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.

Android vs Girlfriend

August 11, 2012

What is, probably, the most popular feature people use all the time in their mobile phones since the late 90s? SMS!

It’s so popular that nowadays millions of people can send SMS for free in a lot of countries, even with prepaid plans.

It’s those kind of features I always believed it was no secret for phone manufacturers, SMS has been around almost since the beginning of times, or, in my case, since my first mobile phone, a Nokia 8110 that you can see below still writing a SMS!

I’ve been using Android devices since 2010 and there’s one thing I believe most people will agree with: it’s the most complete mobile operating system feature-wise!

The thing is that, although Android can do pretty much everything, some of the basic stuff – like SMS – Android appears to have some trouble doing flawlessly:

  • The first time I heard someone complaining about SMS problems in Android was with a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro: apparently when running out of memory, the phone would stop some essential services and daemons including the SMS one, which meant the phone was unable to receive SMS messages with low memory available. Since this model has a really small amount of internal memory this problem occurred frequently as the user installed a couple of apps. This phone ran Android 1.6 so at the time I thought it was those kinds of youth problems early versions of any software would suffer. It may be related to this bug reported on the public Android bugtracker.
  • My first Android device in 2010 was a Samsung Galaxy 3 (GT-I5800) running Android 2.1. I had to return it in the first month because after a week or so of intensive texting it would eventually stop receiving SMS messages from the contact with who I exchanged most messages. After a factory reset it would start receiving all those pending SMS it wasn’t able to receive before, but after a couple of hundreds of exchanged SMS it would stop receiving them again! A couple of months after returning the phone I stumbled upon some internet forum threads talking about this bug, like this one.
  • The next Android device I had was the Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000). Although SMS apparently worked better compared to the Galaxy 3, I used it for more than a year and had a couple of isolated incidents, things like sending the message to the wrong contact despite having selected the correct one, or opening the wrong thread after receiving a new SMS! These bugs were eventually acknowledged by Google and fixed in a subsequent release of the OS. The Galaxy 3 bug was also present but I only noticed it once or twice, it was much less noticeable than before, so there was some improvement!
  • Since late last year there’s another really annoying bug I’ve seen more and more friends and acquaintances complaining about, not only with Samsung phones but also with other manufacturer’s devices, like Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro (running Android 2.3). Android mixes SMS: when you receive longer messages it will join a part of the new text with some part of an older random SMS, resulting in the most weirdest and non-sense texts I’ve ever read. This bug has been reported for quite some time and is still awaiting solution.

The problems, in my experience, usually arise when you text a lot with a specific contact (e.g. your wife), so you might think everything is normal because you can text all the other contacts fine but don’t receive this specific contact messages or receive everything mixed up.

This might not be a severe bug needing urgent attention but is for sure a source of headaches:

  • It’s not funny when your loved one sends you a text asking to pick her up somewhere and you just don’t show up or even answer the text because you’ve never received it in the first place: you will eventually get an angry call from the other not so happy person!
  • If the message comes through mixed with other texts you might get the (wrong) idea that the person you’re texting is either drunk or smoking weed… which may or may not be funny depending on who the other person is!

The funny thing is that, although I hear a lot of people complaining about this kind of problems with SMS in Android and despite some discussion around this on the web, the media did not wrote articles on this, despite having done so when, for instance, Windows Phone had that major problem with some specific SMS disabling the messaging service and shutting down the phone. These Android bugs might seem minor stuff compared, but I’m sure they have affected a lot more people than the Windows Phone one!

In the end, the whole Android SMS system seems to me much worst compared to other mobile platforms. I’ve never ever had a problem with SMS with other non-Android phones, so I don’t really understand how after all these years Google has yet to sort this out!

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.

Google Chrome now available for Apple’s iPad

June 29, 2012

Google just launched the Chrome browser for the iPad on Apple’s AppStore.

While it’s good to have another option in iOS to browse the web, does Chrome beat Safari performance-wise?

Unfortunately, Chrome is not able to take advantage of the fast javascript engine Apple built into iOS, so the SunSpider javascript benchmark result is, at least, disappointing: 7240.4 ms is just a bad result compared to Safari’s 1800 ms result.

I guess Safari will keep being my browser of choice on iOS.

Firefox 14 lacks Android 3.x HoneyComb support

June 28, 2012

Mozilla just launched Firefox 14 for Android and I was eager to discover if the latest version was any good.

Unfortunately, unlike what’s written in the system requirements webpage, Firefox 14 is in fact not available for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.2 as you can see in the picture below.

This might be related to what some people call “the Android fragmentation”, but it’s really unfortunate that a less than one year old Android tablet is not able to run the latest software like Google’s own Chrome browser…

Firefox 13 for MeeGo Harmattan

June 25, 2012

Firefox keeps getting updated at a regular pace for the Nokia N9, version 11 and 12 came in a quick succession and now Firefox 13 has arrived at the Nokia Store.

After a failed initial release and a few days missing from the Nokia Store, I was successfully able to install it and run the SunSpider javascript benchmark.

The test ran in approximately the same time as the previous version, which is also, more or less, the same time the PR1.2 stock browser took to complete it: definitely not a brilliant result although acceptable if we took the not so high-end SoC into consideration.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 SunSpider Browser Benchmark

June 15, 2012

Recently I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, last year’s Samsung flagship tablet that runs Android HoneyComb (3.2).

This device was, probably, the main iPad 2 competitor, so I was curious about how it performed. I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmark on several different browsers I found on the Play Store.

One of the browsers I was most curious to try was the Google Chrome browser that recently got an Android version but unfortunately it only runs on the latest 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) version of Android so it was a no-go.

Nevertheless I tried several other browser as you can see below:

The stock Android HoneyComb web browser scored 2304.4 ms, so this can be seen as a base line for the other third-party browsers.

Dolphin browser (version 8.2.1) completed the benchmark test in 2439.7 ms, which is a little worst than the stock browser regarding javascript performance.

Mozilla’s Firefox, version 10.0.5, performed surprisingly good, running the test in 1883.4 ms, result that almost competes with the iPad 2 Safari result (that was around 1800 ms)!

The Firefox Beta, currently available at the Play store in version 14.0, performed worst than the stable v10 version, completing the benchmark in 1983.4 ms.

Opera Mobile, currently at version 12.0, ran it in 2094.7 ms which, compared to Firefox, is not brilliant although better than the Android 3.2 stock browser.

Finally, Skyfire 4.1.0 ran it in 2276.2 ms which is about the same as the stock browser, so, not a result to be particularly proud of.

Although packing a Tegra 2 SoC and more RAM, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not beat the theoretically less powerful iPad 2, that’s still the king of my SunSpider tests on tablets, with a result as low as 1744.0 ms achieved with iOS 5.0.1.