N8 Tips and Tricks – Using Widgets

US tech blogs have been having a field day panning the new Nokia N8, something I don’t quite understand.  I’ve had my N8 for a couple of weeks now and I’m loving it.  It’s replaced an Android phone as the handset I carry everywhere. I’m pleased as punch with it’s responsiveness,  reception, call quantity and vibrant screen with reflective coating that makes it usable in sunlight.  The camera is in a world of it’s own as it’s by far the best ever on a phone. The sleek metal body feels and looks  good in the hand. I think the N8’s distinctive style  looks better and different than the dozens of nearly identical touchscreen slab phones flooding the market.

Most of the criticism of the N8 centers around the user interface.  That’s a valid point. The N8’s UI is very different  than that of the Android and the iPhone.  It’s also less intuitive and has a steeper learning curve than either for new users.  But learning how to use Symbian^3 is really something you only have to do once. Once you grasp the few unique paradigms, change some default settings and commit common operations to muscle memory, using the N8 becomes second nature and getting things done on it is as quick as with other smartphone platforms.

Symbian^3 also has it’s strengths too. In some respects  it equals or beats the best of its competitors.  One of those is  home screen widgets. Nokia introduced widgets to Symbian with the N97, but  that phone didn’t have enough RAM to be able to run more than a few before running low on memory.  The N8 has over 100 MB of memory free at startup   Even after I completely filled all three N8 home screens with widgets I still had 83 MB free!

N8 Edit Homescreen 1 N8 Widget Catalog N8 Edit Homescreen 2

The N8 home screens can be completely customized with widgets. To customize any screen:

  • Do a long press anywhere on the screen to enter edit mode (indicated by a cross hatch pattern over the screen.
  • Tap any of the the Plus sign placeholders (first image, above) to add a widget. The phone’s Widget catalog appears (second image, above)  showing the available widgets on the phone with a button to launch the Ovi store and download more widgets.
  • Drag an existing widget to move it up or down on the same screen..
  • Tap a widget to adjust its settings or remove it (third image, above).

N8 Homescreen 1 N8 Homescreen 2 N8 Homescreen 3

Some my favorite widgets (images above) are:

  • Mail – displays the latest email from one account, tap to open the full screen Mail app.  Add multiple Mail widgets for multiple accounts.
  • Calendar – see your upcoming events at a glance,  tap to open the calendar app
  • Favorite contacts – displays your most called contacts.  Tap a contact to call.  Four contacts display at once, scroll sideways to see more.
  • Notifications – Displays unread messages, missed calls, voice mails and imminent calendar events.  Tap a notification to open the associated app.
  • WiFi wizard  – a mini wardriving app that shows available WiFi networks and lets you connect or disconnect from one with a couple of taps.
  • Shortcuts – this widget is how you add apps and browser bookmarks to a home screen.  When first installed it shows four default apps.  Tap it to edit each of the four positions to show any installed app or browser bookmark.
  • Music Player – Displays the artist, title and album art from the currently playing song and lets you control the music player with pause/play and skip buttons.
  • National Geographic – displays a photo and title from a random video from the magazin’es free Symbian app.  Tap to open the app and watch the video.
  • Social – shows recent Twitter tweets and Facebook statuses and lets you update you status or send a tweet.

Adding a Feed - Step 1 Adding a Feed - Step 2 Adding a Feed - Step 3

  • RSS Feeds – lets can add any feed as a widget.  Here’s how:
    • Open the browser and visit a site whose feed you want to add.
    • Tap the double headed arrow icon in the bottom, right of the browser screen (first image, above) to bring up the browser menu.
    • Tap the menu icon on the left with the three bars on it (second image, above).
    • Tap “Subsc. feeds”, (third image above) and all of the site’s feeds will be listed (first image, below). Tap a feed and you will see a list of all your subscribed feeds (second image, below).
    • The new feed will have a generic title  like “RSS 2.0 Feed”. Tap it and you will be taken to a page where you can edit the feed title, URL and update frequency.
    • Hit “Back”, confirm you want to save changes and the feed will now be available in the Widget Catalog and can be added to a homescreen. I seem t get an error with feed URLs that redirect to a Feedburner feed like WapReview’s.  I can add them but get a “Format not supported”  error when I try to open them.  A work around is to manually add the feed’s Feedburner URL like, http://feeds.feedburner.com/WapReview, for example.

Adding a Feed - Step 4 Adding a Feed - Step 5 Adding a Feed Step 6

All the above widgets come with the phone, so there’s nothing to download,  you just install them. You can download more widgets from the Ovi store. Two I’m trying that look promising are:

  • Accuweather – displays the current conditions and temperature at your location, tap it to open Accuweather’s full featured weather app with detailed hourly and nine day forecasts and radar maps.
  • Bloomberg – displays a live stock ticker showing an alternating selection of stocks, apparently picked at random.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any way to specify which stocks the widget displays. Tapping the the widget displays the Bloomberg app.

With widgets you can add a lot of add a glance information and functionality to the home screen.  The N8’s ample memory means you don’t really have to worry about the amount of RAM they use.  Battery life might be a concern, although I’ve been running 14 widgets for several days now, including four (Accuweather, Mail, WiFi Wizard and Social) that periodically check the network for updates and my battery still lasts through the day.  If you get into a situation where your battery is getting low, you  can hit the “Options” button in the bottom left corner of any home screen and choose “Widgets to offline mode” to shut off all widget network access.

44 thoughts on “N8 Tips and Tricks – Using Widgets

  1. When I open my web browser, It says Web browser: Unable to perform operation. But the other Ovi applications- Ovi store and Ovi Music work just fine. Am not able to rectify the problem. Any solutions?

  2. Since the release, I’ve had two N8s. I love the phone, but have never been able to access Ovi store via wap. I was never too bothered before, but now I have moved and haven’t got round to setting up my home broadband yet. Some other apps, such as mail, will also only run on wifi. The top left of the screen shows it trying to connect to PAYG WAP and Contract wap. Then tells me connection unavailable. How can I fix this? Any ideas?

    • 1. Open Settings > Connectivity > Destinations > Internet and verify that you operator’s apn is the 1st one listed (long press and choose Change priority if it isn’t) and it’s settings are correct (double tab to check). Tap options > advanced and verify that the proxy settings are correct if your operator requires you to use a proxy to connect to the Internet. If your operator doesn’t require a proxy, be sure that proxy server address is “None” and Proxy port is 0
      2. Open the Web Browser, go to Settings > General and verify that Access point is set to Internet and change if it’s not.

      With the above settings it should work, if not try contacting Nokia Care for help. Open Mokia.com, select you county and then click “Contact Support” for country specific phone numbers and email addresses.

    • N8 is one of the very few phones out there that can run GPS without network support. I have more than one phones & often use it for GPS without SIM card inserted. This is what you do to get it going:
      1. Download maps from Ovi store first. Choose which state(s) or even countries you want to download.
      2. Go to Settings->Application Settings->Positioning->Positioning Methods, uncheck Assisted GPS, Network based & Wi-Fi/Network. Run it only with Integrated GPS
      3. Go back to Application Settings->Map Apps->General, make sure Connection is set “Offline” instead of “Online”

      That should get your N8 running GPS without network or Wi-Fi support. It may take awhile to set your position because you’re only running on N8’s integrated GPS. In other countries, it may take as long as 20 to 30 minutes!!


    • Symbian^4 will not be released. Instead the features of Symbian^4 will gradually be released as a serries of updates for existing Symbian^3 phones. The first of which was the recently released PR1.1.

      PR2 which includes a new browser and portrait QWERTY keyboard is supposed to arrive sometime this year.

    • hey dennis..
      thx for the reply..
      i wana ask a few more things..
      ive downloaded PR1.1, but i dint feel any difference..so what really the difference is??
      secondly i downloaded the latest update related to quick search and improved conversation..but i dint feel any difference in that either..so plz if u could tell me the difference related to its performance..
      3rdly..as in iphone, we can have cracks of applications through Installous, do v have smthing like that for n8 as well??
      i’ll be grateful..

    • The things I’ve noticed in 1.1 so far
      The email app loads messages much faster
      The Pro version of Quick Office that allows you to edit documents is included

      I haven’t bothered to get the new search yet.

  3. I have N 8 and when i connect it to the WIFI it says connected but when i brows the web page it says that (web :Unable To Perform Operation)so i dont know what to do plz help me thanks Keath…

  4. i have nokia n8.by mistake i format my cell phone.the you tube downloader also delete from my cell phone.how can i get it back.this creates problem in watching videos.

  5. my web tv doesnt work i have only a black screen or ReferenceError: Can’t find variable device

  6. OK, here’s some follow up information that some may find helpful:

    1. My CNN & Reuter widget not loading/refreshing – the problem is Fring. Uninstall Fring, and both widgets will work fine.

    2. CNBC Asia widget: Here is the offical response from CNBC Asia:

    From: Ee, Adeline (NBC Universal, CNBC Asia) [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3:51 AM
    To: Yang Tony
    Subject: RE: Technical Support

    Hi Tony

    We are currently in the process of modifying the widget and have temporarily suspended the news feed.

    In the meantime, please access the CNBC Mobile website via your browser. Our URL is http://asia.cnbc.com

    Hope that helps.



  7. sir
    pl help i by mistake formatted my n8 and lost all the movie teasers and waps which were factory setting and the wall papers. please can u help me to have them specially movie teasers please
    thanking you

    • You probably have to take it to a Nokia service center to get the missing content restored. Or possibly when a firmware update comes out upgrading may replace the missing content.

  8. Dear Dennis, the CNBC, CNN & Reuters widgets are not connecting (while AP, bloomberg are working fine). Any hints?

    • Deleting and re-adding the widgets to the home scree might help. There are any settings for the individual widgets so there’s nothing you can change.

      FWIW, the CNN and Reuters widgets, which are just the RSS widget pre-configured with those services, work normally for me. I don’t find the RSS widget useful because the headlines are so badly truncated that they generally don’t tell what the item is abour.

      The CNBC widget connects and displays headlines but there only seem to be 3 headlines which never update and clicking a headline in the widget takes me to the CNBC app’s main page rather than to the the story.

  9. Hi, I want to add the “Call Mailbox” icon to one of the home screen but this icon is deep into the settings menu. Can it be done?

    • Not directly, but you could add the Call Mailbox number to your to your contacts, add it to your Favorite Contacts list and then add a Favorite Contacts widget to the home screen.

  10. There are several ways to force the phone to use WiFi only but the easiest seems to be to go to Settings > Connectivity > Settings and set both “Data use in home network” and “Data use when roaming to “Wi-Fi network only” i tried this but it just says unable to perform operation when i try to connect to a page.seems for whatever reason i cant use wifi with the web browser so i just don’t use the web browser as i’m on vodafone in the uk which takes upto a couple minutes to load a page with a 3.5g signal! lol i think the wifi wouldnt help too much with the very poor web browser on the n8 anyway! just annoying that i have to keep my n900 with me too for when i need to browse the net

  11. does n8 have stock widget like the one in iphones and if it works as well as it works in iphones

    • I mentioned the Bloomberg widget in the post and it appears in one of the screenshots. It displays a live stock ticker showing an alternating selection of random stocks. There doesn’t seem to be any way to specify which stocks the widget displays. Tapping the the widget displays the Bloomberg app.

      I’ve never seen the iPhone stock widget. Actually. I don’t think the iPhone supports widgets.

  12. how come skype stopped working with my nimbuzz on my n8? also, when will skype have its own widget for the n8? how do i get a widget for facebook specifically on my N8?

    ito Lopa

    • Skype’s not working in Nimbuzz because Skype has blocked Nimbuzz.
      I have no idea when there will be a Skype app for the N8.
      The Nokia Social widget is pre-installed on the N8 and works with Facebook.

    • I’m not reviewing the current N8 browser because it’s really not any different than the N97’s. I’m waiting to review the new, completely redesigned version of the Nokia browser which is due to be released this year.

      As for iUI, it looks interesting but needs to support all modern standards compliant mobile browsers including Opera, mobile Firefox and microB rather than just “iPhone class devices”.

  13. Hi Dennis, thank you for help. Actually I have found the problem, it was Fring. Once I deleted Fring off my phone my RSS feeds worked. I am now trying to diagnose my Web tv apps. Nat Geo does not load for me. But thanks again for your explanations.

  14. “One of those is home screen widgets.”

    I disagree. The widgets on the N8 are very limited ( am not sure if the OS api itself limits them. ) After seeing widgets on Android, I am very disappointed. I don’t like widgets that are all of the same size. And the Social widget is useless. Only two updates. Same goes for mail.

    Regarding the WiFi, Packet data thingy, set in Settings -> Connetctivity to always ask, so that you can choose the access point for Internet from WiFi or your Packet Data APN.

    The N8 doesn’t seem to play m4a video. It treats it as audio and play only audio from the video.

  15. Hi Dennis, could you explain better how to get the feeds going? None of my default pre-loaded feeds work and when I try and modify the URL’s nothing happens. So for example what is in your URL box for Reuters? Thank you.

  16. anytime i try to connect to the web, even if there is a wifi connection on; N8 still tries to connect to the WAP service of the service provider. how do u prevent that

    • There are several ways to force the phone to use WiFi only but the easiest seems to be to go to Settings > Connectivity > Settings and set both “Data use in home network” and “Data use when roaming to “Wi-Fi network only”

    • Underwhelming. Not much different than the one on my old N95. No location provider support, slow JavaScript. It has pinch zooming but text doesn’t reflow when zooming in.

    • In spite of its name, WebTV is not live TV, it’s just an app that lets you watch a small number of streaming videos. My US market N8 came with only National Geographic and Paramount movie trailer “channels”. The Ovi store lists four more (which I haven’t tried); Eros Bollywood, India Today. Speed Racer TV and Mega Man TV. The first two are free, the others are $4.99 for a one-time purchase of 11 Speed Racer or 3 Mega Man videos.

      The videos play full stream and the sound and picture quality is excellent. I’m not sure what the point of WebTV is. The N8 has very good video recording and playback capabilities and can handle a wide variety of video formats through the browser or playing from the SD card. Web TV seems like more of a showcase for the N8’s video capacities than a serious attempt to build a new video distribution platform.

Comments are closed.