Nokia N8 almost out and about

Nokia always manages to make phones that look very enticing, well to me anyway. The E71 and E72 being great examples of smart looking devices, beautifully built and solid with that really feel good in the hand feeling. The rest of the product often fails to hit the mark bang on though but this may well change at last with the launch of the N8. Not only does this thing have really up to date specs, great screen (on paper) and a camera that will spank the bottom off every other smartphone in the market place but it looks good and arrives with Symbian 3 which, if we are to believe Nokia, will make the device a breeze to use with less hidden settings and a much more manageable UI with more uniformity than  their previous touch screened phones. Could be a goodie methinks.

Users of the N97 complained about the inconsistency of the UI and how it would vary between different applications, amongst other gripes. Hopefully the N8 launches as a device that is actually ready to be launched. I’d like Nokia to become important again in the smartphone area as at the moment it is being dominated by Apple and HTC with a bit of Samsung thrown in. Personally I still see RIM as more business orientated and don’t feel that their phones are really optimised for consumer/media/gaming based users which is where all the action currently is. The developers who seem to be making all the big cash on the Apple Store are those making good games, Android could well be the same and that is where the money is at the moment.This shows where people who buy apps priorities are based.

Shortly, we will be able to add in Microsoft too again when W7 phones start to appear. It could be the big dark horse here with that big button/finger friendly UI and if they get HTC on board again with a variety of phones styles (which HTC have not produced for Android to date) then there could be a great range of phones too. Remember how many new WM phones in different form factors used to appear from HTC, Samsung, Asus, Motorola and the likes? That variety seems to have dried up with Apple and Android as it is all slab styled.  I wonder if they will get the same level of 3rd party software developers onboard again as it wasn’t so very long ago that the biggest range of 3rd party titles was for Apple & WM phones.

Nokia new phones

…..again, it gets hard to be really motivated..no,  make that even remotely motivated by new product announcements from Nokia. When was the last genuinely great Nokia smartphone? The E71 was good but although the E72 improved on it specs-wise it was already starting to look a bit dated with that ultra low res screen in mid to late 2009.  A 2010 device in a similar form factor with hi-res screen would be a major improvement for me. It seems that only the Nokia faithful can work up a sweat over new launches these days, the N97 which was going to be the big thing for them turned out to be a bit lame, beset by initial reliability problems and launched in a less than fit for consumption state. Nokia obviously realise that it getting near make or break time for them in the smartphone arena….

I did consider an N97 mini for a bit but that’s nothing special, I’ve probably considered just about every other smartphone in the last 5 years for a bit too but my previous Nokia experiences put me off.

Anyway, just possibly Nokia might have come up with something decent. The E90 replacement looks okay and is slimmer and smaller than the previous communicator bricks so may well appeal to many although you can’t help but feel that a sizeable chunk of the target market have already moved on, upwards and onwards. Their previous iPhone/HTC style slab attempts have met with almost universal indifference to date.

Not sure I agree with the following bits though from the press release:

– Showcase of the Nokia N8, the ultimate entertainment smartphone and world’s best cameraphone;
– Availability of a richer Ovi Store experience – starting with the Nokia N8 – that includes a friendlier look and feel, and more  popular and unique apps and games;

Hmmm…”ultimate entertainment” might be a bit too hopeful bearing in mind the competition out there whilst in the second paragraph they need to get someone who can cut down on the use of the word “and”.

Bye bye Nokia E72

Short and sweet I know but there you go. I would have probably kept it but the darn thing started freezing and when I listened to some podcasts to and from work on Friday it would just cut out. I class those as signs from the smartphone Gods telling me to send it back within the returnable period.

I could do a big long summary but to be honest I can’t be bothered. I would say however that I can see why Nokia’s market share is falling as their OS is outdated, tricky to use and well behind the likes of the iPhone and Android platforms. Their phones in terms of hardware and build quality are probably second to none plus have the benefits of great battery life and call quality but this may be offset by the fact that every app I installed had some problem or another, either it wouldn’t connect or wouldn’t work or something else. A bit irritating to be honest.

I’ve gone back to the Hero for a bit, after the E72 it’s a joy.

Nokia and Mac syncing

This is all a bit deja vue as I covered this at the start of the year when I had the Nokia E71 but it’s relatively pertinent for mac users. To my surprise, I realised that I had a copy of the Missing Sync for Symbian at my disposal, I must have paid for it at some point but trawling through my emails from earlier this year revealed no evidence of a receipt. Nevertheless, I have a licence code so downloaded the software and set it all up. I’m a fan of the Missing Sync range and have the Windows Mobile, Palm and Palm Pre versions and they all offer much to commend them but I feel the Symbian version is lagging a bit behind the others. It also doesn’t seen to have been updated much since inception so perhaps it has been semi-abandoned by Markspace along the line.

The major problem with it is the way it syncs, via Bluetooth. This makes the usual iTunes and iPhoto playlist and album syncing painfully slow. Transferring a podcast smart playlist was abandoned by me after 17 minutes after it was only about a third of the way through the first podcast. The big advantage of the application though is the easy way it handles installing Symbian apps although to be honest, the Mac handles that okay anyway once you pair your device with it. After that it is just a question of using the Bluetooth File Transfer software to pick a file to send. The E72 then accepts the file via a text message, open it and the application installs itself. All very simple. Having said that the Missing Sync is good at syncing contacts and also my GCal via iCal. I have been using both GCal and G Contacts for the last 6 months and the advantage of that is that is normally simple to get both on any new device, especially an Android one as the info is stored in the “cloud”. If you are a Google devotee and can use these instructions to sync your stuff in real time then you’ll have no need of the Missing Sync in the first place. I might give it another try another time. There is also GooSync which offers a free “lite” version for syncing some PIM info that claims to work on Symbian phones too but I’ve not tried that out as yet either.

The main reason though why I don’t feel the Symbian version is up to much is because of Nokia’s rather good Multimedia Transfer software for the Mac which is a free download from their site. This is a much better way to transfer music, podcasts, videos and photos as it is done via USB and is thus, rather obviously, a heck of a lot quicker. I used this app also with the E71 and it worked a treat. The only problem being that when you look at the photos on the device they are in no particular order, certainly not as the “albums” you sent them as anyway. And of course, if you don’t want the Missing Sync for PIM or are not a Google person then just download the requiste iSync plugin and that should solve your PIM syncing problems for nowt.

So then, to sum up, using the free Nokia app is a good way to transfer media via a mac, software can be easily bluetoothed across and virtually self-installs, PIM stuff (if you are a Google user) can be synced in real time via Mail For Exchange (apparantly) or if you use the mac apps like iCal them Missing Sync will be a decent, if rather expensive option. Overall then syncing via a mac, via some good free stuff is actuully a rather painless experience. In addition here is a useful tip for sending SIS files. If you control click on any SIS file and choose the “Open With” option and then choose “Bluetooth File Exchange” ) found in Applications-Utilities then each time you double click a new SIS file it will automatically send it to your Nokia device via Bluetooth.

Postscript…anybody who doubted my Nokia Email set up problems yesterday may care to have a peek at this little excerpt from Steve Litchfield’s very recent E72 review, which was in fact only published today (December 17th) on AllAboutSymbian:

Predictably, Nokia Messaging on the E72 was just as flawed as on every other device I’ve tried it on. In this case, I couldn’t even complete the setup process, as the wizard just looped around, asking me again and again for my email address and password, with no error messages, no confirmations and no progress. Fail. Yet again. It’s a complex client server system with multifarious connections to many third party services and software packages and isn’t, in my opinion, ready for the prime time yet. In fact, given its complexity, there’s a serious argument that it will never, ever, as a system, be glitch-free.

Nokia E72 arrived

You know, this device to me sums up why Nokia and Symbian are patently losing ground in the great smartphone wars and losing market share. The out of the box experience, setting up the device can be summed up in one word and that word, dear readers, is “dismal”. I shared with you a couple of weeks ago my experience, short lived though it was, with the Windows Mobile toting Samsung B7330 Pro and the setting up nonsense was sadly similar on the E72. Nokia has to learn and learn quickly, initial impressions are important and Joe Bloggs, walking into CarPhoneWarehouse or wherever it is, is certainly going to be impressed by the look and feel of these latest Nokia smartphones but he or she is not going to be smiling when they get home, unbox it and then try to start setting up their email accounts and internet access.

Nowadays, over the past year and a bit, I am accustomed to just sticking in the SIM card, firing up the device and entering a couple of simple details and all my email and internet is configured automatically for me. This happens on the iPhone and the Android devices I have used and now, even, on BlackBerry phones. To have to fanny about online searching forums looking for solutions to setting up a GMail account these days is frankly poor but that’s what happened to me, and to many others, despite Nokia claiming to have some wonderful “email wizard” onboard the E72 when you first turn it on. It took me ages to work out or to finally get my GMail account set up.  When I did finally get it working i was taken aback by how poorly it displays, the text is blocky and pixellated and looks like it was designed about 10 years ago.  Credit where it is due though as the app itself works well and is fully featured although push email is not supported unless you try and set it up via Mail for Exchange….if you do try, good luck.  I quickly installed Profimail as this does offer push, is easy to set up and reliable. Thing is, experienced Symbian users will know the ins and outs of how these things work and it will be simple for them to get things sorted but for semi-newbies like me it’s just not user friendly.

Then there is the age-old Symbian silliness about different apps have different ways of connecting to the internet. Some seem to just accept the existing connection just fine whilst others pop up a menu asking you how you want to connect. This is daft. If you are obviously not connected to a wifi network why doesn’t the system not automatically choose the default access point? It’s annoying and needless too.

Oddly, on the major sites that I read who had reviewed the E72, none thought fit to mention the email setting up hassle or have commented how fiddly the whole thing is compared to other platforms, perhaps they are just used to it or expect it.

Anyway, mustn’t gripe too much (yet). So, I bought this phone just to do some things and so far, once it was set up to my liking, it has been good. The keyboard is amazing and with first class auto-correction you can bomb through typing emails, texts and tweets in a manner I could never achieve on the HTC Hero, for example. I have however turned off “text correction” as it was a bit too keen to change things. Battery life, as you would expect, is turning out to be stellar. I’d left on Bluetooth all day by mistake, made some calls, did loads of playing around with apps and settings, synced via Missing Sync for Symbian (probably not worth getting incidentally) via Bluetooth, had wifi on for over an hour last night, push email on via Profimail all day and it has hardly made a dent in the battery indicator.

I’ve been very easy on the software front too having only installed Gravity, a very decent Twitter client which suffers from the small screen estate on the E72 but would be great on touch screened bigger devices, SPB Weather, the free Bloomberg Finance application (adding my shares was a bloody nightmare with a truly pish UI), a threaded SMS Chat application which I already owned, SPB Wallet which is an excellent Password Manager and which I’d also previously bought, Handy TaskMan to manage running apps and that’s about it. I don’t intend to spend a lot of time trying out many 3rd party applications for two reasons. Firstly, most of them are dreadful and horribly overpriced compared to their iPhone/Android equivalents and secondly, when Santa hopefully brings me an iPod Touch for Xmas I’ll be using that for most of my app useage, RSS, Podcasts, Music, Databases, Photos and games. I really don’t want to go through all that angst about trying frantically (and usually failing) to find replacements apps of a sufficiently good quality for Symbian.

What else can I say about the E72 from such a short period of ownership? I was a bit surprised by its weight, I was expecting it to be lighter but that does at least make it feel very solid. Call quality is good. I like the optical dpad set up but you do sometimes flick it by mistake and end up somewhere else. It can be disabled if you can’t hack it though. There’s no inbuilt threaded SMS, which is poor and the SMS app again looks really basic. I really think Nokia, or whoever it is who owns the Symbian S60 software, needs to give it more than just a spit and polish as it is really looking dated. The E72 is quick though, has over 250mb of space to store new apps on and when up and running has about 45mb available to actually run apps in. To date, I’ve not noticed any slowdown and have not needed to close any running apps so it looks like the device is handling memory quite efficiently. It is a solid if rather unexciting device but then again, that may just be exactly what some are after.

More on the E72 over the next few days.

Posted in symbian. 1 Comment »

Ordered up a Nokia E72

It was only a matter of time I guess and I’d been looking at these for a couple of weeks. The reviews I have read have been positive and I’m hoping some of the “enhancements” that have come via the new s60 3rd edition FP2 will iron out some of the annoyances I suffered with the E71. Namely, the ability to set an “access point” for all applications in the settings so that irritating “choose an access point” message won’t appear so often plus HTML email via Nokia Messaging, push Gmail via Exchange support and at last a good Twitter client for s60. In addition, Bloomberg is now available for s60 too so I can follow my meagre share portfolio (less than £1500 to be exact but it gives me something to do).

Like I said before, Santa is bringing me an iPod Touch as the iPhone 3G is going to my wife and thus it will handle all the fun stuff plus music, podcasts and the apps that are lacking for Symbian. I really like the look of the E72 and the keyboard on the E71 was superb with excellent auto-correction built in so typing was super quick on it, the camera at 5mp is apparantly very decent and I’m hoping to give it a real go and hoping it will last up until either Apple get a smaller and nicer form factor iPhone out next summer or that HTC Salsa Android device appears and is good.

I sort of deliberated between the E72 and N97 Mini for a bit and came up on the side of the former, mainly because it has the front facing qwerty and I won’t need another touchscreened device when the iPod Touch arrives. Anyone care to wager how long the E72 will last?

More Android handsets…

After HTC’s 2010 road map was leaked last week, giving us a wee taster of the possible delights to come, it’s back to reality, the here and now, via the Acer Liquid and Motorola Milestone.

The Acer looks okay, well specced up but it just looks a bit slabby. I don’t know, it just doesn’t look like a phone and call me old fashioned but I kind of like a phone to look like a phone. Not hugely like a phone, just a bit like one and at the very least, not like a Palm TX. Another drawback is that it does not have a keyboard, well not a proper one I mean. Plus, Android’s inability to speak to the desktop is another drawback for me, getting stuff on there is easy enough but getting your stuff off is not quite so easy.

Despite taking some good natured ribbing via Twitter from a couple of gadget chums, I still quite fancy the Nokia E72…one called it “boring” and he’s probably right but it’s a nice form factor, the keyboard is likely to be superb if it is like the E71 one, the camera is apparantly quite decent, there’s now a good Twitter client in the shape of Gravity, you can now get push GMail on it and it’s reasonably priced. I like the idea of pairing it with an iPod Touch and that way I get to keep using all the great iPhone software plus I’ll have a good mp3/podcast player and with all the great RSS readers available for the platform, I’ll not have to worry about that for symbian anymore.

Don’t try and stop me chaps, it’s going to happen…