Archive for February, 2010

Best of Smartphone Experts, 28 Feb 2010

Keep your eyes peeled on CrackBerry.com this week as they unleash a slew of contests for their third birthday – they’ll all be listed here!

Videos of Symbian^4 appear, but is it going to cut it in 2011?

I just saw the two videos embedded below over on The Nokia Blog and wanted to bring them to your attention. These are both short looks at the Symbian^4 operating system interface that will be complete in the 3rd quarter of 2010 with devices appearing in the first half of 2011. I have to say I am personally a bit disappointed in how they look at this time and know it could change somewhat before being complete. If this is what Nokia came out with a year or two ago, then I think it would have been great. However, all the other players are moving forward and Nokia needs to think ahead of them rather than matching user interface elements we already see in Android.

The videos remind me of what I have seen with Samsung’s TouchWIZ user interface that is being made into their own bada operating system as well. It is very Android-widgety looking, which is nice to see, but will be a bit dated in 2011. With Symbian and Maemo MeeGo, along with Series 40, I am starting to wonder if Nokia can be focused enough to not confuse the consumer.

Microsoft actually now has the most interesting user interface where they take the idea that everything is done through applications out of the picture and focus on bringing you information based on people you want to interact with or global tasks (using media). With Windows Phone 7 Series it seems you don’t think of application names, but rather what do you want to do and the UI is very unique and different than anything we see today. The iPhone is a simple user interface, but always having to go back to a home screen and then find an application to launch is a bit tedious and not as user friendly as a user interface can be.

Do these videos show an appealing user interface to you? I like what I see in Maemo 5 on my N900 and don’t think this shows me anything super compelling over what we already see in this device.

Ovi Maps 3.04 beta now available with speed and positioning improvements

Ovi Maps 3.04 beta now available with speed and positioning improvementsIf you have the free Ovi Maps 3 client on your Nokia device then you may be interested in trying out the latest beta version 3.04 from Nokia Beta Labs. This beta release has tweaks to improve performance and positioning and I understand this includes pre-defined categories, improved search for cities with zoom out to city level.

I’ve been using Ovi Maps on a Nokia N97 mini and found it to be quite good. I haven’t tried out this newest beta version yet, but will load it up soon.

Nokia and Symbian continue to rule the smartphone world

gartnerOS2010We all know that Symbian leads the world in the smartphone sector, but no one can sit still in this fast moving space. The latest Gartner data for the 4th quarter of 2009 shows that Symbian leads with 46.9% market share with RIM in second at 19.9%. Unfortunately, Symbian saw a drop of 5.5% from the same quarter a year ago. RIM, iPhone, and Android platforms all saw large increases in market share and are definitely the ones to keep an eye on moving forward.

nokia2010share

Looking at the manufacturer numbers we see that Nokia dominates the world with 36.4% (down from 38.6%) with Samsung in second at 19.5%. Nokia did outperform expecations in a down economy though and is still in a very strong leadership position.

Best of Smartphone Experts, 21 Feb 2010 – MWC Edition

We’re back from Mobile World Congress 2010 battered but excited for the upcoming year in smartphones. We had coverage from the show at all six sites. If the above isn’t enough to whet your appetite for Mobile World Congress news, we’ve helpfully collated a list of all our coverage up to this point after the break. There are still a few more posts to come as we empty our memory cards and ponder what we held in out hands out in Barcelona – so stay tuned!

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Review: Nokia E72 front-facing QWERTY smartphone

NokiaE7201The Nokia E71/E71x was at the top of my top three Symbian devices of all time and had a form factor that couldn’t be beat. My wife actually has adopted the E71 as her primary smartphone and absolutely loves it. There were only a few issues I had with the E71/E71x and it seemed Nokia was going to fix most of those with the Nokia E72. I have been using an evaluation E72 for a couple of weeks and find that some of the things I wanted to see improved were improved, but the update wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped for. Then again, the device is very reasonably priced and is still a very compelling smartphone that should appeal to many of you.

Improvements from the E71/E71x to the E72

A couple of the pain points in the E71 were the 2.5mm headset jack, problematic 3.2 megapixel camera (mostly fixed with latest firmware update), lack of microUSB charging, and older S60 Feature operating system. The Nokia E72 has a standard 3.5mm headset jack, good 5 megapixel camera, microUSB charging, and S60 Feature Pack 2 and more as listed in the specifications below. So on paper, the E72 is clearly superior to the E71 and in actuality it is for the most part. However, the E71 was the sleekest, sexiest smartphone around and the E72 loses a bit of this with a slightly cheaper feel to it. It still feels good in your hand and is sexy, but there is something about the E71 that makes it feel better. There are other major improvements in the E72 (described below) that make it a much better device than the E71 so it is definitely an upgrade to consider if you liked the E71.

My biggest gripe now with the E72 is the display resolution and fonts. I have been spoiled by some fantastic high resolution displays on the N97 mini, N900, and Google Nexus One and now it is tough to go back to a device with a 320×240 QVGA display. I understand this is an operating system limitation so there wasn’t much Nokia could have done and kept it a S60 3rd Edition device. Sorry, I was misinformed and didn’t do enough research to know this is not a limitation.

In the box

The Nokia E72 comes in a fairly standard compact Nokia box along with a battery (BP-4L), A/C charger, USB cable, wired stereo headset, lanyard, pouch, User Guide, Quick Start Guide, and some other small pamphlets.

Specifications

  • Intel ARM 11 600 MHz processor (E71 had 369 MHz processor)
  • Symbian OS 9.3 with S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2
  • 250 MB of free user disk space
  • 2.36 inch 320×240 pixel resolution QVGA display
  • Optical trackball
  • 5 megapixel camera
  • microSD card slot with included 4GB card
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • A-GPS receiver
  • FM radio with RDS support
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • microUSB port for syncing and charging
  • Front facing QWERTY keyboard
  • BP-4L 1500 mAh battery
  • Dimensions of 4.48 x 2.34 x 0.39 inches and 4.51 ounces

In terms of specifications, nothing at all is lost when moving from the E71 to the E72 and you actually gain quite a bit with the faster processor, better camera, about double the available onboard storage space, 3.5mm headset jack, and more. You also gain the optical trackpad and if you don’t like how it works you can always disable the touch part of it and use it as a standard trackball. The torch key is extremely handy for walking around in the dark (it turns the super bright flash into an LED flashlight) and the E72 also has an accelerometer. The better Nokia Messaging client is installed by default along with much better icons.

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VentureBeat: Why can’t Nokia sell phones to Americans?

The question in the headline was attempted to be answered by VentureBeat in a recent article, but like we have discussed before the answer is not clear cut and is most likely not due to a single issue. VentureBeat talked with some analysts and journalists (not me) to come up with three possible reasons why Nokia is not having any effect on the US market.

  1. Nokia was too cocky when dealing with US wireless carriers
  2. Nokia phones are no longer the sexiest out there
  3. Nokia no longer leads on features

Nokia logo

The article also alludes to the fact that most Americans are cheap when it comes to cellphones and want the lowest subsidized price phone, even though the initial price has little to do with the full contract price people will be paying over the next two years. US wireless fees are significantly higher than other countries, but Americans seem to accept these high costs for a couple hundred dollar up front kickback on their phones and I don’t see anyway of changing this perception any time soon.

It is a bit strange what marketing can do to turn this around though since millions paid $599 for the original Apple iPhone that had far fewer features and capabilities than most feature phones. The UI was extremely cool and that eye candy alone was able to make Americans part with some big bucks and sign up for 2-year contracts. I also find it a bit contradictory that Apple was allowed to sell the iPhone without ANY AT&T customization and crippling (except for MMS and tethering) while devices like the E71x were gutted by AT&T and made worse than the standard E71.

I would love to see Nokia launch a major marketing campaign with a theme of something like, “Hello America, we are back to give you the best mobile phone experience” and then see some fantastic Symbian device that blows away all the rest. This is something that is possible since the smartphone market is still young and Americans are suckers for good marketing.

We all know that Nokia makes high quality devices, has the best RF reception, has the best media capture quality, and know how to roll out compelling devices. I know the American market is small in relation to the world, but think it is much more about mindshare here than marketshare and it would be sweet to see Nokia make a comeback in the USA some day.

Skype for Symbian allows calls, chat, and uploads over 3G and WiFi

Skype for Symbian allows calls and chat over 3G and WiFiRemember back when the Nokia N97 was released and Nokia said one of the applications and services that would be coming to the N97 was Skype? Well, the guys over at All About Symbian posted the news that Skype for Symbian is finally available for S60 3rd and 5th Edition devices. Visit skype.com/m in your mobile browser to download this new client. I understand it works on the N95 and newer devices so just about everyone with a Nokia smartphone should be able to use this latest client.

The chat feature supports threaded chatting and is what we should have in SMS on Nokia devices. I see that RAM issues on devices are likely though as Skype is a memory hog and Nokia hasn’t been putting in enough RAM into their devices. I believe this works over both 3G and WiFi, which is better than most other smartphones where only calls over WiFi are supported. I will be installing this soon onto the N97 mini and seeing how it handles the RAM issues.

Another Nokia N900 firmware update available, 3.2010.02-8.002

I popped my SIM into my Nokia N900 and turned it on this morning to discover that a Maemo 5 update was available. The new firmware is version 3.2010.02-8.002 and is 16.2MB in size. Unfortunately when I tried to install it on my N900 I received an error that there wasn’t enough memory available to install the update. I went into the application installer and saw that the Firefox browser consumed something like 40+MB so I uninstalled it and tried again with the firmware update. Again, I received a pop-up that there was not enough room in the target location. I went into Settings>General>Memory to check out what I had available and saw there was 1.63GB available for installable applications, 18.04GB available on the N900 memory and a full 14.27GB on my 16GB microSD card. I then had to do a bit of hunting around to discover that I needed more space in my rootfs directory. Following the tip from synplex in this Maemo.org thread I disabled all the extra catalogs I had in my Application Manager and the update worked like a charm.

N900 tips & tricks: Enable mouse mode in browser and play flash games

You are prompted to create a backup, but I like to live on the ragged edge so I went ahead and installed the update without a backup. Actually, I figure this is as good of a time as any to reload up apps I like and clean up my device.

There doesn’t appear to be any official changelog yet so I am not sure what was updated with this firmware. I will test out my device and keep an eye out for any official information on what was changed, but if you already did the update please feel free to post if you find anything too.

UPDATE:
One noted change comes from plaban: “Just noticed one change. Now it is possible to install .deb packages without xterminal,just open the .deb file using file manager.”

Nokia and Intel Announce Meego – Maemo and Moblin Merge!

meego

Big big news everybody and – Nokia’s Maemo platform is merging with Intel’s Moblin platfrom to create a new, LInux-based platform called <b>Meego</b>! The companies plan on offering the OS on multiple types of devices, from tablets to phones to television boxes.

Meego will work with the Qt app development ecosystem – which will hopefully radically increase the number of apps available for Nokia’s Linux devices. The software will be hosted by the Linux foundation, and naturally it will be fully open source. It’ll come in the second quarter of 2010 and we’ll have devices by the end of the year!

We were live at the event, read on for updates from the press event and the full press release after the break.

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Nokia N8 Guide



Nokia E73 Mode Guide
Nokia N900 Guide