Sunday, 4 November 2018

Nokia 8 - The Underrated Flagship

I have been using the Nokia 8 for more than three months and I would like to share some of my thoughts and experience with this smartphone, as I truly feel it is underrated in many ways.

HMD Global started selling Nokia branded phones in 2017. In September of that year they launched their first flagship, the Nokia 8. It had the latest internals, Ziess branded cameras, a premium metal body, innovative internal cooling system, QHD screen, 4k selfie video, Ozo surround audio recording and pure Android. The initial asking price was reasonable too, around the GBP 500 mark in the UK for example.

Here is a link listing the specs in full:

Despite the solid specs the reviews I saw on YouTube were mostly subdued. My impression in general was that the Nokia 8 was seen as moderate, not exciting. Perhaps because at the time 18:9 screens were all the rage and the Nokia 8 has the more traditional 16:9 screen with large top and bottom bezels. The bezels were criticised by reviewers but it interesting to note that at the same time Apple released the iPhone 8 with similar bezels and few complained about those.

Also many reviewers were not happy with the Nokia 8's camera performance. The camera software at launch was basic and uninspired.

At that time there was one review I watched, from Dmir Frank, that was more positive in general, here is a link:
That particular reviewer tends to look at the overall package and perhaps that's why he saw potential where others did not.

In the summer of 2018 I bought the Nokia 8 for CHF 333 (approx. USD 330, EUR 300, GBP 250). That is a big discount on the original asking price. Basically I got a flagship for the cost of a midrange phone.

After three months I can sum up the Nokia 8 as, excellent. Of course it might not be for you, smartphones are very personal but here is my experience based on my subjective needs.

When you pick up the Nokia 8 it feels right. It is not a big phone but it isn't small either. The edges of the phone are curved and the phone body is thin, made of a premium metal. These factors definitely contribute to the feel of the in-hand feel. It is well built, the metal back rather than the currently more popular glass, gives the phone a more reliable, 'Nokia' quality.

I prefer to protect my smartphone so I bought a Dux Ducis leather flip case. It looked great and had a nice feel. However, there were two problems with this case: 
1) there was plastic covering the power and volume buttons, making it difficult to use. You had to really push hard to use the buttons. 
2) the case allows for you to stand your phone to watch movies in landscape but it kept slipping. For these two reasons I do not recommend the Dux Ducis flip case.

Next I bought a simple back case, the Mattes Plastik Softcase. It has cut-outs for the buttons and fits the Nokia 8 perfectly. What's more, it does not add much to the size and feel of the phone. The texture is nice too, it is silky but still grippy. I am really happy with this case.

Nokia 8 with Mattes Plastik Softcase and neoprene pouch

The Nokia 8 power and volume buttons in the Mattes Plastik Softcase

It is just a back case though, I don't like screen protectors so I decided for some added protection to get a neoprene pouch. I bought a cheap one off eBay, I asked for the one to fit the Samsung Note 4. It's big enough to fit my Nokia 8 and plastic case. In total this solution was a little cheaper than the Dux Ducis case so it just goes to show that the best solutions don't have to cost extra. Well, in my case I did waste my money on the Dux Ducis case though :-(

The screen is beautiful. The picture is crisp and bright under nearly all conditions. The auto-brightness works well. At 5.3" it is a good size and with the classic 16:9 ratio YouTube videos fill the screen.

The bottom bezel has the navigation keys and home button that doubles as the fingerprint reader. I like this, the buttons do not take any space on the screen. The fingerprint reader is a bit of a narrow shape, it takes a bit of getting used to but it is fast. Having it on the front means you can unlock the phone without having to pick it up.

The battery lasts me all day. I often have 30 or even 40% left at the end of the day. Of course this varies, if I use YouTube a lot, it will drain faster. The Nokia 8 will fast charge with the supplied charger. I have been impressed with how fast it charges, after just a few minutes you are up from 20 to a more usable 40% for example.

The software is plain Android, no extras apart from the camera app. There are no bells or whistles, the software just works. I thought I might miss some advanced features but I don't, it feels fresh. Security updates come every month, this gives some peace of mind when we hear about so many exploits. 

It is not part of the Android One programme. However, HMD have been good with updates so far, at least another year of updates should hit my Nokia 8.

I don't take many photos with my smartphone but when I have, I have no complaints. The Nokia 8 does a good job. The live bokeh mode works surprisingly well for example.

Nokia 8 Live Bokeh photo example

The Bothie mode, called Dual-sight is fun to use. You can take photos using front and back cameras at once. The selfie front facing camera is 13 mega-pixels and has auto-focus. The video is where I feel the Nokia 8 shines because it has 4k back and front. The back camera has OIS which does a pretty good job of smoothing out the action. The audio is exceptional due to the surround sound recording from three mics. You can even choose the mic you want to use, for selfies use only the front facing mic, for example.

In the reviews from 2017 often the Nokia 8 camera app was criticized. Thankfully it has since been updated and is way better. Manual control is now included. I have also used OpenCamera, it works well with the Nokia 8.

The bezels are large. There is no notification light, meaning you must turn the phone on to check for notifications. This doesn't bother me too much as I have a Gear S3 smart watch so I see notifications there. But still, it would've been better if there was a notification light.

I really enjoy using the Nokia 8. It is a solid phone. It has a headphone jack, expandable memory, an excellent screen, smooth performance, clean software that is updated regularly and it feels great to hold it. All these factors plus the price I paid mean that I feel it was the best choice. I highly recommend the Nokia 8. In more general terms I would recommend when looking for a new smartphone, take a look at last year's flagships, there may be a bargain to be had.

These are all my own views. No one paid me and I am just writing this article in case it helps others. If you don't agree or had a different experience, that's OK. Feel free to write in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Microsoft Word has stopped working - error when editing an existing document

I opened an existing Word document and edited the footer. I just typed some letters and bang - I got a message Microsoft Word has stopped working and then I have to close Word!

I tried several times including using the recovery option and I continued to have this issue. It was really annoying because I hardly typed anything before Word would crash and the document was only two pages so hardly anything to tax Word or the computer's resources.

I tried repairing my Office 2013 but this did not help me. I searched online and found some articles, here's one that was particularly clear and helpful:
However, it didn't help me, my problem persisted!

Instead of double clicking the Word document from Windows/File Explorer I tried opening it from within Word (File | Open). This did not help. Then I realised there was a repair option when you open the document - I tried this and it worked for me! Here's exactly what to do:

In Word click File | Open
Click Computer and Browse to where you have stored the document
Select the document you wish to open - but don't open it, look at the bottom right of the window:

Click the down arrow on the Open button (as shown above)
Click Open and Repair

The document opens and you may edit it, it should not crash! 
Click File | Save As, replace the old document with this new one.

The Open and Repair option worked for me. I hope it helps you but if not try the link I included above, there were other ideas there that might help you. Good luck!

NOTE: In the above example I was using Windows 7 and Word 2013. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Buying a new smartphone? Why not try something different this year?

Be different!
It is September 2018, that time of year when Apple releases new iPhones. Are you excited? You can't wait to get the latest shiny phone? It will be easy to renew that one or two year contract, just sign...

Or maybe stop, think about doing something different this year. You could save a lot because smartphones from the likes of Apple are coming with USD 1000+ price tags these days! Even if you buy on a contract, you still pay this high price (actually you probably pay more).

There are options, you can make savings and have more functionality. I know that sounds crazy but it is true!

I have been following the reviews and changes in smartphones closely for more than two years. I have witnessed an increase in prices for top end flagship phones from the major players like Samsung, Apple and Hauwei. But all is not lost because at the same time there's been an increase in what are known as "budget flagships" or "midrangers". These are smartphones that rival top of the range flagships for features and yet are cheaper! Yes it's true, even many of these cheaper phones have more functionality than the most expensive phones. Yes you didn't misread that, I really said that you get more for less!

For example, take new iPhone XR, that's the cheapest one from the 2018 line-up. Here in Switzerland the cost will be about CHF 879 (approx. USD 909) and that's just for the base model with 64GB of storage (not expandable) and not even a FullHD screen. There are many alternatives that will give you more for your money. The Nokia 7 Plus is just CHF 379 with 64GB storage (expandable), fingerprint reader, 4GB RAM, dual hybrid SIM support, FullHD+ screen, headphone jack and more! Yes in benchmarks it will not be as fast as flagships or the XR but if you read any review of the Nokia 7 Plus they'll tell you it can handle anything you throw at it, even games. This isn't the only option, there are many from Hauwei, Xiaomi, Motorola, OnePlus and Samsung. Even LG's currently flagship, the G7 is around CHF 600. That's got full waterproofing, fingerprint reader, headphone jack, 64GB storage (expandable) and a QHD+ screen (the highest resolution). Compare this to all the phones in the iPhone X range, none have fingerprint reader, expandable storage nor headphone jacks. In fact I read that the 2018 iPhone X models don't even come with a dongle in the box, something else to buy (and lose).

Apple concerns
For Apple iPhone users I do recognise there is one obstacle to switching to a more affordable option. That's the software. Outside of the world of Apple all other manufacturers are using Google Android. But don't be scared, it works in a similar way. Maybe a bigger worry is how to leave the Apple eco-system. Firstly please know that there are alternatives to iCloud, FaceTime and all the other Apple software services. It is also likely you'll save money as you will have more choices. Google provide many free services such as storing your photos. If you have your contacts in Gmail, you have nothing to worry about on a Android phone, contacts synchronise automatically. My advice is to make the effort to switch because once you've made the switch a whole world of choice and lower prices will open up to you. The following article explains the process in detail:

Value for money is important to me and perhaps that makes me different than others? I don't think I am so special, most would welcome a bargain, right? Have a look at what's available, you'll be surprised. If you are in Switzerland I recommend as they have a wide range from all brands.

A year ago I wrote another article where I went into more detail on this subject and also on mobile phone contracts. I recommend you take a look at that too:

I hope this article can help you but at the end of the day it's your choice, I cannot be held responsible for any trouble you get yourself into. My article is just my opinion, maybe I am wrong! Please just take this as a guide only. All links on this page were valid at the time of writing. My article is purely my own work, I don't work in the smartphone industry, I have no affiliation to any smartphone company.