Thoughts on mobile development - Symbian, Blackberry, Android, J2ME and iPhone

Nokia N8 – the phone to bring me back

By Aaron Davidson, in , posted: 3-May-2010 12:57

Any technophile knows the feeling.  Anticipation cut with an unreasoning desire to possess.  You can already feel it in your hands. defines lust as "a passionate or overmastering desire or craving" which is a close approximation but what we're really talking about here is "technolust" which the Urban Dictionary does a reasonable job of defining.

The last time I was gripped by this feeling, and perhaps the last time anyone was moved by this feeling for a Nokia product, was before I bought my N95 8GB.  An absolutely brilliant phone which naturally I just had to have.  The fun part was that the excuses I used to justify the purchase of this device were unexpectedly borne out when its TV-out proved to be the perfect no hassle way of blowing clients away during an app demo.  The N95's successors have never quite managed to generate the same cachet although some may argue the case for the N900.  Maybe Nokia's PR just wasn't up to it but mostly I think its devices and the aging Symbian OS powering them simply couldn't cut the mustard.  Silk purse and sows ear anyone?

Nokia announced it's latest superphone contender last week, the N8:


The N8 has all the hallmarks of a classic Nokia superphone - serious hardware.  A 12mp camera, HD video recording and playback, HDMI connectivity etc.  It's styling is solid if unimaginative (the black and silver look good, the orange and other colours, questionable but my aesthetics are my own).  Best of all Nokia has finally shifted from the incredibly tired 434 mhz CPU's that its been using forever.  The N8 uses a 680 mHz ARM 11 with a dedicated graphics processor unit.  While this still isn't the 1 ghz ARM Snapdragon packed by Google's Nexus One it is on par with the iPhone 3GS' 833 mhz (underclocked to 600 mhz) ARM Cortex-A8.  I know, mhz, like money, isn't everything, but more is often better!

The two single biggest complaints levelled against Nokia's smartphones over the last couple of years has been sluggish performance and a tired OS.  With the hardware the N8's shipping with, particularly the processor upgrade, hopefully sluggish performance will be a thing of the past.  The big question mark with this phone really hangs over it's OS - Symbian^3.

I have a couple of concerns about the N8 and its shiny new OS:

Firstly, Symbian^3 is a stop-gap release, the stepping stone to Symbian^4 which both Nokia and Symbian view as their pitch at a high impact OS.  With so much attention focused on Symbian^4 just how much love is Symbian giving Symbian^3?  Nothing's been said to my knowledge about the ability to upgrade your N8 to Symbian^4 in due course but on past form that won't be possible.  If you buy this device you'll be marooned on Symbian^3 forever.  Not fatal as you'll still be able to run QT based apps that target both Symbian^3 and Symbian^4 but you won't be able to take advantage of any apps that just target Symbian^4 such as any app taking advantage of the improvements Symbian^4 introduces.  I'd be feeling a whole lot more comfortable about buying this phone if I knew that it was going to be upgradeable to Symbian^4 in due course.

Secondly, Nokia doesn't have a great recent track record for releasing solid devices on a new OS - the N97 and 5800, its first Symbian 5th edn devices, were riddled with bugs which have had to be addressed with many many successive waves of firmware updates.  Nokia itself has acknowledged that it did a shocking job, the devices were launched when the hardware, not the software was ready.  Comfortingly these devices work like clockwork today but it was a rough ride for early adopters.  If Nokia had released the devices with the firmware they use today then they would have been much more successful but then of course by the time the firmware was finally bug free the devices may have been too outdated to launch I suppose.  It's worth noting in this regard though that by all reports Nokia's N900 launch (using Nokia's Maemo 5 OS) was brilliantly orchestrated.  Perhaps Nokia should consider getting some devices out to reviewers before the big day to reassure those with N97 scars that this time things will be different.

So is the N8 the phone to bring me back?  Has Nokia done enough?  Enough to give me itchy fingers at least, yes I can feel this phone in my hand already, but its not something that I'm lusting after yet.  It's a while yet before this phone launches so there's plenty of time for me to catch the bug however and this is a phone I can see myself falling for if Nokia can just give me a little reassurance.  Ah hell, Nokia, why don't you just send me one?  I'll put all our history behind us and write nice things about it . promise!

How is everyone else feeling about this phone?

Other related posts:
Time for Symbian device vendors to ante up?

Comment by David, on 4-May-2010 02:53

I'm feeling very keen about this phone! Especially like that it has a xenon flash, finally a worth successor for the mighty N82.

Comment by johnr, on 4-May-2010 11:35


Comment by David, on 6-May-2010 13:22

If you keep looking at what is coming down the pipeline, you will never buy anything.
If you look at the N8 in isolation of future technology (e.g. 4G) and software (e.g. Symbian^4) then it will work for you - you know it will make you happy.
I'm using a N95 and am due for an upgrade. The N8 is a serious contender, but fortunately, I have a few months to wait before it arrives in NZ. If Nokia announces say the N98 with keyboard and touchscreen on Symbian^4, then I will wait a while longer, but when the N8 arrives and nothing better has been announced, I will buy.

Author's note by ald, on 6-May-2010 14:25

Hi David, agree entirely.  I couldn't wait to get my N95 and when I got it I wasn't dissapointed.  From what I've read my experience would have been a little different had I rushed into an N97 but it does sound like Nokia have this phone sorted out now.  Lets just hope the N8 is as buttoned down and solid as the N95 was!

Comment by Henrik, on 7-May-2010 03:35

This device has huge potential (much more than the "promise" of the N97 ever had), and it is a must-have for me, for the following reasons:

1. Apparently it's specs are so awesome, that despite costing half of what the iPhone costs, people still compare them. This is funny, and alone is a reason for me to give a virtual "nose punch" to the fruit fanatics.

2. It's specs are so awesome, that I look forward to using all of them. The new 4G network architecture, the camera and HD videorecording, the HDMI feature, the widget-system (finally enough RAM to really use it) etc.etc.

3. The CPU/RAM/OpenGL 2.0 specs gives me faith that earlier horrors will be a thing of the past. The videos seems to confirm it, which is good.

Comment by Handsomedan, on 7-May-2010 14:31

My only concern is that the Ovi store has such a lot of rubbish that the N8 won't be fully able to realise its potential. Graphics processors are only really useful if you have something that's worth displaying, er, graphically.

It'll be a full-noise launch full of hype and hoopla, but the phone will let itself down, I fear. I just think they'll launch before it's fully ready.

I was a 5800 user for a while. Got sick of the bugs even after the firmware upgrades. I have had a bug-free fruitphone for a couple of months now and throughly enjoy it.
If the N8 is able to promise such a good user experience as the fruit, then I may be tempted back to the Nokia mothership. Maybe.

Author's note by ald, on 7-May-2010 15:31

Handsomedan, thanks for your comments.  My thoughts exactly.  I think there are a lot of people out there like you and I, we like Nokia phones and we'd be happy to go back to Nokia if, IF, it can launch a phone that delights.  That's the thing with the "fruitphone" - as much as many people hate to admit it, it delights its users.  It just works and there are a ton of apps for it that are free, fun and just work as well.  My fear is that Nokia will give into temptation and ship an amazing piece of hardware with a substandard OS and firmware ala S60 5th edn (N97 & 5800 specifically).

It does look like a nice phone though .... if the initial reviews are good then a lot of people like me could be reaching into our pockets!

Comment by onionpeel, on 8-May-2010 07:37

I've been using Nokia phones for over 12 years and have never had the kind of issues that others have alluded to. I guess I just research and pick my phones well (or would you call that luck?)
I have a good feeling about the N8!

Comment by damo1234, on 4-Jul-2010 17:44

does anyone know when this is due to release here in NZ? Im a huge nokia fan but havent found a device to match the E71 and the N8 certainly looks lije something I can upgrade to.

Comment by Chris Jones, on 16-Aug-2010 21:22

Hi, great informative article which is appreciated. Would you have an idea of the NZ release date as yet? As always, Nokia and the major retailers are giving nothing away! Many thanks, CJ.

Comment by carleeto, on 10-Sep-2010 15:48

I'm going to be getting the N8 for my wife. I see it as a camera with video that's also a smartphone. The missus is moving from a normal phone and this will be her first smartphone. From that point of view, UI responsiveness etc isnt a problem given the rubbish non-smartphone users have to put up with anyway.

The main thing is that she has a robust device that has a big touch screen, takes excellent pictures and video and can connect easily to a TV. Nokia make phones that can take a thrashing. The camera sensor on this phone is bigger than most point and shoots, it has a mini-HDMI out, so the TV option is there and bonus, it can act like a USB host - so external HDD + smartphone  = movie playing system.

Honestly, for myself, I'm hoping someone comes up with a way to dual boot Android on it.

Comment by Parewanui, on 18-Nov-2010 09:22

I wanted to get a phone I could use on either voda or tele.

voda and tele are different frequencies...
tele = 850/2100 
voda = 2100/900

The Nokia N8 is 5-band and covers HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100.

Since the Nokia N8 is 5-band does it cover Telecom's 850MHz WCDMA and Vodafone/2Degrees 2100MHz HSDPA?

It is just that I see the phone importers selling 2 versions of the phone - one tele and 1 voda/2degrees.
My wife likes her Nokia 5800 and I'm keen to get her a Nokia N8.  She often mis-places her phone and/or camera. The phone rings and she can find it again, but the camera goes missing for longer periods. So if I get her a phone with the camera there will be less dramas with lost gadgets!!

Author's note by ald, on 18-Nov-2010 10:11

Parewanui, I'd be careful about assuming that because the N8 supports 5 bands, including those used by Telecom and Vodafone, that you will be able to purchase one and it will work on both networks.  I've seen numerous devices released that support 5 bands, but they achieve this through two different hardware configurations, one for the Telecom bands and one for the Vodafone bands.

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Aaron Davidson
New Zealand

Co-founder and CEO of SimWorks - New Zealands leading developer of mobile applications.

SimWorks Anti-Virus protects over 1.5 million mobile phones around the world everyday.

SimWorks phone backup enables mobile operators to protect their subscribers mobile phone contacts and provide their subscribers with unique and compelling new ARPU boosting services.

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