Look and feel
The Nokia 808 PureView is a bulky beast, with a lens that juts right out, but the phone looks smart and feels reassuringly weighty in the hand. Just be prepared to feel it dig into your thigh or ruin the lining of your bag
Ease of use
The Symbian OS is a lot more clunky and irritating than the competition, so anyone used to Android and other OSes will struggle at first. Thankfully the 808 PureView’s touch-screen is responsive and the camera controls are logically laid out
It’s all about that 41-megapixel camera. With impressive functionality and the ability to capture vivid, supremely sharp images, this is easily the best camera we’ve tested on a smartphone
The limited selection of games run fine, and we only noticed the occasional bit of slowdown when browsing through the 808 PureView’s menus
Impressive considering the tech. You can take hundreds of high-res photos before the battery whimpers, and you’ll easily get a full day of use from a single charge
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/28/2012 10:28:23 AM
Amazing camera, captures sharp Full HD video, strong battery life, decent performance
Clunky OS, irritating virtual keyboard, lack of apps, chunky build
When we first heard the Nokia 808 PureView would pack a 41-megapixel camera, we spat coffee all over our desk and tumbled off our chair in shock. Or maybe we simply raised an eyebrow, but either way we were certainly surprised. Phone cameras are mighty impressive beasts these days, with top-end smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X producing incredible shots, but surely 41 megapixels was a step too far? Would professional photographers want to downgrade to a phone, and would normal users benefit from such powerful technology?
We spent a long time testing out the Nokia 808 PureView's camera, so check out our full PureView camera review for our thoughts and lots of example photos. If you can't be bothered, let us sum up our verdict: it's bloody brilliant.
If you’re after a compact phone to fit in your slimline handbag or über-tight jeans, the Nokia 808 PureView isn’t the phone for you. That complex camera tech means the lens section juts out, giving a thickness of almost 14mm. You’ll definitely feel it in your pocket or jacket, unless you wear 80s-style baggy clothes. You’ll also find yourself fingering the lens when using the 808 PureView as a phone, which feels a little weird and covers it in pesky fingerprints.
That said, the PureView 808 is a smart-looking phone, with a glass panel coating the entire front of the handset. A Call/Home/Reject strip at the bottom is the only break in the glass. The rear of the PureView 808 is a matt white removable panel, which pops off to reveal the battery, SIM card and microSD slots underneath.
One of the biggest mysteries to us is why Nokia opted for its antiquated Symbian operating system (now over a decade old) for the PureView 808, instead of the fantastic Windows Phone OS. Nokia told us it stuck with Symbian because the camera functionality was built on top of it, but it’s the Achilles heel of this phone, responsible for almost everything that’s wrong with it.
Thankfully a recent update, known as ‘Symbian Belle’, has made the OS a little less clunky than it used to be. You get four desktops to fill with app shortcuts and a decent selection of widgets. These include a BBC News widget that gives you the latest headlines, quick-access buttons for your favourite contacts or websites, media tools and (of course) Facebook and Twitter widgets. However, the Symbian widgets are often uglier, more unwieldy versions of their Android counterparts. For instance, we struggled to delete them from our desktops until we discovered we had to drag them to the top of the screen and then hit the delete button, for some odd reason.
Mail and apps
Texting isn’t a joy either, due to the irritating virtual keyboard. We found we were constantly mis-typing words, with no auto-correct option in the menus. Button positioning is a little odd, with the backspace and return keys at the bottom, although we guess this will seem fine to anyone used to Symbian’s layout.
Setting up our mail was also a monumental pain. After entering our Gmail address, password and server details, we tried synching with no success – every time we received a ‘connection error’ message. We ended up on the Nokia Store searching for a Gmail app, only to find that there wasn’t one.
This lack of app support is Symbian’s other big problem. The Nokia Store has a total of 100,000 apps, a measly sum compared to the Android and Apple stores, which pack well over 500,000 each. That 100,000 figure also seems to include every wallpaper, song and video that users have posted up (we’d recommend more conservative users stay away from the video download section, as it contains quite a lot of titillating vids, sitting awkwardly alongside clips from The Muppet Show).
Also, while you'll find a handful of well-known games such as Angry Birds and Fruit Slicer on Nokia’s Store, they’ll each cost you at least a quid or two, unlike the free Android versions (which have built-in ads to cover development costs).
Fortunately you get some decent media apps pre-installed on the 808 PureView. The simple music and video players do their jobs without complaint, and you can play your tunes in the background while surfing the web or doing other things. However, you’re restricted to using the earphones bundled with the 808 PureView, as all of our personal earphones and headphones brought up an ‘accessory not supported’ message when plugged in.
You can stream videos online using the YouTube app, and we were impressed by the clarity of the 808 PureView’s four-inch display. The screen can’t quite match the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III for crispness, but the movies we watched were certainly sharp enough to enjoy and images were pleasingly vibrant. Viewing angles are excellent, with little colour loss as you tilt the display, while the strong maximum brightness means you won’t have to squint when using the phone outside.
Battery life is also impressive, considering the power on show. Used just as a camera, the 808 PureView happily took hundreds of photos as well as some video before it needed a recharge. Alternatively, if used purely as a phone, it lasted well over a day. Don’t stream any video or play any music and it could just about last two.
While there are a loyal legion of Symbian supporters out there, and we’re sure that you’ll get over many of the little quirks with extended use, it’s hard to ignore how clunky Nokia’s OS is compared to iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The lack of quality apps is a serious issue too. Still, there’s no denying the fantastic abilities of the 808 PureView’s 41-megapixel camera, which is easily the best we’ve tested. If your priority is a top quality snapper and you can overlook the software limitations (and chunky build), then the 808 PureView is well worth checking out.