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The Nokia N800 Comparable to the Apple iPhone?

You know, I hadn’t really thought of the two devices as comparable until Om Malik mentioned it. The two posts he did (here and here) generated a fairly active thread related to this. Here’s my take.

I have not seen the iPhone up close and personal, though like every gadget geek, I read the reviews. I know the iPhone isn’t perfect. It’s locked to AT&T in an evil way–the phone functionality won’t boot unless it sees a specific kind of AT&T SIM card. It’s tied into iTunes, for better or worse.  It’s got a nice browser, plays music and videos from iTunes, and makes calls, all in a nice “Applefied” package.

The Nokia N800, on the other hand, isn’t a phone. Though with both Skype and Gizmo Project on the device, if you’re in WiFi range, you can make and receive phone calls all the same.  You can pair your N800 with a mobile phone with Bluetooth to take advantage of the data network of a mobile carrier.

Here is a comparison of the two devices. It’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges, but I’ll do my best to make the comparisons similar:

iPhone has over N800:

  • Synchronizing data with iPhone + iTunes is a heck of a lot easier than with the N800, which has no out-of-the-box sync.
  • User Interface. While both the iPhone and the N800 have a touch-screen interface, I think you’re going to have a hard time arguing that the N800′s interface is better than the iPhone.
  • iPhone can make calls over a mobile phone network, N800 can’t. The N800 isn’t a phone, duh.
  • Size. The iPhone is a little smaller than the N800.
  • PIM. The iPhone at least has PIM stuff. The N800 doesn’t (see the sync point above), or has very anemic capabilities in this area.

N800 has over iPhone:

  • Applications. The N800, taking advantage of the fact it is Linux-based, has a lot more third-party applications than the iPhone. You can quite simply do more with the N800 than you can with the iPhone.
  • N800 can make calls with VoIP. Google Talk, Skype, and Gizmo Project are all supported on the N800. The iPhone has no VoIP capability because it’s a cell phone tied to a carrier who thinks VoIP is evil
  • Flash support. The iPhone doesn’t support it, the Nokia N800 has Adobe Flash. With the recent firmware update, it now supports Flash 9. This seems to allow Pandora to work on the N800, too! :)
  • More potential storage. The iPhone is limited to 8gb. With the latest firmware update, the N800 can sport 16gb, or possibly more. The memory is removable in the N800–not so in the iPhone.
  • Touch-screen keyboard. I feel a bit unnerved about trusting the iPhone to “guess” what I’m typing correct. On the N800, the touch-screen keyboard can take the whole screen.
  • Cost. The N800 is clearly a better deal at $400 versus the $500 or $600 an iPhone costs. Not counting the 2 year AT&T contract, which is another $2,000. If you want extra storage on the N800, you will have to buy SD or SDHC cards, which brings the cost up closer to the iPhone’s hardware cost. But the N800 isn’t tied to a mobile phone carrier, so once you’ve bought your hardware, you’re free to use it anywhere.

Areas where the iPhone and N800 are comparable:

  • Bluetooth support. The iPhone only supports headsets for bluetooth. The N800 doesn’t support headsets, but supports keyboards, sending files, and pairing with a mobile device to use it’s Internet connection.
  • Web browser. Neither one support a “standard” web browser (where “standard” means either Internet Explorer or Firefox). The iPhone uses Safari, which is based on WebKit, the same rendering engine used on the KDE web browser and the S60 3rd Edition browser. The N800 uses Opera. Yes, I realize both of these browsers probably follow “standards” more than the other two dominant browsers, but most people code to the dominant browsers, not to “standards,” sad as that is.
  • Video and Audio support. Both play videos and audio nicely. The N800 likely supports more formats natively. Canola makes audio/video on the N800 a really nice experience.
  • Seamless connectivity. The iPhone might be “better” since it has to seamlessly switch between GPRS/EDGE and WiFi, but the N800 can switch between known WiFi access points fairly seamlessly as well, and I believe you can throw Bluetooth to a cell phone into that mix as well.

Are there any points I missed? Given a choice between an Apple iPhone and a Nokia N800, which would you pick and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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