What we do wish Nokia would change, however, is the responsiveness of changing between home screens. At present the animation plays after you’ve swiped left or right, and we found the delay really impacted our perception of the phone’s responsiveness. It’s jarring because in every other respect the OS is quick to respond to presses and swipes.
Symbian^3’s WebKit-based browser is another mixed affair. It’s telling that a huge number of sites forced us to their mobile versions, where Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7 all rendered the ‘normal’ versions with no issues. Even more annoying, though, is that the browser’s UI feels decidedly archaic. Navigation is hampered both by the lack of a hardware back button, and Nokia’s decision to tie the software Back to a visual history browser that shows snapshots of your priorly visited pages as opposed to just going to that you were previously on – we’d like it as an option, not the default.
Similarly annoying is the N8 browser’s text-reflowing. Again, it’s great that this is supported, but it doesn’t refresh when you pinch-and-zoom in or out on a web page, leaving text either too big or small to read, defeating its indented purpose of making websites more useable. It’s possible to download an alternative browser, such as Opera Mobile, from the Nokia N8’s Ovi application store, but we’d rather not have to. Besides which, the alternatives have their own issues which will put off a lot of would-be switchers.
Another weakness of Symbian^3 is its keyboard implementation. In landscape the QWERTY layout works well, and we were able to get up a good typing speed after a weekend of use. We liked the option to disable the identifiers that pop up after pressing on a key, as we tend to type fast enough that they aren’t actually helpful, but missed the drag-and-release punctuation insertion implemented in iOS and Windows Phone 7. We doubt many users will appreciate the N8’s hapic feedback, either, which is far more of an irritation than it is an aid to typing.
The portrait keyboard is a let-down, eschewing the QWERTY format altogether in favour of a standard phone keypad. This does offer T9 text prediction, which works well enough, but it’s still significantly slower than a full keyboard would be – which explains why a proper portrait keyboard is to be made available by Nokia in the near future. In the meantime you can either make do with turning the phone into landscape constantly, or install an alternative such as Swype from the Ovi Store.
Another annoyance with the keyboard in Symbian^3 is the way the text input appears. Instead of simply letting you type into the inputs on pages, a plain white box is placed into the half of the screen not displaying keys. While this does work perfectly well, giving you a consistent and clear input view, we would prefer to type straight into the appropriate input on occasion, as it’s frustrating to have to drop back a step if you forget what you’re replying to in an email, for example.
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