Features Review : Nokia N8

SHARP SHOOTER: The Nokia N8 has an impressive 12-megapixel camera.
The highly customisable Nokia N8 is one feature-packed phone.
AFTER browsing Nokia's website for the feature-packed N8, we found out that the smartphone's tagline is "What Will You Do With It?"
That's a good question because frankly speaking we have no idea where we'd even begin.
Do we start with taking HD videos and photos using its impressive 12-megapixel camera? Do we play around with the games and social networking apps we've downloaded from the Ovi store? Or do we browse the Web with it?
Oh, we suppose we could use it to make calls too, but that seems downright pedestrian at this point.

FRONT VIEW: The N8 is encased in an aluminium body and its front features the 3.5in capacitive touchscreen.
Nokia is selling the N8 as a smartphone that can... well, do pretty much anything, really. As it says on the box, the N8 can perform everything from social networking to web browsing, although the impressive video/camera system is clearly the centrepiece of the package.
But before we get into the inner workings of the N8, let's take a look at the hardware: The device itself is encased in an aluminium body and its front features the 3.5in capacitive touchscreen.
This is pretty standard fare for current generation touchscreen phones, and the N8 was fairly responsive to our touch.
In fact, we rather liked how the phone vibrated mildly when we pressed buttons on-screen; it provided some nice tactile feedback.
Flip the phone around and you'll see the N8's much-touted 12-megapixel camera, which protudes from the back like a hump.
This disqualifies the phone from being called sleek but the tradeoff is worth it; the camera comes complete with xenon flash, Carl Zeiss optics and the ability to shoot HD videos at 720p quality. Or, put simply: Wow!
The camera is honestly the best thing about the N8; if you're a casual camera user, the point-and-shoot functionality will be more than sufficient to capture sharp, high resolution (4,000 x 2,248-pixels by default) pictures.
If you're more of an enthusiast, you can play around with options like the white balance, colour tone and macro setting to get a more perfect shot.
The video-capturing feature is further complemented by the HDMI port located on the top side of the phone; when you're done recording your masterpiece and editing it with the N8's built-in (albeit very simple) video editing app, you can plug the phone directly into a compatible wide screen TV to share your video with friends.
The slot-in simcard and microSD ports.
Not so simple
Once you're done "oohing" and "ahhing" at the N8's hardware, you'll likely find yourself less impressed with the software that's running inside it.
The N8 runs on the latest Symbian ^3 OS, which means - technically speaking - it has a lot of capabilities and raw power under the hood.
Unfortunately, for the average user, this seems to equate to complexity. For starters, it took us a while to customise the three homescreens (which we could populate with a mailbox, our favourite contacts, Twitter feeds and more).
The only way we could, say, change the wallpaper was to choose that option from the Options menu when it's opened in edit mode, while edit mode is in turn accessible by choosing the appropriate option in the Options menu when not in edit mode.
On another occasion, we tried to get the N8's otherwise functional web browser to connect via a local WiFi network instead going through our expensive 3G plan. For this to work, we had to go through five layers of menus, disable a bunch of automatic settings and make an offering to our ancestors.
Your mileage will vary of course, but don't be surprised if you have to run across a gauntlet of prompts, buttons and configuration settings occasionally, particularly when you first start.
Symbian ^3's ability to multitask also acts as a double-edged sword; the benefit of having multiple applications running at once is balanced by the drawback of accidentally leaving unused apps running in the background. (This can very easily be done by an average user.)
Fortunately, the N8 seems to have sufficient grunt power to accommodate average operations with a few stray apps running, so you'll only really notice low-memory problems when you're, say, browsing a Flash-heavy website while the camera and photo-editing program are humming in the back.
On the plus side, if you're an experienced Symbian user or a power user who loves configuring settings, you'll appreciate the level of customisability and control the N8 offers.
The phone comes with a number of decent apps - such as the GPS navigation app, the social networking app that lets us upload photos from the camera directly to Facebook, and the free version of the game Angry Birds (woo hoo!) - but you can always download more from the Ovi store.
Last we checked, the Ovi store has a decent selection of apps, and we could pay for our purchases directly using our phone credits. Just don't expect a selection to match Apple's iTunes store.
The rear view of the n8.
Broken key
Despite the relative complexity of the N8, we would have still called it a "great" phone if it wasn't for one significant misstep in the software design: The keyboard.
When you're using the messaging system (or any app that requires the on screen keyboard, such as the web browser), you'll notice two things.
First, the keyboard is only available when the phone is oriented horizontally. When oriented vertically, the keyboard is replaced with a traditional handphone number pad, so enjoy typing with the old T9 predictive text.
Secondly, the keyboard seems to be a "sub-application" that takes up the entire screen. This means when you're writing a reply, you can't actually see the message you're replying or even send the message until you close the keyboard.
So, the Nokia N8 is technically what was advertised: A touchscreen phone that's utterly jam-packed with nifty features. However, aside from the camera, most of these features require a fair amount of improvement before they can truly be called excellent.
So what will we do with this phone? Take really nice photos, mostly.
Pros: Impressive video/camera system; lots of features.
Cons: Keyboard system could be improved; too many buttons and options menus to go through.
Operating System: Symbian ^3
Display: 3.5in capacitive AMOLED touchscreen (640 x 360 -pixels) Camera: 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, xenon flash
Memory: 16GB internal
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, HDMI port, micro USB, 3.5mm AV, FM Radio, FM transmitter
Standby/Talktime: 400 hours/350 minutes
Expansion Slot: MicroSD
Other Features: GPS, web browser, radio tuner, simple video and photo editing, Ovi Store
Dimensions: 113.5 x 59 x 12.9mm
Weight: 135g
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