The N8 is one of the most popular Nokia phones of recent times, running on Symbian Anna and noted for its fantastic 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a Xenon flash.
The N8 has been one of Nokia's most popular phones in recent years and with Nokia's agreement with Microsoft to switch to Windows Phone 7 this may be one of the last Symbian devices produced by the mobile giant. Although Symbian is still the most popular operating system in terms of market share it is beginning to show its age when compared to new and intuitive features being introduced on competing systems.
The main highlight of the N8 is certainly the 12 megapixel camera that comes included. This features Carl Zeiss optics and an LED flash and is one of the highest quality cameras that you can find on a smartphone.
The N8 is a chunky looking phone, sturdy and reliable but perhaps a little bit behind the times in terms of appearance. The exterior contains lots of buttons, controls and sockets that makes the body look a bit cluttered, but certainly provides a great deal of functionality. The N8 has a home button, on the bottom left of the screen, and volume controls on the right side. There is also a screen lock slider, dedicated camera button, and the power button on the top of the phone.
Ports include the power socket, microUSB, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone socket and two trays for the SIM card and for microSD cards. The exterior microSD tray is a great idea, as it allows you to easily swap memory cards although I am in two minds about having the same feature for the SIM card. This does of course mean that you don't need to remove the battery to access the SIM, which is good because you can't remove it anyway due to the N8's unibody design.
The back of the N8 has a protruding camera lens, which seems to have been made deliberately prominent. This is, I guess, to emphasise the 12 megapixel camera but I can't help feeling that it is unnecessary and detracts from the overall physical appeal. All in all, the N8 is just the right size and is comfortably weighted and feels more like a phone than many other touchscreens.
The N8's body is made out of aluminium, so it feels a lot sturdier than plastic phones but is still pretty light at 135g. The protruding camera on the back is prone to having its paint chipped away slightly at the edges, even though the phone is generally pretty good at avoiding this thanks to scratch resistant paint. I should point out that this is only slight and is not going to make a huge difference to the appearance of the phone if it happens.
The N8 has a sliding lock on the side which allows you to lock the screen, and this can be unlocked by pressing the home button and then an onscreen button. This is fairly good at preventing the phone from unlocking in your pocket as the onscreen button cannot be pressed if something is close to the proximity sensor, so you should be able to avoid any accidental pocket calls. Alternatively you can also unlock the phone using the physical slider on the side. This lock is pretty sturdy and robust so it is not likely that other contents of your pocket will be able to shift it with ease.
The N8 has a relatively small screen compared to many newer touchscreen phones, although it is similar in size to the iPhone. The AMOLED screen does not make up the full front of the phone, with quite a lot of bezel surrounding it. To me this makes the screen feel a little cramped compared to phones where the screen makes up almost all of the front.
The 360 x 640 resolution offers good detail for the size of the screen and the N8 has 16 million colours available. The screen is capacitive with multitouch support and also comes with scratch resistant glass. The screen is really responsive, detailed and brightly coloured offering a good user and visual experience.
The 12 megapixel camera is without a doubt the central feature of the Nokia N8. This is a great camera and is still as fantastic as it was when the phone was released back in 2010. It comes with a Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss optics as well as plenty of features and settings to play around with. The xenon flash provides far greater quality in darkened environments compared to standard LED flashes, and certainly a lot better than phones that do not include a flash.
Within the camera you can go directly to a photo editor to edit the photo you have just taken. This includes features to remove red eyes, crop, insert text, add effects or just simply draw all over. The N8 features a physical camera button, and you can push this down partially to focus, or all the way to take a picture. This camera also has 720p video recording, which is pretty decent video quality. There is also a video editor for you to play around with and edit your videos.
The N8 is a bit of an all-round performer, although it may be of particular interest to people who need a good camera on their phone. There are entertainment and professional features abound, ad so the phone will suite most types of user.
The Nokia N8 does have a fantastic battery life and it outperforms most rivals in this regards. The N8 can remain on standby for days without even a slight drop in battery life, while most leading smartphones of today will be dead by the end of the day. Many phones will state quite an impressive battery life but not really live up to their claims, but the N8 is one of the phones where the stated battery life is pretty truthful.
Not only does the N8 offer excellent battery life but it also offers an excellent battery management app. This will tell you roughly how long you battery will last for (in days, hours and minutes), and can also tell you how much talk time, web browsing time and music playback that your battery can still offer. I can't really comment on how accurate it is but it certainly offers a greater level of information compared to other smartphones that will just provide a little battery icon or percentage.
This app can also break down your previous phone usage over the course of a week to tell you what is consuming most of your battery power. This is not down to an app level, but can tell you if you are using most of your battery power on phone calls, GPS use, music, web browsing, playing with the camera or messaging. The only downside about the N8's battery, which will only be a concern for some people, is that it is non-removable with it being permanently encased in the metal body. So if anything happens to the battery, you may need a new phone rather than a new battery.
The N8 has a 680MHz processor and 256MB RAM that may not sound much in today's age of dual core smartphones but it provides plenty of power for the Symbian OS to play around with. It is also capable of running some pretty impressive software, including games like the Sims 3.
The N8 allows for multitasking and provides a task manager so that you can easily switch between open applications or close down applications that you no longer need. You can access this through the menu or by holding down the physical home button so it is always easy to get to. I have had over 10 processes running at once without any noticeable slowdown in performance, although the task manager doesn't tell you what things are consuming the most resources. Also, sometimes it is a bit too easy to reopen a running app when you were trying to close it down.
The Nokia N8 runs on Symbian^3. Although Symbian is still the most used phone operating system I can't help feeling that it is quite out of date, and not as easy to use as iOS or Android. Importantly, it wasn't really designed specifically for touchscreen phones and the main homescreen can be a bit awkward to use and counterintuitive if you have experience of either the Apple or Google interfaces.
The interface has 3 main home screens. On these you can place widgets to get quick access to various services and apps, like the music player, internet or Ovi Store. You can change the background and have a different background in place for each of the three homescreens, which you may feel the need to do as the stock theme is not very appealing.
Tapping the home button brings up a grid of more touch friendly icons, where you can get to the settings and tinker around with the phone a bit more. You can also change this to a more condensed list view if you wish. Here you can change Symbian's colour scheme, with several options on offer and more available for download. There is quite an extensive range of themes on offer from the Ovi Store. As these are developed by third parties some are better than others. These themes not only change the colour of buttons and menus, but can also completely transform icons as well.
You can change to font size to be larger or smaller, although you can't change the font itself. Not directly from the settings menu anyway. I only mention this because the standard Nokia font used on the N8 isn't the best looking, and there are some people who really take issue with it. However, you can also customise the welcome note to your own text or image. On screen keyboards are good and responsive, and will usually adjust to the situation in which they are being used. In landscape mode, the keyboard will be fully QWERTY while portrait will offer up an alphanumeric layout which is perhaps a bit easier to use than trying to squash a full QWERTY keyboard into such a small space.
The N8 features a user guide which can instruct you on how to make changes or perform certain tasks. You can access this from the options menu in most places or from the applications folder. This contains lots of helpful information regarding most features of the phone to help you if you ever get lost or confused.
I have found Symbian a bit difficult to navigate around, mainly because the buttons on offer keep changing from screen to screen with no consistent layout. I should point out that I have not really used Symbian much before and so this might not really be an issue with experienced users of the interface. Perhaps I am too used to having a back button to get out of apps. You can return to the homescreen by pressing the physical home button, but sometimes all you want to do is go back a little bit.
Buttons can be labelled as Back or Exit, or various other things, and placed in different positions with little consistency making navigation a little confusing at first use. The option is not always available either, so for example visiting the Ovi Store from the videos menu doesn't seem to provide me with a quick way to get back to the video player without going all the way back to the homescreen.
The interface can be switched between portrait and landscape using the accelerometer, and the widgets on the homescreen will suitably rearrange themselves. The accelerometer use is extended to apps as well, and as mentioned earlier the keyboard used will be different for each orientation, rather than the same style of keyboard being squashed and condensed in portrait mode. Some people will like this, some will feel that the portrait multi-tap keyboard is a little outdated and not really necessary on a touchscreen phone.
I think that it is quite good to have this and a full QWERTY available in landscape, as you are given more choice on how to type. The only problem with using the portrait keyboard is with trying to type in numbers, you have to hold the buttons down for extended periods when you could just open up a separate keyboard on a QWERTY.
The N8 includes text to speech support, so you can get the phone to read texts messages if your vision isn't particularly fantastic. As far as I can see this doesn't seem to work for emails unfortunately. The voices on offer sound more sophisticated than the traditional Stephen Hawking style synthesised voice, and you can change the reading speed and volume. I guess there are different voices on offer, but the N8 I am using only comes with Martin. Martin is good though.
The N8 supports multiple email accounts, and you can place a widget on the homescreen to get access and which will show a brief summary of your most recent emails. You can add various web based email accounts, Gmail and Exchange accounts, although you can only have one of the latter. After adding an email address I encountered a bit of difficulty in trying to open a RAR file contained in one of the messages.
Having a look in the Ovi Store I couldn't really find anything to help, although by comparison it was a simple affair to pick up a RAR app on Android Market. The only solution I could find on the N8 was to install a whole new email client, which according to the comments in the Ovi Store is not particularly great at this task anyway. There is a ZIP manager installed on the N8, although as far as I can tell this does not support RAR. This is a minor point however, and is only really relevant if you need to open RAR files on your phone, which probably a lot of people won't.
The home button flashes when you receive a new message or miss a call, although this is not so obvious in daylight. If you are doing something when a message is received, you will be notified by a pop up box when returning to the homescreen. Messages can be displayed in an inbox, outbox, draft and sent folder, or you can also view them in threaded view in the style of a conversation. The iPhone and Android have both adopted threaded viewing for messages, although they do not offer the more traditional folder view that is available with the N8, which some people may prefer. Both systems can be used concurrently as well, so you always have the choice to flip between them.
For entertainment purposes, you can get quick access to music through a homescreen widget and music can continue playing while you go and do other things like surf the web. You can get back to the media player to change tracks or pause music quite easily by holding down the home button and using the task manager. You can of course lower the volume with ease, as volume controls are placed on the side of the phone.
You can flick through album covers to select music, or use a more conventional music library list. The music player includes shuffle, repeat and an equalizer for you to play around with – although this uses a selection of presets that can't be edited. You can pump up the bass however, or pick profiles to match certain types of music. The N8 features decent speakers and has a 3.5mm headphone socket as well.
One of the features of the N8 I really like, and that needs to be found on more phones, not less, is the FM transmitter. Many phones now come with an FM radio receiver, but very few are able to transmit as well. What do I need this for you may ask? One example is that you can store music on your phone and then transmit it to your car radio, allowing you to listen to all of your music without the need for burning huge amounts of CDs or having cables dangling about. This can also transmit RDS information too.
The video player allows you watch stored videos, videos you have recorded on the camera as well as videos from YouTube. The latter is normally contained in a separate app on a lot of other phones, so it is good to see this contained in the same place as all other video content. However, this doesn't seem to be a specially designed app for the N8 but instead takes you to the mobile version of the website.
From the same menu you can also go directly to the video section of the Ovi Store to buy new videos or just download free videos. Upon loading up I was taken to the best sellers which contained such fantastic videos as "Chimpamzees Party", "Sexy Blonde in Lingerie" and "Sexy Girl on a Chair". Interestingly there wasn't quite so much smut in the free section. The N8 has an HDMI port on the top, so you can watch videos from the phone through a TV. With the settings you can switch between widescreen and normal, or PAL and NTSC and can also use a flicker filter for enhanced picture quality. This is a mini HDMI port, although an adaptor is included in the box.
The N8 doesn't have DLNA so you cannot achieve the same thing wirelessly. The phone also has a microUSB slot, which you can use for various things like connecting to a computer. You can also use this for charging even though a separate 2mm charging socket is provided. The N8 also comes with Web TV, so you can watch a selection of TV programmes on your phone, and you can also get access to BBC iPlayer and similar services. You can also download videos from iPlayer to watch later on. Also on offer is a video editor, where you can make videos from existing videos or photos, or make a slideshow from photos. You can splice videos together, or cut sections out from a video and mix them around. Video quality is generally pretty superb on the N8's camera, just as it is with photos.
The web browser isn't particularly easy to navigate around, and going back can be a bit convoluted. You are provided with a search box at the tap of a button though, which is a nice little shortcut. The browser will generally load the mobile versions of websites, where available, which cannot be as fun to navigate around if you are used to more modern touchscreen phones that can display web pages in their full glory.
Connectivity wise the N8 is pretty impressive. It has 3G and Wi-Fi, although it was released a little while before DLNA became prominent. Videos can be outputted to TVs through HDMI though, as mentioned earlier. You can also connect the N8 to remote drives that may be connected to the internet, so that you can access additional media and files when on the move, or do things with your website if you have one. This won't be a feature that will be used by everyone however, but it is interesting to see it included.
The N8 also comes with Phone Switch allowing you to easily transfer contacts and data from other compatible Nokia phones. This is a good feature to have if you are moving to the N8 from another Nokia phone, although might not be so helpful if you are moving from some other manufacturer.
Under My Services you can get access to horoscopes or top up your phone with credit. It is nice to have this feature directly on your phone as you don't need to go and find a shop, which is convenient if you live in a place that doesn't have 24 hour stores and you need credit in the middle of the night. You can top up whenever you need to. You can also use this to find out about your tariff or get news and lottery information. I am not sure if this is a standard feature of the phone, or something specific to the T-Mobile version I am using.
The N8 does support social networking for things like Facebook ad Twitter, and comes with its own Ovi Social app to help. These networks can also be integrated into your contacts list so you can tap on a contact and see what they have recently tweeted or updated to their status. It isn't so easy to upload photos though and perhaps isn't quite as flamboyantly implemented as on other phones.
If you are a fan of Symbian or have primarily used Nokia phones before then the N8 is great, although if you are moving from an iPhone or Android phone you may find the system to be a bit of a step backwards. While Android and iOS were designed specifically for touchscreen phones Symbian feels a little bit counterintuitive and not as well suited.
The N8 has lots of great features that you won't find on many other phones, like the FM transmitter and the remote drive access, and the phone features a great camera and all the right connectivity options. Symbian to me is the biggest drawback of the N8. With time I could probably get used to it, and for people who have always used Symbian there will be no problem here at all, but I personally do not find it as user friendly as more modern operating systems like Android or iOS.
Although a lot of areas of the Symbian interface feature a back button, it seems an equal amount don't, which can be very annoying if you enter into something and then just want to go back a notch. You have to go all the way back to the homepage and follow your steps again. This is probably the thing I found most frustrating about Symbian.
The primary highlight of the N8 is the fabulous 12 megapixel camera, and if photography is your thing then this is certainly a phone worth going for, even just for this reason alone. The N8 has good access to apps, games, music and videos that can all be downloaded with ease, and is also good for messaging and email.
The option to not use threaded view is probably one of my favourite things about the messaging features on the N8, as some people may prefer to have the choice of messages being sorted into folders. At least both options are available. The N8 does seem to offer a lot of old school functions like this, and the multi-tap keyboard, that some people may still have a fondness for using.
All in all the N8 is a great phone, and out of the many touchscreen handsets now flooding the market it is probably one of the ones that most feels like an actual phone, and not a miniature tablet. I also get the impression that the N8 would be much more impervious to drops on the floor thanks to its aluminium casing, although I wasn't able to test this theory out.
In a word or two
The Nokia N8 is the latest high-end smartphone from Nokia that has the potential to rival the iPhone.
The casing of the N8 is made of anodized aluminium and comes in a range of bright and subtle colours. The ends of the phone are slightly rounded and the frame has an unusual, different-to-an-iPhone shape about it. The screen is the only feature on the front, aside from a small button to launch the menu and activate the phone. And on the back is the very stylish Carl Zeiss camera lens – with a scratch-resistant surface like the screen.
The screen itself is 3.5 inches, AMOLED and capacitive. This ensures your Nokia N8 user experience is vibrant, interactive and responsive – there is even support for 3D graphics for bringing your favourite games to life.
If the N8 proves to be as amazing as it looks and seems on paper, the phone will replace the N97 as Nokia’s flagship smartphone. Running on the latest Symbian 3 platform, the phone has 256MB RAM and 16GB internal storage so you can run the apps you want to and store the images you want to. With a microSD card, the memory can be increased to up to 32GB.
However, this is not the most impressive feature of the N8 – that really is its visual qualities. There’s the 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash – as well as the more standard features like face and smile detection. Even though this is a high-end device, a camera this good is striking. And there is film editing software onboard this Nokia so you can chop and change your snaps with ease. The camera’s video can capture HD video for clear footage.
When it comes to watching your images on the Nokia N8, you can do this on the high resolution screen or use the TV-out option via the HDMI connection and hook your phone to your HD TV. Combined with the Dolby Digital Plus for surround sound, the visual and audio capabilities of the N8 are in a league of their own.
To support your music experience, the N8 has a 3.5mm audio connector and plays up to two days’ music playback.
You can also enjoy social networking on the Nokia N8 as communication is streamed to the home screen – in a similar fashion to the MotoBlur function on Motorola phones and the Friend Stream on HTC devices. This allows you to see who’s messaging, tweeting, emailing or texting you in the one place – and we’re pretty certain you’ll be able to reply directly from here too.
You can personalise up to 3 home screens on the N8, which is good but when you consider all the apps available from the Ovi Store it may become a squeeze. The HTC Desire has 7 home screens, for example.
The Nokia N8 looks and, from what we know, is in a new class of its own when it comes to mobile media ability. With advanced features including a fantastic camera and video, WebTV and a browser with Flash support, this handset is bound to impress.