So, I bit the bullet. I went down to my local Nokia dealer, and they informed me that they had received the fixed batch of N8s that were supposed to have corrected the power down problems that affected some of the initial batch. I couldn't resist, and grabbed a Nokia N8 in Orange
Here's the N8 next to my venerable (and defunct) N70:
Here are my first impressions after using it for a couple of days.
The physical dimentions are very close to the iPhone 4 - roughly the same thickness and the same weight (135g for the N8). The build quality of the N8 is very good - the main body is anodised aluminum and the top and bottom tips are plastic. The screen is a 3.5" AMOLED (no SAMOLED, sorry guys) protected with a layer of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass (the same as the Droid X). There is a physical lock slider switch (you can download a touchscreen slide to unlock app a la iPhone if it tickles your fancy). A couple of Torx screws secure the ostensibly non user-serviceable 1200 mAH battery. It has a 680 MHz ARM11 CPU with a Broadcom GPU running Symbian^3 and is capable of multitasking. But what's it like to use?
Well, it's definitely not as polished a UI as iOS. Symbian's been around a long time, and some of the weirdness has been propogated over the generations. Be prepared to dig around to find settings and utilities (the File Manager for instance is buried under Menu->Applications->Office->File Manager. Intuitive, wot? I guess in the 1930s people kept their filing cabinets in the office
) The device is normally very snappy, with smoothly animated transitions between home screens (you get 3 that you can swipe around), but it will occasionally seize up for a second or so. It's similar to the 1st Gen iPhone in that regard, but when it's fast, feels as snappy as a 3GS. You can set shortcuts and widgets on your home screens 6 rows deep. Each row can accomodate 4 shortcuts or 1 widget. A long press of the Menu button will bring up a Task Manager that lets you switch between and kill running processes. Generally, it's quite usable, and after a period of acclimatisation (during which, to make things worse, you're just getting around to setting up the phone), the N8 is nearly as usable as a modern smartphone (iOS, Android 2.x). Oh, and there's cut and paste
. It's also *very* usable as a phone, something many other smartphones seem to neglect these days. Call quality is pretty good, and I could not elicit signal (or bar) loss no matter how I gripped the phone. The phone can be set to switch to silent mode if turned over on its face (very useful in a meeting or lecture room), and the menu button will flash to indicate missed calls and messages.
The screen is very readable outdoors, if not as bright as the iPhone 4's retina display. Unfortunately, it is a veritable fingerprint magnet - I swear the thing would pick up prints even if my fingers never got close to it. The rest of the body is fortunately very 'print resistant. I had thought to be able to use it without a screen protector because of the Gorilla Glass and all, but caved and bought a fav/ve screen protector after a day, which unfortunately makes the display look a little grainy.
The initial reviews were full of complaints about the lack of cohesiveness in the N8's UI, and fortunately, Nokia is responding to them very well IMO. An update to Ovi Maps (3.06) added pinch zoom to the app. Unfortunately, it also forced me to redownload all my GPS maps - the USA maps were 1.8 GB! Sadly, there is still no portrait QWERTY keyboard, even with Swype installed, although Opera Mobile (not included) very handily has its inbuilt portrait keyboard which is very similar to the iPhone's. Apps on the Ovi store are still a bit scarce, and not helped by a poor search function and confusing layout. Skype has a N8-compatible client on their own site, but is not listed on the Ovi store. Sadly, it has no widget functionality at present, so you will only receive messages if the app is running - which fortunately, you can keep in the background, thanks to multi-taskability (is that a word?).
Battery life is said to be good. I haven't had the chance to do a full rundown test yet, as the phone will charge over USB, and I've been doing a lot of syncing and transferring media. People on the nokia forums have been claiming 2-2.5 days with moderate use. I've left my device unplugged overnight and it still has full bars, so we'll see.
The camera on the phone is pretty good. It's a Carl Zeiss f/2.8 lens with an equivalent FOV of 28mm (film equivalent) and a 1/1.8" 12 MP sensor. Exposure is very good, and detail at the pixel level is pretty good (nokia states that they left some noise in to preserve detail and allow users to do more in post). One thing I like about the camera is the use of ND filters instead of an adjutable iris for exposure control. This means that you don't run into diffraction issues with small apertures on small sensors in bright light. If you want to dig into the camera settings, you can adjust exposure, ISO (100-800) and white balance, but sadly no touch to focus, or anything in the way of focus point control. The focus points seem to cluster around the center, so we're back to focus-recompose, which is not a biggie. Here's a sample shot straight from the phone with no PP (flickr resized the original 9 MP image though).
N8 sample camera shot:
Good things about the device, it can function as a USB mass storage device (toggleable in menu) so you can drag and drop files. It will play media files you drag onto the phone's onboard flash (16 GB standard) or MicroSD card (up to 32 GB) with no problems. Even in device mode (where it shows up as a phone when connected to your computer instead of drives) you can still drag and drop files across. It can play 720p videos and supports H.264, MPEG4, VC1 and a variety of file formats (I've had success with mkv, avi, mpg, mp4 but not vob or m4v). For audio, it plays mp3, aac, ac3 and wma but not flac. The coverflow music player is über cool, but you'll want to make sure your ID3 tags are in order before you transfer your songs over, as the app handles all album and song arrangement based on the metadata.
2 days ago, my thought was that I'd never recommend the phone to anyone else. The UI was klunky and confusing and sporadic. Now, though, I've discovered how powerful it is for a smartphone (homescreen widgets are still something iOS lacks, and being able to mix and match app shortcuts and widgets is very handy). It helps that Ovi Maps (a big reason to get this phone) updated their app during my use to improve their touch UI, and that after an initial learning curve and customisation frenzy on the phone, I've settled into a normal usage pattern and found the phone to be very usable both as a smartphone and (just as importantly for me) as a phone. I'm not saying I haven't had rough spots with the phone - a corrupted media database forced me to google how to delete the db files so the phone would automatically rebuild the music library), and I also doubt the N8 (or its Symbian^3 stablemates) will steal marketshare from the iOS and Android faithful, but the N8 really is a device that Nokia can be proud of.
EDIT: Battery life update. 16 hrs in and I'm at 4/7 bars. Did some light browsing on 3G and wifi, listened to an hour of mp3s and installed a few apps from the Ovi Store (Skymap, TouchCalc graphing calculator, angle measuring tool). Some light email and facebooking.
Wind, Sand and Stars.