Monday, April 04, 2011

Why I Did Not Get An Iphone

This is the first time in 4 years i am spending money on a phone (had always got a phone with a plan for free). Picked up a Nokia N8 off ebay for AU$400 (RM1200). Still with the original screen protector on it. At first I almost thought it was a rip off. The phone kept crashing. I'd turn on the GPS and viola... crash. Crash crash crash. five times in a day it would restart. It took me one hour just to install one app. Yes, nokia's software team should be lined up and shot.. one by one. Really awesome hardware was being held back by buggy software! I've heard alot about how crappy nokia software support was but wasnt prepared for this. Ovi suite (nokia's sync software) had trouble detecting the phone, stalled during some installations, was unresponsive most of the time, and was just bloody slow.

After a day of disappointment, I finally figured out what was wrong - the phone's memory was corrupted. A quick factory reset and flash restored everything to normal. Phone became instantly more responsive and hasnt crashed so far, even on GPS... which tracks impressively fast just like a normal car GPS - even with network assist switched off (!!!).

I cant believe the number of people who asked me why I chose the N8 over say an iPhone or HTC. Well... here's why:

I expect to know the time when i glance at my phone. Some older phones had transreflective passive LCD's on the outside that showed this...but they were dark and hard to see at some angles. The N8 has a permanently-on clock screensaver. Yes, an illuminated clock all the time on standby. The OLED screen is brilliant - only white pixels use energy! You can talk about how the Retina (iPhone) display has lots of pixels, but it fails at this one very practical use of a phone. And at normal viewing distances (*not squinting) and just about all applications excluding ebooks (which i dont read anyway on puny phone screens), having a high density screen is simply moot/irrelevant.

I walk into the common room, it's a friday night. The songs on the radio are all dance tunes. Hmm, I can pop out my phone and start playing Muse via the FM transmitter to share the love. The FM transmitter really works and is quite amazing. It's so retro, but extremely convenient. Being able to stream your tunes when you walk into a friend's car is really nice.

Talking about music, I've got around 46gb of storage for my media (16gb + 32gb micro SD). Yup. That's right :) AU$400 for a 48gb phone.

Why so much storage? Well my music library is going on my phone. Unlike apple products (i've owned iPods and an iPad), transferring music is a simple drag and drop procedure. Yes, drag and drop from windows explorer. If my computer dies and I need to copy my music to a new hard drive, all i need to do is hook up my phone and copy/paste! iPod/iPad/iPhone users are out of luck if their comp dies - you cannot recover files from your device. So yeah, my phone is now my music backup device too!

I've only got around 10gb of music... so what the heck am i going to do will all that storage? Muahahahaha. That's where my time killers are gonna come to play. The N8 supports divx, h264, avi, flash, and rmb (realmedia) videos out of the box. Download. Copy/paste. Done. Simple and easy. So yeah the N8 handles videos without fuss unlike iOS. It's almost like having a VLC player on the go. It's just so amazingly awesome for playing downloaded videos. With iOS (ipod/ipad/iphone), you need to recompress just about every downloaded video and the whole process is tedious and slow. Apple even forces you to use the increasingly bloated (resource heavy) iTunes software to transfer videos to your iOS device. I have an iPad and it's terrible for playing downloaded videos. Even more impressive is the fact that the N8 comes with HDMI output! Yup, i can connect my phone to any modern flatscreen TV!

Talking about copy/paste, the N8 supports USB drives. Pendrives. No kidding. It comes with a USB adaptor for transferring files. Guess i'll keep the small cable in my bag when I go to work. If anyone wants to pass me anything it's easy. The N8 also supports pdf's and word documents out of the box. I can even snap a picture and transfer it to my friend's usb pendrive. How awesome is that? USB keyboards work with it too!

And of course, the main reason I chose the N8 over it's competitors: The camera. For the first time in history a cameraphone actually stands up against dedicated digital cameras. Essentially:
  • f/2.8 28mm Zeiss prime lens
  • 38mm sq sensor (vs 8mm sq on the iPhone4)
  • Xenon flash with infrared focus assist.

The large sensor and bright prime lens makes this _the_ only phone that can take reasonably good pictures at night in dim light...say at a fancy restaurant. I can pull out my phone and take pictures to capture the ambiance without having to use flash. And since we are talking about flash, the N8 also has a dedicated xenon flash with infrared focus assist - unlike the puny LED flash on most other phones. This means you could shoot group photo of people in a completely dark room with no problems. The 28mm focal length also makes candid photos a breeze because it's wide enough. Megapixels dont matter. I shoot at only 3mp indoors (9mp outdoors!) even though the phone has a 12mp camera. Ever wondered why those professionally recorded VEVO music videos on youtube look so good even at 320p (244x320 = 0.07mp)?? While the so-called-720-HD video on your new cellphone looks like crap? It's because megapixels arent all that matter. 1080 HD video only runs at 2 megapixels. Anyhow, the massive sensor (by cellphone standards) and bright prime lens means more light gets captured for each pixel. In other words, it has much better dynamic range (difference between black and white) than it's competitors. This means more realistic images and video... unlike the (digitally compensated) oversaturated pictures and whitewashed/dull videos you get on the iphone4. The N8 records at 720p, but i only record at standard definition (VGA = 0.3mp) because it's pointless on a small sensor (even though it's the biggest sensor in a cellphone!).

Even at 320p (244x320 / 0.07megapixels), the N8 video just looks so much better. Scale up to 720p on the video above and you will not really notice much difference. That's why 720p on small sensors is a pointless waste of file space.

The icing on the cake is that the N8 comes with a good stereo - yes, stereo - microphone. I thought it was a gimmick but it's not. The stereo mic really does add a dimension to home videos, especially when listening with headphones.

The people over at mynokiablog even compared the N8 to a dedicated digital camera - the Canun ixus 130. They took a 9megapixel shot from a N8 and compared it to a 10megapixel shot from an Ixus 130. Guess what, the results speak for themselves. The Zeiss prime lens is capable of resolving the fine detail needed for hi-res shots!

^Original Picture

^100% zoomed in

And there we have it. In a nutshell. Why I chose the N8 over the iPhone. There are other reasons as well... but I dont really bother as a phone is a phone to me and I only really ever use my phone to make calls, send texts and take pictures and videos for memories. I took more pictures on my crappy cellphone camera the whole of last year than I did on my DSLR and Point and Shoot combined. That says alot. So I invested in an N8...that has already captured priceless memories in it's first three days of use.

Symbian may be dying in three years time but I dont care. In those three years I will be snapping away. Besides, any Android phone purchased now would be outdated in three years anyway as it is rapidly evolving.


  1. Hey Ezra, really informative review. I'm shocked by the clarity of the N8 camera in that last comparison. How is your N8 holding up now (~7 months later)? I stopped buying Nokia because the ones I bought always seemed to have problems/fall apart/require servicing remarkably quickly.

    Not sure about Android phones going out of date. Obviously the hardware on mine isn't up to the current standards, but it gets over-the-air updates to new versions whenever HTC bothers to release one, and it's still working fine, now almost 2 years old. I'm interested to see how long I can make it last.


  2. Since updating to Symbian Anna, performance has been alot better, and the interface far far far improved.

    It's stable... Never had a single crash, and the GPS works well.

    I got this phone for the camera and GPS really... and it is exceeding my expectations.