Archive for the ‘Nokia’ Category

Nokia CC-1020 Cyan Blue N9 Soft Cover

November 28, 2012

My N9 is slowly approaching the first full year of daily usage with me and I noticed that, since the N9 almost completely disappeared from the store shelves, their colorful soft covers have dropped their price, probably because at this point the stores want to get rid of the remaining stock.

You can still find them for sale in online retailers like Expansys for around €16 but I found one last cyan blue soft cover for sale in a local Nokia store for €13,90 and I couldn’t resist bring it home with me.

Inside the box, besides the soft cover, there’s just a short manual with pictures explaining how to put the cover on.

The pictures don’t make justice to how great the cover looks, probably because I used my iPad 2 camera to take them.

One can only notice that the phone is black because of the black microUSB door at the top and the black speaker at the bottom, otherwise the phone is completely covered in blue except, of course, the touchscreen.

The Nokia N9 soft covers don’t make the phone much thicker and allow the user to change the phone looks providing an extra protection against drops and wear.

Nokia N9 paid apps: GT Racing

November 7, 2012

As a car enthusiast I felt compelled, after playing the pre-installed Need For Speed Shift, to buy the other big racing title available for the N9 at the Ovi Store: GT Racing Motor Academy HD

Above you can watch a short video review about the game.

It cost me €3 and I must confess that until now, this is the only app I’m sort of having a weird case of “buyers remorse”. The graphics are good enough, there’s plenty of options, cars and game modes but the handling is, at least in comparison with the EA game, not very good and I’m not really enjoying it as I was expecting, so, if you’re not sure about if you should buy it or not, maybe you should save the money or wait until it’s cheaper before buying.

Nokia Country Variants

November 6, 2012

The PR1.3 firmware update for MeeGo Harmattan was originally launched this year in July 2nd.

Nokia published the following changelog:

  • Over 1000 quality improvements
  • Mail for Exchange (MfE) now supports client certificates
  • Localization improvements and support for new error codes with the Facebok app
  • Twitter API changes that reflect the back end infrastructure of Twitter
  • AccuWeather widget weather update fixed
  • VoIP calls now work via Skype/Gtalk when in flight mode and connected to WLAN
  • Changing the “week starts on” date within the calendar error now fixed
  • Network and connectivity improvements
  • Usability and performance improvements

Today, and despite the update having been announced officially on my country’s Nokia N9 support webpage as you can see above, more than four months since the PR1.3 original release, my Nokia N9 is yet to receive it, as you can also see in the screenshot below.

Since I bought the phone unlocked and paid full price at the retailer’s shop, I wondered why I had to wait this absurd amount of time to get this PR update that patches a huge amount of bugs.

Usually, there are two different situations regarding smartphone software updates:

  • You buy the phone to your operator, which usually means it’s carrier-locked, full of the operator’s additional software that most people don’t care about and the phone depends on the operator schedule to receive the firmware updates! The good thing about this is that the phone is usually subsidized by the operator and the customer ends up paying less for the same phone.
  • You buy your phone unlocked at some shop, not attached to some contract or anything, and you get the user experience the phone manufacturer intended when designing the phone.

Unfortunately Nokia, besides having unlocked generic phones (the so-called NDT versions) and the carrier-branded ones decided to create an additional third category:

  • The Country Variants: these are unlocked phones the consumer paid full price for and that may or may not come with some region-specific software pre-installed.

Although Nokia is apparently the only responsible for the approval of their software updates, they usually take much more time to release the updates compared to the generic NDT versions!

In fact, it’s common to see some carrier-locked devices, like Vodafone branded phones, get the PR updates before some Country Variants unlocked phones receive it!

With the N9, it’s even more strange the fact that some third-world countries (probably with residual sales) receive more support and faster firmware updates than some European countries like Portugal.

At this point one might argue: the easy solution is just to buy the NDT version instead of the Country Variant one!

The problem is that Nokia, in countries like Portugal, never released the NDT version of the phone, so you have one of two options:

  • Buy the carrier-locked phone and depend on the operator update schedule
  • Buy the Country Variant phone and wait forever to get the update when and if Nokia decides to release it

Either way you’ll end up waiting, unless you know what you’re doing and flash the phone with some Global firmware variant, voiding the warranty in the meantime.

Nokia should sort this out: avoid having several software variants for hundreds of different product codes for each phone model. At least unlocked devices sold on the same region should all get the same firmware updates at the same time.

Companies like Apple are able to deploy at the same time for everybody new OS versions for several different devices (iPads, iPhone, iPod Touch) of different generations, both carrier-locked and unlocked.

I really didn’t want to void my N9 warranty but for me the waiting is over: I’m going the Navifirm way and flash it with a generic global PR1.3 firmware! Damn You Nokia!

Nokia BH-110 Bluetooth headset

September 29, 2012

I recently shopped around for a cheap Bluetooth headset and I found Vodafone sells the Nokia BH-110 for just €10 in exchange for some points of the customer loyalty program.

I’ve recorded a short unboxing video you can see below.

Besides having a neat price, the Nokia BH-110 is very easy to use, with a single button operation:

  • Short press lets the user accept or reject an incoming call
  • Long press (about 2 seconds) activates the phone’s voice dialing feature (if it has one!)
  • Very long press turns the device on or off and, of course, serves for pairing purposes

The microphone is very sensitive, which means that in silent places whispering a conversation is loud enough and in crowded places there’s no need to yell to make the message go through.

The earphone is just loud enough but the sound quality is not that impressive, but if you bear in mind the really low price point this model is sold at, it shouldn’t disappoint most customers.

The BH-110 packs inside a long-lasting battery that offers half a dozen hours of conversations and there’s also a small LED on top of the headset that blinks green or red to let the user know if it’s turning on or off, if there’s an incoming call, etc.

When you hear the low-battery warning, you can keep talking for around half an hour, give or take.

One last thing I have to mention is the fact that when receiving a call, you hear through the earpiece the good old Nokia tune: nice touch!

iOS 6 rant: YouTube and Maps

September 20, 2012

Previously I wrote a blog post about how Apple improved the browser performance on my iPad 2 with the new iOS 6.

Now that I’ve been using iOS 6 for almost a day I noticed two big drawbacks: YouTube and Maps!

Since the beginning of times Apple bundled with iOS a YouTube app. While it wasn’t the most advanced or feature complete YouTube app around (the Android version is arguably better), the app did the job well enough to be one of the most used apps by those who like to watch videos on the web.

Apparently the license to bundle the YouTube app with iOS ended and Apple didn’t care about renewing it or making sure Google had an iPad optimized YouTube app on the AppStore before getting rid of the current one.

There is an official YouTube app for free on the AppStore but it’s made for the iPhone and not for the iPad.

Meanwhile you’re supposed to use Safari to browse in the YouTube mobile website and it’s also possible to add the website bookmark directly to the home screen but it’s not the same as having a proper app! There’s also some third party YouTube apps available at the AppStore but then again the question remains: why take away a feature from iOS without offering a better replacement?

Unfortunately YouTube is just one of the problems with iOS 6 on the iPad: the new Maps app is also worse than the previous Google powered Maps app!

Above you can see the Google Maps app that was bundled with previous versions of iOS.

The maps data quality was pretty good and there was a feature that was much nicer to use on the iPad touchscreen than with the mouse of a desktop computer: Google’s StreetView!

The new Maps app from Apple is supposed to introduce a lot of new features:

  • Apple designed vector based maps
  • Turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions
  • Real-time traffic information
  • Flyover for photo-realistic, interactive 3D views of major metro areas
  • Local search results with Yelp photos, ratings, reviews, and available deals
  • Siri integration for requesting directions and finding places along a route

The thing is:

  • Features like Siri integration or turn-by-turn navigation aren’t available in my WiFi iPad 2
  • Real-time traffic information doesn’t work in my country
  • The 3D maps feature isn’t available in Europe
  • Local search in my country is really much poorer compared to Google’s database of POI

And of course, with the new app I lost the Google StreetView feature shown in the picture above!

Below you can see Apple Maps at the exact same place of the previous screenshots.

Besides losing some Google-related features there’s one thing that puzzles me: Apple bought last year C3 Technologies from Nokia. This company is the one behind Apple Flyover / 3D Maps and was the one that made possible Nokia Maps 3D feature that’s still available at the Nokia Maps website.

If you try last year’s Nokia flagship, the N9, you can check the exact same place I’ve shown before with the Nokia Maps app and, as you can see below, there’s a 3D model of the stadium.

So my question is: why does Apple only have 3D maps in the USA? C3 Technologies had Europe 3D data when it was part of Nokia so it’s kind of weird not to have this feature enabled at least in the main European capitals.

There’s also one question left in my mind: what about StreetView? If Apple doesn’t want to borrow that feature from Google perhaps they should start recording street level footage of the main cities to compete with Google!

Nokia chose that path and the result is Nokia City Scene. Below there’s the Eiffel Tower:

If you compare with Apple Maps you can clearly see the difference.

I hope Apple sort this out soon rather than late because currently in Europe they are lagging behind the competition in location-related apps and services.

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!

Nokia N9 paid apps: FM Radio (v1.1.3 update)

August 21, 2012

The FM Radio app was one of the first apps I’ve bought for the N9 and that I posted about in this blog.

Since my first post about this app, there were several updates and the app has evolved significantly with a major new UI theme and some important new features such as RDS support.

From version 1.1.2 onwards, there’s another new useful feature: FM broadcast recording.

In the meantime new language translations were added, one of them is my mother tongue: Portuguese!

Since FM Radio has changed significantly since my first video, I’ve made a new one that reflects its current look and feel.

Nokia N9 paid apps: cuteTube

August 19, 2012

The Nokia N9 comes preloaded with a YouTube application, but if you open it, soon you’ll discover it just opens the YouTube mobile website with the browser, which is just a bit disappointing: apparently the YouTube app wasn’t a priority for Nokia.

Besides this, Nokia allows the user to add the YouTube login to the system accounts, making it possible to upload videos to YouTube directly from the gallery, which is a rather nice feature!

cuteTube is a third party app for YouTube and Dailymotion made by Stuart Howarth.

Since the stock app isn’t really an app, cuteTube is kind of an essential app for all YouTube power users.

It has a lot of features:

  • Setup multiple YouTube and Dailymotion accounts
  • Upload HD videos (1080p to YouTube, something an iPhone 4S can’t do!)
  • View subscribed channels, favorites, playlists and comments
  • Check the videos your friends are sharing on the social networks

Another thing I like about cuteTube is the interface: unlike other Harmattan apps, the interface is designed accordingly to the Harmattan UX, for instance, there is no exit button as the interface relies on the Harmattan way of doing things, in this case by swiping from top to bottom!

When I bought cuteTube some months ago, it cost €2 but now it is available at the Nokia Store for €3.

Nokia N9 paid apps: fMobi

August 6, 2012

fMobi is a third party Facebook app for Nokia phones made by JiiKoo for Symbian devices, and, since last year, for MeeGo Harmattan too!

The stock Facebook app that the N9 ships with is quite useful but unfortunately lacks some of the more “advanced” features like search and support for Groups one might have joined and Pages that the user might have liked or subscribed.

The standard Facebook app also has another shortcoming: it does not show all the notifications, especially when they are related to Facebook own apps or invitations to like some Page or join some Group.

I only have tow complaints about it:

  • It appears to hang briefly on startup
  • The chat functionality does not appear to work as well as the N9 own Facebook chat implementation

Other than that, I do really recommend buying this app to all Facebook power-users (and regular users too) that are missing some of the features the native app lacks.

You can find fMobi at the Nokia Store for €2.

Opera Mobile v12 released for MeeGo Harmattan

July 10, 2012

Opera Mobile Labs for the Nokia N9 got recently an update to v12.

Although, as you can see in the screenshot above, the javascript performance didn’t improve compared to the previous version, it’s nice to see Opera Software keeping their MeeGo Harmattan version on par with the other platforms version besides the fact that, of course, it’s always good having a couple of different web browsers available.