Saturday, May 31, 2008

Worm and Golf

Nokia has just sent out a mailshot to gamers trumpeting Worms World Party and Pro Series Golf (plus MHP and Snakes Subsonic), so I'm guessing that these two new games will be appearing in the N-Gage download area imminently. Or else it's a Nokia marketing screw-up. Place your bets.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

E61i Update Firmware

Whoever thought this would happen? The presumed-forgotten Nokia E61i just received a firmware update from v2.0633 to v3.0633.69.00 (for unlocked Euro versions anyway, yours may vary slightly). [update] The E51 just got an update too, to v200.34.36, so NSU is most definitely your friend (E51 tip via the Symbian Blog)]

v3 update

Initial impressions are that v3 is faster in general. Of course, this is partly because the firmware update zapped the contents of the internal disk and everything's optimal, but I'd wager that there are some performance optimisations in place as well.


* Reading of SMS time stamp information unified between regions
* SMS sending from SIM Toolkit - Profile 07 improved
* Unicode Handling with Turkish characters corrected
* Correction to fetching email from freemail server
* Intellisync: Slowness of searching a contact for the first time corrected


* After the startup, the phone recognizes the language to use from the SIM card
* SMSC is re-read from SIM after switch on


* Improvement of co-operation of Gizmo VoIP client and Internet voice mailbox
* SIP Proxy Authentication corrected in outgoing call if two SIP profiles with same realm and user name


* Correction of Chinese word corruption with WAP browser
* Searching in Hebrew from portal corrected
* Wap GET/POST forms corrected when using Greek characters
* Reset during WAP browsing and MT calls corrected


* Operator name list updated
* Start-up settings updated
* Settings Wizard updated
* Start-up date changed to 1.1.2008
* Correction of DRMClock behaviour with NITZObserver with negative time zone values
* Localization improvements

Things that aren't here, btw, include Flash Lite 3, I'm guessing there's not enough oomph or RAM for this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The First 10 Application on your Phone

What are the first 10 applications you install on your phone? That's the question that was poised, and answered, by Mark Guim of the Nokia Blog. Also weighing in with responses were a number of other S60 Bloggers: Vaibhav Sharma of the the Symbian Blog, Steve Rowlands at S60 Blogger, Gerrymoth at Nokia Addict, Zack Epstein at Symbian-in-Motion and Stefan Constantinescu at IntoMobile. Read on for a summary of the applications mentioned and their popularity.

I've compiled a table that lists all the applications mentioned in the above blog posts, or in the comments attached to those blog posts. Amongst these you'll no doubt find some of the best S60 applications available.

There are a few notable points to be made:

* Many of these application are free. This is not surprising when sorting by popularity. However the most popular application is the commercial Handy Taskman from Epocware.

* Some of the application could be considered client applications for online services (Shozu, Share Online)

* Big Internet brands (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube) all make appearances, mainly as client application for thier services.

* A number of these application make use of the GPS, perhaps suggesting a strong future location trend. Similarly many are focused on communication (messaging, IM and VoIP) suggesting communication is still at the core of phone usage.

* These out the choices of bloggers and their commenters, or, in other words, those who are participating in social media as creators or commenters. This will skew the results compared to the majority of users, but as they are edge / power user this may suggest future general usage patterns. Also the total numbers contributing are too small for there to be any statistical rigour.

Let us know what your favourite applications are in the comment thread (or if we missed you out on the list of bloggers).

Here's a break down of the applications by popularity:

Application Name
Mentions Description
Handy Taskman 10 Replacement task manager and application switcher
Gmail 9 Google Mail client
Opera Mini 9 Proxy based browser from Opera
Screenshot 6 Capture screenshots on your phone
Calcium 4 Simple to use calculator
Google Maps 4 Client to access Google Maps
Share Online 3.0 4 Share and send media to online websites
LCG X-plore 3 File manager
Shozu 3 Share and send media to online websites
Walking Hotspot 3 Turn your phone into a Wifi hotspot
BT Switch 2 Switch Bluetooth on and off from the Active Idle screen
Flixwagon 2 Stream video from your phone to the web
Fring 2 Access multiple IM networks and VoIP functions
Handy Calendar 2 Calendar replacement with more views and user configuration
Joikuspot Light 2 Turn your phone into a Wifi hotspot
Mobitubia 2 YouTube client application
Nokia Internet Radio 2 Listen to Shoutcast audio streams on your phone
Nokia Maps 2 Mapping and GPS navigation
Nokia Sports Tracker 3 Record routes using GPS
Qik 2 Stream video from your phone to the web
SkyeQuiKey 2 Smart dialing program, access applications and more
TomTom Mobile 2 Mapping and GPS navigation
Viewranger 2 Off road mapping and GPS navigation
Y-Browser 2 File manager
Best Profiles 1 Profile Management
Bible Reader 1 Bible Reader
cClock 1 Large clock screen saver
Salling Clicker 1 Control your PC from your phone
Nokia Conversation 1 Threaded SMS client
CorePlayer 1 Multimedia player
CryptoGraf Messaging 1 Encrypted SMS messages
Device Status 1 Device information and status
Geocache Navigator 1 Geocache GPS navigation client
Gizmo VoIP 1 VoIP and IM client for Gizmo
Google Search 1 Access Google Search form the Idle screen
GooSync 1 Sync your phone with Google services
Handy Clock 1 Clock replacement with multi city and alarm functions
Jaiku 1 Microblogging client
KJV Go Bible 1 Bible Reader
Metro 1 Public transport planning
Mobipocket 1 eBook Reader
Mr Lock 1 Auto key lock
MSDict 1 Dictionary client
Nimbuzz 1 Access multiple IM networks and VoIP functions
OfficeSuite 1 Edit Word and Excel files
Palringo 1 Access multiple IM networks and VoIP functions
RoadSync 1 Sync with Microsoft Exchange server
Scribe 1 XML-RPC blogging client
SEVEN 1 Push email
Shazam ID 1 Music identification client
Sky Anytime 1 Access Sky box while mobile
Slick 1 Access multiple IM networks
SlingPlayer Mobile 1 View home TV from your phone
SlovoEd 1 Dictionary client
Smartmovie 1 Multimedia player
SMS Scheduler 1 Send scheduled messages
Solution Calculator 1 Advanced calculator
Truphone 1 VoIP client
Vizimo 1 Media discovery
Windows Live 1 Microsoft Live client
Worldmate 1 Travelling utility suit
Yahoo Go 1 Yahoo services client

Nokia N100

Wednesday morning sees the start of the S60 Summit in Barcelona, with Rafe and Ewan in attendance, more from them as it happens. See below, though, for photos and information on so-new-it's-almost-vapour Nokia N100 - the ultimate S60 smartphone? Plus my thoughts on Nokia's design strategies - maybe some of these will be taken on board by the manufacturers represented at the summit?

But first more on the Nokia N100 - you're dying to see it, after all:

If there's one key theme that comes out of reviews of smartphones, over and over again, it's that every single design leaves something major out or has an obvious design flaw. For example:

Nokia N82: small and dim screen, fiddly keys
Nokia N95: smallish battery, low RAM, relatively flagile
Nokia N95 8GB: unprotected camera glass, still fragile
Nokia N93 and E90: far too many moving parts
Nokia N81: horrible screen that blacks out in bright light
Nokia E61i: low RAM, slow OS/processor

And that's just a handful of the latest Nokia-branded devices, off the top of my head. I've used Nokia as an example, but every other smartphone maker gets it wrong too. Even Apple. Somehow, something always gets left out or mucked up. And it's not just me that keeps observing this.

So, with this in mind, I've turned on my imagination and produced the Nokia N100 - there is nothing unrealistic in the spec and design here, this is not intended to be a fanboy wishlist - I'm simply trying to combine existing highlights from Nokia's S60 smartphone range into one device, with no silly compromises or strange design decisions. In short, there is no reason why the (ahem) N100 couldn't exist today.

Here's the breakdown: (Not actual size, by the way!)

Some extra notes (working from the top of the diagram above):

It's essential that any high-spec camera have a mechanical cover - the lens on the N95 8GB (and presumably N78 and N96) gets too scratched in real life, even under ideal conditions, producing slightly fuzzy results.
2.8" is a minimum screen size - many rivals are in the 3" plus region. The days of tiny, hard-to-read displays are well and truly over - no squinting required!
It's an utter mystery to me why manufacturers keep on churning out designs like the N81 (for example) with low-tech screens that black out in sunlight. The transflective displays on (e.g.) the N95 and E61 are superbly visible, even in bright sunlight, outdoors - which is, after all, where you'll be using your smartphone a lot of the time, not in a darkened office.
There's a good reason why myself, Rafe, and numerous others from the smartphone world, all prefer candy bar designs when all is said and done. With no ribbon cables to break, no hinges to crack, no display wires to fracture, a candy bar smartphone will be more robust and longer-lasting than any other design, whatever materials are used.
A decent battery is a must. Anyone using the GPS, 3G, Wi-Fi and camera a lot in an existing current smartphone has to nurse it through a heavy day and charge every night. With a 1500mAh battery (Nokia make a lot of these for their Eseries range), you can leave everything on (more or less), all day, and simply not have to worry about ad-hoc recharges.
The 'Home' icon was an innovation for the Nokia E51 that deserves repeating across the range. A simple 'Home' icon makes a lot of sense on several levels - not least because it's the same behaviour as in the much-hyped Apple iPhone interface. You press the 'Home' button, you get to all your nice, shiny application icons.
Front keypad shortcuts to extra applications have been a feature on several recent Eseries devices, plus some designs from Samsung - and they're a great idea. Apps like Contacts, Calendar and Messaging are so core to the smartphone lifestyle that they deserve their own shortcut buttons - just as long as there's also a Settings dialog for changing the assignments - e.g. if the user prefers the third party Handy Calendar instead.
The experiment with the pencil thin keys on the Nokia N82 and Samsing i550 needs to end here. Regular sized keys are preferred by the majority of people and can look just as stylish. The bigger the keys, the less of a requirement for having fingers the size of toothpicks.
A 3.5mm audio jack is an absolute must. The Nokia N95 and N82 have shown that you can still have 4-way headset connections and TV out facilities through a standard sized jack - this should be standard across smartphones now.

Of, course, despite my eloquent(!) reasoning, you'll doubtless disagree with some of the above - in real life, there isn't one smartphone design that fits all. But my hope is that some of the S60 design teams present at the Barcelona summit get time to glance through this feature and ponder the N100...

Ideally, manufacturers would consult with, you know, real users, before finalising hardware designs. In this way, clunkers like the Nokia N93i (appalling screen and mike placement), Samsung i550 (appalling trackball control), Sony Ericsson P990i (appalling RAM spec) and Nokia N76 (appalling... err.... where do I start with this one?...) would never have been made and manufacturers would have saved themselves millions of dollars in development costs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to connect flash lite and java me

Recently, a new generation of mobile phones with support for Java ME and Flash Lite has been taking widespread acceptance by the market, opening the door for hybrid applications. Looking for this business potential Jarpa was created allowing Flash Lite Developers deliver and extend their content as Java ME applications.

Created by Felipe Andrade and Alessandro Pace, Jarpa is a free of charge software solution under terms of Apache Software License.

Download the code and samples below at Google code.

S60 overview

The S60 platform brings end users the best smartphone experience available. The platform is implemented in a diverse range of devices and provides application and media developers with a consistent set of technologies. Equally at home delivering advanced enterprise applications, games, or music, the S60 platform gives developers unparalleled opportunities in the mobile space.

Developers can work in C++ (using native Symbian OS APIs and a subset of the POSIX standard libraries provided by Open C), the Java™ language (using MIDP 2.0 with an extensive range of additional JSRs), Flash Lite from Adobe, and Python.

Once applications and content have been created, support for OMA DRM protects developers' intellectual property.

S60 licensees had shipped more than 100 million S60 devices cumulatively by April 2007. As for the overall smartphone market, it is expected to continue growing rapidly: Nokia expects cumulative smartphone shipments to exceed 250 million units in 2008. According to company projections, S60 devices will account for the bulk of this volume.

The S60 platform enables developers to create high-value applications and content with lucrative revenue opportunities. The platform approach — with uniform implementation of technologies and supporting tools, documentation, and examples — requires less effort by developers to grasp these market opportunities.

Find out more at, the "one-stop shop" for information on the S60 platform — including applications, licensees, devices, news, blogs, and developer information.

£700 for the N96?

Don't you just love these early-bird, pre-order prices? I can't resist mentioning that Expansys now have the Nokia N96 up for pre-order - £697 inc VAT. Gulp. In fact, make that an extra big gulp. Don't panic though, I'm sure the price when available will be more reasonable!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nokia to manufacture Linux-based phones?

According to the Finnish business newspaper Kauppalehti, Nokia's Chief Financial Officer said Nokia is considering manufacturing Linux-based mobile phones. The article quotes Rick Simonson, Nokia's Chief Financial Officer, as saying "we are definitely moving in the direction (of Linux-based phones)" at a seminar in Boston run by JP Morgan Chase. There was no further detail though, and apparently Simonson refused to be drawn on which kind of Linux would be used. Nokia already makes the Linux-based N800 and N810 internet tablets, which use Nokia's own version of Linux called Maemo, but current tablets have no telephony ability.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Orange and Nokia to co-operate on services

Orange and Nokia today announced a three year strategic international partnership on mobile services. The two companies will work together to provider users with an offering of music, games, advertising, maps and location based services. The relationship will see 10 Nokia handsets added to the Orange Signature range with services integrated into the familiar Orange user interface.

This follows on from Orange and Nokia's February announcement around the use of S60 in the Orange Signature Acceleration program. The Signature Acceleration program uses S60, as one of Orange's preferred software platforms, to create an industrialised package, containing consisting of a 'Orange version' of S60 (customised UI, themes, services and applications), that can then be used on all S60 handsets that Orange chooses to offer to its customers.

This new agreement will likely see services such as Orange Music, N-Gage, Orange Games and Nokia Maps become part of the Orange Signature Acceleration program (S60 version).

The aim behind both agreements is to introduce a suite of software services to customers in an efficient and cost effective manor. By using standard software platforms and service suites the companies can lower testing costs and reduce time to market.

The announcement continues a trend of synergistic partnerships between Nokia and network operators to deliver new software and services to customers. These combines Nokia's own services (gathered under the Ovi brand) together with the operator's own offerings. For example, in the case of Orange it seems that, on the handset at least, Orange Music will stand in place of Nokia Music while Orange Games and N-Gage will co-exist and location services will be provided through Nokia Maps. Nokia and Orange have also indicated that other services may be inlcuded in the future.

This hybrid model of manufacturer and operator is likely to be the most common way the next generation of software and services are delivered to the mass market of consumers. It also contrasts with some of the initial operator scepticism around Ovi directly after its launch last year.

One intriguing statistic is that the two companies plan to create 10 million active Mobile Maps on Nokia devices within the Orange footprint by 2010. By way of comparison Orange's current customer base is 163 million and while this will grow by 2010, 10 million will still be a significant portion of the user base. This underlines how significant mapping and location services are likely to become in the next year.

Orange and Nokia have agreed to launch a suite of integrated multimedia services on the new Nokia handsets, launching in H208 across nine major markets, in an initiative designed to boost the adoption of mobile digital entertainment. As part of the strategic partnership, customers will have direct access to the Orange Music Store, both Orange and NGage games, as well as Nokia Maps. Under the Orange Signature programme, all services will be integrated into the familiar Orange user interface, providing one click access to information and entertainment.

"This collaboration underlines Orange's drive to create strategic partnerships that will give customers the best possible mobile multimedia experience in the simplest way," said Olaf Swantee, EVP of Orange's Personal Communications Services. "Combined with our leadership in mobile multimedia innovation and relationships with leading content providers, Orange believes that Nokia's devices and Ovi platform will make a powerful environment for the provision of a joint range of services," added Georges Penalver, EVP of Orange's Group Strategic Marketing.

"We are pleased to create this strategic partnership with Orange and believe that the combination of Signature and Ovi services will extend and enrich consumer choice," said Kai Öistämö, EVP, Devices, Nokia. "We also expect our close collaboration to extend beyond the initial focus areas of music, games, maps and advertising to include other services over time."

N73 Update

The hugely popular Nokia N73 has another new firmware update available. v4.0812.4.x was released released yesterday via Nokia Software Update and includes support for mobile TV (when used with Nokia's SU-33W receiver) and Express Mail clients, plus updates and improvements to Nokia Maps and improved Java support.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

eReader beta for S60 3rd Edition

A beta version of's eBook software is now available for S60 3rd Edition. eReader is a long standing eBook store which provides some of the current best sellers in eBook form, protected via its own form of DRM. They provides a version of their reader for multiple platforms. However a few years ago they seemed to lose interest in support Symbian OS handsets, but under the new ownership of Fictionwise this seems to be changing.

The S60 3rd Edition version of eReader will be most attractive for those who have already bought books using eReader. If you're looking at buying an eBook for the first time you may also want to investigate the Amazon backed Mobipocket which provides both reading software and eBook store.

Both Mobipocket and eReader povide similar features in their software (full screen mode, the ability too look up words, bookmarks, autoscroll, font and text settings). Both can also be used to read standard .pdb file (non-DRM) which is useful for reading public domain content from sites such as Memoware.

Mobipocket is currently the more mature reader (and is also available for UIQ handsets), but hopefully the eReader software will progress during the course of its beta.

eReader is owned by Fictionwise, another eBook store, which has the notable positive feature of providing many of its books in multiple formats including both eReader and Mobipocket. Books bought from Fictionwise are therefore less susceptible to being left behind by changes in DRM.

Here are a few screenshots from the beta version of eReader:

Download File here

Nokia: "If you want your N-Gage games on your new phone, you'll have to buy them all over again."

Nokia's next gen N-Gage platform potentially ushers in a new age of high quality connected phone gaming. However, it now seems that there's a rather large flaw at the heart of the platform: if you upgrade to a new phone, you cannot transfer any of your N-Gage games from the old phone. The only way to move your N-Gage library is to buy all your games again.

Way back in 2003, Apple's iPod was becoming pretty popular but it had a significant flaw: you couldn't replace the battery once it stopped holding charges. If you asked Apple to replace it for you, they would charge $250, which was close to the price of a brand new iPod, and this infuriated some of their fans. Two of them, the Neistat brothers, made a short film about this called "iPod's Dirty Secret" which they published on the internet generating a great deal of embarassment for Apple. Perhaps as a result of hearing about the film, Apple reduced the cost of replacing a battery from $250 to $100.

Well, it now seems that the new N-Gage platform has its own significant flaw: if you upgrade to a new phone, you will not be able to transfer your games to the new phone - your library is locked to the original handset forever.

This is in stark contrast to Nokia's Music Store service, which does let you move your music library to a new phone. Why does Nokia treat a 10 euro album differently to a 10 euro game?

How N-Gage game purchases work

Ngage game collectionIn case you're wondering what this is all about, here's a brief explanation of how the new N-Gage platform handles the sale of games:

* To install an N-Gage game you download its demo onto your phone. This contains the entire game but in a restricted form where you can only access features in the demo.
* If you enjoy the demo and want to buy the full game, you select the demo's "purchase" option, and then choose to charge the cost of the game to your phone bill or credit card. When the transaction is complete, an activation code is sent to your e-mail address, which can be used to turn the demo into the full version.

The first time you purchase a game the N-Gage application will enter the activation code automatically. However, if you ever have to reinstall the game on that phone you may need to manually enter this code to turn the demo into the full version again. This reinstallation process can be done as often as you want, so it never really matters if a game gets wiped, the only important thing is the game's activation code.

To combat piracy, the activation code is linked to just one phone. It does this by checking that phone's unique IMEI number (every phone in the world has its own), so if you try to use the same activation code on another phone it won't work.

The problems start when you try to upgrade to a new phone. Because it will have a different IMEI number, you cannot use your existing game activation codes on it, so you cannot transfer the N-Gage games you've already bought onto it.

Unless you want to carry two phones, your entire N-Gage game library has to stay at home. And if you sell your old phone, or if it breaks while out of guarantee, you lose your games forever.

What about Nokia customer care? Won't they transfer the games to your new phone?

In 2007 at Nokia's Go Play event, All About N-Gage received the general impression that games would be linked to an account rather than a particular phone, so if you upgraded phones you could take the games with you. A specific method for transferring games to a new phone was never mentioned, but we simply assumed there must be one.

Some time after the event, discussion threads about this issue on the official N-Gage Arena forums suggested that you could contact your local Nokia customer care branch, who would handle the transfer.

Unfortunately this just isn't the case. Nokia's customer care department told us that they can only transfer games if a phone is replaced at a repair centre under the terms of its guarantee. Nokia will not transfer games simply because you've bought a new phone.

We wondered if Nokia's customer services team was mistaken, but we have now had this confirmed by representatives of Nokia at a higher level: N-Gage games cannot be transferred.

Nokia's official stated policy is that N-Gage activation codes should only work on the device where they were first activated, because they feel this is an important way to combat digital piracy and ensure that their partners are not losing out on sales.

So has Nokia broken any promises?

N-GageNokia never promised that the games would be transferrable to a new phone, but then they rarely commented on this issue at all. The terms and conditions for purchasing games do indeed state that the game can only be used on one phone, so in legal terms Nokia are completely safe. Here's what they say in the middle of the Terms and Conditions:

"4.1 All Content shall be subject to the End User Software License Agreement (“EUSA”) and limited to one private installation on one N-Gage compatible Nokia device only."

However, most people never read these kinds of legal documents because they're so difficult to understand, and the average user encounters so many "Terms and Conditions" links while using websites and applications that they never bother clicking on most of them. Some people will be surprised and shocked to find that they cannot take their N-Gage library with them to their new phone, especially if they've spent tens or hundreds of euros building it up.

There is currently no "plain english" warning about this issue when you buy the games, it simply invites you to click on a link to read the terms and conditions. This is particularly awkward if you're doing the purchase on a mobile phone as its screen isn't suited to displaying large amounts of text.

There have been hints from moderators on the N-Gage Arena forum that Nokia is working on some sort of game transfer system, but this isn't at all what we heard from people higher up the corporate chain.

What the heck was Nokia thinking?

Perhaps Nokia are trying to copy the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, where retro and budget games are sold as cheap downloads locked to the console they were bought on. However, there is no culture of constant upgrading in the console world. A console has a typical lifespan of 4 or 5 years, and many people carry on using them for many years after that. An increasing number of people have several consoles at home under the TV, so buying a new console doesn't necessarily mean giving up the old model.
Nokia N81 running Asphalt 3

No one carries several phones with them, and few people use the same phone for 5 years, especially not the higher end models that N-Gage games run on. A typical N-Gage user may upgrade their phone every year or two, and some may even change phones several times within a year.

A more probable explanation is that Nokia is copying the policy of many third party phone game publishers who sell games cheaply but locked to one device. However, none of these publishers have ever tried to build up a multiplayer gaming community the way N-Gage is supposed to, and none of them are marketing themselves as a high profile online gaming service. It's also worth mentioning that many third party publishers do let you transfer software to a new phone if you contact their customer support with the new phone's IMEI.

A third possibility, perhaps the most likely, is that Nokia wants to allow transfers, but third party game publishers have asked Nokia to limit games to one phone forever.

Whatever the reason for this policy, it's a really really bad idea for everyone involved, including Nokia, the N-Gage platform, N-Gage gamers and third party publishers.

Ten reasons why Nokia's policy of locking N-Gage games to one phone forever is a really really bad idea

1. It punishes N-Gage's greatest fans the most

If you buy lots of N-Gage games from Nokia, you will be hardest hit when you decide to upgrade to a new phone model.At the moment N-Gage games cost about 7 to 10 euros each. If you have bought ten N-Gage games the price of moving them to your new phone will be 70 to 100 euros. If you have bought twenty full price games, the price goes up to 140 to 200 euros.

If an N-Gage user buys an N-Gage game every week for a year and then upgrades to a new phone, the cost of moving their library would be 364 to 520 euros, and that's on top of the 364 to 520 they've already paid buying the games in the first place. Moving such an N-Gage library would probably cost more than the phone itself, even if the phone was unlocked and sim-free.

2. It punishes Nokia's greatest fans the most

The more often you upgrade to the latest Nokia phone, the more often you will have to re-buy games if you want to maintain an N-Gage library. People who buy Nokia phones most often are the ones contributing the most to Nokia's profits, yet they're also the ones being forced to give up N-Gage games after the shortest period of use.

3. It encourages piracy, and may even legitimise it in some people's eyes

The moral case against using pirated copies of games is very obvious: those who buy games contribute to their development costs and encourage publishers to create more games, while those who pirate games are parasites that aren't contributing anything to anyone.

However, the moral case against piracy when you've already bought the game is very unclear. Even people who would normally never pirate games might consider using illegal copies when upgrading their phone, because from their point of view they just want to keep the games they've already paid for.

4. It discourages people from buying new N-Gage phones

N-Gage games were supposed to encourage sales of Nokia phones. Unfortunately, Nokia's one-phone-forever policy arguably discourages sales, because if someone gets a new N-Gage-compatible phone it can't access their old phone's N-Gage library. People with very large N-Gage libraries might give up on getting new phones altogether because they don't want to re-buy their games at massive expense, and they don't want to carry two phones.
5. It discourages people from buying new N-Gage games

If you upgrade to a new phone regularly, you're much less likely to buy N-Gage games on impulse as you suddenly have to think about how long it will be until your next upgrade. As you get closer to upgrade time there will be less and less incentive to buy N-Gage games, because any titles bought on your old phone will be inaccessible on your new phone.

6. It severely erodes loyalty to the N-Gage brand

N-Gage games were supposed to build a sense of loyalty to phones compatible with the platform. The idea was that people would buy the games, get hooked, and make sure that their next phone was also N-Gage compatible so they could carry on playing the games. But under Nokia's current policy, people can't carry on playing their N-Gage games even if their new phone is N-Gage-compatible, because the games can't be transferred from old phone to new phone. The entire N-Gage gaming experience is reset to zero every time a user moves to a new phone.

N-Gage users' long term loyalty to the platform carries no reward. In fact in the long term N-Gage users' loyalty will constantly be tested by being invited to pay yet again for the same games they've already bought.

7. It gives N-Gage a bad name when Nokia desperately needs to restore confidence in the brand

The N-Gage brand was spoilt by the original gen N-Gage's extremely disappointing sales, poor reviews and badly-handled launch in 2003. The name "N-Gage" is still generally associated with flops and disappointments in the gaming community. If Nokia want to carry on using the N-Gage name then they have to go out of their way to greatly improve its reputation. They need to be building bridges, mending fences, trying to win people over to their side

They've made a good start with the new generation of games, which have proved to be far higher quality than the original gen's launch lineup, and are on sale at far more reasonable prices. They've also made a good start with the N-Gage client, which has received very positive reviews from both gaming and phone sites, even from those that were sceptical about the original gen N-Gage.

However, all of the progress that Nokia is making could be wiped away if people see their games library emptying every time they move to a new N-Gage phone.
8. It undermines N-Gage's online multiplayer features

One of the key selling points on N-Gage games is the online factor: all of them contain some kind of online feature such as rankings or multiplayer. If people cannot transfer their N-Gage libraries to their new phones, a lot of them won't bother re-buying older games, so the number of people taking part in older games' online multiplayer modes will diminish much more quickly. It may become much more difficult to find people to play against online.

9. If your N-Gage phone breaks when out of guarantee, you will lose all your N-Gage games forever

Nokia has a manufacturer's guarantee on all their phones which is 2 years in Europe and 1 or 2 years elsewhere. If an N-Gage-compatible phone is no longer covered by Nokia's guarantee, then when it breaks down the games bought for the phone are gone forever. There is no legal way to get them back, because the activation codes only work with that phone.

If your N-Gage phone is out of guarantee, you'd better take good care of it because the existence of your entire N-Gage library depends on that phone continuing to work.

10. It allows future N-Gage rivals to more easily poach N-Gage's userbase

If anyone sets up a direct rival to the N-Gage platform, it will be far far easier for them to steal N-Gage's customers because of all the reasons above.
So what should Nokia do instead?

Despite its difficulties with the first generation N-Gage, Nokia could actually do really well out of the new generation N-Gage platform. If people could build up their N-Gage libraries over time, it would be a very significant reason for people to stay loyal to N-Gage and stay loyal to Nokia phones too. Someone who has invested hundreds of euros in N-Gage games will naturally want to continue using these games on their new phone.

Nokia has stated many times over the past year that it wants to become an internet services company. The essence of internet services is to get people into the habit of using your service, to keep them coming back for more, to encourage them to use your service by default. If a person's N-Gage game collection builds up over the years, the same way their music or photos or videos do, they will come to see N-Gage as their default mobile gaming service. You can't buy that kind of loyalty, it has to be earned over a long period of time, but that makes it all the more valuable when you do get it.

It could all be so cool for N-Gage users and Nokia too, if only we could move our N-Gage games onto our next Nokia phone.
How anti-piracy systems could allow game transfers to new phones

Nokia N85 8GB running Ngage appWe're not 100% sure how Nokia verifies that a game activation code matches the IMEI of a phone, and for obvious reasons they probably want to keep it a secret anyway.

However, we can make some suggestions for new systems, and we've come up with two obvious methods that would allow Nokia to protect games from piracy while also allowing game transfers to new phones:

- Game activation by consulting Nokia's servers:

If a game's activation code compares the phone's IMEI to an IMEI stored by Nokia's servers, then Nokia could themselves change the IMEI associated with an activation code so that it matched your new phone instead of your old phone. This would allow very easy transfer of games from one phone to another, because after such a change the codes would no longer work on the old phone, and they would work on the new one. The anti-piracy measures would remain intact, users would be able to transfer their game library, and everyone would be happy.

There's a possibility this may well be the system Nokia does actually use on N-Gage, in which case they have absolutely no excuse for refusing to transfer game libraries from one phone to another. Under such a system, a game transfer wouldn't compromise anti-piracy measures at all.

- Linking games to a single N-Gage account, and linking that account to a single phone:

An alternative which would also allow transfers, and which would greatly simplify the process of reinstalling games too, is to link games to an N-Gage account, and link the account to an IMEI, verified by Nokia's servers. You would have to log in with your N-Gage username before running the games you've bought. When you log in, the application would compare your current phone's IMEI to the IMEI associated with your N-Gage account on Nokia's servers. If they match, it would allow you access to your game collection.

When the time comes to upgrade to a new phone, you could simply ask Nokia to change your account's IMEI from the old phone's to the new phone's, and perhaps that process could even be automated so you could do it yourself. Because the games would only work with your account, and your account would only work with one phone, this would be just as much an anti-piracy measure as individual game activation codes.

A Final Thought

Nokia have been very careful with the N-Gage platform up to this point, there really weren't any obvious mis-steps until now. By forbidding transfers of games to new phones, it seems Nokia has made its first big blunder on the new N-Gage platform.

It's inconcievable that the issue of transferring games never came up in the platform development process, either practically with damaged handsets, or in brainstorming sessions about what could go wrong for the user. Nokia's answer, buy the games again, is sorely lacking on the customer services front. Let's hope that as the real world implications of this policy become clearer Nokia take a serious second look at it. It's not too late to allow transfers, and it would be much better to alter policy now while the number of users is still small and the damage is very limited.

Continuing with the current policy harms the platform, drives away customers, and goes against common sense. It has to change if N-Gage is to become a viable long term gaming platform and internet service.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to install N-Gage direct to your phone without a PC

The official N-Gage site's installation instructions seem to concentrate on installing the N-Gage application using a PC. However, there is a much quicker and simpler alternative which lets you install the N-Gage app directly onto your phone through its web browser. Click on the headline of this news item for more details...

If you look carefully on the official "Get N-Gage" page, you'll see a mobile N-Gage installation site mentioned using teeny tiny letters, so tiny that this writer missed it until recently.

In fact the mobile site provides probably the easiest method for installing N-Gage on your phone, much easier than the PC-based way that the official site recommends.

Here's how to do it the mobile way:
  1. Open your phone's web browser and go to this adddress:
  2. You'll now see a special mobile site that lets you install the N-Gage app directly onto your phone. Follow the instructions and press "OK", "Yes" and "Continue" to all the questions.
  3. After the app has installed, close the phone's web browser.
And that's it, the N-Gage app should now be installed and ready to go! If it's not on the front page of the menu system, try looking in the Applications folder.

Need to update the phone's firmware?

If the installation process tells you to update the phone's firmware (referred to as "software" by Nokia for some weird reason), this is something you'll have to do before you can install N-Gage.

For a firmware update, you'll need access to a Windows PC if you want to do it yourself. The actual updating process is fairly easy, just download and install the Nokia Software Updater on your PC, launch it and follow its instructions.

If you don't have a Windows PC, you can get your phone's firmware updated at a Nokia-approved service centre (you can find one of these by clicking on the "Support" link of your region's Nokia website).

Reset Generation

Nokia have held the coming out party, Project White Rock is now offically Reset Generation - Ewan takes a closer look at the new information about Nokia's flagship N-Gage title, due out this summer.

The covers have been lifted, and while not everything is on show, 'Project: White Rock' is no more – we now know that Nokia are hoping their key title in the new gaming world will be Reset Generation.

What Do We Know Now?

We’re still missing a fair amount of information, and key evidence, such as gameplay videos, haven’t yet made an appearance, but let’s put together what information we do have via Nokia’s recent press events around the game, and via some questions put to the game’s Designer and Executive Producer, Scott Foe.

Nokia sums up the short answer with this simple quote: “Inviting to play and unfairly addictive, this [is a] fast paced multiplayer puzzle game…” Your goal is to rescue the princesses from the castles, and to do so before the other opponents in the gameplay area, while defending your own princess in the process. To help you on your way you have everything a good computer hero needs, from puzzle blocks, defensive cannons, legendary items and special hero powers.

If this all seems a touch cliché, and harking back to the plots and ideals of games from the 80’s and early 90’s, then that’s because it is – every game needs an artistic theme and direction, and Reset Generation is no different. And the team must be in heaven, as the game is aimed squarely at other video games, primarily the games that those in their twenties and thirties would have grown up with. The colours are bold and brash, the design is very much of the Amiga and Atari ST era, and the in-game soundtrack is from the band 8 Bit Weapon (who make all their music on, you’ve guessed it, old video game machines).

Meet Your Heroes!

Expect lots of hidden tips of the hats and homages hiding in the game (could the Biggest Freaking Gun Possible, the BFGP be any closer to DooM’s BFG9000?), and that’s after you look at the characters you have available to play. We have:

Reset Generation, 9 of the Cast

* The Aggressor (Special power: 4 way laser shot)
Modelled on the Recognisers from Tron, the slow and orderly progress of the Aggressor could suit players who like to build up to victory.

* Babe Runner (Special power: leap diagonally across the map while firing)
The Buxom Brit on a quest for the legendary artifact - hmmm, who could that be? - is likely to be a fast and lithe character.

* Cyborg (Special power: Rocket Jump in any direction, burning the ground beneath you)
Sounds like we have our Samus from Metroid, although a rocket firing laser toting cyborg is very, very specific.

* Level 50 Elf (Special power: dropping a line of coloured blocks with her stick)
Elfs usually get a raw deal in games like this, being the average of everything, but expect the Elf in Reset Generation to be very capable in the hands of a good player.

* Dr Lovebomber (Special power: colour bomb that hurts enemies and changes block colours)
Constantly defeated by The Plumber (coming up in mo!) the Dr continues a long line of in-game end-of-level foes.

* Monster Trainer (Special power: summon the dark wizard to blast blocks and other heroes on your behalf)
Gotta catch em all springs to mind, with a tiny square to collect, file, index and stamp tiny creatures from a popular video game series at your behest.

* Ninja (Special power: Switching places with another hero)
Born from Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Way of the Exploding Fist (depending on your age) the cries of "I am ninja!" will surely ring round the Reset Generation arenas.

* Plumber (Special power: Ladies Man, which can charm the Princesses to fetch him special items off the map)
Video games? Plumber? Nope, no idea who this could be...

* Hedgehog (Special power: super fast running across the board)
Well if you've got the plumber, you're gonna need to have the arch rival as well, aren't you?

* Sci-Fi Knight (Mind Trick, which can temporarily allow you to control your enemies)
Perhaps 'this isn't the game you're looking for', but no matter. Everyone wants to be a laser sword wielding mystic magician... with a gravelly voice like Alex Guiness.

Bonus points to the first hacker (who’s not part of the Nokia Dev Team) who patches the released game to switch these names back to what your brain is remembering.

That's Very Nice, But How Do You Play It?

Foe has previously talked about the challenge of online multi-player games in high latency environments (that’s when it takes a long time - in computer terms – to pass information out to all the players) and how to overcome that while preserving the challenge. This lends itself to a turn based game, which is what Reset Generation is, but the turn is not as simple as a single move. There are phases to the turn, so for example there will be some actions that will happen before all the players move.

Moving across the grid means making a path in your own colour, which is achieved by dropping Tetris style puzzle pieces onto the game grid - this is the first phase of each turn. You can't move on anything other than your own colour, so you'll need to balance building paths for yourself against blocking your opponent - oh and trying to get a 'five blocks in a row' combo which allows you to move further along the paths than normal. Dropping blocks where you think your opponent will drop blocks will cancel out both blocks - and it's possible to strand your opponent in no mans land while you slowly advance towards your target princess.

After placing your pieces, you can fire your cannons, taking out up to two enemy colour squares on the board. Again, if two players target the same square, they're going to cancel each other out and nothing happens. Remember that with these phases happening sequentially, the opportunites for tactical play, second guessing and striving to trigger combos is going to lead to a whole host of different ways that people will be able to play the game. Expect tactics to be discussed frequently and often around the N-Gage forums.

Like any good action movie though, getting the princess is only half the battle, you need to sling her over your shoulder and high tail it back to your home castle to win the game, which is where the movement phase comes in. This is where everyone takes turns to romp across the board, heading for their princess - or operating a decapitation strategy, because if you fight and knock out an opponent, you are automatically delivered their Princess, which could be a potential shortcut.

The Only Valid Test Is Combat

While Reset Generation has a single-player story, I suspect that this will be regarded as a extended tutorial for the main action,, letting you experience the skills and quirks of each character before embarking on what the game is really about - the online multiplayer mode. Balancing that out is the big design challenge. How have Foe and his team gone about this?

“The main way is in the super powers,” explains Foe. “These are truly devastating – come on, these guys are super heroes. They should be able to lay waste to large areas, they should be able to flatten the bad guys.” He puts it in terms of Hold Em Poker – if an unskilled player draws a pair of aces at the start of the game, it’s very likely he’s going to win, no matter what the skilled player does. The same situation happens if an unskilled player in Reset Generation lines up a superpower play. Of course, over ten hands of poker, the skilled player is likely to win seven or eight of them, so while there is still luck involved, skill is a vital component in matches where players are not paired with other players of a similar strength.

“We like to think that Reset Generation is a high luck, high skill game,” punctuates Foe. While you could take on anyone in the multiplayer environment, the server will do its best to pair you up with someone of similar ability – one of the hidden benefits of having a global leaderboard is allowing this match up facility, as well as providing bragging rights for those at the top of the overall board.

The ranking boards are also going to be a fascinating tool for learning – every game played on Reset Generation will be available for an instant replay by anyone out there. Fancy watching the top players to see their strategies and tricks? Not a problem, it’s all going to be on show. Given that Foe’s last game, Pocket Kingdom, had a huge amount of game data facing the public, it wouldn’t surprise me in this user generated content world to see a ‘This Week in Reset Gen’ sports punditry style video show online.

Other boards are available, and these will be represented in-game with ‘belts', in a similar way to those used in boxing and wrestling. These will be visible and tradable, and belts for goals (such as most princess captures) will be strewn throughout the gaming world.
Are We Ready to Rumble?

Nokia and Foe certainly have confidence in the project – it’s the biggest push I can recall for any N-Gage game, past or present, and the early press is not missing a beat in heaping praise on the title in the run up to its release.

One interesting sideline is that Reset Generation will be multi-platform, running not just on the N-Gage compatible smartphones, but also as a web-based widget that will run on Windows PC (browser compatibility and other Operating Systems hasn’t been made clear yet). This is free to anyone, not just those who has purchased the game, and is going to mean that, as well as an expected smartphone demo, you could in theory become the world’s greatest Reset Generation player not through your N-Gage phone, but through playing the game on Facebook.

That is breaking new ground – it’s not a silo gameplay area that's tasked with keeping smartphone and web players separate, but one connected world (surely a message Nokia as a whole wants to push). In any case, it adds another interesting strategy to the campaign, allowing it to promote a service effectively being given away for free – even with a 5% conversion rate, the number of potential eyeballs that could see the widget is huge, and the knock on effect for N-Gage as a whole could mean that Reset Generation is perceived as the title that launches the fabled N-Gage ‘next generation gaming platform’ to the masses.

This isn’t a 'by the numbers, grind it out' title. Years have been spent on this title, and Nokia are right to believe that it could be an absolute game changer – sure there is a fear that it could fall absolutely flat, but coverage in the regular gamng press has been almost universal in delivering praise for the title – Edge magazine devoted six pages, and you don’t do that for a clunker.

Foe closed off my brief time with him on a note that indirectly addresses that love of gaming in the development team; “Companies don’t make games, people make games.” To that I would add people play games as well, and Reset Generation looks like it’s going to be one of the most playable games of the year. That’s right, no qualification on ‘mobile game’ or ‘portable game,’ but over the whole gaming landscape.

Reset Generation is coming.

Monday, May 12, 2008

N96 and N78 exclusive hands-on

I finally managed to get my hands-on these fabulous devices and ask few questions on this and that. I’ve compared the N96, N78, N82 black, N95 8GB, and the N81 8GB. It took some effort to present the differences, and I managed to get everyone staring at me like I was a maniac.

Below you can notice the dimensions comparison between all those phones mentioned above. From the top: N95 8GB, N78, N82 Black, N96, N81 8GB N81 8GB, N96 (thanks to everyone who pointed out this mistake).

From top N95 8GB, N78, N82 Black, N96, N81 8GB

An obvious observation here is that the N95 8GB is the thickest of them all, while the N96 and N95 8GB seem to be the widest thanks to their 2.8″ display.All the phones have the 3.5mm jack on top, while only the N81 8GB and N96 have the lock switch. The N78 and N82 Black don’t have the USB port or the charging port on the bottom.

N78 notes

Notice anything different between the image with the keypad backlight lit and the one that’s not lit? This innovative and amazing design with all black seems to hide some of the keys and make the device look superslick. A small but fantastic detail.

The keypad seems to have a gap next to the green key (call key), and according to Henri Mattila, it’s so that people don’t press keys by mistake. I kept on pressing it, as my finger recognized it as the Menu key, but the Menu key is on the left side of the numeric keypad. The keypad in general, you just have to get used to it, it isn’t as bad as it looks, the keys are well rised and your fingers can differentiate. Henri even proposed a competition and said he could type on the N78 faster than ANY of us on OUR phones

As you can see the navi-wheel is slightly lifted up, and that gives a good feeling to finger for scrolling. The last gallery item button has been removed, and no to access the gallery, the most recommended way is pressing the multimedia key.

There are two pairs of pins. One is at the left of the SIM card slot, and the other is above the camera flash. These make noise if you remove the back cover and shake the phone.

The software is the best part! The N78 runs on Symbian OS9.3 with S60 v3.2 Feature Pack 2. This Feature Pack 2 brings much more than email functionality as previously announced. It has splendid transitions and animations, which means that you don’t have to wait for Touch UI! The future is here with this Feature Pack! I really don’t have words to describe how unexpected and cool this is. If you go into a new “window”, for example a new folder, there is a Fade Smoothly transition, like those found in Microsoft PowerPoint. It’s even better than Windows Vista animations, as you really feel the futuristic detail. The same to selections, if you are on the Menu or anywhere else, if you move through the icons, the selection icon also has a futuristic feel. If there is a reason to buy the N78, this is one of the best. The camera animation is even better, and it was shown to us be Matilla himself. If you hold on to the camera button, it activates the application, but in order to change to landscape mode, the portrait display goes inside, turns 90 degrees, and comes back to the fullscreen.

The same can’t be said about the N96, the firmware was very early and extremely buggy, while on the N78, everything was smooth. The navi-wheel was another highlight of the phone. It worked even on the Menu, and probably when it is released as a production model, there will be much more to it.

I enquired about the lack of the lock switch, and Henri affirmed that it fits better and is rather appropriate to slider phones, and that’s why it’s not included in this one. I also asked about speaker positioning. There’s one on top right lateral part, and one in bottom left, which is a rather awkward combination. Henri stated that the N78 is made to be hold with a hand, so audio will flow better with that speaker positioning.

Another program I noticed included in the phone was Message Reader, which should read SMSes by voice, which is quite useful for drivers or if you just don’t feel like looking to your phone.

Last but not least, the SPMark for the N78 was 950.

N96 notes

At the right N96 N81 8GB, and at the left the N81 8GB N96. It’s not just the display that’s bigger, but there are few minor changes in cosmetics on the front. The keys are slightly separated, and the multimedia key is smaller. The navi-wheel is made thinner and higher so that it feels good to the finger.

Here it’s noticeable that the N81 8GB and N96 don’t differ much on thickness.

The N96 has a larger camera button, which is better for capturing and autofocus. Another change is the speaker placement. The N96 has a new speaker positioning, which is drives sound better if the phone is kept on the kickstand according to Matilla, and I truly agree with him.

The N96 has definitely a better keypad. Besides having wider keys, there are visual separations between them, and it’s much more “typeable” than the N81’s keypad. The slider itself feels like a mix between the N81’s and N95’s slider, not too rough, not too springy.

These pictures show the difference on the N96 camera when compared to the N818GB. They are both very similar, although the N96’s one is quite larger, as well as the dual flash. There are lines around the camera which supposedly are simple cosmetic details.

The memory card slot on the N96 is quite difficult to open without fingernails.

For some technical reason, the N96’s battery is placed laterally and not in a normal position such as the N81. It uses the BL-5F with 950mAH, same as the Nokia N95.

The above pictures show the N96 sitting on its kickstand.

The flash is quite intense, and stronger than any camera flash I have seen, besides Xenon flash. The LED gets quite hot, so I’m not sure if recording for long will damage any internal circuitry.

The glossy surface leaves a lot of marks, especially fingerprints.

The multimedia keys feel excellent as they are quite large, and there are two gaming buttons, one sitting with the Play button, and the other with the Stop button. There seems to be some light leaking from the sides, although I don’t know if this is on purpose.

The N95 8GBs multimedia keys are considerably smaller than the N96’s. The kickstand feels really useful, and we miss it on the N95. We have never noticed the kickstand feature, but now that we have it, it really seems useful for multimedia playback or other features. The N96 is very loud when it comes to music or video, possibly one of the loudest phones in the market. The video player can play the files from beginning or from where you left the video last time.

The N96’s camera and flash seem to be quite larger than the N95 8GB. The N95 has a round outline to it, while the N96 has an oval outline to it, where the kickstand resides.

The software installed was quiet weak, one of the devices wasn’t working, while all others would crash often. The navi-wheel had no functionality.

A new feature in both these phones was the task switcher option in all applications. Whenever you press the left soft key, you could call the task switcher.

The SPMark wouldn’t install, so I cannot get you a score, and I could take videos either as the video recording application would crash after two seconds of recording.

More inside on these NSeries soon as I publish my interview with Henri Mattila, but for now please appreciate the interview with Alex Lambeek, VP for entry-level devices at Nokia.

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