Blog Post

Nokia N800 does what iPhone doesn't

With all that attention being given to iPhone, it is easy to overlook the fact that Nokia was one of the first to introduce an Internet tablet device, as a companion to its cell phones. They have just released a new version of their operating system, Tablet OS 2007, that has some cool new features:

* Support for Skype. (My post about how important Skype is for Nokia N800.)
* Adobe Flash browser plug-in, for watching videos on the go.
* Supports up-to 8GB memory cards.

Well those are three things Apple’s iPhone can’t do for now… amongst many other things. You can download it from here (link) and learn how to install on your PC, Linux, and Mac. Let us know how your experience goes. This is my weekend project.

40 Responses to “Nokia N800 does what iPhone doesn't”

  1. All I know is that I love my Nokia N800.

    I bought it without ever having owned a tablet or palm device before and I found it extremely easy to use and very intuitive.

    I do have to disagree with the people above though, people are fascinated by this thing. My wife and son are always trying to sneak off with it, strangers at coffee shops always ask me about it, and I have a hard time getting it back from people who want to try it.

    I have found dozens of uses for it, many more than what I have read online. If you really get creative you’d be amazed what it can do.

    I have never been happier with a gadget than I am with my N800.
    Is it a cell or laptop replacement? No. But if get one you’lL quickly see how it fills the gap between them in ways you never realized could be so useful.

    I will say that both Skype and Gizmo Project work great on this thing, flash 9 works very well, and if you install a few simple programs it is even better. For example Mplayer, Gaim, Canola, Camera (program), Rhapsody and Quiver. By the way, the upgrade was easy, the instructions at Maemo were very easy.

    Also, this thing is durable. My son is only 5 and he’s dropped it at least a dozen times, the N800 is unscathed.

    I like to plug my N800 into my Samsung Home Theater System (has USB) and play music through my home theater speakers. With Rhapsody it’s like having an internet jukebox on my home stereo.
    Also, I can use it as an mp3 player the same way. With Bluetooh I can even send mp3s, pictures, and videos on my computer to the N800 while its connected to my home theater system and watch videos or even a slideshow on my tv.

    LOVE the N800.

  2. Nokia N800 is wonderful, but I think it’s far from being comparable to the iPhone. The User Experience of the N800 is not at the same level of the iPhone. The features that you mention are not so “cool” to convince people to choose it in place of the iPhone.

  3. the i-phone is supposed to drop in price right around christmas, and special christmas plans are going to be available for cing/att.

    I am either going to wait until then or switch to Helio’s Ocean, especially since they are allegedly paying people’s early termination fees for them to get out of their plans early and switch.

  4. William

    Doesn’t the N95 already do all of these things? Sure it’s expensive upfront, but it has HSDPA, wi-fi and can handle adobe, etc…. and you can pick your own carrier ad plan. the 5M pixel camera’s not bad either

  5. I actually went to a Nokia store to play with the 800 a while ago, having read about it and thinking, that device really sounds great — it would be a shame if iPhone gets all the hype, and Nokia’s made a killer product. But after trying it out for a while, I couldn’t really reach that conclusion. It just wasn’t an approachable device. I couldn’t readily discover how any of the functions worked — there were a lot of buttons in non-intuitive places, and things you thought you should be able to do with a stylus that you could only do with the keys, and vice versa. And nothing really appealing about the design. It was nice, sure, but not something you’d want to crowd around. People in the Nokia store, the few that were there, were more interested in the cameraphones.

    Contrast that to the iPhone, where days after the launch, people were three deep around the displays in the stores. Everyone I saw who picked one up, kids, geeks, teenagers, middle-aged well-to-do types, seemed to instantly find most of its features and start having fun with it.

    Few in the industry got that before Apple — Palm and Danger had been some of the only examples of approachable phones (and BlackBerry for the business market), and nearly all of them were made by people who were Apple UI disciples (which I’m not sure I can say about Nokia).

    Nokia may have the hardware to compete with Apple — but with the realities of overhauling a UI as flawed as theirs, it could be years before they have something half as fun and easy to use as what the iPhone already is.

    How everyone else can compete in the meantime: keep giving those phones away, and adding more features for the geeks. But a lot of consumers are going to do what I’m doing: using my phone til it wears out, since it works just fine for the main things I need (calls and SMS), and when it’s time to get a new one, I’ll definitely be considering an iPhone, whether its with my current carrier or not.

  6. metroxing

    Nokia as with the other cell phones are great at cramming in features but actual usability? Not very much. Honestly, the interface is crap and they leave out one crucial feature – no human seems to have used the phone before they released it.

    I know lots of people think Apple needs to be knocked down a peg or two but the honest truth is they are always 98% within target of making it simple – what other comapny during a massive hype launch dares to offer a webpage listing instore inventory so you don’t waste a trip if they are OS? ONLY APPLE.

  7. I love my N800 for reading in bed, and leaving on the coffee table for quick lookup.

    Sure, I have my Curve on me all the time, and it has a solid browser for wikipedia lookups, etc, but the Nokia’s screen is much nicer.

    Now all I need to do is get the bluetooth dial up networking to work between the Nokia and my Curve (still can’t get it to work at this point), and I may actually start carrying the N800 around, rather than leaving it at home, where I know it will have wifi.

  8. Oh, and FWIW, I think micro/minitablets like the N800 have more of a future as a location-specific device (household remote control / interface / web browser / book reader / etc ) than as a mobile device. Note that this may indeed include skype-ish functionality, as a step between your mobile phone and your desktop PC – more mobile than your desktop, more powerful than your cellphone. You don’t plan on carrying it 24×7, so the larger form-factor is acceptable – but you want something you can deal with one-handed, so your laptop seems a bit too large and clunky.

  9. Obligatory Openmoko / FIC Neo1973 reference. It should at least keep the carriers from being able to screw us so hard. The one coming out on Monday won’t have WiFi though; have to wait until (at least) October for that.

  10. Just loaded it up Om, and it’s pretty cool all round. Skype loaded up beautifully although I haven’t had a chance to make any calls yet, and YouTube plays surprisingly well via WiFi. A little longer to buffer and a few pixelated areas in fast motion, but very watchable (and much more watchable than on a mobile handset). If only Nokia would put an HSDPA SIM in this thing, it would be awesome. I still think the on-screen keyboard and browsing experience is second to none. A great upgrade.

  11. Charbax wrote: “Nokia should learn a thing or two from Archos in my opinion concerning multimedia support and build the N900 based on DSP+ARM core instead of ARM-only.”

    This is completely wrong. The N800 is using the Texas Instruments OMAP 2420 chip, which has a ARM11 and a DSP, and Nokia is definitively using, just look at the quality of the fullscreen Mpeg4 playback it can do.

  12. I’ve had my N800 for months and my iPhone for a few days. The iPhone has already had more use. No way the N800 is a “consumer” device. Coolio for geeks, and maybe Skype (and later WiMAX) will enhance its appeal a bit, but the interface needs a lot of sorting out.
    Nokia had a big presence at Web 2.0 Expo a few months back, so they’re trying to get developers interested.
    I just slogged through the upgrade. When they say “First, back up your data” they should add “…and settings”. auuugggh. So, I’ve reset my email accounts and downloaded Skype. Chat works, voice works very nicely…but where is video?
    For all the problems at least the N800 is “open” (battery, SD storage, apps, etc). I was going to eBay this N800 but with Skype finally here I’m going to give it some more time, if nothing else to signal to Apple that you don’t have me hooked 100%.

  13. Oh, one other thing. If anyone else is considering the N800, Engadget has a great round-up of reviews:

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/25/nokia-n800-internet-tablet-review-roundup/

    And, Ars Technica talks about games on the N800 (which is something I am interested in doing with it):

    http://arstechnica.com/journals/thumbs.ars/2007/05/24/n800-gaming-overview

    Looks like the game situation currently is limited to chess, go, nethack, and a few others, but that’s not too bad for starters.

  14. Good point, Om. I too have been looking at the Nokia N800 as an alternative to the iPhone.

    The N800 is much cheaper ($400 vs. ~$2000 over two years) and does not require a two year contract for service.

    Of course, the N800 only works over WiFi for data and voice, so I’d need to think that I would use the iPhone mostly for data instead of traditional voice cell phone calls and that I wouldn’t want the option of the broader coverage of the Edge cellular network (which, from reviews, appears to be too slow to be usable anyway).

    I haven’t pulled the trigger yet on buying a N800. I’d be curious what you think, Om, after you have had a chance to play with it more.

  15. nerdbrain

    The thing Malik and others who write about iPhone alternatives don’t do is actually give a point for point comparison of devices. So he doesn’t mention how Flash works on the device of this size, say how much the device will cost after buying the extra features (extended memory), what the Skype experience is like, etc. I’m constantly disconcerted by this type of tech journalism – one that merely focuses on the feature list of a given device, rather than the overall package and implementation.

    I guess as long as this “feature fiend-ism” continues we won’t be having any real discussions about actual product usefulness or overall user experience. But this is very important, and is why I think Apple went through the trouble of building it’s own stores. There you can get your hands on the product and “experience” what it would be like to own it. Jobs said as much himself (with regards to why they rolled out the Stores – ‘it was all leading up to iPhone’.

    Lastly, as a person of Malik caliber should know, it’s not always what you put in that makes a product a winner. It’s how it works. It what separates good cooks from great chefs. In England there are countless devices with feature the length of your arm, but when you go to your carrier, guess what you get, a “Talk and Text” package – and a phone half-crippled by the network to “protect its various revenue streams”. These are things that “feature fiends” don’t take into account.

  16. I’m wondering if the reason Nokia is not pushing the N800 more if due to conflicts of interest with the cell carriers.

    What would you think if you discovered that the #1 phone maker in the world was producing an alternative to the cell phone and pushing it.

    Would you still distribute their cellular products?

  17. Siamak

    Om, once you have had a chance to play with the new firmware, please let us know, when you get a chance, how much improvement there is in playback of videos on YouTube.

    Thanks in advance.

  18. Charbax

    i think you got a point there. it could be an interesting twist to the whole situation. i think more carriers might be looking for another option to compete with iPhone.

  19. What Nokia should really do is add HSDPA in the N800, that would make it a great always-online VOIP solution for a start, then Nokia should learn a thing or two from Archos in my opinion concerning multimedia support and build the N900 based on DSP+ARM core instead of ARM-only.

  20. I’m quite sure that the Nokia N800 is not powerfull enough to play videos from sites like Youtube smoothly, even with the new firmware update. The only product that supports Youtube/GoogleVideo/Dailymotion flash video in full screen is the Archos 605 WiFi which is going to be released next week.

  21. Amen to that. I would assume that with their experience they could do so much more with this device. anyway i think we are pretty close to the dawn of the mini-tablet age.

    i think apple has changed the game, and nokia can actually leverage it to make a better business case for it.

  22. The problem is the Nokia has no cache, no intrigue, no excitement. They didn’t do any real marketing for the device to create public interest…plus there is not a Nokia clan like there is an Apple clan. The best device doesn’t always win…sometimes its the best packaged device that wins.