Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thinking of acquiring a Nokia N8

I love my QWERTY messenger, but more and more the touchscreen smartphone beckons. It is just a matter of time before I make the leap and give up the tactile response of a physical keyboard. Writing this blog does not help quell the desire to "upgrade" to a touchscreen unit. But which unit to buy? I have pretty much decided that it really wont be worth making the move unless I get a large (3.5 inch or larger) high resolution screen (at least 360 x 640). 

Nokia N8

The cheapest upgrade path for me would be the Nokia N8, since I am a Smart Gold subscriber, and this one can be had simply by availing of a retention plan. Basically, this means no cash out for the phone. All the other options means changing carrier or buying the phone. These days the benchmark is the iPhone 4. Looking for advice on the web, I found this Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4 shootout from phoneArena.  
Nokia N8 has very compelling extra features (a 12MP camera with a huge sensor, Carl-Zeiss lens, powerful Xenon flash, the ability to play almost any HD video file on a big screen via HDMI-out, with 5.1 channel surround sound, USB-on-the-go, removable storage, and free lifetime navigation) but with the the Retina Display and the fast A4 chipset, the iPhone 4 already has some of the best hardware out there. On top of that, it is all crammed in the thinnest smartphone on the market, made of designer-grade materials. It also allows you to run some of the slickest programs ever made for a phone. And it is exactly the software, i.e. the overall people-friendly experience that matters most, and that's where Nokia has to play catch up now.
This result is not really surprising, and even Nokia acknowledges by pricing its N8 at Php24,000 versus the Php38,500 of the Apple iPhone 4 16GB.

Another viable option is the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S. phoneArena also has a head-to-head Nokia N8 vs Samsung Galaxy S review
If you watch a lot of movies on your commute, read e-books and documents, play games, or just prefer the slick TouchWiz 3.0 and the versatility of Android plus Android Market on a giant 4” Super AMOLED screen, powered by the most powerful mobile graphics chipset so far, you may want to go with the Samsung Galaxy S.
For a well-rounded smartphone package, that will appeal a lot to the casual and more experienced photographers alike, one would most likely pick the Nokia N8, with its 12MP camera and Xenon flash. The Finnish handset also adds other notable virtues, namely the ability to watch its contents on a big screen via HDMI-out with 5.1 channel surround sound, USB-on-the-go, and free lifetime navigation that works offline in most countries.
With 16GB of internal memory, the Nokia N8 is also significantly cheaper that the Php30,990-Php32,000 Samsung i9000 Galaxy S.

Based on these reviews, it looks like the Nokia N8 does have the best camera in the business and good multimedia options, but overall the iPhone 4 or Galaxy S are superior overall. Looking at this two apparent leaders, the cheapest way for me to get one of these phones is to jump ship from Smart Communications and transfer to Globe Telecom. I found this review on GSM Arena - Samsung I9000 Galaxy S vs. Apple iPhone 4: Collision course. GSM Arena did not declare a winner, explaining:
Well, here we are at the end of our grand battle. We tried to be as helpful as possible to everyone wondering which of the two best smartphones currently available to purchase. There's a reason why we won't add up the individual scores for each phone - different people have different needs and you should count only the scores on the chapters that are important to you.
Anyway, going section by section these were the scores:

Design and construction:   Apple iPhone 4: 9/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 7/10
Telephony:   Apple iPhone 4: 4/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 9/10
Display:    Apple iPhone 4: 9/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 10/10
Still Camera:   Apple iPhone 4: 6/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 7/10
Video Recording:    Apple iPhone 4: 8/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 9/10
Music Player: Apple iPhone 4: 8/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 9/10
Video Player: Apple iPhone 4: 8/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 10/10
Browsing the web: iPhone 4: 7/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 9/10
Application base and handling and App storesApple iPhone 4: 9/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 8/10

While the guys at GSM Arena tactfully said "There's a reason why we won't add up the individual scores for each phone", that seems to have been a rather tactful ending. Based on GSMArena's review, the iPhone 4 wins in looks and Apps (by a hair). The Galaxy S wins everything else. With this, I am inclined to remove the iPhone 4 from consideration. The fact that it is the most expensive (whether in purchase or under a plan), makes the decision easier.

The one to beat? The Samsung i9000 Galaxy S

One other direction I have been looking is HTC. Smart Communications has the HTC Wildfire and the HTC Mozart. What I would really like is a Desire. There is a bit of nostalgia in that desire. My first Smart Communcations cellular phone was a HTC Smart Amazing Phone and HTC is a bit of a status symbol here (in a techie-geeky sort of way).

I have seen HTC Desire HD's for sale in the grey market, the Php37,000 asking price without a HTC warranty, is more than I am willing to pay for a phone without an official warranty. HTC Philippines wont be coming out with the HTC Desire HD until January 2011. On the other hand, the HTC Desire is now being sold at a lower Php25,500 (down about 9K from its original price) with an official HTC warranty. How does this phone stack up? Techradar had a HTC Desire vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S showdown where they gave the nod to the desire:
So well done to the HTC Desire – despite being the oldest on test, it's still the top smartphone in our eyes... and if something beats it in the next few months, we're looking forward to seeing that. 
Desire still represents the best all-round device in our opinion – Apple's free case solution is a great step, but it doesn't alter the fact that the phone hardware still has the problem.
Interestingly enough, Techradar rated the the phones in this order: HTC Desire, Apple iPhone 4 and with the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S bringing up the rear. One thing to note though is that the HTC Desire in the Techradar review was one of the model with a AMOLED display. Since than, HTC had to switch to S-LCD because of the supply problems with AMOLED screens.

HTC Desire 

At Php25,500 with an HTC warranty, I stll save Php5,400 on the cheapest Samsung Galaxy S I have seen. The HTC Desire only comes with a 4GB MicroSD card but instead of the 16GB internal storage of the Samsung, but that is not much of an issue for me as I only use less than half of the 2GB MicroSD card I have on my current smartpone. 

I really do not feel like switching carrier. I have been happy with Smart Communications service, so I see no reason to leave (not saying that it is better than Globe). So it looks like a decision between getting a Nokia N8 on retention or forking out the cash for a HTC Desire. 

Update: There is a known issue with the Nokia N8 not powering up or powering down unexpectedly. You can read about it here at the Nokia Conversations blog interview and watch the interview with Nokia’s Excecutive Vice President Niklas Savander at this link.

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