When you hear people tell you about how the Nokia 808 Pureview is the best cameraphone on the market, they’re not kidding.
Symbian’s last stand. And the mobile OS is going down fighting. So in the spirit of one of my, Ye Giant Reviews, here’s what I thought, of the last homegrown Nokia.
At the front of the Nokia 808 Pureview, you have a 4 inch, 16 million colors AMOLED capacitive touchscreen at 640 x 360 pixel “nHD” resolution, that uses the company’s ClearBlack display technology. It runs Nokia Belle Feature Pack 1, on a single core 1.3 Ghz ARM 11 processor, with 512 MB of RAM. There’s 16GB of onboard memory, with a microSD card slot if you want to top that up.
While you have a 41 megapixel sensor on the 808, you can capture shots upto 38 megapixels, with the added benefit of a xenon flash and 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. There’s two modes of capture, with a ‘full resolution’ 38 megapixel 4:3 ratios or 34 Megapixel 16:9 ratios, and a Pureview mode at 8 megapixels, 5 megapixels or just 3 megapixels. There’s a mechanical shutter, ND filter, 4x lossless digital zoom, geotagging, face detection, and various camera modes to tweak.
Apart from the camera, you have Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support with (YES!) Penta-band 3G with 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support. There’s Wifi, DLNA, GPS (with A-GPS and a Digital Compass), built-in accelerometer, proximity sensor, Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, NFC, FM with RDS and an FM transmitter too. There’s also a microHDMI port to project content to a TV, and there’s built-in DivX and Xvid support so you can play such-encoded movies right out of the box. Just like the N8, there’s also a microUSB port with USB On-The-Go support and a standard 3.5mm audio jack.
As an N82 owner, those specs sound fantastic.
As an N8 owner, I’d want to upgrade to 808 immediately.
To owners of today’s quad-core Android beasts, it might sound like nothing. Thankfully, at this point the Symbian OS is pretty much as optimised as it can get, being able to run quickly on a single core processor, while keeping battery drainage down. Ofcourse the OS lags behind iOS and Android in terms of UI and ‘pretty’ and even speed of overall operation. But I’d still argue that it’s just as feature-rich, if not more. That being said, 3rd party app support can be a bit disappointing.
The Retail Package:-
In our Nokia 808 Pureview Unboxing post, I already took you through the general contents of what you get in the box.
All the essentials and nothing more. A charger, headset, NFC sticker, leather strap and manuals. In India for a limited time, you get the lens protector case free along with the 808.
Would have been nice to have the HDMI and USB-OTG cables but considering Nokia’s current position they probably chose to keep costs low. Moving on….
The design of the 808 is very… classic Nokia. It’s available in White, Black and Red (though the latter is insanely hard to find), which are colors a lot more subdue than the bright Cyan, and Magenta colors of the Lumia phones. It’s now an all-plastic build instead of the full-metal anodized aluminum body of the N8, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It might not be as tough as the N8, but at 169 grams, it’s admittedly a bit heavy compared to most phones today, so I’d imagine the sacrifice was made to keep the weight down.
The finish though, is somewhat coarse, so it doesnt feel like what you’d imagine plastic to feel like. Not cheap at all, rather it feels premium, almost like metal but without the cold touch. It’s grippy and very easy to hold comfortably in both portrait and landscape, even if it is a little bit of a top-heavy smartphone. It’s a very solid build quality, and just like the N8 could very well be used as a weapon, heh.
At 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm, it’s similar to the size of the Nokia N8, but a bit thicker considering the large hump on the back at which point it measures 18mm. With it’s Lens Protector case, it adds on even more size, but is admittedly easier to carry around and man-handle.
Coming to the front, you have a 4 inch AMOLED Gorilla Glass screen which has it’s pros and cons. On the pro side of things, the clearblack display technology means deep blacks, nicely saturated colors, and great legibility in direct sunlight, with things even better indoors. Outdoor legibility is probably the best I’ve seen on a phone so far, and is super important considering the primary function of this phone – the camera. No use taking pictures outside if you cant see the screen right? Not a problem here. The aspect ratio is 16:9 though, which can be considered a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s what leads us on to the cons.
On the cons list, is the nHD 360 x 640 pixel resolution, which isnt anywhere near what most other OEMs are pumping out today. That’s stretched to 4 inches, which means pixel density drops down to 184 ppi. This might be a limitation of Symbian though, and with the OS already fitted with an expiry date, I would imagine Nokia thought this would be less of an issue than having developers to re-code their apps to fit another resolution.
Altogether, I wouldnt say it’s as impressive as the screen on the Lumia 800, but it’s close.
Above the screen, you have a front facing camera for video calls, an ambient light sensor and proximity sensor, along with a centrally located earpiece. Annoyingly, you cant turn off the ambient light sensor, so even at full brightness you’ll find the screen auto-adjusting to suit the light in your environment.
Below the screen, you have a slightly raised bar of hardware keys. Green and Red calling keys on either side of a menu button. Personally I thought they looked too much like the ones on the ol’ Nokia 5800, but it’s not too bad. Nokia chose to not have a dedicated power button, and instead the red calling key also functions as the power-on/off key. This makes things a little awkward, seeing how the red button also exits an app and returns to the homescreen. You can tap it at the homescreen to switch the phone to silent mode, offline mode, turn on power saving, or lock the phone.
On the right side, you have the volume rocker keys, a screen lock slider key that you use to lock or unlock the screen, and a dedicated camera key. Like the Nokia C7 and 701, you can slide-and-hold to turn on the led light of the camera as a make-shift torch, and repeat the operation to switch it off. The 2-stage dedicated camera key is very easy (and slightly addictive) to use, with a nice soft half-press to lock-on before it gets a little stiff when you push it further to take the picture. The speed of the camera is super quick, and you can even open the camera app from the lockscreen in just one second, by pressing the camera key.
The left side is empty, with no ports or keys.
Whereas on the top, you have the 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB port, microHDMI port (different from the one on the N8) with a rubber flap to keep dust out.
At the bottom, you have a tiny pinhole for the microphone, and an inlet for a lanyard cable.
At the back, you have the Camera Unit that grabs most of the attention away from the rest of the phone, boasting it’s 41 Megapixel sensor with branding on chrome plating, also accommodating the xenon flash. The entire module is actually made out of five elements, which coupled with that massive image sensor means there’s super impressive results. Considering what it’s doing, it’s a wonder that the camera bulge isnt bigger.
The loudspeaker is also housed in the unit, but it’s surprisingly loud for it’s size. More on that later. There’s also a interestingly-placed thin ridge towards the bottom that helps with grip.
The back panel is removable, and underneath you’ll find a removable standard 1400 mAh battery, microSIM card tray and microSD card slot. Also worth mentioning, is that the back panel has an NFC chip integrated.
At the end of the day, when you zoom out and look at the 808 as a whole, it’s a phone that was clearly designed around the camera. The build quality is classic Nokia fantastic, and while the screen is low resolution, it’s the most legible display we’ve used outdoors. Some of my friends were put off by the weight and camera bump, but I thought it made the phone feel rather premium. I’m clearly biased, because of the camera, but hey, what’s not to like?
And on that note…
The Symbian Belle OS:-
I still think Symbian is a really capable OS. There, I said it. Ofcourse it’s had it’s fair share of bad press, and even though it’s more or less caught up with the competition, it kinda looks like a custom skin UI on top of Android today.
Symbian Belle Feature Pack 1 brings some minor additions to the OS since Symbian Belle and Anna. There’s the 1.3 Ghz processor powering all that, and there’s new widgets and Dolby sound onboard, along with Nokia Maps Suite, some Microsoft Business Apps and a slightly better browser.
You can have up to six homescreens that you swipe through, sideways. A nice ‘feature’ is that you can set a unique wallpaper on each homescreen, which fades in as you scroll from one to another.
The homescreens are also looped, unlike in stock Android, so when you’re at the last homescreen, the next swipe will take you back to the first. There’s also auto-rotation enabled in the homescreen as well, for better or worse. There’s no easy way to disable screen rotation for scenarios, such as reading in bed, but luckily there are apps that handle the little missing things here and there.
In addition to the widgets, you can also place shortcuts to apps and contacts. Some of the new widgets are really useful though, such as the 3G, network data and Wifi toggles, NFC and Bluetooth, etc. There’s even a neat data tracker that can help you keep a watch on your bandwidth. There’s also two music player widgets (one large, one compact), DLNA, Microsoft apps, a weather widget (two sizes again), clocks, calendars, yada yada.
Adding a widget is simple enough. You just tap and hold on any empty space on the homescreen, and choose which widget or shortcut to place there. You can tap and hold on a widget or shortcut to move it around from screen to screen, or just delete it. Some widgets even have a settings menu that you can access. I feel like there were more apps with widgets last year, but there are still some on the Nokia Store, like Gravity’s Twitter widget, and the Force Control widget that you can download.
Similar to Android and iOS, there’s a pull-down notification bar at the top of the screen that has quick toggles for Mobile data, Wifi, Bluetooth and silent mode, along with notifying you about new messages. It doesnt quite list every alert, for example it wont tell you if you have a new email, so it’s a bit redundant. You can pull it down from any screen though, which can be useful at times.
At the bottom of the homescreen, you have three virtual softkeys, for menu, dialer and homescreen settings. In the main menu, they change to back, search and menu options. They change according to the app or setting, but is great use of the free on-screen space imho.
The main menu itself is “flat” as Nokia calls it, with all the icons in a vertically-scrollable grid.
I dont like scrolling vertically, so thankfully you can still create folders and organize all your apps and games. You can also sort the menu by alphabet, manually, or in a list. Just like good ol’ Symbian of previous generations.
Incase you cant find a certain app, or game, there’s the universal search key at the bottom that I mentioned earlier, that can also find music, videos, etc.
Moving on, my favourite part about Symbian has always been true multi-tasking, and it’s back with a whole new task manager in Belle FP1.
When you press and hold the menu key, you have screenshots of the actual apps that appear, instead of their icons, similar to the Windows Phone multi-tasking UI.
There’s “X” marks at the top right of each app thumbnail, so you can close them from this view too. Symbian has okay-ish RAM management, and very rarely force closes an app running in the background, but as always, if you leave too many apps open, both the overall speed and battery life, will take a hit.
If you keep things light though, animations and transitions are all smooth and quick on the 808. Like I said in my first impressions, somewhat like a mid-range single core Android phone. There’s also a ton of themes that you can download from the store, that change the look and feel of the OS. For example, here’s how Nokia’s Sleeping Screen app uses the display when the screen is locked:
Coming to apps, unfortunately the scene is a bit bare currently. I had to hunt around the whole internet to find a Skype installer for Symbian, since it’s no longer on the store. Similarly other popular apps from yester-year are missing, such as Pixelpipe, and apps like the official Google Maps symbian client and Google Search, no longer work. There’s still an official Foursquare app and Whatsapp client though, and third party apps like fMobi for Facebook, Gravity for Symbian, Cutebox for dropbox, SymNote for Read-it-later, Shazam, Mobbler for last.fm, MoloMe for Instagram-like effects, FastTube for YouTube, Vimeo, Opera Mini/Mobile, JoikuSpot for internet sharing, Vlingo for a Siri-like service, yada yada.
Moving on again, the phonebook is pretty much the same. You can sort contacts by first name or last name, import them from the SIM card, export them, and add as many fields under a contact as you’d want.
There’s exchange support, and even a favorites feature, which places selected contacts at the top of the phonebook list. You can even assign personal ringtones, even mp3s to each individual contact, and group support.
You can also merge duplicate contacts, or add a location to their card from Nokia Maps. You can also scroll through your list of contacts by using the almost-invisible bar on the right side (similarly in other such menus).
There’s bare-bones social networking integration with Facebook and Twitter, which pulls in the latest status update from the contact’s profile and shows it on the contact card. You can tap on it to view the contact’s status update or comment, yada yada. It also pulls in contact display pictures, but it’s really reaaaaaallly low resolution for some weird reason.
You can use the Nokia Social App with multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts, but only one of them can be active at a time. The Facebook section is simple enough to use, and you can update your status or upload a picture or video, but it’s a little slow to use.
Ditto for the Twitter app, though the interface is neat enough. You can shorten links, upload an image or video, do a new-style retweet, favourite a tweet, reply to tweets, etc. You can also post a status update to both social networks at the same time. Both networks have to be manually refreshed to update though, which can take a while. Still the UI is nice.
The text message app is also pretty much the same, with a shared inbox showing a conversation view of texts from your contacts, new or old.
You can choose to view them in the old-school single text message view if you prefer, but I dont see why you would. You start off a new message, and once you add media, it automatically gets converted from a standard SMS to an MMS.
The email client has been slightly improved though. Once you feed in your email address and password, it automatically sets up your Gmail (or almost any other email service) or Exchange account in a matter of minutes. For Active Sync or some fancier Mail for Exchange accounts, you might have to enter in a couple more settings though.
But there’s multiple email account support (no combined inbox though) and HTML-support. You can sort your emails by date, sender, subject, priority, and even search for a specific email. It’s a bit limited though, and some things dont… work as they’re supposed to, for example it will only show you a handful of your Gmail folders but not the entire list strangely. Or maybe I just have too many Gmail folders. One time it downloaded a couple 2-3 MB pictures a friend sent me, in a reduced something-kilobyte version, which was very weird, heh. Otherwise, it’s all good with support for attachments, signatures, yada yada.
Anywho, there’s push email support (i think?) under the “soonest” setting under “Retrieval frequency” in the email settings, but you can also set it to only check every 15 minutes or more, or set when and at what time to retrieve emails. Ever since the whole Nokia Eseries “Nokia Messaging for email” debacle, I’ve never been able to figure out if there’s push email or not. *Shrug* it fetches email quicker than my iPhone, and that’s all that counts to me.
Coming to the on-screen keyboard. It’s probably the worst part of Symbian right now.
The 4 inch screen is nice and large and all, but the 16:9 ratio means the keyboard is already a little cramped. Throw in the strange arrangement of the tiny on-screen keys, and it gets even more tough to type properly spelled out words on the 808. According to the leaked Belle FP2 screenshots, it’s going to be improved soon. So let’s hope that’s coming along. It took me about a week to get used to the 808’s keyboard, after the iPhone and the Lumia 800’s fantastic keyboard. And I still make mistakes, even in landscape mode.
Thankfully, there’s Swipe (download it from Nokia Betalabs) that works kinda. There’s also onboard word prediction and auto-correct that helps a little. Symbian is also the OS that started the whole copy-paste support dealio, and it’s still in there. Swipe your finger across a word or sentence to highlight it, and then choose to cut or copy from the pop-up. Ta-daaaa!
So yeah, Symbian isnt quite as bad as people are making it out to be. There’s still a gazillion Symbian users out there, so hopefully Nokia will support the OS atleast for another year or two (officially they said till 2016), but it’s still a gamble as far as getting a “future proof” device goes, from an Apps perspective. The Nokia 808 Pureview is the last Symbian phone however, and the platform couldnt have gotten a better send-off, than with this particular device.
The Nokia Store:-
Thanks to the whole shift of focus to Windows Phone, and competition from Android and iOS, Symbian is losing market share like there’s no tomorrow. That isnt good for the app store unfortch, which seems to have even fewer apps now than the last time I had a gander at it over a year ago.
I’d imagine it has as few apps as the Blackberry app store, both of which pale in comparison to the iOS and Android app stores. The entire store UI has been refreshed and tweaked slightly to make it more easier to use on Symbian belle, but the number of apps can still be a problem.
When you start up the store, you’ll see a list of featured apps, and you can then choose to view more content by categories of Applications, Games, Audio and Video content, and Personalization. There’s also a collections view, and Nokia has this strange “30 day of premium apps” promotion going on right now, but it only lists three apps for the last week, so me thinks it’s not really that useful.
If you head on over to your account profile section, you’ll see all the apps you’ve installed on your Pureview. Unfortunately it didnt list the apps I bought on my N8 or E7 or even 701, so I had to re-buy apps again. Luckily the Indian store apps are quite cheap, so it wasnt a big issue. But like i mentioned earlier, some of my favorite apps like Skype, and 4squick for foursquare are strangely missing.
The Call Quality:-
I never had any network signal issues with the Nokia 808, and no dropped calls at all. The extra microphone works great for active noise-cancellation in calls, so voices are heard loud and clear on either end of the call.
Also worth mentioning, is that you can still video call a contact over 3G, but I’ve honestly never seen/heard of anyone doing that. The Skype app which I managed to find, only supported audio calls, so you’re limited to Fring or Nimbuzz if you’d want to really video call someone over a Wifi connection.
The dialer app supports speed dialing, and smart-dial, so you can tap out a contact’s name T9-style to select it from a pop-up list, and call them. There’s also Voice Commands, where you long press the green call key and ‘tell’ the phone to call a contact. It recognizes most names, though it’s not very effective in noisy environments.
Also worth mentioning, is that the 808 features the flip-to-silence calls and flip-to-snooze-alarm features that I loved on my N8. All using the built-in accelerometer. The proximity sensor also shuts off the screen when you place the phone near your ear, so that it doesnt make some calls of it’s own.
Lastly, big ups for that loudspeaker! It’s really loud, and you’ll definitely never miss a call because you didnt hear the thing, that’s for sure. It’s way louder than the N8 and iPhone 4S, and in calls, you can hear all voices clearly, which is really saying something nowadays.
The Image gallery looks pretty much the same, as other Symbian Belle/Anna devices before it, but has seen some features mysteriously disappear.
While photos are still displayed in a grid of thumbnails that you can scroll up or down, you can no longer mark & select multiple images. As a result you’ll have to delete or share images one-by-one or using the file explorer app. You can also use the file explorer to rename or bluetooth images, or move them around folders or onto a microSD, etc. There’s even a ZIP manager so you can archive images to bring the size down. Coming back to the gallery, you also no longer have the ability to organize your images into albums. Instead, you’ll have to organize your images by tagging them. Tags with the date are automatically populated, and the 808 does this really clever thing of creating an image with the date on it, so that your images are nicely grouped apart according to the date.
When you open up an image, you can delete, crop, share or edit the picture. The sharing icon either quick-shares to Facebook or Flickr according to your setting.
Also once you sign-in to your Facebook/Flickr in the gallery, I couldnt find a way to sign out of it. The editing option has basic tweaks that you can carry out on an image, from adjusting various properties, cropping, rotation, and some frames and cliparts incase you’d want that. There’s also a handful of image effects, and each edited image saves as a copy.
There’s also two onboard image and video apps: ColorizIt, which is an app where you can pick one color to pop while keeping the rest of the image black-and-white, and Silent Film Director, which as the name suggests, lets you create a silent movie. They’re entertaining enough, so they’re appreciated.
Coming to one of my favourite parts of the 808: The Music Player features a neat cover-flow like interface, similar to Symbian Belle and Anna before it.
The Music App’s about section states that it’s from 2010, so it might infact be the same app that started out on Symbian^3 heh.
You can view your songs by Album, Songs, Playlists, Genres, or Podcasts. You still have to refresh your music library every time you add new music to your phone though, which is an old Symbian annoyance that was never ‘fixed‘ as such. Luckily I found a way to Sync my Nokia 808 Pureview with iTunes, so I have all my playlists and album art coming in from there.
You can tilt your phone to landscape view, to view everything in a cover-flow like interface of floating album art, and tap on an album, and then select a song to play.
When you select a song, the now playing UI shows the album art on top, and you can swipe it left or right to go back and forward between songs in your library. There’s a seekbar below that you can use to skip to specific point in a song, with the usual play/pause and playback controls under it.
There’s also equalizer settings, with presets, but unfortunately you cant create your own preset with manual settings. There’s also Balance and Loudness settings. The ‘big’ deal though, is that Symbian Belle FP1 brings Dolby Headphone sound support, which works through basically anything going out from the 3.5 mm audio jack.
Audio quality is quite superb, and is probably one of the best sounding devices I’ve heard. Volume can be pumped up to pretty high volumes, and the Dolby sound tweaks really bring out the best in your music. There’s a certain amount of stereo crosstalk, with headphones, but otherwise performance is pretty solid. A strange thing that’s worth mentioning, is that the 808 didnt work with the Nokia Purity headphones, without the (in-purity-box) adapter. Works just fine with any other pair of headphones though.
There’s an FM Radio onboard, that has a simple enough interface. You can scan for stations and there’s RDS support too. The 808 doesnt have a built-in antenna, so you’ll have to plug in a pair of headphones for it to work. There’s also an FM radio transmitter, which lets you broadcast your own music to any FM radio nearby. It’s really meant for sharing your music at a friend’s place to his stereo, or in your car. You can set the frequency and you’re good to go. Ofcourse, quality takes a hit going over the air, but it’s not too bad.
Also worth mentioning, is that you can download Nokia Internet Radio to stream music from the interwebs.
Coming to the video player, there’s support for almost every time of video file out there, and all my DivX, XviD, MP4, AVI, and even MKV files played just fine, including 1080p versions.
They all play in landscape, with subtitle support, and admittedly look pretty sweet on that 16:9 screen. Ofcourse the nHD resolution doesnt help but there’s even a microHDMI port so that you can send that video out to an HDTV. There’s no options or anything to change or tweak in the video player though, so I’m not entirely sure if it uses the whole Dolby sound thing for audio.
You have an impressive set of connectivity options available on the 808 PV. Especially when you consider what you get with current iPhones, Windows Phones and Android devices. The 808 is a world phone with quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and penta-band 3G with HSDPA (14.4Mbps) and HSUPA (5.76Mbps) and there’s Wifi, DLNA, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP, USB-On-the-Go and microHDMI-out with multi-channel audio.
There’s internet sharing with JoikuSpot, but only the lite version (cant set a password) is included pre-installed. There’s also no adapters for the USB-OTG and HDMI ports included in-box and getting your hands on a compatible one will be hard, I’d imagine. Pity, because USB-OTG is really a fun feature. You can even attach a mouse and use it with the 808.
Last but not the least, is NFC, which is really something I wish was more widely adopted. It works great with other Nokia phones, and accessories, but the NFC would not ‘talk’ to a Sony Xperia Sola and Galaxy Nexus but I’m not sure who’s fault that is. NFC can be very useful for sending files or triggering various functions, and there’s a handy NFC-writer app on the Nokia Store that will allow you to re-write any open NFC tags you might have lying around.
The Web Browser:-
Probably my least favorite part about Symbian, was it’s web browser. It hasnt really changed much but thanks to an updated browser engine, there’s better HTML5 support, and pages load faster, but every so often there’s a random bug where you choose to open a link in a new tab, which happens but the address bar is blank, and nothing’s loaded. Maybe a bug on the new v112.020.0310 firmware, which fixed Wifi issues I was having earlier. *Shrug* There’s also flash support but I think it’s turned off by default.
You have the url bar on top, which hides when the page is fully loaded, and you can type something into it to search for the term on Google or Bing.
And at the bottom, you have five shortcut keys for back, forward, bookmarks, tabs and menu. There’s text reflow support, and Flashlite 4, and it’s fluid-ish to pan around a web page, but the low resolution of the screen does make for a sub-par browsing experience.
Still, I’d advice just installing Opera Mobile or Opera Mini for a better experience.
Arguably, Symbian has ways been stocked up to handle basic office/business requirements. There’s various apps like Microsoft Office Mobile, OneNote, Lync, Microsoft Communicator support, Quickoffice (only supports viewing), a Note Taking app, Voice Recorder, Adobe PDF Reader, and a dictionary all in there. Not as fluid as Microsoft office on Windows Phone, but more than capable.
The calendar is pretty much the same, with three different modes: monthly, daily and to-do. You can set up three types of events, from Meetings, Anniversaries or To-Dos and each has it’s own fields that you can fill up, or alarms that you can set.
You can also sync the calender with multiple online accounts, each with it’s own color, so it’s easy to glance and read entries. The Alarm app itself is also pretty simple to use, and you can add as many alarms as you’d want, each with their own title, timings and you can choose your alarm tone. I love that you can flip-to-snooze the alarm heh.
There’s also the calculator app that’s basically the same as the first version of Symbian launched on the 7650 heh.
Strangely the good ol’ unit convertor app that I’ve known and loved from all my Symbian devices before, is now missing, but there are apps on the Nokia Store that are free and perform similarly. Weird that they’d remove that app though, heh.
The Maps and Turn-by-turn voice Navigation:-
One thing Nokia got right, was maps. The company cleverly invested in maps way back in the day, and that’s why they have the best offline experience of all rival mobile operating systems. The built-in GPS on the 808 gets a lock in under a minute, and stays latched on.
And ofcourse, there’s free voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, that’s available in over 70 countries in 40 languages worldwide, with traffic information in some places as well. There’s a digital compass, venue info from Lonely Planet and Qype, and the touch-UI works brilliantly, in both portrait and landscape. I’m a huge maps user, so I cant go on about this enough. The only thing I couldnt find, was an option to sync my favourites down from Maps.Nokia.com.
You also have three different viewing modes, such as satellite, terrain and regular 2D and 3D modes that work with the pre-loaded maps.
In India the entire subcontinent’s maps are preloaded on the 808, so you’re set right from the very beginning.
Ofcourse if you’re traveling anywhere soon, you can download that country’s maps as well, right on the phone. There’s also a Nokia Public Transport app onboard, for public transportation guidance, but it only supports a couple locations right now.
Aite. Let’s get this party started.
The main reason anyone’s going to get a Nokia 808 Pureview, is the camera. On my first day, within an hour of me unboxing the thing, it was off to a flying start, with images having plenty of detail and nicely saturated colors.
There’s a 41 megapixel 1/1.2″ image sensor, but maximum resolution is “capped” at 38 megapixels at 4:3 mode and 34 Megapixels at 16:9 mode. If all that wasnt enough, there’s a nice powerful Xenon Flash onboard, which I’ve really missed since no phone since the N8 has had one! This all means your daytime pictures will be fantastic and clear, and your night time pictures with flash will also be fantastic and clear. Yay for fantastic! And Clear!
There’s also an led flash onboard that helps focusing and functions as a video light, and a “neutral density filter” which improves performance in sunny or bright scenarios.
The camera interface itself is pretty simple and straightforward to use. You have a toggle to switch between image-camera and video-camera modes, and a virtual onscreen shutter button, and gallery shortcut on the right side, and on the top you have a shortcut to the camera settings, with various modes and save-modes, and finally a column on the left side that holds almost no info in automatic mode, but will list a lot more settings in creative mode.
Speaking of modes, there are three to choose from. There’s the Automatic mode, for phones that dont want to adjust or tweak anything. There’s a “Scenes” mode for folks who want a little control over the camera, and then there’s “Creative” mode which gives you a lot of control over the camera.
Automatic mode is pretty basic, and is probably meant for folks that dont want to change anything about the camera. Since the 808 is most likely to end up being used by camera nerds like me, I found it interesting that such a mode was in there at all, but it’s probably meant for *those* people that cant figure out a phone camera UI. You get 5 megapixel Pureview-oversampled 16:9 images in this mode, which have a lot of quality and are easy on the file size.
The Scene mode lets you choose a scenario for the camera to adjust to. There’s snow, spotlight, yada yada. You can see how it effects the scene in the live preview, so you do have some bit of control. Again, you get 5 megapixel 16:9 pureview images here.
And last, you have the creative mode which gives you complete and total control of the camera. There’s no main modes under this though, a Pureview mode, and a Full Resolution mode. As the name suggests, full resolution mode takes full use of the sensor, while Pureview mode uses Nokia’s new oversampling technology.
Oversampling might be a term you havent heard before in the camera-phone kingdom, but basically it allows for very sharp, practically noise-free shots, with the added advantage of lossless digital zooming (huge deal). You can choose from 8 Megapixel, 5 Megapixel or 3 Megapixel sizes, but 5MP is the best balance I’d say. The lower you go, the more you can zoom.
Speaking of which, there’s a clever “Slide Zoom” where you slide your finger vertically on the screen, up to zoom-in and down to zoom-out. You can use the volume rocker too, but it’s smooth enough in both implementations, and as I mentioned lossless. I was so used to the current crop of iPhone and Android cameras, that my brain has the tendency not to zoom in at all in the camera. Not anymore, because it really is cleverly implemented here.
Zooming only works in pureview mode though, since it uses the whole sensor. In full resolution, you can capture and zoom-in later though. Ofcourse you’ll have to be wary of camera shake, and the new zooming method helps reduce this, but if you use the lens protector case like I do, you’ll find yourself shaking just as the camera’s about to capture an image, to get a blurry mess. D’oh. Even with a fast shutter speed, no camera can outpace a shaky hand. Day one was bad, but day two onwards I’ve gotten the hang of it, so it’s more getting used to the shutter key and camera’s weight to be honest.
There’s also touch-to-focus support, or you can tap and hold on the viewfinder to switch focus modes. You can choose from Automatic, Close-up, Hyperfocal and Infinity.
Moving on, the Creative mode also lets you switch aspect ratios as I mentioned before (between 4:3 and 16:9), JPEG quality (Normal and Superfine which has lesser compression), capture modes (Normal, Bracketing for HDR images, Interval, Self timer), color tones (Normal, Vivid, Sepia, Black-and-White), and various sliders for saturation, contrast and sharpness. There’s also the preferences sub-setting that gives you options to enable a viewfinder grid, turn on/off video stabilization, the focus assist lamp, and whether you can start up the camera and capture an image while the phone is locked. Unfortunately, no way to turn off the camera sound though.
The aforementioned bar on the left side also has a lot more options in Creative mode, with flash modes (on/off/auto), exposure settings (which show you a neat histogram when you change it), ISO settings (from 50 to 1600), white balance, and the neutral density filter (on/off/auto).
So yes, a gazillion settings that you can tweak. You can save three custom settings (C1/C2/C3) and quickly shift between them, which is really useful. Finally Symbian remembers your camera settings. I have C1 for Full resolution, 16:9, superfine, while I keep C2 on 5 Megapixel pureview 16:9.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the focal length is pretty good, at 8.02mm, and when you factor in the f/2.4 aperture, you get pretty awesome depth of field (or DOF as the cool kids say). There’s natural bokeh effects that arnt thrown in with software processing, and as a result I’ve become rather addicted to close up shots.
That being said, the minimal focus distance is 20 cm, so you cant really focus on anything closer than that, in macro mode. The trick is, to zoom-in a little bit so that you get it just right. The auto-focus sometimes misses by a centimeter or two on my Pureview, even with touch-to-focus, which means the specific point you wanted to be in focus might not be, but rather the entire subject will or something to it’s immediate surroundings. Once you get a hang of the camera though, you learn how to ‘control‘ it heh.
You can take a look at our Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Samples post and our Pureview at the Park post for a quick idea, but here’s a handful of 8 Megapixel and 5 Megapixel Pureview mode images, and some at full resolution. Click the images to see them on Flickr and view more image details:-
And here’s a couple full resolution images:-
If you zoom in a little:
And in this one, a quiet family of birds:
You can get even more impressive shots in better scenarios.
Even without oversampling, the full resolution images have very little noise, and the level of detail is pretty fantastic, especially when you consider the amount of pixels in there. There’s low noise, and you can very easily crop a section out of it, keeping the detail. I never thought I’d see the day where I could crop an 8 megapixel image out of a 38 megapixel camera-phone shot, that’s for sure. White balance is accurate, colors are spot on (even if they do have the ol’ muted Nokia tones to them), and exposure and lighting is handled superbly.
The Pureview Mode images are even more fantastic. The oversampling practically removes all noise, producing an insane amount of fine details in an 8/5/3 Megapixel shot. Colors are brilliant, the white balance is right on, with no over-sharpening anywhere. You get a similar result if you take a picture at full res and downsample it, but since full full-res shot can weigh in at 12+ MB, versus 3-4 Megabyte 8 Megapixel shots, I personally stick with the pureview mode. Unless I see something that I’d like to crop a part out of. Easier to share PV mode images online as a result of the lower size.
Speaking of which, in Low Light, the Pureview mode really shines, making full use of that large sensor and blowing away every other camera-phone out there. In full-res mode you might get some noise though, but it’s still note-worthy. I went as low as ISO 800 and still managed to get Noise-free 5 Megapixel Pureview mode shots. You can also use the ND filter to create some fun light-trailed shots as well. Low light performance is insane. I cant talk about it enough, really. Ofcourse, the lower ISO you go, the more you’ll want to use a camera-phone tripod to keep it still.
Ofcourse there’s always the brilliant xenon flash onboard, which Nokia claims is twice as powerful as the one on the N8, which it self was twice as powerful as the one on the N82. Great for pictures of your friends at the club, at dinner, a evening BBQ, etc. It really does help freeze a moment, regardless of whether in full-res or PV mode.
And then there’s video…
I’ve never been a ‘video’ person. It’s always pictures with me, and I very rarely have ever taken a video on my N82, N8 or iPhone. That might change now.
The video camera UI is almost exactly the same as the still-image camera UI. You have the same three Automatic, Scene and Creative modes, with similar settings as the image modes, but you now also have a video light toggle and a Continuous Auto-Focus (CAF) toggle that you can enable or disable. I’m not entirely sure but I think it uses the Hyperfocal focusing mode in video.
You can change resolutions and even frame-rates if you want. Video resolution is 360p, 720p and 1080p and like in the image mode, the lower resolution you go, the mode you can lossless-zoom in. There’s an insane 12x zoom in 360p, 6x in 720p and 4x in 1080p and you dont lose any quality when zooming-in. They’re recorded at about 25Mbps bitrate (depending on the scene) encoded with H.264 high-profile MP4. Nokia really have tried to get the best possible video quality in there.
Great video quality is nothing without great Audio quality, and that’s where Nokia’s Rich Recording technology comes in. It allows the 808 PureView to record “almost CD quality” audio properly even at very low frequencies and very loud sounds up to 140-145dB without any distortion. Sound is recorded in stereo at 129 Kbps bitrate, with a sampling rate of 48 kHz. While the still-camera on the Pureview will be getting all the attention, it’s video mode is just as good. Even low-light videos end up very smooth and pretty noise-free with great fine details and properly rendered colors. It really is a wonder how this is all being done on a phone.
Here’s a couple video camera samples from the Nokia 808 Pureview. Just to give you a better idea:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – The Zoom & the Peacock:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – The Other Peacock:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – Low Light at the Club:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – Low Light at the Club (Take Two):
The low-light management in video is insane. Coupled that with the zoom and it’s even more insane. Speaking of which…
Zoom tests at different resolutions:
Unfortunately light conditions were a bit bad, with the sun directly in my face, so the quality (as with all cameras), took a bit of a hit. Not to mention Youtube’s video compression makes it look a little depressing. Still, the zoom was still worth showing off, so here goes.
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – Zooming in on the Fountain:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (360p) – Zooming in on the Fountain Take Two:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (720p) – Zooming in on the Fountain:
Nokia 808 Pureview Camera Sample (1080p) – Zooming in on the Fountain:
Not too bad, eh?
The Battery Life:-
The 1400 mAh battery will last you a while, depending on how you use the 808. The single-core Symbian camera-phone can last for days if you just leave it alone on idle. If you take a lot of xenon-flash images or record 1080p videos, it might only last half a day. Nonetheless, if there’s one good thing about Symbian, it’s that it’s pretty battery efficient, so the battery can survive an entire 24 hours of moderate usage, and maybe a day and a half if you dont take too many pictures.
On 3G, with about 250 pictures taken half in full res, and half in pureview mode, and 30 minutes of calls, 30 minutes of music through a pair of headphones, and maybe 10 minutes of web browsing and 20 minutes of Whatsapp-ing, the Pureview lasted from 8am till 11:20 pm before it started sounding the low battery alerts.
The Video Overview:-
Here’s a quick video overview of the Nokia 808 Pureview. Just to give you a better idea of it all.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, 7800. The fact that the Nokia 808 Pureview is getting so much attention, even from haters of the brand, is proof enough of how capable this little phone is. It really is the most impressive cameraphone you’ve ever seen, and one that wont be beat by other manufacturers any time soon. Heck, other OEMs havent even caught up with the N8 yet, so suffice to say, it’ll take them a while.
No doubt the camera is the most talked-about feature of the 808, it flat out beats anything on the market, and in good lighting even matches some entry level DSLRs, nevermind point-and-shoots. That zoom alone is worth the price tag. Then there’s the Xenon Flash and that level of detail. Gah.
Ofcourse, the Symbian experience is what’s weighing it down. The OS has caught up with the competition in-terms of UI and general usability, but anyone who’s not used a Symbian phone before, might feel a little bit alienated with it. The fact that the OS has an expiry date and little developer interest, means it’s a bit of a gamble.
Another thing to note, is that the 808 Pureview is heavier and thicker than most phones out there, which is something a lot of people commented on when they played around with mine. Still, it’s a unique device, and I wouldnt trade mine in for any other phone in the world, not even the latest iPhone. There simply is no alternative to it, and I’ve been more excited by the 808 Pureview than my Lumia 800.
The closest camera-phone to it, by a longshot, is the 12 Megapixel Sony Xperia S, and the iPhone 4S, both of which are enough for the casual consumer. But those images look positively amateur after using the 808 Pureview for a week. Inspite of that, I dont see anyone making the switch from an iPhone to the Nokia 808 Purview (well, atleast noone else other than silly ol’ me) or an Android user giving up the Google ecosystem to get one.
Most people recommend the Nokia 808 Pureview, as a kickass second phone to carry around. My opinion though, is that a Nokia 808 Pureview, and the new iPad, is the best combination of tech for a camera fan right now. It’s the combination that I carry around, and I dont quite feel the pinch of missing apps or features as some users might.
Ofcourse there’s the fact that a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone with Pureview technology and Scalado’s technology might be just months away, and might turn out to be even better. But it’s month away. And I’d argue, you’d get more done with Symbian’s freedom, than the locked-down Windows Phone ecosystem. One thing’s for sure though, no matter what happens to Nokia, the 808 Pureview will be the best camera phone market for a while. It’s an instant classic, and a great final farewell to the Symbian OS that kickstarted the whole smartphone game.
Mind you, I wasnt one of the lucky bloggers to get to use a prototype Nokia 808 Pureview for 3 whole days at Mobile World Congress 2012. I only had a 10 minute interaction, and I still bought mine at launch here, and now it’s my primary smartphone. I cant stand carrying around two phones, so I choose not to, and y’know what? I’m the happiest man on the planet. For a guy that plays around with the latest mobile phones for a living, that’s really saying something. But then again, you pretty much know what you’re getting with the 808. You know what to expect. How long will I use the 808 as my main smartphone? Well, there’s nothing on the market right now that would tempt me away.
But then my priorities are pretty clearly Camera-First. And if yours are the same, this is definitely a recommended purchase.
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– Best Camera phone ever thanks to the PureView tech
– Great sunlight visibility
– Nokia Rich Recording audio is fantastic
– Free offline voice-guided navigation
– Great call quality
– Great Build Quality
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– Symbian is still clunky, and lacking in apps
– Heavier & larger than the average smartphone nowadays
– Low screen resolution
– the Onscreen keyboard takes serious getting used to
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If you want the best camera-phone in the market today, and for many months to come, the Nokia 808 Pureview should be number one on your radar.