Tag Archives: Nokia

Nokia Lumia 1520, one of the best “phablet” phone devices of 2013/14


The Windows 8 Lumia range in 2012/13 had excellent design, good camera’s and helped start re-building the Windows Phone market, which was accelerated with the super pricing of the Lumia 520 that helped in more than one way to increase the Windows market share.   However one thing was obvious, the hardware on these phone was pre 2012, yet Windows seemed more than efficient compared to Android that it helped smooth operations with rather mediocre hardware.

The first phone to break this mold was the Lumia 1520, as it for the first time a Windows Phone 8 device matched the Android flagship phones on the hardware.  However to the WP8 buyers the question was? Was this phone still better than the older flagship the Lumia 1020? Had Nokia (Microsoft) changed their focus on the top end camera performance on their flagship?  However for Nokia and Microsoft it was clear it was not just about the camera, but also making the phone match the performance of the Android in the industry test, since many buyers tend to look at the media for their purchase decisions, and negative flak about the low end of the hardware, were dragging the Lumia image down.

Hardware

The Lumia range no matter what the phone had some form of the the dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus Krait processor inside the phone until the the arrival of the Lumia 1520 (and the look alike lower budget Lumia 1320).

The Lumia 1520 features the cutting edge hardware during its launch, featuring the quad-core 2.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (Model: MSM8974, Krait 400 cores) processor, coupled with the Adreno 330 graphics, and 2GB of RAM.

The android club might say only 2GB? when the Samsung flagship the Note 3 had 3GB.  But if you have used Androids you know its one memory hog, though things have improved a bit after Kit Kat, however add the Android memory inefficiencies, and the heavy Samsung TouchWiz interface, and the additional custom apps the Note 3 brings in with the Stylus, you realize 3GB is  a MUST!  Step back and compare the Lumia with the other major mobile OS, Apple iOS.  The flagship there the IPhone 5S (at the time of the 1520 launch) and even the latest Iphone6 and 6+ only have 1GB, so 2GB is more than enough for Windows, don’t compare apples to apples (no pun intended) since the mobile OS platforms and vendor customizations require very different hardware requirements.

I have used the Lumia 520, 720, 820, 620, 920 and 1020, and got a chance to try the Lumia 1520 from a friend, and I immediately noticed the gain on the performance in general OS usage.  One must also consider that unlike the older Nokia models with the Lumia 1520 the hardware has to handle almost double the pixels as it features a fullHD resolution (1920×1080) compared to older flagships that had 720pHD (1280×768).   The resolution impact may not be noticeable in most apps due to the Windows big font approach however!

Performance

First and foremost comparing devices on the same platform with the same tools maybe relevant in some ways, but when comparing against different platforms this can be totally meaningless factor.  Reason is that how the operating platform behave, the optimizations, etc means the real performance you feel can be vastly different though the hardware might be the same. Take for example an Apple IPhone 4S, a Lumia 520 and any Android phone running a dual-core processor with 512MB memory, and I can say the Android phone feels really slow, but the other two devices are far more smoother.  So keep this in mind and don’t purely go by benchmarks to say which is the superior device.

Finding free benchmarks for Window Phone devices are not easy, and even paid once are not many.  So seeing how well it performs against phones running other platforms are not easy for a blogger like me.

One tool that has started proving some means of comparing across platforms is the Basemark OS II tool from Rightmark.  Results shown are a combination of data extracted from the web, and my personal tests.

The overall test one might say are give an usual picture showing the Nexus 5 and Lumia 1520 to have near equal results, and that makes sense when they are running nearly the same hardware configuration.  We also see the quantum improvement of the new Lumia 1520 compared to the older Lumia 1020.  Also evident is that the lookalike Lumia 1320 (and the Lumia 630, both powered by Snapdragon 400 processors) is far slower, but match last year’s the Lumia 1020 flagship though they are running mid-tier hardware in 2014 terms.

Basemarkoverall

However the graphics test for Basemark provides is rather different, and questions the accuracy of the test.  The chart below has the Nexus 5 roaring massively ahead of the Lumia 1520, and also ahead of the IPhone 5S.  Once might say the Windows 8.1 graphic drivers and game engines maybe not as optimized as the Android version, but the Apple 5S pushes a lot less pixels, and has a very powerful GPU, so its quite startling.  But the comparison of the Windows devices here makes sense, and see how much more powerful the Lumia 1520 GPU and CPU combination is compared to the Lumia 1020 (almost 4x times).

basemarkgraphics

A review of the Nokia 930 published in www.7tutorials.com uses the WP Bench app to test the Windows phones, shows the Lumia 1520 (and the 930) going neck and neck, and providing nearly a 100% (2x) improvement to the Lumia 1020 performance in graphics, memory and storage tests.   Interestingly many had said the gain for Windows from better hardware was going to be marginal, but the performance gains of the Lumia 1520 over the 1020 indicates that WP8/8.1 performance does improve tremendously with better hardware, though performance gains from 1GB to 2GB memory have been marginal.

Design

One of the most favorite and still popular WP8 Lumia phones is the 925 for it classy design.  The new co-flagship to the Lumia 1520 the Lumia 930 harks back to this design, but sadly the Lumia 1520 opted more for a plasticky feel though it has the strong and sturdy polycarbonate chassis.   The worst is the red variant as it has a glossy body making it feel really cheap, however the other colors have a matte type surface similar to the Lumia 920, giving it a more refined and premium feel. The design though has very little novelties, and seems to be more functional.

1520-0

I like that they put the power button at the middle as it makes the phone operable with single hand thank to this design touch (something the HTC designers for instance missed out with the HTC butterfly I had sometime back).  The SIM card and microSD slots have trays rather than simply inserting the devices which also gives it it a premium feel.

Though the phone features optical image stabilization, it has a slim shape something that Nokia got right with the 925 and the same mantra is applied to the Lumia 1520. However the days the optical image stabilization was a Nokia feature is now gone, HTC and then LG joined in, and this year IPhone (with the 6+) and Samsung (with the Note 4) join the club, and they have even thinner profiles.

The phone is large, and definitely a phablet and bordering a tablet, but heavy at 209g.  However when you hold it, you will realize it does not seem to heavy compared to say the Lumia 1020.  Weird when the 1020 is much lighter.  This all boils down to the weight balance and design, as the camera hump on the Lumia 1020 definitely upsets the phone balance for normal use.  I have the Lumia 1520 next to my Nexus 5, and you see the difference of what one calls a large 4.95” phone and the Lumia 1520!

IMG_0687_crop

Display

A phablet has to be large, and the Lumia 1520 (and the cheaper 1320) are Nokia’s first fling into the highly lucrative phablet market that Samsung got going with their Note series phones.  The users of these devices mainly want to watch videos, play games, and hence the quality of the display is very very important.

The prominent and very easily noticed Smile aspect of the Lumia 1520 is its fullHD resolution 6” display.  The Lumia 1520 moves away from the AMOLED type displays that were in the Lumia 1020 and 925, and moves back to a IPS LCD display, a Nokia ClearBlack type, a decision that seems to be favored by many due to the more natural colors of the LCD displays.  The display comes with a protective layer of Corning Glass 2, unusual that it uses the older generation of this tech, when even the Lumia 1020 had Corning glass 3? Could this be a cost issue?

The display also has the supersensitive touch tech (aka glove mode) which is something Nokia has been bragging with the Lumia range (and the only one to omit this surprisingly is the new Lumia 930). The Lumia 1520 display is also supposed to have something called Assertive Display Technology (got that from wpcentral.com) where each pixel is can dynamically adjust to the current environment, and this is unique to the Lumia 1520 currently.

The display has good color representation, and decent legibility outdoors, and great legibility indoors.  The display however is very reflective, and a matter screen protector may seem a good option if you are an outdoor user.

Camera

While Nokia and Microsoft will like you to believe the camera in the Lumia 1520 is a match for the Lumia 1020, from a photographic perspective there have been improvements, but there have been sacrifices as well.  To the purist this sacrifices are too much, and the Lumia 1020 continues to be the camera flagship in the market for those who want the best in photographs but also know how to use a device to get the best out of it (more on this later!).

Lumia 1520 Lumia 1020 Lumia 930 Iphone 5s Galaxy S5 HTC One M8 Note 3
MegaPixel 20 41 20 8 16 4 13
Sensor Size 1/2.5” 1/1.5” (aka 2/3”) 1/2.5” 1/3” 1/2.6” 1/3” 1/3.06”
Sensor Toshiba BSI CMOS Toshiba BSI CMOS Toshiba BSI CMOS Sony BSI CMOS Samsung ISOCELL ? BSI CMOS Sony BSI CMOS
Pixel Size 1.12 µm 1.12 µm 1.12 µm 1.5 µm 1.12 µm 2 µm 1.12 µm
Aperture F2.4 F2.2 F2.4 F2.2 F2.2 F 2.0 F2.2
Focal Length 26mm 26mm 26mm 30mm 31mm 28mm 31mm
Flash Dual LED Xenon (main)
LED (video light)
AF Assist Beam
Dual LED Dual LED (dual-tone) Dual LED Dual LED Dual LED (dual-tone)
Image Stabilization Optical Optical Optical Digital Digital Digital Digital
Exposure Control Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ISO Control Yes Yes Yes No* Yes Yes Yes
White Balance Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shutter Speed Yes Yes Yes No* No No No
RAW capture DNG DNG DNG No* No
HDR in-camera No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video fullHD @ 30fps fullHD @ 30fps fullHD @ 30fps fullHD @ 60fps 4K @ 30fps
FullHP @ 60fps
fullHD @ 60fps 4K @ 30fps
FullHP @ 60fps
Mics 4 HAAC 2 HAAC

First compare the 1520 against what most would compare, the Lumia 1020.  Immediately you notice many of the photography oriented features have been removed and moved mainstream.  Xenon LED is out, the sensor is substantially smaller (the Lumia 1020 sensor is 67.5% larger than the 1520 sensor) and more similar in size to the market standard, the lens aperture is also smaller.  Fortunately the Optical image stabilization has been retained Smile  Photography control is still very much available thanks to the Windows Phone OS that provides one capability still missing in the Android space which is the shutter control.  The difference in ratio to the Lumia 1020 sensor is shown below.

Sensor-size

While I am not an Apple fanboy, the native camera app for Apple phones may have very little control, with things improving with the new iOS 8 (which now features exposure control). However Apple iOS does support in its latest version many advanced photographic control capabilities similar to the Windows OS, which is harnessed by third party camera apps such as ProCam. My comparison table is with the native camera app, however expect some great camera apps for iOS 8 devices. The * in the apple column is to indicate that these are supported by iOS and third party apps currently do provide this capability for iOS devices.

However now compare the Lumia 1520 against the flagships of 2013/14 and you see its now a match or slightly superior to the rest of the competitors, making sure the Lumia 1520 remains one of the best camera smartphones in the market, but compared to the Lumia 1020 is definitely less cable for an photography enthusiast.  You will also see that the Nokia 930 features the same photography specs as the 1520, which means the Lumia 1020 replacement is yet to come (well looks like Panasonic may have brought the replacement, as their latest smartphone the DMC-CM1, the phone having the model number more akin to a Panasonic camera has the largest ever sensor on a camera, featuring the 1” sensor found in most pro cameras such as the Sony RX100, Nikon 1 and Canon GX7).  The picture below shows the Lumia 1520 camera lens and the Nexus 5.

IMG_0690_crop

I have a Lumia 1020 prior and found that it takes very good photos to match a decent point and shoot digital .  The Lumia 1520 is good but still not in the same league of the Lumia 1020.  One of the biggest pain points of the 1020 has been the significant lag, as the entire processing of the image is done using the phone hardware (not specialized image chip like in the 808).  The Lumia 1520 features much more powerful hardware, and hence the lag is much less.  However if you have used an IPhone or a top Android phone you will notice the Lumia 1520 is still not as fast when its capturing images.  The chances of focusing and getting the shot right are rather poor even with the Lumia 1520.

UPDATE (1-OCt-2014):  The new Nokia Denim update due rebrands the Nokia camera as the Lumia camera, and it seems the big grievences with regard to the camera performance is supposedly getting some serious fixes that should bring joy to Nokia 1520, 930, 830, 730 users!  Fixes include the following and if this works, the Lumia phones are going to really improve on their camera performance!  However all these features will only come for the latest snapdragon processor models, the older Snapdragon S4 plus based phones such as the Lumia 1020, 925/920, etc will not have these 😦

  • Fast camera startup and capture
  • Burst mode that takes photos in milliseconds
  • 4K quality video and 8.3MP extraction from the 4K video stream
  • HDR auto and dynamic flash available in the camera app directly
  • Improved low light algorithms to get even better picture quality.

If you read many reviews of camera comparisons of phones, one thing becomes obvious.  The best hardware, and most featured camera app alone is not going to make your phone the best camera app. There is a lot more, for those who like to click and have the device do the thinking (in digital cameras we call this the auto mode), the IQ of the camera logic is vital.  Importance factors include the way the camera metering works, the speed of the focus lock, specially under low light situations.

You will also notice that the focus of HTC and Apple has been different in the camera department, as they have avoided the megapixel game, and opted for a larger pixel size to allow more light per pixel.  HTC with a 4MP version sadly may have gone with too low a resolution, but Apple seems to have picked the correct spot with the 8MP resolution.  However unlike the samsung phones, the Lumia phones with Pureview use what is called downsampling where the photos are taken at full resolution and with something called pixel binning scaled into a smaller (usually 5MP) version that results in a super sharp image (if the focus had got it right that is).

This has been and continues to be the area that Apple still takes the cake, as it provides possibly the best camera app for even the dumbest of users to end up with good photos.  Samsung comes a close second is my opinion.   Nokia has great cameras, the camera app in Windows is super featured, but in auto mode you may say that the photos are not that great, even with the Lumia 1020.  You really need to make use of those settings to get great pictures, and for many this a bit too complex is my opinion, and an area that Nokia / Microsoft needs to put some serious work into.  My current phone is a Nexus 5, not a great camera phone but a decent one, but I can take much better photos (though they may not be that great in sharpness) than the Lumia 1520, though the Nexus 5 has much less capable photography specs and the google camera app lacks many of the advanced features.

Sound

The Lumia phones have always done well in the audio department, and the Lumia 1520 extends this.  The large size helps to host larger speaker presumably because the audio is loud and clear on speakerphone mode.  Call voice quality on the earpiece is also great.

Since I do not have any fancy tech to validate my opinions I switched to GSMArena to see how they rated it, and yes the ratings are good to excellent, not the best but among the best.  Surprisingly the audio scores for the loudspeaker for ringing tone (= music on the speaker) are lower than some smaller phones (including the Nokia 720), however the loudness of sound for voice is very good (which was the area I noticed, and good to see the scientific test confirm this).

Storage

The Lumia 1520 also brought back something that was missing across the Lumia flagships prior, which was a MicroSD card slot.  While the phone had 32GB internal storage, of which around 25GB was available for the user, microSD was the latest variant supporting upto 128GB cards either microSD, microSDHC or microSDXC.  This would make this phone an ideal multimedia device with great storage flexibility.  The 20MP camera with the capability to store in RAW format, would also require large degree of space Smile

Battery

This was also one of the key selling points of the Lumia 1520, as it includes a massive 3400mAh capacity battery, and the battery endurance test for this phone was at the top in the GSMArena test, and still continues to be among the top in 2014.  The larger battery is definitely required for a massive display of this size, but thanks to the much more efficient chipset combined with the large battery the Lumia 1520 is one of the few smartphones that can guarantee you a full day operation at minimum, something most smartphones would struggle even with smaller displays.

However the GSMArena battery test are not really enterprise class, as in it does not mimic enterprise users who are very intensive phone users (you usually say gamers are intensive users).  I will update this post with feedback from my friend who will be using the Lumia 1520 as his work phone switching from a traditional blackberry.  Lets see how he feels of battery performance of Lumia 1520.

Update1: My colleague has been running the phone for two days, full time on wi-fi at work, and is easily seeing the phone being able to last 2-3 days.  I am waiting to see how the full data mode usage feedback will, but its looking very positive.

Niggles

Problem 1 : I upgraded from Windows 8.0 (Nokia Black) to Window 8.1 (Nokia Cyan), and hit a major problem!.  After the upgrade I could not get the extra tiles, and could not find this option in the start+Theme setting.  Turns out the ability to configure the number of tiles was only available in the 8.1 Developer Preview, and is now a default option for Windows 8.1 release edition.  However my problem was that what was the default setting was not appearing.  Turns out this can happen, and the solution.. yes.. wait.. do a reset of the phone.. yes a full reset.  Tried it, and yes magic !  the extra tiles were there without a fuss.  Seems the upgrade process does not do all the upgrades properly and you may need to do this to make sure you phone is all well.

Problem 2: This was a biggy, I could not get data to work at all, no matter what.  Though I gave the APN settings of my provider it keep saying DNS error.  I tried resetting again but with no success.   I then downloaded the Microsoft Access Point app, which was one solution listed in the forums, but found that this does not support Windows 8.1 release edition.  Turns out the problem was that with 8.1 you need to ensure your SIM is provision by the telco provider, as the settings are picked by the provider.  With Windows 8 I had no problem, so in case you hit this problem speak to the telco provider to provision your SIM first.

Lumia 1520 or other? My choice….

If you are buying the Lumia 1520 for its camera, I say also look at the competitors from Android and iOS.  Specially the Note 3 and the upcoming Note 4, and the IPhone 6+ since they may even offer better capability since the Lumia 1520 has been cut down too much.  However one place the Lumia 1520 seems to have a great advantage is on the battery endurance.

For the purest camera capability currently available get the Lumia 1020, even if its supposedly at the end of life by this year (which also means its not going to get any new updates from Microsoft).  To me the Lumia 1020 still remains a favorite, and still question the Nokia team why they launched the Lumia 1020 with the slower chipset when they could have done better and made the Lumia 1020 a stunner.

However if you want a big display phone with great features with great battery life, the Lumia 1520 is one of the best options and I might say one of the best phablet devices out in the market, with the Samsung Note 3 maybe taking the overall crown (if you consider the stylus as a need).  Things will surely change with emergence of many phablet products in 2014, led by the IPhone 6 Plus (assuming the screen bending issue does not cause a drop in sales), but to me it will be the Note 4 with its astounding spec that will surely be the new benchmark.  However the Note 4 and IPhone 6 Plus will be priced over two times of the Lumia 1520, and that to me makes the Lumia a hot buy now more than the time of its launch.

In case you find the 1520 great, but a bit too large, the Lumia 930 its co-flagship with same tech but in a slightly smaller profile, and far more premium build feel is a solid but pricey alternative, though the strongest challenger maybe the recently launched HTC One M8 Windows phone version that is looking to be an excellent prospect.

The Nokia 41MP Pureview battle – Lumia 1020 vs 808: Photography control and camera app features


The Nokia 808 was the last and the best of the Symbian powered Nokia smartphones, and featured the pinnacle of camera in a phone.  The Lumia 1020 is said to be the next upgrade of the 808, and if so it has to be the new benchmark for camera in a phone.  The question to this date remains a hard fought one, as both these phones are very special, as they target the professional and enthusiast photographer, and also the users who want photos with  on compromises (meaning oh what to do, that’s all a phone can do to be not an excuse).

I have been using the 1020 for a while, and decided against all common sense knowing that the Symbian platform is dead, to buy a Nokia 808 to see how does it fare against the newer Lumia 1020 featuring what Nokia markets as the phone to replace the 808. The review focus foremost is as the camera in the phone, and secondly on the basic smartphone capabilities.

P1020196

I am going to start this unique review more on photographic terms (no I am not a professional photographer, but a person who appreciates high quality photos and control when taking photos) since these two smartphones are more about the camera than anything else.

Part 1: Photography control

The two phones are actually very very powerful photographic equipment when it features a sensor that is larger than sensor feature in professional smart cams such as the Canon G15, Canon S120, Lumix LX7, Nikon P7100, etc and hence the ability to use this in full manual mode is important.

Here is a quick comparison of the Nokia Pro Camera (Lumia 1020) app and the Nokia camera (Nokia 808).  I have not considered any third party camera apps, or Lenses that may give additional controls in this.

  Nokia 1020 Nokia 808
Aperture Control No No
Shutter control Yes No
ISO control Yes Yes
Exposure control Yes Yes
Compression quality No NormalSuperfine
Manual Focus Yes No
Touch Focus Yes Yes
Focus Light on/off Yes Yes
Capture modes 5MP

5MP + 34MP

5MP + DNG 34MP

2MP

5MP

8MP

34MP

Aspect Ratio 4:3 and 16:9 4:3 and 16:9
ND Filter No Yes
Capture Mode NormalTimerBracketing

 

NormalBracketingInternal

Self-time

Saturation No Yes
Contrast No Yes
Sharpness No Yes

Lumia trump cards

The Lumia 1020 has the advantage in that it offers shutter control, which is a very powerful feature. The Nokia 808 sadly was due to get this before they pulled the plug on the Symbian platform, and while you can’t set it manually you can achieve a bit of shutter control by using the ND filter and exposure control, but still this critical element goes to the Lumia 1020.

The Lumia 1020 brings another massive ace that  it can save both a 5MP shot and the 34MP shot, a feature the 808 lacks, and the latest ability to save in DNG format means photographers can get into Photoshop or similar tools to enhance their photos.

Nokia 808 trump cards

However the Nokia 808 comes out fighting by having the ND filter which is useful when shooting in bright light, to get better exposure on your photos, and also is able to apply custom saturation/contrast settings when shooting.  Another powerful feature is the ability define the sharpness you want applied to the photos, and the quality of the compression.  So several powerful capability that the Lumia 1020 Pro camera is not able to match.

The 808 also wins in that it has a 2MP mode, which is ideal for uploads to your social sites, and also has an added advantage that it has a higher zoom level compared to the Lumia 1020.

Round 1: Conclusion

So from photography control view and app point of view the Nokia Pro camera of the Lumia 1020 has the edge over the camera app, and when you couple the Windows phones ability to load Lenses (custom camera plug-ins) this definitely goes the Lumia 1020 way, but the 808 is not easily beaten!

The Windows 8 platform is fast developing, and there are talks that the aperture control may also come into this app, and further changes are due to the Nokia Pro Camera.

Nokia Lumia Windows 8 phones, better than competing Android mid and low end rivals


The latest generation of Windows 8 Phone OS Lumia phones have got Nokia back into the competition, so how do they stack up compared to the Android competition? Which should you choose?

After using the Lumia 620 and then the Lumia 920, i have got a fair idea of the usability and fit of the Nokia Lumia range for 2013.  My separate article of Windows 8 Phone will give you and glimpse of where it standards against Android and iOS, but the simple story is while the App market may not be as featured, for most users the required apps are available, and then in that light the Windows 8 Phones have to compared on the bundled software and hardware, and that’s a key factor you need to consider.

So should i buy a Windows 8 Phone?

If you are into serious gaming or want access to apps, apps and more apps (and end up never really using most of these apps), then Windows 8 Phone is not for you, iOS or Android is the way to go.  But if your Smartphone use mainly resolves around facebookk, browsing, Skype, viber, etc, etc  (and gaming is Angry birds, and its likes) which is what you call “essential apps” then Windows 8 Phone is back in serious contention, as it does provide good support to compete with the other two platforms, and out does the Blackberry BB10 as well.

Why so little memory on Windows devices

Don’t compared specs apple to apple is very important, if you do so then the Apple devices might look rather obsolete specially in memory capacity compared to the mighty Android devices.  What you have to realize is that Android as an operating system is very heavy and not optimized, which is why the devices with the latest JellyBean OS do not run well with 512MB, and 1GB or 2GB is recommended.

Windows 8 phone in comparison is far more optimized, and you will see that most Windows 8 phones do might well with 512MB memory, though some games have problems installing with 512MB, which is a bug according to Microsoft and they are working on fixing this.  Heavy users though have indicated there is a lag switching between applications with 512MB memory, but again nothing as bad as the Android lag.  The top of the line phones currently feature 1GB memory.

Why Nokia, and not another Windows 8 Phone?

While Microsoft may have pitched the HTC 8X/8S during the launch Windows 8, it has been Nokia who have been pushing Windows 8 phone sales.  HTC, Samsung and Huawei have not really generated great success with the Microsoft platform, and the reasons are very obvious.

  • HTC may have got a cool design, but never have followed up with any newer devices, nor have the focused greatly on providing anything great on the software aspect (the HTC One version supposedly coming with Windows 8 phone may change things for HTC in the Windows 8 phone market)
  • Samsung put out a cut down Galaxy S3 version as a Windows 8 phone, and that was about all they did
  • Huawei has been pushing several devices, but have not seen the same global impact as Nokia, and the recent issues with US sales of Huawei will also impact this drive

In comparison Nokia followed up the 920/820/620 launch with another great set of variations in the 720/520, and variants of the 920 for other telco operators.  The recent launch of a much slimmer 925 and the upcoming 41MP Nokia EOS has also got people excited.   More importantly Nokia has always had great software in their phones, but the world change with Apple and the store concept and Nokia got lost out here.  The Microsoft App store is still in the early growth state, and Nokia knowing this has invested heavily on writing many great apps for general thing that people do, and these have made the Nokia phones special compared to the other Windows 8 phone devices.

Where does Nokia Windows 8 phones compete well?

While the Android and iOS world has been booming, Apple has always held the premium market until 2012/13 where the Samsung Galaxy S3/S4 have now entered strongly into this market, and HTC One is another great contender this year.  While the premium market goes well server the mid tier and upper range of the low end markets has not seen great phones.  However in Asia this market is very important, and Nokia has always been great here.  Nokia’s strategy of putting good hardware, better than average cameras and high quality displays into the mid and upper low range is something that Android rivals have not focused that greatly on, as they tend to skimp either on the camera or phone hardware.

All Nokia phones offer Krait series 200 or 300 hardware, with better than average graphics in the way of Adreno 225 / 305.  Similar hardware is available on Android devices, but they cost around 50% more at minimum.  So for your money if you a person who is not an avid gamer, the Windows 8 phone featuring Nokia’s stand tall and are very good value for money.  The upcoming Windows 8.1 upgrade should improve the OS greatly.  Use an Nokia Lumia WP8 phone and try a similar Android phone with the same hardware for a month, and you will notice how much more optimized the Windows 8 OS is compared to Android stable mates!

Which Windows 8 Nokia phone to buy?

Though the model range is rather wide and the differences marginal among these, in reality not all are available in the same region. However here in Sri Lanka, where phones are brought in from all over the world the selection criteria can be much harder 🙂

nokia-lumia-wp8-devices-e1361957967698

Model Strengths Weaknesses My opinion
Lumia 620 Good build quality, very good hardware for the price range, large high quality display, support for micro SD cards, decent camera, Full-fledged OS including free Office Mobile, NFC support Small capacity battery, a bit chunky due to the thick external casing, 512MB memory An excellent buy with a solid all round performance, and far better than anything in the Android market in this price range.  I would say this is the best buy in the Lumia range.
Lumia 820 Excellent display, decent hardware configuration, micro SD expansion, and good camera, Free Office Mobile, LTE support, NFC support, 1GB memory Display resolution same as lower models A nice design, but this to me is the weak link as its overpriced initially and though prices have dropped Android competition has caught up with this model in recent times in the likes of Xperia L, etc on the hardware specs and bang for the buck
Lumia 920 Super camera for low light and flash less photography, excellent build quality, Very good display, LTE support, 1GB memory Bulky size, battery life below par, hardware not different from the 820 to make the flagship special, no micro SD card slot An excellent phone for photography and awesome display and design, but sadly heavily overpriced initially and for a 4.5” phone this is far too heavy. Supposedly this was because of the optical stabilization module, but the newer 925 has the same but is much lighter indicating the reasons maybe very different! Current low pricing makes this a steel since it’s a really solid phone with a great camera.
Lumia 520 Similar to the 620, but offers a larger more usable 4” display, pricing is excellent, and the hardware exceptional compared to the competition, decent camera, large capacity battery. Really really bad display panel, no front camera, no LED flash, slow focusing when taking photos, small battery capacity, no NFC, no compass, 512MB memory, uses a smaller sensor compared to the Lumia 620 It fixes the small size and has a bit larger battery compared to the 620, but sadly unlike the 620 too many corners are cut on the display and camera. However compared to Android competition this stands out still, and is a very good buy.
Lumia 720 Better than the 820 in every way, except the lower memory capacity.  Has a much larger battery capacity giving it very good battery endurance Uses a smaller sensor than the Lumia 820 making it not that great under indoor conditions, 512MB memory A much better buy than the 820, and also well priced. The 820 and 720 are far too similar and wish Nokia had opted for the 1GB memory for this unit and faced out the 820.This phone is the second best buy in the current Lumia range in my opinion for value of money buys.
Lumia 822 Excellent price, and identical to the 820 with the exception of the support for CDMA as opposed to LTE, 1GB memory Ugly bulky design more in line with the WP 7.x generation Lumia series, Lumia 820 has a nicer design, and so does the Lumia 720. Only offered as a carrier phone so make sure its unlocked if you are buying it A good buy if you can live with the bulky and rather bland design, if not as good as a 820 and 720 at a lower price.

Conclusion

Nokia has been loosing sales in the Smartphone market, but the loss rate has been reducing, as they are making a good comeback in the mid and low end of the Smartphone range, which currently is heavily dominated by Samsung, and other Chinese origin phones.

The new Lumia Windows 8 phones in the mid and low end smartphone market makes a lot of sense for buyers compared to the rather inferior and overpriced Android phones, but Nokia will not find it easy if Apple does go about launching the budget IPhone as that definitely maybe big trouble for its latest emergence.

Windows 8.1 is needed very quickly as the OS is the limitation, but for many average Smartphone uses the OS is solid and featured, and i would say take a look the Nokia 620, 720, 520 as they are good value phones with superb hardware and a very very smooth operating system.

Nokia N9 Review : Platform orphaned and design copied for the sake of Microsoft


In a world now dominated by Android and iOS smartphones, the much awaited challenge from Nokia in the form of Meego was sadly squashed once Nokia’s the ex-Microsoft took over and decided that they were going with Windows Mobile as their smartphone strategy and dumping years of exciting research with Meebo and then Meego.

The N9 in particular was highly awaited as it brought a whole line of innovations on technology and design for Nokia, and will be remembered now as the the design template for Nokia’s entry into the Windows Mobile market with the Lumia range (and if you look carefully it seems to have inspired the the generation Apple IPod Touch as well).

While I had decided against going for N9 knowing that it would be criminal waste on my cash for funding myself for phone changes, I got an royal opportunity of obtaining an N9 for a super price that allowed me to own this phone and see how it works out.

Design

I had to start from this, as this was one of the areas that the N9 was true innovation (unlike the Iphone 5!). The unique design of the phone was that it had no buttons either hardware or software for navigation and was exclusively driven by swipes.

For anyone not used to this, it would be a daunting experience, and I can surely tell you that. However once you get the knack of it its quite catchy. However don’t try to have this phone along with say an Android or iOS device, as it can be frustrating. Purely use this you soon get used to this unique navigation approach that is also ultra cool.

The rounded curves of the phone and the glass, makes the design simple and very elegant. I had the black but from what I have seen the other colors, white in particular are even more stunning.

The exterior is made of an unique poly carbonate plastic, that has since become the hot feature of other leadings phones such as the S3 and HTC One X. It may not be aluminum like the N8 or the IPhone, but the plastic is really high quality and more importantly makes it very nice to hold, very nice. So if you see an IPhone 5 ads saying don’t settle for plastic, just try using a N9 or HTC One X, you may beg to differ strongly 🙂


Even neat small design of the micro USB and SIM card shows the Nokia flagship designer touch, which you don’t find with most other phones.

I remember when reading through forums, one forum was warning buyers of the Chinese N9 clones, and one blogger had commented “Oh yeah, the clones are made by Nokia, and they are called Lumias!”

Bundled Kit

Positives: The N9 bundle is what you call truly comprehensive, as it includes not just a headset, charger and cable but also a perfect fit silicon (color coded to match your phone exterior) phone covers (which was copied by Nokia for their Lumia 800). The finish of the silicon cover is excellent, and it has a very good fit with the phone (= hard to put and remove, but no complains if the fit is good).

However the silicon cover also had some negative aspects, the second is common but the first baffled me.

  1. The silicon cover impacted the low volume from the earpiece and speakerphone., and the baffling aspect was that non of the openings (mic, speaker, ear piece) are closed by the cover, so the reason for the reduction in volume is very baffling.
  2. The cover also makes pressing the buttons hard, and you have to press with you finger nails to get them working.

Camera hardware, video and software

The N9 being a flagship of sorts (though the N8 still remains the king for camera’s as it has a very large sensor unlike the N9), the N9 in almost every other way from the screen resolution, to the processor and graphics was superior until the Lumia range came into being and hence came with a highly capable camera spec. A super large aperture of F 2.2 (one of the best, only ousted by the HTC One series which now have a F 2.0 aperture lenses), coupled to a Carl Zeis lens and a new sensor was designed to take on the best in the camera phone market.

One of the unique features in the sensor used that a Panasonic camera owner would be familiar is the sensor is actually not 8MP but 8.7MP to ensure regardless of the photo format you end up getting 8MP. Most phone camera sensors will reduce the image size when you change the format since they actually crop the photo when taking wide angle.

However the flash is weak for a dual LED unit, and though it touts branded F2.2 lens it sadly produces images that are lot more noisy than photos produced with camera phones with less technical specs such as the Galaxy SII, Xperia Arc/Arc S, Xperia P I used. While photos taken in daylight are good, photos taken in low light are rather disappointing.

The camera is also a no-nonsense version with no HDR, panorama effects. However you can get panorama using a third party camera app on the Nokia store.

The video shares the same issue of being very noisy, and the frames are not very smooth. However the camera did well under low light, and the ability to use the dual LEDs as a photo light is effective though it gives an unreal yellow tint to the video footage. The recorded audio is clear which is good news.

One feature that really really worked well was the touch focus that was very precise, compared to implementations I had seen on Android phones.

Voice calls, an area the phone excels

The phone is very clear but you have to be careful how you hold the phone as its very easy to block the mic (where it’s precisely located baffles me).

The loudspeaker was one of the few that really pleased me, its very loud, clear for voice calls in enclosed areas. However when used in a large open area, the sound quality drops as the design does not allow the sound to travel.

I also connected this to some speakers and found the audio quality is pretty good with very litter distortion, far superior to the quality put out by the Iphone Touch 4G!

Hardware

For a phone put out in 2011, I feel Nokia might have purposefully toned down on the hardware of the device once they changed direction from Meego to WP, since the Lumia series that follow had far superior hardware. The Lumia’s Windows Mobile interface is also very smooth, and I believe that the N9 hardware was muted to make it feel like the Windows Phone was a good as Meego. However compared to Android both these operating systems are far more optimized in how they harness the hardware!

The phone featured an rather outdated Cortex A8 based processor coupled to an old generation PowerVR graphics. The memory too was nothing special at 512MB but with the optimization this is not an issue.

My personal opinion is that the same spec powering the Lumia 800/710 should have been featured in the N9 that would have made this phone break records in performance, because the Meego OS is truly super fast.

Interface and OS

The interface takes a bit of time to get familiar as its definitely very different to Symbian, iOS and Android in its full swipe based button-less operations.

Swipe from top of the phone to bottom kills the app, while tap at the top bar shows you the notification bar. Swipe from bottom of the phone to the top brings the quick launch (the hardest to do!), while left swipe takes you from the current app to the desktops.

The interface is very smooth and tells you what optimized code can do. It might be running ancient hardware even as it hits the shelves, but oh boy the interface is smooth and neat, and tells you why the Android phone hardware specs keep leaping in bounds to cover for the pathetic optimizations and efficiencies of the Android platform. The phone felt far smoother an dual-core Android running hardware that would be 4-5 times more powerful!

However be vary that if you don’t kill the apps the phone can start to lag and become irritatingly slow.  A separate panel is available that shows all running apps/instances, and this screen can be pinch zoomed.  You can kill an app by long pressing and closing it as well.

Meego has some similarity to iOS (yes iOS) in that you have settings for most of the native apps in the settings menu, and the actual apps are clean with very little buttons. Not sure if all will like this though as I find application context settings far easier to use than having to be going into the setting menu to find it!

Browsing


Stock browser performs decently but is feature lacking, and not very smooth even with the latest updates.

First it has not tab support! That really shocked me, then I found that the N9 has a lot of “unique” behaviours that are very different to what we are used to. It has an option called open new window, which opens a new instance. If you want to find your tab window you have to go to the multi-tasking window and select the browser instance (=tab). I found this not very friendly and the different behavior not to my taste, though for some this may not be an issue.

I ran one benchmark on the browser, and the performance results were not thrilling.

Nokia N9 Stock – 28225

Galaxy Nexus – Stock – 90433

I also tried mobile Firefox, and found it to be heavy and offering no great benefit. The best browser for on this platform was good old Opera Mini 🙂

Music

The audio is very good, and the speakers built in offer rich audio. The phone excels when used with a headset or connected to an external audio output. The music interface is also very nice.

Video playback

Video playback on mobile devices are very important to most users. Manufacturers in most cases (Except Samsung, and in some ways Nokia) tend not to bundle all codecs since many codecs have associated licensing costs. The solution for most is to download and alternative media player from the app stores that come with the codecs to ensure you can play all format of video.

However with the N9 surprisingly for Nokia the stock Media player had trouble playing movie formats due to an encoding issues. This was a big let down for me, since Nokia always had good support for video formats in their Symbian range.

I then searched the ovi store and only found a player called VidXPlayer, which was horrible in interface and features, and also did not have the codec support for most formats. While it was able to open some files the stock player could not, the frame rate was HORRIBLE.

Seems media player options for the N9 are scarce and also not for the normal users! Other alternatives VLC and OpenPlayer come as deb packages and you need to first enable developer options as well as allow external sources to install these.

However the link to the VLC version for N9 is not available at the VLC site but from an external party and that sites seems to have gone down 😦 Installed OpenPlayer and found though the files that did not play on the stock player opened it was so slow and freezing the phone that it was good as useless.

Further reading helped me find the reason why the N9 struggles to play and part of the problem seems to be its GPU which sad to say is actually inferior to the N8 unit on video playback 😦 it also has a severe limitation on the method of encoding which is why most videos you download don’t play well on it. More information http://n9ok.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-make-nokia-n9-playback-720p-hd.html#more

The best way to guarantee video playback on an N9 is to go Iphone/Microsoft Windows phone mode, which is to convert the files and upload, not what you call very open and this is one area that Android really rules the roost since Windows Phone similar to Itunes expects you to convert and copy. Oh yeah Nokia Symbian actually is superior here, as it can play most formats without conversion.

Ovi store still crappy, need we say more

Things have not improved much on the OVI store for N9. Downloads are slow, and messy and the store is filled with garbage apps. Loads of apps that actually are very useful and vital for the N9 not being in the store will deter normal users, though with most users buying this for the open OS means they won’t mind treading the extra bit to get things done.

Challenges and quirks

Unable to sync contacts with Google, solution found

I had setup my phone to sync with my office Exchange server, and then setup another Exchange connection to sync with my Google.

The office Exchange was configured to sync Mail and Calender, while the google Exchange setup for Contacts, Mail and Calender.

However I found that that contact sync was not working, and the option for contact sync was missing in the configuration for synching with my Google.

I found that the N9 though it can support multiple exchange configurations, it will only allow contact sync with the first Exchange setup!

Solution, I deleted my office Exchange account and gmail, and then made the Exchange setup for Google first, and then the Exchange setup for connecting to MS Exchange. This imported my contacts and things were working fine.

Link: http://discussions.nokia.com/t5/Maemo-and-MeeGo-Devices/N9-not-syncing-Google-contacts/td-p/1234913

No way to create a new APN, need a third party app not found in the OVI store

Now this was shocking, the interface does not allow to create a new APN. You can only create a new WIFI type internet connection! In order to do this you have to seek a third party not available in the OVI store to achieve this.

Link: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1788707

No way to disable WIFI

You only have an option for switch on Internet. This effectively enables the WIFI even if you choose a 3G connection as your Internet connection.

Poor sustained Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, seems to be an over optimized killing of the net connection

The device keeps loosing connectivity with the Wi-Fi router and 3G network, making it extremely messy for any downloads.

However it does one optimization, the very moment something needs the internet based on the priority of connections it connects and downloads, but once it feels the download has been done it disconnects the connection. However I guess if a download stalls this optimization might be working against the N9!

Unbelievable time to reset to default

When i decided to resell the phone after getting familar with it, i selected the clean format option.  the phone prompted me that it will take 15mins and to plug the phone to the charger.  I thought this was just a warning to make sure you were careful not to brick the phone if you were doing it with low charge.  But oh boy was it not the most slowest reset i have ever come across. The process took much more than 15mins, and I really cannot fathom why it takes so much time! So in case you select this option make sure you have the phone attached to a charger, it seems to be doing something crazily scary when it resets to factory.

Conclusion

The Meego platform shows how a highly optimized platform can make simple low end hardware run super smooth and efficient. The platform also shows the potential it had if it was matured into the true replacement for Symbian.

Sadly the platform development coincided with the entry of Elop and was doomed from the start, the release of the N9 I feel was done simply to keep everyone loyal to Nokia that Nokia still had it in them to put out great phones, as the Symbian platform was getting torn apart by Android and iOS, not due to the lack of features but the poor pace in development and lack of apps that the modern gen wanted.

The design of the N9 is totally outstanding compared to what’s out there in the market (only contenders would be the HTC One s and X), and the beauty of this design has since then been reflected in the Lumia 800/900 and it I am sure will shine with the Lumia 820/920 which seemingly will have the internal hardware and proper OS to help it grow.

Nokia definitely skimmed on the internal hardware, and the shutdown of its Meego development has impeded. The good news though is that most who left Nokia’s meego team have now formed a new company called Jolla and intend to continue to development on Meego. I do hope they will keep the N9 (and its old brother the N900) support so that even if Nokia does not do any updates Jolla will.

The Nokia N9 will remain a favorite development phone, just like the N900, and it already has Android 4.0 as a dual boot option, and many say it will have Android 4.1 running in dual boot before its available for most Android phones! However i am sure for most its not Android on the N9, but advancing Meego that will be the area of interest, and here there is doubt.

Nokia N8 smartphone review


After years of Nokia phone ownership, and the latter part being all Symbian phones I did my switch to Android.  The transition from Nokia also came after i switched from the E-series devices to the N97 mini, which sadly showed how little the Nokia devices had evolved over the years, and in many ways the phone was inferior to the older models both in multimedia, and also rather unstable.

However the Android experience via an Sony Ericsson X10 (yes not the best, but still very much a decent example, specially on the camera end for Android at that time), highlighted how much more smarter the Android and IPhone devices had grown.  However one area that really put me off on Androids was the poor battery life, and lackluster camera (though things have moved on now on these areas).

The two points were important enough for me to switch back to Nokia, and this time to the Nokia N8, the current multimedia champ even after over an year in the market.  However i continued my Android experience by purchasing an 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab, where i found it to be more suited for my needs.  The review of the Nokia N8 is entirely based on my personal experience Symbian phone ownership, and recent experiences with Android phones/tablets and Apple devices.

First Impressions

A very vital aspect of any smart phones is the design and look and feel. While not having the super slick look of an IPhone 4 or Android phones with similar design, the N8 has its own touch of class in a very different way.   You really get a feel for the phone is when you hold it, as the size and weight really make it feel very comfortable.  Pictures do very little justice for this phone.  In many ways its like a car, you have to test drive it to really appreciate it.

While the bulge from the camera definitely impacts the design of the camera, you know the bulge has to be accept for what that little  camera can do! In case the impact the slim looks is a problem then an IPhone4, Android smart phone or the Nokia C7 might be a better choice, but be very aware, they all come with less capable cameras.

Design

The phone just feels very comfortable, and the size is very pocket friendly.  However if they could have gone with the 3.7 or 4″ screen with a higher res screen it would have been ideal.  But i am sure both those would have meant less battery life, and seemingly the resolution issue might be also due to the platform.

The phone oozes class and quality when you hold it, and the raw metal really gives a feeling of confidence on the unit, something you don’t feel when you hold a pure plasticky Samsung Galaxy or similar Android phones.

The screen being an AMOLED type has very good colors, and does quite well even outdoors an area where less capable LCD screens are severely challenged.

General Features and Sync capabilities

Nokia always has been well featured on the standard telephony side, and the N8 and Symbian^3 maintain this.  The contacts, call management features and calender management features are good.  The sync with desktop is done with the Nokia OVI suite which works well with outlook.  The phone can also sync with your online account in OVI, though not sure how many use that feature 🙂

The OVI windows client is pretty decent and does a good job in syncing most of the content.  The application though has grown heavier over the years, and a very large download as well!

In addition the phone comes with the Office and Acrobat Reader (light edition).  Editing of documents is not possible with the version provided, with the editing version only coming bundled with the E-series Nokia phones.

The Nokia map feature is highly regarded, sadly for me i cannot comment since Sri Lanka is not covered by the maps provided!  So i have to depend on Google maps for any navigational purposes.

The phone also comes with a YouTube player, and you can find a YouTube downloader software on OVI as well.  Also available free is Swype, an alternative keyboard that can be very effective if you are heavy Text-er.

The browser sadly had been clunky, and the latest version with Symbian Anna is better.  However I don’t complain much since i mainly use Opera Mobile or Mini, and when using this the performance is competitive and so is the usability.  Even on Android or and for that matter an IPad, i mostly use other browsers than the standard. On the standard browser Flash playback is possible, but its a the full fledged Flash version.

Multimedia capabilities

Nokia has always been strong on media format support without the need for any third party software, and the N8 continues this tradition.  The built in media player is capable of playing most formats, and does a good job.  Though it runs a puny 680Mhz processor, it has dedicated hardware for boosting video processing which is the reason why it can match or surpass the performance of supposedly more powerful hardware on the video playback front.

The key emphasis of the N8 has been the camera, so much so many say is more a camera-phone, rather than a phone-camera.  Packing one of the largest sensors installed onto a phone, and coupled with a very good lens that has been developed by Carl Zeiss is good enough for most phones.  However adding a powerful Xenon flash and an AF assist light ensures that the camera is able to perform quite well even in trying indoors and low light conditions.  In addition it also has a built in ND filter, something very rare even on proper cameras that allow it to provide very good photos in day light even under very bright light conditions (another area that cameras find it hard to generate good pictures).

The outcome is that the camera provides superb photos in day light, and does very very well indoors and under low light.  The xenon flash is powerful enough to light up a small room, and the sensor good enough to take decent photos even without the flash if you can hold the camera steady.

However not all things are good, and even with the latest update these issues the software side has some serious shortcomings.  Until Symbian Anna, the camera interface was the same camera interface i have seen in the N97 mini, running the older Symbian operating system.  With Symbian Anna and the new update from Nokia Beta labs the camera interface is much more user friendly but still lacks some key features to make use of the camera hardware better.

  • Option for precise ISO control
  • Ability to to set the sharpness and ISO as a fixed configuration (currently its clears every time you change any of the camera scenes, and defaults back when the camera application is loaded each time)
  • Option to set the shutter speed manually (since the shutter is set by software, i am not sure why the shutter speed control cannot be provided)
  • Ability to set a minimum shutter speed
  • Ability to set a maximum ISO threshold
As an owner of the famous Lumix TZ/ZS superzoom camera, i know that you can get some very good long exposure shots even with small sensors if you are able to keep the device steady and expose if for a longer time. The N8 has the camera hardware, but the lack of software to allow this really puts a hard stop.
The camera software algorithm has a nasty tendency to increase ISO and keep the shutter speed down, which is why you may end with too many blurry shots even with such fine hardware (for a camera in a phone).  Lack of control over the the shutter speed definitely is something hurting the N8 very badly.

On the video front of course the phone excels, with very good video recording.  The benefit of a good sensor, and good lens, specially a fast lens helps with videos under low light conditions.  Xenon flash means it cannot assist in video mode, so its all up to the sensor, lens and software, and check out samples on you tube and you see the video quality even under poor light is better than cameras with the single and dual LED spotlights!

The camera also comes with built-in editing for videos and photos, and the apps are surprisingly very capable and featured.  In addition you can download the Panaroma photo tool from OVI.  The tool is a bit tricky to use, but the outputs are pretty decent.  Here is one taken using the software.

App Market (Nokia OVI store)

The OVI store sadly though having a large number of apps has very little great quality apps. Thankfully the Nokia phones comes bundles with a lot of standard software and applications that you need to purchase or get from an app store for other platforms. If not Nokia smartphones would have not survived at all.  However you can see that the business apps, kids apps, multimedia apps are very lacking and even the vendors who provide this service do not consider Symbian a platform they wanted to supported.

One of my favorite apps for password management was Splash ID which i started using with my Palm PDA devices, and then with my Symbian phones.  But the Symbian version was dropped, and is not supported on any of the Symbian touch type  operating systems versions.  Same issue with the very popular note taking software EverNote.  I hope with the resurgence we see on Symbian that vendors bring Symbian back and not write it off prematurely.

Currently social networking is the BIG thing among smart phone users, and though the Nokia Social app has improved its still not anywhere close to the support Android provides.  The best Facebook app i have used is the latest software that Facebook themselves provides, but its very basic compared to what you find on other platforms, and this is an area Nokia really needs to work on to bring in the younger generation back since i am sure design and hardware is second to none.  However with the ever growing interest towards Windows Mobile, these may only be a dream.

However to me, it provides me all the applications i need and since i can live with the slight lags (used to it for years) in return for the better battery life, camera and portability (i like the size).   Apps i generally use include Skype, Facebook, JoikuSpot, Swype, Nokia Situations, Opera Mobile and Mini, Fring, WordPress and EPOCCamera.  The built in QuickOffice provides the Office application reading capability.

One area that is miserable on Symbian is PDF reading and viewing. The options are very minimal and all the apps in my opinion suck big time. In addition this is an area where the lower pixel screen of Symbian^3 devices such as the N8 really feel lacking.

Expansion and external connectivity

The cool thing about the N8 is that it comes with the USB on the go ability (added recently to Android as well), that allows to connect an USB device directly and access it.  The USB adapter is provided as standard with the Nokia N8 when you have to buy it for any other device that touts this capability.  I tried this out with a flash drive and it worked superbly.

The device also has a mini HDMI, and again Nokia provides an adapter to connect a full HDMI, something you need to fork out with other devices. I tried this out with several HDMI equipped TVs and found it works superbly.

When i went hunting for a new LCD TV, I loaded different videos which i already had seen on my PC LCD and new the quality, and then had this on a USB flash drive.  I then connected the HDMI adapter, and had the videos playing from the flash drive via the HDMI adapter, and it worked very very well.

The phone comes with 16GB on-board, and also has the very important micro-SD slot to allow you to upgrade further.  The slot supports cards up to 32GB in capacity. Unlike IOS (Apple), Symbian like Android has a full file manager, and allows you to open a file from any application that supports it.  You can also download video, music files and save it to the device and play later (unlike Apple!).

Battery Life

This is one area where the Nokia N8 excelled compared to even its less capable N97 predecessor, and specially compared to the new breed of Android phones that can barely survive a normal day of operations.  The phone easily can last a day of normal operations, and with the power saving feature enabled 2 days + is easy.  I do agree though that if you use the phone on heavy Internet browsing and multimedia, there is no big difference between this phone and the Android devices, and for such users the Android devices with the better browsing experience, and larger screen estate is a better choice.

Software Upgrades

Not something one would usually talk about, but platform updates are now something all are keen on.  Android its all about the new version, and same with the IOS platform.  Symbian has been lacking on any explosive growth, and with Nokia partnering with Microsoft even i felt it was funeral bells for Symbian.  However it seems the Windows Phone era and Nokia has hit some delays, and Nokia is being backed by Microsoft itself in continuing to make Symbian a backup OS for Windows Mobile as we Microsoft apps that were not featured outside Windows Mobile now being made available or supported on Symbian including Communicator, Lynx, SharePoint and even Microsoft Office.

Though Symbian development was officially moved to an external vendor (Accenture) the speed of new changes, and the magnitude of changes has been amazing.  Symbian has grown in capability and look and feel in the last 6 months more than it has ever done for the last few years!  The new features work quite well on the Nokia N8 even if the hardware was engineer for something much less, and you can see that the new software runs even better with the new 1Ghz + newer GPU that is running on the most current generation Symbian hardware.

I just updated mine with the Symbian Anna update, and am waiting for the Bella update.  Even though the changes in the Anna update are suttle, the changes are important.  Browser experience is better, the keyboard implementation definitely much improved for touch use (and the split keyboard, so important).  Qt support has also meant better looking and more user friendly apps for Symbian.

Image Sample Gallery

I have attached a few samples to showcase the camera capability across very trying conditions.  Conditions include pure daylight, indoors, macro, panaroma.

Broad daylight, macro mode.  You can see it does a fair background blur.  You cannot expect any blur like you get in a DSLR from any small sensor camera.

Indoors with decent light of a picture on a wall. Taken with default settings to show the level of detail captured.

One of my work colleagues taken during a wedding.  My Nokia N8 no competition to his Canon 60D though 🙂 Picture straight of the camera with only cropping, no post processing.

Not easy taking a picture of a butterfly close up, shows how quick the AF is o this camera.  Bit of post processing since i felt the camera default was overexposed.

Syncing up your contacts from a Nokia phone to an Android


Unless your phones PC connectivity solution comes with this capability (Sony Ericsson’s software does not as as Jan 2011), you have a long and rather complex option. However the Android Market has software that can do this, but they are not free.

  1. Save the outlook contacts as a CSV.  Problem, outlook cannot do that, and I had to track down a tool that worked as an outlook add-on but was very low on usability (You have to select each field you need).
  2. You then need to go to gmail and import the contacts
  3. Then you need sync the contacts from gmail to your phone
  4. However there is a bug, that some of the contacts have wrong phone no’s.  However the CSV file has the correct no’s, so problems with the google import process 🙂

UPDATE: Not a bug but google mail contact importer does not support all fields in outlook, and also expects the names of the columns to match its. The best way is to create a sample contact in google and export it to get the format!   Read http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=12119andhttp://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=14024&hl=en to get more context.

From Symbian to Android – my experiences


Afters years of Nokia Symbian ownership decided i need to try out one of the more popular smartphone platforms.  If the Nokia N8 did not have the hardware failure, I was also set in purchasing it, since the legacy feel of Symbian3, weak app market (ovi) were not big issues, though the lower resolution screen was a bit of bummer.  The C7 is a decent lower model, but the full-focusing camera makes it not good since the ability for a camera in the phone to take picture of a whiteboard or a receipt is vital. Full focus while doing a good job with normal pics, can only focus beyond 50cm, so that means no macro at all.

While the IPhone 4 is a very appealing proposition, specially with the rich app store, the bordering arrogance (putting it mildly) of Apple on how they handle their sales put me off.   I also found from the official local agent for Apple that Apple has prohibited selling the IPhone in my country, and this is something i have not seen with any other vendor.  So off went the Apple IPhone no matter how good!

So then the option was to get into the more wilder Android market.  The Galaxy S was the choice, but with budgets, i took the Sony Ericsson X10 (yeah yeah, support is crap, no proper multi-touch, Froyo aint’  coming here……………………..) as the replacement for the Nokia N97 mini.

First impressions,

PROS

– The app store is definitely richer

– The apps are far more smoother than the N97mini. Then again this is running a processor that 2.5X of the N97 mini and has a dedicated graphic card, so i guess that not a fair comparison

– The higher no of pixels are definitely useful, as you see the difference when browsing and reading content such as pdfs, etc. Definitely a worthy improvement

– The multiple desktops, definitely helps customize the apps into groups, and the lack of restrictions on the size of the widget makes it even more neater

CONS

– Outlook sync:: NO OUTLOOK sync.  This really surprised me. Here i have synced my contacts with outlook, and were all ready to sync to find that i cannot.  The work around was messy and complex, unless you buy a commercial tool.  This is how i got around it without any special tool, but its a manual process based on reading the net and then doing some of my own experiments.  See  https://rayazmuthalif.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/syncing-up-your-contacts-from-a-nokia-phone-to-an-android/.  Quite surprising considering google must be having loads of users converting from nokia and and other phones and no having a Google tool for this is ridiculous.

– Tethering:: No built in tethering, i mean sure it supports it but its all via downloads from the market.  Things that Nokia gave free are sadly not bundled.  The sync app is super featureless, with only media transfers, and a file manager.  No wonder manufacturers love Android, their costs are  lowered in the investment on apps.

–  User Experience:: Maybe its the SE implementation but the touch interface is not smooth, i have tried the iPhone and this is no match for the iOS interface (yet).

– Usability:: who said Symbian was bad.  Just try going through the menu options on Android.  It is no good either.  Stevey J and the boys definitely have that end covered. My wife who had a time learning to use the N97MINI, simply used this and said, only for the techies, as its just to overly complex for a phone.  Can’t disagree with her on that, this is more like a desktop OS than a phone OS.

– Multimedia:: Woo.. seems like the video codec we took for granted is not available as yet for Android phones.  The Galaxy S is the first certified DIVX supported phone, which means none of the other phones have official divx support.  Add to it there is no Divx software for Androids as yet.  Seems the current Divx implementations are all software based, so expect heavy battery drain when playing Divx

– Camera:: Have you noticed that most Android camera’s have no proper flash.  The much famed Galaxy S for instance does not even have any sort of flash.  However don’ t think its because they use any great sensor, the Nokia N8 sensor rules in this arena.  The current camera capabilities are limited in Android, with very little control.  Most of what you see in the camera apps is thanks to the manufacturer, not Google Android.

– Free Apps drain power and increase data costs due to Ad download:: Apps are free on on the google app market, BUT.. a big BUT, most of them require internet connectivity to work, since they need to download ads.  This could be a no no for many users in our market since unless you buy a data package bundle you can end up with big bills.  So watch out.