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back to article Hands on with Nokia's flagship N8

How often do you see somebody in town with a high-end Nokia phone these days? Is there even such a thing? Nokia's flagships have gone missing, of late, along with half the fleet. Well, all that should change come early autumn, as Nokia starts to fight back against the pummelling it's been taking from Apple and RIM over the past …

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Bronze badge

Reliability

My much loved N97 began having the well-documented freezing issues recently and, upon receiving it from it's second repair, was pronounced finally, unresolvably dead.

This time round I will be waiting at least 6 months before upgrading to this phone (or whatever's around) because I have no faith in Nokia's touchscreen phone reliability anymore.

I would be interested to read more about the N8 once it's been in reviewers hands for a while but even the new additions and gesture-based UI goodies haven't sold me yet and I'm a Nokia fanboi.

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FAIL

Nokia/Symbian = Fail

And how long after release of the N8 will it be until Nokia produce yet another 'flagship' phone? A week? Two?

Nokia hardware is usually impressive but unfortunately the woefully out of date Symbian will always be it's Achilles Heel. I don't care how many megapixels or HDMI connections it's got Nokia, it's all about the OS.

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If it's all about the OS ...

... then you should by a Symbian phone because it has an OS that is much more mature and advanced than the competition

What you probably mean is "it is all about the *GUI*"

I am of normal intelligence and so don't find operating a smart phone as challenging as a lot of message board critics like yourself seem to.

I suppose if a you can't tell the difference between the user interface and the operating system then you should just buy the phone that is easiest to use, probably that one with the big, friendly buttons they market to old people.

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Silver badge
Welcome

O RLY?

I have a look at other phones from time to time to see how they're getting along but there's never anything which tempts me away, there's usually some feature or other missing which Nokias have, and probably comes as standard across many handsets.

To be honest I don't think there's much wrong with Symbian/S60 apart from a clunky UI. If you can train yourself to put up with Windows XP on the desktop then Symbian's hardly a challenge. That said the settings are probably only fully usable by those who've used S60 since the beginning.

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Anonymous Coward

How often do you see somebody in town with a high-end Nokia phone these days?

Errr ... everytime I see someone with an N900, me included!

(Oh, and my partner too.)

Cheeky Monkey!

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Hi End, not the same as Hi-Quality. Just means expensice / Over priced.

"Camera first"... So not a phone then.

Yet it will be sold as a phone, by phone sellers, and bought to be one by customers that buy into the hype and preey pictures. Yet isn't a phone. Just like the N900. I know I have one

That to me sums up Nokia's problem. They don't make phones, they try and find a market for a camera with a phone, or a computer with a phone. Doing neither well and marketing both badly. The N900 has TV out, this has HMDI and so does the leaked N9. But who cares if it can't get MMS, tell you of a missed SMS, sync with outlook, use the OVI app store and browse the web with flash 10?

S60, Maemo, Meego. All the same issues, not thinking of end users and a UI that isn't what users actually need. Then letting people down with hardware and support for their poorly released and ill thought out camera/internettablet/DVDplaying/TVwatching/browsing phones.

Me thinks the hammering will continue, long into 2011 when Meego finally reaches maturity and Symbian 4 is about. Perhaps too late me thinks.

On the plus side I was playing the original Doom today on my N900. There are no apps in the app store for Nokia for Maemo or Meego, but you can port proper games from linux and give yourself arthritus on the worlds smallest keyboard.

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Anonymous Coward

Unbelievable.

I don't understand what you are saying, at least it doesn't make sense.

In my country Nokia sell a HUGE variety of models that suit the individual need of many different users.

Looks to me that if you are in the market for a proper camera phone (and a lot of people are), this N8 is the only truly decent one on the market.

BTW, the N900 isn't a phone, if you bought one expecting it to have all the features of an average smart phone then that was foolish. As far as I can see it has always been marketed as a mobile computer, not a phone.

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Silver badge

Errr....why?

"BTW, the N900 isn't a phone, if you bought one expecting it to have all the features of an average smart phone then that was foolish."

And why exactly is that? As far as I can tell it has every feature present in any of the other smartphones at my office, and a couple extra thrown in for good measure (mainly due to the end user accessing the native O/S and not a layer on top of it). Even the camera is surprisingly good.

Granted, the phone software had some bugs at launch, but they are gone. It does the phone bit perfectly adequately, and everything else superbly, though lacking some of the swish of other smartphones. I would love to hear what features it's missing that your "average smartphone" has.

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Dead Vulture

Good article until...

"half an hour's facetime"

Outside, NOW!

Coat (with Mini Uzi tucked inside. Come the revoloution.....)

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Do not see anything to upgrade to

There is simply not enough appeal in this to make me upgrade either my E71 or my wife's N95. With the latest software they both work good enough and with third party cables happily charge from USB (my greatest gripe with old Nokias - the bloody bespoke charger).

If one of them breaks, the price point looks appealing, but that is probably the only case where I may buy one. Otherwise I will just sit this one out and wait until Android and Maemo properly catch up with iPhone in about a year's time.

As far as the HDMI it will get as much use as the composite cable which was shipped with all N95s. I have yet to meet a person who has used it and there is a very good reason for it. It is called REMOTE or to be more exact the lack of thereof. Is it so bloody difficult to make the phone itself be remote-controllable via the standard bluetooth remote control profile for which there is an app already.

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Anton, it supports BT Keyboards and remotes I think

According to Nokia it does, in part 3 of their overview series they talk about remote controls a bit.

http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/11667_Nokias_N8_overview_video_part_.php

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Flame

The article shows a keyboard, useless...

That is exactly why it will not be used. If it is an entertainment device it needs a BLOODY REMOTE. Not a Keyboard.

That is exactly why it will still fail to fly. Basic failure of UE and no UE thinking. If it is a media device unless it uses a proper real remote it will not be used.

So by not shipping a bluetooth REMOTE and an app for other nokia phones to do the same Nokia is pretty much making this part of the tech unusable for joe average user.

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E71

If you have an E71 (or maybe a 900) you have one of the few Nokia phones of the past few years to be truly worth owning. A QUALITY device that...and I say that as someone who carries an iPhone and a Bold. A shame they really can't get it together elsewhere...

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One more thing

There is one other feature of the N8 that was not mentioned in the review: it is quad band GSM and five (quin?) band UMTS - ie 850MHz / 900MHz / AWS (ie T-Mobile US) / 1900MHz / 2100MHz - meaning it will work with any GSM family network in the world. Well done Nokia for that.

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Finally a new handset with decent specs:

680MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, 3D Accelerator

Screen aside, this thing slightly edges out the N900 for under-the-hood hardware specs. You can even get the same 'Bounce' game for it often used to demo the N900s graphics prowess.

I'll be keeping my Linux based N900 for some time however.

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Grenade

Finally?!

I presume you mean Nokia has finally got a prototype with decent spec's...

Although it's not released yet, and my 6 week old HTC Desire (with 1ghz CPU, 576Mb RAM and 3D Acceleration) tops the spec's already...

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Anonymous Coward

but...

It's not an iPhone 4 is it.... and therefore I and several million other people won't be buying one, we'll be getting a far superior product.

Gave up on nokia phones years ago... over-priced, under-reliable, shoddily built, un-intuitive cack.

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Anonymous Coward

Let me explain.

You have fallen in to the usual megahertz hole. Symbian requires less processor power to do the same tasks as Android - its power management is pretty good and was built in from first principles. The graphics coprocessor also takes a very large amount of the graphics processing load off the host processor, so it can spend more time doing what host processors do. So, the host doesn't have to do...camera, display, 3D graphics, HD playback and record, music, 2D etc - ie anything MM related. And, for those of you poo pooing the HD playback and HDMI out of these thing - you just try one out - the quality is blinding considering its just a mobile phone (Yes, I have used one)

In precis...Until you put your HTC next to the N8 and do direct comparisons, you cannot know whether it tops the specs just from the numbers.

(and yes, its a prototype, but one very close to launch, and newer prototypes are better already)

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OS

why are they still arseing around with s60? from the sounds of it this phone would rock with android. and get rid of these silly bugs that should have been sorted years ago.

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Because S60 still makes for the best phone

As an E55 owner I can attest that this sub 100g, half-qwerty handset is the bee's knees. I operate it solely with my left hand (right one is in a splint), took a few minutes to configure my Sipgate account for the built-in SIP support and has a noise cancelling mic which works a treat. Mind you I bought it as a phone, not an "entertainment unit", so this may place me in the majority. Oh and the re-moveable battery lasts for a week or so.

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Multiple Home Screen pages

"I find Android's choice of multiple pages on the home screen pretty pointless and nerdy"

..never found some useful widgets then?

I have 7 screens on my N1 and use at least 5 daily..

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FAIL

@The Original Steve

"Although it's not released yet, and my 6 week old HTC Desire (with 1ghz CPU, 576Mb RAM and 3D Acceleration) tops the spec's already..."

Yes, but that runs *java*, so it needs the CPU power to crawl along...

sent from my n900

(not really, but could have)

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Camera clarifications

Hi Andrew, it was good to see you at the event in London today.

I just wanted to clarify a few points you raised re the camera.

The pinch gesture in the still camera switches between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. In video it switches between 720p 16:9 video and VGA 4:3 aspect ration video. It's not used in camera to control zoom as it would cause significant camera movement and therefore result in jerky videos. There is a double tap for those occassions you want to reset the zoom or zoom as quickly as possible from one end of the zoom range to the other.

Using the hardware camera key it is possible to take images if the subject can't be focused upon (perhaps due to insufficient contrast or illumination and the subject is out of range of the focus assist LED). There is a touch based shutter key. Touching this activates the AF system and as soon as the subject is in focus it releases the shutter. In both cases it will prioritise autofocus before releasing the shutter. If it is unable to focus it will set the lens to hyper focal distance so you have the best chance of the subject still being in focus and then release the shutter. It will confirm the final focus status using red or green for the autofocus target area.

Not being able to talk to you at the time about these problems I'm unable to explain the cause of the difficulties you experienced. However, in my own personal experience the autofocus system is working very well even in total darkness up to the range of the flash and extremely fast, typically around just 350ms. However, given your comments I will be looking into this tomorrow as a matter of priority to ensure we haven't missed anything in this regard.

re focus in video. I believe the clip we presented today demonstrated how extremely well the Nokia N8 handles video recording even for a subject moving from one side of the frame to the other. [For those not present we demonstrated a video of a girl on a swing moving across the frame and back repeatedly]. I believe continuous AF would not have been able to track such a moving subject and maintain crisp detail in the way that the N8's Active Hyper Focal distance system is able to in such a situation. It's in fact situations exactly like this that encouraged us to use the system the Nokia N8 does to ensure reliable and dependable focus from around 60cm all the way through to infinity.

very best regards

Damian

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Bronze badge

@PhoneDaz

I'm afraid I still did not quite understand from you explanation what happens with the hardware camera key. Does it force fixed-focus (or "hyper-focal") mode?

The point about focusing a video is a good one. With dedicated video cameras, I have often got bad results with moving objects, or in low light because the autofocus vobbles indecisively. The hyper-focal approach may well be superior for casual videos. The pros will use manual focus anyway.

Too bad you could not make the N8 available now... Hard to decide whether to suffer my current aging cameraphone for the summer and get N8 later, or buy some of the existing offerings and skip N8 for wallet-depletion reasons.

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Hyperfocal

@MacroRodent.

In still capture mode if the N8 can't focus due to either insufficient light or contrast it will default to hyperfocal distance, this allows is to increase your chances of getting a sharp image even in very low light/contrast situations beyond the range of the focus assist lamp

You can also select landscape or sports mode which also uses hyperfocal distance.

In video mode we use hyperfocal distance all the time but maintain it actively by monitoring the lens position and then adjusting if necessary to maintain it. These lenses rely to some degree on friction and can therefore slip. This system ensures we maintain hyperfocal distance throughout the video. We're able to do this because we have a wide-angle lens with huge depth of field.

Hope that's clearer now?

Atb

D

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WTF?

@dick116

How long till they come out with another Flagship device? What like the N97? or the N900? About 8 months between each wasn't it or maybe more. Apple do theirs once a year, so what, why stand still if you've got something to show. The market is moving so quickly these days if you hang about you'll get nowhere. Can't wait for this (will wait till they have ironed out the bugs though, just like with anything these days), the first firmware update usually takes care of gripes that arn't noticed till they ship.

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FAIL

ORLY?

"Since almost everyone has had a bad experience of unprotected lenses..."

Does anyone actually own an original N97 which *doesn't* have scratches across the lens from the so-called protective cover?

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Happy

I want a PHONE,not an entertainment centre

I want a replacement for my Nokia 9000,something that rings loud so I can hear in a noisy environment,that rings for as long as it takes for me to find and answer it. A good qwerty keyboard ,easy read screen, text fax and email facilities,Oh yes I don't need a camera or video,in other words just update the 9000,make it lighter and thinner but just as long and with a battery life much,much longer that the miserly 15 hours the 9000 gave me.

Ive tried the LGs, Samsungs ,etc and they are all just temporary fashion accessories , I want a phone I can use that fits into my normal bloke sized hands.

I dont care a jot about operating systems as long as I can phone text fax and email and receive a signal in the Welsh valleys, come to that maybe a gps system would be useful too

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FAIL

such a shame

I was thinking of waiting till this came out to replace my N85, even though I'm no touchscreen only fan.

But reading on the 2nd page that you can't replace the battery without unscrewing stuff? no thanks.

It's a principal they're going for the apple side of things - image over usability. Not something I expected from nokia.

Chances are the screws will be taken out and lost after a day.

Grabbing customers from apple is one thing but it'll just take a repeat of SE bringing out the W800i for nokia to lose their old ones again.

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Anonymous Coward

Battery

Two small torx screw each side of the bottom of the phone. Remove, bottom (not back) drops off and inside is a perfectly normal Nokia battery. So, yes, you do need to undo them, but since I have never removed the battery in my phone (and getting the back off my crappy Samsung requires more tools than the N8!!), I'm not sure how much of a problem this really is.

As someone else said, the phone is really really solid - having the screw fixed camera cover rather than a sliding panel on the back really toughens it up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Somewhat fixed battery and other isues

Hi fellow AC,

The reason *why* they've semi-locked in the battery is purely to aid your 'perception' of build quality; there shouldn't be any rattles/fexing of the shell in use due to the battery being less-than-rock-solidly-mounted.

Re the N900; it has *most* of my needs BUT would have preferred it to have

* At least a 4.3- inch screen (like the HTC HD2), 5 inches EVEN better with 16:9/ 854 x 480 or even QFHD 960 x 540 pixels AND IT SHOULD SLIDE AND TILT!!

** The BLASTED KEYBOARD SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT LEAST THE 5 - ROW EQUAL OF THE HTC TOUCH PRO2

*** The processor was fine as launched; the RAM on the other hand I would have preferred to be 512 MB

If the TouchPro2- style Slide'N'Tilt screen wasn't used, the next best option would have been to design it as a bigger E90 Communicator : coupled with a 4.3 - to 5-inch screen, the increased RAM , bigger keyboard and space for the larger 1500 MAh battery, this would have come with the N95 8GB outer screen and KILLED the moaning about the lack of portrait orientation in most usage configs.

You may recall that until the E90, all earlier Communicators had an outer screen that was used for placing calls, reading/ composing SMS and obtaining basic status updates. If they had released the N900 in Communicator form, it would have also captured a LOT of the disgruntled E90 fraternity that are bemoaning the lack of an upgrade roadmap (until bedding-down of Symbian ^3/4)

The other benefit is that a Psion Revo- sized Maemo 5 Communicatorr with aforementioned specs would sell in exponentially greater numbers than the Booklet (dual- boot Win7 netbook) oddity they're trying to flog as a circa-£650 proof of concept!!

Do any of these Nokia lot know where one can get a consulting gig or are interminable amounts of gobshite and ridiculous swirly prototypes a prequisite?

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Anonymous Coward

Scrolling

"You don't need scrollbars if it's a true direct manipulation UI, you just swipe. I can't understand why they're there."

Because swiping only really lets you scroll a screen's width/height at a time, and if you've got a big page to scroll, that's a royal pain (this is a flaw of Nokia's web browser in the 5800). Scroll bars are good in that they not only let you scroll rapidly across a large range, but also allow you to tap either side of the handle to scroll a page at a time for accurate positioning (eg the contacts list in the 5800).

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Scrolling

Fair enough, but if you know the start and end points of the range (and/or what it contains) you can do away with them. For example: scrolling through a long list of songs or addresses on the iPhone doesn't need a scroll bar.

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Nokia with stopgap OS shocker

Seriously, isn't it about time Nokia stopped reeling from the appearance of the *2007* iPhone and actually produced something with a decent UI? From this review it's obvious that after all the excuses, this is just another stopgap phone with an inconsistent mess of old patched-up S60 still flopping all over the place. How much longer do they expect anyone to care?

One of the posters above tried to justify S60 on the basis that people put up with XP on their desktop. Here's a newsflash - XP is obsolete. People use it because they have to, but nobody *has* to use S60 on a new smartphone. There's simply nothing that it does that isn't done better, more easily, and more productively on other platforms.

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Alert

Gasp!

Truth in Orlowski, this is the end of days.

Andrew, you're right about Meego. It's bloody shocking. Maemo is still ten times nicer, Meego is an ugly trite, useless pile of brightly-coloured fail in its current form. Having installed the release version on a few current notebooks, seen it lose wifi constantly, seen the apps lacking all sorts of features needed for various support of the relevant protocols, and seen a tonne of usability niggles, I have to agree with you. God, that's scary :)

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Anonymous Coward

Meego 1.0

Unless I'm mistaken Meego 1.0 is mainly a platform for developers. There aren't any devices that ship with Meego, are there? It's how open source works: release often, release early. It's how you get developers on board and how things get tried out.

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