Layman take on Nokia N8 – Part 3 – Symbian Walkthrough – 1


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In case, if you would have missed then first two posts were:

1. Layman take on Nokia N8 – Part 1 – The detailed unboxing
2. Layman take on Nokia N8 – Part 2 – First look over exteriors

And depending on the responses I got over mail, twitter and other social mediums, made me think that everyone wanted more and more about the OS part itself. A big job to cover all those tiny details, but will try to cover things as much possible (fellow bloggers already did excellent jobs to come up with posts on each part, I am just late to the party).


Nokia N8 and Symbian^3 In recent times, we heard a lot on them and unfortunately it seemed negative many times. After giving it sufficient time, I have started to realize that in which way social media acts and what impressions it leaves.

Few big names with their complete bias start something and we find all the community following blindfolded. Such buzzes can create Antennagate from almost nothing or can find people crying on poor battery lives of Android without even giving them a fair try. You can even make someone cancelling out Nokia E5-00 purchase over the absence of Secondary Camera, while he wont be able to answer that when was the last time, when he made a video or was he ever made one?

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Its nothing like that there are no flaws, where isn’t, but its the way, it gets presented. A few months before, just a review of some shitty ‘journalist’ and you were all convinced that Nokia N8 just got a special camera .. that’s it and now after few months, you say that its the best hardware from Nokia till date in every sense and that ‘journalist’ was shit?

Guys!! first go through things and then start saying …. and for God sake .. spare me from the utter kindness that “ok.. Symbian is not that bad, its pretty good, even if not that .. “ blah blah… please praise the part in loud what you like and then sure go on criticizing what you didn’t.


Many experts have spoken a lot about their perceptions on it and sure one has reasons to get confused, but I wish to come up with things what actually meant for me or any other laymas like me in real scenario. So.. here it begins… Will cover the customization part in this post, leaving Camera, multimedia and gaming aside.

Nokia N8-00: Booting and switching off

While it was scary for some that no easy battery removal option with Nokia N8, it happened to be rather easy job to live with it. Just press the power button for 8 seconds and it does it like we all live with our Netbooks or Laptop and who is saying that you will be needed to do that? Take Nokia N97 completely off from your mind.

Anyway… Have you noticed or read anywhere else that when complete empty on battery and get plugged into recharge, it shows interesting battery dialogue on black screen for a while, saying 10% ? Is that mean this 10% is minimum level before it switches it off? This practice been here since long, but is it the first time, they kind of showing it?

We see other vendors putting an animated battery pics while charging the empty devices, but somehow I like this minimalistic approach. Why not to keep this percentage thing lit on all the time while charging?

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Another observation one can make is the landscape Nokia logo while starting. I am not sure that it was here with old devices, but while most of the time people will see only portrait one, if you switch off the phone with landscape orientation, then you will find it. But while starting up the device, it always go portrait only.

For unfortunate situations, option of hard reset the phone is here by pressing Lower volume button + Camera Button + Menu Button. But not only me, many other around the web, will say no on it as you loose many of the scripts and most importantly default Qt runtime.

Sure, its not a fault of OS itself, but failure of Nokia to bring more developers on board to push things more tightly in same way Nokia design their hardware. Its project management and change management, where Nokia seems to be lacking in past, due to the fact that they wanted to leave Symbian autonomous and truly open. It seems that tight control should have been the case. Is the new regime in charge going to change that? He had been known for this.


Nokia N8-00: The home screen

A total of three home screens like it was in Nokia N900, difference is….  in Nokia N8, we find a total of 18 WRT based widgets (like Nokia N97) available spanning across three home pages (6 widgets on each). Unlike Nokia N900 or Androids, these widgets are of fixed width (82 x 312 px). While the smaller width is sure issue for some of the part, a tighter and disciplined home page UI must be welcomed.

And by the way, in actual, 17 of the widgets are customizable as the Date/Calendar/Profile widget is fixed and not customizable/ removable, though you can change the format of clock display by going through the setting->date and time and obviously could change the position of the same, but it will remain on the first home screen only, not on rest two.

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You will soon notice that Symbian^3 UI doesn’t rotate in all directions like iPad. Like it will remain in portrait mode only, if you turn it into landscape mode keeping the SIM/ MicroSD slot on top. Similarly no change, if you held it down toward the power button side.

So the working orientations are in portrait mode, when you hold it keeping power button upside and in landscape mode, when you hold it camera button up. Not a breaking news, its the same as with all.. just pointing it out, if some start bitching on it. I am marking it here because this was one of the comments that I got from my Company CEO, while presenting this in front of him. He said iPhone scores here, I said, its not about the capability, many games will show that Nokia N8 has it, but its the way, they want to keep the UI disciplined and it makes perfect sense, once you use it.

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As you already know, you can drag and drop a widget to change its position on the same home page, though there are no drag and drop of widgets from one page to another as each page a separate entity at least till now, but look like the same gonna change in next coming firmware, probably by next month. Check the video.

As of now, if you have to move a widget from one home screen to another then you will be needed to remove the same from one screen and then manually add into another. Hmmm.. not sure that if the best way, but still I am comfortable with a disciplined UI layout more.

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As you can see, you get the option of changing wall paper only when you go to edit mode by long pressing on home screen.

There are options to keep widgets to offline mode or online mode, which stands for all three screen at once, means its not like that you could keep social notifications on at the main homepage and mail widgets off at another (though there are workarounds to do so). I think that could have been a better way, though I know in backend its implemented in way that widgets get hidden only and they are at the same place. So, working that thing out will ask efforts.

While the bottom has tradition two button menu like S60 V5 or Symbian^1, we get a middle button here for switching between the home screens though that works unidirectional obviously from left to right side and I don’t think many of them will be using that in place of swipe that is more natural and work in both ways. But sure presence of that reminds you of the fact that you are on which screen. Handy in that way.

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The right top on tapping brings a Menu that show the notifications menu as you can see. Tapping on connections takes you to active connection and tapping on battery, it shows you current battery status and option to change to power saving mode. Many would like to see fancy animated battery icon here, though I would say minimalistic approach is better while you can easily find some widget for same purpose.

Power saving mode is like the same it has been E-Series handsets means on activating, it will put your phone in 2G mode only, will lower down the brightness, will change the screen saver to remain the blank etc. I am coming over Screen saver part just after this section.

I think there are a maximum of three kind of notifications available here at a time, like you can see, when I connect a USB drive, then the notification removes the GPS icon out.

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There are a number of widgets to choose from including the RSS feed you create in web app. Also you can always visit the Ovi Store to get some of your choice.

Shortcut widget allow you to put any four applications or bookmarks together in one widget, though I must tell you, if you use four five shortcut widgets with 16-20 app icons on the same home screen, then first loading might be delayed by 2 seconds, not due to symbian fault, but due to third party app implementations.

Social widget, which brings updates from your social networks, didn’t impressed me even if they actually did a good job in designing, otherwise one can’t imagine updates to be detailed in such a small place. Probably that’s the reason that some people saying that Nokia should have thought variable width widgets though its also clear that if they would have chosen that then it was likely to go little undisciplined like Maemo or Android home screen.

There are mail, music, weather, check-in and many other widgets, but what particularly interested me, was search widget. Though you wont be happy with the performance of search. Its kind of too slow, if you compare it with all other operations on Symbian, but point to notice is, its only Symbian native app with a split keyboard design.

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We have seen the similar design with custom keypad of Opera Mini or Opera Mobile as well. Though its not available system wide, may be with next firmware update.


Nokia N8-00: The Screen saver

If you remember, then it was the swf based screen saver of Nokia N86 that attracted me once and now it was the one Nokia N8, which might be in eyes of many. I am pretty surprised because of the fact that at least till now, I am not been able to use a SWF as screen saver on Nokia N8 though I believe its sure supported.

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But the default screen saver on Nokia N8 is really really good.  Not only the fact that its extra bright and crisp, but it seems to be ultra low power one as well. You will find many complaining that why no notification icons are here. Even I mentioned once that if Janole could have bring the notification on this screen then why not Symbian, but after going more deeper, I found that this thing also had a purpose.

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Its true that its annoying that if you find only a small light blinking at menu button for notifying you of your new SMS or miss calls, but think of another side. Keeping a screen updated and responsive take a toll over battery, when it might not be needed. The analog clock is also designed to tick only once a min. Though still I believe that putting a notification wouldn’t have did much harm, but still its fine from some other perspectives.

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Yes! this is the same screen without unlocking. No change in configuration, no hacking. All the info, for what you were complaining till the moment is right there, just you have to press the menu button and not the unlock button. Is that really hard? I guess pressing the power button will also bring this screen. Though its not gonna respond any kind of touch before you bring this screen.

By the way, this screen get updated by each second, not only clock shows seconds ticking, but also battery and network icons are live too.


Nokia N8-00: Task manager and Menus

scr000105We all have seen that awesome looking card based task manager, which open up when you press and hold the menu button for long. The snapshots of the application aren’t real time by the way like Windows Vista and you might have heard complaints on the location of menu button itself. I also think that it was more better to have  a left top menu on touch screen to bring the task manager. Button based approach was fine with non-touch, but probably having an icon like Maemo had was a better way.

At least like Maemo, if you press by side of task manager, then it returns you back to the back screen, though same effect is not there in between the app icons. I think we should blame lower resolution on this. But hey.. we started comparing two different operating systems here.

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In portrait, you will get same two menus at the bottom saying options and exit while in landscape the middle button becomes multipurpose with notification place.

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When you move inside the menus, then things seem to be same like earlier, but dig a little deeper.

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Its the same symbian flexibility that many of us actually loved.

Why to create folder?  Let me tell you my reason that is not related to the organizing only.

Sometimes the third party app don’t go in efficient way about icons. Usually the icons get stored in the mass memory, where we install the apps usually and so if you have so many apps, then opening such a folder that might be having too many icons, will take a little more than instant. So, why not to put games etc in some folder so that those icons wont take a toll, when you want to browse to others.

But these all things are already familiar to  us, isn’t it? You will be surprised with the speed and ease of use with single click operations, which is carefully optimized to avoid accidental clicks.


Nokia N8-00: The connections

With the old Symbian, one of the problem of mine been the performance when I have a weak WAP connection. Problems get worsen, when you use many SIMs, so many connection and many configuration. As a techie, you understand that when you are messing with things, then its not easy to cope up for the software itself.

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Even if the above menu look like our very very familiar Symbian, finally, Symbian^3 has came up with a solution: One Click Connectivity (OCC). You should really go through the link to know what changes are employed here and you should have an N8 and N97 side by side to feel that what difference does it make. Now, it automatically tries to find that which connection is on and make ways through it. Obviously, you can customize it (I will say put your working connection on first priority in connection settings) though.

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Yes, there will be annoyance like above, like I find with WAP connection, which serve only one connection at a time and so when with Gravity, you want to geo-tag a tweet, then another connection for GPS bring the above scenario. But with Symbian^3, it settles itself automatically.

Definitely connectivity is a way smoother now.


Nokia N8-00: The messaging

The best place to go into details will be our own Rafe @aas always, but I will point out some minor things only here. For full details, read there.

Even if original keypad was so better than earlier, I never got used to it. Swype is what I went for and staying it with even now. Though its disappointing a little that its not available officially for Nokia N8 yet and I have to go through Nokia C7 version only.

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Not going into the typing part and amazingly correct prediction and learning dictionary system there, what you find cool and noticeable here is the conversation mode. When it was introduced as a beta app, I thought it was messy, but after playing with it for a while, I don’t remember that when I am preferring to open an individual SMS. Though what gonna interest some of people is support for emocon, which we always knew as smileys.

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I remember one of my reader commented that he hate the fact that Nokia E52/ E72 doesn’t support the smileys and I was to convince him that it was not a priority when they were designing a business specific OS version. But now like Nokia always does, the world is moving toward convergence. And yes.. these smileys are animated too.

Option message type

Rest everything seems almost usual as we know Symbian except few differences here and there.

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By the way, I like to keep my fonts smallest, what you prefer?

There are some issues as well.

Usually it automatically decides on basis of content that you are sending a SMS or MMS, but if you reply a MMS, then even if you are sending text only, it will go as MMS with keeping the Re: Subject thing. True.. it seems logical, but it might have been intelligent as well.

Second issue I am facing is with Vodafone and MMS. Don’t know its an operator specific issue or Nokia N8 related, But as I read the same in their support forum as well from other country too, I guess there is something wrong with it. Many times, your MMS will be sent but still will be shown as deferred and then you can’t delete them as they are not actually there, but just being shown. Only remaining option goes to be using PC Suit and delete it (OVI suit wont work for that). Hoping that the next firmware update will resolve this.

Absence of portrait qwerty

As Rafe pointed out, there are differences in T9 layout as well as Landscape QWERTY one from Symbian^1. The tactile feedback and the vibrations on pressing keys work quite well.

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But the thing that bothers many is the absence of QWERTY mode in portrait. So Nokia is continued on the same line that they chosen since existing portrait qwerty from Nokia X6 was removed in last firmware update. The excuse from Nokia was portrait qwerty has way too small buttons that asks for stylus only on capacitive to operate properly and hence destroys user experience.

I am sure that almost 90% will disagree on it. What about keeping the option and let use decide what to choose. Obviously you can provide it with T9 as default setting and qwerty as optional, but when your user base ever asked you to remove that at all?

As about small buttons, then most of us want qwerty there due to swype that is not currently supporting portrait mode because of the very same fact that there is no native support. I don’t think that with swype one needs to bother on smaller size of keys. And by the way, apps like Opera, still have the portrait QWERTY then why to deprive users from the same from your side natively?

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When it comes to landscape, then story is sure nice as Rafe shown in his post, though personally, I have not been used to of predictive inputs on any of the smart phone till now, though seen that my younger brother make use of the same very efficiently. Have to give my Nokia N8 in his hands soon to know this.

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And at last, there is no multi touch support in keypad as of now. I know not many supporting the same, but what about starting the same game?


Nokia N8-00: The Email

Again, I will point toward Rafe’s excellent post on this section for a complete read, but let me come up with some points of my own.

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The icons look good here and when you move inside then there is smooth pinch and zoom support as well. Notice the fact that pressing over some link brings the above shown menu, so it becomes easier to copy links from any newsletter and post on twitter with your favourite client.

On the bottom side, there are two transparent looking arrow buttons that are ready to take you to previous or next email, while on the top side, you see that there is a plus icon that brings detail about sender and receiver, while the default is showing sender only. I tried but there seems no options to show the complete header that might be a must to detect forgery emails sometimes though I guess that is not a use case for 90% of people.

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It was interesting to note that they are bringing the desktop level things like follow up etc on mobiles as well.

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While its still the same non-text rich (font support, bold italic, HTML signature etc), when it comes to type a new mail, options are sure much more than earlier and nicely designed with icons. I guess experience of typing a rich text email is a little far, provided the tiny space.

And yes.. have you checked the new mark method?

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Hold your fingers on some message and then choose mark, it will make rest all mails available for getting marked in next each one click.

Someone also asked me that if we can read some hindi content in Nokia N8 or not? So the answer is given below.

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But its true that its not supporting languages other than English as of now (so were the case with other high end devices as well). For some, it might be a big deal, but for that there are simple workarounds to install other languages without visiting Nokia Service centers. Find the link here


While I still need to talk over Multimedia, camera and gaming part, but I guess this post getting too long. So, closing it here and soon will come back with another post Symbian Walkthrough -2. Keep tuned in and send me suggestions that what I should look for more or where I should improve on this very post.

Remember, I read each and everyone of you and reply individually as well, I am just a layman like most of you, so be a part of conversation.

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Author: Nitish Kumar

I love to write and raising voice, sharing thought and heated debate is a kind of passion for me. Jobwise I am just another Computer professional handling Infra and designing solutions for a big Indian Media house but I love to write, sketch, photography and a lot more.

17 thoughts on “Layman take on Nokia N8 – Part 3 – Symbian Walkthrough – 1”

  1. Probably one of the best serious reveiws. Most reveiws willl give useless issues such as a limit to broadband and to be honest ”normal people” people wouldn’t buy a iphone 4 over a good working phone because high broadband limt. Thanks ffor using screenshots too, really good. Thanks for pointing out the little ‘smileys’ issue.

    1. Thanks a lot man. Layman’s take on Technology that’s what my moto always been. Smiley issue is pointed because you friends bring it up to me. Keep coming and telling me what you want to hear about.

      1. keep it up man, hey dont show your private contacts, chat in screenshots ! just caution 😉
        Also dont forget what I asked you to review.

  2. Unfortunately no pre installed games on nokia n8. But there are many available via ovi store or other sources. Believe me you might not have seen any thing like nokia n8 in terms of gaming if you talking about nokia

  3. Thanks nitish.. Thanks for ur such quick response. Sad to hear there r no games preinstalled but Hope the games r free to download. Anyway, i’ll soon buy nokia N8, but the bad thing is, its still not available in raxaul. Ok, i’ll inform u after i buy this set. Until then, bye.

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