Nokia’s CEO may have given up on Belle OS, but it does not appear that the team behind that platform have. I have been using the Nokia 808 PureView as my daily driver for about two weeks now, and it has served me very well. we all know Nokia’s traditional strong areas:
- Superb hardware
- Great call quality
- Superb radio performance
- Great audio quality
- Superb camera
Well, they are all in the package. The 808 does not disappoint in these areas. But let’s get down to business and see how the PureView stacks up in everyday use.
- Dimensions: 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm
- Weight: 169g
- 1.3 Ghz Processor plus GPU
- 4 inch Nokia ClearBlack display with Gorilla glass, with 360 x 640 pixel resolution
- Nokia Belle FP2
- 41MP PureView camera, with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash
- Support for 3G WCDMA (HSPA) network up to 14.4MBPS
- Dolby Digital Plus audio
- USB On-the-go support
- 16GB internal memory
- 512MB RAM
- 1400mAh Li-on battery
Immediately you pick up the Nokia 808 PureView, you notice its heft. Yes; at 169g, it is heavy, but it is not as heavy as some would love people to believe. For example, it is 7g lighter than the E7. The weight does give it a firm feel in the hand. The weight may throw some off though, but each man to his own.
Design-wise, it is not the sexiest smartphone on the block. Far from it. I wouldn’t even put it on any list of sexy mobiles. But it is well built and solid. This baby will last short of you launching it from the top of a 10-story building.
In use, one of the immediate benefits of it having a 4-inch display is that one-handed use for every task is possible. Coming from a 4.7-inch slab, this difference is suddenly glaring. It made me ask again, In a world of smartphones and tablets, why does someone who has a 7-inch or 10-inch tablet want a smartphone with a 4.5-inch plus display? But then, what do I know? After all, different strokes for different folks. But I am beginning to re-appreciate the idea of a 4-inch display as the sweet spot for smartphones.
Software: Belle FP2
One of my apprehensions when expecting the 808 was whether or not I would find Belle acceptable. You see, between the last time that I used a Belle device and the 808, I had been treated to about 12 different doses of Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean and iOS 5.1. How would the ghost of Symbian stack up against those platforms?
Very well, as a matter of fact. I have used the 808 PureView as my daily driver for about three weeks now, and I am not having any withdrawal symptoms. Belle FP2 is smooth and very up-to-date. It has its weak points, of course, which I shall highlight in the course of this review.
Nokia ClearBlack display is smashing
I mentioned earlier that the 808 is not a looker, design-wise. But that changes anytime you turn on that 4-inch display. The Nokia ClearBlack display is simply stunning. Deepest blacks, great contrast, brightness, and very good sunlight legibility makes the 808 a joy to use.
You might ask, What of the fact that it is only 360 x 640 pixels? Good question. Trust me: that lower resolution doesn’t mess anything up. I have compared it again and again with the higher resolution display of the HTC One X’s 720 x 1280 pixel, 4.7-inch display, and there is very little difference in terms of pixelation. To be honest, many times, the 808′s display just looks better.
The 808 offers multiple desktops, up to a maximum of six. However, I almost never use more than one desktop on any of my mobiles, so this is of no benefit to me.
Web, Gmail and Email
Gmail works fine on the 808. I set it up using Exchange, so I can sync my Google contacts and Google Calendar along with my email. I haven’t had a problem with it since setting it up.
I also have my work email set up on the device, running IMAP, and that has worked fine too. Attaching files and downloading attachments are no big deal on Belle OS, and give no issues whatsoever.
This is traditionally an area of strength for Nokia, and the 808 does not disappoint. The new Music Player has a tabbed interface that lets you switch through menus with ease. The tabs give you access to Artists, Album, Songs, Playlists, and Genres. There is album art, and when in landscape mode, there’s Cover Flow to spice things up.
There’s the option to play any song via FM Radio. This is an all-time favourite of mine on Belle devices, and I am delighted to have it back. I hope that Nokia puts this feature in their Lumia range. When I am out on the road, and stuck in Lagos traffic, or just driving through the countryside, there are fewer pleasures that I enjoy than pumping my music collection out through my car speakers directly from my phone. I don’t have to get a separate collection for in-car use. Once the 808 is with me, I’m good to go.
In addition, there is the option to play with Equaliser settings, as well as modify Balance and Loudness (separate from the regular volume adjustment). The Music Player provides song details too, and you can use any song as a ringtone.
On the Video front, the PureView has played every file type that I have thrown at it so far – everything. MP4, DivX, XviD, AVI, and MKV all check out. And because the 808 has really good audio quality and volume, the video playback experience is nice.
Of course, there is also an FM Radio in the mix. It does require the use of an external headphones for it to work.
Where multimedia disappoints on the 808 is in the Gallery and Video Editing applications. Options to select multiple items to send or share: Gone! The image editor is also less capable than what used to obtain on Belle OS in the Nokia N8. Also, the video editor is now a stripped down app for cropping/editing the time frame. I have read of hacks to install the suite of editors from the N8 on the 808, but no hacks for me please.
Boy, am I glad to have Nokia Maps back! Maps, voice guidance and offline access to it all. I plugged in the 808 to a PC and downloaded both maps and voice guidance files in a matter of minutes, and I was good to go. Nokia Maps is still the best all-round maps app on any mobile platform, and a vital resource if you do a lot of roaming by road.
How do I review the 808′s camera in a few words? Sigh.
This here is the darn best camera on any mobile phone ever produced. It beats the former king, the N8 by miles. Every other cameraphone is a pretender to the throne. No; it isn’t about just the megapixels. You see, besides the monster 41 megapixel resolution, there is the superb Carl Zeiss optics, 1/1.2″ image sensor, the poswerful Xenon flash, and then PureView technology that puts it all together to produce stunning, detailed images and features like loss-less digital zoom.
Is that a mouthful? Then don’t worry about it. Just remember that the Nokia 808 PureView is so light years ahead of the competition in terms of what the camera does. Simple. The 808 has comfortably beaten a Micro Four Thirds camera and even matched details of a DSLR. Yes; it is that good.
In use, the simple, thought out interface of the camera makes it a joy to use. There’s touch focus, slide-zoom, and customisable settings that allow you to save some settings down for use at any time.
Whether it is great landscape shots, low-light shots, close-ups, portraits, night shots in pitch darkness, or motion shots, the Nokia 808 PureView does not disappoint, and it does it in grand style. It delivers just as well for video recording, and there is also an LED light for shooting at night.
I will be giving a separate, more detailed review of how PureView technology and all the other features of the camera work to produce the great shots that the 808 is known for. Of course, I will be publishing sample shots too. In the meantime, you can check out my Low-light Photo Shoot between the HTC One X and Nokia 808 PureView.
I am devoting a separate chapter to this, so that you don’t miss it. In terms of built-in apps for social networking, the 808 is no different from previous iterations of Belle OS. There is only one word for it: FAIL. Nokia’s built-in “Social” app is slow and almost unusable for both Facebook and Twitter. No-one should have to use such a piss-poor app on a modern smartphone. No-one. It is without question the very worst part of Belle OS.
Luckily, there are much better third party alternatives for you to pick from in the Nokia Store. I guess that since this is the last Belle OS flagship, there is no point telling Nokia to throw this app in the trash bin. It has no future anyway.
Keeping things running smoothly on the 808 is a 1.3GHz processor, a GPU (graphics processing unit), and 512 MB RAM (which is a lot for Belle OS). The 808 runs smoothly for the most part, and in comparison tests with the Android quad-core beauty, the HTC One X, it matches in many tasks, but the most demanding where the quad-core processors make a difference.
If you are worried that the 808 would be sluggish, perish the thought. Don’t forget too that there is full multi-tasking. I am so glad that I can once again leave a web page open, go do a hundred things, and when I come back, it is still sitting there as I left it. On the One X, leaving a webpage open for that long and go doing a hundred other things means that when I launch the browser again, the page is reloaded afresh.
However it is that Android handles multi-tasking, I prefer how Belle OS does it. Much better, in my opinion.
The 1400 mAh battery regularly takes me through a full day of “normal” use, but falls short significantly if I do a lot of photography. Where the Xenon flash is in use, the battery is drained even faster. Normal use for me is on-going email, Twitter, WhatsApp, web browsing and the occasional SMS and phone calls.
The Nokia 808 PureView does all that I need really well. In my earlier first impressions article, I detailed how easy it was to set it up for my daily use in terms of installing required apps. The Belle apps ecosystem isn’t anywhere near what obtains on iOS and Android, but it has more than enough for my needs. I am sure that there will be those whose needs may not be so adequately covered. In which case, a competing platform would be suitable for them. I do find it interesting that new, cool apps are still being released for Nokia OS almost on a daily basis.
It all boils down to personal needs and wants. But if you want a modern smartphone that excels at the basics, and then delivers the best camera and multimedia experience on the planet, you cannot go wrong with the Nokia 808 PureView. This black dude is so good that I think Nokia is crazy not to market it a bit more. They sure can use the extra income.
The Nokia 808 PureView is a capable modern smartphone that ticks most of the boxes. It is the last of a great lineage of smartphones that once ruled planet EarthMobile. But it is a device that will hang around and be talked about for quite a while, because it is going to be hard to beat it in the areas that it excels.
Class: Flagship class smartphone. Score: 85%