Tag Archives: Symbian OS

There’s no way a Nokia phone could be this good (or bad?)

A couple of weeks ago Nokia has launched their newest and latest flagship product, the Nokia N8. The emergence of this phone marks Nokia’s “re-entry” into a serious smartphone business after they lost to the likes of RIM, Google and Apple, though this might be a bit late for them to make any significant change. However let’s leave the personal sentiment here and go ahead to the main subject after the break.

The launching was held worldwide simultaneously, and last week I was able to test this much-anticipated phone for about half an hour (and another testing session earlier this week too, making it a total one hour of hardware testing). Having this phone makes me feel like a damn rich spoiled kid who can buy every newly released hi-tech toys he wanted using his parents’ wealth. If it’s not because the phone store has a test unit and allowed me to experience it myself, I might never get any chance even to have a touch on it.

The phone chassis is made of anodized aluminum (available in 5 different colors), which feels very solid and tough, and the most important thing is it does have the ‘Nokia’ feel. Long time Nokia users should understand about this ‘feel’ I’m talking about. Being encased in aluminum chassis does help in reducing the wight, thus despite the big size this phone bears, it only weights 135g, which is lighter than I expected. The 2.5′  AMOLED display is also crystal clear, though in terms of color reproduction it may not a s good as iPhone 4. However it is good enough in doing its job with ‘only’ 16M colors, and the most important part is, the capacitive display is very responsive, almost as good as what I’ve seen on iPhone 4, if not better. And since it is capacitive, multi-touch is possible and everything is a breeze.

There are two things I don’t like about this phone though, which I think is my greatest disappointment about it. The first one is not user-changeable, which means there’s no way to replace the battery without sending it back to Nokia center, which is the same case with iPhones. Although a good battery won’t likely need to be replaced that often but everybody knows batteries are always most likely to be the first part in any phone to have a failure. Besides a mobile phone is traveler’s companion and recharging should not be the only available option when the battery runs out of juice when alternatives such as spare battery is possible. From the spec. manual, the standby time may last up to 390 hours. According to the guy at the phone store, since the arrival, the test unit has only been charged once, and with at least 5 people testing it everyday, I must say the battery life is awesome, if that guy is not lying though.

Anther thing that I don’t like about this phone is it only comes in one version only, the 16GB version, which I think is so not like Nokia. Usually for a phone in this class (smartphone) Nokia usually ship them in varieties of capacity, just like the older X6, where it has 8GB, 16GB and 32GB version. Not really sure whether there will be a lighter (8GB) or a more advanced (32GB) variants in the future but for me, they better do. Well, perhaps a “lighter version of Nokia N8” is already exists in the form of the cheaper Nokia C7 (which bears the same CPU but is inferior in overall hardware specs) thus Nokia didn’t bother to come up with a lighter variant for N8. This phone however supports memory expansion of up to 32GB via microSD card should the built-in 16GB space is inadequate for you. For me, 8GB is good enough for a smartphone, because if I want anything more than that I’d prefer a dedicated media player like iPod, since I don’t mind carrying more than one device.

Apart from the above flaws, there are other minor flaws as well. For example the annoying lag when I switched the phone language. I switched the phone language from English to Malay, from Malay to Chinese, and from Chine back to English, and between the switching the phone seemed to be not responding and I thought it has crashed. However the menus are not laggy at all, which is a major improvement on Symbian OS which always carries the reputation of having laggy UI navigation. The startup time is also quite fast, and there’s no noticeable lag in switching the phone mode into camera or media player mode. Also with the ARM 11 680 MHz processor, this phone is quite underpowered in its class, given that some of its rivals already sporting 1GHz CPU.

680 MHz maybe enough to squeeze everything from Symbian^3 OS but for me if they could use a faster CPU then why not? The price of this phone is 1,690 MYR (±543 USD) which is quite cheap for a smartphone so I think to add another 310 MYR/±100 USD (to make it 2,000 MYR) for a faster CPU should not hurt too much, and it would still be cheaper than an iPhone 4. Well I guess Nokia wanted their smartphone to be as cheap as it could without compromising too much power, thus they adopted the ARM 11 processor.

The camera on this phone is really good, as expected from a Carl Zeiss Tesar 28mm autofocus lens (3x digital zoom for image and 2x digital zoom for video). The camera quick access button cum shutter button is located to the side. The 12MP camera is accompanied with a powerful xenon flash and capable of capturing HD video (720p only). The camera lens doesn’t have lens protector so you’ll have to be careful when handling it. Being capable of playing HD video (again, 720p only) the phone comes with HDMI out so you could hook it up to any HDTV. Too bad though the store where I test this phone has no HDTV for me to test the HDMI capablity, and there’s no HD content loaded inside the phone to begin with. For internet, this phone also comes with 3G and 3.5G, as well as wi-fi, which is perfect to save on your 3G bill. Data connectivity with PC is possible with Bluetooth 3.0 (supports Bluetooth audio) and microUSB cable. For navigation purposes, this phone is equipped with both GPS, A-GPS and magnetometer (a.k.a. electronic compass). Also present are proximity sensor (that will detect your face and activate the answering mode when you receive a call) and accelerometer that will change the screen orientation depending on how you hold/place it (and useful for games/apps that support it).

The phone also comes with awesome sound, thanks to the Dolby Digital Plus technology, but that is only if the connected audio system is capable of delivering Dolby processed sound (such as digital speaker or Dolby headphone). As with most recent Nokia phones, this phone also comes with the standard 3.5mm audio jack to connect it to headphone/speaker. The music playback . It also comes with FM radio, front facing camera for video call (most smartphones today come with it too) and the standard software packages you can expect as other existing Nokia phones. Available with the hardware package are USB cables (microUSB and USB On-The-Go adapter), standard Nokia stereo headset, Nokia original charger and HDMI adapter.

I believe I’ve explained everything that I know about the phone. It seems like the phone has everything most users would want but for me there are parts that I think is overkill. For example I don’t need front-facing camera because I don’t make video call. I also personally think a high MP camera is pointless without optical zoom (though optical zoom for a smartphone this thin maybe a funny thing to see). Not to mention that I don’t use a phone to play the so-called HD content. For your info, I don’t acknowledge anything lower than 1080p as HD, and to play HD content I’d prefer using a more powerful player (at least a netbook that’s capable of playing HD content for example). That being said, if Nokia could fix all the flaws and remove the unnecessary things from this phone, then there would be no excuse for me for not getting it.

*sorry for the poor quality pictures. They’re taken from my old dumbphone (>_<)


Nokia and Symbian OS is not ready for smartphone business?

Just recently Apple has revealed their 4th generation of iPhone that comes with iPhone OS 4 which is now dubbed as iOS4. Google, another new player in the smartphone business on the other hand, is now working on the upcoming Andoid OS 2.2 “Froyo” which is due to be officially released anytime later this year. Qualcomm, the name behind the 1GHz Snapdragon CPU that powers devices like Google’s very own smartphone Nexus One, also now has their own smartphone platform called Brew MP. Intel also came up with the new Atom CPU made specific for smartphones, signifying their initial step into the business as well. Not to mention, Motorola that used to be one of Apple’s closest partners now goes the Android way by announcing a 2GHz processing power smartphone. The good old Palm also becoming stronger day bay day with their Web OS powered devices, signifying that they’re not dead yet.

We all have known business phones has always been dominated by Research In Motion (RIM) with their Blackberry handsets. However, that’s all about them, RIM is always about business phone and not personal phone. The first ‘real’ phone maker that I ever witnessed to enter the business phone field is Nokia, with their Communicator and E series. They managed to steal serious business from it but RIM is always ahead of them. Luckily they’e always backed-up by their personal phone business.

Since the recent years, Nokia has been venturing into smartphone business as well. Regardless whether the decision was made after they witnessed the success of the iPhone, the phone business of today is all about smartphone. In the past business phone and personal phone is a separate thing. When PDA was still a trend, it’s not unusual to see a businessman carrying a normal phone for contact purposess while the PDA serves as a business device on the go. Then come the smartphone. The earlier generation of smartphone marks a marriage between a cellphone and a PDA. By that time cellphone has been divided into 3 categories ie. smartphone, personal phone and business phone. Yes, business phone still exists today as the demand for it is still as strong as ever. Business cater unique and specific needs. It’s not necessarily means that smartphone doesn’t love businessman but usually businessman doesn’t need much of the bells and whistles on smartphone. But why do we need a smartphone anyway. Because today’s generation is not simply a marriage between cellphone and PDA anymore, it’s a bridge between business phone and personal phone.

Back to the Nokia story, sometime around earlier last year they launched their first consumer touchscreen smartphone, the XpressMusic 5800 a.k.a. “The Tube”. It may not their first touchscreen phone but it’s their first Symbian OS device to have that feature. It was quite a steal, especially after people had been anticipating it since they saw it in Britney Spears music video and the Batman movie. AS with many new products, it came with many notable flaws too. Once anybody who have experiences with iPhone would notice is the resistive touchscreen, as opposed to the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen. It may not be a crucial feature but Nokia seems to have forgot that people were expecting multi-touch interface since Nokia has a strong reputation in mobile gaming, hence the N-GAGE service. A real gamer knows that a real game requires multi-touch controls, and Nokia should understand too that as an entertainment phone, The Tube should have extensive gaming features.

The laggy menu navigation also haunted The Tube. It is as if there’s a software between the touchscreen and the visual interface that translates touches, taps, swipes and gestures into instructions. It seems like Symbian OS in the device have no native support for touch interface and might have required special software to enable that, thus resulting the lags. Also the default Symbian OS interface is not ready for touchscreen operation just yet, despite is was optimized for single-handed operation. Well, with the advent of touchscreen technology on cellphone, the single-handed operation might have become the thing of the past.

However there are good points too for Symbian OS to be the OS of choice in smartphone. Symbian OS has always been supporting multitasking. Yes, you can listen to mp3 on your smartphone while browsing the internet at the same time, and you can even do this even on much older models that are released 5 years ago. Not only that Symbian OS is also extremely good as multitasking, where it clears the memory immediately after you terminate an application, leaving the the phone ready for you to load another apps. This also means lower memory error when compared to Windows Mobile and iPhone OS. Applications for Symbian OS also relatively easy to develop because the system is functioning as a group of services, similar to what we may find in POSIX-modeled OS. Also Nokia doesn’t restrict developers from marketing their own software, unlike the iPhone where developers have too place their apps in the App Store while forced to give a portion of their revenue to Apple by doing so. Nokia and Symbian OS is more of an open platform than most other phone makers (except for Android of course).

Today Symbian OS is open to all developers since it’s now completely open source. Seems like a good decision for Nokia to compete with another open source mobile platform, the mighty Google Android OS. So far we can’t see any significant changes resulting from that moves except that newer Symbian OS devices are having much lower price that they were. Also the UI seems to have been tweaked a bit to be more touchscreen friendly (as can be seen on the upcoming N8 pictured above). We also hear less complain about laggy many navigation too. Perhaps Symbian OS now have native touchscreen operation too. Knowing Nokia’s reputation in phone making, we hope to see more and more developers joining the league. We might also see lots of improvements in future Nokia releases as well as more price drops too.

I admit that I am a Nokia fanboy and I’m always siding with them regardless how bad their devices are in terms of performance and behavior. However this does not prevent me from criticizing them all the time. I remember when Symbian OS was still closed source (that was even before iPhone), they did open themselves for some sort of public submission for GUI design for future Symbian OS releases. On that time I saw quite a number of awesome submission too, but now it may not be necessary anymore. Anyway I wonder if it is still available for submission. If it is I think I’d like to submit mine too.