Nokia Messaging has been a bit of a confusing service in the past, which is why I created the Nokia Messaging reference guide a couple of years ago. I have been disappointed in the current Nokia Email app and lack of full support for Gmail so when I heard today that Synchronica acquired Nokia’s operator-branded messaging business my hopes were raised that some attention would be given to making the experience better.
With this acquisition Synchronica will gain the opportunity to service more than six million active end users just in North America. Approximately 250 employees, externals, and contractors are planned to transfer from Nokia to Synchronica.
The transaction is expected to close by the end of July 2011.
Last month at CES Slacker Radio announced it was coming soon to Symbian devices. I just read a Tweet from the NokiaUS account and saw that Slacker Radio is now available in the Ovi Store. I popped my SIM back into my Nokia N8 and downloaded it immediately. Keep in mind, the initial download to get the software is 1.3 MB so make sure you have a solid connection or are connected via WiFi before downloading.
Keep in mind, Slacker is a service with support for those in the US and Canada so this service is only available for these two countries. I understand many other countries have Spotify so it looks like we finally get a client/service in the US before others
I have been using Slacker Radio on my Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 devices for over a year as my primary streaming music client and find it works very well at providing just the right mix for me. I actually have a Slacker sticker on my MacBook Pro since I love the service. The great thing is that favorite stations are synced to your account so you can pick up a different smartphone and listen to your favorites on any device. I like how the client on other platforms lets you cache music for offline listening so you can load up tunes for your next flight and then stream again when you land. This offline caching feature is not yet in this new Symbian client, but we may see it in the future.
This news for Slacker Radio is timed particularly well since Last.fm is going to start charging a monthly fee to stream music.
As stated on the Ovi Store description:
Listen to free personalized radio on your Nokia phone. The award-winning Slacker Radio application gives you access to the entire Slacker music library featuring millions of songs from thousands of artists. Listen to over 130 expert programmed radio stations or create your own custom stations. Learn more about the music you hear by reading the artist bios and album reviews. Slacker Personal Radio is the best way to discover new artists and hear your favorite songs.
Basic or Radio Plus?
The free account you setup with after downloading Slacker Radio gives you full access to Slacker Radio music, but you are limited to 6 song skips per hour, per station, there are some ads, and you get no lyrics. You can upgrade to Radio Plus and pay $3.99/month to have ad free listening, unlimited song skips, complete lyrics, and ABC News Radio. On my N8 this can actually be billed through T-Mobile. I like the service so pay for the Radio Plus upgrade.
UPDATE: OK, I am using it up here in Alaska and when connected via EDGE the music streams flawlessly. However, if I switch to the task manager or another app the music pauses for 1/2 second and then starts back up again. This is going to be real annoying if I am trying to multi-task with Slacker Radio playing. Hopefully this is something they can fix easily enough and soon.
Also, don’t forget my tip that you can Zune Pass music on your N8 and get a taste of what kind of services a Nokia Windows Phone 7 device will provide.
I just posted an article on ZDNet about my thoughts regarding adoption of Windows Phone 7 by Nokia in regards to Zune Marketplace services and as you can read the Windows Phone 7 experience is very broken outside the US. In my opinion, the memo supposedly from Stephen Elop has a very US-based focus which is great for Nokia fans in the US like me, but just doesn’t feel quite right for Nokia.
I now have two Windows Phone 7 devices that I use on T-Mobile, the HTC HD7 and Dell Venue Pro, and I personally find them both to be quite fantastic with Xbox LIVE games, Zune music services and streaming, awesome applications in a Marketplace just getting past 8,000 apps, and a very fun and fresh UI. As I point out though, these services and experiences are NOT what people around the world will see on a Nokia Windows Phone 7 device. If Nokia’s intent with WP7 is to focus these devices on the US and UK, then maybe this strategy will add a few thousand more users. However, Nokia doesn’t have a high end brand association here in the US so they would have to tell the story of both their hardware and the slowly rolling out Windows Phone 7 platform. Going with WP7 is not an easy task and Nokia will have to work just as hard to sell them as they would by putting efforts into MeeGo or Symbian with full Qt support.
You may notice on here and on ZDNet that I try not to post too many rumors and news right away since so much of it today seems to come from fairly unreliable sources and I would rather wait and get the truth with some of my own personal perspective out there. This morning I woke up and started reading Twitter before I went for my run and saw Tweets all stating that Nokia was shutting down and killing Ovi Music Unlimited service. The problem with Twitter was that there was no context to this news or the rest of the message that stated they indeed stopped selling new subscriptions back on 31 December 2010 in order to make way for new services and that those with the service would still get full support.
I highly recommend you read the Nokia Conversations post for the full story that actually has me excited about the possibilities of these new services. The whole Ovi Music Unlimited service was never even applicable to the North American market so I don’t know why anyone in the North American market is even reporting on the news, except for the apparent need to find ways to slam Nokia whenever possible. Actually, when you do a Google search for the news I am very disappointed in the main stream media’s irresponsible reporting on products that are not even available in the US and very little, if any, mention that the reason is also tied to new upcoming services being rolled out.
As you can read in the story from Nokia, they stopped selling new subscriptions a couple of weeks ago and anyone who has a supported device or even someone who buys a device still out in stores will get uninterrupted access until their subscriptions finish, including the ability to keep their downloads forever as promised. This change is also not universal and Nokia will continue to offer 12-month subscriptions in China and India, while offering six-month subscriptions in Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.
Check out the video below to hear more about the changes.
For those of us in North America, remember that you can use your unlimited Zune Pass subscription, Mobbler, Soundtrckr, and soon Slacker Radio so there is really nothing to see here for those in North America while there is the possibility that something may come to us here from Nokia.
Those of us Nokia fans in the US have been bummed out with all of the overseas talk of Ovi Music and Spotify. We do have Mobbler (Last.fm support) for the Nokia N8, but it is always good to have options. On my Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 devices I have been using the excellent Slacker Radio service and rather excited to reveal that Slacker is coming to Symbian^3 in February. Yes, us Nokia N8 owners in the US will finally get the ability to use Slacker Radio on our devices.
The Slacker Radio for Nokia client will support the following features:
- Music library featuring millions of songs
- High-quality stereo playback from any available wireless connection
- Create custom artist stations based on artists or songs
- Over 130 professionally programmed and customizable genre stations
- View artist biographies and photos
- View album art and read reviews
- Rate songs as favorites
- Ban songs and artists from stations
The Slacker Radio application will be available for free in February. It was developed using the Qt application development framework and should run on all Symbian^3 devices.
It is encouraging to see Slacker coming to Symbian and now I have my hopes set on Amazon or Barnes & Noble bringing their ebook clients to Symbian too.
I was sent a link to the Skype blog announcing a brand new version of Skype for the latest Symbian phones, including the N8, C7, and E5. I fired up my web browser and went to the skype.com/m website and discovered that the Skype Verizon deal here in the US blocks ANYONE outside of specific Verizon handsets from getting Skype. However, I was not going to stop there and figured out all you need to do is switch your device to offline mode and then use a WiFi connection to go to the Skype site and get the .sisx file to install on your device.
This new version includes Skype’s high quality audio codec, SILK, so calls should be even better than they were before. Here is what is listed on the Skype blog for the updated application:
- make free Skype-to-Skype calls and IM on 3G or WiFi
- save money on calls and texts to phones abroad
- share pictures, videos and other files from your phone
- easier to add contacts, navigate, add a photo to your profile and set your mood message
- updated the interface to better fit larger screens
Do you use Skype for Symbian?
One of my favorite sites related to Nokia products is Nokia Beta Labs and if you visit here you can find new software and utilities to try out. Some eventually are released as full products and some end up in the virtual trash bin. One of the newest utilities I found is Nokia Situations and as described in detail on the Nokia Conversations site the software gives me some cool functionality that I have been wanting on my phones. Nokia Situations works to assist you with management of your device and shows how your powerful smartphone should be working to help you out rather than be a hindrance.
Through scheduled time, events, or days, location, or connectivity situations your Nokia can be setup to perform a combination of the following actions (list copied from the Beta Labs site):
- Change Ringtones, make the phone go silent or louder, turn vibra on/off, and all the other profile settings.
- Answer missed calls with SMS. Especially when you set your phone to silent, you can also make it reply to missed calls, from contacts in your phonebook, with a pre-defined SMS.
- Save Power. Not using phone for a while, like when sleeping? Turn Bluetooth on/off or let your phone change to power-saving mode totally.
- Change UI theme / Wallpaper. Want to make the phone look different in different situations? Change the Theme during free time vs. when you are at work.
- Open a Web bookmark or application. Want to see weather forecast for the day when you wake up? Look at the calendar as first thing? Or open your favorite TV show discussion page at show time? Or perhaps change the Device Mode when at work?
The video below explains how Nokia Situations works too.
Keep in mind that Nokia Situations is currently labeled as an experimental prototype so it may not be as stable or functional as you hope all the time. So far it has performed well for me and I love the way it manages my profiles automatically. The settings interface is a bit awkward at this time and requires that you select a profile and then choose to personalize where you might think you could just tap the menu option and enter some preferences.
I told you the story about my wife and the Nokia N8 and am happy to report that I was able to get her a blue Nokia N8 through a timely purchase and swap deal that worked out for me and Mike Macias. She has been using it now for about a week and a couple of days ago I showed her the power of the device and she is even more pleased with the N8.
My wife is a Party Lite consultant so she travels around to different homes and has parties showing off candles, accessories, and food so having a reliable GPS system is extremely important to her. She has a 2002 Acura with a navigation system in it, but you need to pay $200 a year to get an updated DVD and the user interface blows. I showed her how to use Ovi Maps and we setup an account for her to use so she could enter in show addresses in advance and have them synced to her N8 as favorites.
Well, the other day she decided to follow the specific directions from the hostess to a location about 35 miles away from our house. She called me in a bit of distress because the directions she was given were junk and not getting her to the destination. I told her to give me a couple of minutes as I was going to help her using her new N8. Now, she could have simply launched Ovi Maps and went through entering the destination manually, but the specific address was on her desk at home so it was easier for me to just go into her Ovi Maps account on my Mac, enter the address, and click on the star icon to save it as a favorite. I then told her to start Ovi Maps and sync to her account. She tapped favorites, tapped the address, and within about 10 minutes she was successfully pulling up to her destination. I was a hero thanks to Ovi Maps and she will now start using her N8 even more for getting to her shows.
Speaking of Ovi Maps, there is a brand new beta version available over on Beta Labs, version 3.06, so make sure to go get it for your N8 right now. The list of new features is below, but one of the coolest is the ability to download maps for offline navigation right to the device, via WiFi, so you won’t need to connect through a PC or Mac and use MapLoader.
- Download street maps directly to your device! A new feature called “Update” on the main menu which allows you download Street Maps directly (via WiFi) to your phone without a PC! Please note that phones without WiFi (e.g. Nokia 5230) will not work.
- My Position and Search are now integrated (now called Map). When accessed, it will show your last map view
- Back button in Favourites
- Long tap functionality to delete & rename collections & routes
- Pop up for first time use – to inform user to download new map data (when upgrading 3.04 > 3.06 for the first time)
- Improved behaviours of transit lines settings in map toolbox (no more grey out)
- Compass calibration hint
- Refreshed place details information view
I personally find the lane assist through city driving to be essential and plan to record a video of Ovi Maps in action on my N8 soon so you can see what I am specifically talking about here. Anyone else have an Ovi Maps success story?
There are a few differences between the Nokia N8 devices shipping in the US and the Euro version I was checking out at first. One has been mentioned before and is the content provided through the WebTV app. For some odd reason we do not have CNN here in the US and I am trying to find out if we can get it. The other utility I found on my N8 is called CommuniTake. I looked around and found their website and then asked my Nokia contact what this utility was used for because after launching it a PIN was prompted for and it looked like a remote utility.
Nokia confirmed that it indeed is a remote utility that is part of a pilot program with Nokia Care here in the US. Apparently, this utility will allow Nokia Care to “take over” the Nokia N8 to try to help you solve a problem, much like the PC programs out there do. You would call into a Nokia Care center and then receive a PIN/password to activate CommuniTake and give control to Nokia Care. This utility can only be activated through Nokia Care and is not something you can try or some new service I will be providing for readers of Nokia Experts 😉
It will be interesting to find out how this program works after a few months of testing. I imagine it is being tested since AT&T will be launching some kind of Symbian^3 device in January and Nokia is probably gearing up for questions coming from AT&T customers.
I already detailed how to get Zune Pass DRM music on your Nokia N8 and then a reader posted a question about Amazon Video on Demand movies. There are very few portable devices that support Amazon’s VOD services, but I am pleased to report that the Nokia N8 is one of them. Actually, the Nokia 5800, N97, N86 8MP and N85 are all listed as supported devices. Seems to me that this support is a MAJOR area where Nokia missed the boat in advertising available content for Nokia devices.
That’s right folks, you can purchase movies from Amazon and transfer them to your N8 for viewing offline. Here are the simple steps for transferring Amazon VOD video files to your Nokia N8:
- Install the Amazon Unbox client on your Windows PC.
- Visit the Amazon store (available within the Unbox application) and purchase a video.
- Download the video and portable video file. There is an option for both desktop and portable video files as they are two different files that are both included in a single purchase.
- Connect your Nokia N8 via USB Media Transfer mode.
- See your N8 mass storage or microSD card memory appear in the list of available devices through the devices tab in the Unbox software.
- Click on a video in your library and then click on the transfer button.
- Enjoy video on your Nokia N8.
Unfortunately, you cannot rent a movie and then transfer it to a portable device. Rentals only work on your PC or other device like the Roku video player.
BTW, while Zune music works, you cannot transfer Zune video files to the N8 for viewing.