Another week with the Nokia 808 PureView convinces me it's worth the $700

Summary:It turns out I gave up a bit too early on the 808 PureView so I purchased my own and am loving the camera experience.

Last week I posted some thoughts on using the Nokia 808 PureView and then sent back the evaluation unit. As you can read, I applauded Nokia's efforts on the camera and then expressed my disappointment in Symbian. It has been about a year since I used Symbian for any extended period of time so the Symbian fans in the audience quickly chimed in to respond to my post and provide me with some great feedback on apps and other considerations. I decided to put the 808 through more extensive testing and purchased my own 808 PureView last week. After several more days with it, I have to say the $760 I spent was worth it and I am really loving the device. You can check out several screenshots from the device in my image gallery . I also took a few still photos and have some links to my Flickr account where you can see them in full resolution since the ZDNet system limits image size.

Check out my screenshot gallery to see how Symbian compares to your modern iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device.

If you are a current Symbian user, then it is very natural for you to upgrade to the Nokia 808 PureView as it is the best Symbian-based device ever made. If you are looking for the absolute BEST camera experience on a device that makes calls, then the 808 PureView is also for you. If you have come to rely on a broad range of apps and services found on iOS and Android, then the 808 PureView is likely not going to please you enough to stick with it. While I do enjoy the convenience of many apps and services, Symbian still gets the essentials right and cuts to the chase.

You make compromises on all phones in different respects, such as the camera, wireless reception strength, battery life, display, etc. The 808 PureView does not compromise at all when it comes to the camera, but you do have to give up some apps seen on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. I actually now have some regrets about the crappy photos I have taken with other smartphones over the years and look forward to capturing moments of my life in high quality from here on out.

Camera

I gave high praise for the camera in my first thoughts article last week and cannot express to you how incredible the camera really is. I took along my 808 PureView to a party this weekend and everyone was blown away by the quality of photos I was taking. When I told them it was priced at $700 and worked as a smartphone, I was surprised that many thought that was fair given the quality of the photos. It was funny to see the 808 PureView blowing away all the other Android phones at the party.

As Kevin and I chatted about on MobileTechRoundup show #273 I received comments from people telling me to just get a higher end point and shoot to carry with my other smartphones, something like the Canon S100. I already have some point and shoot cameras and most of the time they sit in a drawer. The convenience of being able to capture and then share photos and videos with family and friends right from a phone is way too convenient for me personally and thus I really do need a good solid camera on my phone. Actually, the share feature on the Nokia 808 PureView from Amazon US has issues at the moment with only Flickr as an option for still photos (Facebook is missing) and no available option for videos (Facebook and YouTube should be available). I passed this issue along to Nokia and hope they can resolve it soon.

I ended up renewing my Flickr Pro account because Flickr lets me upload full resolution images while Facebook minimizes and doesn't do that great of a job with such great photos. I know very little about photography, but am now on a quest to learn more about the extensive settings on the PureView. I am finding that the PureView is causing me to be more observant to the world around me, that's a good thing, and look for photo opportunities. Make sure to click on the image I posted here on Flickr and then take a look at the full resolution where you can really see the detail the device captures.

It is clear that the camera is fantastic on the Nokia 808 PureView and so I thought you may enjoy watching the video below shot on the 808 PureView. It's the story of the 5 years spent developing the camera in the device.

Email, Exchange, Google Calendar

I mentioned I was having issues with email in my article last week. I saw Gmail not syncing up automatically, but after having set it up on this new phone it has performed flawlessly. I saw Gmail issues in the past with Symbian on my Nokia N8 and could not resolve it either so there may be something strange going on with my account at times. Email actually works fairly well on Symbian Belle FP1 and I particularly find the home screen widgets to be quite useful.

I have an Exchange account through work and have my contacts setup through Exchange. I use Google Calendar for my personal calendars and those of my family, but Google Contacts is a mess and thus I don't want those contacts synced over. The problem with Symbian is that you can only setup a single Exchange account and the only way to get Google Calendars synced for free is by setting up Gmail as an Exchange account. I understand there are 3rd party services you can pay for and I may look into this in the future. On my Windows Phone devices I setup Gmail as an Exchange service as well as my Exchange account and if I could just get two Exchange accounts setup then I would be very happy.

App story

Last week I listed a few apps that I access often on Android and Windows Phone and since then I learned of a few Symbian alternatives and for the most part am quite satisfied with what is available. I've discussed before that we tend to focus too much on apps and if you REALLY look at what you use and need every day it is likely that only five or fewer apps are truly essential. If the OS is powerful enough, it includes most of the essential applications without the need for 3rd party apps.

I installed something like 20 apps on the Nokia 808 PureView, but here are some key ones that I use every day or two:

  • Gravity: The BEST app ever for Symbian that I use for Twitter and Google Reader. I have it setup for Facebook too, but use another client for that service.
  • Facinate: This is a new Facebook client I heard about and am testing out.
  • Notekeeper: A very solid application that syncs to Evernote and one I have never heard of before I posted my article last week.
  • Spotify: My favorite cross platform music service.
  • MeeBible: A decent Bible app that meets my daily reading needs, but doesn't have the slick YouVersion daily reading plans.
  • Skyfiles: A solid SkyDrive client.
  • Cutebox: A good Dropbox client which I use, along with SkyDrive, as my backup and storage cloud solutions.
  • Microsoft Apps: This suite of Office apps works well and is nice to see as an alternative to Quickoffice. We are getting Lync in August so I look forward to trying that out soon too.
  • Opera Mobile: The default web browser is OK, but Opera Mobile is better. I especially like the Opera Link syncing support in this browser.

I still would like to see Wunderlist and Amazon Kindle on Symbian, but can access Wunderlist through the website and don't read that much on my phone. Overall, the app story is not as bad as I first thought and there are some decent alternatives on Symbian. It is clear that the apps on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are generally much more powerful so there are compromises you will have to make if you try to use the 808 PureView as a daily driver alone.

Some unique aspects of Symbian

Last year I wrote about some innovations Nokia had in Symbian that others did not have and some of these still are present in the wireless market. For some reason, no one seems willing to create pentaband devices, the exception is the HSPA+ Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This gives me the ability to use the 808 PureView on both AT&T and T-Mobile so I have flexibility in what devices I use on different carriers.

The 808 PureView also has one of my favorite Symbian features, FM transmitter mode. This gives me the ability to stream podcasts to the radio in my truck with nothing more than the device itself. It's quite a handy feature for those of us who listen to lots of podcasts as we travel. I enjoyed listening to The Phones Show Chat while driving to work today and it played crystal clear over my radio via the PureView.

Some devices are now coming with HDMI out capability and the 808 PureView has this through the microHDMI port. I have a microHDMI cable, used it with my BlackBerry PlayBook, and was pleased with the slick interface found in the PureView where you can quickly view photos and videos and play music with a large button controller on the phone. You can even use a Nintendo Wii Remote, Sony Playstation Controller, or Bluetooth keyboard to control the 808 PureView when connected via HDMI through Nokia Big Screen. Combined with a Bluetooth keyboard and large TV you can get lots done with the 808 PureView so it isn't just a camera and can be a functional work machine. DLNA is also supported, but I don't have a TV that supports that technology.

Symbian is far from perfect with some lags at times and a very frustrating Nokia Store purchase and download experience (took me six attempts to download the 255 MB Asphalt 6 game I bought). However, it does compete pretty well with current mobile operating systems with the following:

  • Good multitasking: thumbnail images before Android and WP figured it out
  • Smart use of standby screen: I recommend you immediately put Nokia Sleeping Screen on your device to see slick use of the standby screen.
  • Nokia Maps: I still find Nokia Maps to be one of the best GPS navigation and mapping solutions found on any mobile device.
  • Swype keyboard support: I am a fan of Swype and find that it works well on the Nokia 808 PureView.
  • Profiles: I imagine I have spent a lot of time over the years pressing the volume buttons up and down on my phones so it is refreshing to again have profiles setup that automatically switch throughout the day.

Something you may not know: Amazon Video works!

You may know that Amazon rents and sells movies on their store, geographic location restrictions apply, and in the past you could download movies to a very select number of media players to take with you. The real focus now is on the Amazon Kindle Fire, but I decided to try out my tutorial I created for the Nokia N8 and was pleased to see you can purchase movies and watch them on your 808 PureView. Amazon often has special offers and last weekend I bought Total Recall, a remake is coming out soon, for $4.99. I download and transferred it to the PureView and enjoyed watching it on the device. I now just need to find a case with a kickstand to view content on the plane and train.

BTW, I complained a bit about the display resolution last week and even though the PureView doesn't have as high of a resolution as new devices, movies and photos actually look great. While fonts on the home screen and launcher are not superb, they are acceptable. Media content is what is important for viewing in great resolution and this content works well on the PureView display.

808 PureView is worth the price of admission

I mentioned the cost of the Nokia 808 PureView last week and did a bit of digging to find that the $699 price compares as follows, looking at no contract subsidized pricing:

  • Galaxy S III: $550 to $600, depending on carrier
  • iPhone 4S: $650 for 16GB, $750 for 32GB, and $850 for 64GB
  • Galaxy Nexus: $349 (This is a heck of a deal.)
  • HTC One X: $550

As you can see the price for such a fantastic camera on the phone is really not that unreasonable. You can also use this with either T-Mobile or AT&T, as well as around the world, so that might add some more value for you too.

It turns out I must have been distracted by my new Galaxy S III and didn't spend enough time with the evaluation Nokia 808 PureView. I took a bit of a chance buying one for about $760, but after spending this week with it as my main phone I am convinced it is a device to consider. I did place it in my Top 5 hottest smartphones of the summer article and am pleased Nokia gave me the chance to use the device for a bit.

The Nokia 808 PureView is helping me look at the world around me a bit more as I seek out things to capture with the camera. The photos are so fantastic that I am now excited about mobile phone photography and rather than just accepting that photos taken with a phone are junk, I no longer have to compromise with the phone in my pocket.

I included links to the excellent All About Symbian coverage for the Nokia 808 PureView and wanted to remind you to keep checking back there for continued coverage. I also found some other good PureView reviews and websites I discovered since last week and wanted to share them with you.

Topics: Mobility, AT&T, Mobile OS, Nokia, Reviews, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.