Archive for May, 2010

First MeeGo device to use ARM processor, due later this year

Public Meego development kicks off with N900 image

While we track MeeGo development and wait for the first MeeGo device due later this year, Engadget points us to an Inquirer story which ways that this first device will likely use an ARM-based processor instead of Intel’s x86-based Atom chip, which is interesting given that Nokia’s major partner in the MeeGo effort is Intel.

Meanwhile, ┬áin case you missed it when Matt wrote about the 1.2 update for the Nokia N900, Steve pointed out in the comments that Nokia has said that MeeGo won’t be officially released for the device. So while that N900 development version of Meego from late March may have been promising, it’s a promise only of what we’ll see on a future device.

Inquirer via Engadget

Best of Smartphone Experts, 30 May 2010

Nokia N900 update 1.2 now available in the US

Nokia N900 update 1.2 now available in the USI mentioned yesterday that the 1.2 update was rolling out in the UK for the Nokia N900, but that I was leaving on vacation so I didn’t think I would get it. I am leaving in a couple of hours, but saw the update appear on my N900 so I couldn’t resist updating my device. I did get a low memory available error, but simply turned off all my application catalogs (except for Nokia), restarted, and the update was applied. I like to live dangerously and did not create a backup first, as prompted, and just went for it with the update. It took about 10 minutes in total time to update my Nokia N900, but my device is now update and reads Version 10.2010.19-1.002.

I have only spent a couple of minutes with it, but have the following quick thoughts for you:

  • The custom positioning is not just for the first application screen, but all of your apps appear on the page and there is no longer a More apps 2nd screen. Everything appears on one, but I have not seen anyway to create folders for further organization.
  • The Ovi Maps interface and functionality is MUCH IMPROVED! I like the easy view toggle, much better directions setup interface, walking and driving directions entry screen, and more. I plan to test this out a lot more when I return. We now need offline Ovi Maps support so I can take my N900 when I leave the country.
  • I cannot figure out how to switch to portrait mode in the browser since rotating the display does not seem to do it.

What do you like in the update?

Foreign travel is a major reason to use free Ovi Maps navigation

Foreign travel is a major reason to use free Ovi Maps navigationMy wife sells Party Lite and is quite the saleswoman who earns all-expense paid vacations for us every May. This year we are heading out on a Mediterranean cruise to Spain, France, and Italy. In preparation for this European trip I made sure my Truphone Local Anywhere SIM was loaded up with credit to call home and check on the girls and that my Nokia N86 8MP and N97 mini were ready to go. Part of that preparation included updating Ovi Maps on both devices and also downloading maps for Spain, France, and Italy directly to the storage areas on each device. I love that Nokia now fully supports uploading maps to devices from a Mac too.

I have Android and Windows Mobile devices, the iPhone, and even a webOS device, but for travel outside the US nothing beats a Nokia device. You get the best RF reception of any platform, ability to easily manage what is syncing and connecting via data, the functionality to use a SIM like the Truphone one, and get FREE voice guided (including walking) maps and GPS navigation with NO data connection required. This is vital if you will be in areas you are unfamiliar with and want to explore the different ports of call.

Anyone else rely on free Ovi Maps for foreign travel?

Nokia N900 1.2 update rolling out soon, is it enough?

Nokia N900 1.2 update rolling out soon, is it enough?Great, just as I am getting ready to leave town for over a week on a cruise with my wonderful wife of 17 years Nokia goes and decides to release the N900 version 1.2 firmware update. The update is rolling out in the UK today and starts globally tomorrow. Unfortunately, I will not be able to provide you all with an in-depth walk through the update until after I return next week. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what you can expect.

New games will be released, including Jurassic 3D, Rollercoaster, Angry Birds level pack, and more. These games will show up in the Ovi Store after Thursday, 27 May.

You will also see some improvements in the communication systems. You will be able to accept or decline meeting invitations. Facebook IM chat will be included, along with some kind of video calling capability (not sure what client is being used here) via Skype as Jason tested out and confirmed. Portrait web browsing is included. There is also an Ovi Maps update and I sure hope it gives us a MUCH improved experience because it is quite lame at the moment.

Thankfully, you will also find the ability to customize the first level of the menu system icons.

Several of these updates are things we have been able to do with kludgy fixes so it is nice to see a single update incorporate these capabilities.

Here is my list of things I want to see improved in the N900 and I have no idea if this update will address any of them as details still are not fully revealed:

  1. Improved email client that more closely matches other smartphones
  2. Ability to send text messages in portrait mode with the on-screen keyboard
  3. Ability to organize application icons/shortcuts into folders

Are you happy to see this update? What is the biggest feature you were looking forward to? What else would you like to see before Nokia abandons Maemo and switches to Meego?

Review: SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 for Symbian S60 5th Edition

SPB Software was one of the first places I used to visit for optimizing my Windows Mobile device and turning it into the device I wanted. Spb Software has come a long way over the last couple of years and now has software for all the major smartphone platforms, including Symbian. One of the foundational applications that I used on all of my Windows Mobile devices prior to HTC’s TouchFLO UI (and sometimes even in place of this) was SPB Mobile Shell. I was very pleased to receive the news last week that SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 was coming to Symbian S60 5th Edition and is now available for $29.95.

If you are familiar with SPB Mobile Shell on Windows Mobile then you know how much customization and functionality is in this application so I figured it was a bit easier to show this off with a video so I have the YouTube video I created below to walk you through the software. I also included an image gallery below of several screenshots, but there is even more than that available and I recommend you at least give the free trial a chance if you are at all interested in customizing the main user interface of your S60 5th Edition device. I personally tested it out on a Nokia N97 mini.

Installation and initial setup

The install file is quite large at about 7 MB, but since it is a user interface for the device I installed it right into the internal memory location on the N97 mini. It ran perfectly and I never experienced any lockups or freezes, even though I was testing a pre-release candidate.

You can install and then launch SPB Mobile Shell and then just start using it with the default settings. I imagine some people may do this, but the reason to use an application like this is to fully customize the user experience to your personal tastes and I doubt there are any two exact same SPB Mobile Shell setups across the spectrum of users.

Key features

As you can see in my video above, there is a ton of customizable functionality in SPB Mobile Shell and the software gives you a fresh device while we wait for Symbian^3. Here is a list of the widgets that are included with SPB Mobile Shell 3.5:

  • Shortcut to apps
  • Photo Contact
  • Wireless Control Switches
  • Battery
  • Phone profile
  • Analog clock
  • Digital clock
  • Tasks
  • Picture frame
  • Birthdays
  • Bluetooth/WiFi/Flight mode
  • Emails/SMS & MMS/Missed call
  • Backlight
  • Alarms
  • Agenda/Calendar
  • Weather, 5 day forecast and current weather conditions
  • Launcher
  • SPB Menu
  • Contacts
  • Photo contacts
  • Smart search
  • Call log
  • Contacts carousel
  • Home screen backgrounds
  • Skins

There are two main components of SPB Mobile Shell, including Professional Home and Lifestyle Home and you can easily switch between the two by simply flicking upwards or downwards on the display. This works if you have both enabled, but you can also just choose to use one if you never use the other. Each of these components is customizable to your liking and gives you access to many types of glanceable information and the ability to launch utilities and applications quickly.

Using SPB Mobile Shell 3.5

SPB Mobile Shell is a UI built on top of the S60 5th Edition interface and you can always switch back to the Symbian UI if you desire, but I think after you customize your device you will stick with Mobile Shell 3.5.

SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 supports OpenGL and provides a 3D carousel of your contacts, which is pretty slick and some nice eye candy. Even though the functionality can be overwhelming at times, keep in mind the software is focused on multiple homescreens, widgets, photo contacts/speed dial, and an application launcher. At times you can get lost down in the menus, but I found out on my Windows Mobile devices that you eventually gain a full understanding of the application and setup and then have a tough time trying anything else when your device is customized and optimized for you.

Conclusion

SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 is a wonderful way to customize your Symbian S60 5th Edition device. As we see some people complain about the user interface of Symbian it seems that this application can address many of those concerns and give you a fresh device without having to buy a new device. You may find the setup a bit overwhelming at first, but as you use it and set it up it really turns out to be a straight forward utility that is quite pleasing to use.

SPB Mobile Shell 3.5 is fast and responsive to touch and I am using it now as my main user interface on the N97 mini. We do not see a lot of these types of user interface utilities on Symbian so I was pleased to see SPB Software bring over just about everything that they have developed on the Windows Mobile platform.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Features: 4.5
  • Stability: 5
  • Customizability: 5
  • Ease of use: 4

Overall: 4.5/5

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Pros

  • Extremely customizable
  • Fast and responsive
  • Stable
  • Fresh user interface without needing a new device

Cons

  • May be a bit overwhelming at first with all the settings

Review: OtterBox Commuter Series for Nokia N900

OtterBoxN90001I just mentioned the Nokia N900 Commuter Series OtterBox case a couple of weeks ago and the great folks at OtterBox sent along a sample for me to check out since they know I am such a fan of my Nokia N900. The Nokia N900 Commuter Series case looked attractive on their site, but after it arrived and I placed my N900 inside I have to say it may be one of the best cases ever made by OtterBox for a phone or PDA.

Package and contents

The OtterBox Commuter Series for Nokia N900 comes in a clear plastic package with OtterBox labeling and details on a cardboard piece sandwiched between two plastic pieces. Thankfully, OtterBox doesn’t require you to have Ginsu knives and a degree in plastics to get the case open and the two halves separate quite easily. Inside the plastic packaging you will find two halves to the case, a screen protector, lens cleaning cloth, installation card, and screen protector instructions. I did not use or try out the screen protector because I already have BodyGuardZ protector on my display and did not want to remove it for this review.

Installation

You will find two pieces that form this case and it is clear which piece is for the bottom and which piece is for the top. The bottom/back piece is the most substantial and has integrated silicone rubber plugs for the microUSB port and the 3.5mm headset jack to protect these openings from dust. I liked seeing the substantial silicone rubber piece along most of the top/right side with protrusions to control volume, toggle the power button, and control the camera capture button. There is even an opening next to the camera capture button for the IR port (I never use this though). You will find additional openings on the left/top and right/bottom sides for the stereo speakers, lock switch, microphone and stylus silo. There is no compromise really on any of the ports or openings with your N900 in this case. The keyboard is also fully accessible and the case just adds a couple millimeters around the edges.

Flipping around to the back you will see the OtterBox name on the lower portion with an opening around the camera lens that matches up perfectly. There is a notch out of the case so you can easily flip up the N900 kickstand too. You will find your N900 leans back a bit more on the kickstand in the case due to the added thickness of the case shell, but this viewing angle is still great for watching movie content. There is no impact at all on camera functionality when the case is on the N900.

The top piece is quite small and simply clips onto the display with small plastic tabs on the top/right side. I found that these hold the case on very well and experienced no movement or shifting of the case. This top piece adds a border around the display with an opening for the Nokia name and gives a bit of depth to the front display. With the touchscreen part of the display well inside the bezel you will find it has no impact on the touchscreen capability or functionality of the display.

The screen protector is a self-adhering piece of plastic that cover the entire front display on the device with a notch for the Nokia name and opening for the headset speaker. I mentioned I did not use it, but will apply it if my BodyGuardZ wears out since it appears to fit well and looks easy to install (I have used these same type on other devices before).

Every day usage and conclusions

I didn’t think I would actually keep my N900 in the case after the review, but I have to honestly say that it adds very little bulk to the N900 (already a rather chunky device) and my device has not left the case since it arrived. It offers a fair amount of protection and peace of mind knowing that my N900 can probably do better with a slip or fall from my hand while in the case. This is NOT a waterproof case and is designed to protect against bumps and shocks. I found no negative impact on the usability of my device and see no reason it will ever leave the case.

The OtterBox Commuter Series for Nokia N900 is available now in black for $34.95. If you are someone like me who spends time out in the field (shipyard in my case) or moves around a lot with their devices you might like to know that your device is protected from minor drops and bumps while also giving it a cool look and more substantial feel.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Design and Function: 5
  • Fit and Finish: 5
  • Aesthetics: 4.5
  • Ease of Use/installation: 5

Overall: 5/5

starStarStarStarStar

Pros

  • Adds good protection to the N900 rugged corners and back covered well
  • Attractive and well constructed case
  • Fully accessibile ports and hardware buttons
  • Rubber covers for open ports to keep out dust

Cons

  • Bit bulky, but that is more a case of the N900 being chunky

Documents To Go Premium coming to N900 after 1.2 update

I previously wrote about how you can use Google Docs on the N900, but it is a bit painful to navigate around and use it extensively. We have had a Documents To Go viewer on the N900 since launch last November, but have not seen any kind of full Office upgrade to this application like we see on other platforms like Android and the iPhone. I just saw a post appear on the DataViz blog that states Documents To Go Premium for the N900 will be available shortly after the 1.2 update. This should be the full monty and give us Office document editing and creation ability on the N900.

Documents To Go Premium coming to N900 after 1.2 update

I searched around the Maemo.org site and see that a RC version of PR1.2 is floating around so our N900 devices should be updated soon. I am not going to upgrade until an official release is available, but look forward to getting Office capability on such a large device as the N900.

Best of Smartphone Experts, 23 May 2010

Rumor: Nokia E73 Mode may be coming to T-Mobile USA in June

Rumor: Nokia E73 Mode may be coming to T-Mobile USA in JuneI was browsing my RSS feeds and was completely caught off guard with the rumored Nokia E73 Mode that might launch in a couple of weeks on T-Mobile USA. I haven’t heard a thing from my T-Mobile or Nokia contacts on this so have no confirmation that this is happening, but it looks pretty legit. The E73 looks to be a T-Mobile branded Nokia E72 and with T-Mobile doing a much better job at keeping a device untouched from crapware, like the way AT&T ruins devices, I find this news pretty exciting. My wife took my E71 several months ago and will be pretty excited to see an official T-Mobile version of the E72 available with some nice improvements.

The slide shows that WiFi calling is supported and I wonder if this means a Skype client or if T-Mobile has support for their UMA technology in the device. 3G is provided and it looks like a smartphone data plan is required. We have no pricing or availability information available yet, but I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more on this device.

It looks like T-Mobile may be the preferred carrier for new Nokia devices and as a long time T-Mobile customer that is just fine with me. We now have the Nokia Nuron and N900 working on T-Mobile’s 3G network with hopefully more like this E73 to come. The upcoming Nokia N8 also supports T-Mobile’s 3G network and I would love to see that device come in a subsidized manner to T-Mobile later this year.


Nokia N8 Guide



Nokia E73 Mode Guide
Nokia N900 Guide