All 9 entries tagged Nokia

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September 16, 2008

Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Overview

Follow-up to Nokia Mobile Workshop from Steve's blog

I got back from Nokia Open Lab 2008 late on Saturday and did intend to write about it before now, but it has taken a while for my brain to recover from the experience! I have now just about finished processing the ideas that were discussed in the various workshops, at least enough to write something coherent.

Overall, the even was meticulously organised, from transport to/from the airport to local SIM cards for the E71 trial devices we all hard (of which more later), to the workshops and evening entertainment. Everything was organised and timed to perfection. That, for me, was actually a small problem. The 5 main workshops were:

  • Join the community – social networking and media
  • Join the journey – navigation and geolocation
  • Join the fun – entertainment (film, music, games, etc.)
  • Join and collaborate – enterprise issues
  • Environmental workshop – being nice to the planet

The discussions were very “blue sky” – stuff that the people in the room (generally quite serious techies or “geeks”) would find fun, but that would never be of interest to the general public. At least not today. At that was where I struggled a little. I wasn’t prepared for that and I needed more time that was available to get my brain in gear for each topic. My overwhelming feeling at the end of the first day was that the workshops were generally not very useful, and some others I talked to felt the same.

Then I realised my mistake. Mobile devices take years to design and develop. Nokia are trying to discover what services people are going to want to use 5 or more years from now, in order to start designing now devices that will make those services accessible on the move when they become mainstream. And so they collected together a bunch of “early adopters”, people generally already on the bleeding edge of mobile services, to see what we would do differently. In hindsight that’s exactly right. It just took me a while to realise it. And once I’d got my brain around the whole concept it was all over.

People were invited to the Open Lab from around the world, as far West as California and as far East as Tokyo. Some people knew each other already, many had never met before. For me, at least, I have to get to know people a little before I can start having serious discussions and openly expressing my opinion about stuff that’s new to me, and in particular disagreeing with people. There were others who felt the same. Several people said to me that they felt discussions were just starting to get interesting when we had to leave for the airport to come home. If the event had lasted another couple of days it would have been much more interesting.

This was the first such event Nokia has organised. They seemed happy with the results of it, and are definitely planning another. My suggestion would be to make it longer next time, and to give a little more of a hint of what will happen so we can be mentally better prepared for it. I’m not sure how useful my contribution was to the whole event, but I’d love to take part in the next one and if many of the same people are invited again next time, I for one will be able to contribute more just through not having to spend so much time getting to know people first.

On a lighter note, it was quite amusing to be in a group of people in which, at any one time, at least 25% were staring at a mobile phone checking email, surfing, twittering, or whatever, even during the discussions. Much of this was done on the E71s we all had, but there were a lot of iPhones about. Some people were using them a bit sheepishly, but most were quite open about it. I even spotted one Nokia employee wielding one!

I’ve not yet written about the content of the workshops. I’m still thinking about much of it, but I’ll try and write something soon, just to give a flavour of what was being discussed and the sort of things Nokia are thinking about.

September 02, 2008

Nokia Mobile Workshop

Writing about web page

A little while ago I got a curious email from the folks at WOM World. They are the people that sent me a Nokia N82 and an N810 to try at the start of the year. The email was an invitation to a workshop being run by Nokia to look at some aspects of the future of mobile devices. The email said:

It aims to involve everyone from creative’s, designers, video producers to open source software bloggers and mobile tech pioneers in a thorough discussion. Including, what the future holds for everything from mobile tech to media creation.

A subsequent email clarified things a little:

... the point of these workshops is to look into the future of the mobile phone, what possibilities lie within it and what people want out of it. Topics will revolve around subjects including; Navigation, people and places, neighbourhood, collaboration, music and games through to working life, email and how to improve upon what we already have.

I was somewhat surprised to be invited to such a thing, not being involved in the mobile industry at all, but WOM World insisted that they wanted me along, and they did originally find me via this blog so they know what my interests are, so I agreed. The fact that the workshop is in Helsinki, and that Nokia are paying for flights, accommodation, food, entertainment, etc. had absolutely nothing to do with my acceptance!

One ironic thing about this is that the email arrived while I was on holiday, and I picked it up on my newly acquired iPhone, which I’d only had a couple of weeks at the time. I hope I’m not banned from the event when they see it:-)

Just to make the event a little more fun, I’ll be getting a Nokia E71 to try out for a bit. It should turn up this week sometime. It’ll be interesting to compare it to the iPhone…

So, I head off next Thursday for three days in Helsinki, talking to Nokia and others about what mobiles should do for us in the future. I’m not sure what to expect, I’m not sure what I’ll be able to contribute, and I’m still a little surprised I’ve been invited. But it is quite exciting to be given the opportunity.

January 25, 2008

So long, and thanks for all the browsing…

Well, my toy is now wrapped safely in its box awaiting collection. It is on its way home…

And despite my complaints about all the stuff it doesn’t do that I’d like it to, I find that I miss it already! Sitting at home on the sofa, surfing during the ad breaks just isn’t the same with a big laptop. Watching BBC News in the kitchen, live from their web site, while making the kid’s school lunches in the morning is no longer possible. I’ve found a much larger volume of stuff to read through in Google Reader this morning, because I didn’t read any of it at home last night. I guess I didn’t realise it until I’d had the ability and then lost it, but having such portable access to web-based content is actually really, really useful. It is surprising how much you can get done in all those 5-minute chunks of idle time you have during a typical day.

No, it doesn’t do the offline PIM stuff that I want it to. No, there isn’t enough WiFI coverage outside of home and work to make it usable everywhere (unless I spend noticeably more on my mobile phone bill than I do now). But despite that, it was a very useful productivity aid, and a useful recreational device – every flash-based game I tried worked perfectly!

Now I just going to have to scour eBay for a nice cheap one. Unless anybody has one they no longer want… :-)

January 22, 2008

Nokia N810 alternatives

Follow-up to Nokia 810 – more thoughts from Steve's blog

There’s already been a discussion over in the comments on a previous entry about the iPod Touch as a possible alternative. The screen is lower resolution, but possibly better quality. The iPod’s Safari browser is almost as good as the Nokia’s Opera browser. The iPod multi-touch interface is nicer to use. If you want a media player with a browser as a secondary function the Touch could well be what you are after.

I noticed a few other products announced at CES this year. There seems to be a new category of “Mobile Internet Devices” (MIDs). Aigo and Gigabyte showed devices that look a lot like the Nokia. They both have a slightly bigger screen (4.8” compared to the Nokia’s 4.1”, which is higher resolution too (1024×600). They both have a slide-out keyboard which seems to have bigger keys, but with the same problem of lack of space above the top row. They are both Linux based, but each runs a different version. These devices are expected to be released in the second half of 2008, so don’t go looking for them just yet. It will be interesting to see how they compare to the Nokia, which has had this market pretty much to itself so far, and how Nokia reacts. Lets hope competition results in functionality going up and costs coming down:-)

There are alternatives in different sizes too. If you want an ultra-portable laptop, lots of people are raving about the Asus Eee PC. There will be competitors to this coming along soon, too. Not pocketable, but very, very portable. I’m almost tempted to buy one for home.

And the whole UMPC product range, as stupidly priced as it is, has some fans. They at least run familiar software, so make a good platform when compatibility is important with applications back in the office.

For me, pocketable is important, so I’ll be sticking to the newly named MID products. I quite like the looks of the Gigabyte device, so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the Nokia, when it is eventually released.

January 21, 2008

Nokia 810 – more thoughts

Follow-up to Nokia N810 – initial impressions from Steve's blog

I’ve had the device for a couple of weeks now. After the first week my main problems with the device were:
  • text input
  • the lack of offline PIM applications

I’ve specifically looked in more detail at both of those since then, and sadly not got great news.

Text input

There are four different methods of getting text into this device:
  • Handwriting
  • Small on-screen keyboard for use with the stylus
  • Large on-screen keyboard for use with thumbs (i.e. rest the device on the fingers of both hands and use two thumbs on the screen)
  • The slide-out keyboard

Handwriting is still unworkable for me, It is simply too slow. The slidey keyboard is much better, but still not as fast as I’d hoped. The small on-screen is no faster. The on-screen thumb keyboard is probably the fastest of the bunch, but is uses up a lot of the screen and so hides what you are typing into. Overall, I prefer the slide-out keyboard and use that most of the time.

I am disappointed, though. I guess I’ve been spoiled by a couple of previous devices. The keyboard on a Psion Series 3a I owned about 10 years ago was much better than this one. It was bigger, which helped, but that wasn’t the only reason it was better. The keys had a better feel. The keys on the N810 are a little too hard to press, and there just isn’t enough room above the top row.

And I’ve owned a couple of convertible laptop/tablet PCs and so used handwriting input in Windows XP Tablet edition and Windows Vista. I’m still astonished at how well that works. My handwriting is not great, but Windows seems to manage to make sense of it most of the time. Of course, it has more processor power to throw at the recognition task. But still, I find handwriting input under Windows very, very usable.

I’ve also used Palm devices and found Palm’s graffiti easy to learn and very quick. Ironically, one of the 3rd party apps you can install on the device is a PalmOS emulator. Naturally this supports graffiti text input which is for me faster than any of the native methods! I wonder if Nokia could manage to build graffiti into the standard product…:-)

So, I’m glad the N810 has the slide out keyboard. For me, that makes it a much more usable device than the N800. But I’m still disappointed.

Downloadable applications

There’s quite a nice application manager for installing 3rd party applications. I’ve had a lot of success putting games and a few other things on the machine. Just click on the download link from the relevant web page, open the file in Application Manager, and click “Install”. Quick and easy. And there seem to be quite a lot of applications out there.

I was specifically looking for PIM applications – calendar, ToDo list, address book. More specifically, applications that would work offline. Such things do exist for Linux systems. The GNU Palmtop Environment has these applications and more, and better still they can be synchronised with Outlook/Exchange. The main pieces of this suite have been ported to the Nokia platform, but sadly not the synchronisation components. So, GPE give me the offline functionality I need, but with no way of synchronising it with anything else. That’s a great shame. No doubt this will be ported in due course, but until then…

I was also looking for an app I could use for note-taking in meetings. The built-in notes application is pretty basic. It is essentially equivalent to Windows Notepad – i.e. just a text file editor. There’s no scope for hand-drawn content, nor any organisational functionality. There’s a 3rd party app that addresses both of these problems – maemopad+. Unfortunately, it didn’t come packed for an easy install, and I haven’t yet managed to find the right set of bits and pieces to install to make it all work. Disappointing again, because app sounds like exactly what I want. Maybe there’s be a properly packaged version of it soon?

So, mostly the support for 3rd party applications is pretty good, and there’s quite a variety of stuff out there. But, but everything I want is available yet, and not everything seems to be properly packaged yet. I guess these are relatively new devices and the development community hasn’t had enough chance to sort itself out. I’m sure these problems will resolve themselves over time, but until then the N810 doesn’t quite do it for me…


There’s a lot to like about this device. For casual web browsing it is hard to beat. Catching up with email or RSS feeds in odd 5-minute slots when you’re waiting for something else to happen saves me a lot of time, and this device does it well. It would be better with a bit more CPU grunt. I find Google Reader in particular to be a bit slow at times when popping up menus and similar. If I travelled a lot, being able to carry this device for checking email on the move and not have to bother with a laptop would be great. Despite the problems of text input, the N810 does this stuff very well. For sitting on the sofa & surfing during TV ad breaks, there’s nothing to beat it!

I have tried it with Google Documents and it coped very well with both documents and spreadsheets (didn’t try presentations).

It is less good at PIM-like tasks. To be fair, it isn’t designed for that, so maybe it is unfair to complain. But I don’t want to have to carry another device. That’s just silly! It is perfectly possible to put such functionality into the standard N810. Nokia take note… Or maybe I’m in the minority in wanting such functionality?

The media player works well enough, too. It isn’t an iPod, of course, but it plays music and video and makes it easy enough to find and manage. If my primary requirement was a music player I’d buy an iPod Touch, but as a secondary function of a PIM/browser device, I’m happy with what’s there.

Finally there’s the price. The N810 is too expensive for my tastes. The N800 is better, but without the slidey keyboard I wouldn’t buy it. Take the GPS functionality out of the N810 (I don’t want it, anyway) and call it an N805, reduce the price, and maybe I’d consider it. Assuming the PIM functionality was available, either built-in or from a 3rd party, of course.

January 14, 2008

Nokia N810 – initial impressions

Follow-up to More handheld musings from Steve's blog

I’ve had the N810 almost a week now, using it fairly intensively. To be honest, at the moment I can’t decide if I like it or not. I certainly have mixed feelings about it. Here are a few pros and cons:


The screen is very nice. Everything is of course quite small on an 800×480 screen with a 4” diagonal, but that doesn’t both me. I can cope with small text. And anything smaller would make some websites much harder to use. Google Reader is much less pleasant on a narrower screen.

The browser works really well. I’ve had a couple of unexplained crashes, where all browser windows would just disappear, but overall it works well and has coped with every site I’ve pointed it at. I’ve even let my daughter loose on it, playing some of her online games (dressing dolls, designing houses, etc.) and she’s not complained. Javascript, flash, etc. all present no problems. No Java though…

Battery life has been surprisingly good. I’ve left gmail and google reader open in background windows all day, both refreshing over WiFi every few minutes as usual, and the machine has still lasted all day and had plenty of power for a few hours of browsing in addition. But still, you should expect to charge once a day, and probably carry a charger with you just in case.

The media player works well, and the speakers are surprisingly loud and of fairly decent. Obviously they are small and so there’s not much bass, but they don’t sound tinny, and nor do they distort at high volumes. I was impressed.

The slidey keyboard is really nice. Easy to slide out and back in.

The front and back of the case are metal. Real metal, not shiny plastic. That makes it feel quite robust. Unfortunately, the metal does scratch (sorry, WOM World:-), and I’ve been quite careful with it.

This last week I’ve been trying to use the device as much as possible “out of the box”. I’ve installed a couple of apps, and the install process is pretty straightforward. There are a few web sites listing 3rd-party and Nokia-developed apps, and an application manager that makes installation and updating pretty simple. I plan to explore the available apps this week to see what’s out there – see a “con” below for one reason why…


Performance isn’t spectacular. Google sites can be quite hard on systems resources these days, Google Reader in particular. They can be quite slow on this device. That’s frustrating when part of the reason for having it is to use those odd 2- and 3-minute periods to catch up with stuff, or check email. And with a Reader window open for a few hours of catching up on RSS feeds, I’ve run out of memory occasionally and had to close down all browser windows to get going again.

The wasn’t quite enough CPU grunt to keep up with the BBC’s iPlayer, but I guess that’s not entirely surprising.

As with the N82, the USB cable doesn’t charge the device which is really, really annoying. Why not?

The device comes with a soft leather-like slip case. I’d prefer it to have a hard side to protect the screen, not just from damage but from unintended screen presses which in transit. You can lock the screen, but I haven’t always remembered and have occasionally taken it out of my pocket or bag to find it doing something unexpected…

Text input isn’t as good as I’d expected. I’m especially disappointed by the keyboard. A long, long time ago I used to own a Psion Series 3 and later a 3a, which looked like this:

It was very easy to thumb-type on that, and I suppose I was expecting the N810 keyboard to be similar. It just isn’t. I guess I’ll get better with practice but I find the keyboard slow to use. I’m especially frustrated by lack of space above the top row, before my thumbs knock against the screen.

But the keyboard is still a major advantage over the N800 and N770, though, because the other forms of input are worse! Handwriting recognition is painful and the onscreen keyboard isn’t much better. To be fair, you can train the handwriting recognition so it might get better with time, and I haven’t yet much used the onscreen “thumb keyboard”. I’ll have a better fell for both of those things by the end of the week.

Not having built-in offline PIM applications was more of a problem than I thought it would be. I have calendar information in my phone, but having to juggle multiple devices is just a pain. If I’ve got the N810 in my hands, I want my calendar there. Once the whole world is Wifi’d I can use Google Calendar, but right now that’s not an option. I could of course connect via my mobile phone, but that can get expensive very quickly. There are PIM apps out there that might do the job, and I’ll try them over the next few days, but it would be better if Nokia provided something…

GPS adds a lot to the cost, and I’m not interested in it. If Nokia produced an N800 with a slidey keyboard (an N805, perhaps!) that would be more interesting to me.


I’m actually impressed with how well the device works. What it does, it does well. It would benefit from a bit more CPU power, and a bit more RAM, but otherwise it does a good job. Unfortunately, at least out of the box, it isn’t quite the job I want doing! Built-in offline PIM applications, synch-able to Outlook, would make such a difference. Add that and I’d be sold…

So, now I’m off to see if they exist out there somewhere. One of the nice things about the device is that the openness of it means there’s a fair amount of software being developed for it, all/most available for free.

January 03, 2008

Nokia N82 – GPS stuff

Follow-up to Nokia N82 from Steve's blog

The Nokia N82 has a GPS receiver built in. It comes with a typical SatNav application that shows you where you are, does route finding, has a Points of Interest database, etc. The usual stuff. There are a couple of differences from a regular SatNav, though:
  1. The route finding is only visual by default. You have to pay extra for a voice-prompt service, on a subscription basis I believe. I’m not sure I like that model much. As an in-car navigational aid it is pretty useless without voice prompts. To navigate on foot, though, in a strange city, it is perfect. Having such a facility always on your person “just in case” would be really useful. However, see below…
  2. The maps are downloadable. The phone comes with very little, and when you browse to a new location it downloads the maps it needs. It can do this over WiFi, which is good because the maps are going to be quite large and it would be expensive to ship them over GPRS (or 3G?). So, if you know you are going somewhere, you’ll want to browse there in advance to make sure you’ve got the maps. If you don’t know you’ll need it until you find yourself lost, then I’m afraid you’re stuck with downloading a few MB of maps. It seems to download in smallish chunks, which is either good or bad depending on your point of view. I’ve just gone browsing around Manchester, which I’ve never looked at before, and pulled down about 2MB of data. On the plus side, I guess this means you can get map updates for free…?

One interesting point is that the N82 managed to get a satellite lock while I was playing with it at home. That’s the only time I’ve ever had a GPS device find satellites while indoors. I was sitting near a window at the time, but still nothing else I’ve tried (Garmin handheld and SatNav devices) has done so well.

So, basic SatNav functionality works as you’d expect, but with a couple of potentially irritating quirks.

Now to the main reason I was sent this phone in the first place – Sports Tracker. This came pre-installed on the phone I was sent, but it is freely downloadable. It works with any phone with built-in GPS, and also with bluetooth GPS receivers. There’s a list of compatible devices on the website.

Sports Tracker uses the GPS receiver to record what it calls “workouts”. Basically this is what regular GPS receivers would call a tracklog. From this is calculates a bunch of statistics – max/min/ave speed, etc. and produces pretty graphs of speed against altitude and similar. All of this is done on the phone itself, which is quite neat. Additionally, it is linked to a web service and will upload the information to the web where you can add comments and share route. For example, here is my lunchtime cycle from yesterday. You can see the usual stats, plus the route overlaid on Google Maps so others can scroll around it and see where you went. You can download a KML file too, so you can put it in a GPS receiver to follow. I haven’t been able to find a way to import a route into Sports Tracker itself though, to allow me to follow somebody else’s route. That seems a bit of an oversight.

Then again, I’m not sure how well the device would work mounted on the handlebars. I don’t have a handlebar mount for it so I can’t be sure. Would it survive the vibration? It isn’t waterproof, so it wouldn’t survive being rained on. I’m not sure the phone is really designed for that sort of use. I’ve been carrying it in the back pocket of my jersey. But that could get it quite damp on a long/hard ride.

I like Sports Tracker. It combines a lot of the stuff I’ve tried to do on this blog – cycling stats, route maps, etc. – in a way that’s quite easy to use. There’s quite a lot of stuff missing though. I need cumulative statistics – miles per month/year, average speed per month/year, etc. If I could just record every journey with Sports Tracker, upload it to the web site, and have everything I need calculated for me (it has the necessary data after all) that would be great. But I’m going to have to record everything elsewhere too. Nokia could do worse that look at My Cycling Log for inspiration.

Overall, then, Sports Tracker is a good start but it needs more work, not on the phone-based app but on the companion web site. The phone itself would probably work well enough for running/walking activities, but I’m not sure how useful it is as a cycling aid. It doesn’t seem rugged enough. I’d be worried about shaking it to bits if it was handlebar mounted.

January 02, 2008

Nokia N82 – The normal stuff

Follow-up to Nokia N82 from Steve's blog

The N82 is a normal “candybar” style phone – i.e. no sliders or flips. It isn’t too big or too heavy. It does all the normal phone stuff as well as you’d expect. There were a few things I didn’t like, so let’s get those out of the way first:
  1. The keypad is horrible! The keys are just too small. This alone would stop me buying one. Texting is hard work, with just too many mistakes. And I don’t have particularly big fingers.
  2. The USB cable doesn’t charge the phone. I try not to let my phone batteries get so low that I need to charge them away from home, but I do keep a USB cable at work for transfering files and for emergency charging. But not with the N82. I’d have to get a second charger, too.
  3. The charger uses a smaller connector that any previous Nokia’s I’ve had (2.5mm rather than 3.5mm?). I’ve not had a new Nokia for a while, so maybe I’ve just missed this change in policy? But I have lots of old Nokia chargers around that I couldn’t use with it.

That’s it really. There were a few other niggles, but nothing that actually put me off the phone. So, what did I like?

  1. The Wi-Fi connection was really useful for downloading stuff without running up enormous bills (applications, maps for the GPS functionality) and for using the web-browser to check email, Facebook, Youtube, etc. for free from home (not from work, obviously:-)
  2. The web browser worked very well, and the accelerometer that switched between landscape and portrait at the flick of a wrist was neat, although not entirely reliable. And obviously it is far from essential. I did have trouble with some flash-based stuff that wanted a better flash player, but I couldn’t find a way of updating the built-in one.
  3. You can leave applications running in the background and switch to them quickly, which makes a quick email check really just a quick email check!
  4. The camera works very well. It is a 5MP device with a decent lens (Carl Zeiss), auto focus and a proper flash. It lets you select ISO rating, white balance, exposure compensation, sharpness, etc., or leave them all on auto. It does VGA video at 30fps too. I had hoped to collect comparisons with a “proper” camera, but I’ve not had the opportunity.
  5. The phone also supports SIP. I haven’t had enough time to spend on this to get it configured to use my sipgate account, but this could be really handy for keeping the bills down, especially abroad. Definitely worth a play.

The PIM functionality worked as well as on any other recent phone I’ve used. It syncs with Outlook with no problems and seems to deal with Outlook repeating events well enough. I could certainly use it instead of a PDA for the basic PIM functionality.

The battery life was OK. Not brilliant, but OK. Unless you use WiFi a lot, in which case you are lucky to get two days out of it even if you don’t make any calls. Which means you really need a charger at work as well as at home. Shame the USB cable doesn’t charge the phone, really…

As a combined phone/media player/camera/browser it works pretty well. I’ve been very impressed. Apart from the keypad. Did I mention that I don’t like the keypad?

Tomorrow we’ll get to the GPS and Sports Tracker…

Nokia N82

Writing about web page

I was contacted out of the blue a few weeks ago by somebody from the WOM World web site. They’d seen this blog and thought I might be interested in looking at the new Nokia N82 phone complete with “Sports Tracker” application. The N82 is one of the new Nokia phones with built-in GPS, and Sports Tracker uses this to record routes (or “workouts” as it calls them) and keep performance statistics about them – ave/max/min speed, altitude profile, etc. – and produce pretty graphs (on the phone) of speed against altitude and such-like. Anyway, I agreed and am now the temporary keeper of a Nokia N82. Sadly it has to go back soon!

The N82 is a Symbian-based phone, and does all the usual phone stuff (makes calls, sends texts:-). A few highlights:
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g), bluetooth
  • Quad-band, 3G, etc, etc
  • 5MP camera, xenon flash, 30fps VGA video recording, video-out
  • Web browser, email, the usual Nokia PIM stuff
  • 2.4” QVGA screen with accelerometer to auto-rotate between landscape/portrait
  • Music player/video player/FM radio
  • 2GB SD card provided as standard
  • GPS receiver, mapping application/route finder

The main reason WOM World thought I might be interested in the phone is the Sports Tracker application, which uses the GPS receiver to record routes and provide stats like max/ave speed, graphs of speed against altitude, etc. It is linked to a web site, and you can transfer routes to share them with others.

I’ve had the phone for a couple of weeks now and I’ll post a review is two parts, first the general phone stuff and separately the GPS related stuff.

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