First, the good news: the Nokia N8 is a powerfully featured multimedia touchscreen phone, with 16GB internal memory and support for a further 32GB using removable microSD card. Connectivity includes WiFi support, so you can access the net using your home wireless network. The N8 is also one of the first mobile CHOICE has tested to support both Telstra’s 850MHz NextG and Optus’ 900MHz Yes G networks. As far as CHOICE is aware, the only other mobile that supports both Next G and Yes G in the same handset is Apple's iPhone 4, although Apple somewhat surprisingly doesn't seem to hightlight this feature in its promotions.
Video and still-photo capture are a joy. The N8 records video (720p) at the same quality as a HD pocket camcorder and captures digital photos at up to 12 megapixels, with a level of exposure and menu control you’d find in a good entry-level compact digital camera. Switching between video and photo is easy, with basic in-camera editing allowing you to post the photo or video to a social networking site such as Facebook or YouTube directly from the phone. The social networking functionality, integrating Facebook, Twitter and email into a central area, is delivered simply and effectively on a customisable home screen.
The HDMI connectivity is a great feature – just plug a HDMI cable into the micro HDMI adapter (provided in the kit) and watch your video, photos or even PowerPoint presentation on a flat-panel TV. The N8 also has the unusual ability to copy and paste any media from the phone directly to a USB drive.
Its music player works well, with simple controls and support for album cover art and all popular music formats. You can listen to music through headphones using the 3.5mm jack or wirelessly via Bluetooth 3.0 headsets. Holding the “home” button allows you to quickly toggle through the open applications, and the touchscreen’s tactile feedback and QWERTY keyboard makes texting quick and effective.
Free worldwide car and hiking navigation maps for downloading (not just network-sucking Google Maps) remain a big feature for the “N series” phones, and the additional tips from Lonely Planet are useful.
Anyone familiar with Nokia phones will have no trouble working through the new Symbian 3 OS, as it has a very similar look and feel to the previous OS. New features, such as multi-touch selections and multiple application support, have been added to the N8.
Now the bad news. The main drawbacks of the Symbian 3 OS are its relatively poor application support and lack of customisation and power to satisfy high-end smartphone users. Nokia itself has admitted as much, claiming the N8 will be the first and last Nseries phone to use this operating system (future phones will use the more robust MeeGo OS).
There’s a lot to like about this phone, but Nokia is doing the N8 a disservice by attempting to market it as an alternative to Android mobiles and Apple’s iPhone 4. It’s a very good multimedia phone, but it’s not the smartphone Messiah.