I recently returned from a whirlwind trip that took me from my home in New York City to Europe, America’s Deep South, and then on to the beautiful islands of Hawaii. The reason I voluntarily travelled a total of about 18,000 miles? I was celebrating my marriage to Holly, and our trip was part “visit-the-family”, and part “let’s-honeymoon-like-it’s-1999!” Looking back it was a superb month of travel; the weather was great everywhere we went, it was great to catch up with old friends and family, and it was thoroughly enjoyable exploring new places, taking in the wonderful views and scenery. Incidentally, while in England I enjoyed a jolly pub meet-up with the smartphone Illuminati: Steve Litchfield, Rafe Blandford, Stephen Quin, James Honeyball, Richard Yates and Nirave Ghondia. Much was discussed around that table, and we put the smartphone world to rights I tell ya! Many a photo was taken of all the phones that were spread around various pints of beer (not really a safe combination!) I’m still waiting to see that picture of all those N9s and 808s together…
Now, I know what you’re going to say, you’re going to say, oh here we go again, another Symbian diehard, stuck in the past, who clings onto his .sis files and calls Steve Litchfield in the middle of the night to discuss homescreen widget updates. Well, no. All I’m going to do is describe how the Nokia 808 proved to me that despite my small fear that it wouldn’t be all that great beyond its modus operandi of being an outstanding camera unit, it was an absolute trooper throughout the entire trip. Obviously its heartiest pat on the back goes for capturing amazing photos and video clips that I will now cherish and look back over in years to come. But aside from the obvious, on a day-to-day basis, (with quite a heavy workload to deal with as well considering all that we were doing on the trip) the 808 PureView never let me down once.
The kinds of things I’m talking about are the kinds of things that any Nokia fan constantly appreciates: Nokia Maps and Drive, Opera Mini for fast web browsing on 2G (not everywhere has 3G/4G remember!), FM radio transmitter, superb always-on clock and notifications on the lock-screen thanks to ‘qooSaver’, ‘Situations’ for automatic Silent profile handling at night, and the usual raft of helpful, everday built-in apps and widgets such Notes, 2G/3G switcher, the removeable battery (more on that in a bit), and of course the ability to read the 808’s screen easily in very bright sunlight. There are other reasons, but the main one was the camera. Also with me was my Nokia N9, but because I was keen to take photos all day every day, it remained asleep in its case for the entire time.
The trip was the best I’ve ever taken. We were married in New York and then flew to London the very next day. A short week of catching up with family and friends while preparing for the second wedding ‘blessing’ and then we were off to Paris for a night. Back in London we soon flew out to Atlanta, GA where we visited more family, drove up to Tennessee to go explore the Jack Daniel’s distillery, before spending a few days in Alabama with Holly’s family. After that we flew to Phoenix, AZ for a night, before jetting off in the morning to Oahu, Hawaii. A couple of days there then led us on to Kauai, followed by Maui and then the Big Island, before a not-so-gruelling non-stop flight back to NYC.
During this entire time I was using the 808 to message people via Whatsapp, check on things in the Facebook world (although really, nothing beats the new Windows Phone 8 Facebook Beta app) delete tasks from my enormous to-do list, and all the usual smartphone stuff that people do. But here’s the thing: throughout the whole trip I never felt like I was carrying around a phone that was a good camera but a failure at everything else, just because Symbian now looks like Keith Richards. Yes, it’s ancient, no it’s not 1080p beautiful, but it just gets the job done, and does it well. Being busy with it all day would usually have me staring at the remaining battery percentage and thinking “I need to top-up! I need to top-up! It’s only at 82%!! Where’s my charger?!” But on this trip I had no worries at all, because as you know, the back of the 808 can be taken off, and the exhausted battery can be quickly replaced with a fresh one, and within about 60 seconds, you’re back up and running. Even with this back-up battery in my pocket, I have to say that I only used this switch-out method twice, after intensive use of the camera, in particular after recording a lot of video and taking numerous photos. By around 4pm I was getting down to about 20%, so rather than risk it, I switched out the battery for the evening’s activities and I knew I was all set. You have to remember to charge the first battery though, and without an external charger this is a very small annoyance because that back cover has to be pried off again. But it’s really nothing when you consider you’ve done so much with your phone and haven’t reached for a charging cable since you unplugged it at 6am. For situations like these busy days out and about, there’s a lot to be said for removable batteries, despite being able to charge on-the-go with gadgets like the Nokia DC-16 portable charger. It’s so much better to not have to have that dangling out of your USB port when you’re trying to text, take pictures or call!
Hotel wifi strength varied from place to place, as did network coverage of course too. In the UK we were on Three, and then back on T-Mobile when we returned to the States. The thing I found with the 808 (which is another tip of the hat to those Symbian engineers) is that it picked up wifi signals and 2G/3G network signals when occasionally, Holly’s Lumia 710 did not. “I haven’t got any signal, have you?” I was asked, and I would glance at the top of my 808’s screen to see perhaps two bars of weak 2G coverage, enough to send that all-important text I was about to finish. It speaks again of Nokia’s excellence when it comes to high-end smartphone hardware. I’m not knocking the Lumia 710 internals (I know nothing of phone components – they could all be the same as far as I’m concerned!) but when you know that the 808 was Nokia’s latest and last Symbian handset, and when you imagine conversations taking place that led to the Symbian team being allowed to go ‘all out’ when it came to specifications, you kind of expect the 808 to be absolutely top-notch in terms of connectivity (cellular radios, Bluetooth, etc).
For the most part, it was my 808 that sat on my lap while Drive told us how to get from A to B, and there were a lot of A to Bs! They great thing about Nokia Drive is that you can prepare ahead of time, so I had all of these maps downloaded onto my SDcard: England, Paris, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona, Hawaii. Of course the main advantage to this is you don’t have to worry so much about being online to search for addresses and routings. Saying that though, there were a couple of times when the Lumia 710 actually saved the day by finding obscure locations and routing us correctly, after my 808 just could not find the address, or rather place, we were looking for. For example, the Symbian system is very good, excellent in fact, but if you don’t know the street address of a particular spot but just know it’s called LennyBons Towers, there’s a more-than-slight chance Symbian will come back to with ‘No Results Found’ (and not just because LennyBons Towers doesn’t actually exist at all… or does it…)
Windows Phone however seems to hook into a better place of reference (I’m guessing Bing?) and so in a search LennyBons Towers might come up with an actual street address and then Drive does the rest. With my 808, if a place name alone didn’t produce any results, I would try again later on when I then knew the street address, and hey presto, it would find it without a hitch.
But again, that’s one thing that you could add to the list of reasons why people might want to switch away from Symbian – it’s possibly just not getting those updates within the map program that the Lumias are getting, so if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, you might need that extra little bit of capability.
Oh, and the reason we didn’t use Holly’s 710 the whole time while on the road? Well, there isn’t much room left on her 8GB internal storage to download all of the maps I mentioned.
If I’ve sounded too harsh on Symbian’s map and drive efforts here, let me balance it out: the one thing I absolutely love about Symbian’s version of Drive is that once your journey is underway and you’ve got 70 miles to drive before the next exit or turn or whatever, you can safely flick the 808’s screen off and place the phone in a cup holder. If you then forget that you’re supposed to take Exit 22B after 70 miles, you don’t have to worry, because even with the screen off, Drive is merrily working all the time in the background, so Derek (our chosen name for the voice-guidance guy) will cheerfully and loudly interrupt your argument about how many Kona Longboard beers you drank the night before, and will tell you that “after 2 miles, keep left and take the exit”. Brilliant, and not something that occurs when you turn the screen off on the Lumia 710. Maybe it’s a Windows Phone 7 thing, but when you turn that screen off, the phone thinks, “Oh goody! Nap time!” and does nothing. Exit 22B would have been missed, and we would have started arguing about something else entirely!
So enough of this about comparing Lumia with Symbian. The latter has had its heyday, and it’s nice that it can still do the job it was meant to do, and then some. It’s not hugely “better” than WP8 at this point, but it certainly doesn’t mean that simply because the 1020 is out now, my 808 should go on eBay for $50. The 1020 doesn’t have a few of the great features the 808 does have, and ones which I use. For example, on returning home, I hooked up my HDMI cable from my 808 to my large HD TV to enjoy some of the pictures I had taken. Of course I was going to extract them onto my computer and upload them to Flickr, etc. but what a cool and quick way to see a few snaps of the holiday, and in HD too. If you’d like to see some of my Hawaii photos taken with the 808, head here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyhagon/sets/72157635139352793/
Driving around the islands of Hawaii when radio signal went from awesome to awful in the space of about two minutes, meant that the FM transmitter was used for nearly every journey we took, when it seemed absolutely essential to listen to ‘Florence and The Machine’ each and every time. Hmm.
But of course as someone once said, the best camera is the one you have with you, and the one I had with me was the 41MP sensor-equipped Nokia 808 PureView. I enjoyed playing around with various settings in both the camera and video modes. Below I have chosen a few of my favourite photos from the trip. I should point out that nearly every photo I took was in 8MP PureView mode, but at times I was tempted to go full-res and I did take plenty of 38MP shots too. I also chewed through my SDcard with lots of 1080p video clips, and 360p clips where I could zoom in to capture the mosquito on a sailor’s arm who was on a boat 3 miles away from the beach I was on. OK, a slight exaggeration there, but the video zooming capabilities of the 808 (and probably the 1020 too?) are extraordinary.
And if you’re wondering about this post’s title – 808 is Hawaii’s telephone area code. ;^)
In summary, it was an awesome trip, and my 808 was awesome. There. Done. Cheers!