Symbian Anna on Nokia N8

, posted: 5-Oct-2011 14:39

Today's the day Apple launched the new non-iPhone 5, and it looks good. That's all I can say about it; for more details, read Siobhan Keogh's story in PC World with details on what's available in NZ - and what isn't.

Meanwhile, I've fired up the Nokia N8 again here, having read that updates to the Symbian^3 operating system became available in July. That is, I read about them, as the phone didn't get them automagically.

Checking in with Nokia's local office revealed that my phone, which I thought was a good, honest Kiwi one, is in fact Australian. It has an Australian product code and while Vodafone NZ has rolled out the Symbian PR 2.0 "Anna" update, this isn't available across the Tasman. Ergo, no update for me.

I wasn't going to let a simple thing like that stop me, so I got a copy of Navifirm 1.4 and the Phoenix Service Software and manually flashed the phone with the updated Symbian version.

It wasn't the most difficult thing I've ever done, but not the easiest either, as the Phoenix software is somewhat user-unfriendly. I won't post instructions on how to flash the phone here as they're readily available through a Google search; and besides, there's a reasonable chance of bricking the phone if you do it wrong.

Downloading the files for Anna took longer than flashing the N8. Once it was done, I looked at the phone hoping it would boot up again. and it did, with Anna on it in all her glory.


Rounded icons!

The long and short of is that Anna is a worthwhile upgrade for the N8, one that Nokia should've rolled out sooner. The interface is tidier, and you now get a QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode. Due to the small screen, the portrait QWERTY has tiny little keys though that aren't easy to hit accurately with big fingers.

Everything works much better, including web browsing, and the N8 feels way more responsive. The annoying delay or lag as you swipe screens is gone and scrolling is quicker; while I still grizzle at how text entry is done in Symbian, the improved responsiveness makes it tolerable.

Apparently, the browser now has hardware acceleration for CSS animations and partial HTML5 support. Oh, and it understands multi-touch.

One useful tip, courtesy of Jody Fanning: head over to Nokia Beta Labs and get updated Camera and Map apps for Anna. The Camera app for instance now does 720p video with 30 frames per second.

There's also a Nokia Configuration Tool in Beta Labs that lets you set up the N8 from your PC - this one is a must-have for N8 owners.

Anna may not remove quirks like the odd organisation of menus that can be confusing to navigate. Trust me though, if you have an N8, you need it.

Want to see more? PhoneArena did a YouTube review of Anna:

Overall, not bad for an allegedly abandoned platform. Early versions of Belle or Symbian PR 3.0 have leaked out already and I might just try one of those.

Other related posts:
Nokia upgrades: Symbian Belle for the N8 and MeeGo PR1.2 Harmattan for N9
Yes, this iPod still works
Samsung Galaxy Tab so good Apple wants it banned?

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