[FEATURE] Top Smartphones of the Mobile World Congress

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona is perhaps the biggest tech gathering of the year, with virtually every tech company and mobile network present for companies to unveil their plans for upcoming smartphones, and to generally show off what they can produce to the world.

Mobile world congress entrance

Entrance to the Mobile World Congress

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[OPINION] Why Windows 8 won’t stop the rise of Apple

There have been a lot of rumors and leaks recently around the immanent launch of the new Windows 8 operating system, which is seen as Microsoft’s chance to shake off it’s image of clunky operating systems, with awkward menus and a basic design. This image was perfected in the 90’s with Windows 98, but is starting to now lose some serious ground in the face of growing tablet markets and increasingly more adaptable software. But will Windows 8 change the fortunes of the corporate giant?

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[OPINION] Could Nokia make it in 2012

It’s easy to forget, but before the iPhone and Android smartphones, Nokia was the phone to have. While still one of the largest mobile companies in the world, the age of the Finnish mobile giant has come to and end, or has it? Still considered to produce the most robust and well built phones, basic handsets continue to sell well in many countries. The major problem for Nokia has been the Symbian OS, an out of date software which pales compared to iOS or Android. That is until last year when Nokia announced its deal with Microsoft.

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Lumia 800 sets the Market Alight

The Nokia Lumia 800 is due to shortly hit our shelves here’re in Ireland, and might just hit out heartstrings. Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 handset is seen by many as the ailing mobile giant’s last chance to turn it’s luck around, as well as the clock and rise to the top of the league again. It’s not an easy task, that’s for sure. We’re all getting pretty comfy with our snazzy iphones and androids, so it’s going to be tough to woo people away and back to what is still seen as ‘the old reliable’.

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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.