An Unexpected Journey from N8 to 820 and the End of Orange Panthers

The back of a black Nokia 820 
In late November last year the flash memory of my Nokia N8 disappeared after it crashed. It had managed 20 months of being my stereo, camera, mobile PC, torch and now and then as a telephone. It had been fantastic despite having an operating system on death row. I was able to sync multiple email accounts and view and share from Feedly via the excellent gNewsReader app. Web browsing was its greatest weakness compared to more modern smartphones but the Opera browser did a brilliant job of speeding it up.

Its great strengths were the amazing camera, the battery and music, especially as a stereo if used with either Deezer or Spotify. With my Orange contract I got free Deezer Mobile which meant I could sync Deezer tracks and my own MP3 to the phone via the cloud before the iCloud existed. It also had great audio and an FM transmitter as well as a DAB headset and app.

However without the flash memory it was not a lot of use but it was still within its 2 year warranty and so off it went via UPS (eventually) to Nokia. They were very quick to respond to say it had arrived and a week later I got another email but it was blank. The next day however a package arrived but it was not my old N8 or even a new one but a Nokia 820 Windows phone....

I did ring up and see if I could also get the old N8 back for sentimental reasons and because I could have still used it as a DAB radio but it had already been recycled. I now had the phone I thought I probably would have got in three months time and I figured I would be able to save cash when renewing with Orange by getting a less sophisticated back up phone.

I am mostly very happy with the 820. On Wikipedia it quotes Stuart Miles from Pocket-Lint.com:

"This is the phone Nokia should be putting all its efforts into promoting. Agreed it isn’t the flagship and agreed the camera isn't nearly anywhere as good as on the 920, but this is a phone you'll be happy to use, a phone you'll enjoy using, and besides a lack of third-party apps at the moment, a phone that for many people will be a fantastic phone they will enjoy for the next two years."

The camera is only 8 mp compared to the N8's 12 which did take brilliant pictures but the 820 does do a great job. As with many other smartphones the pictures do not capture the image as realistically as the N8 but some of the trickery does produce some interesting results. Check out the slideshow below of images taken by our Cultural Correspondent (Film and Theatre) of London town. There are now a number of Lumia phones with superior cameras so just imagine what they might achieve with the mighty 1020..



For the flashless you can view the images here

The major improvement over the N8 is web browsing and especially the screen size and display quality. Against an iPhone 4S page loading fractionally slower but the screen size and better display make it quite a lot better all round on a wifi connection. Out and about and if you have a 4G contract it would also be faster that a 4S when connected to 4G. It also looks great in an understated way (in black at least) more modern than an iPhone but not as big as other high end smartphones and with no bulges like its big brother the 1020 or the N8.

The start screen with its tiles is also great and the way they can be "live" as well as the stuff you can add to your lock screen and glance screen. All in all I do think it is the most user friendly and sophisticated compared with Android and IOS. Compared to the N8 another big improvement is the speed at which applications open especially the likes of Deezer.

Also on my start screen are linked email boxes, which includes Google+ via Gmail, Facebook (the moon image) and Feedly via the Nextgen Reader and they all work brilliantly. Nextgen Reader is one of only two apps I have paid for though you don't have to as it now has an "unlimited ad-free trial" there is also Phonely which is free but with ads so will use a bit more battery but is just as good. Facebook is my "Me" tile so it can show Twitter and Outlook updates as well and is great for viewing Facebook without any ads or branding (see below). They are all also "live" tiles but I only really allow them to be live when connected to wifi at home as they use up battery and my mobile data allowance....

As a long term Nokia Symbian user I am used to not having to constantly charge my phone and compared to the N8 the 820 does seem to have less standby time but web browsing, video watching etc does not drain the battery as quickly. Also if I switch on battery saver then the standby time becomes similar, though it does not turn itself on for an alarm like the N8 so it has to stay on over night if an alarm is set. It is however pretty easy to turn off the mobile connection which I have put together in the App Folder you can see on my start screen. There are a number of battery apps that show your remaining battery on your start/lock and now glance screen and I have settled on Flashlight (the green on button) that gives you a brilliant flashlight with a simple battery monitor that will not consume much battery. It and other battery monitors do need to be connected to the internet to rundown properly though. Also you cannot and the Battery Saver setting as a tile or add it to App Folder but you can add it as a tile if you download WP Toolbox along with a few other things like a Send E-Mail pin. The tile with the large and small star is Chrync which is essential if you use Google Chrome as your main browser. It syncs your bookmarks, history, passwords and tabs and works very well though it would be great if the sync could be two way.

Finally the larger tiles I have are large for practical reasons, with calendar so I can see reminders etc and with the alarm so I can see the time set and with the FM radio so I can see the station preset. Below what you can see on the left is my largest tile for the Met Office weather app. It has ads but it has been brilliant and has some great features. I could have my contacts and latest pictures floating around on a large live tile and it looks great but also just is a bit of a waste of battery power.

The main purpose of my "phone" however is as a stereo and here the 820 does not match the N8. It does not have the option to use the DAB radio headset and does not have an FM transmitter so I now have to plug in my kitchen radio etc.

Deezer  Windows phone app
Both Deezer and Spotify do work as apps very well. They are very slick and look great and link up to the phone controls brilliantly - they are in a way not like apps more like a very sophisticated feature. However there is one major drawback over the N8, Android and iPhone and that is I cannot sync offline to an SD card and the Phone memory is just 8GB meaning that I am limited to around 3GB of storage for offline files. It is around 1000 tracks so not so bad but I can see it being annoying in a couple of years when much more of the new music I will have discovered will only be available to me via streaming. I hope that Microsoft and Deezer etc will have sorted it out by then.(they have with the 8.1 update) In the meantime I will be adding the MP3s I do have onto the SD card. Though even doing this is not as easy as with the N8 as a Windows 8 phone does not sync with Windows Media Player on a Windows Vista machine. So after 4 years of wirelessly syncing MP3s to my phone, first using my home broadband network with Spotify and then via any internet connection with Deezer, I now have to plug in and copy and paste and I can not move my Windows Media Playlists onto the phone, however this would not be a problem with a Win 7 or 8 or I presume modern Mac. The app data storage would also be less of an issue with higher spec Lumia's from the 925 upwards as they have at least 16GB flash memory.

I did look for a 3rd party solution and do have Smart Player with which I can view, play and download any files on my home network but it can only download one file at a time at present. Also can move files to and from your phone, Youtube and Soundcloud to SkyDrive and Google Drive.

Update: I have since found File Manager with which you can download multiple files from various online services onto your phone. The trial version only lets you connect to one service but has no time limit. So if you don't have a Windows 7/8 PC or a Mac it is great if you want to download lots of files wirelessly - they just need to be uploaded first to OneDrive etc first. With Windows 8.1  Deezer and Spotify data can be stored on the SD card and so they can be used to wirelessly upload and then play your own MP3's.

On the plus side internet radio is much easier to access than on the N8 thanks to the Radio Player app and Episodic* which allows you to listen again to BBC radio offline for £1. It actually predated this function on the iPhone/Android iPlayer app. Also unlike other smartphones it has an FM radio so I can pin what Damon Albarn wants streamed into his coffin to my start screen and use very little battery and no internet allowance. Playing video online is also much better especially the sound quality. There are some great third party apps for Youtube and Soundcloud  (Audiocloud for searching and streaming add free and Music+ for listening offline) which again integrate brilliantly into the phone system. The sound quality through speakers or the headphone is also as great as the N8 and I hope that the headphone are more robust than the ones supplied with the N8.

UPDATE*Sadly Episodic, along with many other 3rd party BBC radio apps no longer works due to the BBC changing the format of downloads. So I am now reliant on the very poor app from BBC which only allows streaming - and I have to put the app in background for it to actually start playing, which then closed the app and so fast-forwarding becomes impossible.....hopefully Windows 10 will sort out this one last issue - as all the apps should work on any Windows 10 device.

The main drawback cited for Windows phone is the lack of apps compared with Apple and Android, but I do think there is more than enough now to cover the needs of most normal adults and you also get the best maps/sat nav available on mobile along with other great built in Nokia apps and all the Microsoft Office software.

One other drawback for UK residents is the BBC iPlayer app which does not allow for offline viewing. This is a bit of a disgrace from a public body but hopefully they and Microsoft can sort it out soon as 10% and growing of smartphone owning licence payers should be allowed the same service as everyone else. Though with the savings I am making with the 820 over say a top end Samsung I could easily buy an iPad to watch catch up telly or play every possible game but I am from the North and so I have a lot more sense.

The 820 is now hard to get hold of but you can get some great deals a 925 (better camera 16 GB Flash memory so much better for app data storage and faster than a iPhone 4S) or a 625 (very similar to the 820 but quite a bit bigger with a bigger screen but less power and a smaller camera) and for very little a month a 520 (though I would hold out for a 525 or get a Samsung Galaxy Mini III) at buymobiles.net and their sister site phones.co.uk with instant cash back or months of free line rental with redemption.  I am still only paying £15 a month after claiming the redemption which require being organised but it has gone very smoothly.

In fact since I begun this opus it has come to pass that Orange will cease to to offer swappables from 31/1/14. So Deezer as with Spotify would then cost an extra £10 per month so if you don't have long left on your current contract and fancy free Deezer for two years get in there while you can. I just have ordered 7 weeks early from buyanymobiles.net a Samsung Galaxy SIII mini for £11.96 per month with redemption as an additional line (until my current contract runes out) and as a back phone to the 820. It is slightly less still at Phones.co.uk but I also got a free "KitSound™ Hive Wireless Portable Stereo Speaker"

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