Archive for Nokia

Why I won’t get a Nokia N810

I feel like doing more ranting today…

So I just read an article today on TabletBlog called “Teach Nokia Something,” and it got me thinking about the Nokia N810 device.

www.tabletblog.com/2008/06/teach-nokia-something.html

As all of my friends know, I used to work for Nokia. (I’m currently freelancing as a mobile UI designer.) Nokia is a great place to work for a lot of reasons, not least of which that you get to beta test new devices long before they’re launched. For example, I was an early recipient of the N800 device and filed a gazillion bugs & feature requests on it before it was launched. I also purchased a Nokia 770 with my own money shortly after it was launched in 2006 because it was such a cool and innovative product.

I love the concept of the N800/N810. A pocketable, infinitely expandable Linux-based computer! Plus, it’s extremely capable and a lot of fun to use!

Unfortunately, I think that the dream just hasn’t been realized with this device yet. And given the choice between a Nokia N810 or an iPod Touch, I’ll go with the Touch.

Holy cow! Did I really just write that? Oh yes, I did…

I think the N810 is missing several key features to really make it a strong competitor to the iPod Touch, which is in my opinion it’s target device to beat. The iPod Touch isn’t a true one-to-one competitor, but it’s the closest thing. And the iPod Touch has really raised the bar on what a pocket computer can be, leapfrogging the innovative N810 in many ways.

PIM FEATURES SUCK

Nokia has specifically resisted offering any competent PIM features on the device out of the box. They don’t want the press or customers to confuse the device with a Palm Pilot (ick!). Well, sure. I suppose that’s understandable. No one wants to buy a Palm any more and the Palm OS platform is dead. But at the end of the day, Personal Information Management (PIM) features like the Contacts, Calendar, and Address Book are core features of any mobile device. Purposefully under-developing those features is akin to giving your shiny new smart convergence device a lobotomy.

The fact is that convergence devices need to offer a platform-level mashup infrastructure with PIM features at the core. This is plumbing upon which third party software developers need to build innovative mashup-style products and services. All smartphone platforms offer Address Books with varying levels of open APIs (programming hooks) for just this purpose. Even the iPhone and Android have fairly open Address Book APIs! But the Nokia N8xx Maemo devices have an exceptionally braindead Address Book, lame ass email client, non-existent calendar, etc. The complaints about the native N8xx PIM apps ring loudly throughout the blogosphere ring.

And third parties have not really stepped up to the plate to fill in the gaps. The only company which was offering a competent suite of PIM applications for the early Nokia 770, Deja Desktop, discontinued its offering a couple of years ago. None of the other apps that are currently available on the Maemo.org download site qualify as suitable replacements.

Nokia, wake up and recognize PIM as the killer app suite for all of your mobile devices! It’s core infrastructure that, when well developed, makes your platform worthwhile to innovate on!

POOR MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCEThe Nokia N8xx devices offer a fairly poor multimedia experience overall. It lacks out of the box support for a variety of common (MP4 video) and obscure fanboy formats (like Ogg Vorbis). So when I rip my DVDs for my iPod touch in MP4, I can’t also play them on an N810.

What’s worse, the media player is ugly as sin. It pains me to open the thing and look at it long enough to even launch a video or music file. The experience also doesn’t hold a candle to the rich and fun experience on an iPhone/iPod Touch.

And BTW, I’m not fond of Canola, either. It’s really pretty, but still a product with unrealized potential. It’s still too buggy and unstable for my liking.

INSUFFICIENT MEMORY

The cheapest iPhone and iPod Touch devices ship with more on-board memory than a Nokia N810. Yeah, I know that the N810 is expandable to 8 GB, but the smallest iPhones/iPod Touches ship with 8 GB and go up from there. Up to 32 GB for the iPod Touch! The next N8xx needs at least 8 GB!

And what’s wrong with offering multiple devices where the only differentiating factor is memory? It’s in decisions like this that Nokia’s handset roots show through. Apple, the computer company, get it that you can extract lots more revenue from the market simply by offering devices with different amounts of built in memory. Nokia? Yeah, not so much. Nokia has only dipped its toes into the water with such a strategy by offering a couple of mobile phones with extra memory. Nokia, you’re not quite there yet in learning how to be a consumer electronics company!

NO BLUETOOTH STEREO HEADPHONE SUPPORT

I want an N810 to offer Bluetooth stereo headphone support (A2DP) out of the box. Yes, you can add it in as an end user with third party software while by muttering weird incantations under a full moon. But who does? The N810 needs to get to the point where a whole suite of brilliant apps and features are THERE, right out of the box! Then it will have more likelihood to become a consumer success. Hackers will always hack and it’s really cool to see what they come up with. But consumers never do. Consumers personalize; they don’t hack.

DESKTOP MEDIA MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

The killer feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch is the brilliant integration between iTunes on the desktop, the iTunes store web services, and the devices. One click and they’re all in sync! The Nokia N8xx series doesn’t necessarily need that level of integration. But it would be really nice if it were at least easier to manage my media collection on the device from my desktop! And that includes RSS news subscriptions too.

I’m sure there are more nits to pick here, but the day is getting on and I’ve got other work to do. And of course, this posting neglects to go on about all of the features I love about the device, such as the excellent browser and seamless Bluetooth connectivity for piggybacking on my Nokia E65′s data connection while on the road. The iPod Touch can’t do that!

BOTTOM LINE

I really love the Nokia N810 device and its siblings. But I won’t buy a replacement for my aging Nokia 770 until there’s a really competent alternative to my iPod Touch.

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Why I won’t get an Apple iPhone 3G

“Apple 3G iPhone is…”

  • Going to save the world.
  • Going to Nokia, LG, Samsung, RIM (BlackBerry), etc…
  • The second coming of the greatest technology ever.

That’s all hogwash!

True, it’s an amazing little device that’s really fun to use. But it’s not for me — yet.

For one thing, the device lacks advanced Bluetooth functionality for sending/getting files and stero headphone support (A2DP). Why does this supposedly advanced device lack the ability to get rid of the headphone wires all together? Strange.

The new 3G device also lacks enough memory. My iTunes music collection is already at 19 GB and growing fast with each new CD or iTunes purchase. Not to mention that I’m slowly going through my DVD collection and ripping some of my favorite movies and TV shows to an iPod-compatible video format. The 3G iPhone has 16 GB of storage maximum.  *yawn* I’m waiting for 32 (minimum) or 64 GB (preferred) before I’d even consider switching.

I also am waiting to see what kind of apps will be created for the device. Since the device doesn’t appear to have native support for SyncML, I can’t sync my contact list from Zyb (www.zyb.com) to the phone. But on the good side, it looks like some third party software vendors are lining up to provide support for SyncML.

And don’t even get me started on the lack of Flash and Java support on the device!

I think it’s lame that Apple doesn’t support such “core” mobile software features on their phones when the other mobile platform vendors do!

Well, with the notable exception of Microsoft. Their Windows Mobile platform still kind of sucks and lacks advanced features, too… That’s an interesting coincidence, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, I’ll content myself with one of Nokia’s advanced S60 smartphones paired with a 32 GB iPod Touch!

Oh, and Sony Ericsson, I‘ll come back to the fabulous UIQ platform when you start making UIQ devices that work on American 3G networks. Same goes for you Motorola! The Z8 is a great device — but no WiFi and no US 3G??? What the heck?!?

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What are the must have downloadable applications for your mobile phone?

Someone in my extended network on LinkedIn just posed this question, so I took a few minutes to write a response. I wrote a much longer article on this blog not too long ago on this topic:

Setting Up a New Unlocked Smartphone: www.infotart.com/blog/2008/01/05/setting-up-a-new-unlocked-phone/

So here’s my response to the LinkedIn question which I wrote this afternoon:

For me, it also depends on the phone’s operating system. I own several smartphones (either Symbian S60 or UIQ). As a mobile UI designer, I’ve also enjoyed spending time with Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Palm devices.

For me, personally, once I get a new phone, I always put all of my contacts on the phone. I use a free service from Zyb (www.zyb.com, now owned by Vodaphone) to sync my contacts to my devices. The device must have SyncML support, which includes most smartphones.

I use Google Calendar to manage my social calendar and I don’t need all of those events on my device’s calendar. The reason is that I set up Google Calendar to send me an SMS by default for all events about 15 min. before starting. (That setting is editable for each individual event.) But if I did want my calendar on my phone, I would use GooSync (www.goosync.com). GooSync also offers to sync your Google contacts.

One of the first things I do with a new phone is put my personal email on the device. I have Gmail, but don’t like the Java-based Gmail application. Instead, most smartphones support linking POP/IMAP accounts like Gmail into the phone’s native email app. That’s what I use with S60 and UIQ phones, and it works great!

Next, I put Google Maps on my phone. The features for Google Maps varies by operating system. It’s very rich on S60 devices, including getting location data from an external GPS receiver via Bluetooth (which is what I have in my car) or via cell tower. Hopefully those features are coming to UIQ soon, as I really missed it on my Sony Ericsson W960 Walkman phone. Google Maps has a few annoying quirks, but it’s free and works great overall.

I really like Fring (www.fring.com) on my WiFi-enabled S60 phone. I like being able to make calls over WiFi, as well as chat with friends on Skype and some other services.

Another good WiFi VOIP app is the Gizmo Project (www.gizmoproject.com), which has excellent integration with S60 phones as a native “Internet Call” service. The Gizmo Project is like Skype’s less famous (and not quite as pretty) cousin, but the VOIP calling features work great.

I love the concept of JoikuSpot Light (www.joiku.com) which turns your S60 phone into a wireless Internet WiFi hotspot! Since I also carry an iPod Touch around, I can enjoy my email and web browsing on a bigger screen on the iPod Touch. The beta version worked only so-so with my Nokia E65, so I’m hoping that the recently released full version will be working better.

Another Internet access utility that I’ve heard lots of great thing about is Psiloc Connect (http://connect.psiloc.com). This handy little utility helps ensure that your WiFi enabled phone connects to WiFi points when they’re available rather than eating up data on your cellular plan. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s very high on my “next to try” list.

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Screen Capture Software for Mobile Phones

I gave a presentation on user interface design and marketing on mobile phones this afternoon for a boutique ad agency in Cambridge. It was a lot of fun and we had some great discussions.

One of the questions that came up was how to take screenshots for mobile phones. That’s an excellent question and one that has bedeviled me in the past, as well. So here are links to the software programs I use for taking screenshots on these types of phones.

  • S60: I highly recommend the free utility called Screenshot from Antony Pranata. It’s a very good free product.
  • UIQ: There are now two products I can recommend.
  1. CellPhoneSoft AutoCam: This is a good product at a good price, just $15. Note that the license key is locked to your phone’s unique IMEI number.
  2. Screenshot from Antony Pranata: He has ported it to the UIQ platform. I haven’t tried it for UIQ yet, but considering that the S60 version is great, I expect this turned out well, too. Price: Free.
  • BlackBerry: There’s an excellent utility called BBScreenShooter and its’s free. However, it’s pretty complicated to set up. Also, it only works when the device is connected to your computer with a cable. Still, it’s free and it works well.
  • Windows Mobile: Illium Software offers two free applications, one each for Windows Mobile Smartphone/Standard and PocketPC/Professional. The product can be a little tricky to use sometimes. There are also commercial (non-free alternatives), but I’ve relied on Illium’s free utilities in the past.
  • PalmOS: LinkSOFT GMBH offers a screen capture utility for Palm devices, but I haven’t tried it yet. The price is a reasonable $15.
  • Nokia 770 running Maemo OS2006: There’s a free utility called CPU/Mem/Screenshot which can take screenshots of the 770. I’ve used it before and it works fine. I’m not sure if any utilities are yet available for the newer generations of the Nokia Internet Tablet, the N800 and N810, but a simple search of the Maemo application catalog will hopefully turn up something.
  • Apple iPhone: There’s nothing official yet, but if you’ve jailbroken your phone, you could give the iPhone ScreenShot utility from Rabota a try. Note the version compatibility warnings! Hopefully, once Apple officially opens the device to third party software, we’ll see more official — and stable — products.
  • Google Android: Since the OS is still under development and there aren’t any devices released yet, your best bet at this time is to take screenshots of apps running in the emulator. I’ll update this item when I run across a screenshot utility.
  • S80: For owners of these older devices, you can use an excellent utility called Remote S80 by Mobileways.de. You might need to get the software from a third party such as Handango or Motricity as I don’t think they support it any more.
  • Motorola RAZR: Here’s a link to an excellent post at ModMyMoto on how to take a screenshot on a RAZR. It’s not for the feint of heart.
  • All Other Phones: Sorry, no information! Worse yet, it’s probably not possible due to basic software restrictions common in most other phones. A good alternative for Java (J2ME) software is to install an emulator on your PC and take regular screenshots of the product running in the emulator.

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Obsession Come True!

What fantastic news! I got a Nokia E65 (in red) yesterday and I’m totally loving it. Loving it!

What software am I putting on my phone?

  • Google Maps: Because in New England, the roads were laid down by drunken cows and city road commissions are allergic to street signs. Much better than Nokia’s own Navigator/Maps product.
  • Gmail: To get access to my Gmail on the go!
  • iSkoot: Hello! It’s my day job. Gotta eat the dog food.
  • Widsets: An excellent RSS reader and “gadget” application. Using Widsets, I can get weather updates and even access my Univ. of Michigan email account, which is pretty cool.

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Obsession: Nokia E65 (Red)

Nokia E65 (red)

Ever get these inexplicable obsessions?

I tend to get obsessed about gadgets. And for the past month or so, I’ve been totally obsessing over the Nokia E65 in red. Such a gorgeous device…

When I was working at Nokia, I was on a software project that was launching with the E65 and had some features that were optimized to work well on the device. So they also lent me a pre-launch device that I (most unfortunately) had to return when I moved on to iSkoot.

Now I want one again.

Now, my obsession isn’t just because it’s a gorgeous devices. It’s also because a.) it has WiFi; and b) it’s quad-band, so it will work well on American cellular networks.

Why is the WiFi a big deal? Because AT&T has crap cellular coverage in my neighborhood! I can only use cell phones if I stand on my back deck or sit on my bed. How inconvenient is that???

But with WiFi, I can load mobile VOIP software on the device like the Gizmo Project’s to make calls through the Internet — no AT&T at all! The quality isn’t quite as good as Skype’s (yet), and it’s also a hair more expensive than Skype. But otherwise, the Gizmo Project is a great alternative VOIP solution.

If AT&T isn’t going to improve its coverage in my neighborhood, then I’m more than happy to use the alternatives. Rather than installing a landline again (goodness, no!), I see a WiFi-based VOIP solution in my very near future…

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New Nokia N810 Internet Tablet Announced Today!

When I left Nokia last January, I was one of the beta testers for the Nokia N800. I loved that device and was an enthusiastic beta tester. So it kind of broke my heart when I had to turn it back in on my last day…

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet
Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

Today, Nokia announced its successor, the Nokia 810 Internet Tablet. Yay!

A friend of mine joined the beta testing program for the N810 and finally showed it to me last weekend. It’s niiiiice….

The device’s UI has been spiffied up. The UI is much faster now. It has a slide out keyboard, which is cool. It has the new Flash 9 built in, which means that you can now finally watch YouTube! (Plus regular Flash-based web sites — which has been a real let-down with my 770.) It has built-in GPS, which is a fantastic feature. (And goodness knows we need it here in New England where towns inexplicably and purposefully don’t put street signs up. What the heck is up with that?!?!?) You can read more in the enthusiastic Engadget review:

Nokia N810 Gets Official on Engadget

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet (announced today) 

So as much as I loved the N800, I’m glad I waited. Because now I’m thinking that I’ll just have to get my mitts on the 810 instead. After all, I’ve been intending on getting a GPS device for awhile now. Might as well get one that comes with it built in.

Now that the N810 comes with a full Mozilla browser, with Flash 9 and GPS built in, plus Skype and Gizmo (I have accounts on both and use them because AT&T has zero signal in my apartment, the bastards), it definitely becomes a compelling purchase for me. *drool…* 

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Nokia E61/E62 Themes

Yesterday, I wanted to take some screenshots of the iSkoot software running on a shiny new Nokia E61. (Nice devices, but only available overseas. The E62 is its U.S.-only sister.) But instead of taking yet another bunch of screenshots with the same well-known default Nokia “blue spotlight” theme, I thought it’d be fun to put a new theme on it. But where to get themes for this device?
Good news:   A kind Nokia staff person who works on the the E series device team has posted a bunch of cool themes on his blog. Some are official Nokia themes, while others are from contributors who are regular folks around the world. Quality varies, as a result. But the good thing is that they’re free and don’t have viruses! Check them out:

www.e-series.org/nokia-e61-themes

Note that before you install any themes for your E series device, you’ll probably need to adjust its security settings, or the device won’t install the theme. This is especially important for themes from third party contributors (not Nokia). Our friend on the E series team has posted info on how to make this work, as well:

www.e-series.org/archives/192

Enjoy!

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iGo

Working for a software company that makes software for mobile phones — from lots of manufacturers — I love being able to borrow the latest Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, BlackBerry, or other fun handset for the weekend. (Or, like with the Motorola Ming, indefinitely…) As a result, I have a growing pile of wall chargers for just about everything. Well, thank goodness that I heard about iGo! I just got an iGo charger over the weekend and I’m loving it already.

iGo is this little company that makes wall and car chargers with interchangeable tips. Bring home the hot new BlackBerry Curve? No problem — just snap in tip A29. Is the Ming complaining about running low on juice? Snap in tip A32. Each tip costs right around $10, which I think is pretty good. Radio Shack carries them, plus iGo sells them online. (I wonder if there are any web sites selling them at deep discounts by the bucketful…?)

Now I have one charger plugged into the outlet all the time and a small bag with a bunch of tips in it sitting in a vintage Chinese tea bowl sitting on my desk. At long last I can get rid of that growing rat’s nest of wires and oddly shaped plugs!

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There’s another Finnish mobile phone company???

I heard the other day that not only is there another Finnish mobile phone company, but they’ve also just released a new device with a very silly product name. It’s not that pretty either. It’s called the Twig and the company’s name is Benefon. The cool thing is that it has built in GPS, though.

Twig Review at UberPhone Blog

By the way, when I tell people I work for Nokia, they often think that it’s a Japanese or Korean company. Silly people — it’s actually a Finnish company!

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