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I’m not exactly a latest gadget freak. I tend to carefully evaluate any gadgets before buying them and then use them for a couple of years at least. So the gadgets that appeal to me are those that are feature rich while still being simple to use. No point in having a feature rich gadget that makes it difficult for you to actually use most of those features!
So after having used my earlier Sony Ericsson K790i over four years, I finally decided to go in for a change of phone. I basically wanted to try out a touch screen phone. I haven’t been a big fan of HTC in the past (my wife had a HTC Touch which was complicated to use). And somehow mobile phones by LG, Samsung and Motorola don’t really appeal to me as I find their user interfaces inferior as compared to Nokia and Sony Ericsson’s.
In terms of quality and ease-of-use, the iPhone 4 is undoubtedly the leader of the pack, but unfortunately it is prohibitively expensive in India and lacks some basic features (no flash, no FM radio, etc.).
So eventually the choice boiled down between the Nokia N8 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. After a comprehensive analysis of features supported, price and other aspects, I decided to go in for the Nokia N8.
After having used it for a couple of weeks, here’s my not-so-comprehensive review of the Nokia N8.
1. 12 megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support: This is by far the biggest USP of the Nokia N8. The camera is absolutely fantastic. It works well under all conditions, bright and dark, thanks to its powerful Xenon flash and its 1/1.8″ CCD sensor which give fantastic picture quality with natural colours. In fact, the pictures come out so well that I’m actually planning to sell off my Sony 7.2 MP digital camera!
The N8 also supports HD video recording, which means you don’t need to buy a dedicated HD video camcorder.
2. Excellent battery life: I’m listing this second because a good battery life is really important to me. I don’t want to spend the next few years charging my phone every second day. Thankfully, the N8 battery lasts for 3 days on average with reasonable amount of use (~2 hours of talking, a little browsing and some music). That’s great for a feature-packed large screen touch smartphone.
3. Awesome voice clarity and signal strength: Like most Nokia phones, the voice clarity and signal strength is fantastic in the N8. Which means less issues with call drops or poor voice quality.
4. 16 GB internal memory: This means there is more than enough space for all your photos, songs and even complete movies on your phone! Plus, you can add an extra 16 GB of memory via a memory card.
5. Music player with FM transmitter: Music players are pretty much a given in most phones nowadays, but one neat feature that the N8 has is the built-in FM transmitter, which can come in handy when you want to play your songs on a car or home music system but don’t have (or can’t connect) a stereo cable.
And although not as great as the iPod Touch user interface, the N8 music player has a pretty good user interface that is quite easy to use.
The video player supports HD videos and 5.1 channel Dolby stereo output.
Users in India currently also get a 1 year free subscription to the Ovi Music store, and searching and downloading songs is extremely easy with the Nokia Ovi Music application bundled on the phone.
6. GPS navigation: The Nokia N8 supports GPS navigation and also comes with local maps bundled on the phone, courtesy Ovi Maps (which is lifetime free). Note that these are offline maps that are stored on your phone memory, so you don’t need a GPRS network connection to use the navigation feature. You will need to buy a car phone holder for your N8 though.
7. FM radio: This is also standard issue on most phones nowadays (though not on the iPhone, surprisingly!). The FM radio reception and clarity is good. RDS and AF are supported.
8. Wi-Fi support: Really useful nowdays. The N8 supports 802.11 b/g/n wireless and can auto-detect and connect to available networks if configured to do so. It also has a WLAN Power Saving Mode.
9. Push Mail support: So you can set up your Exchange account and view your office emails on the phone.
10. Java and Flash support: The N8 supports Java MIDP, which means you can install all those applications like ngpay, mChek, etc. And the N8’s built-in web browser supports Flash (although I use Opera Mobile).
11. USB On-the-go support: Turns your Nokia N8 into a full-scale computer. You can connect USB peripherals (such as pen drives or external hard drives) to the phone and it will treat them as mass storage. So transferring data to/from the phone via USB becomes a reality!
12. HDMI support: You can connect your phone to a HD television and watch your videos/pictures on the TV.
13. Bluetooth 3.0 support: For super-fast data transfer. Works with earlier versions of Bluetooth as well.
14. 3.5 mm headphone jack: Which means you can use any earphone or headphone with your Nokia N8.
15. Rugged phone with scratch-proof screen: Have already dropped it a couple of times, and no issues at all! The touch screen is made of scratch-proof Gorilla glass.
1. Symbian OS (and buggy, at that): Although refurbished, some of the N8 menus have the same old Nokia user interface feel, thanks to the Symbian OS. Due to this, the phone looks and feels like any other low-end Nokia phone when browsing some of the menus. There are also a significant number of minor bugs that mar the user experience.
2. Sluggish at times: Although the N8 has a 680 MHz ARM CPU and a dedicated GPU, it still feels sluggish at times, and is slow to react to events. For example, after disconnecting a call, the screen doesn’t refresh immediately and it doesn’t go back to locked mode quickly, so you get confused and try to lock it manually, which only causes the screen to unlock! Similarly, the phone is sluggish while opening or closing certain applications. This is something you will never notice on an iPhone.
3. Dictionary feature is dumb: The N8 dictionary utility is a prime example of poor programming. The dictionary setting is globally applicable across the entire device, which means that if you turned the dictionary on when composing a SMS, it will be on everywhere, even if you are typing a URL in the web browser or searching a name in the phonebook! By contrast, in my old Sony Ericsson phone, the dictionary setting was applicable only in the SMS/MMS/Email application.
All in all, I’d say the N8 is good value for money considering the features it packs in and the good battery life. As mentioned, the USP is clearly the 12 MP camera with Xenon flash and HD video recording support, which makes the N8 better than a lot of dedicated digital cameras!
The other USP is GPS support, although if you are planning to use it heavily, you might be better off buying a dedicated GPS receiver, because the phone’s battery drains fast if GPS is on for a long time due to the screen being on continuously.
As for the basic phone functionality (phone calls and messaging), needless to say, no one does it better than Nokia!