Yes, I'm admittedly a long standing Symbian fan boy who appreciates a flexible and mobile optimized operating system, fine grained network access control to keep my data roaming charges under control and who's manufacturing company is not spying on me and also not telling me what I can and can't do with my mobile device. Uh, long sentence. For a number of weeks the N8 has now become my everyday device and quite admittedly it's a huge leap beyond the Nokia N95 I hung on to as all Nseries devices that followed were just not what I was looking for. Fortunately this has changed with the N8 and I've even adapted to the touchscreen, although it is still something of a let-down not to have a real keyboard anymore.
Lots of reviews are out there saying good and bad things about the N8 and Symbian^3 and the one which reflects my impressions best is over at AllAboutSymbian in 6 parts. So I won't start raving about the great camera, the cool multitasking, etc., etc. but I'd rather like to write down a list of improvements I noticed in usability that have gone into Symbian since the N95. Most of them are just small things but they have a huge impact on usability:
- RAM plenty: The N95 was one of the few devices with ample RAM for running programs. Later models have had less leading to frequent complaints in the blogosphere. The N8 again has plenty of RAM and despite heavy multitasking I haven't had a single out of memory error yet.
- Remote Phone Lock: A bit hidden and not advertised at all, but there's now a remote phone lock via SMS functionality with an SMS reply when the phone has been locked. Gives me a lot of peace of mind because I hate typing in an unlock code every 5 minutes.
- Timed Profile: An expiry time can be set when switching to the 'meeting' , 'silent' or any other profile. It frequently happened to me so far that I forgot to switch my phone back to normal mode once a meeting was over and frequently had missed incoming calls afterward.
- Date and Profile always shown: One of the few things I always disliked on the N95 was that I couldn't see the date when I was in any other profile than the standard one. That's fixed now!
- Alarm clock easily reachable from home screen: A tap on the time display and I'm in the alarm clock feature right from the front screen. I use it a lot so that's very helpful.
- HDMI TV out: Like the N95, the TV output is great for showing pictures and videos.
- Bluetooth Headset range: The Bluetooth chip and antenna in the N95 had a very limited range and I found it to be pretty much unusable when the phone was in a pocket. The N8 now has a really good implementation and streams music to a headset even at a significant distance through an office space. Incredible!
- FM transmitter: Every now and then I take the car to work and listening to podcasts and music stored on the mobile phone is now so easy. Just switch on the radio, tune to the frequency set in the FM transmitter settings on the phone and there you go. No fiddling with a cable, plugging the phone into something, etc. etc. The transmitter is even strong enough to blast over a radio station on the given frequency.
- Clock on the standby screen: The N8 is the first phone I've used that shows the date and time in big numbers on the screen when the device is locked and the screen is off. Great stuff!
- Bluetooth mouse and keyboard support: For long emails and other things a full QUERTY keyboard can't be replaced by anything that attached to a mobile device. I've had a Bluetooth keyboard for years which is again supported by the N8. And on top, even Bluetooth mice are supported.
- Ovi Maps improvements: As I travel abroad a lot I very much like the downloadable maps as there are no data charges except for retrieving the ephemeris data for the GPS receiver. Getting a first fix only takes a few seconds and scrolling through the maps is much faster now than on the N95. Very smooth and both search and navigation work like a charm.
- Profimail touch: For many years I've used Profimail as my mail client as it is highly customizable, knows how to partially download emails (again, good to keep roaming charges down) and is very stable and mature. I've heard that Mail for Ovi has matured to a good state by now but I see no reason for switching. For Symbian touched based devices, there are a number of slick features in Profimail now, one of them being a circle that pops up when one keeps the finger on an email or inside an email on the display for a bit with a number of options what to do next distributed around on the circle.
- A native Opera Mini: Forget the build in browser, I need speed no matter where I am and what network is available at the time. Opera Mini uses a network based compression and is ultra fast and now also available as a native application on the N8. Ueber-cool!
- Touch phone and one hand use: And the last one today, but most important, is that the form factor of the device and the OS enable me to use the phone with one hand, despite the lack of a hardware keyboard. A must have for me!
Great work, thanks a lot to the Nokia and Symbian teams!
P.S.: Oh yes, and there is Angry Birds… 😉