So much at stake
I'm not aware of another mobile phone launch in recent history that was more contentious than the Nokia N8. The issues surrounding it - Nokia's struggles in the smartphone market, the general derision of Symbian, etc - have made it much more than just a product launch; it has become the directly associated with the future health of the company.
This perception is almost certainly overstating the matter; Nokia still sells more handsets than anyone else. But with consumers in the developed world set to move wholesale onto smartphones as the mainstream choice, the feeling is that the longer a handset-maker takes to stake its claim in the smartphone market, the harder it will become to catch up later.
The importance of this launch for Nokia was illustrated recently when I wrote a story inspired by the bricking of the first N8 review unit I received. Within 24 hours of me publishing the story Nokia has rushed out a video response, insisting the problem was on a small scale and was being addressed. The fact that this review is being written at all shows the problem didn't repeat itself for me.
It's this sort of launch that has tempted me - a technology business journalist - to get into the handset review game. Not because I think I can (or am inclined to) do as thorough a job as some of the review specialists out there, but because I don't feel I can provide real insight into the industry without being familiar with the products that define it.
So while this review seeks to determine the relative quality, usability and desirability of the Nokia N8, by doing so it unavoidably passes comment on the ability of Nokia to produce a competitive smartphone. In other words, how likely is it that someone would choose the N8 over the iPhone or an Android phone? With all due respect to RIM, Microsoft and Palm.
I'm tending to subdivide my handset reviews into an analysis of the hardware and the software/services. Never has this been more appropriate than with the Nokia N8 as almost all the question marks surround the operating system, rather than the handset itself.