Category: The phone makers from Espoo


Nokia’s first foray into the Windows Phone ecosystem began with the announcement of the Nokia Lumia series. The star attraction of the announcement was the Lumia 800, a device forged from durable polycarbonate into a unique unibody exterior. Lest we forget, the  Nokia N9 was the progenitor of the now celebrated unibody construct that now defines Nokia’s new design DNA.

Alongside the Lumia 800, another device with humbler exterior underpinnings was introduced : the Nokia Lumia 710. Clearly geared to the lower tier mobile devices market, this device was placed into a supporting role next to the bold Lumia 800. Is this device, thus ,unworthy of one’s attention or is there more than meets the eye? Read on.

 External hardware

The device measures 119mm x 62.4mmx12.5mm (Height x Width x Depth). It is no twiggy when it comes to thinness but thinness ain’t everything in life. It is a comfortable device to hold, thanks to the soft matte yet sturdy removable plastic back. I can confidently say that this was more comfortable in the hand than the Lumia 800. Being a Nokia N9 user, I can vouch for the latter observation.

The top portion of the phone comprises the micro USB slot ,a central 3.5mm headphone jack and a on/off/lock button. The right edge of the device sees placement of the volume rocker and a well placed camera shutter key.

The back portion of the device hold a 5MP autofocus camera at the upper central portion of the back and at the lower part, perforations for the speakers.

The screen is 3.7inch TFT GorillaGlass screen with Nokia’s Clear Black technology. Below the screen is single plastic rows of standard Windows Phone hardware keys.

Internal specs

The device has a  1.4 Mhz processor with 512 RAM and 8GB of memory. The device uses a microSIM which seems to be way many manufacturers are going these days. Memory expansion is not a feature that is supported by the current version of Windows Phone.

Windows Phone(WP)

This review will not be complete without a brief overview of Windows Phone(WP). A more detailed review of the software can be accessed via this link. I wish to mainly jot my general impressions of this mobile OS.

There is no other way to put this other than by stating that Windows Phone has the most unique user interface(UI) out there. Microsoft went back to drawing board and released something refreshingly new here. The Metro design language  has a clear goal- bold and clear notifications. Metro UI was inspired by the sign postings seen on the displays of train stations and airports. The other big theme across the OS is one of integration. Twitter, Facebook, recent messages, emails and phone calls are combined into a one-stop-info-shop when viewing a contact info. The latter attribute has been used in Android 4.0(Ice -Cream sandwich). Notifications appear at the top of the screen in an unobtrusive manner ( Microsoft refers to this as “toast”). Again, iOS has adapted this latter attribute.

Internet Explorer is a joy to use and feels on par with the latest mobile browsers out there. This statement is made purely from a user experience perspective and is not based on benchmarks. Native creation and editing facilities with the provision of Microsoft’s ubiquitous office suite is another feature worth shouting about.

Emailing is a joy on WP. The user interface is clean and the virtual keyboard is on par with iOS. The latter has set the benchmark for virtual keyboards and Windows Phone matches it.

Multitasking is handled differently on Windows Phone. The OS keeps the last five applications in suspended animation and drops the last one on the list as more applications are open. The philosophy here is that the user is given access to launch recently used apps and that the user shouldn’t worry about  launching or closing individual applications. It’s more like ,” leave it to Microsoft and they’ll sort it out” arrangement. It is perfectly fine to the casual mobile user but this is something that would easily infuriate the user with superior technical prowess ( geek alert!)

I showed off the OS to a few work colleagues and the reception was generally positive although one person pointed out that the screen was too busy when viewing the integrated contact details. This brings me to the point about screen size requirements for a WP device.I think the sweet spot for Windows Phone is a 4.3 inch screen. 3.7 inches is probably the decent minimum but anything smaller will probably kill the joy of using the Metro UI.

The other thing is that WPis a cloud biased OS. Updates, emails and online storage on SkyDrive requires an always on internet connection to harness the full potential of WP. This can be curse as it takes it toll on battery life and the OS could be potentially limited in areas of poor internet/cellular data connection.

WP relies on Zune desktop software to sync with desktop computers. A backward step for a cloud biased OS. I believe, WP will evolve to become PC free at some point in time. Strong software iteration by Microsoft is required here. If Apple can break the shackles of desktop syncing, I am sure Microsoft will do it at some point.

Microsoft intends to drive the evolution of the mobile OS with Windows Phone and they have the cash to promote it. Long term adoption of WP is something of a “wait and watch” policy.

WP is a clear UI departure from the Application tray model as seen on the Nokia N9(left) and iPod touch (right)

The device

In this section, I wish to cover my general impressions of the Lumia 710 based on my regular use patterns on a mobile phone.

Setting up

Setting up the device was pretty swift. The battery was charged and my contacts were instantly transferred from my Nokia N9 via the Nokia Transfer software on the Lumia 710. MicroSIM in place, basic set up done and voila! Ready to go.

Day to day usage – positives

The Lumia 710 is picks up WiFi networks with aplomb. I needed to give this first mention as the 710 could detect open wifi networks in the radius of approximately 800meters. Impressive, most impressive!

Looking up contacts, making phone calls, sending SMSs , emails and basic internet surfing was a doddle with the device. My wife loved the phone and the unique Windows Phone UI when she spent sometime with the 710. She is not a power user and seeing her reaction to Windows Phone is a sign of how right Microsoft has been with their UI and OS philosophy.

The screen is very visible in sunlight and this is a boon, especially in sunny Malaysia.

Call quality and reception were good. I found the Nokia N9 to be OK in terms of call quality and wifi reception. This could be the downsides of the unibody construct as opposed to the OS. I can’t be certain about this as I have not used the Lumia 800.

Day to day usage -negatives

The camera is very average. Yes, it can capture images but it is not as good as the Nokia N9 or the Lumia 800, both of which share a similar Carl Zeiss sensor. Needless to say that the camera is barely passable when compared to the Nokia N8, Samsung Galaxy S2 or the iPhone 4s.

The speakers are tinny and if you are going to use this device to listen to podcasts and music, you should invest in a modest portable desktop speaker.

Battery life is poor based on my time with the device. Nokia installed a removable battery with a capacity of 1300 mAh. Not a good idea as WP constantly uses cellular data to grab Twitter updates, emails, notifications etc etc. These are the perils of a modern, always connected OS. At least the battery is easily changable.

The lack of folder management and the ability to use the 710 as a mass storage device is somewhat limiting. Again, it is not an issue for a casual user but can be a major sore point to those who love to tinker with their devices.

 Conclusion

The Lumia 710 is no headliner. It does not share the unibody construct of the more aethestically conscious Lumia 800. It will neither win awards nor be remembered as a pinnacle of modern mobile technology.

HOWEVER, CONSIDER THIS: The Lumia 710 shares almost similar internal hardware specifications as the Lumia 800,feels good in the hand , performs most day-to-day mobile device tasks and has a fully fledged modern OS. Nokia will support this phone via software updates courtesy of Microsoft and the final point for one’s consideration: THE PRICE.

The Lumia 710 can be bought, SIM-free from as low as RM850 ( that’s about 210 euros)! Now, that’s value.

Yes, one can perhaps find a cheaper Android handset. But, taking into account the promise of software support by Nokia and Microsoft, the argument for the cheaper Android handset ( DIY software updates, if you care/dare) quickly wanes.

And perhaps the above point sums up the argument in favour of the Lumia 710: VALUE.

And which is why, I think, the Lumia 710 is a more than decent device worthy of your attention.

Credit: Thanks a million to Asri al Baker for providing the review unit.Asri is a long time Symbian user and an ardent  tech enthusiast with great insights on mobile technology.

Follow Asri on Twitter @asrialbaker  and  do visit his blog http://asrialbaker.com/.

Around January 2011, the blogosphere was abuzz over the “Burning Platform Memo” by Nokia’s new CEO, Stephen Elop.

The following is an excerpt from that clarion call of a memo:

Nokia, our platform is burning.

We are working on a path forward — a path to rebuild our market leadership. When we share the new strategy on February 11, it will be a huge effort to transform our company. But, I believe that together, we can face the challenges ahead of us. Together, we can choose to define our future.

The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.

Stephen.

This memo set the stage for what was a turning point for Nokia.

Stephen Elop decided to stake Nokia future on the Windows Phone platform and had simultaneously, announced the termination of Symbian.

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I feel something terrible has happened.

The Symbian faithful were shocked and outraged by the announcement. The release of the Nokia N8 and the streamlining of Symbian after its rather protracted “open-source” incubatory period with the ill-fated  Symbian Foundation had given the OS some hope of renewal.
Of course, the new CEO was branded as a trojan horse, sent by Microsoft to acquire Nokia. Detractors felt Stephen Elop’s days in the company were numbered.
Two months post  announcement,the death of Symbian appeared greatly exaggerated as the company announced plans to support Symbian handsets up to 2016. However, the development and support of Symbian was being transitioned to Accenture in a move to focus Nokia’s time and resources to Windows Phone. This was a confusing period for company as mixed announcements were sent out from Nokia’s PR department.

Nokia, towards the 2nd half of 2011 went on an active rebranding exercise. Ovi services were being rebranded as Nokia services(a  logical but belated move) and the upcoming iterations of  Symbian were being christened with names such as Anna, Bella and Carla. The name Symbian was eventually dropped in favour of Nokia. Again, a step in a branding consistency.

The Nokia N9 was announced in June 2011 and marked a new phase in the company’s design DNA. The unibody construct of the Nokia N9 became the basis for the Nokia Lumia 800 and 900 Windows Phone devices. The Nokia N9 became a one-off MeeGo Harmattan device for the company and marked an end of an era.

“You have taken your first step into a larger world.”

January 2012 led to the introduction of Nokia Lumia 900 series at CES,Las Vegas where it was awarded Best of Show in the mobile phone category. This was a positive response to the company in the United States as the latter has been an elusive market to the Finnish handset maker.
Last week saw the rollout of Nokia Belle to devices such as the N8 , C7 and E7.
Now, there are rumblings of the Nokia 803, the last Nokia Belle( Symbian) device that is possible successor to the Nokia N8. This device is meant to be the last Symbian device from the Nokia.
Thereafter, it is Windows Phone all the way.
In the battle of mobile ecosystems, Symbian lacked the edge in comparison to iOS and Android.
Nokia’s choice of Windows Phone was the best bet the company could make as it has a genuine opportunity to strike a new identity with the flegdging OS. Windows Phone has not gained much traction and Nokia coming on board may  give Windows Phone the attention it needs.Definitive success is something that can only be seen in the medium to long term.  The company from Cupertino still holds sway over consumer mindshare and it is a tough one to beat.

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”

Whatever said and done, there is no denying that Nokia is forging ahead with renewed vigour and a clearer roadmap.

May the force be with you.

My wife, unlike myself, is more utilitarian and uses the phone for a singular purpose: to make phone calls.

As such, she has been using one particular phone for the past 5 years: the Nokia 6500.

She is a staunch believer in Nokia because one major factor: their legendary build quality.

The Nokia 6500 is by no means a robust appearing device. It is a design/fashion statement and one may assume that it would not be able to withstand the knocks and drops that a phone may be subjected to in its lifetime.

This could not be far from the truth.

This phone has been dropped many times over, and has been at the receiving end of some seriously damaging moments. The Nokia 6500 has endured it all.

The following images are the end result of the damages sustained at the end of its 5 year use cycle:

As you can clearly see, it ain’t a pretty sight.

However, despite this degree of damage, the phone could still function.

The 6500, however, had to be put to rest as the internal antenna had fallen off, forcing my wife to perform the burial rights for the 6500 prior to be cremated into the recycle bin.

The 6500 is probably in a better place now and it proves the Nokia can still make exceptionally robust machines.

I am not sure if an iPhone 4 or an Galaxy S2 could withstand a similar degree of trauma.

Credit to my wife , Ashreen Kaur for the pictures.

I must admit that I was truly taken by the Nokia N9 upon its announcement in Singapore a few months ago.

I was impressed by this device and I, like many tech enthusiasts was ready to put my hard earned cash to own the N9. I have read numerous commentaries viewed multiple unboxing videos of this device over the last few weeks. The impressions were overall, good.

There is nothing in the mobile phone world that resembles the N9 . The Swipe UI, in my mind, is a unique implementation of a true all- touch screen based user interface. I was proclaiming, many times over, that this UI marks an evolution of touch interface for touch screen mobile devices.

Malaysia is one of the countries which will receive shipments of the Nokia N9. I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I thought “Lucky me, I will be able to own an N9!”.

It was the 1st of October and a chance trip to a nearby Nokia retail center led to chance encounter with the Nokia N9. The demonstration units were on display and Nokia was ready to take pre-orders. I ran through the various functions of the phone and decided to return 2 days later to do a further run through its features.

The following commentary reflects my general impression of the device based on two 20 minute sessions.

The design

The N9 is truly distinctive in person. The body may be made out of polycarbonate material but it had an all metal heft to it. It is reassuringly solid in the hand. The curved glass screen is a joy to behold. There is nothing out there like the Nokia N9. This is Nokia at its  best. That said, hardware design has always been Nokia’s strong-suit.

The software

The device runs on the MeeGo Harmattan version 1.2. MeeGo, as of last week, has been reincarnated into Tizen. MeeGo is essentially extinct. The version on the Nokia N9 is a variation of MeeGo and Nokia has pledged support for the Nokia N9 upto 2015. How extensive this support will be, seeing as this phone is the last of the MeeGo line, is questionable.

The User Interface(UI)

Swipe UI uses three homescreen, one for applications, one for notifications, and another for open applications ( task manager screen). The concept is overall interesting and there is a small learning curve to surmount when using the N9. It’s not difficult and once you get used to this UI, it is quite intuitive. It reminded me of the way one would swipe the screen on the current iPod Nano.

Applications

There are several applications on board including a customized Twitter and Facebook client for the N9. There is, of course,  Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive. The latter two applications are simply stellar and are the current aces in Nokia’s application suite.

My interaction with the device

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A FULL FLEDGED REVIEW. These are thoughts and opinions that I have formed based on two separate run usage times with the device.

Every aspect of this device, both software and hardware, reminded me of the iPhone. No, it is not a copycat device but a device that eschews the concept of the iPhone. The N9 is a closed shell ( no user replaceable batteries, no memory expansion) with a simple interface of applications and a limited set of customizations. The packaging of the device is very Apple-esque. It is not a blatant copy but more in keeping with the current device packaging trends.

Application iconography takes on the squircle design cue that Nokia has taken on board and is something that we will see in future Symbian and lower end S40 devices. Of note, the latter is probably being replaced by a Linux distro called Meltemi, perhaps something that we will see in the medium-term.

The inconsistencies began to show when I delved into the applications. Some applications chose to live resolutely in portrait mode. The music application is an example of this. Auto-rotation for a cover flow type interface or something uniquely intuitive was not there. The album art appears with a track progress bar. There is a link to the Nokia Music Store and that’s about it.

Messaging used the now popular word bubble UI. This works in both portrait and landscape modes. There is a nifty option of adding attachments. Emoticon insertion is included.

The Twitter app was simple enough was a doddle to set up. However, when I tried to log out, it did not allow me to do so. Instead, I had to go to the Accounts application and wipe the entire account off the phone. A simple logout option would have sufficed,I think. I did not delve into the native Facebook application.

I tried this again the second time around and I had discovered that there is a simple way of disabling a particular account by tapping the virtual toggle switch. Simple. Again, this point reiterates the  small learning curve.

The browser is decent and is on par with the best of them. No real issues here.

This is good time to comment on the typing speeds on the virtual keyboard. Its not bad at all. I could match speeds close enough to the iOS keyboard on the iPhone, which is the gold standard for virtual keyboards.There is haptic feedback. The cut, copy and paste UI is quite like in iOS but a little less polished.

I was reminded once again of iOS when all the settings of the device rests in a unified Settings application of the device. You can’t manage the settings of the application from the application itself.

Contacts and calendar management is something that imperative for me in a mobile device. My mobile phone(currently, the HTC Desire) is my all-in-one PDA and my mobile internet device. I was disappointed with the contacts entry fields. There was limited label customizations . The only mobile OS that does this very well is iOS. Android recently introduced label customizations in Gingerbread. You can launch onto to Nokia Maps from the address book which is a standard feature seen in all mobile OSs. Integration with social networks does not appear to be a feature.

The calendar application was pretty decent and combines a to-do list. The appearance of this application is somewhat similar to Symbian. Nothing groundbreaking here.

The video application is easy to use and the feature of swiping the screen with the video still running is something that has been seen in numerous demonstration videos. It’s nice but I see it as a novelty feature that could  wane with long term usage of the phone.

The gallery application is smooth but nothing out of this world.

The loudspeaker on the phone is placed at the bottom and sounds decent. It’s loud enough in a moderately crowded area but sounds somewhat tinny. I did not test this device with the headphones, and hence did not get to test with the Dolby Headphone feature. There are no equalizer customizations.

The camera is fine and the UI is very easy and intuitive. The camera is pretty sprightly and I could snap images in a relatively fast pace. There is no dedicated camera shutter button but the on-screen shutter button is very responsive.  Image quality is something that I could not  assess and it would be unfair to comment given my time with the device. Based on the samples I have seen on the internet, it is seems pretty good. Particularly good was the camera menu. The latter is extensive and allows multi aspect ratio options, geo-tagging, choice of modes and flash options.  It won’t be in the Nokia N8 territory but it is decent enough. This aspect of the phone is well executed indeed.

I did not try the Near Field Communications(NFC) feature on the phone which is a technology that Nokia is actively promoting.

The spin

Now, here is where I get cynical. Nokia decided to release this device in selected markets that was deemed conducive to achieve successful sales. This includes countries such as Saudi Arabia,Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

The US and UK will not be getting this device.

Basically, Nokia thinks that the customers in the said countries will willingly buy the Nokia N9.

Nokia Malaysia is focused on promoting this device for the month of October. I was told by an enthusiatic Nokia sales assistant that Nokia’s first Windows Phone device would be arriving roughly next month after the rumoured announcement at Nokia World at the end of October.

Nokia Malaysia, essentially, has one month to achieve solid sales of the N9.

It is not competitively priced. The 16GB model retails for RM1799 (419 euros) and the 64GB model retails for roughly RM2100 (494 euros). This is Samsung Galaxy S2(SGS2) territory. In fact, the S2 is now retailing for the same price as the 16GB model. The SGS2 offers more functionality at this price point.

That said, Samsung Galaxy S2’s hardware cannot hold a candle to the superlative build quality of the Nokia N9.

Verdict

It is difficult to simply sum up the Nokia N9 as being either recommended or non recommended. On one hand, you have the device hardware with an interesting software to match. The UI is unique and despite the learning curve- not a huge one- it is easy to get used to. I found myself swiping away with ease after a few minutes.

On the other, there is the inescapable fact that this device marks the end of the line for Nokia. It is all Windows Phone from here on for the high end devices. MeeGo’s demise is another factor. Though that said, the phone actually runs on Harmattan with a MeeGo layer compatibility which means the loss of MeeGo will not impact the OS. Nokia has pledged support for this device up to 2015.As to what kind of support this would be remains to be seen.

iOS users may not be tempted due to the lack of an extensive application catalogue. Android OS users may balk at the limited customizability of the N9.

The phone is not competitively priced which another issue that may affect its sales.

Ultimately, it depends on what you wish from a modern 2011 smartphone. For me, this phone has most of the core functionalities which I utilize in a mobile device. There are missing applications, such as an E-reader, a password encrypted notepad application to name a few.

What I fear most is the anaemic ecosystem for the Nokia N9 and the software update schedule from Nokia. Will Nokia address the major shortcomings of this phone?

The Nokia N9 should not be merely judged as a failure or triumph for Nokia. It is too simple to sum it up in this fashion.

The N9 is probably best summed up as  a PROOF OF CONCEPT. Think of it as a working concept car  which marks a sign of things to come. The design DNA,both hardware and software , marks a significant departure for the Finnish company.

So, whilst the N9 itself could be a hollow triumph for Nokia, it is merely the first salvo in its road to renewal.

But this still does not answer the question as to whether I would be buying one.

Let’s just say that the decision is still in its conceptual phase.

The Nokia N9 , has begun shipping two days ago.

Nokia Blog has posted a video of Janne Elsilä, Senior Product Manager talking about the N9 from concept to production. He seemed quite relieved that the product that his team had worked on is finally getting out there to the retail outlets.

The Nokia N9 runs on the MeeGo OS which has been specifically customized by Nokia. Hence, the version of MeeGo on this device is referred to as MeeGo Harmattan.

MeeGo, in a separate IntelApp up conference has been terminated and has been been replaced by Tizen. This isn’t great timing for the release of the Nokia N9.

Nokia has clearly stated that this phone will be a once off for them. However, it is noted that Nokia will support this device up to year 2015.

This device proves that Nokia can produce great hardware and it needs to try its very best to pull in customers to fork out their hard earned cash to buy this device.

Forbes.com has a commentary on the Nokia N9 which sums up the N9 conundrum and it puts things into perspective.

Do read this post by clicking on this link.

Nokia announced a new update to its Symbian platform in a Hong Kong event.

In keeping with the feminine nomenclature used by Nokia, this latest update is called “Belle”. The version before this was called “Anna”

Three new devices running Symbian Belle was released  at the event. These phones have taken on the new naming conventions and are called the Nokia 600, 700 and 701 respectively.

All three phone have a 1Ghz chip and 512 MB of RAM. The later specifications are more than capable to run the already system efficient Symbian OS.

These devices have arrived on Malaysian shores and are priced very competitively and are aimed squarely at mid to low-tier market.

The Nokia 701 costs RM1230, the Nokia 700 costs RM1025 and the Nokia 600 costs RM740.These prices are SIM-free and in my opinion, offer good value for money.

All these devices come with  Near Field Communications on board.

I have not had the chance to toy with the Nokia 701 ( as I most curious above its “Brightest screen” claim) as this devices packs a wide range of features including its claim of having the “Brightest screen” out there.

Symbian is apparently is still alive and well.

Links: Nokia Conversations, All About Symbian

As promised, the Nokia N9 has been officially launched in Malaysia today.

Apparently, Malaysia will be the first country to get the device when it is launched early October 2011, bringing it close to the purported iPhone 5 release time frame.

According to Soya Cincau:

Malaysian users are amongst the most sophisticated and demanding Nokia see Malaysia as a very important market for the success of the N9
 The price of this rather unique device(unsubsidized):
16GB device which comes with the option of 3 colours -RM1799 ( 431 euros)
64GB device which is only available in black                     – RM2088 (501 euros)
Nokia store has around a thousand applications specifically made for the N9.
This device, according to Nokia, will be the only MeeGo Harmattan device in their product portfolio.However, Nokia has pledged support for the device for a “good few years” to come.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to seeing this device in the flesh.

Image Source: discovrpOp

The rather nice and rather innovative Nokia N9 will see its Malaysian launch next week.

A few established Malaysian tech bloggers have received an invite for the launch event on the 13th of September.

Further proof of the N9’s impending launch is the notification on Nokia’s website stating the “coming soon” local telco tie-ups and workshops.

Interestingly, there are also N9 specific applications for local new dailies such the The Star and The EDGE, both of which state “Coming in September”. If that’s not a solid indication of a September release, I am not sure what is.

I am certainly looking forward to seeing this device in the flesh.

News Source: discovrpOp

Nokia has put together some interesting 9 second ads showcasing the features of the Nokia N9.

Click on this link to view the videos.

Source:http://www.youtube.com/user/nokia

Eight film makers were given two Nokia N8s and a $5000 budget to come up with a short film.

The winning piece is an endearing short called Splitscreen.

Additional contraptions such a modified steadicam was used to mount the N8. Apart from that, the N8 (as per stipulation of the contest) was the prime video camera used in filming the piece.

The Nokia N8 still amazes me in terms of its image capture capabilities. It falls short in the internet browsing department but it is still a great all in one device and a robust one at that.

Click here for the video. You will be impressed.