The Nokia N8 that stole my heart.

Everyone remembers Nokia as the handset we all owned, it was the ultimate cool symbol before phones got smart and is still renowned for their solid build and durable nature. In fact, you’ll still see many people wandering around with the old 3210! But while we remember the 3210, Nokia has come on leaps and bounds, launching it’s new flagship smartphone the N8 earlier this year.

Nokia 3210

The Nokia 3210, one of the old reliables

I’ve had the chance to play around with the N8 and I have to say it’s an impressive phone. All that I knew and loved about Nokia came flooding back, the N8 really is a winner and I almost considered swapping my iPhone for it (almost).

Once you pick up the N8 you’re instantly surprised by just how light it feels, weighing less than the iPhone it’s almost featherlight. It is a bit more bulky though, thicker than the iPhone 4 and still again that bit bigger than the 3G. This is mostly from the camera lens on the back, but I’ll get to that soon. On the looks, it’s a real contender. Very sleek and smooth, it looks and feels durable, much more so than any HTC phone or the iPhone. You really do feel like you could chuck it at a wall and pick it up and go on texting.

The Nokia N8

The very solid, very sleek N8!

The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhone, and the difference between the retina display and the N8’s AMOLED capacitive touch screen is noticeable, the N8 display when viewing text heavy websites is not the easiest to read. The screen is responsive though, you can glide around withe relative ease, again it doesn’t feel as smooth as the iPhone but you get used to it and it does feel just as comfortable. You’ll also notice a small feedback vibration at each tap, it’s nice but gets a bit old fast and I haven’t figured out how to switch it off.

The camera is the most impressive piece of this hardware, 12 megapixel it’s truly a monster, the quality is perfect and unmistakeable. Streets ahead of the iPhone, it’s worth the little bit extra bulk on the back. Personally I’m trying to figure out how e camera quality can actually be so good when squeezed into such a light handset, it has some echoes of a Mary Poppins handbag.

The battery is also pretty strong, I’ve been messing around with this for a few days now all on one charge, and it hasn’t made a peep about running even 50% power. WiFi ANC 3G capable with two cameras, one front facing for video calls and 16GB storage natively with room for up to 32GB more using an SD card.

What probably let’s the phone down the most is the software. Sum Ian just never daunt onto the smartphone Market and just couldn’t make the leap over, hence the attempted jump onto Meego with the N9 and the Microsoft deal earlier in the year.

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9, big attempt to refine the N8 design

There’s a lot to like about Symbian ^3, multi-tasking out of the box, a lot of focus given to mobile data with social networks, news feeds and mail all being accessible from the home screen from the moment you switch it on. While it’s a nice operating system, it’s just not as smooth as iOS or Android. There’s a clunkiness you just can’t ignore, and it can feel a little exerting navigating your way around.

The main problem for Symbian is that whereas the other two major OS’s were build from the ground up with smartphones in mind, Symbian is very much an evolution of older systems and seems to be slightly stuck in the days of Nokia’s dominance of the phone Market, before smartphones arrived on the scene. So the whole navigation structure is rigged towards what used to work on button based handsets. Another major gripe I’ve had is a lack of Mac compatibility, which took me a while to work around.

If you’re looking to download apps for your phone, the Ovi Store comes preloaded, and works very similar to the other app stores. The selection isn’t as wide, but it offers everything from apps to themes and ringtones for your phone, and it’s actually pretty easy to get around. There’s no Facebook or Twitter apps, but you can use MySocial, which is preloaded on the phone as a nice alternative.

Nokia Ovi store

The very handy, Nokia Ovi Store with over 1.7 million downloads daily

Overall the N8 is a winning handset. It looks good, feels good and is a joy to use. Mostly let down by the operating system which just doesn’t cut the mustard in the age of the iPhone. If Nokia want to keep ahead, they need to utilise their innovation in software, as it seems to be that the other handsets are using their ideas before they do. NFC Payments on phones are a good example, Nokia patented this ages ago, but there seems to be no plans to implement this on any handsets!

Software 5.5/10 – nice, but not wowed

Hardware 10/10 – solid, sleek and simple

Camera 10/10 – Stunning.

Overall 8.5/10 – great phone, pleasure to use.

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iPad sales on the up, Google not far behind…

Recently it has been announced that the iPad has reached well over one million sales, shadowing the iPhone, which took slightly longer to reach the same figure. Just as this news comes in, the predators start circling.

Yesterday it was announced that Google was teaming up with Verizon in the states to make it’s own tablet computer, also another company has announced it’s own entrant to the market, taking the place of Microsoft’s recent withdrawal; Blackberry have decided to launch their own tablet, announced today.

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Opera jumps aboard the iPhone bandwagon, at last…

Opera, one of the worlds most popular browser makers has today revealed that they intend to launch Opera for the iPhone.

The parent company to the popular software says that the new browser will load webpages up to six times faster than Safari since it compresses content when downloading a webpage for viewing which in turn can also reduce browsing costs significantly per MB, which means the GB which O2 grace us with goes a bit further.

The popular browser, turned app will feature tabbed browsing, google search in-built,  speed dial showing thumbnails of your favourite websites and a password manager.

All of which are much, much handier than features in Safari for the iPhone, which is still unchallenged in terms of web browsing on what is the worlds most popular, and infamous phone.

opera browser for the iPhone

Functional, smooth, solid - a lot to look forward to from Opera

Opera are also sounding quite optimistic about their chances of having the app approved by Apple. The hardware, and software giant has been typically hesitant of allowing apps which mimic too closely the functions of its own native apps to appear on its store. Opera may be betting on the large amounts of negative criticism which Apple have been attracting thanks to their strictness, when their own browser goes through the approval process.

With the upcoming release of the iPad, which may still revolutionise portable computing, Opera may also be looking to jump on board from the beginning, offering users an alternative to Safari when surfing any where with a nice big 10” screen and making the iPad feel much more like a full computer, with choices among browsers etc. Rather than a big iPhone.

Having proven themselves time and time again on Macs and PC’s for being able to produce solid and fast browsers, the software company should do well against Safari, which has seen recent fall backs on the browser market share stats with the arrival of Chrome on the scene.

Opera is already on pretty much every other platform, and is the worlds most popular mobile browser, so landing on the app store is really allowing it to cover all the basis, and should give Safari a good run for its money.

There’s no doubt that the Opera iPhone browser will be a brilliant app, well worth the download, that’s if it gets approved.

So watch this space, or rather the space under ‘O’ in the app store…

Europe left waiting for 3G iPad – Apple want to replace notebook/netbook

International users, including our good selves in Ireland and Europe will have to wait a little longer for the iPad 3G version, assuming that we get the WiFi version on time, that is.

Jobs announced at his keynote that Apple were working on international contracts with various networks to cover data plans and being able to use the internet on the go.

AT&T have already managed to bag the contract for the States, and many expect O2 to seal the deal on this side of the Atlantic, however with the iPhone recently being made available to Orange and Vodafone, it really could be anyone’s game.

Although the iPad 3G is going to come unlocked, and use new GSM micro SIMs, Apple are set to be beginning talks for various data plans. However the pads should work on WiFi alone and Jobs said that there was a ‘high probability’ that the devices would ‘just work’.

Internet on the move, but do we have to wait much longer for the privilege?

It would just be easier to buy the WiFi only version in this case, given that without a data plan, there would be little point in spending the extra few hundred and having what few features extra it offers without being able to take advantage of 3G’s mobile internet.

Apple seems to see the iPad, not as a device which is meant to fit in between your phone and your laptop, but instead to be a replacement for your laptop. Apple’s thinking could be that most laptops are vastly overpowered for what most people would use them for and netbooks are quite awkward and clumsy.

Most of the computer consumer market never really use the full potential of their computers – whereas the iPad will allow users to read papers, surf the web, view YouTube, write documents and listen to music without spending money on endless storage spaces and heavy(-er) notebooks and netbooks.

iSlate delay, 6 months?!…!

Apple is all set to formally announce the new Touch based device, popularly christened the ‘iSlate’. However, while we’ll get an introduction very soon, most of us will have to wait at least six months to actually lay our hands on one.

Word has surfaced that the software and hardware giant may release the new slate in a similar pattern as the original iPhone in 2007. This does mean a longer wait for those of us outside of the US, but should be just in time for christmas.

iSlate, or not to iSlate, when will we be seeing one on the shelves?

The rumoured tablet was supposed to be shipping in March, but it’s now looking more likely to be June, due to what has been described as ‘minor issues’ and for more work to be done on battery life and the model’s durability.

The iSlate is set to take on the role of something between an iPhone and a Mac, however as more and more stories and suggestions come to light about the device it does seem to be leaning more towards an actual Mac; being able to run multiple programs, web browsing and magazine and ebook reading all on a ten inch touch screen screen, which could revolutionise portable computing.

It’s also believed that WiFi would be the most likely option when going for web access, and using 3G as a secondary ‘out-and-about means’, which has raised the question of whether or not there would be two models available; the WiFi only, or both WiFi and 3G in one.

Another change to what we expected, apart from the delay which has shifted people’s ideas about the new release and what it could do as a portable, is the cost; originally thought only to be $600, with added costs for the large touchscreen and various hardware fittings the price has now been suggested to be around $1,000 or about €700.

Even with the increased price Apple are still expecting to shift up to a million units per quarter, according to Kaufman Bros, who are investors in the Cupertino company.

This does appear to be another bundle of rumours which are popping up like daisies ahead of Apple’s event, so for now it’s best to take them as they come, and have our excitement and credit cards go on standby.

Battle stirring among mobile operators for Nexus

The Nexus One is set to be shipped out in the coming months. However the questions that seem to be on people’s minds are, “What carrier?” and “What price plan?”

It looks like mobile giant, Vodafone is an early leader for gaining the retail rights to Google’s first ever smartphone, however whether the search engine is likely to stick with just one operator for very long is unlikely.

Vodafone is known to be one of the largest, and probably more expensive networks available in the UK and Ireland. What exactly the price plan is and other details regarding the potential contract between the two companies, haven’t been announced yet.

Vodafone also recently gained the rights to sell the Apple iPhone, after O2 having exclusivity up until 2010 and has already set it’s own price plan for the popular smartphone.

The Nexus One will be running off of the verizon network in the US.