Nokia N8: First impressions and successful 3rd party app testing

N8First18

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.

Hardware

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.

Symbian^3 Software

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:

  • Gravity
  • Foursquare
  • Endomondo
  • Angry Birds Lite
  • Galaxy on Fire
  • Screensnap
  • Pixelpipe
  • ESPNsoccer
  • 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.

Performance

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.

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36 Comments to Nokia N8: First impressions and successful 3rd party app testing

Al Pavangkanan
October 2, 2010

Gapless playback in the music player?

Toto
October 2, 2010

Yes, absolutely gapless music playback.

sony
October 2, 2010

Hay! Congratulations dude. Still I am waiting for my N8. I ordered silver metallic. The new Symbian S60 V3 has 260 new features, have you observed anything new?

fEast91
October 2, 2010

Can you check if the keyboard can be changed to other typing language, e.g. from standard English letters to cyrillic etc.?

John Lange
October 2, 2010

Matt, I’m very, very interested in whether the Swype beta works acceptably? Also, can you do some speed tests both on the device and on your Mac via Joikuspot? Thanks!

Henry Yao
October 2, 2010

This may be a dumb question. I have a Nokia e71. Does Nokia have a way to migrate data to the new phone? I also would like to see how long does the battery last with heavy browsing in flash heavy sites on wifi and on 3G. I am also curious if N8 can beat 2days of normal usage that some iphone4 uaer2 reported.

Gawain
October 2, 2010

I see from the pictures you’re running the N8 on T-Mobile. I would like to know how it performs in a UMA environment if the opportunity presents itself. I’m also curious about the browser performance. Would you also share how email works in an enterprise environment (if possible), as well as other PIM features? Nokia has been the only player to really tempt me away from BlackBerry and it’s the business and social features that I’m most interested in aside from the device’s overall performance in a UMA/WiFi environment. Have fun with it!

Rafael
October 2, 2010

Grrr… I want my N8 to get shipped already. Please oh please ship my phone already… Please!!!

Juan
October 3, 2010

Agree with you about the Calendar/Agenda, the N8´s one is even a step back from the N97 (and other 5th edition phones).

N8´s calendar is pretty much the same as the old N95 one.

Mike Johnson
October 3, 2010

Looks pretty slick! I hope it will hit the US market soon couse im getting one!

snowy
October 3, 2010

Text re-flow in the web browser like seen for on android?

rahul
October 3, 2010

Thanks for your first impressions. Device looks good.

Some app testing requests: Youtube, Google Maps, Skype, Opera Mobile beta 2 (benchmarks like page load tests and sun spider with different browsers will be awesome if time permits).

Hardware testing requests: 1. Sound quality from headphones. 2. Sunlight visibility.

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

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[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

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[...] at Nokia Experts has been lucky enough to get his hands on a blue Nokia N8 review unit and has been having a play [...]

Bas Heetebrij
October 4, 2010

I agree with John Lange… How is Swype on this thing? Text input is very important, and from the folks from AAS I have already understood that the standard key boards leave a lot to be desired.

I used Swype on my Samsung Galaxy S and I quite liked it. In order for me to decide whether the N8 is good enough, I really fancy trying Swype out in the first 2 weeks (I can send it back within 2 weeks if I don’t like it).

Do you reckon Swype will be available to test in the coming two weeks?

Red_Munk!!
October 4, 2010

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Matt. Look forward to reading plenty more over the coming days.

@Henry: “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.”

This little utility is built into all s60v3+ devices so switching should not be a problem. The “more” refers to media, and other settings.

@Rahul: Most of the apps you’ve mentioned have upcoming re-writes for s^3 so performance will only get better. Skype & Youtube work similarly to v5 devices (surprise!). IMHO YT wastes a lot of space in the ui and could be much better to look at but if you’re looking to get the job done then it ‘works’.

Tried the n8 in Singapore and the sunlight visibility was much better than my Nexus1 & on par/slightly better than the iphone4 in most areas (i4 has better viewing angles imo). However sunlight in Asia is not forgiving so I suggest you test this aspect to see if its something you are comfortable with.

The browser version on the n8 is v7.1 and same as the existing one on v5 devices. Nokia are busy re-writing a s^3 version and hopefully this comes out asap. (I’ve heard of a Feb ’11 release but that would be an insanely long wait).

In comparison to ios4, safari loaded faster, rendered ‘better’ and had less of a “push-back” – when you reach the end of a page and try to scroll down again, on ios4 the text/screen do not ‘mutate’ alot and the page becomes ‘normal’ fairly quick. On the n8 you get a grey area and the browser seems “confused”.

Ymmv of-course :)

Sakthi
October 4, 2010

Hey Mathew thanks for the Nice Review i jus wish to know is it possible for me to connect the Standard TV out cable to get the TV out as if we do in N97 mini rather than the HDMI…..

Hope to get your reply soon…

vlss
October 4, 2010

Have you tried any other music players ? I would love to know if ttpod works on it.. It has some really cool visual effects. I don’t know why the nokia player doesn’t offer a Spectrogram during playback

John
October 4, 2010

1.) Are there other PIM alternatives? Like an alternative calendar, task manager, etc.?

2.) Is there a Google Maps application? I’m skeptical about using OVI Maps in the US.

Johan Krüger-Haglert
October 5, 2010

The camera of the N8 ******* own.

12 mpx 1/1.83″ sensor against iPhone4 5 mpx 1/3.2″.

The lens should also let in more light on the N8.

Canon Ixus 130 got 10 mpx 1/2.3″ sensor and seem to give less sharpness than the N8. Canon Powershot S95 got 10 mpx 1/1.7″ sensor so slightly bigger but that camera alone cost more than the phone ..

Lots of idiots will keep trying to tell themselves the iPhone4 gives better photos though, even though all images, details, dynamic range tests, sharpness, technical specs and so on will prove them wrong time and time again.

Jkohut
October 5, 2010

As time permits, I would love to see a review of Flash video and application capabilities on sites such as CNN, The DailyShow, and any sites where you have to sign in (i.e XMradio etc…) Thanks !

Macclicker
October 5, 2010

I would like to know how the following s60v5 apps work: Totall Recall or similar app to record phone calls Garmin XT Skype PhoneTorch or any lantern app Divx player with subs Power mp3 LCG Jukebox Handy Alarm Pro Qreader Resco Photo viewer Autorama

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

Armac
October 7, 2010

Please can you install and test the opera mini?…

Sothie
October 8, 2010

What you think about the lag when swipping the homescreens-do u seriously believe that Nokia left it 4 a reason or its a software flow? Try to compaire the browsing speed and the music/video player with other phones,starting with the iphone. How is the gaming experience like?Can it match the iphone though N8 has few games? FAIR REVIEW BRO-KEEP IT UP!!!

Jake
October 19, 2010

All is amazing but music player still lacking! It’s ry smooth but the options for accessing all songs by ONE artist isn’t even available, only accessing individual albums is. Thisnis rubbish if you want to shuffle all songs from the 5 Muse albums for example. And the locating of tracks, swapping from skngsto genres to playlist views is still teadious and outdated. Really gutted, returning mine today.

[...] Nokia N8 First Impressions [...]

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