Some Unique Features of Nokia N8

The Camera

This is obvious and surely the trump card that’ll make people want to own this phone. Its not like we’ve not had 12 megapixel sensors before, but they were part of an otherwise rotten phone. And its not just about the numbers this time – Nokia’s claim to better photography with the N8 starts with a larger-than-usual sensor, which is quite visible as that protruding part at the back of the phone. Then comes the use of ND filter to handle bright lighting conditions better. For dark conditions, there’s a proper Xenon flash – the same blinding strobe of light you get with regular digital cameras. This is a much welcome move, since some phones are really dumb to not even have a simple LED based solution.Even if you don’t really care about the specs on paper, just have a look at the (hopefully) untouched sample shots that Nokia has released – and you’ll know what I’m talking about. From what we’ve seen till date, this phone-camera could probably be the one that puts regular digicams in a state of panic.

USB on-the-go (or USB Host) support

This is a brilliant feature that makes this smartphone do file transferring tasks without the need of a computer. The N8 comes packaged with a cable that has a USB port on the other side. So you can pretty much connect any mass storage device to it – pen drives, hard drives, card readers or even other cell-phones! Imagine a situation where you’re clicking away and your memory card gets filled up. Connecting the phone to a flash drive directly and copying all the data directly is just brilliant!

FM Transmitter

This has been one underdog feature in many Nokia N series phones that goes unnoticed. Most phones today can act as FM receivers to tune into your favorite radio station. But what the N8 does is something much cooler. A small chip in the phone lets you transmit audio at a preset FM frequency. So, I could set it to say, 90 MHz and start playing the music in my phone. Now any FM receiver (your car audio deck, your music system) just needs to be tuned to the same frequency. And voila, you’ve got wireless playback of music in your phone. No 3.5mm cables, no data cables needed! The best part is the compliance with virtually every music system on the planet (that have FM receiving ability, and I’m sure most do).

5-band Network support

The GSM Network operates at many frequencies around the world. With respect to 2G, most of Europe and Asia operates at either 900 MHz (e.g. in India that’d be Vodafone, Loop Mobile) or 1800 MHz (Airtel). Then countries like the US run 2G services on the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz spectrum. Now, most phones these days support the four 2G bands (850/900/1800/1900 MHz). But 3G runs on a different spectrum (which by the way, is one of the reasons why Indian private telcos haven’t launched 3G yet) – 2100 MHz in most of the continents. Again, the Americans have two different bands for 3G – 1700 MHz and 1900 MHz as well.

If you’ve ever seen that some phones are released for the American continent differently, that’s because phone makers put different frequency support for their phones depending on the country of sale. Nokia’s N8 is breaking some of those barriers by putting 5-band support (850/900/1700/1800/1900 MHz). So, the end result is that the N8 is more a “World Phone” than most phones out there today. For people travelling to the States, this will come in handy.

Turn-by-turn Navigation and Push e-mail free

Before you start shouting “Google Maps rules!”, I’m with you on this one as well. But there might be a bright side in getting Nokia’s rendition of maps at no extra cost. Nokia took over navigation software company NAVTEQ a while back, and has been bundling their Ovi Maps app with many phones for free. Ovi Maps offers turn-by-turn navigation in more than 70 countries, something that isn’t available for Google Maps in all countries as yet. Also, you can pre-load maps on your phone, while Google Maps needs mobile internet to load maps on the go. This could be quite a bonus while travelling abroad, where you don’t want to incur heavy roaming data charges.

Similarly, you could argue that all Android phones come with free Push e-mail by default. Yes, but that works only for their Gmail service. While Nokia’s e-mail service allows pushing of e-mails to your phone for any POP/IMAP account (like, your office e-mail) for free. That’s a big Pro – especially when Blackberry charges you a monthly fee for it.

Two other things that we felt should be mentioned:

a) Secondary Video-call camera: It is surprising to see some of the premium-grade smartphones not have a camera at the front for video-calling. However irrelevant it may be to people, when I’m paying $549 for a phone, I expect it to be there for that one time when I feel like video-conferencing. Fortunately, the Nokia N8 has not slipped on this front.

b) HDMI with Dolby Digital Plus: A few phones are able to playback 720p video out via HDMI these days, but the N8 supports Dolby Digital Plus – so you get true 5.1 channel output. You’d like this if you have a 5.1 Home Theater system set at your pad.

So, there you have it. Are these features good enough for you to consider the N8 as your next smartphone purchase? Or do you still feel it’s not worth it?