N810 in a nutshell

N810 unboxing by Matt Biddulph. License:

Got my N810 yesterday. Some thoughts:

GPS: sexy. All kinds of interesting possible results. Kudos to Nokia for leading in this, though now that my blackberry does rough triangulation from cells, I’m not sure how pragmatic it is. (Modulo concerns about privacy that go along with cell geolocation.)

look and feel: much improved. The switch from plastic to metal makes a surprisingly big difference.

keyboard: A little cramped, and I think slower than the screen keyboard for small amounts of text entry. But probably much better than the touch screen for long note-taking sessions. Using it I’ve actually IM’d from a maemo-based device without wanting to stab myself, which I’d never achieved before :) (IM, it was pointed out, is something you can’t do from the iPhone ;)

adding keyboard while still shrinking the size of the device: miraculous and impressive. (You can feel the extra weight when comparing the N810 and N800, but nothing that I’ll notice day to day.)

improved UI for non-keyboard/non-stylus use: the bigger menus do a lot for me, but there is still a long way to go here. Why do I have to choose one of four small objects after I hit the power button, instead of large, readable objects 1/5 or 1/4 of the size of the screen? why is the unlock message small, quietly colored, and in one corner of the screen, instead of over the whole thing? Most importantly, when I turn on the device, why am I presented with giant, empty, useless space (ooh! a web bookmark! a clock!), instead of a big, helpful list of things that are one click away from usefulness? Device-modal, full-screen dialogs, menus, and notifications should be used frequently and to good effect in this thing, and it is frustrating that they aren’t.

OS 2008 user site: surprisingly useful; was easily/quickly able to install apps from it. (though there is some non-friendly stuff there- what does ‘catalog installed but not enabled’ mean to non-technical people? Even to most technical people it won’t be obvious. Got that when installing Pidgin, which otherwise went very smoothly.)(But I can’t uninstall Skype? seriously?)

reduced storage capacity: big negative for anyone who uses it as a music player, like me. I’ve got 16G of music on my N800. Cramping me down to 6G total on the N810 is… eww. May be a showstopper for my daily use of the device, since that is my primary use case for it right now, which is a shame given the keyboard. N900, here I come. ;)

still no cell network access: Argh. I DO NOT WANT TO CARRY TWO DEVICES. I’m not the only one. Creating a new category of device is great, but ideally you want to create a category that people will reasonably want. Apple (and to a lesser extent Blackberry) are proving that there is a huge market for always-networked phone-email-browser combo devices/platforms. I fear (for Nokia’s sake) that when faced with the choice between a reasonably capable phone (like iPhone or Blackberry) with always on networking, or a very capable nokia with inconsistent networking, or carrying two devices to get nokia capability plus reliable networking, they’ll choose the extra convenience of the single device. Certainly most days I choose to go Blackberry-only, and while the N810 makes that choice a little harder, it isn’t by much.

I’ll continue to use it, and to help Nokia improve it, because it scratches my unusual itches. But I’d be a lot more excited to help out if it had a snowball’s chance in hell of commercial success- and that, to me, seems to depend on always-on networking, which for better or for worse means cell for the foreseeable future.

18 thoughts on “N810 in a nutshell”

  1. Looking at its UI is rather depressing: the iPhone clearly has a ninja design team creating a compelling touchscreen phone experience. Most Nokia phones are just a clusterfuck of everyone trying to put their own 5c in based on what they think is technically (or politically) interesting, and nothing even vaguely coherent. The tablets are very, very clearly designed by PC designers, and are very, very clearly derived from modern PC desktop environments. C’est la vie.

  2. You have 12Gb of officially supported storage: 4Gb in the internal memory + up to 8Gb on the external memory slot. Besides, you get samba support, making transfer of files from/to your PC flawless.

    Always on, I know it’s not what you expect but let’s see how the usage evolves when the tablet with WiMAX comes. Afaik you lucky US urban citizen are going to be living under a metropolitan wireless cloud.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Aye, an internet tablet without internet connectivity can be seen mostly as a brain fart imho. Where I live there are no wlan/wimax coverages, I would really need 3G data support. I already carry enough of devices around with me… :(

  4. The reasons for not including cell access are baffling. I already have enough “mobile” devices – like Luis and the troll, this would have to replace something I already carry with me…

    The other issue that had always kept me back was the lack of a keyboard – great to see they finally fixed that. I’m sure others may argue differently, but that was an issue for me.

  5. As you say, to be more useful and justify it’s existence as an internet device it requires an almost constant internet connection – the inclusion of cellular broadband is something that should really be looked at. But from that point, how far is it to turning it also into a phone? (Granted, that decision would probably miniaturise it too much, and defeat it’s usefulness as an internet device.)

    I also agree that it needs more internal storage (Regarding another comment, I thought it only had 2GB internal storage, not 4GB.) and I can see it’s use as a media device becoming essential as part of my usage case. What’s the battery life like when playing audio files?

    The most consistent feedback from people, I gather, is that it’s now a sleek device. One with good tactile feel, and looks. Something that a person might want to own regardless of knowing it’s use. It’s got a cool factor about it. That’s definitely encouraging and I can’t wait to see what the N900 brings along with OS2009… I keep holding off buying one, until it gets near perfection, or at least more justifiable as a spend since I’m about the only person who doesn’t have a discount code for it. :)

  6. “Is it a phone yet?” I still ask this every time I hear about it. I would drop my phone in a second if I could get N8xx + phone. The strangely familiar web browser alone would be killer.

  7. daniels: it definitely badly needs to break out of the desktop PC metaphor. I was badly disappointed when someone talked about porting it to a traditional PC- it needs to be ported to even smaller devices, not larger devices, so that the UI is optimized for the type of device it is, not PCs.

    Quim: I agree that when wimax is pervasive, this will be a killer device. Of course, by that time, iPhone may already be a dominant, windows-like development platform, since it wisely does both cell and wifi *now*. And that time is a long way off; my GSM tri-band phone is basically global at this point (I have used it on three continents, in swamps, and in mountains); it will be a long time before I can just take my wimax device with me anywhere I go and assume it will work.

    Mike: the reasons may not be too baffling; the cell companies may not be very happy with a non-crippled phone-wifi combo. (iPhone is very nice, but it *is* crippled.) Still, you’d think (or naively hope?) that Nokia could try to force the issue.

    Jon: the whole point is that I *want* it to be a phone. I don’t see why, properly integrated, making it a phone would make it any less/any worse at the things it is already good at. Properly integrated, making it also a phone would make it even *better* at what it is already good at.

    Battery life, at least on the N800, is pretty good when playing music- 4 hours, at least?

    re: storage: my N810 says it has 2G of internal storage, and I can’t find any cards bigger than 4G for it. But I haven’t looked hard, and maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

  8. Actually with some work you can get Rails, Mongrel, and Tracks up and running on the n810. I bought mine specifically to run Instiki + Tracks. Install takes some work though, definitely not out-of-the-box.

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