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Nokia 808 PureView Full Review

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Symbian on the 808 is a far cry from the awkward and frustrating version than we first saw on the N8, never mind the unfortunate experience that was S60 5th Edition. Now simply Nokia Belle FP1, the software is more inline with what one expects from a modern smartphone, having a more consistent and fluid user interface, helped in part by the better hardware in the engine room. It is probably still a step or two behind today’s heavy-weights but I found using the 808 a more than palatable experience.

Highlights include the universal bottom toolbar, a thinner status bar and the “squircle” ‘surround’ icons. App developers are also encouraged to use these design guidelines so there is a pleasing consistency between system and third-party applications. The drop-down status bar is improved , now separating notifications from general events, like music player indicators. Toast notifications with limited time display are used as well, a nice touch. There is a greater set of widgets to fill up the six available homescreens, and I have to say that swiping across homescreens is fluid.

Remnants of Symbian’s legacy persist however. The status bar, while accessible to third-party apps, is apparently notoriously difficult to implement ,so very few apps have it. Others, like WhatsApp, will for example, display a new message icon, but drag down the drawer and there is nothing there. There is also duplicity. New messages and missed calls are indicated in the status bar and drawer, but their annoying intrusive pop up notifications persist. Email notifications are still conspicuous by their absence.

Text input on the 808 is hampered by one of those most awful virtual keyboards doing the rounds. The text correction is not very smart either and I actually found very little difference in typing with or without correction. Installing apps on the 808, particularly Qt applications, is a horrid experience. Nokia still utilizes the smart installer which checks whether all dependencies required are present on the device. Once this starts up, one might as well put the device down and do something else, as the smart installer dialogs remain front and center until the app is installed. The process is quicker than on older devices but for an OS that has long championed true multitasking this is poor. Imagine the situation where one queues several app updates!

The Symbian app ecosystem is not up to par with the competition for the broad range of users out there. I have a very simple set of applications I use and so get by comfortably and can switch platforms at will, but for the majority of users, the frustration of getting no return on search queries in the Nokia Store will be a source of frustration. It is a situation that is not likely to get better, and while third-party offerings for services like Evernote have popped up recently, there is a dearth of applications.

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By , Columnist, Johannesburg office

Published on Sep 24th, 2012 GMT +2

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