updated 08:00 am EDT, Tue April 27, 2010
Nokia N8 becomes first Symbian3 phone
Nokia today staked out its ground in the smartphone wars by launching the N8, its new flagship. The phone is the first to use Symbian^3 and finally adds features seen in Android and iPhone, such as multi-touch, multiple home screens and live home screen widgets. The OS also claims an advantage over its Apple counterpart: it has better memory management and can handle more apps in a true multitasking environment.
Symbian^3 should make porting relatively simple as it takes advantage of Qt to run apps that have also been compiled for Symbian S60 and other platforms.
The hardware is some of Nokia's most advanced, particularly for photography: a 12-megapixel camera is new to the Finnish phone designer (though not for Symbian) and carries a large sensor closer to that of a compact camera to avoid the noise and chromatic flaws that sometimes creep up in cellphone optics. A newer 680MHz processor and a new graphics core give it the ability to both record and play back 720p video, including with Dolby Digital Plus surround when using HDMI video output to a TV.
Its 3.5-inch, 640x360 display is familiar but switches to capacitive input and glass to support the new multi-touch features, including pinch-to-zoom and kinetic scrolling. Storage is actually less than for the N97 at just 16GB built-in, but a microSDHC card slot lets users more than double this with 32GB more. GPS is also expected but, as with newer Nokia phones, includes free turn-by-turn navigation through Ovi Maps.
As a phone, the N8 marks a pair of other rarities: it becomes Nokia's first handset to use 802.11n Wi-Fi, and it unusually supports all five major 3G bands on HSPA, including those needed for AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.
Nokia expects to ship the N8 in the summer and will price the phone relatively aggressively for one of its top-end models, putting it at 370 Euros ($494) before a carrier discount. Providers haven't been named, though the phone has passed through the FCC and will likely be sold in the US at least as an unlocked device and more likely through AT&T, T-Mobile or both.
The smartphone, while Nokia's most advanced to date, faces an uphill battle. Besides early negative reviews, it will also ship right as it faces stiffer iPhone competition that will include many of the features Nokia once claimed as advantages. Nokia itself has warned its market share will be flat in 2010 and did so without knowledge of strong performances by Apple and RIM in the winter, both of which are only likely to improve by the summer.