Monthly Archives: September 2012

Living with Nokia N8 Belle in late 2012

Update 2014-01-20: I am not adding any more information to this article. Instead, I have started a new post: Living with Nokia N8 in 2014.

Update 2013-12-23: Still using my Nokia N8 with Belle – doing quite fine thank you 🙂

Update 2012-10-24: Installed Belle Refresh – no need to get separate Weather Widget anymore.

This autumn 2012 I use and enjoy my Nokia N8 – I am actually happier with it than ever. If you have a Symbian Belle smartphone and you are thinking about giving up on it, perhaps reading this post will change your mind.

Why Nokia N8 in the first place
I bought my Nokia in the summer 2011 (when my old feature phone was about to die). At that time the options were:

  • iPhone – my employer already supplied me with one, but I like to have a private phone too. iPhones have no FM Radio – a key feature for me.
  • Android – feels like the Windows 95 of phones: big market share, depends a lot on the OEM, lots of crappy applications, can do anything if you give it plenty of time to download software and configure it. I felt Android phones had a questionable upgrade path – and too much depended on the OEM, or me downloading and installing and configuring myself.
  • Nokia N9 – expensive, not on the market at that time, and a dead on arrival platform, unfortunately.
  • Windows Phone – too immature at that time, especially since I have very little patience with bad Microsoft quality

So, the Nokia N8 came out as a proven, stable, safe choice with some unique features (HDMI, decent camera, offline maps, etc). In principle I prefer “web” to “apps” and I dont really care much about apps.

Symbian and Nokia N8 since purchase
Symbian^3 was not pretty (with home screen shortcuts locked 4-and-4, and T9 keyboard in portrait mode) and Anna was much needed. However, Anna was both a big step forward, and a disappointment. With Belle, the N8 finally felt like a smartphone (free widget/shortcut placing, easy to turn on/off WIFI and mobile data, and more consistent and less like “home screens on top of S40”). But when Belle came out in the beginning of 2012 the Symbian platform was essentially dead, very few apps are developed. I have to say it died (even) faster than I expected. I believe Belle brought stability issues to many people too. I didn’t suffer from this at first, but more and more my N8 has grown slow, sluggish, apps crash and even the phone crashes.

Resetting the N8
At the time my N8 started crashing daily, I decided it was time for a fresh start, or it was coming to an end. So I did:

  1. Backup everything using PC suite
  2. Factory Reset (Settings->Phone->Phone Management->Factory Settings->Delete data and Restore
  3. Restore as little as possible from PC suite (Contacts, not Apps)

I actually did this twice. First I restored Apps; it was a mess and the phone was slow again. So I ended up just restoring my Contacts and Photos. This factory reset clearly made the phone faster and more stable.

Configure N8 Belle cleverly
Now, I wanted my phone to be fast and stable first. And it does not need to impress on anyone. I configured two home screens (instead of the 5 I had before).

First home screen:

  • Clock
  • Profile
  • 7 application shortcuts
  • Weather widget (see below)
  • FM Radio widget

Second home screen:

  • Email widget (that shows mail)
  • Twitter widget
  • Facebook widget (the small one-liner)

It is of course a pity to use just two homescreens when Belle allows so many but I believe it makes my N8 faster. Also, the normal app-view is quite quick, and much improved over Symbian^3 and Anna (which had a S40-like menu/app interface). The apps I dont open every day, I actually find them faster opening the application grid and scrolling, than swiping through all my home screens.

So, Belle brought much needed new and more powerful homescreens, but it also improved the standard interface, reducing the need for homescreens.

Applications
I use the Nokia Web Browser. I used to have both Opera Mobile and Nokia Browser, but since I go for simplicity I now only have Nokia. I made a new refreshed bookmarks list with up-to-date mobile sites. I found that mobile sites are better now than they used to be, even video often works. In this sense, the N8 is actually better now that when I bought it last year.

(This weather widget is standard with Belle Refresh, now available for N8)
There are different weather applications for Symbian, none of them really that good. With Belle FP1 (Feature Pack 1) a new weather widget was released, but FP1 never made it to N8 (I AM disappointed). But you can get the Nokia Weather Widget from the Beta Lab sites. It is the right thing todo – I used to have several weather apps not being happy with any of them. Now I just have this Weather Widget, and I am happy with it.

I listen not only to FM radio, but also to podcasts. I purchased Podmaster from the Nokia Store when Belle came out, and I still use it. Remember to search for all podcasts within the application (do not copy/paste links), and if you dont find what you are looking for, join gpodder.net and add your favorite podcasts there – then you can search for them in Podmaster.

I also found a tool called Funambol (you can get it in the Nokia Store for free) that synchronizes your contacts and more with a free cloud. They also have the sync tool for IOS, Android, Mac OS X and Windows. Best way to synchronize contacts in Belle?

To do tethering (sharing your 3G connection over WIFI) you need to download JoikuSpot. Not very cheap, for the premium version. But for occasional use the free version works.

Finally, I must advertise my own ParrotCopy for copying files between your N8 and your computer. Easy to use if you are familiar with TCP/IP, avoid otherwise 😉

Performance Problems
Is the N8 getting slow? Not just slow (because it is), but sometimes it appears/behaves froozen for not so short times, and simetimes you need a forced restart? One important factor is to have as much available space on C: as possible. It is really retarded that the Device comes with 16GB, and everything critical ends up on a little 256MB C-partition. I have 25Mb available on C. For me, the key was to get rid of that QuickOffice appliation.
(updated 2013-12-23)

Conclusion and summary
If you have an N8 (or similar device) that you have updated from Symbian^3 to Anna, and then to Belle, then chances are it will work better if you do a factory reset. Focus on a simple configuration – only use the best apps and the apps you need, dont exaggerate with home screens.

My N8 actually works pretty well for me now – better than ever. It is probably the last Nokia I ever buy, but if it dies tomorrow, I really have no idea what to replace it with.