Another timeout for a tech blog, as I finally have to get with the times.  I’ve never owned a smart phone.  Considering how many websites I operate, along with related social media, I really should have had one years ago.  Problem is, I hate carrying stuff in my pockets, even if I have cargo pants or shorts.  Wallet, keys, phone, camera, GPS, music player.  The last time I bought a phone, it had the best camera you could find, though its GPS turned out to be less useful than I hoped.  While it had internet, it wasn’t 3G.  The traditional number pad made it hard to send a text or even enter the URL for a website or search on Google.  You know: tap each numeric button multiple times to get a letter, like you used to do five years ago?  That’s my phone.  The camera was great, though, and that’s the main reason I bought it.  One less thing to carry, at least.

I’ve been waiting for 2 years for a phone that meets all my requirements.  I’d hoped Apple would address them, but the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 fell short.  So do all of the current Android phones.  Here’s what I wanted:

  • Decent reception, call quality and battery life (features most people seem to forget about!)
  • Good camera with real flash
  • Native GPS with voice guided turn-by-turn instructions
  • Ability to tether my notebook through the cellphone for 3G internet
  • HD 720p video capability
  • 3G
  • A real QWERTY keypad or touchscreen

Beyond that, I didn’t need much.  The iPhone has an awesome operating system and apps, but it still doesn’t have a decent camera with a real flash and while it finally allows computer tethering, it costs a fortune with the required iPhone plans.  Really, no phones that met all my requirements existed until now, though the Motorola Milestone XT720 came close by having a decent camera/flash.  I might have even bought that one instead if it was clear it would get an upgrade to the newest version of Android.  Here’s a nice comparison of the two premier camera phones.   Anyway, the Nokia N8 was just released this month in the USA and the color I wanted just started shipping Friday.  Mine is supposed to be on its way to me now, hopefully arriving next week.  It met all my requirements above.  Not only is it 3G, but it is unlocked and gets 3G on both AT&T and T-Mobile, a very unique feature not found on iPhone or any Android phone that I know.  Now I can freely switch providers anytime I like and not lose high speed internet.  The Nokia N8 also has a wide-angle, high quality 12MP camera with the same xenon flash that you find in point-and-shoot cameras, not a weak LED one like most cellphones.  Nokia’s map utility provides free voice guided navigation for life.  Unlike Google Maps and some others, it is all stored local to the phone like a real GPS unit so you don’t need a signal or  internet connection to navigate.  It tethers just like my last phone, using the same software and hopefully my grandfathered $15 unlimited internet plan on AT&T.  By most accounts and reviews I’ve read, the reception, call quality, battery life and speaker are pretty good.  It also has stuff you can get on most smartphones these days, like HD video for all my action carseat installation clips and a touchscreen keypad so I can text people something normal, rather than, “hard 2 txt plz call me.”

Nokia threw in some other nice hardware touches.  The HD video cam has stereo sound and a smart zoom that means you don’t lose much resolution up to 3x zoom.  There’s a durable anodized solid metal case and Gorilla glass screen and lens that are scratch and crack resistant, so you don’t have to put it into a bulky or ugly case/skin to protect it.  It has all the features I need like music player, browser, social media apps and email.  They threw in USB On-The-Go, so you can access external drives and devices like keyboards.  There’s the latest Bluetooth 3.0 for file sharing and wireless connectivity of all sorts.  There’s an FM radio receiver and transmitter.  Full Dolby audio and an HDMI output to show your photos and videos on a TV.  Seriously, no other phone out there touches these features.  As a bonus, I get to use all my old Nokia chargers, my wife’s mini USB chargers, my old cables and my old MicroSD memory stick.

Well, there is always a catch.  The operating system and software apparently sucks.  The interface is a new version of Nokia’s Symbian that most claim is very unpolished.  From all the reviews, it really sounds behind the times and has a number of bugs, too.  While it’s apparently better than previous Symbian software on Nokia’s smartphones, it apparently doesn’t come close to what you can get on an iPhone or Droid 2.2 phone.  Nokia’s library of apps is also apparently far behind what you find from Apple and Google.  Most reviews have raved about the hardware but have been pretty sour about the software, leading to a mediocre overall rating.  There’s even a dedicated hate website already and the phone just started shipping this month!  Since I’ve never experienced an Android or iOS phone for daily use, maybe I won’t know what I’m missing and can be happy with the state-of-the-art hardware.  It has to be better than what’s on my Nokia N82, after all!

My biggest complaint is that Nokia wouldn’t even bother to respond to my email inquiries.  I can’t even get them to send me tracking information.  I guess you have to be a tech or cellphone blog to merit the courtesy of a reply.  The sales representatives on the phone weren’t particularly helpful, either, though maybe it was partly a language barrier.  I hope that isn’t a red flag about their customer service if I have a problem. I had intended to write one of my boring, too-thorough, full reviews with photos and video.  Instead, I may have to lightheartedly poke fun at the annoyances I have to endure to get the hardware feautres I want.  In that they also haven’t partnered with a provider to offer the phone with a plan discount, it appears they just aren’t very interested in selling them or generating publicity in the USA.  That’s too bad, because Apple and all the makers of Android phones and the new Windows 7 phones could really learn something about packing hardware features into their cellphones, rather than just providing top-notch software.  Granted, the same could be said about my last phone, and I’ve been relatively happy with it for almost 2 years while I waited for something to come along with all the features I really wanted.  Oh, did I mention the best thing about the N8?  It comes in Orange!  (And at least this year, that’s better than Red.  Am I right, Hoosiers?)

If you’re looking for a good review, I recommend the comprehensive coverage at TechRadar and GSMArena.  A lot of reviews out there are so heavily biased for or against iPhone, Nokia or Android that it becomes quickly obvious there is no objectivity at all.  It’s either praise or bashing depending on their agenda.  These two reviews seem pretty well balanced and not too subjective, in additon to being much more in-depth than most other reviews I’ve seen.