Many years ago, my lifestyle required the following devices:
- Palm-based Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to manage my personal information (calendar, to-do list and contacts),
- Garmin GPS for turn-by-turn navigation,
- Portable FM radio and MP3 player for listening to music and podcasts,
- Point-and-shoot camera, and a
- Mobile phone or cellphone.
I remember how cumbersome it was to carry around all five devices and to frequently charge their batteries. The PDA and GPS were eventually replaced with my Garmin IQue 3600, a handheld Palm device with a built-in GPS receiver. The first all-in-one device I owned was a Nokia N70, a cellphone which also functioned as a 2 Mexapixel (MP) camera, PDA, GPS, MP3 player and FM radio. I still relied on a 4 MP compact camera which took better quality photos than the N70. Although my Nokia N82 replaced the N70 and compact camera, I used a camcorder for video capture. The Nokia N8 takes better quality video than my camcorder and is far easier to carry around. I therefore seldom use my camcorder anymore, although I do miss its 10x optical zoom function!
Owing to the versatile functionality of the N8, I have spoken about various ways to improve the overall user experience. The best way involves downloading and installing third party applications. Some applications are available for free, whilst others may need to be purchased. I have blogged about how (and where) to install both signed and unsigned applications. Hence, the main purpose of this blog is to share my thoughts with you as I continuously strive to enhance my N8 user experience. In other words, if you want to realize the awesome potential of your N8 smartphone, then read this blog.
Why I adore my Nokia N8
After much research, I finally chose the Nokia N8 as my next smartphone. This phone will play an important role in my life over the next two years, both simplifying my lifestyle as well as enhancing it. The N8 replaces my Nokia N82, the reason why I became addicted to smartphone technology.
My previous N82 was an excellent cellphone, with its 5 MP camera and xenon flash that captured nearly 2,000 precious memories during its two-year lifespan. When my daughter was born, I realized the true value of a decent camera phone and for this reason, the N8 was the clear and obvious choice. In my opinion, the N8 provides the BEST multimedia experience of ALL the smartphones.
A cellphone’s hardware is “static” as it cannot be improved over the phone’s lifespan. On the other hand, the phone’s software environment (Operating System and customizable applications) is dynamic. Regular firmware updates and newer versions of applications will ensure that the user experience is continually enhanced. In other words, a phone’s hardware features far outweigh its software features, a point worth remembering when choosing which smartphone is right for you.
For an excellent and recent review of the Nokia N8, check out AnandTech’s article.
Symbian^3: It does need some polishing!
There’s plenty of chatter on the Internet about the “out-the-box” user experience of Symbian^3 compared to Android and iOS. Software development is tricky business, simply because “you just can’t please everyone” (users have different tastes, needs and expectations). If you don’t like the N8’s default web browser (which supports Flash), then install Opera Mobile (doesn’t support Flash) or wait for Nokia’s update in the near future. Symbian^3 uses a native WebKit based browser which doesn’t compress pages (this affects the phone’s processor and bandwidth usage). Nokia plans to introduce a new Qt-based browser as a free update for Symbian^3 devices in early 2011.
The Internet is full of rumours about a firmware update for the Nokia N8, from version PR1.0 to 1.1, which is due for release in January 2011. It seems that the update has been pushed to February. According to My Nokia Blog, PR1.1 is due on 24 January, but with PR2.0 due for release on 15 February, why not scrap PR1.1 and bundle it with PR2.0?
Syncing contacts and calendar entries
Syncing contacts from my previous phone to the N8 was simple using the Phone Switcher application. Other solutions include syncing via Google. More more information on how to sync your contacts with Google, read the following articles:
Syncing calendar entries with Phone Switcher creates multiple calendars on the N8 which I dislike. Using OVI Sync is fraught with problems, with many users (including myself) reporting vanishing entries and duplicates events. I synced my calendar entries to the N8 using OVI Suite and Microsoft Outlook.
I prefer calendar entries to be stored locally on my N8 and not cloud-based. Android’s default calendar is almost useless unless you’re willing to go on-line to the Google calendar. I also want the option to manage phone calendar entries using a PC that has no Internet access. In my opinion, Nokia needs to listen to its customers (moaning in the Nokia forums) and introduce N8 compatibility to the latest version of PC Suite.
Listening to music on the N8
Nokia’s OVI Player software manages my MP3 song collection, despite being a resource hungry application. Certain modifications provided by a member of the Daily mobile Forum (sklchan), as well as OVI Store’s ShazamiD (recently updated for the N8, developed with Qt!) and MusicStopper applications, help improve the overall music playback experience on the N8. I suggest you also consider SoundHound which can also identify a song by singing or humming it. A text search feature is handy if you know the song title or artist name. I really don’t like the N8’s default podcasting application and Podcatcher is much better, making it easier to follow your favorite podcasts!
I have less than a month to activate my 6-month subscription to OVI Music Unlimited. Nokia has confirmed that this service will be stopped in 27 countries as from January 2011. Nokia believes its customers want DRM-free music (and I agree), which is available for download from the OVI Music Store in 38 countries. Nokia will continue to sell phones with a non-renewable 6-month subscription to free DRM-protected music in Brazil and South Africa. Click here to read the full story.
Taking photos and videos with the N8
I use Nokia’s OVI Suite to manage my photo and video collection, despite being another resource hungry application. Certain modifications provided by a member of the Daily mobile Forum (sklchan), as well as Nokia Panorama and Nokia Big Screen help improve the overall multimedia experience on the N8. Nokia Panorama automatically stitches pictures together, creating amazing panoramic photos. Nokia Big Screen transforms the N8 into a decent media center when connected via HDMI to a Hi-Def TV. Another application worth mentioning is Pixelpipe which allows you to upload your media to most online services (YouTube, Flickr etc).
If social networking is important to you, then consider installing Gravity, a full-featured Twitter client. If you enjoy Twitter and Facebook, then Snaptu is an all-in-one app that also includes Flickr, Picasa, news, weather, sports, movies and more. Other social networking applications worth mentioning include:
- Socially – provides access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Foursquare. Sync your friend’s profile photos with phone Contacts; add Facebook birthdays to the phone Calendar; receive social updates as Push Notifications and much more.
- WhatsApp – a smartphone messenger which replaces standard SMS. Available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Nokia phones, this application uses 3G or WiFi (when available) to send and receive messages. Switch from SMS to WhatsApp to save money. The app is free for the first year, with picture, audio, and video support coming soon.
- Nimbuzz – uses 3G or WiFi (when available) to send and receive messages for most social networks. However, users are complaining about sending messages to Yahoo! and that there is no Skype plug-in. You can also make calls to other Nimbuzz users.
Other applications to install
To really improve the user experience, I installed SPB Mobile Shell which provides up to 10 home screens and lots of new widgets. My N8 has a completely new look and feel… I simply love it.
Symbian^3 cannot provide true push e-mail notifications. The solution is to install Visiarc’s Mobile Documents which offers cloud-boosted attachment handling of e-mails. You can configure the app to check for e-mails every 5 minutes, provided a near push solution.
Install Swype to provide a powerful landscape orientated keyboard, which is far easier to use than the default portrait-style keyboard. If you like using Swype, why not try break the Guinness World Record for Swype which is 25.94 seconds for 160 characters (26 words).
Android has shifted focus back to barcodes and Upcode is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to scan them using your N8’s camera. Look for barcodes in the You Magazine (South Africa), scan them and follow the link.
If you maintain a WordPress blog, then install the WordPress utility. The application is in beta and is frequently updated. The Ovi Store version is typically a bit outdated, so rather get an update from the source.
Your best source for Symbian^3 games is the Ovi Store. Free games worth considering include Need For Speed Shift HD, RollerCoaster Extreme, Real Golf 2011 HD and Galaxy On Fire. It is best to use OVI Suite to download and install these games. Also consider paid-for games like the top-rated Angry Birds, first released for Apple’s iOS but now boasts over 50 million downloads across all cellphone platforms.