on December 2, 2012
I received the Nokia 808 one week ago (from "Tablet Distributors" an Amazon partner VERY quickly), the week before Thanksgiving. My previous phone was the Nokia N8 which I love. But I'm a sucker for an amazing camera in a phone, thus the new phone.
The 808 gives an amazing leap forward with its camera experience, offers some well deserved and performance improvements across the whole phone's operation, and a number of design improvements. Some of the standard and well loved performance features of Symbian are here too, features other phone os users have to pay for. The keyboard, a function which Belle (the Nokia OS at the time) surpasses all other smart device OS keyboards, has had a massive redesign, a move which will irritate and alienate many Symbian defenders, but with a week's use (or maybe two), they will be comfortable with.
General speed improvements can be felt throughout all activities with this phone compared with the N8 or E7. No lagging, email hangups, or apps which are not sure if they want to open. Everything is waaay snappier than other smart devices I've had, including the tragic mistake of the Transformer Infinity which I returned.
Just so you know, my base of comparisons for smartphones & devices: I have owned several Nokia smartphones (n95 (amazing camera & my first smartphone), E7, N8) and owned Android and iOS devices. I am familiar with all of these. And utterly love my N8. So nice.
Skipping the obvious and amazing 41 mp camera and Pureview tech, the camera offers improvements and corrects annoyances from Nokia's other premium camera phones. It's way faster than other Nokia camera apps, opens faster than my other Nokia phone apps, takes pics faster once started, faster on the next pic. Camera app opens instantly. I mean it. There is ZERO lag. When you want to snap that perfect sneaky picture, the camera is ON and the pic is TAKEN end of story. No waiting. This is a big improvement over the N8, which, though its camera is probably STILL the 2nd best camera in a phone on the market, took awhile both to open the camera app and then had to cogitate over taking the picture. There are more camera options, all of which are more streamlined imho. Changing the options is super fast too. And the pic minimization routine at the end of the pic is quick too. Overall it's super fast and super good.
There really is little need to expound on the camera. It is as good as, or likely far better than, most point and shoots and even hangs with DLSR's. Though it is slightly bigger than the N8, it is still not big enough for all the unicorns which obviously power the camera, so, they must be at the end of Bifrost in the galactic black hole. Or something. It's a pretty amazing camera.
Like I said, I tend to go with a great camera phone, regardless the manufacturer. It just so happens the manufacturer is often Nokia. That's nice because I think Nokia phones are in general very well put together, feel solid in the way that closing the door of a high end car sounds solid compared to a very cheap one. Nokia phones feel like quality and the 808 is no exception here.
The Map apps included in the phone or downloaded for free from the Store make the 808 equivalent or better than any separately purchased GPS device. Nokia Map related apps are amazing, free for life, and work offline, or via a range of GPS updating methods (3-3.5g, SMS, unassisted). Voice guided directions (walking or driving) everywhere on Earth? Got it. Public transit? Got that too. The GPS can work standalone with zero cell signal just like a separately purchased GPS device, or can work across the network signal (a-GPS), bluetooth, or even via SMS (text message). I like this because it lets me control data usage. A couple of Map apps you might want to try: World Gaze (interesting) and City Lens (love it, somewhat of an unsung hero imho).
The 808 also conforms to the typical Nokia design philosophy which gives me control of my device and what is on it, and loads it with tons of codecs. A decent file browser is there. I can see where apps are installed, change the location to a memory card if I like, and the apps go with me to a new Nokia device. I've done it a million times. I love it. Nokia makes transferring everything from an old phone to a new one easy, and gives you several options on how to do it: backup/restore feature, transfer to removable memory, across Nokia servers, or turn on bluetooth and everything transfers locally. Nokia phones also let you toggle all the antennas, and with apps like Situations, you can automate and fine tune it. Also, more functions are supported in bluetooth in Nokia Symbian devices than other smartphones (even compared with Nokia Windows devices). Android devices almost come close to this level of device control, but, just, not quite. I like to control my own device.
Other good stuff:
The screen is super vivid. It does not have the pixel density of the iPhone or many Android phones out there, but it looks very rich.
The music player is somewhat improved over the previous version of Belle. On my N8 running Belle, there were many podcasts which I would side load which would not play from the music player. Instead I would have to go to the file manager, find the file, and play it there. Now, Belle Feature Pack 2 Music Player catalogs and plays all of those podcasts too. I use Music Player more than any other app on my phone, so this is a major plus for me.
Web appears to be much snappier, and also bears noticeable changes. Snappier first: rendering pages is WAY faster compared to Web on my N8 running Belle. Images load faster and the whole web page does too. It seems to support more video on the web. Changes second: Though the updated Web app is faster and handles web elements better, the Belle FP2 Web MENU is a large text scrolling menu. I prefer the previous menu in preFP2 which was a little popup screen containing a grid of icons. For me, the grid was nicer because all options were on screen and stationary, and it was more intuitive. Actually, I wish menus in all apps had grid menus; they are quicker to navigate I think.
Gallery now adds a separator labelled with the date. This is a tiny change but I like it.
The new Weather app is horrible because it never works, BUT BUT BUT the Weather-Widget, when installed on a home screen, is great. Soooo much faster, prettier, and more informational, than previous versions. Well who cares though since the old Weather app on preFP2 was slow and difficult. The new widget is fast, pretty, and just there on your screen. Maybe you're not supposed to use the app itself, just the widget. I'm happy because the widget makes more sense anyway.
Audio out from the handset is so much better than the n8, E7, and n95. Moving from the N95, which had great stereo sound, to the E7 and N8, which had good sound but not great, and not stereo (I do not think) to the 808 which has very clear, rich, and loud speakers (um, Dolby I think) I was shocked at the fulness and richness of the sound from the phone's speakers, especially since it is not an N series device. Very nice upgrade.
And, to follow up, audio IN is also much better. I really had a difficult time using the speaker phone with the N8 or E7 because the person on the other end could not hear clearly and kept saying, "Are you using speaker phone?!?! Can you change to non-speaker?!" But now, no one even notices when I switch to speaker. Thank you Nokia for returning standard phone features. Win. Carrying over to video capture, the audio in captured videos is improved compared to my N8, it is much richer.
Removable battery cover, yay, and a more protected sim and sd memory card under it. I prefer the sim and sd cards here, not on the side of the phone.
Nokia phones have often included the option of holding down the lock screen key to actuate the flash as a flashlight. The N8 did not have this option to the irritation of N8 fans. Thankfully the 808 brings it back. And the flashlight is very! bright.
Also a little feature which I just found out today. If the phone rings or alarm goes off, you can turn the phone over and it silences. Like.
Other good stuff:
Usb on the go - mounts just about anything
HDMI out (this one is a different port than the N8 or the E7)
massive codec support for audio and video
fm radio receiver
fm out - freakin love this
nfc though haven't used it yet
BigScreen app - plays photos and video to your TV
DLNA Play app - broadcast video wirelessly to a DLNA enabled TV (free app if it is not on your phone)
Sports Tracker (free Nokia app) - really amazing running/cardio/GPS app
Not quite an N or E Series Nokia device though:
As an N8 owner, I love its sleek sexy styling, clean lines, and nice design elements. The N8 is much sexier and much more stylish. The 808 is fairly stylish though. Both are well designed and constructed. But design-wise, the 808 misses many of the more debonaire stylings of the N8 such as a metal body (sadly), sleek metal retro volume rocker (the best volume rocker in the world, ever) and lock screen rocker of the E7 (the 808's lock screen locker is plastic I think, but at least it is a rocker, which is better than a button or switch), and sadly the eyecatching, 'breathing' single-solitary physical (and metal) button (of the N8). Actually, this feature (the breathing button on the N8) got lots of comments and questions from friends and acquaintances. I miss it, and the hypnotic notification lights (around the N8's button). These missing design features would have added an iconic styling to Nokia's last Symbian phone, the best camera phone ever, and the Symbian swan song. Oh well, an N808 the phone is not, so, que sera sera.
The new keyboard is different, requires some mental adjustments, and is irritating to learn at first. Though it DOES offer some new features and improvements, the fact remains that the old, highly lauded Belle keyboard is not here. The keyboard seems to copy the look and feel of iOS and some Android keyboards. My typing (using two thumbs in landscape) is MUCH slower in Belle FP2 than the previous Belle keyboard which I have praised heavily in other reviews (which had excellent predictive text and autocomplete, but typing in upright phone with two thumbs is easier than in preFP2). The rearrangement of the caps key is inconvenient, and I have to constantly correct what i typed. Autocorrect and predictive text, long standing Symbian mainstays, are gone. It constantly requires the user to decide and choose, decide and choose, ugh; this will cause frustration at first, but after a week or two typing in this way should be come quicker. The previous Belle keyboard was much smarter though, type predict forget-about-it-because-its-correct type-new-word. It does have a few new improvements though, including correcting previously typed words; I like this feature! I think the new keyboard is larger than the preFP2 keyboard and in some apps it seems to hog the screen. Other reviewers here and elsewhere have slammed Nokia for the new keyboard. I will not "slam" Nokia for their keyboard choice, but, it would be nice if they gave an option of which keyboard to use, since it seems old keyboard is still there (a few apps or occasions call it up instead of the new one).
The Notes application no longer autosaves. You MUST save your work before exiting. Word to the wise, folks, word to the wise. Also the keyboard is so large that only two rows of text can be seen (I know I already mentioned this but, well, it is important in the Notes app). Obvious design oversight. The menu/options seem to be scaled back.
Photo and video editors which were on the N8 (ugh I loved these) are not available in Belle FP2 for the 808. But there are a good deal of camera apps. Some of these edit functions appear to be folded into the camera or other apps. I have not extensively investigated this though.
Browsing the web without permanent navigation keys (left and right keys on the soft keyboard) is annoying, both in Nokia Web and Opera Mini (though Opera is a little easier to deal with).
Gifs no longer play in the picture viewer. A much much missed feature :( Please bring it back :(
Though it comes with Quick Office the product is installed but not prelicensed. Trying to license QO via QO itself does nothing. A trip to the Store - Oh well. Google purchased QO in 2012. And....... apparently axed their Symbian support.
[Replacements for QuickOffice:
Microsoft OneNote is a capable, a little prettier, and also has a few interesting features. Input in OneNote uses the new keyboard but without
the new FP2 keyboard's word suggestions, and no autocorrect. It requires sync'ing with your MS account to get the files off the phone. Microsoft Office is quite good though (though I have not found a way to change where documents are saved, which is important because it oddly saves to the c: drive, which imho should be reserved strictly for the OS). There are other office apps too but I have not tried them. SmartOffice comes to mind.]
Panorama, a free app on my N8, is not available yet for the 808, but hope it will be soon.
Wifi calling is probably baked into the phone as it has been in most Nokia s60 devices for nearly a decade. I do not believe ATT offers this feature and Tmo only allows it on devices purchased from Tmo. There are plenty of VOIP apps though including Skype and others. Fring is a good option too since you can configure it via lots of SIP services or using its own.
Nokia apps I use a lot:
Mail (add widgets to one of my home screens, accepts push mail or you can configure it
Mobile Data Tracker (as a widget on one of my homescreens, which l can configure to actually turn off my own data usage after a set time, super useful)
City Lens/Live View (awesome app(s), but you have to hit the red hang up button right after you open the app or it won't work, a tip I found in Greg Corbin's review/comments)
Maps (use the heck out of this, best mapping software hands down)
Music (the player, not the store, but you know, if you are anywhere besides the US NokiaMusic lets you download just about anything to your phone for free, arg)
My required and highly used 3rd party apps:
Situations (used to be a free Nokia app but was spun out and got major improvements - a MUST have -automates phone character (profile and other stuff) based on conditions the user sets (like time of day or location) - for real folks just fork the cash and get it)
Opera Mobile (as of 2012 Dec 06 it installs and works, )
Gravity (somehow this app is better than every other twitter client I've used on any platform, and it accesses a bunch more social networking sites (even a few social networks which I loathe though))
CutePress (very slick)
After 1 week of use:
The keyboard has actually learned how I type to some degree (I guess). And I have learned how the keyboard works as well. So my error rate has dropped prodigiously, and my speed increased proportionally. Still, I think the old Belle keyboard was superior (to the keyboards in both FP2 and omgomgomg Anna). Nokia, please enable a choice toggle in Settings :) So by this point I have acclimated dramatically and it is not such a pain. [If Nokia could return the preFP2 keyboard size and layout (esp for the numeric keyboard which I liked way better, add back the predictive text and autocompletion of preFP2, but keep the word choice thing up at the top of the keyboard, and give a setting/configuration menu that lets the user configure a personal setting, that would be awesome :D ]
I am constantly impressed by the snappiness of the phone. I never thought my N8 was slow or anything (except starting up the camera for some reason) but the 808 seems to do everything noticeably faster.
The 808 could serve as a GPS device or an amazing camera on its own and without phone service. Actually, I have recently dwelled on the FreedomPop free 3-4g plan, using the 808 as my phone (via Fring or some other SIP app). So, expensive phone, but phenomenal camera, phenomenal GPS, and full featured in every way (minus Netflix and Amazon) with a free phone service. Possibilities ......
Eight months later ... just learned there is no tethering via Bluetooth.
Just found out that Nokia has removed the Bluetooth tether module from Bluetooth stack. If you are on linux you can test this. Turn on both device's bluetooth, connect them, from linux terminal type 'hcitool scan' and take note of the address returned. Then enter 'sdptool browse [address]' and you can see there is no 'Dialup Networking' module. Arg.