I have liked the Nokia Nseries devices over the years for their media creation experiences, but it was always the Eseries that earned a spot in my pocket and long term use of my SIM card due to their workhorse functionality. The Nokia E61 was the first front facing QWERTY keyboard Nokia Eseries I bought and I enjoyed using it. However, when the E71 came out in that ultra-sleek form factor and design I jumped all over it and picked up one of them.
I wasn’t as impressed with the E72, but the E73 Mode won me back and up until now I consider that my ultimate Nokia front facing QWERTY device. After spending a couple of weeks with my new Nokia E6 I have to say that I find little reason to pull out my T-Mobile SIM card and think this device may just have all that I need in a beautiful form factor and it trumps all other front facing QWERTY Nokia devices.
I also think it easily beats the BlackBerry QWERTY devices as I have said many times because it has dedicated keys for commonly used things such as @, ?, period, and comma that alone make it more functional for me.
The hardware of the Nokia E6 is just about what I wanted with a 640×480 pixel resolution display that rivals the iPhone 4 retina display with a density of 326 pixels per inch (the iPhone 4 is the same). It is only a 2.46 inch display though, which causes some issues with apps (Slacker Radio is offset and doesn’t fill the display). I like the solid metal back plate, huge 1500 mAh battery that matches my other Eseries devices, 8 megapixel camera, touchscreen display, slider/lock switch, and microSD card expandability. There is a lot more to the hardware I will cover in a full review.
Overall, I am pleased with the software, primarily that the E6 comes with Anna loaded out of the box. I still have issues with Nokia’s email solution and Gmail wasn’t working right at first and is still lazy about updating properly. Mail for Exchange works well though and I can now respond to meeting invites. I like the new home screen layout with 3 customizable widgets on the right and three common ones always on the left for time/date and quick alarm access, quick profile switcher, and notifications area. Including JoikuSpot out of the box has been helpful for keeping me connected during my vacation.
I am find a LOT to like with the E6, but also some things that need work. I still thik it is a fabulous Eseries QWERTY and a testament to that is the fact that my SIM has been in it most of these past two weeks. Stay tuned for more thoughts in a week or so.
While I am on vacation this week I still wanted to give you a few of my first thoughts on the device and show you some photos of it. For more in-depth analysis on the Nokia E6 take a look at these great articles:
- The PhoneBoy Blog (Dameon D. Welch-Abernathy)
- All About Symbian, Part 1: Hardware
- All About Symbian, Part 2: Software
As I told you a couple of days ago I won a Nokia E7 in a video contest and if you all voted for my video I sincerely appreciate it! Nokia let me choose from a silver or blue E7 and I like color so I went with the blue one. As you can see in my gallery below, I now own three of the latest Symbian^3 devices; the orange Nokia N8, silver Nokia Astound (C7), and blue Nokia E7. No matter what I may think about the response by Nokia regarding software updates you cannot argue they make some amazing hardware and the E7 has fired up my passion once again.
I will be working on my full review of the Nokia E7 as my T-Mobile SIM is back in the device after sending back the evaluation HTC Sensation 4G. Obviously, I am a fan of Nokia and Symbian or I would not write here on this site. I saw a good post on All About Symbian about the powerful and yet simple home screen we have on Symbian devices and it is honestly one of the reasons I use Symbian devices. If we could just get Anna on the E7 and N8 with the email client, web browser, and other improvements I would be happy until Windows Phone comes to Nokia. Even then, I will honestly miss many features of Symbian and plan to hold onto these three devices for quite some time.
I previously mentioned that Nokia asked me to work with them on five reviews for the Ovi Daily Apps site and I wanted to let you all know they posted my review of SugarSync for Symbian this morning. This is a review I have been meaning to write here for quite some time because I have checked out most every cloud sync/storage solution and found SugarSync to be the best, especially for multi-platform guys like myself.
As you can read in my review, SugarSync is available for S60 3rd Edition, 5th Edition, and Symbian^3 devices. You get a whopping 5GB for free with other storage capacities available at reasonable rates. I hope they eventually add streaming capability of music like they do on other platforms, but just having access to files and the ability to get to them from my Nokia N8 is valuable to me. You can’t go wrong giving it a try for free.
I have had a Nokia N8 (see my Definitive Guide) since November 2010 and overall I am pleased with the device. The last Nokia device to launch on a U.S. carrier was the E73 Mode with T-Mobile and they continue to add Nokia devices to their collection with the new Nokia Astound. The Astound is a Nokia C7 with improvements not seen in any other C7 device while only selling for subsidized price of $79.99. The full no contract price is just $299.99 and both of these amounts are great deals IMHO.
Improvements in the Nokia Astound compared to the N8
Dieter took a look at the Nokia Astound at CTIA last month and I recently received an evaluation unit as well. While I do enjoy my Nokia N8, I am not pleased that it launched without a portrait QWERTY keyboard and with a rather lame web browser and it is taking too long to get updated. The Nokia Astound launches with a newer version of the Symbian software that includes the following:
- Portrait QWERTY keyboard
- Improved icons
- Much better email client
In the box
The Nokia Astound comes in a typical T-Mobile package rather than the sleek Nokia packages I have been used to lately when buying Nokia devices outside the carrier. You will find the following inside the retail box:
- Nokia Astound
- Battery & charger
- Wired stereo headset
- USB data cable
- Start Guide
- SIM card
- Terms and conditions pamphlet
You won’t find all those great goodies that were in the N8 box (USB on-the-go and HDMI cable), but this device sells for a low price for a reason.
- ARM 11 600 MHz processor
- Symbian^3 software
- Quad band GSM/EDGE with 850/900/1800/1900 MHz support
- Quad band WCDMA with 850/900/1700/2100 MHz support
- 3.5 inch 360×640 pixel resolution AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass
- 250 MB of free user disk space
- 8GB internal memory
- microSD card slot for expanded memory
- 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
- Bluetooth 3.0
- Integrated GPS with A-GPS
- Integrated FM radio with RDS
- FM transmitter
- NFC wireless technology
- 8 megapixel camera with 3rd generation dual LED flash
- 3.5mm headset jack
- BL-5K 1200 mAh battery
- Dimensions of 4.6 x 2.2 x 0.38 inches and 4.4 ounces
Comparing the Nokia Astound to the N8 shows that the N8 has the better camera while the Astound includes NFC. The N8 also has penta-band WCDMA (the 1900 MHz frequency is missing on the Astound), but the four that are included cover both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. The Astound also has a removable battery, but I honestly haven’t had any real issue with the battery life of my Nokia N8.
Around the hardware
While the Nokia Astound has the same AMOLED display as the Nokia N8 (I incorrectly said something about ClearBlack in my video) I personally think it looks better for some reason. It is crisp and clear and maybe the shiny finish around it makes it pop out more or something. The 3.5 inch display takes up most of the front with a front facing camera in the upper right, send and end buttons on either side of the menu button and a mic opening along the bottom. Nokia, C7, and T-Mobile brands are stamped on the front as well.
On the bottom you will find the lanyard opening while the top holds the microUSB port, 3.5mm headset jack, and power button. Nokia includes a 2mm standard charging port on the upper left side.
The right side is where you will find a camera capture button, sliding lock switch, distinct volume buttons, and the voice command button.
The 8 megapixel camera and dual LED flash is found on the upper back while a metal cover hides the battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot. No microSD card is included, but you can use up to 32GB in the device.
The Astound has a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip inside, but I was unable to find anything to test it with at this time. It is nice to see they are thinking ahead with the device though, especially given it is an $80 phone.
The Nokia Astound feels fantastic in your hand with solid build quality and its thinness. The Gorilla Glass and metal/plastic frame make it feel like a very high end smartphone too.
The Nokia Astound is a Symbian^3 device so everything I wrote about the Nokia N8 should be the same here too. It is a mature operating system and very customizable, but not necessarily as flashy as iOS or Android. It is an excellent choice though since it is a full smartphone priced down in the feature phone range.
Don’t forget it supports things like USB on-the-go, FM transmitter (called Play via Radio on the Astound), Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, Nokia Maps (FREE worldwide navigation), and more.
T-Mobile also includes some software on the Astound without turning it into an AT&T disaster with tons of bloatware. These titles include:
- TeleNav GPS Navigator
I LOVE the updated email client with a look and feel that is efficient and attractive. It clearly shows read and unread email (something the N8 does a very poor job of doing) and full HTML in a much better interface. It still has issues setting up Gmail right through the Nokia servers so make sure to decline the last prompt when setting it up.
The browser still isn’t the latest and greatest, but I just loaded up the free Opera Mobile and am perfectly happy with its performance.
Conclusion, price and availability
The Nokia Astound is available now for $79.99 with 2-year contact or $299.99 with no contract. I have been seriously considering picking one up because I just can’t stop holding it and flipping it around and around in my hand. It takes good photos, has solid RF reception with excellent call quality, has much improved email software, and is a very nice Symbian device.
I haven’t yet taken a ton of photos or videos with the device so I can’t fully judge the camera yet, but will try to get to that soon. Battery life has gone at least a day for me with heavy usage and push email.
If you are a person with a Nokia Nuron, then this really is a no brainer upgrade if you like Nokia and Symbian devices. T-Mobile can sell a lot of these at this price and unlike some other devices in the past, there are very few (if any) compromises with the Astound when compared to smartphones in this price range. T-Mobile currently has an unlimited talk, text, and data plan for this phone at just $79.99 per month.
I really enjoyed playing with the Nokia E7 at Nokia World last Fall and was thinking I might pick one up. My orange Nokia N8 is performing quite well at the moment and I cannot justify the $800+ likely unlocked price of the E7 so unless Nokia sends out an eval unit for a bit I won’t be writing a review here on Nokia Experts. However, my buddies over at All About Symbian will indeed be providing full coverage of the device and now that the E7 is shipping you can check out Rafe’s first part that covers an overview of the hardware and some first impressions.
In the past, the Eseries devices have all been priced quite low compared to Nseries smartphones, but with the E7 that looks to have flip-flopped. Rafe’s first part is very detailed and after reading it I started trying to figure out what I could sell to pick one up for myself
I have to try the keyboard though to see if that is enough for me to give up the better camera, smaller form factor, and expandable memory of the lovely N8. As great as the E7 looks, I am not sold that a physical QWERTY keyboard justifies getting rid of my N8.
How many readers are planning to pick up an E7 when they become available?
It seems that those who have used Symbian love the N8 while there are many in the media who rarely use Symbian and tend to slam the N8. Thus, I was pleased to read a very fair and balanced review over on Tracy and Matt’s site. Overall, they really liked using the Nokia N8 and pointed out some good apps and aspects of the device to consider.
A part from the 10-second review section that summarizes the article is as follows:
I have to say I am jealous of those who can use Spotify on their N8 and wish we would get Slacker Radio or even Spotify support here in the U.S.
I have been reading and following an incredible review series of the Nokia N8 and wanted to make sure all of my readers here went over to check the posts out. The Fone Arena review series is listed below, but what makes these intensive series of articles even more compelling is that they are written by the likes of Rita El Khoury, Sloan Bowman, Sandeep Sarma, and Michael Hell so you are getting a wide range of opinions and experiences. I have listed these in my Definitive Nokia N8 Guide too.
Fone Arena Review Series
- Day 1 – Hardware
- Day 2 – Camera
- Day 3 – Symbian^3 and UI
- Day 4 – Multimedia
- Day 5 – Apps, Ovi Store, and Ovi Maps
- Day 6 – Phone Calls, Messaging, Email
- Day 7 – Connectivity
I also wanted to let you know that Steve Litchfield posted the All About Symbian part 6 that includes the cutting edge technology found on the N8 that you won’t see in other smartphones. These features are extremely appealing to me and are some major reasons I keep going back to my N8.
Back in May I took a look at SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 for S60 5th Edition devices. My own Nokia N8 arrived a couple of days ago and then just yesterday I received an email that SPB Mobile Shell 3.7 was released with support for Symbian^3 and the N8. I jumped all over it and immediately put it on my N8 to test it out. After a few hours of use I can tell you that it is staying on my N8 since it improves on a decent user experience.
I captured a few screenshots below in the gallery to go along with my video embedded below. I won’t go through a full review like I did with 3.5 since most of the features are the same. Actually, here are the main features of SPB Mobile Shell as listed in the press release:
- Compatibility with Symbian^3 and new Nokia devices like N8
- Support for Nokia homescreen widgets
- Full screen view
- Multiple customizable homescreens
- Widgets for tasks, agenda, weather, search and a lot of others
- Widget-based photo contacts
- Launcher with fast access to all the features
- Support for the 3D carousel
So looking at that feature list and testing it out for myself, the things that stand out to me are the support for the N8 widgets and the ability to add even more with the SPB widgets, the better dialer/contact experience, slick wireless manager, smart dial from the contacts phone dialer, and slick weather application.
I thought the task manager was handy, but still like the Symbian^3 one better and the good part is you have full control over which one to use.
I would like a way to organize my app shortcuts into folders rather than using just their default ones.
Don’t worry Nokia Experts readers I am not going to post much on my N8 experiences over on my ZDNet site, but I do need to put some coverage up there to pay the bills 😉 I placed my first impressions over there along with the video embedded below that walks through some of my thoughts on the N8. As you can read, I think the N8 is the BEST Nokia device I have ever used. Nokia and Symbian fans finally have a device to be pleased with and feel good about for the most part. It is not perfect, but it is better than anything else we have had before.
I was worried about the possibility of memory errors, but have not experienced any issues so far and the N8 seems to be doing a great job of managing apps. I did see a funky error pop up when I switched to the camera that said the phone was going to restart, but the phone never restarted and things kept working fine.
I was also very concerned about the battery life, but after three days of use I can say that the N8 may have the best battery life of ANY new smartphone I have used in the past couple years. I have used LOTS of different smartphones and the N8 just keeps going and going and I could not have been happier.
The more I use the N8, the more excited I am about getting my own device that I can completely customize and setup knowing that it is mine to use daily. Here are some other quick thoughts that I will flush out in detail over the next week or two:
- RF reception is outstanding and I am seeing a very strong T-Mobile 3G signal
- Video recording is very good and I captured some fun footage of my daughter’s 11th birthday party yesterday
- Games play quite good on the N8 as I saw with GT Racing
- Opera Mobile looks good and I think I will make that my default browser
- I am disappointed about the missing podcast app
- The software keyboard is OK, but a bit frustrating that prediction is poor and there is no portrait QWERTY
- The display looks great and touch works well
- The hardware is simply FANTASTIC and feels awesome in my hand
- The new Ovi Store is very good and I am buying apps from it
- I love that smart dialing is on the dialer
- The Calendar bites and needs work in future Symbian updates
Overall, I would not hesitate to buy the N8 if I were a Nokia fan, although the E7 with the QWERTY keyboard may also be a future purchase for me.
I arrived home yesterday early evening and found a lovely blue box on my desk. Nokia has been doing an excellent job with these latest Nseries device packages and I have enjoyed opening the N97, N97 mini, and N900 previously to this Nokia N8 that is now in my hands. The Nokia USA team sent out evaluation units to writers and it seemed to be a random allocation of colors. I was hoping to try out an orange one, but was still quite pleased to see a blue one had arrived since my pre-order unit is dark gray and I wanted something with some color to it. I have only spent a few hours with the N8, but already have LOTS of first impressions and wanted to get some thoughts out to you all here as I put the device through its paces over the next couple of weeks. Make sure to check out my thoughts below on 3rd party apps since there area a couple of surprises there and I haven’t seen people talking too much yet about support for 3rd party apps.
What can I say about the hardware other than it is fantastic! I just had the chance to hold the N8 for the first time at Nokia World and I hope everyone gets a chance to hold onto the device because it truly is an amazing piece of technology. The aluminum shell feels awesome in your hands and I love the way the buttons have a shiny beveled interior edge. The brushed silver Nokia Nseries on the back is cool and the camera enclosure seems well constructed. I LOVE that Nokia continues to use physical lock switches and never want to see another Nokia without one.
The blue color looks good with the two plastic end pieces having a slightly greener tint to them than the blue aluminum color. The display is beautiful and while it isn’t as high of a resolution as the iPhone 4 it is perfectly viewable and clear to me so I have no complaints.
The device feels smaller in my hands than I remember from Nokia World and I actually like that it is not nearly as huge as my HTC EVO 4G. It fits well in my hand and feels great.
As we all know Symbian^3 is not a revolutionary software update with a completely new user interface and for people like us that are used to the Symbian S60 interface I don’t think that is a bad thing. The three home screen panels and updated widgets are very good. I have 7 panels on my HTC EVO 4G, but honestly I only use two of them all the time so I believe three is just about the perfect number needed. I love that the contact widget now lets me place as many people on there as I want rather than limiting me to just four people.
I like the standard home screen where I can tap for the clock/alarm, wireless manager, profile switcher, and more without having to dive into menus like I do on iOS devices. It is more like Android, but even more efficient. It is also slick to have the ability for a different background image on each home screen panel and I like that they are continuous, unlike Android devices.
The default social networking apps seem to be fine, but like HTC and Motorola social apps the 3rd party apps are always better. Just go buy Gravity and don’t bother with the default apps.
The new email app is good so far and I cannot tell you how pleased I am that I finally have native threaded SMS that actually even looks great on a Nokia device. As a father of teens girls text messaging is essential for me and I cannot go back to a non-threaded experience.
Unfortunately, PIM looks to still have taken a back seat and the calendar is pretty worthless. I wish Nokia would have just included the one from the E73 at least and I would have been satisfied. The month and week views are basically useless views and someone at Nokia needs to take a hard look at how to get contacts and calendar right.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Switch utility on Symbian/S60 ROCKS! I was able to bring over recent calls, text messages, bookmarks, and more from the E73 to the N8 in just a few minutes via Bluetooth.
3rd party apps
I am extremely pleased with the performance, design, and overall user interface of the new Ovi Store on the Nokia N8 and already started buying apps in the new store. This is how it should have launched last year and I hope people do give it another chance.
Here are a list of the 3rd party apps I now have loaded on the Nokia N8:
- Angry Birds Lite
- Galaxy on Fire
- OliveTree Bible Reader
- GT Racing (ROCKS on the N8!)
- JoikuSpot Premium
OliveTree and JoikuSpot were not in the Ovi Store, but I figured I might as well try out the latest S60 5th Edition versions and can confirm that both appear to work just fine. I was quite pleased about the JoikuSpot functionality, but disappointed I didn’t get a chance to buy a license a couple days ago when it was at EUR5. To get the JoikuSpot trial loaded on your N8, visit www.joikuspot.com/mobile from your web browser.
I will continue to discover and install more apps because that is what I like to do so if you have any recommendations feel free to shoot them my way.
I was worried after reading old reviews of prototype hardware that we would see low memory errors, but I had 11 of the highest resource apps I could find (included Gravity, camera app, web browser with full ZDNet site loading, Angry Birds, Galaxy on Fire, Ovi Store, music player, email app, phone dialer, Ovi Maps, and calendar) and I was able to jump between them with no problem at all using the slick new visual task manager. I think that worry was unfounded and I feel so much better about my purchase now.
I also loaded up about 80 songs and found that slick music player cover flow interface is as flawless as I saw at Nokia World. I loaded up a movie and also checked out the cool Tron trailer and now just need to find a kickstand for the N8 to enjoy movies on the go.
Lots more to look at
I haven’t even had the chance to use the camera much and that will be a major focus of at least one post and likely more since the camera is the piece of hardware that stands out among everything else. I also will continue to push the N8 with 3rd party apps and performance, try to get Swype loaded on board for portrait keyboard support, test out the video editor, use Ovi Maps, look for a podcatcher application, try connecting a USB drive, watch video out with the HDMI cable, test out the battery life, and so much more over the next few weeks.
I also have to do some MAJOR organizing of the menu and folders as this area is still a bit of a mess and could also use improvement. Please do post any questions you have for me as I take the N8 for a spin.