Image by gsmarena

Very soon  Nokia’s next flagship phone the Nokia N8 will be released in Q3 of this year. If the N8 delivers it will be what the Nokia N97 should have been minus the hardware keyboard. Nokia is still putting all their chips on their workhorse Symbian OS but a revamped version called Symbian ^3. Will this be the difference?

The Nokia N8 will run Symbian ^3 (pronounced Symbian three) on an ARM 11 680 MHz processor with dedicated 3D hardware accelerator. With 16GB of storage, 256MB RAM, 512MB ROM micro SD slot up to 32GB. True world phone with GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 and 3G HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 2100 /1900 (this means you can use 3G on both AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks).  Oh right, there is also 12MP camera with a XENON flash and 720p video recording led light. A couple more major features include USB Host support (yes, this means you will be able to connect a thumb drive via cable to the PHONE ITSELF and transfer files via USB 2.0), HDMI output and Wi-Fi b/g/n standards.

I know there are more important things in the world, but this phone is really something with all of the packed features. If  Symbian ^3 can deliver it should blow the iPhone 4G out of the water. The N8 will also have a 3.5″ AMOLED capacitive touch screen 16M colors 360 x 640 pixels. Multi-touch, accelerometer and proximity sensors will take care of your UI navigation needs.

Like I mentioned Symbian ^3 is a revamped version and the first fully open source version Symbian OS by the Symbian Foundation with multi-touch improvements. There have been major improvements on Graphics, Networking and Multimedia ideally for streaming high definition video. This is a good step, innovation is what makes a device revolutionary. Nokia did this before with the connectivity convergence of the N95, only this time its about high definition convergance.

As much as I like my Nokia N97, it is under-performing device with a clumsy interface. It is no surprise since Series 60 v5 is just Series 60 v3 with a slapped-on touch layer. It didn’t help that the N97 didn’t have dedicated 3D hardware acceleration and came with a measly 434 MHz processor. The N95 outperformed it by far, which is still one of my favorite all-time phones.

Single tap for SYmbian ^3 with Multi-touch

There is no longer any need to double-tap on Symbian ^3, this was indeed very annoying on the N97 since one would tend to naturally try to single-tap to execute an application or task. With the multi-touch refinements Symbian ^3 will only require a single-tap to perform a task and will also have pinch-to-zoom capabilities. In the above video Senior Product Manager Chris Bennetts walks you through the photo application and image editing capabilities. While he is not claiming that they’re the first to implement this on a phone, its good to know that photo editing on a mobile device has been around since the days of the Sony Ericsson K750 (another one of my favorites). The same goes for movie stitching on a phone.

USB On-The-Go Capabilities

USB host capabilities via included cable

One of the major features that has me hooked and wanting this phone is the USB host support also discussed in the video called USB On-The-Go. Say you’re at some kind of event and you want to share all the images and video you took with a friend. No computer is available and sending them via email or wireless connection would take too long. Well all you need is your friend’s usb thumb drive which you plug to the N8 via the provided cable and copy away all without the need of a computer. Take not that USB host is not limited to thumb drives, but you can also connect other types of USB storage devices like hard drives.

HDMI Output

We’re familiar with Nokia phones having TV-Out via composite cable, the N8 takes it a step further and offers HDMI output. Which is great because if you’ve ever output your N95 or N97 on an HDTV the image quality isn’t the best. The HTC Evo 4G also has HDMI out capabilities but is limited to strictly outputting video on the micro SD card and YouTube. Unfortunately no native DivX/Xvid support, supported formats as follows:

Supported Video Formats


  • MPEG-4 advanced simple profile level 6 30fps 12Mbps. MPEG-4 advanced simple profile level 6 30fps 12Mbps. Audio: stereo 48kHz 128kbps Audio: stereo 48kHz 128kbps
  • H.264 Baseline, Main & High profiles 3.1 30fps 14Mbps H.264 Baseline, Main and High profiles 3.1 30fps 14Mbps
  • VC-1 Main profile level 2 03fps 20Mbps VC-1 Main profile level 2 03fps 20Mbps
  • Sorenson Spark VGA 15fps Sorenson Spark VGA 15fps
  • Real video 10 QVGA 30fps Real 30fps QVGA video 10
Streaming Video
  • H.264 Main profile 30fps 720p 720p 30fps H.264 Main profile
  • On2 VP6 : VGA 30fps On2 VP6: VGA 30fps
  • Sorenson Spark: CIF 30fps Sorenson Spark: CIF 30fps
  • Flash Lite 4 : Flash 10 compatibility for video

12 MP Camera with XENON Flash and LED light

Nokia N8 Sample Picture

Finally, not since the N82 has there been a Nokia phone with XENON flash. Night shots will no longer be impossible thanks to this feature. Along with the LED video light which most likely will double as a torch. For those who don’t know what a torch is, its the ability to use your phone’s built-in LED as a flashlight. Most likely this will be possible through 3rd party software. As with many Nokia phones Carl Zeiss optics are used with a 1/1.83” sensor size, one of the largest camera sensors used on a phone. The camera lens is not covered and exposed with scratch resistant glass. To be honest I prefer it this way, as with the lens cover on the N97 at times you can forget to slide it open. Its all user preference, but less moving parts is to an advantage.

Nokia Conversations

Threaded-Styled SMS Messages

Thank you Nokia developers! Included in the N8 are threaded-styled SMS messages making it easier to organize text messages as conversations. I know Nokia users have been frustrated and have relied on a Beta version of Nokia Conversations for S60 v3 which tends to hang with large amounts of messages.

The overall build seems extremely well done, the anodized aluminum case is very attractive and will surely be sturdy. Nokia decided to go ahead and not have a removable battery door a first for Nokia. Damian Dinning explains to GSM Arena,

“We wanted to create a robust device which feels good in hand and looks beautiful. With one-piece aluminium body and anodization treatment we get a range of great colours but also really rigid package joining with real glass display.”

Read the entire GSM Arena Interview

As far as the lack of a hardware keyboard is concerned is a bit of a disappointment for me. I tend to SSH a lot through PuTTy and it remains to be seen how I can acheive this through a touch-only device. Perhaps I may need to wait until the rumored N98, but this is not a deal breaker.

Open Source is what its all about, the new Symbian ^3 platform will open up opportunities for developers to come up with different kinds of innovative applications. Remember how the Android apps flourished? Nokia is hoping that the same will happen for them with Symbian ^3 and the OVI store actually becoming a respectable and more importantly profitable  app store. Can’t wait for the Nokia N8!

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