While thinking about how to conclude this review series, I had a chance to play with a Samsung Galaxy S, one of the best Android devices available here, for a fair amount of time. This actually completed a neat triangle for me as just before I received the N8 I took in a bit of Apple’s iPhone 4 as well. These experiences put things into a bit of perspective for met. In all honesty, the general approach to mobile design is not that divergent and there are far more similarities across platforms than many would like to admit. But taking in those two other devices (and thinking about my trusty foot soldier), it really hit home that there really is no one glove that fits all. At one stage I was thinking of how to create an ultimate ‘super’ smartphone by cherry picking all the awesome features of the N8 (the build quality, the camera, the multimedia capabilities, USB-On the Go) and the Galaxy S (that screen, the internet smarts). In the real world however, there have been design compromises from both companies (and all companies) to create those devices, and they each have focused strengths, and this is apparent from both physical and functional considerations. And therein lies the beauty of choice, call it a horses for courses approach. There is no such thing as THE perfect device in the strictest sense of the term. There are a multitude of devices out there, with various design considerations, differentiating at both hardware and software levels, taking into account the variety of mobile users, from the connected business man to the social butterfly and almost everything in between, and sacrifices have to be made by manufacturers and users alike.
The tag line for one of Nokia UK advertising campaigns for the N8 was ‘It’s not technology, It’s what you do with it’ , which for me emphasizes the importance of the end user when considering any piece of technology. The needs of the guy (or gal) who parts with his hard earned cash, is the ultimate determinant of the the success of the product. And to that end it is up to the user to decide what is important for them, what hardware features they want, what they want the software to do, before picking any device. It’s no use getting a Nokia 1100, and complaining about the lack of connectivity options, or conversely purchasing an HTC Desire HD and complaining that it’s too big and complicated. To illustrate this, when posting on Facebook about my excitement of the N8s support for peripheral devices and it’s potential as a fully fledged multimedia workstation I got three interesting comments from friends:
- And plugging a mouse into your touch screen phone? Really?
- I wished swype worked on a Pc…
- Think I am missing the point of a phone since I just use my phone to speak to other people
Those are three different mobile users each with different expectations and hence different needs from their mobile devices. One clearly needs a horse for their own course.
So what do I actually think of the N8 after these two weeks and would I recommend it for anyone? What makes a great device anyway. In short, a great device in my opinion has got the be the equal of, but preferably greater than the sum of it’s parts. This is driven entirely by the devices target group, whatever that may be. The scope of the technology alone is therefore is not the sole determinant, and a great feature list alone does not a great phone make. The integration of these features however, their accessibility and worth to the end user is what ultimately makes the phone great. One man’s Utopia is another’s prison.
In my introductory post, I highlighted my wants from a mobile device, a sort of basal necessities list, with convergence as the ultimate driver in the search for MY perfect phone. Even in that list however, there is a well thought out hierarchy based on functional importance. Like any technophile out there, I am also not averse to getting introduced to new bits of technology, as long as this don’t veer into superfluous territory. And while this is relegated to the lower rungs of the hierarchy it is a plus for any device. On both fronts I will argue that in my hands, for my needs, and for my inquisitive inner child, the N8 has been a resounding success. It is an immensely capable device, and I would go as far as to bill it a Swiss Army Knife of sorts. It is a device that has often been excited and also frustrated too, but thankfully the latter in very small doses.
Is the N8 perfect? The short answer is No. In truth it will take an unbelievable piece of technology to every get that to that level. Is the N8 great? This is a little bit more difficult to answer, but now as I think back over the last two weeks, I will respond with a firmly in the affirmatives. Where the N8 has succeeded is in presenting an impressive feature list, while still remaining incredibly friendly. It ticked virtually every box, almost always impressively, sometimes not so much, but always able to accomplish the required tasks. And despite my lack of familiarity with the design layout, particularly the touch aspects, the N8 has genuinely enhanced my mobile experience.