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Nokia N8 not quite the business

The Nokia N8 is packed with features aplenty, memory capacity enough, and battery life to amaze. Some even refer to it as a smartphone on steroids. But can it pass the Gadget 5 Question User Test? SEAN BACHER puts it through its paces and quickly realises that it may have a few drawbacks, depending on what you want out of a phone.

Nokia introduced its first GSM handset, the Nokia 1011, in 1994, and what a basic phone it was compared to today’s standards. The phone measured 165x60x45mm, sported an extendable antenna, operated only on the 900Mhz frequency and could only store 99 telephone numbers ‚ not to mention the fact that it cost a pretty packet at the time. Now Nokia’s latest phone, the much-anticipated N8, has become available in South Africa, and what a phone it is. And what an unimaginable distance Nokia has come from 1994. But have they come far enough?

The N8 is truly a smartphone ‚that much-abused term to describe a phone that also performs as a computer. It uses the ever-reliable Symbian operating system, now on version 3, and comes with a variety of applications to meet most typical needs. Those who demand more from the phone can download additional applications from Nokia’s Ovi Store.

To see just how just how smart this smartest of the Nokia phones has become, we put the N8 through the Gadget 5 Question User test.

1. Is it ready to use?

When I unpacked the phone from its box, the first thing I noticed was the large 3,5 inch screen encased in a bright yellow anodised aluminium case. I mention the shade because Nokia has released the phone in a variety of colours ‚ but the country in which you buy it dictates what colours are available from your cellular outlet.

First, you need to slip your SIM card in. Obstacle number one. The N8 employs a similar design to that of the iPhone, in that there is no removable back cover or detachable battery from where you would normally gain access to the SIM card slot. Instead, the N8 has a little cover ‚ I first thought it was a button of sorts ‚ on the left-hand side that you have to pull back to gain access to the slot. Once the SIM is in, switch the phone on and you are greeted with the traditional Nokia signature tune.

As long as the battery is charged, as soon as your SIM card is installed, and the phone has completed its boot-up cycle, you are able to make and receive calls, send text massages and perhaps even browse the Internet. But not so fast. Every one of the applications on the phones ‚ Twitter, Facebook, the Ovi Store app and e-mail, to name a few, has to be configured by entering the respective user names and passwords. Give yourself a good half an hour to set all these up.

Now the phone truly begins to shine. The N8 makes use of widgets, which are displayed on your home screen. They are customisable in that you can choose which widgets you want displayed and where you want them displayed. The widgets could be thought of as mini-feeds that are continually updated. For instance, I had a widget displaying my e-mail feed, below that one showing my Twitter feed and below that a widget showing the latest applications available from the Ovi Store. The beauty of this system is that you don’t have to access each application separately to monitor each feed. And if you want to access the application, you click on the widget instead of going through your application menu.

Of course, the more widgets you make available on your phone, the more data is being transferred back and forth. The guys at Nokia thought about this and made it easy to switch widgets to offline mode as quickly as you can set your phone to silent.

2. Is it easy to use?

It has been more than a year since I had last used a Nokia. Since then I have used numerous other makes and models and so was dreading trying to get back into the Symbian way of things.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Operating the N8, for ex-Nokia users, is like riding a bike. Although the operating system has gone through a few updates and the applications have changed somewhat, I had no problem finding and launching anything.

Fine-tuning the phone to my liking was also a breeze. Nokia’s Settings option is one of the easiest I have ever used. Every aspect of the phone’s configuration options I could think of was under this menu. If you can’t find an adjustment here, it simply doesn’t exist on the phone.

3. Does it deliver on its promise?

This is where the N8 starts to lose its appeal. The idea of a smartphone is a device that fits into your pocket and makes for a good substitute for your notebook or desktop while on the road. At the same time, it must offer great multimedia features.

Firstly, the integrated e-mail application is a complete disaster. Although it synchronised with my Gmail account, this was by no means seamless.

When you first set it up, your e-mails download in a flash. All great, but then, when you click on a mail to read it in its entirety, things start to fall apart. It took ages to download a full e-mail, despite my having set up the phone to download full e-mails.

Things get even worse when you decide to reply or compose an e-mail. The Nokia N8 only uses a virtual keyboard. No problems there: many phones do. But when you want to compose an e-mail or reply, you are presented with a new blank screen on which to compose your message or text.

Having to open a new screen on top of an existing one is confusing and unnecessary. It makes far more sense for the virtual keyboard to pop up at the bottom of the screen the minute you tap the reply option.

This is bad enough when you’re responding to mail. It gets infuriating when you have to fill in details like your username and password each time you access a secure site. Firstly, you have to remember what field you are filling in, i.e. your username or password, then you have to exit the screen, click on the next field, wait for the input screen to open, and then return to the site to log on.

Nokia will also lose the user’s appeal in the browsing department. One thing a smartphone has to do and has to do very well is be able to browse the Internet. In the past, the Nokia’s Internet browser has always fallen short here. Although its new browser is huge improvement over previous versions, what with its pinch zoom, Flash support and auto full-screen feature, it is slow and has no physical or on-screen option button that lets you control the browser, which would have made things like going back and forth between already opened pages easier.

There is however an alternative for when you really do get tired of the browser and that comes in the form of Opera’s Mini browser which available as a free download from the Nokia Ovi store.

My other major gripe with the phone is its integrated Twitter application. It continually logs me out, which doesn’t make sense as my widgets are continually up to date ‚ meaning I must be logged in. I also have to manually tell the Twitter application to refresh itself, and simple options like viewing profiles and the like are tedious.

The Nokia did, however, impress me with its battery life. One drawback with most smartphones is their battery life ‚ or lack thereof. The iPhone in particular is a culprit. But the Nokia just goes on and on, like many of the Nokia models that have gone before. I typically unplugged it from the charger at 6:30 in the morning and by 11 in the evening still had two bars left on the battery meter. Bear in mind that I am running dozens of applications at the same time, making phone calls, receiving calls, sending SMSs, composing emails, checking Twitter, activating the built-in GPS and, on top of all that, the widgets are updating themselves on the fly. The N8’s battery is phenomenal.

The phone’s integrated memory also impressed me ‚ all 16GB of it. More than enough space to store your MP3 collection and, should you start to run out, you can upgrade via the hot-swappable MicroSD memory card slot, which accepts cards up to 32GB in size.

This vast amount of memory tends to go hand-in-hand with the Nokia Ovi Store, which has an impressive array of applications ranging from security to themes to 3D high-definition games.

4. Is it innovative?

The word ‚Äòinnovative’ is quite a strong one, and for a company to develop an innovative product in the IT industry is a tall order. For a cellular manufacturer this becomes even more difficult, with each player trying to out-smart its rivals.

In the case of the Nokia N8, although the phone sports features and applications aplenty for anyone who needs a phone, none of them are really innovative. None set this phone apart.

However, Nokia has made endless improvements on conventional features. For instance, it boasts a 12 Megapixel Carl Zeiss camera, with a 2x digital zoom. Many home-user or non-professional cameras don’t offer such advanced optics.

Furthermore, the N8 has an HDMI output. When you first see this, you may think, ‚Äòwhat is the point?’ However, once you download an HD video and plug the phone into an HD television, you very clearly see the point.

For years I have been trying to stream both video and audio to my TV from my cellular phone, many times unsuccessfully and, when successful, with very disappointing results. The N8 makes child’s play of this: included in the box are HDMI cables and adaptors that let you connect the HDMI mini output port on the Nokia to a standard HDMI input on your television. This provided me with hours of fun ‚ to the point where I completely forgot about the amount of data being streamed to the phone. But that’s a matter between me and my cellular provider.

Also included on the N8 is an application that lets you tune it into your car’s radio. You may be familiar with a similar attachment for iPods. With this application, once it is tuned, you can listen to your downloaded MP3s on your car radio, making your road trips more manageable. With the vast amount of memory and phenomenal battery life, you can leave all those pesky CDs at home.

5. Is it value for money?

The functionality that the phone boasts, along with its great battery life, impressive memory, great multimedia features, combined with access to Nokia’s Ovi store, make it a great all-round smartphone. A retail price of around R6 000 makes it value for money, for those looking for great power, capacity and battery life. But as a business phone, the N8 really falls short. Try out the rivals at this price level before making the purchase decision.


The Nokia N8 really is a great phone to use. It is responsive, well-built and performs well in most areas. If you are looking for a solid phone that will provide you with hours of fun and remain up to date with what is happening in the world, the N8 will do the job. If, however, you need a phone to access your e-mail and other work-related functions, I recommend you look for one that is better geared to business functionality.

The Nokia N8 is available from all good cellular retail outlets.

We will revisit the Nokia N8 once the company has released its software upgrades and see how much of a difference they have made.

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2. Is it easy to use:

I’d say ever since mobile technology got us up on their feet, Nokia has been the easiest to use, VERY user friendly, more so I believe this one.

3. Does it deliver on the promise:

Yes, N8 hardware is superb, which is where the gist is. If people can look at it from a hardware point of view then they evaluate it correctly. software which is always changing can be an issue, few bugs here and there but can be fixed. So all I’m saying is, they promised a multimedia animal, is it an animal there? Yes! I agree some software glitches here and there but let us focus on what THE N8 IS! Software updates will always make it better, to a point where we can even compare it with other platforms but hardware its impeccable!

4. Is it innovative:

You bet it is! I would not even start to point out its endless capabilities, but truth be told, this is the future… 3D gaming, great camera on a phone, GPS, FM transmission, HD recording, Bluetooth 3.0, WLAN b/g/n, All those sensors jus make it innovative

5. Is it value for money:

Indeed… I wanted to get a DSLR camera this year but the money I had was way too low for a decent DSLR. But with less than R6000 I got myself this HD 720p recording machine, 12MP camera with such an awesome sensor all in a phone, and comparable with most digital cameras! What more could I do except to enjoy the benefits it offers me. Now I can go around everyday carrying such a camera and video camera all in a phone for great shots anytime in Jozi… Who thought being a papparazi would jus need a phone?

All in all, I am saying this is a great device… and truly, its what you do with it that make the difference!

this coupled with the USB-On-The-Go feature and the other connectivity options the N8 is definitely an example of mobile innovation

if Apple can call the iphone innovative surely at the very least the N8 would be able to call itself Revolutionary in comparison

the n8 isnt meant to be a business oriented phone either thats the E7 which has business specific features integrated

1. Nokia is working on a new browser as we speak. By all accounts it is exceptional. Apparently there will be an OTA update soon.

2. Work is also being done on a portrait QWERTY keyboard. The portrait keyboard was made a T9 one on purpose (easier one handed typing as well as familiarity) but Nokia seems to realise people want the choice of a QWERTY one so it is coming soon.

3. The two updates above will also mean that the keyboard no longer opens a full window. You will not be able to see where you are typing and not have to remember.

Yes, it can be argued that these should have been ready at launch but at the end of the day it is better late than never.

Reviewer, I fail to see why lifting a flap to insert the SIM is an obstacle! Surely it is easier than removing a back flap, battery and opening a SIM flap?

You also mention lack of innovation but I am not aware of many phones that have HDMI out, Dolby Digital Plus sound, USB on-the-go, penta-band capabilities and the like. You get all of this on the N8.”,”body-href”:””}]

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