation service; Ovi Maps. In my my opinion, Ovi maps rivals and even surpasses Google maps. This is expected to be loaded on the N8.
As I always say and it always rings true, the test of a pudding is always in the eating. Whatever we do now would only be to analyze, forecast and predict the outlook of a yet-to-be-released product. The actual fact whether a phone would sell or would do well lies only after it is released into the market. And as such, I would have to wait for the release of the Nokia N8, and not just make my summation on this truly great phone from presumably early prototypes. Maybe then I’d see things in the UI that would endear it to me and perhaps surpass the expectations I have of its shortcomings. And I also know I may just have to spend more time with the N8 myself before making a good appraisal. Until then, the Nokia N8 remains a phone to watch.