June 08, 2011

N8 on trial

Out of the blue, from out of thin air, I get an offer: wanna use a Nokia phone for 2 weeks, for free? I tell you, this must be the age of the web.

So I said yes, and one thing led to another and then to a phone being dispatched from London and it showed up on my doorstep yesterday. It's the Nokia N8, which is, according to Paul at WOMWorld, Nokia's "flagship". Sleek grey-black thing with a camera protuberance on the back and all manner of keys and slots and buttons on the sides. And the front? Just an expanse of glass.

Using it for a call feels rather like putting to your ear one of those darkened pieces of glass you use to look up at eclipses: you think, shouldn't I be looking through this thing?

I really am a smartphonephobe, if there is such a beast. The cellphone I used till yesterday is a Nokia too, though it's at least 7 years old. It's been fine for my needs, even with the now occasionally sticky key. Fine, because I've never been interested in getting my email on the bus, or reading the New York Review of Books while driving to Murud. The same for various other capabilities of the N8. Maybe the idea with smartphones and Luddites like me is that that they will turn around that disinterest. Maybe.

Still, there are some nice things I've found in the phone, sure.

For one, a top-notch camera. Though I've always preferred the feel and methods and feeling of control over my shots that I get with SLRs in entirely manual mode -- I like that creativity -- and thus this one does little for me.

For another, the N8 easily located and latched onto my home wireless signal, and I was able to wade into the Web before I had a 3G service in place. Still trying to get used to browsing like this, though.

And yet, and yet … I know it's only been a day, sure. Yet I cannot say the phone has bowled me over. Typing on the screen with a couple of fingers and clumsy thumbs is not something I feel comfortable doing. (Yet?) Dialing a number no longer happens as quickly as I used to manage, not even with speed dial assignments. I used to dial a certain lady I know with two button pushes. Now I need three. I used to be able to starting tapping out a SMS with one button push. Now I need two.

Small things, a button push here or there, right? But when you've had a gadget for long enough that you feel like you're making efficient, productive use of it, the small things in a new gadget stand out. No doubt I'll get used to them, and eventually feel like I'm making efficient use of the N8. Right now it feels like that might take another 7 years, and I doubt WOMWorld will let me have this sleek thing on trial for quite that long. (Well, Paul?)

But for now, I'm happy to keep using the thing, see how many of its multifarious capabilities I can exercise in the next several days.

And rest content, I'll be sure to file a report in this space when I finally learn how to make it cook an omelette.


Anonymous said...

You need N8 talent for using modern-day cell phones. You must N/8 if you don't have talent. Otherwise you are behind N8 ball!Guess you have a lemon, make lemoN8.

Rachit said...

Quite similar happened with me few months back when I had to shift to new enhanced Samsung mobile when I lost my three and a half years old Nokia 1650. It pains yet change is the law of nature :(||:)

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anonymous, that's terrific! If you're in Austin, you should participate in the next edition of this. Or at least doN8 to it. Or at least go there and sereN8 the other contestants.

Rachit, yep, I imagine over time we all eventually succumb and move up to the new technologies. As much of a gadget freak as I think I am, I also find I'm often the last to move up, reluctantly too!

Rahul Siddharthan said...

I have had a Nokia E63 (low-end smartphone with qwerty keyboard) for more than 2 years now, and an Android tablet (the Notion Ink Adam) for a couple of months. A real keyboard, even if phone-sized, is far easier to type on, because your thumbs can actually feel the keys and get a tactile response. I quickly got very used to my E63 and can type comfortably on it, if not as fast as on a computer.

The Adam is fine for reading, web-surfing and playing Angry Birds, but decidedly not for writing or sending e-mail. (But it does recognise an external USB keyboard -- maybe I should just buy one.)

So my next phone -- which, I hope, won't be for a while -- will have a qwerty keyboard. That's a requirement.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Alternatively Rahul you could just buy an external qwerty keyboard and carry it along in your pocket with the E63 ...

What do you make of the Adam? Read a lot of good stuff about it some months ago, but at the time Notion Ink had stopped taking orders, so I gave up. Don't know if they are now taking new orders.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Dilip - well, I wrote about the Adam here. My impressions are still the same. Nice hardware (other than the camera); lousy software. Notion Ink released an update this month that improves things a bit. But they have made it easy to flash an alternative ROM onto the device, and several have sprung up; I'm using a thing called Beast, which makes it very usable indeed. I like the Pixel Qi screen but there are people who hate it. I can also run a traditional Linux distro in a "chroot", but there are issues with special keys (ctrl, alt, arrows etc) on an external keyboard.

In short, it's a very nice device if you're willing to download and flash a third-party ROM. If not, it doesn't offer much (not even the Android Market), and it's sluggish, unstable and prone to crashes. Basically they have tried to construct their own UI (Eden) on top of Android and I think they have been too ambitious.

They are taking orders again, but give order links only on request and at their own pace: go here if you're interested. They also promise a software update at the end of June, with Google's Honeycomb (Android 3.0 or 3.1). Right now it runs Froyo (2.2). I hope they get their software act together -- they cannot hope to be a mass market player otherwise.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

ps - I just posted my updated impressions of the Adam.

Anonymous said...

You illumN8! I musn't procrastN8! N8 over until it's over!

Liveotherwise said...

Has it got swype on it? If not, get off to the ovi market and get it installed. There's also the map app which is very nice.

I reviewed the N8 on loan from three, it is a beautiful bit of kit. Things I liked about it included the dedicated camera button, a lot of smartphones let down good cameras by having you have to touch the screen to take a picture. Things I didn't like, lack of cut and paste.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anonymous, N8hing you do, I can do better. So there. To celebr8, I just took a break N8 my lunch.

Liveotherwise, I have swype on the phone. Takes a little getting used to, but I've been using it quite a lot.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

So after 2 weeks you'll have to give all this up?

If I were buying a new phone it would probably be Nokia's E5. Because it suits my budget, and has all the features of the E63 (including the most important, a qwerty keyboard, and the next-most important, a torch), plus the high-speed version of HSDPA. And because it's a shade less pun-friendly (though I can't quantE5 that).

Anonymous said...

"N8 my lunch" - love it! RSid really needs N8 E5 job to keep him busy.

Dilip D'Souza said...

E5 said it once I've said it a million times: almost N8hing can be turned into a pun.

I am, however, an acronym-challenged dude. Therefore, what's HSDPA?

Yep, I'll have to give this up after two weeks. Those are the terms!

Anonymous said...

Two weeks only? What an N8thema to you! You could have your "pocket picked" in 1.9 weeks. They may indemnE5 you for the loss.

Dilip D'Souza said...

About RSid needing N8 E5 job, it may be difficult. Because for breakfast he eats E63 slices of toast and cereal. (though sometimes he substitutes coffee for tea). The eggs, especially, take forever.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Ah nevermind. I'll get an LG. I like the smell of asafoetida in the morning.

Dilip - I'm acronym challenged too but HSDPA is the faster form of 3G, up to 21 Mbps (the E63 only does about 400 kbps I think).

Anonymous said...

"E63 slices of toast and cereal" - getting difficult. Essex tea/coffee, 3 slices... I am guessing. The eggs seemed to be an indecipherable inside joke. Essex eggs in Mumbai? Becoming as hard as E5 took a PhyE6-3 course, N8?

Dilip D'Souza said...

"... for breakfast he eats E63 slices of toast ..."

"... for breakfast he eats his eggs, tea, three slices of toast ..."

All right, a tad lame.