Archive for the ‘Windows Phone’ Category

Nokia smartphones form factor

August 24, 2012

Nokia World 2012 is in just a couple of weeks and by then there will be some announcements regarding the new Nokia WP8 product lineup.

First, let’s take a look at some previous popular Nokia flagship devices:

2007 – Nokia E90

2008 – Nokia N97

 

2009 – Nokia N97 Mini

2009 – Nokia N900

2010 – Nokia E7

2011 – Nokia N950

All these high-end smartphones had one thing in common: the form factor!

They had physical QWERTY keyboards and a slide (or slide and tilt) mechanism to hide it.

I believe there is a market for this kind of devices, a lot of people text an incredible amount of messages and don’t feel confortable with touch-only devices.

Unfortunately the N950 never reached the market as it was cancelled and distributed only as a developer’s device.

This means Nokia, since the jump to the Windows Phone platform, stopped making flagship smartphones with QWERTY keyboards and I believe they are missing this huge opportunity, as all the other main competitors are focused on doing touch-only devices and don’t offer very high-end QWERTY devices (with the exception of RIM/Blackberry).

This month Nokia published in the Conversations blog an article saying that according to one of their own polls, 48.64% of the answers voted for the QWERTY keyboard as their favorite input method on a phone.

If that much people want this type of phone why didn’t they launch the N950? Why isn’t there a Lumia device with a physical keyboard?

Nokia built a reputation on offering an extensive range of products with several different (and sometimes weird) form factors but now they only make what everybody else is making: touchscreen bar smartphones.

I really don’t believe this does any good to the Nokia differentiation strategy!

I have no idea what kind of WP8 devices is Nokia going to announce in September at Nokia World but I do really hope they launch at least one QWERTY keyboard slider smartphone just to be different from everybody else and compete on their own niche, otherwise I predict they will have a tough time competing with the new iPhone and the other touchscreen-only devices that are going to be launched around the same time!

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My thoughts about Stephen Elop strategy for Nokia

April 18, 2012

Lately, there’s a lot of buzz on the web about Stephen Elop strategy for Nokia. The subject is becoming again popular since Nokia released a profit warning and lowered their estimates. Full Q1 results will be reported by Nokia on April 19.

In my opinion, Elop did some good things but also made some mistakes, so here I’m about to share my thoughts on the subject.

The good:
  • Partnership with Microsoft
Bringing MS apps to Symbian and joining the WP ecosystem was necessary as Nokia was losing the battle fighting alone. I believe MS is important for Nokia strategy especially in the USA where Nokia lost almost all brand awareness.
  •  Outsourcing Symbian to Accenture
Nokia already admitted before that Symbian was a huge pain to maintain and was struggling to evolve and match the competition pace. Nokia also needed to get rid of some people in order to make the company lighter (and eventually more agile), so this move seems to me as absolutely necessary.
Symbian was going nowhere and Accenture is apparently making a good job developing it (Belle FP1 looks good!)…
  • Marketing
The “amazing everyday” viral campaign, “blown away by Lumia” campaign, deadmau5 London Lumia launch event, product placement and publicity on TV and magazines was indeed critically needed!
Everybody is talking about iDevices and Android Galaxies and Nokia has to put itself out there and remember people Nokia still exists and is well alive in order to get some mindshare back!!
  • Avoiding the Android temptation
Android is a mess: there’s a lot of competitors, their differentiation arguably bring any benefit (mostly because of slow customizations and ugly UIs), Nokia would have to fight the competition with price, so margins would be really low to remain competitive and then there is the “famous” fragmentation problem caused by Google ultra fast pace of Android release cycles.
Nokia would have to buy most of the necessary hardware from somebody else (like it’s happening with Compal-made Lumias), would launch devices most likely with old Android versions and obsolete hardware (compared to SoC and display manufacturers like Samsung), the firmware update roadmap would be a mess (look at what’s happening with most Android manufacturers) and if Nokia barely keeps everybody happy with their own OSes things would probably get even worst with Android.
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The bad:
  • Burning platform memo
It was a mistake to ditch Nokia current platforms without having a full range of new WP devices to put short-term on the shelves. People stopped buying Nokia in the following months and as there was no alternative they ran to the competition! Other Windows Phone manufacturer’s sales didn’t even explode by that time, so, all in all, appears to me as a dumb move!
  • Killing Harmattan and the Nokia N9
I’m not completely unbiased as I’m a N9 owner but I still think Elop should have made clear that Harmattan and Qt was going to be kept, to evolve, even if at a slow pace and with a limited number of new devices.
A lot of tech-savvy people and Linux enthusiasts love Maemo (or MeeGo as they called Maemo 6.x)!
Harmattan and the Swipe UI clearly have a lot of potential and an innovative (may I call it even revolutionary?) user experience!
Nokia should kept nurturing and learning from it and build an entirely new ecosystem around it and around Qt (to smoothly convert Symbian devs to Harmattan), expanding the platform to emerging markets and even low end devices.
If Samsung can keep Bada and Tizen around, so should Nokia keep their own OS, at least as a Plan B and to avoid being completely dependent on MS roadmap.
  • Not selling the N950
There’s no physical keyboard Lumia device. E7 is just too old.
This is a no-brainer: N950 would be the perfect replacement for this market segment, helping Harmattan sales and simultaneously offering an obvious upgrade path to those loyal customers that are currently using the N97 / E7.
There’s not much competition on this type of device so it would have been most certainly a success!
  •  Getting rid of several Nokia (ex-Ovi) services
Nokia dropped the online Calendar and Contacts web services and focused on the Nokia Maps service.
Nokia Store, for instance, has carrier billing in several countries and Nokia receives some money for each app that’s sold there.
MS controls the WP Marketplace and all the cloud services for Lumia devices.
If Nokia has kept Harmattan and the Nokia Store (and services) around that would have been a smart move because if in the future Nokia partnership with MS fails, at least they would still have a great OS with Nokia’s own app store where developers, carriers and Nokia itself could make money of and build their own ecosystem around.
WP will always be MS playground and Nokia will have only limited (if any) revenue options with their Marketplace.
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In the end, I think it’s just not very smart to bet the future of a huge company like Nokia in just one single platform. Betting the whole company strategy on a system like Windows Phone (that was and still is pretty small) with weak sales since the beginning just doesn’t make any sense. Not keeping Harmattan around as plan B seems even more risky…
I hope Nokia can recover from the downward path they’re going through and return to a position of market leadership in the future!

Shuffle Party for Windows Phone

January 15, 2012

Shuffle Party is one of the most recent free games Microsoft studios added to the Windows Phone Xbox Live hub, joining the already published Sudoku and Minesweeper.

Since it’s a Xbox Live title it’s fully integrated with the Windows Phone gaming ecosystem, which means that the colors of the menus change accordingly to the Windows Phone color theme the user selected and that the player is represented by the Xbox Live avatar.

It has several playing modes:

  • Bowling, which is self-explanatory
  • Challenge, where there’s different difficulty levels and the objective is to achieve 3 starts on each one
  • Shuffleboard, where you simply try to get the highest score you can
  • 2 player

The game is not really hard to complete and the objective is to get all those Xbox Live achievements that allow you to compete with your friends (and perhaps impress them with your skills… or maybe not!).

There’s also a lot of personalization around the game, you can choose the game table, the color of the disc but all of these are just available if you earn enough points (or money!) with your high scores.

For a free game, the graphics are pretty good, the game runs smoothly even of 1st generation Windows Phones and my only complaint is that sometimes I feel it’s a bit hard to apply the correct speed to the disc.

The initial loading of the game takes a long time, I would certainly like if it loaded a bit faster.

But my main problem with the game is with a bug I’ve found on certain levels, where the disc is able to pass by some barriers like they weren’t there, which is that kind of graphic glitch that shouldn’t pass on the test phase.

In my opinion, Microsoft is doing a good job by putting some high-quality games for free on the Xbox Live hub. It’s this kind of stuff that makes an app ecosystem interesting enough to make consumers want to give it a chance. Other third party developers will certainly be inspired by Microsoft efforts and provide even better games! Without MS showing what the platform can offer in the first place, it will be very hard for them to convince consumers and developers to spend their time, money and efforts on the platform and that’s why I think Microsoft should keep up the good work and release more (great) games for the Windows Phone platform.

Is the Nokia N9 a missed opportunity?

December 15, 2011

After playing with it for a little while the answer became obvious to me: yes, it is!

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Windows Phone 7 and understand Stephen Elop’s decision to support it, but in the end, killing MeeGo seems to me now as a really bad move by Nokia’s CEO.

Giving up on Symbian was an expected decision he had to make, since it seems the old mobile OS was going nowhere, but MeeGo/Harmattan is a truly beautiful, well-designed, simple, modern OS that I believe is able to offer a great user-experience.

I’ve recently found myself looking at the gorgeous Nokia N9 at a local FNAC store, and the sales rep noticed that and asked me if I wanted to play with the phone and see a demo of some of the features of the N9.

What happened next was probably the best sales pitch I’ve ever experienced…

She showed me the seamless pairing with the NFC speakers Nokia also sells, and let me try the phone, take some pictures, play some games like Angry Birds, hear some music, browse the web and experience the great build quality the phone has.

At the end of the demo and after playing with it for some minutes she gave me a small gift and I was left with only one question in my mind: Why did Elop kill MeeGo?

The OS appears to be amazing and would have been an awesome plan B for Nokia, at least keeping it alive in a couple of devices just in case things go wrong with the Windows Phone plan, just like Samsung does, keeping some Bada phones in the market besides selling Androids and Windows Phones.

This is where I believe Nokia missed the opportunity: when they finally got a competitive mobile OS they just dumped it and went for Windows Phone, missing the opportunity of controlling both the hardware and the software, like Apple does successfully and Nokia always did.

I also hope to see more of the same commitment from the sales reps selling other future Nokias (like the Lumias) when they arrive at my country!

UMTS / 3G standard video calling (or the lack of it!)

December 8, 2011

One of the new features 3G phones introduced was the front facing camera and the ability to make video calls between them.

As far as I know, this feature was initially a flop: video calling was much more expensive than traditional phone calls which led most consumers away.

In the last couple of years, at least in my country, carriers like Vodafone introduced new prepaid plans that not only allowed free voice calls between phones (using the same plan) but also free video calling (again, between phones with the same prepaid tariff).

I noticed that, thanks to these new prepaid plans a lot of consumers rediscovered video calling and, especially if living away from their loved ones, started to use this feature a lot more often.

At the same time, a lot of people started to dump their old 3G dumb and feature phones and joined the smartphone revolution. Unfortunately most have discovered an inconvenient truth: Most smartphones can’t make the standard good old video calls!

– iOS devices are able to make video calls through data networks (FaceTime) but are not able to make standard 3G video calls.

– Android also do not support natively standard video calling, although is able to do so via Google Talk or Skype.

– Windows Phone just recently started having phones with a front facing camera in the market, but, like Android or iOS, do not support UMTS video calling.

I have to recognize that, apparently, the only manufacturer concerned about this and that’s making an effort to make both Android and Windows Phone smartphones compatible with the old video calling standard is Samsung, as you can see in the video below (made by HDblog)

All other phone manufacturers I had the opportunity to try, such as standard Google Nexus phones (including the Samsung ones), HTC, Sony Ericsson and Apple are not able to do it, which is really a shame, since this was a feature available in older mobile OS such as Symbian or Windows Mobile.

Other SunSpider 0.9.1 results

October 19, 2011

Recently I had the opportunity to run the SunSpider javascript benchmark in some devices with different operating systems, so here are below the results I’ve got.

Samsung Galaxy S – Android 2.3.3: 6305.4 ms

HTC Desire S – Android 2.3.3: 7611.9 ms

HTC 7 Trophy – Windows Phone 7.5: 9590.7 ms

Apparently all this three devices are considerably slower then the A5-powered iPad 2, but none of them is powered by a dual-core processor as the Apple device is, so I was expecting this difference.

Another important fact is that the Windows Phone HTC device is powered by a 1st generation SnapDragon clocked at 1 GHz while the Android HTC device is powered by a 2nd generation SnapDragon clocked at the same speed, so that might be one of the reasons why the WP7.5 device was slower than the Android one.

The Galaxy S was faster than the SnapDragon-powered HTC, but I don’t know if that’s only because of the Samsung Hummingbird SoC or if there is some optimizations Samsung did at the firmware level to enable this faster performance.