The iPhone took the cell phone industry by surprise in 2007, and managed to usurp half of its profits for only three years in active duty, with only 3% of the world's handsets sold. This was mostly at the financial expense of Nokia, which got knocked down from its perch due to some complacency issues, typical of a sprawling empire. Its share of the cell phone industry profits shrunk threefold, and it was even losing money at some point in the epicenter of the financial crisis.
The Finns are no doubt willing to reclaim some of this space back, so they began some movers and shakers at the management level, bringing a foreigner at the helm for the first time in Nokia's history. The swan song of the previous management is personalized in the Nokia N8, the current flagship of the company, on which a lot of hopes are placed for a turnaround.
The Apple iPhone 4, on the other hand, is the culmination of Apple's efforts to craft an outstanding consumer-friendly device, that will keep people’s attention for a year, before the next iteration is introduced. Apple started a new major design cycle with the iPhone 4, introduced the Retina Display in it, and custom-made one of the fastest smartphone chipsets on the market, making it the most compelling iPhone package so far. Thus the battle lines are drawn, let's see how the two hotties fare against each other...
Designwise, it is the steel and glass of the iPhone 4 vs the aluminum of the Nokia N8. One shows the craftsmanship perfected over the years that culminates on a phone made from a single sheet of anodized aluminum, with an etched Nokia logo on the back.
The other has made the thinnest smartphone on the market, out of the most unorthodox materials. The Gorilla Glass casing of the Apple iPhone 4 might have raised questions about its fragility, but coupled with the stainless steel frame around the phone, it also makes for an appearance never before seen in a phone, just what we would expect from the cool kids of the Silicon Valley.
Both phones have 3.5” screens, but the difference in technologies used makes for separate experiences. The iPhone 4's IPS-LCD has been called Retina Display, for its astonishing 640x960 pixels of resolution. It is bright, sharp and clear, and possibly represents the best that the LCD technology can offer for now.
The Nokia N8, on the other hand, has the competing technology in its AMOLED screen, with its high contrast and vivid colors, set back by the 360x640 pixels of resolution, and higher than the iPhone 4 reflectance under bright sunlight, which diminishes visibility. The Nokia N8's display is also protected by the scratch-proof Gorilla Glass, but the touchscreen layer is slightly less responsive than the one on the iPhone 4. On the other hand, Nokia N8's screen has excellent haptic feedback, whereas the iPhone 4 doesn't include that function. The displays offer bright and clear images, with the iPhone 4's higher resolution placing it in the lead.
From left to right - Apple iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S, Nokia N8
Both handsets only have one physical home key under the screens. The one on the Nokia N8, though, is tiny and hard to reach when using the phone with one hand, without the risk of dropping the handset. Speaking of dropping, the iPhone 4 now feels more slippery than the previous generations, because of the glass surface.
The handsets weigh roughly the same and have similar dimensions with the notable exception of thickness. The iPhone 4 is surreally thin at 0.37 inch (9.3 mm), while the Nokia N8 clocks in at 0.51 inches (12.9 mm), excluding the elevated area on the back, where the camera is located, necessary to fit the big sensor of the 12MP shooter, and the Xenon flash. The glass back of the iPhone is smooth, with only the logo, and a small round area for the lens' eye plus the tiny dot of the LED flash in the upper left corner.
There are no less than ten elements, like openings and buttons, around the sides of the Nokia N8, which comes to show the different design approaches in the creation of the handsets.. Both phones sport non-removable batteries, thus their SIM card slots are placed on the sides, but accessing it in the Nokia N8 means just prying open the plastic cover, while the micro SIM tray on the right of the iPhone 4 needs a paper clip to come out.
It is immediately apparent that a lot of thought and sleepless nights have gone into the design and manufacturing of the iPhone 4 and the Nokia N8 from multiple teams. The two phones represent some of the best pieces of industrial design in the smartphone universe, each with its own character – the strong but smooth aluminum unibody of the Nokia N8 comes in a bunch of different colors, and the steel and glass construction of the iPhone 4 resembles a concept phone, made by a boutique designer shop in limited series.