As some of you may know, I had my HTC Desire stolen whilst I was on the Isle of Man for the Google Lunar X Prize conference. For someone who is so used to being hyperconnected, it felt like losing a limb, although I did finally work out how to send a tweet from my old Samsung Soul (not easily, if you’re wondering). In a state of panic, since I’m due to attend the NASA Tweet-up for the next shuttle launch, I cheekily asked if anyone on Twitter might be able to fix me up with a smartphone for a while. The lovely James Whatley (@Whatleydude) came to my rescue by securing me the loan of (an as yet unreleased) Nokia N8. How exciting.
I think I must be one of the only people in the entire world who has never in my history of owning mobile phones, (stretching back to about 1996, owned a Nokia phone. I was a Motorola girl through and through until I flipped over to Samsung, fell in love with a work iPhone, and got my HTC Desire on contract (because iPhones, nice as they are, are too pricey for me). So, bear that in mind when you read my initial thoughts on the N8. Things that seem counterintuitive to me, may make perfect sense if you’re already a Nokia user, I just don’t know.
So then, the N8. Mine’s a sort of graphite colour, apparently they are also available in silver, blue, green and orange. personally I think I struck lucky with the colour of mine.
My immediate impressions: nice big screen, interesting cables in box, protruding camera – why?
It has a 12 megapixel camera, which needs a decent lens if there is to be any point. It’s fitted with a Carl Zeiss lens, hence the thickness of the camera element. But still, if you care enough about photos to want to take them on the 12 megapixel setting, surely you’d want something better than a phone? Good for when you’re out and about perhaps.
The touch screen is nice and sensitive, and I’m told it’s “gorilla glass” which you can scratch your keys over without marking. Since I have to give this thing back after the Tweet-up, I think perhaps I’ll leave that test to someone else – just in case. There’s a space to plug in an HDMI cable, enabling you to show off your HD videos, and a nice little touch is a cable that enables you to plug USB sticks in and transfer data to the phone.
Apparently I need a Nokia account to access the Ovi store. RadioKate, SpaceKate and the weird inversion of my surnames are all taken. A bit odd, but simply adding a single numerical digit appears to overcome this. I’m in.
I’m advised that the best Twitter app is Gravity, but at £8 I think I’ll just put the pre-installed app through its paces. I do note however that Angry Birds is available for this device. Perhaps it is time I found out what all the fuss is about?
The keyboard is strange. I don’t know I it’s a Nokia quirk, or an N8 quirk, but there doesn’t appear to be a portrait keyboard, rather a touchscreen version of your usual phone keypad. In an age where smartphones are more and more like mini-computers than phones, it seems odd that Nokia should choose to offer a number pad rather than keyboard. A quick flip 45 degrees reveals a standard qwerty layout, though this is not an intuitive action, yet. Perhaps it is to make people making the leap from traditional to smart phones feel more at home? But then with some more high-end features, like the camera, it doesn’t feel like an obvious “my first smartphone”. I wonder who the target market is for this phone? Content creators, due to the camera and HD video capability I guess. I’m yet to find or test the audio functionality…
The overall shape leaves me unsatisfied, in terms of aesthetics, with the top somehow reminiscent of an unsharpened pencil. The main menu button is positioned conveniently to the left of the phone, meaning you can comfortably press it with your right thumb. Sadly if you’re left-handed it’s in about the worst possible place – unless they’ve produced left-handed version too?
I’m not used to the interface (iPhone/Android veteran that I am), but all phones need some playing with. I like the ability to put your favourite contacts in a scrollable bar showing their photos on the home screen, once I’ve dragged them all off my old phone at least! BBC iPlayer works in the browser, which is hugely important to me as I like to listen to radio comedy as I go to sleep at night and the inability to access iPlayer using the browser was a bug-bear I had with the HTC Desire until Froyo finally reached me and solved the problem.
I’ve not had time to fiddle with the settings, being out all evening, but am surprised to note that despite the battery icon claiming the phone was all out of juice (having come straight from the box) at 6pm, the phone held up to some decent prodding until finally going on strike at 11.30pm. (Post script: I realise now that I was expecting the battery icon to show full/half full etc, like and iPhone/Android phone. I realise upon charging it overnight that there are little bars – like you get for signal – which show the battery level. I didn’t see how many bars there were last night, so I could be entirely wrong about battery life! I’ll keep an eye over the next week).
Well, those are my first impressions, and this is the first photograph I’ve taken with it. I’m off to the Radio Festival on Monday, so I’ll have a chance to use it in the wild and see how I feel about it after that.