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Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Posted: , posted by Daniel P.

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Interface and Software:

There is no point in pitting the two mobile operating systems directly against one another, it would be comparing apples to oranges, no pun intended. Nokia has improved on the user experience in Symbian^3 and it now offers multiple home screens with the all-important widgets on them. It has also disposed of most annoyances like double-tap to select. Symbian^3 is a functional mobile OS having true multitasking abilities with card view, and is very familiar to millions of people using Nokia phones – legacy is important, if you have been in the business for so many years. It is also a bit cumbersome, more suitable to power users, and newcomers need to familiarize themselves with it first, before they begin to use the full functionalities of the platform.

The interface of the iPhone 4, on the other hand, has to be examined as only an element of the holy trinity device - mobile OS - applications, which Apple has tightly integrated and isolated from outside influences as much as it could, providing users with the outstanding feeling that things just work, and look cool in the process. The powerful A4 chipset runs the simple, self-explicable screens, full of colorful app shortcuts incredibly smooth, with pretty animations and transparency effects that are favorites of young and old. It is immediately apparent that this is an interface designed from the ground up for touchscreens, and iOS is suitable for anybody, despite some shortcomings like the lack of full multitasking and Bluetooth file transfer.

Apple iPhone 4 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4

Nokia N8

 


With that out of the way, we have to mention that the Symbian^3 homescreens look more complicated than the interface of iOS simply because they, similarly to Android, offer some additional functionality through widgets. The iPhone 4’s paradigm is simplicity – a sandboxed app for each task, linked to a colorful icon on the screen, even for basic functions, like the dialer. Nokia N8 supports smart dialing, while iOS4 is still lagging in that respect. If you need to do some Facebooking on the iPhone 4, you go to the Facebook app. Nokia N8, on the other hand, now offers social networking integration (Facebook and Twitter) in your phonebook feature. It is more cumbersome to set up than in some of the best Android UI overlays out there, like HTC Sense, or TouchWiz 3.0, but it's there. Threaded messaging has also finally come to Symbian, but messaging on the iPhone 4 is still a smoother experience.

In short, Nokia N8 feels much more as a phone, while the iPhone 4 feels like a designer box for app execution, that is why it irreparably disrupted the cell phone industry three years ago. For example, Nokia has had video calling first in the 6680, launched in 2005, but most people are just now beginning to use it, thanks to the simple and reliable execution, and the marketing behind Apple iPhone 4's FaceTime, even though it only works via Wi-Fi for now.

The widgetized home screens of the Nokia N8, offer more than simply shortcuts to separate functions – similarly to a modern Android handset. They are a way to get what you need (apps, favorite contacts, status updates, email, RSS feeds) straight from the home screen, without even having to open an app most of the time.

Once you set it up properly, this approach becomes very useful in everyday life, but Nokia has a long way to go in polishing things if it wants the interface to look as slick, smooth and likeable, as the ones in iOS or Android, the current major contestants in the mobile OS department. Perhaps it will never even happen for Symbian.

What we would also like to see improved is the text input department of Nokia's handset. Apple pioneered the finger-friendly virtual keyboards with the iPhone. Nokia N8’s virtual keyboard in landscape mode (portrait one only offers triple-tap and T9, circa 2002), is decent to type on, but trying to input anything anywhere raises a text box that covers the whole screen, even for simple tasks like filling in a website in the browser's address bar. We'd rather see it as an overlay above the UI, not separate screen, blocking the entire view. Nokia already loaded Swype for Symbian^3 on Ovi Store, however portrait mode will be coming later, and you will have to suffer in the meantime.

Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Nokia N8 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Nokia N8

 

Apple iPhone 4

 


On the other hand, Nokia N8 offers free lifetime navigation with the excellent Ovi Maps, which has turn-by-turn directions coverage in much more countries than the free Google Maps for now. It is an offline navigational software with all bells and whistles, including Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor overlays, of the iGO, Navigon or TomTom type, that you have to pay some serious cash for in the App Store.

Ovi Maps - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Ovi Maps - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Ovi Maps



Speaking of the App Store, software is where the iPhone 4 easily overshadows every phone out there, not only the Nokia N8. The Espoo flagship comes with a number of preinstalled apps and games, but the sheer size of the 300 000+ applications available for the iPhone, makes it look like a drop in the bucket. That wealth of apps is a goldmine for Apple, and has resulted in users integrating the iPhone 4 in every part of their lives – from mobile payments to gym schedules - an experience that is extremely hard, if not impossible, to replicate in the near future. In contrast, Nokia is just now putting an emphasis on apps and developers for its Ovi Store.


Browser and Connectivity:

The browser on the Nokia N8 is definitely a weak point, compared to Safari in the iPhone 4. While it has pinch-to-zoom, the scrolling is often choppy, especially if the page contains Flash, and the interface is a chore to use. Filling in the above mentioned web address takes much more stages than the needed one. A firmware update is expected to bring Swype and a new WebKit browser, but out of the box typing and browsing has stayed in the Symbian^1 era. The Safari browser on the iPhone 4, in contrast, is smooth as silk, quite fast and a pleasure to use, with the lack of Flash being the only nuisance.

Nokia N8 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4 - Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4
Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

Nokia N8

 

Apple iPhone 4

 


Both handsets also offer a complete set of connectivity options, and the Nokia N8 is supporting the newest Bluetooth 3.0 standard. The Nokia N8 is pentaband, i.e. 3G speeds can be accessed on most GSM carriers worldwide, including T-Mobile and AT&T in the US. Symbian^3 supports USB-on-the-go for connecting a memory stick directly to the Nokia N8, and copy or play files from it, whereas iOS4 still doesn't support USB mass storage mode. The Finnish handset also has an FM transmitter, which can beam music from your phone to your home or car stereo, which is a nice option to have, but often runs into interference problems in big cities with many radio stations.

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