Nokia N8 Review – Best Travel Phone?

 

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Hey fellow geeks!

Thanks to WomWorldNokia, I was fortunate to call the Nokia N8 “my own” for two weeks here in Thailand.  The star feature of this ‘flagship’ smartphone is the 12 megapixel autofocus camera, but read (and listen) to my summary below, and you’ll realize this is one fantastic travel companion as well.

For those like myself, who are too lazy to read, here’s my podcast about the N8:

Listen!

Check out my N8 photos on Smugmug, by clicking on the SPICY photo below (It’s okay, do it):

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

 

 

The N8 is a fantastic travel companion (eh, right, that sounded weird).  Here’s my list of the good stuff. No, I will not call it the “Ten best features of the N8!”  I just won’t do it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The 12 MegaPixel Autofocus Camera:  Just see how many people are posting creative and beautiful N8 photos and HD videos online.  Every travel blogger I’ve met loves to take pics of food, and with autofocus, macro shots come out nicely.  With 16 GB on board, and more with a microSD slot, you have plenty of storage for your travel pics & videos.  Heck, Nokia even has a camera school!
  2. Pentaband 3G:  Whaaah?  Oh, when you see the label “3G” on the phone specs, do you assume it works on any 3G (high speed data) cellular network?  You assumed wrong.  In the U.S., the two GSM networks (hint, these phones use SIM cards like most of the world), AT&T and T-Mobile (I mean AT&Mobile) each use different 3G frequencies.  So, some phones will be compatible with one and not the other.  I learned that the hard way a few years back; got a “3G” phone, but it worked for AT&T and NOT T-Mobile, our carrier at the time.  Yuck.  The N8 (and several newer Symbian ^3 Nokias) are pentaband (5) band 3G phones, which cover all the frequencies used around the world.  So, you’ll be be to access the higher data speeds wherever you are!  When you do a little research, you’ll realize precious few phones have all 5 bands.
  3. James Bond-ish Gizmos:  No, it doesn’t shoot out laser beams (note to self, design…), but it does have a few nice tricks up its sleeve, such as the USB on the Go feature.  You can use the adapter cable to hook up a thumb drive and transfer data w/o a pc!  Nice…  There’s also a mini-HDMI output, for watching your media on the big screen.  Certainly a nice option to view your great photos and videos on HDTV.
  4. Apps:  Like other leading smart phones, you can make free or cheap calls world wide via Fring, Skype, and other instant messaging apps over 3G or Wifi.  Travel bloggers might like the ability to upload photos to virtually any social media network or blog (edit the pics, too), record 720p HD video, and create podcasts on the N8 with the Audioboo app.  The podcast you see in this post was recorded on the N8 with Audioboo.  Audioboo podcasts can be automatically shared via Facebook and Twitter, or embedded into a webpage.
  5. Games!  There’s nothing like playing addictive games such as Angry birds, Fruit Ninja and more when you’re stuck in an airport terminal… and watch the horror of onlookers when you scream in triumph as you slash the watermelons with your finger…Ahem, sorry, games perform well, and look great on the display.
  6. Entertainment:  Whether it’s the pre-installed video channels, such as National Geographic, AP News, or listening to internet radio, you’ll find many ways to keep yourself occupied while chilling at the beach.  Needless to say, the video & audio quality are top notch.
  7. Good battery life – for a smartphone:  By today’s standard, you’ll need to recharge your phone nightly if you use a high powered smartphone.  Don’t expect smartphones to last several days of heavy use, like your old simple feature phone. That’s the reality.  So, in this context, the N8, with its non-removable sealed battery, fared very well.  I never found myself running out of juice within a day, even with moderate to heavy mixed use (wifi, camera, voice, sms, etc.).  That’s important for travelers who need their phone to last the day trip.
  8. Durability:  Nokia is well known for their product durability testing.  The N8 is encased in anodized aluminum (I think that’s the same as iodized salt…No?), and can survive drops with no problem.  Don’t go scuba diving with it, though…or you could, just wrap it with a .. never mind.
  9. Unlocked:  This means you can just pop in a SIM card wherever you are in the world, and you’re good to go. Don’t freak over the price ($399 USD or less); this is very reasonable for a phone of this quality.  You’re not tied to a 2 year contract or forced into an expensive data plan.  You’ll save money in the long run.  Buying unlocked = FREEDOM, baby!  (Okay, that was too much enthusiasm for a geek post).
  10. Ovi Maps + Free Lifetime Voice-guided Navigation:  I’ve used this app many times on various Nokia trial phones, and it works very well here on the 3.5″ screen on the N8.  You can download various voices/languages, or even create your own voice for navigation, and you can use the app for driving or walking guidance.  Nokia’s best native app by far, in my opinion. Also, you can download various country maps prior to travel, and use the voice guided navigation once you arrive without using any data- as in offline.  For my fellow Americans who are not familiar with Nokias, you need to try out Ovi Maps.  You’ll toss your Garmin out the window, I promise!

A few tweaks would make this a great phone:

  1. Smoother user interface, as in, jazzier home screens.  Yes, this has been widely discussed in the tech blogger geek world, but the new Symbian ^3 Operating System works fine, but just isn’t ‘smooth’ or inviting.  No “Wow” factor.  There are a few themes from the Ovi app store that can bring some pizzazz to the overall look, but some apps won’t load when using those cover themes.
  2. The camera app is fine, but the lower right corner, where you would find “pause” for video recording or “back/close” is, for some reason, impossible for me to engage with one touch.  I have to tap the screen several times before getting it, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to pause a video recording.  Nokia could make those screen buttons larger and more responsive.
  3. Hey Nokia, bring back camera lens covers, will ya?  Trust me, it’s a mental thing.  You can tell me all day it’s Gorilla or Giraffe Glass, but we consumers still want a sliding cover for the camera lens.  People are buying it for the camera, right?  Enough said…

Well, that’s that.  The N8 is a great (travel) smartphone package, so take one on a trip, and let me know what you think of it.

Cheers,

Jack

 

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