Nokia Mobile Codes – I was wondering what the “barcode scanner” on my new Nokia N95 was for, and this is it. I’ve been trying to think of a cool use for a mobile code, but I’m not really coming up with anything.(1)
Archive for the 'Cell Phones' Category
The scourge of that damn frog song – While it’s an interesting idea, I’m not convinced.
My comment on ringtones? “You think ringtones are bad? Just wait until the advent of ringtones for moped horns in India or some other place that comes from the “I’m here!” school of horn usage.
If by putting that idea in words I’ve doomed us all, I apologize in advance.”(0)
Believe it or not, I’m not getting an iPhone. That’s right: I, apple fan boy, the owner of six iPods, and recent obsessor over cell phones, am not getting an iPhone.
The thing is, I really like it; half the time when my roommate is showing his to someone, I’ll interject pointing out a few of my favorite features . And I’m sure I’ll end up with an iPhone eventually — just not version 1.0 and all of its limitations.
As for the limitations? There are only really about 2 absolute deal breakers, though let’s enumerate four. First there are the things that I do with my current phone that I would not be able to do with the iPhone:
- I can’t tether my laptop to an iPhone to get an internet connection. I use this feature at least twice a day with my E50, and I’m using it right now.
- I can’t connect my bluetooth GPS to my iPhone to get a number of features I use every time I travel.
And then there are the more common complaints:
- It’s only EDGE and not 3G. My E50 only does EDGE so I wouldn’t be downgrading, but it still seems silly when I can probably just wait for 3G.
- Without a proper SDK, there just isn’t going to be a killer app. For example, one of the more killer apps on my E50 is the Nokia Sports Tracker; given that it’s tightly integrated with the GPS and needs to record data (and ideally I want it to work when I’m roaming internationally, so recording to the network would be prohibitively expensive), it’s just impossible on the iPhone given the current solution.
There are a couple of other issues like the fact that the Gmail experience on the iPhone is crap and the headphone jack situation is borderline consumer hostile, but that’s basically my iPhone story. Don’t let it stop you from getting one, but if you’re an advanced user, it seems like you’re going to run into at least a couple of these issues.
 My personal favorite is “flinging” a list to send it scrolling, and then touching the screen to stop it suddenly at exactly the point you touched it.
I know I said I was going to get an E61, but Amazon canceled my order and I ended up with a Nokia E50 instead. Aside from a limited ability to multitask due to memory issues, I’m very happy with it as an interim solution until I find the phone I really want.
If nothing else, I kinda missed T9 on the E61/E62, not only for it’s entertaining t9onyms, but also for it’s faux spell checking functionality. And speaking of t9onyms, how did Dewitt not coin “t9onym” when he wrote his classic T9 Synonyms post?
As for my next phone, who knows? I want 3G, I ideally want Series 60 3rd edition feature pack 1, and an integrated GPS would be nice. I’m pretty indifferent to the qwerty vs. keypad decision at this point. The N95 would be pretty sweet if it weren’t $800 and had US 3G bands.
I decided to give the Samsung Blackjack a pass, mainly because it would have meant $500 for a Cingular tainted phone to maintain my contract-free situation. I may consider giving a Windows Mobile Blackjack like device a spin in the future, but for now I decided to stick with Nokia.
While in India I decided on getting the E61 no fewer than three times, and I’ve decided on the E61 at least twice more this week. The main other contender was the even cheaper and smaller E50, and it was a tough choice. In the end, the two deciding factors were the difficulty in finding a trustworthy vendor of the E50 that was definitely carrying the version with the camera, and perhaps more significantly, the the benefits of the E61′s landscape screen orientation when using the bundled web browser.
That web browser issue is actually a little more significant than you may realize if you haven’t used Nokia’s WebKit derived browser. It deserves all the praise it’s gotten, but there’s a drawback with how well it renders pages: It doesn’t wrap web pages to fit your screen. Even with the E61′s wide screen I find myself sometimes having to scroll from left to right to read a paragraph.
My only other complaint about the browser so far is that embedded google maps crash it. It’s certainly not Google’s fault, but I wouldn’t mind if they could code a workaround to at least avoid crashing the browser.
In the time I was India with the E62, I had a lot of time to have second thoughts about it and ultimately decide to return the phone upon my return. At least two people I know have also returned the phone, and one of them reported that the Cingular sales representative bemoaned the number of these phones coming back. Now I don’t know everyone else’s reasons, but here are mine:
- Cingular refused to unlock the phone until I’d owned it for 90 days, despite my longstanding status as a customer. Returning the phone allowed me to get out of my contract, and will allow me to take on another two year contract later if I want some exclusive phone or discount in the future
- Cingular broke Java on the device, requiring java applications (such as Google Maps Mobile and Gmail Mobile) to ask for permission before every single network access. It’s this kind of brain-dead behavior that leaves me uncertain that I’m ever going to want another Cingular branded (or even carrier tainted) device.
- That unremappable voice recorder button on the side is not only something I’ll never use, but it was way too easy to press accidentally. I made more than a few accidental recordings.
- And though I saw a lot of other people complaining about it, “sluggishness” wasn’t actually a reason I returned it until I played with an LG CU500 and a Samsung Blackjack later. Hell, even my 3 year old 3650 which I’ve defaulted back to the for moment sometimes feels faster than the E62 did.
- And not actually a reason that I returned it, but one of my friends did something to the network settings that caused both the WAP browser and the XHTML browser to crash on launch, and he couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem. Not exactly the kind of robustness I’m looking for.
While in India, I went through the whole list of available and upcoming Nokia Series 60 devices, looking to see if any of them would meet my needs. The E50, E61, N73, N75, N80, and N95 all have variations on problems including no/wrong HSPDA, no camera, no wifi, moving parts (slider / flip phone), expensive, a littler bigger than I’d like, not out yet, etc. But I had a lot of time to think about it, and on no fewer than three occasions I decided that an unlocked Nokia E61 was the best phone for me for now: It’ll solve my number 1 and 2 Cingular issues and keep me out of contract, and I’ll get a wifi device out of it, all for only $380 (I ordered it in early November; the price on Amazon has since gone up to $450).
But then my officemate went and exchanged his E62 for a Samsung Blackjack, and I’m not really sure how I feel about having my blind Nokia devotion swayed by a Windows Mobile device. But it’s tiny and sexy, and it has US HSPDA, a camera, and a scroll wheel. My only complaints are the lack of wifi and the less than stellar battery life. And to pick a nit, the lack of the full range of world frequencies that the Cingular 8525 tank features.
Oh, and Windows Mobile, of course.
(I’ve been wanting to try doing “three minute reviews” as a writing exercise for awhile now, and this was my first attempt. Unfortunately, this review took about 6 minutes to write plus about 4 minutes of editing. And for the record, I’m posting this via the new phone’s internet connection.)
In under an hour yesterday, I went from knowing the Nokia E62 was available from the Cingular store to having signed a new two year contract with Cingular and replacing my trusty Nokia 3650 with an E62. I’ve been hanging onto my Nokia 3650 for way too long, and I figured “Hey, what better time to change a fairly major component of my daily routine than 4 days before I leave for three weeks in India?”
The main thing that made this decision was the desire to have a fast unlocked phone while I’m in India for internet purposes, since data plans over there appear to be ridiculously cheap.
12 hours later, I’m not really regretting the decision, and it’s nice to finally have a modern Cingular plan (rather than my in-limbo ATT wireless cingular plan). I like the big screen, I like the snappiness compared to the 3650, I like that it already works with iSync with a few hacks, I like having unlimited internet both on my phone and on my laptop via bluetooth, I *really* like the new KHTML based web browser, and I even like the size and form-factor and qwerty keypad (remember, my baseline wasn’t the smallest phone in the world).
However, I do have a few small nits to pick with the phone so far:
- Cingular apparently chose to neuter the ability of Java applications to talk freely to the network; So, for example, when I’m using google maps for mobile, it currently endlessly asks me for permission to talk to the network. This is apparently Cingular’s fault, and their effort to exort more money from application developers by forcing them to get Cingular to sign their applications for free network access.
- While I like the keypad so far — the buttons are very nice to press, and I like the pointer better than I thought I would — I am pretty annoyed at the moment by the inability to generate a number by holding down one of the number/letter keys when in text entry mode (as you could on old series 60 nokia devices). Instead, you apparently have to use the meta-shift button to get numbers when in text entry mode.
Other than that, I’m pretty happy with the device. Sure, I’ll be wanting a device with a camera, wifi, and faster UMTS data probably within a year, but I’ve already been waiting a year and a half for my dream device, and in the meantime, this made for a pretty significant upgrade from my trusty 3650 (And it was cheap! $99 with 2 year contract and rebate).
I’ve owned and used a 3650 for going on 3 years now, and it took me most of that time to figure out that not only is the round keypad “not that bad,” but I’d be prepared to argue that it’s actually good — if not better — than your average square keypad. You can call me crazy, but the reason is simple: the round keypad offers a one dimensional search space for numbers and letters:
Rather than having feel and count the possible subtle lines that separate buttons on most phones and remembering that “T” is sort of bottom middle and “2″ is top middle unless there are extra buttons above it, I just have to remember that “T” is near the end and”2″ is near the beginning. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a “round keypad,” because it’s actually a linear keypad.
In addition to the linear, one dimensional search space (the same one that make’s the Mac’s menu bar so much nicer to use), each of the non-numeric keys have distinct shapes and positions. Where there are repeated shapes, they’re on opposite sides of the phone, and serve opposite purposes (answer and hang-up, edit input and delete/clear, select and back/exit). Recognizing that different button shapes help the thumb find what it’s looking for was one of the main differentiators that made the GameCube controller so great.
(Of course, off the deep end of different button shapes are the many many other Nokia phones that Beattie was actually talking about.)
I admit the keypad had a bit of a learning curve, but once learned, if not better, the 3650′s keypad was at least as good as your cookie cutter keypad. It’s too bad most people weren’t willing to give that different looking thing a chance; When I finally upgrade my phone later this year, I for one will definitely miss that quirky looking keypad.
I had already decided that I wanted to replace my aging Nokia 3650 with a Nokia 6682, and Russell’s epic 6680 hardware and software post and Om Malik’s review only make me more certain that I’ll be picking up this phone as soon as it’s available.(0)
So I’ve had the phone for a little more than a week now, and I still like it. Here’s a few more things I’ve noticed about it:
- I’ve been using Smart Profiles for the last week to do profile scheduling, and it certainly works as advertised (though the “daemon” has crashed a few times). Before I commit to that app I’m going to try this miniGPS and Extended Profiles suite. It’s more expensive, but it looks like the extended profiles half of the suite is functionally equivalent, and the miniGPS half of the suite adds location based events, based on what cell phone towers you’re near, which sounds pretty damn cool.
- Either way, I’m a little hesitant to buy an application that will be bound to the ID of my phone. I want my software licensed to me, not my phone.
- There’s a really irritating bit of behavior where, if you lock your keypad and then wait long enough for the screen saver to activate, the first press of the “Unlock” soft key doesn’t register, so you have to press it again and then press star to unlock the keypad. Actually, the phone is a little slow to respond fairly frequently, and that first press of Unlock which deactivates the screen saver is one of those slow to respond moments, so unlocking the keypad always takes a second or two longer than it should. Very frustrating.
- And while the large screen is nice, I’m really afraid it’s going to be a scratch magnet. And for that matter, it smudges like crazy when I hold it to my face. I think that’s just going to be a tradeoff.
Here’s a few more comments on my shiny new 3650:
- As Mike pointed out in the comments, the “hang up” button usually takes you to the top level of the phone, serving much the same purpose as the “C” button I was so used to habitually pressing on my 5165. The reason I dismissed that as a possibility initially is that I came across some screen where pressing hang up asked me if I was sure I wanted to delete something, which is a bad option to press habitually. But now that I look, I can’t recreate that behavior.
- As if it weren’t ridiculous enough that my digital camera can run MAME to emulate arcade games, now my cell phone can emulate Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. Unfortunately, the circular keypad is a little awkward for playing game boy games, and worse, it doesn’t seem like it acknowledges two simultaneous button presses (so I can’t jump diagonally, for example).
- The phone can capture short videos, but the quality is far from fantastic. I suppose it might be amusing in some circumstance some day. (If you want to watch movies taken with the phone, you need this quicktime plugin.)
- This program both addresses my desire for scheduled profiles and auto-keypad-locking (though I’m not sure if the auto-keypad-locking is working). I’m going to have to play with it for a few days to make sure it’s not too buggy before I decide to buy it. Being able to address problems with the phone through third party software is a nice unanticipated side effect of having such a seemingly overpowered phone.
- Ironically, the one thing I still have yet to really do is use this thing as a phone. Besides three calls to AT&T technical support (Once about locking myself out of the phone because I didn’t know the PIN number (see the end of the last post), once about not knowing my account number (which I needed to use the web site), and once about the web site not letting me register and giving me some error code), I haven’t used this thing for its intended purpose.
- It was sufficiently non-obvious to me that the call volume was adjusted by pressing left and right that I had to look it up in the manual. I suspect I didn’t realize this because of a little usability flaw: Since I was calling tech support, I was in menu-hell, and accordingly, pressing lots of buttons. When you type during a call, the numbers are entered into an on screen buffer, and when that buffer is active, left and right move your cursor through the buffer instead of adjusting the volume. To adjust the volume, you have to hit cancel to hide the buffer, which I was afraid to do because I thought that would hang up my call.
- When I was on hold for a few minutes, the speakerphone option was really nice to have.
I got my new credit card yesterday, and though I’m still disgusted by it, I did feel a certain excitement once it was in my hand. But rather than let whim get the best of me, I got something I needed instead: a new cell phone and plan. In particular, I got the Nokia 3650 I’ve had my eye on for a couple of months.
I’ve been playing with the phone all evening, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. The short version is it’s a damn good phone with a lot of flexibility, but it has just a few little flaws. It’s definitely a gadget geek’s phone, though. Here’s the bullet point version of my first impressions:
- Physical details:
- The round keypad is the first thing anyone’ll notice, and it’s really not that bad. The biggest problem I have with it isn’t the layout, but rather that it’s kind of hard to hit the buttons on the right side of the phone when holding the phone with my right hand. This is more of a function of the size of the phone than the layout of the keypad, and I don’t think any of the smaller phones would fare any better in this department.
- The keypad itself feels a little flimsy, and I’m a little worried about how the directional pad will hold up to wear and tear. Hopefully it’s trivially replaceable like old Nokia keypads.
- The good:
- While it’s significantly larger than some of the micro phones you can buy these days, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The size of the 3650 is just a little smaller than my old Nokia 5165 in most dimensions, but it’s significantly lighter. This is all good.
- The primary reason I bought this phone was because it has bluetooth, and it synchronizes my data with OS X beautifully as advertised. Definitely worth it. It’s also really convenient to transfer ringtones and other files to and from the phone with bluetooth. Very nice.
- While I don’t really have much use for a phone that takes pictures or videos, it’s still an interesting option to have. And while the picture quality is far from fantastic, it’s actually much better than the old web cam I had back in the day.
- Voice dial is far from a new feature, but it’s new for me, and I think it’s neat. We’ll see if I actually use it in practice.
- While I knew the phone had “polyphonic ringtones,” it never occurred to me that that meant “MIDI.” But it does mean MIDI, which opens up so many possibilities… most of them bad. Can you say “Gato’s Song?” Heh. I’m pretty sure that if I ever wanted to kill myself, it’d be a simple matter of finding the most annoying midi ringtone possible and playing it for awhile in a public place.
- The nits:
- For some stupid reason, the only option for displaying the contacts is as “Last name First name,” with no comma. What I’d really like is the ability to display the contacts “First name Last name,” sorted by last name, but I’d be happy with “Last name, First name.” The lack of a comma really bothers me for some reason. But Nokia released a software update to add sound recording to the video recorder, so there’s still hope. I’m going to try mailing them.
- With my old phone, I got into the habit of pressing “cancelcancelcancelcancelcancel” a lot, just to pop out to the top level of the phone. With the 3650, there’s not exactly a dedicated “cancel” button. On most screens, the right “soft button” is either “Exit” or “Back,” which is effectively “cancel,” so my muscle memory kicks in and I press that button a lot. The problem is, when I get to the top level, that soft button becomes an app launcher, so instead of just getting to the top level, I end up launching an app instead. Kind of irritating. I may just have to write a placeholder app to put in that position to solve this irritation.
- Other phones have an auto keylock function. Why doesn’t the 3650? And thanks to the aforementioned inability to get to the main menu without looking at the screen, there’s no way for me to lock the phone without looking at the screen. Bummer. I’ll definitely have to find a solution to this problem. =\
Update: It turns out there’s an “auto-keylock” feature hidden in the security menu. The problem is, I just want auto-keypad locking to disable accidental button presses, but the security option requires using a lockcode, which might be more inconvenient than it’s worth. We’ll see.
- Nokia phones have had profiles for awhile, but when are they going to take profiles to the next level and allow the user to set times for certain profiles to be automatically enabled? “Use the work profile M-F from 10 am – 7 pm,” etc. That’d be so awesome.
- The ugly:
- While trying to turn on the auto-lockcode feature, I didn’t know the PIN number or the Lock Code for the SIM card, and I accidentally locked myself out of the phone. There’s a “Personal Unlock Key” (PUK) that’s needed to unlock the phone once it gets in this state, but it wasn’t included with my phone, so I had to call AT&T and find out the PUK. The customer support guy joked that “there’s nothing we can do for you,” which at the time wasn’t that funny, but in retrospect, it’s worth a chuckle. I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t warned about that by the guy at the AT&T wireless store last night, but in the end everything worked out alright.
Heh, now all need is my obligatory yellow faceplate and I’ll be set. =)
(I’m probably going to update this list over the next couple of days as I actually use the phone some)