Thoughts on S60

reflections on the most popular mobile operating system worldwide

Archive for May 2009

Nokia Launches the Ovi Store (mostly)

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I got a brief chance to play around with it today on the girlfriend’s N85. When I told her about it, the conversation went like this.

Me: Nokia launched the Ovi Store today.

Her: …why?

I laughed, but that seems to reflect the general consensus from all of the other S60 blogs today as well. I do admit, it’s significantly better than the previous alternative, Download!, but I think I speak for a lot of power users when I say that it’s still more familiar and easier to locate applications from various sites on the web. Besides, I don’t think apps like Download! or now the Ovi Store were ever supposed to be for the heavy user. This seems more of a step to get the new and unfamiliar S60 customer to start to explore what else its capable of, not supply an be-all, end-all source for applications (yet).

It’s just unfortunate that Apple has already done so well by taking that exact approach (though the Jailbreak community still exists for a reason ;)).

Written by Jonathan

May 26, 2009 at 11:34 pm

AT&T 3G and YOU!

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There seems to be a lot of confusion recently regarding a “NAM i8910” which includes the UMTS 850 and 1900 frequencies used by AT&T and the frequencies supported by the current i8910. Please read ahead and allow me to clear up this confusion.

1. There is no “NAM i8910” and there probably never will be.

The current Samsung i8910 supports quadband GSM (voice and EDGE data) and triband 900/1900/2100 UMTS (for 3G voice and HSDPA data). Samsung has not made any mention of plans to release a second i8910 with the 850 UMTS frequency for use on AT&T’s 3G network.

2. This may not matter, depending on where you are.

AT&T currently uses both UMTS 850 and 1900 frequencies to make up its 3G network in the US. Fortunately, the 1900 UMTS frequency is used primarily in their current infrastructure for most of their 3G coverage. That means depending on where you are, you may be able to access AT&T’s 3G network with only the UMTS 1900 frequency in the i8910 just as you would a phone that supports both frequencies. Aside from AT&T’s 3G data, the i8910 will work on ANY GSM network for voice and EDGE data due to the quadband GSM frequencies.

(Note: All further improvements to AT&T’s network is being done by adding UMTS 850 towers. If you don’t currently have 3G coverage in your area, and AT&T drops a notice on your door that they’re expanding their coverage, your brand new i8910 probably won’t be able to access the 3G data from the towers they just added.)

3. How do I find out what frequency is being used in my area?

Aside from the dozens of platforms and applications that can be used to find out which UMTS tower your phone is connected to, the easiest way is to give AT&T a call. If you can get connected to a technician who knows what he/she’s doing, they should be able to identify which frequency your phone is using in your area.

As a disclaimer, I do not take any responsibility if you buy an i8910 and it does not access AT&T’s 3G network, so please do not email me with complaints if this happens. The point to this post is that given the state of AT&T’s 3G network, there is a very good chance that the UMTS 1900 frequency will work just as well with the i8910 in its current state without a NAM version necessary. I can tell you from my own personal experience that both the Atlanta and Chicago metropolitan areas are heavily covered by UMTS 1900. Anywhere else will be up to you to find out.

Please drop a comment or an email if you have any further questions. Inspiration for the title of this post.

Written by Jonathan

May 25, 2009 at 1:31 am

Quantity VS Quality: Looking at mobile device storage

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Aside from the megapixel race in mobile cameras, it seems we’ve seen a constant increase in demand for higher storage capacities as well. Although not the first mobile device to implement it, it seemed to start with the fixed 4 and 8gb iPhones in 2007, combatted by the N95 8gb, with the iPhone 3G in 8gb and 16gb variants fighting it out with the N96 the following year with 16gb+microSD slot (despite the N96 failing in several areas). It seems that this year is going to be no different with rumors flying that the next-gen iPhone is going to come in 16 and 32gb flavors to compete against the 32gb+microSD slotted N97. While I agree that more is almost certainly always going to be better in this regard, I believe there are conditions to be met to ensure that people are getting the most out of such an immense amount of storage.

Keep reading to understand what I’m talking about.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jonathan

May 22, 2009 at 10:16 pm

The Trouble With Resistive

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I came across this picture the other day and was amazed at how well it visually captured everything I hate about resistive touch screens (the phone is the HTC Touch Diamond 2).

Notice the “waves” of the top layer of plastic that’s going to make contact with the user’s stylus and fingers. Having used several touch screens with this type of screen recently, the one thing I’ve noticed is that this top thin layer is anything but durable. Those “waves” will shift as you use the screen over time and even with normal usage or a screen protector applied, tiny skids and lines will start to appear over the surface. And you can absolutely forget about putting this phone in your pocket with keys. I’m not one to do such a thing (usually my phone has its own dedicated pocket), but I know there are people who do.

Comparing that experience to the durability of a capacitive screen with tempered glass is part of the reason I’m so geared up on using the i8910. I never found too much difficulty in normal usage or in clarity as I’ve heard other people complain about on phones like the 5800XM. My biggest gripe was how the screen felt like it was simply going to fall apart if I kept the phone any longer and seeing how quickly it developed a noticeable amount of wear after very little abuse. What I don’t understand is why this type of screen is still being used when thicker plastic layers have been used over resistive screens on other devices and have held up much better.

Check out these videos to see how much tempered glass makes a difference.

Written by Jonathan

May 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Samsung i8910: It’s not about the megapixels

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Any camera enthusiast who’s well-versed in the technology can give you a list of what makes a good camera from the lens to the software that puts it all together. If you’ve paid attention to the evolution of stand alone digital cameras, you know that megapixels certainly aren’t everything and now that the standard has been made so high for both digital cameras and camera phones, the significance is becoming increasingly negligible.

I’ve never had any critical issues with the quality of Nokia’s 5mp cameras, at least not to the point where I wanted an upgrade to 8. What disappointed me for so long was the lack of innovation after the same 5mp module was used again and again on each of Nokia’s new devices. Although we’re still waiting on Nokia’s first 8mp camera phone, I’m could care less that they’ve finally caught up to the competition for the megapixel count. No, what upsets me is that they’ve done almost nothing to improve the software.

The 8mp camera modules used by other manufacturers within the past year or so didn’t just take larger pictures, they supported a plethora of features shared on standlone digital cameras that Nokia has still yet to touch. I’m referring to features like face detection, smile shutter, blink detection, slow-motion video capture, and in some phones, even optical zoom. Some people might find these features to be only gimmicks and irrelevant to the quality of the picture being taken, but that’s not the point. The point is that these other manufacturers have continued to develop and focused their attention on the features than their consumers will want and like to sell more devices. These features don’t just mean a larger menu of options to take the same picture, it means more ways that a person can interact with the camera on their device and it gives that person a much more versatile set of tools to choose how they want to best caputure their memories.

It’s for this reason I’m excited about the 8mp camera in the i8910. I could care less about the bump in megapixel size and I’ll probably end up keeping is set at 5mp anyway. I just want a camera that’s closer to integration with standalone digital cameras, and now with a device that’s also running S60, we can all finally have it.

What do you think? Does the 8mp matter to you? Do you care about the additional features offered by non-Nokia camera phones?

Written by Jonathan

May 14, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Posted in s60 Suggestions

If you really want to gauge the US cell phone market…

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Take a look at the Cell Phones & Plans sections on Yahoo! Answers.

When you take a look at the wide variety of questions that a ton of different people ask about their mobiles and their plans every few seconds, it really kida puts things into perspective. That’s not to make fun of anyone in the US. I’m just trying to show that there are a lot more people in the US who have absolutely NO idea what’s out there or even how to use the free phone they just picked up from AT&T. Hell, a lot of them don’t even know how to find the information they’re looking for (other than to ask it on Yahoo! Answers). It makes me wonder how many people out there without computers are struggling as much or harder.

How are companies going to reach these people? And not just the big name hardware manufacturers, what about all of the software developers both big and small who have a killer application for their phone that’s either free or well worth the money? It makes me feel like Apple has made some very huge accomplishments in reaching out to those people, and they haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.

I don’t care what you think of the iPhone; these companies need to take a page out of Apple’s books.

Written by Jonathan

May 8, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Nokia N97; Multimedia Computer…from 2007.

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Since my last post about how much more interested I am in the Samsung i8910 instead of the N97, I have given both devices a lot of thought to try to come to a fair decision. Since my day typically consists of significantly more messaging than anything else, a hardware keyboard started to look pretty appealing to me. Then the rest of its lesser features when compared to the i8910 started making me thing that maybe they would be “enough” for my normal usage. That was until this was published on Forum Nokia regarding the hardware in the N97:

If it wasn’t bad enough that Nokia is using the same 5mp camera sensor that they’ve been using since the original N95, they also used the same processor used on most Nokia devices since the N95 from 2007! If you think I’m making it up, please take a look at the processor specs of the original N95. Not only is it the same processor, but the N95 also supported a dual CPU and a dedicated 3D hardware acceleration (making it excellent for gaming).

Meanwhile, everybody else has stepped up to processors that can at least support up to 600mhz (if not more) for their future devices, if they’re not using them already. Among them happens to be the Samsung OmniaHD which not only features the Cortex A8 process (capable of up to 800mhz), but also uses the PowerVR SGX GPU for graphics acceleration. You might reconize the Cortex A8, as it’s the same one that Palm is using in their hotly anticipated Pre due out from Sprint within the next couple months. If you’d like to see the nitty gritty on the difference between these two processors, do a search for “Pre” and “N97” on this Wikipedia page.

I know some of you may be thinking that a faster processor means significantly less battery life, which turns out to be very ironic. The Cortex A8 also features dynamic power management, meaning it can adjust its power consumption based on the CPU load in real time to significantly save battery life. The entire ARM11 architechture doesn’t support anything like this.

This has pretty much put the final nail in the coffin for me. I meant it when I said I’d like to keep my next device for at least a year if I can, and I just don’t think using old tech with a higher clock speed is going to be able to cut it for a long-term device, especially when the competition has so many other features under the hood as well.

What do you think? Will you still buy an N97 knowing it’s using an older processor than most of the new devices due out this year?

Written by Jonathan

May 1, 2009 at 10:46 pm