Nokia N9 paid apps: Alchemist

May 1, 2012

Strix Code is a Polish software development company that released some apps and games for the Nokia N9.

When I had an Android smartphone one of the games I used to play was Alchemy, so I soon started to look for an alternative for the N9. I found Alchemist to be one of the pretty good alternatives for those who are looking for this kind of game.

The interface is clean and simple to use and the only improvement I can think of would be, obviously, the addition of even more elements to extend the game lifetime.

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

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Firefox 12 for the N9 just released

April 30, 2012

Back in February I witnessed the release of Firefox 10 for the Nokia N9. In March Firefox 11 was released and now Firefox 12 arrived to the N9 Nokia Store!

While overall I believe there’s a slight improvement on the browser performance, there is a couple of things I didn’t like:

  • The update from v11 failed to install. Although it downloaded the installation package successfully the phone wasn’t able to complete the update. Rebooting the phone didn’t help. I had to uninstall Firefox v11 first and then I was able to install Firefox v12. Not a very elegant solution for a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
  • The javascript performance not only didn’t improve but actually got worse. Not slightly worse but significantly worse: 3845.1 ms, which is disappointing compared to the result Firefox v10 achieved (3284.8 ms).
Meanwhile I finally got the PR1.2 update. It took a long time to receive it because apparently Nokia delayed almost two months the release of the update for the unlocked “Country Variant” devices like mine. I installed it as an update over the air (OTA).
Now I’m wondering if this kind of delta update is somehow influencing the bad Firefox 12 javascript performance and if I had used NSU (Nokia Software Updater) to install the complete PR1.2 firmware image would have helped the overall phone performance.

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!

Nokia N9 paid apps: FM Radio

April 15, 2012

One thing not every N9 owner know about the device is that it has the necessary hardware to receive FM radio.

Although Nokia itself does not provide any app to use the FM receiver (that apparently comes with the Bluetooth chip), some third party developers made some FM radio apps available on the Nokia Store.

Most of them (if not all) are paid, so I chose one and bought it at the store (with carrier billing!).

The name of the app is actually quite obvious: FM Radio by Andrey Kozhanov

It costs €2 (same price most N9 apps cost these days…) but in my opinion is well worth the money if you plan to use your N9 built-in tuner capability.

The only feature I miss is RDS support but I’ve read somewhere on the web that this feature is (hopefully) planned for a future application update.

UPDATE:

  • It is possible to store up to twelve favorite radio stations (and not six as said in the video), swiping at the bottom of the UI shows six additional memory positions as you can see in the picture.

  • RDS support is indeed available from version 0.2.0 onwards, which will soon be released to the Nokia Store as a free update to current users.

Thanks Dmitry for the tips!

UPDATE 2:

  • The app was updated to version 0.2.2 but I had problems updating it through the Nokia Store. The app is now currently available in version 1.0.1 and I was able to install it successfully.
  • The new version brings RDS and a brand new dark, very N9-ish, UI that looks great on the N9’s clear black display!

Firefox 11 released for Nokia N9

March 14, 2012

In a previous blog post I wondered if Firefox 11 was going to bring some javascript performance enhancements.

Firefox v11.0 was recently released on the Nokia Store for the N9 and I’ve just ran the SunSpider benchmark on it.

Unfortunately, as you can see above, Firefox 11 not only did not improve the performance over the previous version, but the result actually got worst, taking 3387.1 ms to complete the test while Firefox 10 took 3284.8 ms to complete it, around 100 ms less than the latest version.

MeeGo / Harmattan PR1.2 update for the N9 was officialy released a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately, the “Country Variant” firmware version of my N9 is yet to receive the update, so I’m still not able to enjoy all the new features and hopefully the performance improvements.

1st gen iPod nano replacement program

March 10, 2012

A long time ago I bought a brand new first generation iPod nano.

At the time it was a great choice because, despite the price, it was a small device with a reasonable amount of memory (2 GB) that served only one purpose: to play my music while jogging outside.

I was a bit surprised when Apple recently announced the worldwide replacement program for the 1st generation iPod nano: my device worked perfectly during all those years and I never had any problem with it and even the battery was still going strong enough to keep using it on my weekly runs.

Nevertheless I contacted the nearest Apple authorized service center in order to check if I was supposed to exchange my device. The serial number was apparently one of the affected ones and they accepted the device and sent it to Apple.

Some weeks later Apple sent me a brand new iPod nano but here is the kicker: it’s not a first generation like my previous one but the latest touchscreen version with 8 GB!

Of course there is a small problem: my 1st gen iPod nano armband and rubber case does not fit my brand new (ultra)portable music player.

This is not a big problem since the new nano comes with an integrated clip that allows it to hold on to my shirt by itself.

It also has two new features that I didn’t have in the previous one:

– FM Radio, which sometimes might be useful

– An integrated accelerometer with a (Nike) fitness app that allows me to track my runs: awesome!

Well done Apple 🙂

iOS 5.1 SunSpider benchmark

March 8, 2012

It’s been 24 hours since Apple released the iOS 5.1 update to several iDevices and I’ve ran on my iPad 2 the SunSpider javascript benchmark to check if there were any performance improvements.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there is absolutely no improvement… at all! The benchmark is completed in the same amount of time iOS 5.0 took.

The main noticeable improvement, at least for me in this first day of usage, is in the stability department: in iOS 5 and 5.0.1 it was common to watch Safari close by itself, especially when dealing with a large amount of tabs but with iOS 5.1 things appear to be much more robust.

BlackBerry 9360 SunSpider benchmark and HTML5 support

February 28, 2012

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to try the latest OS from RIM, the BlackBerry OS 7, on the Curve 9360.

The Curve 9360 is a small qwerty smartphone that, as far as I’ve tested, provides a decent overall performance.

One of the things I ran was the SunSpider javascript benchmark:

As you can see above, it completed the test in 6092.3 ms, which is not bad considering the CPU runs at just 800 MHz. I wonder, though, if the BB OS 7.1 update will provide some improved javascript performance.

The thing that really surprised me was the overall compatibility with the websites I tested the stock browser with. It actually supports HTML5 and got a neat result in the html5test.com website as you can see below.

Firefox vs Opera Mobile javascript performance on the N9

February 26, 2012

I’m quite pleased with the N9’s built-in web browser performance but some might think it’s a little light on the features, options or customizations.

Recently, two new competing web browsers became available for free at the Nokia Store for the N9:

Mozilla Firefox v10.0.2

Opera Mobile Labs v11.50.21

While both of them offer plenty more features than the stock webkit-based web browser, my main concern was if any of them brought significant improvements on the javascript performance over the built-in one.

I’ve run the SunSpider javascript benchmark on both browsers and below you can see the results Firefox and Opera, respectively, achieved.

As you can see, Firefox did it in 3284.8 ms and Opera completed the same test in 5772.3 ms.

Opera took substantially more time than Firefox doing the same benchmark, so it definitely has a lot of room for improvement on future updates.

The Firefox result is quite good, but not that impressive, since it’s more or less the same result the stock browser already achieved. As you can see in a previous blog post, the stock browser made it in 3466.6 ms which is only slightly slower than the Firefox one. Maybe Firefox 11, already launched on Android, comes with javascript performance enhancements that will allow it to become significantly faster than the stock browser.

N9’s PR1.2 firmware update is expected to arrive soon, so let’s see if the stock browser also gets some performance improvements.

Nokia N9 paid apps: Angry Birds

February 24, 2012

Since I’m able to use carrier billing to buy apps from the Nokia Store on my N9, I thought about sharing my opinion about the apps I’ve spent my money on.

As an huge Angry Birds enthusiast, buying Angry Birds was the logical next step after completing the 20 levels Angry Birds with Magic brings for free to all N9 owners.

The game is well-known and, as you can see in the video below, runs smoothly on the Nokia N9, bringing the exact same levels you can find on Angry Birds running on other platforms such as iOS and Android.

The game costs €2, so, it’s a bit pricey compared to the same game on other platforms, but for those who really like the game, it’s well worth the money!