Nokia today introduced its new smartphone, the N8, the first based on the Symbian 3 operating system. It’s got a great 12Mp Carl Zeiss camera, social messaging widgets and Ovi Maps. Symbian 3 allows for user-selected home screens, multi-touch and gesture support and improved UI, graphics and speed through its Broadcom graphics and 680MHz processor. So far, so good. But what we really want to know is, how does it handle video?
As we’ve mentioned previously, Nokia has promoted TV out capability on its N series smartphones for several years, and has talked about one day delivering DVD quality video from handsets to TV screens. Previous smartphones have fallen short but it seems as though the N8 may finally be reaching this goal (although we look forward to seeing this demonstrated in person rather than on a conference call).
The N8 captures HD video (720p) at 25fps. It supports H.264, MPEG-4, VC-1, H.263, Real Video
10, ON2 VP6 and Flash video file formats. Most importantly it features HDMI for output to digital HDTV displays, therefore potentially taking on the role of “set-top box” to the TV screen. Nokia emphasises the ability to play back user-generated video on the TV, but the phone can clearly potentially also serve as a video player for much HD content, rights issues permitting. To emphasise this point, the N8 will come pre-shipped, depending on region, with appropriate “web TV” applications, such as the BBC’s iPlayer in the UK (although it is not clear if these will support HD rather than just SD).
Functionally there is still some way to go. The N8 can push HD video to a 40” LCD over an HDMI cable, but it’s not likely to be a long cable, so to control what’s happening on the big screen the user must keep returning from the sofa to the handset. We mentioned the need for a remote control to Jo Harlow, Nokia’s head of Symbian Devices, who told us it was an interesting idea which she would recommend to her team for consideration. For reference, while we welcome the opportunity to support Nokia’s product development activities, this blog has highlighted this problem previously
. Third party vendors will no doubt step into this gap until Nokia brings out its own solution.
In any case there is a genuine question as to whether users will accept the mobile phone functioning as a “set-top box” when it is, after all, their main gateway to personal communications and the handheld web. Even if the N8 can play a 2 hour HD movie on the big screen, will owners be happy to let go of it for that length of time as they relax in the armchair? The answer to that problem will have to be wireless HD connectivity, another subject we have covered extensively
.We are sure that this is also on the roadmap of Nokia and other handset vendors over the next couple of years.
Client Reading: Global Audiovisual Market Forecast