Seeing how mobile phones have evolved recently is actually a bit of an eye opener. It seems that in the quest for desktop quality browsers, social networking, instant messaging and media consumption, while also trying to cram every conceivable gadget into these things, it’s become forgotten that the primary objective of mobile phones is to make phone calls (shockingly enough) and sending SMSs. If the phone’s ear piece and microphone are poor, and if the phone is riddled with reception issues and can’t hold signal then it’s pretty much useless as a phone. The last thing one want’s is to be constantly shuffling around a building looking for signal hot spots, dropping calls or having an SMS sit in the outbox waiting for an extra bar of signal to magically appear. Yes these days the common medium of communication is apparently the social networks and instant messaging, but there is nothing like a phone call to remind you that your friends are indeed real and even an SMS is more personal that a Facebook wall post or an IM! And of course if your phone is riddled with reception issues online media will be less enjoyable anyway.
Making phone calls on the N8 is very simple. Tap the call button on any homescreen and you are presented with a standard dial pad. From here you can access the contacts list, but even more convenient is the presence of smart dialling. Just start typing a person’s name or surname, or whatever name they are saved under and this filter’s out the names in your address book, and tap the required number to dial. If you have more than one number for a contact, you will of course have the option to select which number you want to dial. When receiving a call, an answer key and reject key pop up on screen, as well as the option to silence the call. Call quality on the N8 is great, better than on the foot soldier. Voices on the other side of the line are crisp and thus far I have not experienced an issues, no static, calls getting dropped and no calls going straight to voice mail. Compared to the foot soldier, the ear piece is much louder but remains crisper. The N8’s single speaker is also top notch so ring tones don’t sound muffled or distorted at high volumes.
Messaging on the N8 was a bit of a learning curve coming from a non touch phone but once I got the hang of the process it has been very simple. The N8 display messages either by date or by contact as a message thread, displayed as ‘Inbox’ and ‘Conversations’ respectively. I personally prefer the conversation view as it makes it easier to keep track of what has been said to whom.
Typing an SMS involves simply tapping the text box, which then brings up the keyboard and an editing box. Initially this didn’t bug me, and it’s fine for SMS but if you are replying to an email this could get frustrating. I could imagine that if you need to respond to a number of points in a long email, not having the text visible could be a bit irritating. As mentioned, the keyboard in portrait is standard T9 and in landscape QWERTY. You can set predictive text on for both orientations. In landscape mode, there are additionally settings for word auto-completion which is useful sometimes but I personally find quite irritating, the sensitivity level of text correction and two text correction modes. Text correction mode can be set to ‘show suggestion’ or ‘show entered word’. In ‘show suggestion’ mode, the word you typed is replaced by what the phone thinks is the correct word. The word you typed is shown above the replacement word. If you disagree with the phone you simply tap the word you originally typed in. This process could be sped up by putting the word suggestion above the letters as opposed to above the word as this is less of a stretch but I can’t say it has slowed me down too much. Between the two modes ‘show entered’ is a little faster as typos are cleared quicker but if words are not in your dictionary, like non English, the dictionary does replace these with interesting suggestions, like Magazine for my mother (Matsephe), Markets for my father (Moeketsi) and a good English name like Stephen when I type my brothers name (Tsephe). Adding to the phone dictionary is realatively trivial so best make sure it’s well stocked if you plan to use ext correction.
Overall I would say the bread and butter tools for communication are well executed. I really expected to struggle a lot more with the SMS set up than I have, and I’ve even found myself using the QWERTY keyboard more and more. I still find T9 more convenient for typing in general, as this is more suitable for one handed use. Being presented with a separate text entry box is bit unnecessary it has to be said. Overall it hasn’t slowed me down too much, but creates extra steps which good annoy some people. On the telephony side side smart dialing actually speeds up the calling process, and call quality is excellent.