10 reasons to get excited about the Nokia N8

Move over Apple, Nokia isn't ready to give up its market share leading position just yet. After two failed flagship smartphone attempts -- the N97 and N900 -- Nokia has cued up the drool-worthy N8 for third quarter release. I'm suddenly excited about a Nokia handset again, and you should be, too. The N8 might also be the Nokia handset to crack the US market.

Nokia is leaning on its strengths in hardware innovation, while improving software and services. The handset manufacturer has long excelled at hardware, whereas Apple does much better with software. For example, Nokia shipped cell phones with great cameras years before Apple sold one iPhone. But Nokia has struggled to extend steller photo and video capabilities into the capacitive touchscreen era.

The N8 may change all that. Apple watchers might want to watch this Nokia smartphone, which should be available around the same time as or soon after the next iPhone. Now for those reasons:

1. Symbian^3. American bloggers may pine for iPhone OS 4, but Symbian is a maturer mobile operating system. Symbian^3 is all about social connections and capable widgets running in the background (not makeshift multitasking like the iPhone).

2. 12-megapixel camera. Nokia N-Series cameraphones are legendary for quality optics and sensor size. Nokia Conversations posted the first sample photos yesterday, and they are simply stunning and unedited straight from the handset. Click through the pics to the full-size images to see the detail captured and surprising low amount of distortion for a camerphone -- or many compact digital cameras. (My daughter has the same bike, but in red.)

Nokia N8 camera sample

Sample image from Nokia N8 smartphone. Click thru for full size.

3. Xenon flash. Nokia aficionados have debated N-Series flash since release of the N82, which packed Xenon rather than the typical single- or dual-LED. Old as the N82 is, Nokia fan sites continue to do flash and image quality comparisons between the cameraphone and newer N-Series smartphones. The N82 remains the gold standard for Nokia image quality, although the N8 promises much more.

4. 720p video. Now that YouTube supports HD, 640x480 simply isn't good enough. Apple's fourth-generation iPhone is rumored to have 720p, too. But will Apple's smartphone have Carl Zeiss optics and big sensor (for a handset)? The sample video below simply stunned me. It's simply the best quality I've seen produced by any cameraphone and most compact digital cameras.

Nokia N8 camera sample

Another sample image from Nokia N8. Click thru to see amazing facial detail.

5. Support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Nokia has shortchanged American users for way too long. Most handsets support AT&T 3G frequencies, while there is limited support for T-Mobile (Nuron and N900). The N8 adds support for the 1700MHz band, which along with 2100MHz, would allow the smartphone to use T-Mobile 3G. Could this be the Nokia smartphone that either US carrier carries at a reasonably affordable subsidized price?

6. Five colors. Kodak pioneered the five-color gadget concept during the late 1920s among several series of compact film cameras. Apple brought the five-color concept to new millennium gadgets with the iPod mini and later the iPod nano. Nokia will apply the concept to smartphones, with the N8, which will be available in black, silver, green, orange and blue. What's not to like about that?

7. Capacitive display. Apple popularized smartphone capacitive touchscreens (which respond to electrical impulses in the fingers), while Nokia largely stuck with resistive touchscreens (which require physical touch). Too few Nokia handsets ship with capacitive displays today. Nokia is a latecomer, and it's about time that one of the company's flagship phones used capacitive instead of resistive touchsreen.

Nokia N8 first HD video sample from Nokia Conversations on Vimeo.

8. HDMI. Given the 12-megapixel camera and 720p video capture capabilities, HDMI output is a sensible necessity.

9. Unified social networking. Already, Nokia's newer smartphones offer some of the best social networking features available on any handset. Apple is behind in this area in part because of its applications focus and iPhone's stunted multitasking. HTC also offers great out-of-the-box social with its Sense UI. Motorola's MotoBlur is another social-networking skin, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 also offers social connections. N8 promises to be the social ladder climber of the summer (at least until the next, great smartphone announcement comes from somewhere else). As for iPhone, third party developers will have to do what Apple hasn't.

10. Price. Nokia has priced the N8 at €370, unsubsidized. At today's exchange rate, that's about US $486. The N8 looks to be Nokia's lowest-cost flagship smartphone ever. Unsubsidized, the 16GB N8 would cost about $110 less than what Apple charges carriers for the 16GB iPhone 3GS. However, to be truly competitive with iPhone 3GS or Android-based smartphones, Nokia needs subsidized US carrier distribution.

Regardless, photo and video capture quality promise to make the N8 a reasonable replacement for digital camera and pocket videocam. From that perspective, there is plenty of potential value in the one device to replace others. Oh, yeah, the N8 makes phone calls, too. :)

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