- Symbian OS combined with plenty of RAM (128 MB) – the amount of RAM was one of the main problems with the previous Symbian phone I used (the E50)
- Decent 5 megapixlel camera with autofocus and flash
- Great video camera, 640×480
- Wifi, 3G and HSDPA
- Acceptable size for its functionality
To most readers with some knowledge of the iPhone’s specs, it’s probably easy to see why I went with the N82 instead of the iPhone. As I see it, these are the main differentiators between the N82 and the iPhone:
Camera: The N82, with its 5 megapixels, VGA video recording and flash can act as a compact camera when my SLR is out of reach. You can’t do that with 2 megapixels, no autofocus and no flash or camera light.
Wireless connection options: The N82 supports 3G and HSDPA, meaning you can get a theoretical 3 megabits of bandwidth to the phone. The iPhone maxes out at 230 kbits. Also, the iPhone doesn’t support wireless stereo headsets over Bluetooth A2DP.
Openness: On the N82, you can install any Symbian or Java ME application you want to. Personally, I am a big fan of Opera Mini and Google’s mail application.
Media playback: The iPhone synchs easily with your computer (iTunes, that is), and has a huge screen, great for video playback. Getting video onto your N82 is cumbersome in my experience. It is always nice to be able to connect the phone as a USB mass storage device and drag and drop content on it, but that doesn’t take care of video conversion for you. The tools Nokia provide for that purpose are not really a match for iTunes at this point.
User experience: You can do pretty much anything with the N82, but the interface isn’t very impressive. For instance, some screens can be rotated and seen in landscape mode, some cannot (i.e. the Video Centre and the main screen). Also, the traditional phone keypad is no match for the touch screen of the iPhone. In my opinion, the combination of OS X software and the touch screen makes for an unbeatable user experience (or it would, if Apple added a few more real buttons for things like taking a photograph).
Radio: The N82’s got one. I can see no reason why my phone shouldn’t be able to play FM radio, and I enjoy having the option to tap into fresh, unbuffered content whenever I like.
GPS: Having GPS on your phone is just plain neat. Over the last three weeks, I have used it for finding parties twice – not bad, and it is also OK for in-car navigation. I believe the route finder/navigation is only free for the first 90 days, though – not so good. Still – you will be able to use the GPS with third-party apps such as Google Maps.
N82 weaknesses and conclusion
The N82 is a computer, a camera, a radio, a MP3 player, a GPS, an internet device – stuffed with functionality. On the other hand, the iPhone is very slick phone + media player. It is also good as an internet device, but to me, Mobile Safari is useless outside of WiFi zones – it is too slow and too expensive, whereas using Opera Mini on a N82 results in the web nicely formatted for a small screen and compressed to size that’s healthy for my phonebill.
The N82 does have a few weaknesses.
Transferring media to the phone is slow if you use the Nokia micro-USB cable. It feels more like USB 1.1 than USB 2.0 – I’d estimate that moving over 60 megabytes takes about a minute. Still, as long as I am not transferring huge amounts, I don’t bother with a SD card reader. (I sometimes use Bluetooth to move an album or two of MP3s across – it is perfectly doable if you have the time to spare.)
While we are on media transfers – I would like it to sync with iTunes as well as any iPod can. It seems Nokia is working on this, at least on the Mac platform. I haven’t taken the time to check out their offering yet, but something good is cooking.
The battery life is barely acceptable. If you use it like I do – music and the web en route to work, calling and music while at work interspersed with radio, the occasional photograph on some days and a barrage of video and photography at parties, some wifi while I am at home, you will need to charge it every night.
I expected the phone to work with 8 GB microSDHC cards, but I can’t find confirmation that it works with anything bigger than 4 GB, which is a shame. Update April 2009: My N82 works fine with a Sandisk 8gb MicroSDHC.
The design is inferior to that of the iPhone, although it is not bad. The same goes for the user interface, which is actually quite responsive for a smartphone. I would have liked it to have dedicated buttons for play/pause, next/previous, in addition to buttons for volume up/down, gallery and shutter.
Finally, I have found it to be less stable than it should be. I estimate that I have experienced 2-3 total freezes or soft reboots per week while I have been using this phone. Now, I am probably a pretty extreme user – freezes are most common when I use the GPS as well as the music player while running Opera or the NetFront browser and more in the background, but still – the phone should handle those usage scenarios. (Caveat – I don’t think I have the latest firmware for the phone – haven’t been able to upgrade yet.) Update April 2009: With the latest firmware, my phone is quite stable – on average it crashes once a month, and keep in mind that I’m a heavy user.
If you need (or want ;) ) all the functionality the N82 can offer – it is definitely worth getting. If what you need is a phone and a media player, the iPhone will probably make you a happier person. But I can tell you – when surfing the web, reading the mail, checking out the great, flash-enabled party photos, navigating with GPS and listening to music, all at the same time, using the N82 elevates me to geek nirvana and makes me feel like this is at least May 2008. And that is awesome.