(The red camera in the images is from the screenshot app I used – serves me right for not taking a look at them or finishing the review before I had to return the device. I also didn’t get nearly enough screenshots)
The 808 PureView runs Nokia Belle Feature Pack 1. I have recently seen demo’s of Feature Pack 2 start to appear around the web so there may be a quite significant software update coming soon. After reading this, why not check out this video of Feature Pack 2 to see what’s coming. In the meantime….
Nokia Belle in itself is a useable mobile OS with excellent multitasking and intelegent landscape rotation. The homescreens can be customized thoroughly with various witdgets and shortcuts and custom wallpaper. YOu can have up to 6 homescreens but can cut that right down to 1 if you want. Android users will feel at home with this. All the while, the bottom of the screen has 3 shortcut keys – app menu, dialer and homescreen menu, the last of which is identical to longpressing empty space on the screen. Swiping down from the top brings a notifications panel, complete with toggle buttons for Mobile data, wifi, Bluetooth and Silent – very useful indeed.
The preloaded widgets include things like Media player, elail, calendar, Microsoft Office, clock, weather, mapps and contacts , though there are many more. Oh, and that rotation – there’s a cpoomplete de-coupling between the landscape and portrait layouts, meaning you can put the widgets and icons wherever you want – the only rule is that the same widgets will be on a given homescreen in both landscape and portrait modes.
The app menu brings up exactly what you would expect – a scrolling grid of apps/icons. However, if you don’t like the icon grid, you can rearrange the order, or add folders and put icons in them, or turn it into a Windows Phone style list view.
A long press on the home key in the bar below the screen brings up the mulit-tasking view, which is a line of cards, one for each open app. tap it to go to it – simple. If you want to close an app, click the red X in the corner of it’s card.
A flick of the lock switch locks the phone, showing the sleep screen with it’s clock. This screen will show missed call / text message notifications too and for me this glancability is a is a much maligned feature. Flicking the lock switch again will unlock the phone to the last thing you were doing, where as pushing other buttons (e.g power) will show a second lock screen with a Unlock button – tap it and you’re in. ONe of the best things with the lock screen is the intelligent “Sleeping Screen” app, a must for any Symbian user. It looks great in the day with it’s customizable colorful images, and at night, switches to show the clock in red.
So far, this is pretty decent stuff. Not mindblowing but that how it is. Symian is quite a reasonable mobile OS for navigating and customizing and it’s just a shame it’s stuck in 360 by 640 resolution.
Phone and communications
This is a phone (despite what others may say) and so pressing call anywhere wil bring up the call log, so you can call the people you are most likely to – the ones you have called recently. Taping the phone icon on the home screen menu takes you to the dialer instead. It’s also nice to be able to place shortcuts to favorite contacts right on the desktop.In a call, nokia’s earpiece and mic work well leadin to a clear call. If your network supports it, it supports 3G video calls too, with the front facing camera used to record video.
Texting is unremarkable too. I have 2 minor niggles for basic commmunicaton, and one is that when tapping a contact, if they have a phone number and email address, it includes both in the Message option as well as mail, adding an extra tap or two to send a text. Secondly, the keyboard is awful. It really is bad. Ultimatley, it’s too cramped meaning (for me anyway) that I type slow and make lots of mistakes. YOu can install Swype which is much better, but in a lot of apps you don’t get the split-screen keyboard after that, meaning you lose context to what you are typing.
The email client also has to suffer the keyboard, but that aside it’s pretty decent, and comes complete with a widget allowing you to see your email on your homescreen. Attachments and html emails are handled well too.
For twitter and facbook, Nokia social is provided, but isn’t very good, so you may find yourself downloading Twitian or Gravity to use instead. Shame, you still have to use the poor keyboard with them.
Music and Media
The 808 pureview is a good multimedia device. However, I was disappointed by several things. Firstly, the supplied headphones have a button and this button can’t be used to play/pause music. Instead, itactivates voice operations. Secondly, a reliance on DNLA or a non-supplied HDMI adapter for TV out. This one is a shame as it means I didn’t have any way to test the awesome Nokia Big Screen app. There’s also the FM transmitter, FM radio, and surprisingly good loudspeaker.
The music player itself is good, though has a quirk or two such as only having a coverflow view in the music library in landscape mode, and list in portrait. It’s not a big deal, until you realize that in landscape, if you want to listen to an artist for whom you have multiple albums, or just randomize everything, you can only do these things in portrait mode. The music player interfacty is nicely layed out, with album art at the top and controls at the bottom. Sadly, it can’t retrieve album art over the internet so make sure that’s get transferred along with your tunes.
As for video, it can handle video well, with nice but simple on screen controls that disappear while the video is playing. The video player’s library lists videos by title, with a thumbnail next to each which is helpful.
One last nice touch, is that the sleep screen can be configured to show the currently playing track. Also look out for media controls in the notification menu in Feature Pack 2.
The web browser is OK. It’s a big improvement on previous Symbian browsers, but still the message here is to get Opera, at least until Feature Pack 2 comes out. Opera is easier to use and also includes it’s own keyboard which puts all the keys you need for URL’s up front and not in a secondary menu, as well as having bigger keys which are easier to type with.
Other Apps and Features
Nokia Maps is one of Nokia’s crown jewels and the Nokia Belle implementation is currently the most complete implementation of it. Maps suite is all nicely integrated including Maps, Drive, Public transit and Guides (trip adviser, lonely planet etc), as well as having a small weather app, and an current position home screen widget. Maps can be downloaded for offline use and navigation works offline or online. The only thing you don’t get offline is traffic information and re-routing.
That re-routing thing – it’s actually good and gives you a level of trust when you see it working. Symbian doesn’t have the MyCommute feature that has been bought to Windows Phone, but for 90% of it’s functionality, it honestly doesn’t need it – the missing 10% being the live tile showing you how long it will take even before you leave. Open up maps, choose your destination by searching, choosing from favorites or history, and drive can route you the fastest way based on traffic, and tell you what you are likely to arrive. And if traffic conditions change for the worse, it might re-route you, if it thinks there’s a faster way and it doesn’t need any saved routes to do it.
My only caution with Nokia maps here is that some times it didn’t properly get traffic info and, just like it does on my Lumia 710, it sometimes tries to route me through a closed interchange for my fastest way to work.
Microsoft have included a series of Office apps here too. Office Mobile lets you create word and excel documents, and view powerpoint presentations too. There is a set of intro files starting with the workd Explore that open in the app they are each about and guide you through what you can do. Documents here don’t sync to SkyDrive, but the sync options both here and in the Microsft Configuration are for sharepoint. Lync 2010 is also here for connection to corporate IM services. However, OneNote does sync with skydrive and is a nice, easy to use, note taker solution.
The Nokia ecosystem has been growing for years and as such there are a large collection of well established apps. So you will find Gravity (Facebook/twitter/etc.), Angry Birds, BBC iPlayer, Slacker radio, Skydrive and Dropbox, and many other household names. However, there are lots of gaps too (Netflix for example) and with most businesses focusing on getting apps out for Android and iPhone (and to a lesser extent Windows Phone) this is increasingly a platform where the developer community are making unofficial apps to fill in those gaps. That said, many people will find the selection adequate.
Aside from the app store, Nokia can backup your contacts to their servers, and there is Nokia Music which operates In many countries and provides music downloads right to your phone.
Honestly, it’s a mixed bag here. It’s graet to open the multitasking view right now and count 12 apps running. Not in some dormant state but running. It’s great that I’ve baely cared about battery life, because as long as I connect it to my pc to transfer some pictures or music for a while each day, it’s fine. It seems, for the most part smooth, quick and does the job.
However, that isn’t the end of it. Nokia Belle can be awkward with dialogs (for example when installing, or receiving a message), inconsitancies (the sometimes split-screen keyboard) and sadly, bugs and crashes.
I had to restart the 808 3 or 4 times from what I’m dubbing the “blank screen of death”. The first time I saw this I thought it was turned off as it was totally unresponsive, but then realized the green and red glows beneath the call and end keys were still there. Then there were the times holding the lock switch didn’t turn on the flashlight – I’ve no idea why. I really like the app ”SportsTracker” and was excited to use it on Symbain/Belle again as it’s more feature rich than the version on the N9 or Windows Phone. Sadly, the GPS was dropped every time and some part of my walk was shown as being in a straight line across the map. Some of these things aren’t catastrophic, but just annoying that mean you can’t do what you set out too.
That said, Nokia Belle has come a long way and is worlds apart from when Symbian 3 was first released on devices like the Nokia N8. It is a usable platform and while it has it’s problems and quirks, it can also be a quite pleasant and intuitive experience at times. Still, I have to feel that Belle is 12-24 months behind where it needed to be. Feature pack 2 will help, but I think the biggest help would be if feature pack 2 improves stability and car remove those frustrations I mentioned before. As it stands, I have to report that anyone considering buying the 808 PureView has to expect that you will see bugs, crashes and quirky errors. It’s a shame because this is a media powerhouse, both in terms of consuming, as described above, and in terms of creating. Camera and video samples to come in part 3.