John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Nokia’s N8: Table Stakes in the High Rollers Room

Coming as it does after an early and unkind reveal at Russian gadget site Mobile-Review Monday, the official debut of Nokia’s (NOK) new flagship smartphone the N8 isn’t much of a debut at all. And its official announcement, less than a week after the company said it is delaying the launch of its new Symbian 3 devices from the second till the third quarter, lacks the excitement that it might have otherwise had were it to headed to market sooner. Which is too bad, because the long-awaited phone is a step in the right direction. The N8 may not surpass the competitive bar, but at least it comes a bit closer to reaching it than any other Nokia device in recent memory.

The first smartphone to use Nokia’s new Symbian 3 OS, the N8 features customizable home screens, support for multitouch, single tap, flick scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and true multitasking. On the hardware side, the device features a 680MHz processor, a 3.5-inch, 640×360 display, and a 12-megapixel camera with flash that can record 720p video. Beyond this, the N8 is Nokia’s first handset to use 802.11n Wi-Fi and its first to support all five HSPA bands. On paper the $495 device sounds pretty good. But is it good enough to regain Nokia some of the market share it’s lost to smartphone rivals like Apple? Maybe, maybe not.

Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, thinks the device is promising. “[It’s] a first step in efforts to make Nokia’s high-end phones credible again,” he told Reuters. Mobile-Review, which spent some time with an early version of the N8, disagrees. “It’s the same as it was before with the same sauce, but with small changes in functionality,” editor Eldar Murtazin wrote. “We have the impression that … rival producers have mixed with Nokia and are sabotaging and purposefully destroying the Nokia brand. This is the only explanation to what is happening.”

UPDATE: In a post to its Conversations blog, Nokia claims the N8 criticized by Mobile-Review was a pre-production model.

“Unfortunately, an early prototype made its way to someone that wasn’t supposed to have it, and his early first impressions of the device and its software spread like wildfire,” the company explained. “Buried deep down in the blogger’s salacious headlines about the software not being ready, was the most important point. This is a very early, pre-production prototype with dated software that is not yet ready. So the site’s comments that the software ‘felt premature’ is probably one of the more blindingly obvious things you will read this year.”