Nokia N81 8GB is a smartphone using the Symbian Operating System and S60 Interface, as all the other smartphones of the brand. The operating system version is 9.2, as with the top models of N95, N76, 6120 and 6290. We are glad that it does not use the older 9.1 version, because 9.2 brings positive features only.

The top part of the home screen displays a clock and the date, as well as the usual signal strength and battery status, while the name of the carrier or Offline" can be seen in the middle. The Offline tag indicates that the N81 8GB works only as an “organizer” and multimedia device with the phone function switched off (that’s handy for using the smartphone during a flight). Just below these is located a row of 6 shortcuts which can be personalized to suit you best. The rest of the display, below them, is used for “notifications” – this is where missed calls, upcoming tasks (or To-Do in the calendar), received messages are displayed, as well as the music player status (the song that’s played at the moment). In this version of the OS, there is a shortcut to a global Search, that will seek in the whole phone's memory. We think that this is very handy! Located at the bottom of the screen are the two software buttons which can also be personalized from the Settings menu.

The main menu can be viewed as 3x4 grid of icons that can also be displayed as a list (it’s chosen directly from the main menu) but the icons are not animated in both cases. Just like the N76, here you have two new possible visualizations – Horseshoe and V-shaped, which are interestingly-looking, but inconvenient to use 3D menus. The numeric keypad buttons can be used as shortcuts – a function which is much better implemented than version 6 of the S60 interface but still a lot of things should be changed: as the menu not always holds 12 icons (they can be more or less), scrolling up/down shows you different ones that should be associated with the keypad – but they’re not. Like other Symbian phones, you can rearrange the icons in the menu and move links in folders.

A nice extra of the Symbian v9.2 is that each application which is active has a small circle next to its icon in the menu. For example, if you left any application running in the background, then an indication would appear in the main menu next to the "Applications" link . As all other Symbian S60 phones, you can see the running applications by holding the Menu key, and shut some of them off by selecting them and using the C key.

The menu can be personalized by using themes, and if you combine various screen savers and personalized homescreens, two identical phones can look quite different. Definitely, the operating system provides many good personalization options.


Symbian phones are not only smart pocket computers, they are phones in first place. And every such device should have a good system for managing the contacts. The phonebook of Symbian S60 phones together with those of Windows smartphonesis is one of the best on the market. All the contacts are displayed as a list and if there is a picture ID, it can be seen in the top left corner of the screen as a very small thumbnail  (it’s the same when you have an incoming call and that’s why we find this feature useless) when you select the contact. If you want to search, you type in directly from the keypad and searching is done for the whole name (not only the first word), even if the name is saved in more than one field (first and last name for example). If you want to edit a contact, you can only change the fields already defined. For adding more information you need to select the Add Detail menu. When adding a new contact you are provided with the “basic” fields, but with the “Add Detail” function you have almost no restrictions on the fields and their number and you can add a lot of phone numbers.

We also like having the option to add a given field several times and in that manner we are able to record the numbers of three phones for one contact, each one with the tag “Mobile”.

The phone has a set of voice commands – they are speaker independent and you don’t have to “train” every command, something that can save you a lot of precious time. By holding the right soft key, the “recognizer” turns on and you can pronounce a name (from the phonebook) to be dialed. Names like “Father”, “Brother”, “test”, “John” and “Neo” were no problem, but we had no success with others like “Amy” for example.

The commands can activate various programs or perform preset functions, like “New SMS” for example. Since not all possible commands are installed by default, different ones must be added to the menu so that they’re easier to recognize with any speaker – thus by adding only the ones you need, you can achieve best possible accuracy without the annoying training. Аnd it works, the voice commands were very accurate and we rarely experienced mistakes when launching applications.

A voice recorder can record your voice using the speakerphone. A single voice note can last maximum 1 hour but the length of a recording depends on the free memory available. With this feature the smartphone can replace your voice recorder without needing third party software.


The Organizer tools are in a folder called “Applications” in the main menu. The calendarcan be viewed by month or week and of course, you can easily add events(Meeting, Memo, Anniversary, To-do) with options for alarm, to aparticular day with a few clicks. To-Do notes are also displayed on thehomescreen if you have set the active standby in such way.

Notes are just annotations with no option for adding an alarm like the To-Do notes. The Converter works with various quantities (Length, mass, etc.) but the interface has not changed much, compared to older versions. The calculator is very simple and is not a scientific one, which would suit a smartphone.

In the Clock menu,you will find the alarms. In Symbian 9.2 you can add as many alarms asyou wish and for each one you can choose whether it should repeat(daily, weekly, or workdays). This is excellent and there is no stupidlimitation in the number of the alarms like with other even smartphones (i.e. Symbian 9.1 allows for only one alarm that even can not beset to repeat).

The World Clockis also located in this menu and you can add various cities that youlike to view – that's very convenient and saves a lot of time comparedto the standard way with “moving across the world map". You can easilyreview selected cities, which you are interested in without searching for themeach time.

The File manager is the one that we are fairly familiar with from theother Symbian smartphones, allowing you to review the phone’s memory,as well as opening or moving/copying files. The memory is split intotwo: the phone’s memory is 25 MB, and the extended memory is 8 GB.

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