The N8: Love (and tech) is all you need
... or so sang The Beatles. We live such frantic lives, yet we all recognise that our relationships with our family members, whichever generation, is possibly the most important thing in life itself. What has this got to do with the Nokia N8 (and, to some extent, other Symbian smartphones)? Because I was struck by how the device, sometimes uniquely, is actively affecting these relationships. Read on...
Yes, yes, ne'ersayers from all sides will point out that you can't read Kindle ebooks on Symbian, that you can't do a direct sync to Evernote, that browsing complex web pages is slower than on other platforms, that you can't get an app for every High Street store, that the N8 isn't a 'superphone'. But I don't care.
I don't care because my N8 (and, to a degree, other Symbian smartphones) has forged real world, relationship-affecting links of usefulness and delight [enough of the saccharine prose, get on with it - Ed]. Here are some examples, taken directly from my own family tree:
'Always on' screen saver - relationship enhanced: my wife
Although many other smartphones on Android have acquired AMOLED screens following Symbian's lead (N86 and Samsung i8910, anyone?), none has formally caught up in terms of power management to the extent that they've been able to also copy (the N86's &) Symbian^3's always-on 'Big clock' time screensaver. This feature may seem a novelty, but it's far more. In fact, it's just about the biggest thing about modern Symbian that keeps me coming back, time after time.
Throughout the day, I only have to glance at my Symbian phone on the table or bedside cabinet, to know the time without having to unlock the screen or press a button. Which is cool, but it gets even cooler. I installed Nokia's add-on, Sleeping Screen, and I now have a variety of clock styles, including space animations, giant analogue clock hands, flowers, indeed any photo from my phone can be converted to Sleeping Screen's 'sparse pixel' mode.
Sleeping screen is also time-aware, switching to a 'night vision-friendly' red alternative at night, giving me the perfect time check without disturbing my wife - other smartphones need you to move to press a button and then tend to illuminate the whole (darkened) room. Even better, Sleeping Screen on the N8 shows basic notifications, such as the number of new text messages waiting to be read. Note that the white text, bottom right, in the screenshot above, is from Gravity (if Jan Ole is reading this, can we have red/night text at night, please, to match Sleeping Screen?)
Whether I choose to use the default 'Big clock' screensaver or 'Sleeping Screen', having time displayed constantly and sensitively on my AMOLED-screened Symbian smartphone (so N8, C7, X7, E7 or C6-01) is a big deal for me. And I'm constantly amazed that no Android-powered competition have tried to officially copy the feature.
Unique photos - relationship enhanced: my niece
With my niece having several young children, all at extremely photogenic ages, I've loved being able to take some great photos with my N8, sometimes outdoors but often indoors in indistinct lighting. At the time, I thought the photos would just be my own record, or even just a good test of the N8 and my own skills with it. But after about six months it became apparent that my N8-shot photos of the children were the best photographic record of them from any source and I was happy to be able to supply them all on CDR for my niece to enjoy and archive.
Plenty of others tried taking photos, with occasional good results, mainly on the iPhone 4, Android phones and quite a few Blackberrys. But, somewhat predictably, it was the N8's low light performance and Xenon flash (when required) that made all the difference.
The result, one very open and friendly niece, another relationship helped on by having the N8.
Music in the car - relationship enhanced: my daughter
Relating to teenagers is never easy for a parent, not least because our tastes in almost everything are very different. Yet a bond has come from a surprising source - once my daughter discovered a) that my phone could play music through the car's stereo system ('Play via radio', etc.) and b) that I trusted her to handle my N8, to play 'DJ' and choose what we listened to when travelling, she's been very keen to not only show me which artists and tracks she likes but also accept recommendations from me on artists that I like and that I think she'd enjoy if she gave them a chance.
Driving along and jointly appreciating each other's music turned up loud and all served from my N8 (or C7) via their FM transmitter (yes, yes, I know I could have used Bluetooth A2DP too if my car was new enough!) is a great experience for us both.
Photos and video display - relationship enhanced: parents
If there's one thing that grandparents enjoy, it's seeing photos and videos of their grandchildren. I've been showing my parents (who live a long way away) photos from my phones for the last 8 years, but it's only recently with the move to AMOLED on the N8 (etc.) that I've started getting real enthusiasm from them ("That's gorgeous, can you print me off a copy?" or "What a great video, it's so clear"). Even better, now that my parents have an HDMI-compatible TV, I can plug straight in via the N8's (or E7's) mini-HDMI port, which means that they can see photos and (720p) videos on the 'big screen'.
Even indoor snaps (Xenon) and videos (N8's large sensor), such as at Christmas (winter, cold and dark, etc.) have come out very well, as I've ranted about before.
Not that one needs a reason to have closer bond with one's parents, but being able to engage them in the goings on in our world, when we get together, by hooking up to their TV with everyone seated in favourite 'comfy' chairs and showing such clear photos and videos, is a great way of bringing everyone closer together.
Yes, yawn, this is effectively yet another 'Isn't the N8 great?' piece from me, but I do hope I've argued my case well. What's interesting is that, although Symbian is heavily involved in everything the N8 does, since it's the OS used, there's no reason why the relationship-building activities above couldn't happen on another platform. Here's a quick recap of the current competition in the use cases above:
|Scenario||Nokia Lumia 800||Apple iPhone 4S||Samsung Galaxy S II|
|'Always on' clock||There's an AMOLED display, but no OS support for always-on time display. Windows Phone on the 800 already has enough battery challenges, I suspect this would be a step too far for the platform?||No possibility for such a clock, since a backlit display is used - the power drain would be immense.||Very possible, should Google or Samsung decide to add an 'always on' clock in an update. As it is, there's a 'trick' to leaving the clock on, I believe, but it's only temporary until the device is next used?|
|Uniquely good photos in all conditions||The 800 takes great photos when the sun's out but things get murkier, grainier and blurrier indoors.||Apple's camera algorithms are top notch and low light photos can come out well, but anything moving will be blurred due to the usual LED flash limitations.||As with the iPhone, results in low light can be good, but ultimately only for static subjects. Always-moving toddlers are not ideal for this!|
|In-car music playback||Quite practical if your car has a stereo Bluetooth car kit fitted. A2DP on Windows Phone is very good.||Ditto, Stereo Bluetooth needed at the car stereo end.||Ditto, A2DP needed.|
|HDMI photo and video output||No TV-out options, via composite or HDMI - rather sadly.||Can be done with the separate purchase of a dedicated iPhone dock adaptor cable.||Can be done with the separate purchase of a dedicated MHL HDMI adaptor cable.|
Ah well. Looks like the N8 will be in my pocket for a while yet*...
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 14 March 2012
Published by Steve Litchfield at 7:12 UTC, March 14th