The Nokia N8 has HDMI out. Will you use it? How?

Nokia World 2010 is happening today, and I got to watch snippets of the keynote via their live stream. I saw the demo from Anssi Vanjoki where he played a video, in full HD on all their screens. He was especially proud it did not happen via a computer in the back – it was live via the Nokia N8. It comes with a HDMI port. Note that many laptops don’t even come with a HDMI out (yet). So this is revolutionary right?

So I quickly asked on Twitter: Do you really watch movies out of your smartphone? If you do, isn’t the use case on it, rather than output to a TV?

I got some interesting answers, and lots of points to discuss. First, how I might use my smartphone to watch a movie:

  • Watching movies on my phone is something I envision doing when I commute. If I’m on a train or in a crowded LRT/MRT, I might whip out my phone and watch a movie. I might do this on a plane too, but the moment I get to a place with a TV its quite unlikely that I’d be interested in watching anything on my mobile phone.
  • I should not forget about video podcasts – I subscribe to quite a lot of them, but I tend not to watch it on my mobile phones. I presume my usage might increase if I carried an iPhone (because my podcatcher of choice is iTunes), but the moment I could whip out my laptop or iPad, thats probably where I’d watch the video. Plus quality is an issue – HDMI out is great and all, but if the content is lacking (as most video podcasts are – you want to ensure you get quicker downloads), it’s not going to look pretty on a TV.
  • I might want to watch videos I create on my mobile device. This is where it might shine – watching user generated content on the big screen. To be fair, the Nokia N8 includes a very basic video editor, and this might be where HDMI out might make sense.

Now, for the rather interesting answers.

Matt Armitage tells me that he watches movies and TV on his smartphone while he is at the gym. He usually does it via a video cable to the treadmill monitor. Furthermore he tells me that some treadmill monitors allow you to plug it in via an AV lead in, and others give you an iPod adapter (compatible with all iOS devices) and you can now use the touch screen interface on the treadmill. Advanced!

Carolyn Chan tells me that she watches Futurama on her iPhone. But when pressed if she would watch it on TV via her smartphone, she says no, largely because getting movies on the phone is already a painful experience, and poor battery life is not going to help the cause.

Asrial Baker and I had a rather interesting conversation. He watches full length movies on his smartphone, with proper earphones/headsets. Asrial does this on his long commutes, and he notes that others do it on buses and trains too. Asrial’s daily commute is probably over one hour but less than two hours, one way, everyday. He can get quite a bit done while he’s on the train. He goes further to tell me that its useful when you are at a hotel, and the hotel TV is not that entertaining, its best to have the N8 + HDMI out to enjoy your movies.

Now, I never thought of this use case. When I’m at a hotel, I’m usually beat from the day and I rarely have time to watch television, let alone a feature length film. But I do spend a lot of time at hotels, and recently during my vacation, I stayed in six hotels over 3+ weeks. I am writing this while in a hotel room.

Not all hotels have a HDMI input. Asrial says every hotel he’s been to had one. Thinking back, during those six visits, only 50% of the hotels had flat screen TVs. The rest were all CRT based, and would not have had any HDMI inputs. The one I’m in now, has 3 HDMI ports, but you’ve got to get to it via the TV. No chance of plugging your phone in to get it charged (otherwise, you’d have a flat battery in no time).


What you see above was taken in the Four Points by Sheraton in Kuching, Malaysia. That’s two power sockets, a 5 volt USB charger, computer VGA in, HDMI in, iPod in, and regular AV in. In recent times, I can only remember one other hotel that does this: Intercontinental Bangkok. What is common in hotels though is an iPod dock. This commonly connects to the TV as well, so you can enjoy music & videos from your iOS device.

David Lian tells me that the idea behind this is: everyone carries their personal content/media wherever they go. Of course, now which manufacturer/hotel ends up “getting it“?

On an airplane, for example a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, you will get a USB port, an Ethernet port, and a video AV in port. No HDMI.

In conclusion, do you watch movies on your smartphone? How will you use HDMI out?


  1. Ben Israel says:

    Regardless of the answer, this feature will not sell phones. Neither will the 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash. Nokia still doesn't get that.

    On the topic: yes, I'm seeing a lot of people on the MRT watching video on the phone (mostly iPhones) everyday. Some, even Chinese soaps. I used to, until i got the iPad.

    The output to TV makes sense if you're at a random friend or relative's house and you wanted to share short video clips or images from your phone without everyone squinting their eyes at your phone.

    If the TV (screen) has a USB port, you can just plug the USB drive loaded with movies in. And, if you're in a hotel room, you might as well just plug your notebook in to the TV.

    • colincharles says:


      Well, the camera is what pocket camera manufacturers should start worrying about. But yes, that alone will not sell it. The iPhone 4 comes with a paltry 5MP camera, yet its got quite a lot of use and apps that support it

      Agree that the iPad is a great place to watch movies. Its the right size. I very rarely watched video podcasts on my iPod Touch, and that's about the screen size you get using a smartphone

      Yes, agree that sharing stuff via TV makes sense… sharing via standard USB is probably better. I consider myself to be a geek and even I don't carry too many cables around…

      Thanks for the comments Ben!



  2. Glen Cha says:

    [Commenting in my personal capacity]
    I like the options (using either analog TV-out or HDMI out) to share/consume. To make it easy to share contents is what drives some video camera makers to include a TV out option in their video cams in the first place. I think HDMI out is a natural progression to allow the sharing of user generated contents, or consuming downloaded/transferred contents in higher resolution. The standard supports great sound output too.
    Plus, using HDMI is a good choice for me, bcoz it is a common standard supported by most of the HDTV makers, if not all. That means I dont have to buy extra gear. Analog has its technical limitation but I won't mind using it to share contents if I dont have a HDTV around me.

    What I haven't tried is to play games and output via HDMI to HDTV :D
    Some games dont need you to look at, and touch the phonescreen all the time, so the game play should be quite cool on HDTV. Haven't felt that excited for awhile..:)

    Lastly, phone is the 1 gadget I always carry so it makes sense for me to have a phone that I can use to share/consume contents, via whichever option that is available..

    • colincharles says:


      Yes, HDMI supports very good video and the audio out too, so you control it on the input device. HDMI is a good choice – most people are now buying flat screen HD TV's and HDMI makes a lot of sense. However, in Malaysia at least, I still see lots of people with big box CRTs. In hotels around Asia and Europe, its still quite common to have CRT TVs.

      The “control box” I showed in the photo is vaguely common amongst 5* hotels.

      The idea of playing games using the HDTV out is what makes a lot of sense. @sweemeng on Twitter mentioned this too. I had never thought of it.

      Today, I use the iPad for a lot of things, and its the first time I've played games in a long time. Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds are pretty popular. I've been playing Angry Birds from the Ovi Store as well, and have seen the beta in the Android Marketplace. Good work to Nokia for making Angry Birds free from the Ovi Store!

      So yes, I am looking forward to playing Angry Birds on my big screen TV. That should be fun :-)

      Maybe the N8 is paving new ground to making it a gaming device. So clearly, social gaming is something that is going to come next to the whole Ovi platform (see: Apple's GameCentral).

      Its been too long since we've talked. We should do that sometime. Thanks for the comments Glen!



      • Carolyn Chan says:

        This is interesting, I'd play games on the big screen if i could get it to display there. I just always thought the HDMI cable was for HD videos only.

  3. sswam says:

    hi there, I have a Nokia N900 which is a nice little pocket computer / phone with a hardware keyboard. I do watch movies and play games on it, and I write code on it. It has TV out which is better than nothing, but it's not very good quality when I hook it up to a projector. It would be useful if it had VGA out or HDMI out.

    I bought a little 'bonitor' pocket projector but unfortunately it only works with 'video over usb' and requires windows, I don't know if there are any Linux drivers for video out over usb that would work with it. The projector works okay with my laptop but can't work with the phone. I don't know why they decided on video over usb, it's a bit stupid because usb doesn't have the bandwidth to deliver top quality moving video, and virtually no devices have usb video out.

    If my phone had good quality video-out and a pocket projector would work with it, I would be able to carry the tools I need to do a presentation or project a movie in my pocket. I think that would be cool. This kind of nonsense is what comes from working for only half the financial year and getting a big tax refund which I then splurged most of on ebay!

    • colincharles says:


      Wow, that might be fabulous. Today you can already to talks via your iPad. The iPhone/iPod Touch has a keynote remote. It would be interesting when we reach a time that the phone in our pockets could become our presentation tools.

      I have a Nokia N900 and have to agree, I absolutely love it. It really is a pocket computer



  4. iankennedy says:

    An N8 was used to project Prince of Persia in HD on the world's largest movie screen (looks like it's nine stories high) for over 2,000 people in Sweden.