Phone over function?
The UI is a far cry from the slick modern interfaces of HP's Palm, Apple and Windows Phone 7, and Android. Does this actually matter? There's more to usability than eye candy. In practice – yes and no. Symbian^3 shows the result of some emergency, roadside repairs, and some of these work so well, you don't see the joins. But elsewhere the legacy UI pokes through – you notice the extra, now unnecessary level of indirection. Imagine operating Windows by poking a mouse with a toy broom.
The dialler screen
For example, the phone has been criticised for lacking a keyboard in portrait mode, and presenting the user with a graphical implementation of a T9 dial pad. Cue guffaws. But once you get over the incongruity, you can see the wisdom of the decision. In practice, the T9 pad made finding and calling people as easy to use as any phone on the market, and easer than most - and isn't the point of a phone?
The dialler rapidly finds contact by using a trick pioneered by Qix, but part of Windows Mobile and Nokia's E-series for years. So entering "5-3-8-4" finds you all your Kevins. [
jkl - def - tuv- ghi]. Or all numbers with the string 5384.
For many core functions that the user might repeat frequently, it works well. I was surprised, because initial impressions – formed from trying to use the Home Screen(s) – are really horrible. But taking and reviewing images and videos is fast, and browsing them fast too. Symbian phones would typically lag when asked to start a new process. But starting (say) Profiles or Clock and switching to the app is instant.
Onto to the not-so-good. You'd think that after the criticism of the N97, Nokia would clean up the Home Screen and focus on a really great experience. If anything, this has gone backwards. And yet another year has gone by without rationalising the settings, which remain spread all over the place, some in non-obvious places.
The N8's default Home, Menu and Apps
The default Home Screen is now screens, these are populated by blocky widgets, just as before. It imposes a rigid structure on the phone and tailoring it isn't easy. You can't place a shortcut to a person, or to a person-orientated action ("eg create a new SMS with Dave as the recipient"), and you can't drop applications wherever you like. You can't set a shortcut to activate a particular setting, either – although the default behaviour of one of the built-in widgets goes a long way – you can open the clock (instantaneously), set Profiles, and view connections.
Next page: Wayward Widgets
@Giles Jones: Not bad
Processor speeds are not important, it's what they do that is important. The CPU is underclocked, the OS is very resource functional (always has been) and has a separate GPU for the intensive graphics. Battery life for me is about 2-3 days on a charge - push email is on 7am till midnight on 2 accounts, browsing the web, telephone calls and music in the morning and evening. So I am very pleased. There some faults but hope they fix them soon.
I always wonder why some of the tech people reviewing this mobile phone constantly rubbish the processor for being clocked slower than the competition. Remember the days when the Apple OS was always said to be better and more resource efficient than Windows and hence the slower processors? Remember also that almost all video and photo editing used to be done on Macs for that very reason? Short memories....
Compareing CPU sizes is pointless...
Android apps are written in Java and run on a virtual machine on a stripped down Linux, an OS designed for servers. While Symbian apps are written in C++ running natively on an OS designed for low power devices. For graphics intensive apps the N8 also has a dedicated graphics co-processor to take on the load.
You need to compare how long the phones last between charges and if they run the apps you need as an accepable speed.
Give it a year
Looks nice on paper, but I'll wait a year to see if it's more reliable than my crappy N95 8GB before I'd even consider another Nokia.
If the incremental changes to S^3 include working out the UI...
... Then we might be on to a winner.
Unfortunately first impressions count, not incremental updates a year down the line.
"You can't place a shortcut to a person"
You can by adding the Favourite widget to the home screen. You can then add up to 10 people to this list and the widget multiple times - one for work, one for family etc. You can also open your contact list and long press on individuals and mark them favourite - this will bring them to the top of your list whenever you write a message or open contacts again. The only problem is that you can't organise your favourite in any order you might like - only in the order that you added them to your favourites.
"you can't drop applications wherever you like."
You can to a certain extent by adding the Shortcut widget, but then you HAVE to select 4 apps to use. But putting individual app shortcuts is not possible.
"You can't set a shortcut to activate a particular setting, either"
You can for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Sip, to different menu shortcuts. Which one do you want that is missing?
"it won't use the spacebar to accept suggestions unless you change another setting"
Really, how? I have been looking for this and can't find it anywhere. Using the right arrow to accept the work and then hitting spacebar is a poor design.
"E-mail now uses Nokia's server-side Intellisync software, but for obvious reasons of security (Nokia knows your passwords) I didn't test this extensively."
This can be bypassed. If you reject the terms and conditions right at the end of the email account set-up the emails won't go anywhere near Nokia's servers. This also helps because you can send attachments larger than 2MB in size the latter imposes.
There are other fiddly little problems to the ones you mention in this article. In many menus if scroll to the bottom item and select it when you go back the phone automatically takes you back to the top of the list. Notes and files of this type cannot be scroll without first selecting and marking all the text. I can customise my home screen by long pressing the screen, but I can't do the same when inside menus. Why? Instead I have to click on options and then organise. I then can list the items in alphabetical order - instead you have to move each individual icon to the location you prefer.
Mail for Exchange crashes on replying when using Gmail. IMAP email doesn't work as push email, so if your settings are set to retrieve soonest the app won't work until you open it. These things have been smoothed out over years by Nokia so why they should stop working properly is anyone's guess.