10 Ways The Nokia N800 Is Better Than Apple's iPhone

Published on by Jim Mendenhall

Looking for the N900? Find out how it’s also better than the iPhone! New article here.

Nokia N800
All the buzz these days is about the Apple iPhone (not to be confused with the Linksys iPhone). I have to admit, the iPhone is pretty cool, and I was really excited about it for a few hours. Then, reality started to sink in and I realized that the iPhone is probably not something for me. Here are 10 reasons why I'd like to buy a Nokia N800 instead of an Apple iPhone. I realize that there are areas where the iPhone will be better than the N800, I just don't think it's worth the extra cost and lack of freedom that comes along with having an iPhone.

1. Price

Nokia N800: $399
Apple iPhone: $499 or $599 (Plus 2 year Cingular service contract)

2. Open Source

The Nokia N800 is a Linux device based on a modified version of Debian GNU/Linux that they call "Internet Tablet OS 2007 edition". Nokia created the open source Maemo development platform for the 770 and N800. They've worked hard to encourage developers to port applications to this platform. You can find more info at maemo.org.

The iPhone is far from open. We’re still not sure what Steve Jobs meant when he said that the iPhone runs “OS X”, but it’s most certainly not the full-blown “Mac OS X” that comes on a new Macbook. While the core of the phone’s OS may someday be open sourced (like Darwin), it’s highly unlikely that Apple will ever open source the entire OS or even share the iPhone APIs that would allow developers to make new iPhone apps.

3. Third Party Applications

Nokia strongly encourages 3rd party developers to make software for their N800 and 770 products. There is quite a lot of software available for Nokia's platform and most (if not all) of it is free. You can install geeky apps such as VNC and VIM, or one of more than 35 games that are available on the Maemo site.

Apple has stated that they will not allow 3rd party applications on the iPhone. Apple want’s to control everything from the top down. They’re not even supporting Flash or Java (I guess that would make it too easy for developers to bypass Apple’s control and offer applications for the iPhone).

4. No Service Contract with Cingular Needed

With the Nokia N800, you can access the internet via Wi-Fi or with a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. This allows you the freedom to use the mobile provider of your choosing.

To get an iPhone, you’ll need to sign up for a 2-year contract with Cingular. Nobody knows exactly how much this plan will cost, but I’m sure it won’t be cheap. Data plans are traditionally extremely expensive in the US and I’m sure Cingular and Apple will make loads of money overcharging customers for internet access.

The practice of locking mobile phones to a single mobile provider has become quite annoying in the United States. While the rest of the world can freely change providers by simply swapping out a SIM card, US customers are usually stuck with multi-year contracts and locked phones. Apple is continuing this tradition by locking all iPhones sold in the US to the Cingular network.

5. Removable Storage

The Nokia N800 has two memory slots that support a range of memory cards (SD, miniSD, microSD, MMC and RS-MMC). This allows you to keep one card in the device for a more permanent storage solution, and still have a slot available for cards from your camera or other device. With the falling price of memory cards, you could have several cards with music and videos tucked away in the carrying case that comes with the N800.

Apple’s iPhone has no removable storage. This is probably by design as it helps justify a higher priced model with more memory.

6. Better Audio and Video Codec Support

The N800 supports a wide range of audio and video formats. Supported audio formats are AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3, RA (Real Audio), WAV, WMA. You can play videos in the following formats: 3GP, AVI, H.263, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, RV (Real Video), and Flash Video (YouTube!). That covers just about anything you'd ever want to play on a media device. With the open nature of the N800's OS, more codec support can be expected from 3rd party developers. You can also use the N800 with Real's Rhapsody music service (if you prefer your music with DRM). You can even stream audio and video from networked computers!

The iPhone, like the iPod, plays only Apple sanctioned audio and video formats. This means you can play content from the iTunes store as well as MP3 audio and MPEG video. No streaming to the phone or playing competing formats.

7. It's Not a Cell Phone

The N800 is not a cell phone. At first, I thought this was a bad thing. After thinking about it, I realized that I don't need (or even want) to haul around a mini computer with me everywhere I go. Sometimes I just need a simple phone. If I'm heading to the grocery store, working in the yard, or in some busy place where my phone might get damaged or stolen, then I'd rather just tuck a simple mobile phone in my pocket and head for the door. With the N800, I can just leave it at home when I know I won't need it.

Apple wants the iPhone to become the device that you always have with you. That sounds great at first, but how long do you think it’ll last in the New York subway? There are times when having a regular phone is more convenient. Perhaps it will be possible to switch your SIM card from the iPhone to a secondary phone when needed, but Apple hasn’t said anything about this.

8. It is a VoIP Phone

The N800 can be used to for making VoIP calls via Gizmo and GoogleTalk. Skype support is coming in the second quarter of 2007. This means that you can make cheap (or even free) calls anytime you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. With Wi-Fi becoming more prevalent every day, this means you'll soon be able to use your N800 to make calls from just about anywhere.

With the iPhone, you will need to make all your calls via Cingular. More money for Cingular and Apple.

9. Webcam for Video Conferencing

The N800 also has a built in webcam and supports video conferencing! How great would that be for your next conference call? Star-Trek-like video calls are not sci-fi for this device.

The iPhone has a camera, but no video conferencing.

10. It's Available Now

The Nokia N800 is available now at some stores and from Amazon. You can order one today.

The iPhone should be available in June.