Think the iPhone 4 has issues? Try using the Nokia N97.

I find it very entertaining the back and forth going on between Apple and Nokia over the whole antenna problem. Honestly, people are making too much of it. The only people that should complain is anyone that wouldn’t use a case. Of course, you’d have to be pretty stupid to not use a case on a phone with a front and back made of **G L A S S**, but I digress.

I owned the “flagship” Nokia N97 for 8 torturous months. What a piece of sh*t it is. Forget dropped calls, there were times when I couldn’t even answer a call! Navigating through the ancient UI was a test of anyone’s patience. Push a button and you have to wait to see if it really recognized the touch. Despite having 32GB of memory, it has this tiny partition where required system and programs files needed to stored, so you’d run out of memory anyways! And the 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens??? Oh, using the flash caused the light to bleed into the picture–like some iPhone 4 cases–but there was nothing you could do. Well, you could mitigate it a little by marking the area surrounding the lens and flash with a Sharpie! (How would that go over, if that was Apple’s fix?!) You couldn’t even read the letters on the keyboard if the backlight was on. I could go on and on about the N97, but I’ll spare you. If anything needed to be recalled it was the N97…geez!

Before the N97, I had the N95 which was revolutionary in its day. Anyways, I find the iPhone 4 to be by far the best phone I’ve ever used. The damn thing just works.

If loving the iPhone (and iPad) makes me an Apple fanboy, then so be it. Note that I still use Windows for serious work and will never move to a Mac. I just think that Apple got the small form factor OS right.

If you don’t like the iPhone 4, take it back and get a refund. Actually, I think Apple should give all complainers an N97 and their money back!

Giving up on Nokia and going with iPhone 4

I have finally had it with Nokia and will be ordering an iPhone 4 on June 15th. Now, I love the openness of Symbian and hate the closeness of Apple. However, this (apparently) means I’m supposed to live with poorly designed hardware and software in my N97: terrible keyboard, flash bleeding, sluggish OS, memory issues, etc. After seeing what Apple is bringing with the iPhone 4, I have finally woken up. I honestly have little faith that the N8 will be everything I need it to be. There. I’ve said it.

The only reason I’ve truly been sticking with Nokia and Symbian is its ability to do WiFi tethering. However, now that AT&T has officially embraced tethering–albeit USB or bluetooth only–, that reason is less compelling. So now the only thing I’ll really miss when I get my iPhone 4 is the ability to tether my iPad to my phone. *BUT* I think that there is little reason for Apple not to approve a WiFi tethering app.

So long Nokia…it’s been nice knowing you. sniff sniff

May give Nokia (and Symbian) one more chance with N8

I went for Nokia’s current “flagship” phone the N97 last year. Initially, I was pretty unhappy with it, but after two major firmware updates, it’s finally usable. The two things I still hate about it, however, are the bleeding of the flash into the camera lens and the horribly back-lit keyboard. I had pretty much decided to go with an Android phone and settled on the Nexus One. But the lack of a WiFi tethering app has kept me from pulling the trigger. Sure, you can hack it to get that feature, but that is no long term solution…new firmware gets released and you’re back to square one. There is talk that it may be coming, but who knows.

Anyways, although I used to think that a physical keyboard was absolutely necessary, my iPod Touch has convinced me otherwise. As such, the upcoming Nokia N8 has me very intrigued. Frankly, I don’t really care if Symbian looks long in the tooth. Those types of software quirks I can live with. You just get used to them. The camera lens seems to be adequately separated from the flash to preclude the terrible flash bleed that hampers the N97’s (Nokia can’t be stupid enuf to repeat that mistake!). It also doesn’t have a physical keyboard, so that issue is solved as well and also allows a slimmer device. I’m very hopeful the N8 will finally be the true successor to my trusty N95!

So why stick with Nokia and, I suppose, Symbian? Joikuspot, the Symbian WiFi tethering app. Despite my strong dislike of the closed iPhone ecosystem and Apple’s heavy-handedness, there are some cool apps and to take advantage, without switching to an iPhone, I have a 2nd gen iPod Touch. Joikuspot gives it 3G access to the Internet. It’s also nice in a pinch if I need to connect my laptop. The only other phone I know of that supports this is the Palm Pre and we all know where that company is headed. I also like the Telexy suite of cool tools that let me work with network shares. These are power features we’ll likely never see on an iPhone. Maybe Android at some point in time, so I’ll continue to keep an eye on that platform.

UPDATE 4/25/10:
I just found this video of the upcoming Symbian^3. I hope it’s this good. This site is reporting (as of April 23), that Symbian^3 is being delayed, and I’ve read other “official” reports that says the N8 has been delayed until July. I’m sure Nokia does not want to repeat their mistakes made with releasing the N97 too soon. That said, Nokia is playing catch up with iPhone and Android already, so they can’t wait too long either. Guess I need to stay patient for another few months. By then we should see what the next gen iPhone looks like, but I highly doubt anything there will change my mind about that platform. Still, it may cause me to splurge on a new iPod Touch =)

UPDATE 4/27/10:
New Nokia site introducing the N8! Looks damn cool!

Nokia N97, a solid upgrade from the N95

I’ve been playing with my new Nokia N97 and am so happy I stayed with Nokia and didn’t venture off to iPhone or Palm Pre land, or even N900. It’s an awesome device. I LOVE THIS PHONE!

I just upgraded to the v20 firmware. The phone came with v12. The only major visible improvement is kinetic scrolling. This may sound like a meaningless “for show” feature, but it really does make navigating easier and more fluid. Long press of keys to get alternate characters is nice.

I’m sure there are a lot of N95 owners, like me, wondering if they should get the N97, go with the non-touch N86, or just abandon an N-series for Appleland. Well, wonder no more. The N97 kicks all other phones’ rears. I’ll try to touch on a lot of the issues I was anticipating. Happily, for the most part, my fears ended up being unfounded.

I know there has been a lot of pooh poohing the touch interface with S60 5th edition, but, generally, I think they did a pretty good job. There are a few instances where it’s difficult to navigate through an older apps UI by touch, but in those few instances you can just flip out the keyboard and use the D pad old-school style. I suspect, apps will soon adopt a 5th-ed version as some have already done.

Unfounded Fears:

  • Resistive touch screen: It not as fluid as capacitive (iPhone), but OK.
  • Responsiveness: Reasonably responsive, but can get sluggish when you have a lot of apps running–maybe Apple is right ;-) Similar to N95 experience, however.
  • Keyboard: It is fine! The positioning of the spacebar is easy to get used to. Easy to type on.
  • D Pad vs (N97 Mini’s arrow keys): It works fine and I haven’t encountered any issues. Just use your thumbnail–as I did on N95. In fact, I’d say it’s easier to use than N95’s equivalent.
  • Virtual T9 keypad: Might be easier to use than the N95’s physical keypad which requires a much harder push
  • App compatibility: Most of the apps I used on N95 have a S60 5th ed. compatible version.
  • One-handed use: You can still use it comfortably with one hand. However, since it lacks many of the N95’s physical buttons, it usually takes several more “clicks” to accomplish some tasks.
  • Size: It’s fairly compact and not really that much larger than iPhone.
  • 3G with same SIM: It worked fine using SIM from non-3G N95. (I never notice that it actually said 3G on the SIM ;-)
  • Lens cover scratching: Doesn’t appear lens cover design is different than the one that can scratch the lens based on what I’ve seen on the Net. I suspect that the natural tendency to push down and slide may contribute to the problem, so I’m going to try to remember to slide it from the side with my fingernail. Based on this video, it doesn’t look too difficult to swap it out should I need to down the line.

Nice Surprises:

  • Charges through USB port. No more proprietary power connector.
  • Less camera shutter lag than N95
  • The msg reader app is very neat! It will read SMS messages out loud.
  • Telexy’s VPN app is very cool. I was able to transfer files from a Windows share on my home network over the Internet to my phone! Their Remote Desktop Client works too, but not sure how useful it is on the small screen.
  • Initially I really missed T9Nav. It’s an app that lets you quickly find anything on your phone. The developers say a 5th ed version is not due until March! However, I found that HandyShell from Epocware has a similar feature. The difference is that it is based on what you actually type and not T9 (i.e., phone keypad) input. Since the N97 has no physical phone keypad, it works well. Of course, this means you have to use the keyboard. There is also a built-in search app that will globally for things.
  • Opera Mini works wonderfully on N97. I still don’t like the way the built-in browser’s Back function always takes you to a list first.

Tips, Tricks and Stuff:

  • Get the black version. The white keyboard on the white version has white keys and back-lighting can make the keys hard to see. Hopefully they will allow you to turn off the backlight manually in the future, which would fix the problem.
  • Watch the WiFi use since it can drain the battery quickly.
  • If you are used to the iPhone’s capacitive touch screen, the N97 requires a slightly harder press. If you don’t, you’ll find that it may interpret your touch as a click instead of a drag.
  • Beware of cases that have a magnetic clasp. I didn’t realize this and every time I would take it out of the case, the camera app would go on–even if it’s in standby! I believe it thinks I opened the lens cover. The N95 had a similar issue. I went to one of those Mobile accessories carts in the mall and tried a couple out. I found one that works. I is also magnetic, but for whatever reason it doesn’t set the camera off.
  • Leave the screen protector on! It’s always a pain to put on an aftermarket one and you never get all the bubbles out.
  • If you have to use the scrollbar on long lists, use your fingernail. If you use your finger, it tends to scroll a little as you lift your finger.
  • Speed dialing (aka 1-Touch or One Touch) doesn’t work if the number has parenthesis or dashes (spaces appear to be OK). Just take them out of any speed dialed number. If you don’t, you will get an “Invalid Phone Number” error message. This only affects speed dialing. If you select a number with parenthesis from your normal Contacts, it dials fine.
  • As I stated above, it may be best to slide the camera lens cover from the side using a fingernail instead of pressing on it and sliding. Should help to minimize risk of scratching.
  • It can get confusing when using the side unlock button because it doesn’t also make the display come on. It is best to turn autolock off (Menu > Settings > Phone > Phone mgmt > Auto. keyguard) Then, just use the side lock/unlock button to lock/unlock the keypad manually.
  • Set the Light time-out (Settings > Phone > Display > Light time-out) to as short a setting as tolerable to save battery life.
  • For Google Reader, MojoStudios appears to be on the verge of releasing a dedicated app. Can’t wait to try because the browsers don’t seem to format things perfectly. Even the Google Reader Widget For The N97 is just ok. Direct link to widget here.
  • I also have an iPod Touch 2nd gen which satisfies my iPhone lust. ‘Course, since I have an N97 I can use it as a WiFi hotspot to get Internet access :-) Also, I use my Touch to access my work Exchange email, calendar, etc. and use my phone for my personal equivalents. I like to keep them segregated.
  • Automatically scale an image before it gets uploaded Flickr. Go to Applications > Share online. Highlight Flickr and press Options. Choose Edit and then sSet Upload image size to medium.
  • Epocware makes a lot of…well..handy utilities. They are on the pricey side for S60 apps. Fortunately, I had a 30% off coupon, so I just popped for the Handy Tools Pack. Some apps I’ll never use, but in addition to HandyShell, I like HandySafePro for storing sensitive data and HandyProfiles which lets you automatically switch Profiles based on time and even location.
  • If when you press the Back button from the Music Player, it goes directly to the Standby screen, try this: Connect via USB cable and delete the following directories inside “private” on drives E and F: 101ffc31, 101ffca9, 10281e17. Do a refresh. Doesn’t seem to “stick”, however.

Email:

  • I’m using LonelyCatGames’ Profimail email client. It is arguably the best (only?) email client that supports HTML email. The build-in email client sux in a big way.
  • I’m also trying out the new Nokia Messaging. This *service* accesses your email on their server and then syncs it to your phone. This is a little unnerving because you have to give your email password to Nokia. That said, it is by far the best S60 email client I’ve used. HTML email looks beautiful! It features Blackberry style “push” email, so you get notified of new messages and they can be automatically downloaded. (Personally, I don’t like this for email.) They are rather vague about how much this service will eventually cost and honestly I’m not sure how much I would pay. Here’s the FAQ. One thing I do not like is the 10-folder limit which for any heavy gMail user is not nearly enough. Profimail has unlimited.
  • You could also use the GMail app from http://m.google.com instead of web-based client, but I’ve never liked this on a Nokia device.

C Drive Debacle:

  • The N97 has two storage drives, C and E. Free space on C is very important and there is not very much of it. However, Nokia has seen fit to store and have all kinds of things load on there and you will likely have problems very quickly.
  • It’s SO stupid when you consider that it’s got gigabytes of built-in storage on the E drive! I’m thinking this will be fixed with firmware, but it doesn’t look like it made it into v20.
  • I copied over unused files to my PC and deleted a bunch.
  • A great way to see which files are installed on C is to use the App Manager (Settings > Application mgr > Installed Apps). A list will all installed apps will appear with how much space they take up. If you don’t see the icon to the right, that means the app is installed on C. You can delete by selecting and then deleting from the Options menu. Make sure you have things backed up or can get the install files later if you need!
  • Also, go to the Ovi store and see which (free) apps are available there that are pre-installed. Uninstall them from the phone. Then, download and reinstall to the E: drive. Examples include Bloomberg, AccuWeather and AP News. This will free up several megabytes.
  • If you upgrade to v20, it really does free up more C space if you do a hard reset which wipes *everything* off your phone. To do this, on the keyboard just press caps shift, spacebar, delete, and then press the power on. Back up first and be prepared to reinstall all your apps.

Disappointments:

  • v20 firmwire:
    • got rid of Podcast-specific Recently Added list! WTF!
    • Back button on Media Player often goes back to Standby screen, not library. Look like a bug.
  • Battery gets eaten up real fast if you do a lot on the phone.
  • Uses micro-USB connector instead of more universal mini-USB.
  • I miss the many physical buttons on the N95, like pencil, C, top left and right, and multimedia.
  • Browser (including Opera Mini) doesn’t have the smooth experience of the iPod Touch/iPhone. Also, Google mobile sites don’t work as well.
  • Inconsistent use of single and double-tapping. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if something isn’t happening because of a lag or you need to click again. I suppose I may get used to it. If you think about it, Windows isn’t always consistent either. Sometimes it’s single click and sometimes it double.
  • Application UIs are not always touch or “finger friendly”
  • Letters on backlit keyboard can be hard to see if it’s not dark
  • Needs a better application launcher with more customizable spots.
  • Won’t pair with my work Bluetooth dongle, but I think it’s a Vista/Nokia issue. Works fine on XP machine at home.
  • Copy and Paste using keyboard is missing. Jeeze!!!

And my new phone will be??? The Nokia N97!

Readers of my blog will remember that I had pre-ordered the Nokia N97 way back in May. However, due to a fckup by Nokia, I canceled the order and have been limping by with my N95-1.

Since then a lot of new contenders have been released and I’ve had time to compare and analyze. In the end, I still feel the N97 is the best choice for me. The two main reasons are the N97’s far superior camera and ability to use as a WiFi hotspot via Joikuspot.

The openness of the Nokia platform is also nice. I can automatically sync files over WiFi with SymSync and even browse files on the phone over WiFi using SymSMB. They’ve even got a Windows Remote Desktop client which I’m anxious to try. All of these products are from Telexy.

Another reason I stuck with Nokia is the auto-bookmarking feature of the podcast player. iPhone also has, but only with AAC files and since I have an automated way to create speeded-up MP3s, converting formats would be an extra manual step. It will also be nice to use a browser that supports Flash.

I got $200 off the $699 list price with free shipping, so it’s actually a better deal than my original pre-order. Plus, it will have the latest firmware already installed, so it will be a nicer out-of-the-box experience.

I strongly considered the new N97 mini, but since there is no NAM version out yet and it has no camera lens cover, I’m passing. I also considered the N86 especially since it has an 8MP camera, but I think I’d like to try the touchscreen movement and see if I can live without physical buttons.

I think what makes this an easier choice is that I already have an iPod Touch 2nd gen. As such, I have access to all of the cool iPhone apps. I actually like having two devices since one can be dedicated to mostly music and media. It would be a pain if I did everything all on one device.

Whew! Now I can finally stop being so envious of all those iPhone owners. Perhaps they will be a little envious of me now! =)

My new N97 should be here June 2nd!

When I pre-ordered my N97 a little over a week ago, the expected ship date was in July. However, according to this post, Nokia notified North American distributors that June 2 is the estimated shipping date of the N97. Moreover, according to the official Nokia blog:

Pre-ordering will guarantee you are one of the first to receive the new N97. It will be shipped direct to your door from the production line so you’ll have it the same day it hits the stores in your country.

Now, although this is putting two and two together, it is putting an unofficial thing together with an official thing. Still, the June 2nd report seems reliable enough and I’m hopeful to see a nice package from Nokia on my doorstep around June 2nd.

Pre-ordered a Nokia N97

Found a nice coupon that saved me $175 so I’m taking a chance and pre-ordering a N97. The two primary reasons for picking this over the iPhone and Palm Pre are 1) the 5MP camera; and , 2) the WiFi Hotspot ability via JoikuSpot app. I’ll live with the more clunky interface and resistive touch screen. I’m excited now! Supposed to ship in July.

The Nokia N97 over the Palm Pre or iPhone

I had pretty much decided to go with the Palm Pre, but the more I read about the Nokia N97, I may just get that. Why?

  • Tethering over WiFi
  • Don’t have to switch to Sprint
  • 5MP camera with good lens

It won’t have the sexiness of the Pre, or the iPhone for that matter, but I’ve come to depend on WiFi tethering and using my phone as my only camera. Tethering over Bluetooth may be possible, but that’s pretty sucky if you’ve ever done it. My N95 does WiFi tethering using JoikuSpot and it’s just SO nice to be able to turn my phone into a WiFi hotspot whenever I want. The Pre’s and rumored upcoming iPhone’s 3MP camera offering just doesn’t cut it and I bet the lens will be crap.

So I guess I’ll have to hang onto my aging N95 for a bit longer. The N97 isn’t even out yet and I’ll have to wait even longer for a US version. Tethering my N95 to my 2nd gen 32GB iPod Touch makes things bearable, but an all-in-one device would be much simpler.

Still, I have limited will power and if  a new iPhone appears, particularly if it multitasks–my biggest gripe–I could be convinced.

UPDATES:
2009-04-11 – The N97’s resistive touchscreen (as opposed to a capacitive one, like the iPhone) might be a big negative for me. Some people that have actually seen it have been less than impressed. Guess I need to rethink.

2009-05-04 – This demo of the phone makes the screen interaction looks pretty nice. I might be back on the N97 bandwagon. This supposed to ship in July for $699. Here’s the official demo page and here’s the preorder page. I must say I’m pretty tempted to give them my creditcard number.

2009-05-08: I pre-ordered it using coupon code on here. Saved $175! Have no idea how long deal will last. Actually I think I missed out on at least $20…seems the discount was higher yesterday based on posts in this forum.