Posted by Mike Evans in Nokia on April 28, 2010

It’s heading into summer, which must mean that Nokia are about to launch their new flagship phone of the year. And they are, as it happens, with the Nokia N8, the latest Nokia N-Series phone, designed to show the world how smart and impressive Nokia phones are.

Except, like the past couple of years, it doesn’t.

Sure the N8 has the specs – 12 megapixel camera, for example, and 720p HD video recording.

But its operation, its user interface and overall user experience is years behind its competitors.

Which is worrying, as Nokia have been in this position since 2007.

Read on for more details and video of the Nokia N8.
Nokia N8 mobile phone

Nokia N8 overview

The Nokia N8 is a candybar phone with touchscreen, glass front and quite handsome good looks. It’s not quite as sexy as the latest Sony Ericssons, but it’s a good looking phone nonetheless.

As you’d expect it comes with a huge range of features, including:

  • 12 megapixel camera
  • Xenon flash
  • Autofocus
  • 720p HD video recording (at 25 frames per second)
  • HDMI cable for video playback through an HDTV
  • GPS and Ovi Maps
  • Compass and Accelerometer
  • 10.2Mbsp HSDPA and WLAN connectivity
  • Nokia’s free turn by turn navigation software
  • Web browser with support for Flash Lite
  • 16GB internal memory
  • Up to 32GB external memory via microSD card
  • 3.5″ capacitive touchscreen
  • 16.7 million colours
  • Widescreen 16:9 (630×360 pixel) OLED display
  • Symbian^3 interface

At first glance, that’s an unbelievable array of features, and is exactly what you’d expect from a Nokia flagship phone.

Except, there are two small problems with it.
Nokia N8 Symbian 3 phone

Problems with the Nokia N8

Firstly, the N8’s feature list is not an unbelievable array of features – it’s pretty much identical to what the Sony Ericsson Satio offers, and that was released last year.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is Symbian^3. This is the very latest incarnation of Nokia’s mobile operating system, and the N8 is the first phone to feature it. Unfortunately, it’s not that different from current incarnations of Symbian, which are looking older than a Ford Cortina!
Nokia N8 mobile phone HDMI port
The fact is, since the iPhone, people’s expectations about flagship mobile phones have shifted completely. It’s now not just about the feature list, it’s about the overall user experience.

That’s why both HTC and Sony Ericsson spent a fortune developing their own user interface on top of the stock Android interface for their new Android smartphones. Android’s a great mobile OS, but it’s not good enough to take on the iPhone by itself.

With the help of some added sparkle from HTC and Sony Ericsson, it is.

But with Symbian, you get the same clunky experience you’ve always had with a few minor tweaks that really are so minor it’s hard to tell what’s actually changed.

Frankly, this isn’t good enough.
Nokia N8 showing the 12 megapixel camera

Too harsh?

Am I being too harsh on the N8? It’s a superbly-specced mobile phone, and it’s great to see Nokia finally bringing a capacitive touchscreen phone to the market. It’s also great seeing a phone that can take exceptional pictures and videos, with its features offering genuinely high quality that can rival dedicated cameras.

The problem is, none of this is novel, and a Nokia flagship phone should really push the limits of what can be done. Like the N97 last year, the N8 simply doesn’t do that. It lets Nokia play catch up with its competitors, but it can barely compete with them now, let alone in 6 months’ time when they release even better phones.

So Nokia is still conceding ground, and until it ditches Symbian or completely (and I do mean completely!) overhaul it, it always will. Symbian just doesn’t work with touhcscreen smartphones. It’s too clunky, too old, too slow, and too ugly.

Sony Ericsson recognized this, which is why they moved from Symbian to Android with their latest smartphone the X10 (although the Vivaz still uses Symbian). So too did Samsung, who came up with a completely new operating system, Bada.

Even Microsoft, for all its arrogance, realised that its Windows Mobile was on its last legs and had the decency to kill it, replacing it with the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7, which currently has the tech bloggers salivating with genuine anticipation.

But Nokia? Wedded to Symbian it would seem, and unable to turn it into an attractive operating system that can take on a wealt of competition.
Nokia N8 mobile phone


There is still hope for the N8. Nokia have said that the phones in the videos on this page are prototypes and that the final phone shouldn’t be judged until it’s ready. But I don’t think it will matter. You can make Symbian faster, but you can’t make it prettier (or at least, Nokia can’t)

Nokia are frustrating a very dedicated army of fans at the moment, fans who want to hold forth a Nokia phone and thrust it forward in victory, lording it over their mates as they play a techno-version of Top Trumps.

But with phones like the N8, the Nokia fanboys are forced to remain silent, looking on enviably at every other high-end mobile phone, each of which seems to have an edge over the N8 even before it’s released.

It’s a real shame, and a situation that I really hope Nokia can change very soon. As they’re working on Symbian^4, I doubt that it will, but we can only hope they see the light and design a phone that can genuinely compete!

We’ll have a full review for you when the N8 is released, so we’ll see then whether the final product is able to beat the ratehr lowered expetatins we currently have for Nokoia’s new flagship.