From Alvin's piece:
I love technology, I love innovation, and that’s why I was so excited about getting my hands on an 808 for a really long time. In many ways, the 808 can be described as a device of extremes. It amazes me in some ways as much as it infuriates me in other ways. It is stunningly futuristic in terms of its capabilities in some ways, yet stunningly dated in other ways. It represents the pinnacle of smartphone imaging at this point in time, but at the same time it’s the poster child for a once-dominating smartphone platform that slid drastically from its dominant position due to years of neglect, complacency and failure to react effectively to the competition.
Harsh, but fair, though I'd argue that at least some of the slide in sales is due to Nokia announcing an End of Life for Symbian prematurely - arguably at least a year too soon, with the result that networks stopped carrying the phones.
I should also disclose that my particular 808 has not been entirely problem-free, and it’s unclear whether the issues are device or firmware-specific. Some of the issues I have encountered include a stuck Nokia Store download queue that I couldn’t clear no matter what Yash told me to try, a delete dialog in the Gallery app that was positioned halfway off the display, auto-rotation and WiFi bugs and random lags and instances where scrolling will become completely stuttery for no apparent reason. I’ve had to reinstall the firmware on the 808 twice; once to fix the Nokia Store download queue issue and the second time was due to all Qt apps failing to launch properly (i.e. they’d launch and show up in the task manager, but wouldn’t actually display the user interface nor respond to any input). All things considered, I haven’t had a good experience with the 808, but the even the bugs I’ve encountered have little to do with my perception of the 808 after spending a week with it.
Very odd, and totally alien to my own 808 experience. My gut feeling is that something that Alvin was installing each time was badly behaved. And some of the lags and stutters can perhaps be put down to different expectations after using an iPhone 4S, with a massively higher powered processor?
Both the 808 and my iPhone are what we would consider smartphones, but they belong to completely different categories in the smartphone space. In many ways, the 808 is the final expression of Nokia’s idea of what a smartphone was when the N95 was unveiled; a converged multimedia computer built around content creation while incorporating traditional phone+messaging functionality. (Whereas) The iPhone is a cloud-centric communicator tailored for Internet applications and media consumption.
Yes, this quote was what prompted me to link to Alvin's piece, as it hits the nail squarely on the head. The 808 is the N95 cubed, whereas the iPhone is a totally different branch of mobile computing - and any overlaps between the two in 2012, as rival smartphones, are almost incidental.
There's the usual panning of typing and browsing performance:
There’s no escaping that Nokia Belle Feature Pack 1 continues to represent a smartphone user experience from the last decade, and it doesn’t matter how much the user interface is reworked to look more like a previous-generation Android version. It’s fairly well known what an absolute horror the keyboard and web browser is on the 808, so I need not describe how infuriating I found the typing and browsing experience to be in too much detail. Let’s just say I tweeted and texted far less when my SIM was in the 808, and it really doesn’t take much to make the browser to exhibit Nokia N97-like panning and zooming performance. Even the experience of installing apps is made awful by Smart Installer, which appears each time you install a Qt app, takes an extremely long time to have its lunch in your very face, and prevents you from switching to any other app because it insists on forcing you to watch it have its lunch.
Why Nokia never got round to putting in multi-touch support into the Symbian keyboard is beyond me. And, yes, Web on Symbian is much better suited to lightweight or mobile web sites. Finally, yes, I've ranted myself about the 'unsmart' nature of the Qt 'Smart' Installer.
The notification system is still as much of a mess as it has ever been; few apps plug into the notifications drawer, the apps that do use the notifications drawer also generate pop-up dialogs on the homescreen, some apps put up WP7-style toasts at the top of the display that cannot be tapped on while visible and email notifications are absent (in 2012, no less!).
True, it's all a bit of a 'mess' indeed. The result of bits being bolted on over the years rather than having a properly designed notifications UI.
The re-written Gallery app is as featureless as the camera app is feature-rich, and while there are apps available for web services like Pocket, Evernote and social networks like Twitter, they are relatively pricey compared to apps on other platforms. SymPaper and Notekeeper cost S$5, and the Gravity social client has a price of S$15. Why should anyone pay for apps on Symbian that perform the exact same function as free or lower-priced apps on other platforms.
Gallery is something of a special case in that it's patently unfinished in the run up to the first PureView device being launched - I think it's fair to say that, now the 808 is on the market, we should give Nokia a month or two to actually finish it. Having to pay for those extra applications is a pain, but a total of S$25 in the context of owning a S$1000 device over a couple of years and thousands of hours of use isn't really a showstopper for anyone.
To be completely honest, I haven’t once felt like I’ve really enjoyed using the 808 PureView as a phone, and this is in direct contrast to how I feel about Android smartphones like the Xperia Acro S and my iPhone. The latter devices actually evoke a positive emotional response within me; I feel relaxed and happy using those devices and they do a stellar job at helping me stay connected to what’s going on with friends and people in my wider social networks. Meanwhile, with the 808, I never really felt like I actually had my finger on the pulse when it comes to keeping in touch with what’s happening online. I actually felt stressed using the 808 PureView as my main smartphone.
Partly, this is down to Alvin now having become used to iOS and Android - I have the exact opposite reaction when I'm forced to use an iPhone or a Windows Phone for a few days - it's 'argh, where's everything I'm used to, it all feels different' - and I then feel back 'home' when my SIM is back in the Nokia 808 (or N8 or E7 etc) So it's partly what you're used to.
My experience with Symbian in the past week is analogous to camping in the wilderness.
Alvin then heads into the same territory that I wrote about a year ago - yes, Symbian has more DIY attributes. But that's half the fun, for me at least.
Alvin concludes with:
The 808 was always designed to be a niche device. The odds are that if you really wanted one in the first place, you’d have already bought one. Otherwise, I’m afraid the 808 really isn’t for you.
Absolutely. I think he's definitely been reading my editorials, I said almost the same thing recently! 8-)