Thursday, June 12, 2008

iPhone vs N95 - Core Apps - Part 4

It doesn’t matter how advanced the hardware inside your handset is without adequate software to harness and make effective use of it. Let’s begin with a few primary apps (I like to refer to them as Core Apps) that come pre-installed on both handsets or are available as complimentary downloads.


Mobile email has to be one of the most important apps when it comes to any Smartphone. Let’s begin with the iPhone this time. The native Apple Mail app that is included in the list of apps for the iPhone might single handedly be my most missed software (after Safari Mobile of course) after moving to the S60 based N95-4. I currently use up to 3 different email apps just to mimic what I had on my iPhone. These are: Profimail, Gmail (Java version) and the native S60 Nseries Mail application. Long story short the combination of these 3 actually surpasses the single Apple Mail for iPhone since they give me the ability to natively save or attach virtually any file type you can think of (iPhone is currently limited to Photos for native file attachments unless it is Jailbroken). Even though Profimail supports HTML embedded messages, most of the live links that are embedded in those messages tend to fail when you try to activate them. Furthermore, having the extra screen resolution/size is really noticeable when viewing HTML embedded messages with pictures or PDF files. Some of the GUI productivity advantages that I alluded to earlier really come into play here. The iPhone’s Multi-Touch screen makes resizing or zooming in/out of attached pictures or PDF files a refreshingly fluid experience that tends to go unnoticed until you’ve actually had extensive time using both handsets as your primary mobile.

Recently I was renting equipment for an upcoming project when I needed to pull up an attached PDF file. Launched the Gmail App for S60 (takes what feels like years to launch compared the native Apple Mail client for iPhone) and poof I was able to search over 6Gbs of storage in seconds and pull up the PDF file! “That’s great” I thought to myself and showed my friend how great my N95-4 was compared to his 16GB iPhone. “Ok so let me see the PDF” my buddy asked and so I proceeded to load the file up. “Uh oh” it’s not showing the embedded photos properly! “Let’s try it with my iPhone” my friend said and so we called up Safari Mobile and poof there was the file again. Fortunately for me the Web based Gmail client for iPhone was able to perfectly display the PDF file in all its glory and so we pinched and zipped our way through the file and got what we needed to see. After I got home that night I sent that same PDF file to my N95 over Bluetooth and it opened up fine too, which was kind of a relief. Then I proceeded to do my best to log into Gmail again and even selected the “Non mobile” version but both attempts still failed to display the pictures embedded into the PDF properly (they were replaced with dead space).

Here are a few key detractors when it comes to multi-tasking with the N95 in regards to Email proficiency:

* No simultaneous emailing allowed over Wi-Fi while in EDGE mode (during a cellular call) which is something I could always do on an iPhone and is particularly handy when I’m out of a 3G area but have access to an open Wi-Fi network.
* It is a sad reality when an iPhone over EDGE is able to outgun a 3.5G N95 when it comes to HTML email retrieval (speaking specifically to Profimail and the built-in S60 Nseries email clients)


Now let’s skip ahead to Google Maps, since that’s one I use most often. This is an application where having GPS built into the N95 really takes things over the top again, though the form factor comes into play with the N95’s T9 keypad being the primary culprit. Since most street names aren’t saved into its dictionary they need to be added manually. After using the addictive (once you get the hang of things) Multi-Touch keyboard of the iPhone it has been really hard to swallow having to triple tap letters to form words within Google Maps (and the S60 Web browser too). Not only that but one huge plus the iPhone version has is that when you are searching for directions you can auto-fill the “To” or “From” fields with any contact in your address book without having to type their information in again! Routing for a trip takes half the time with the iPhone’s Google Maps App since most of the fields auto-fill themselves. An additional touch that I like is the one click “reverse route” button, which instantly switches the “To” and “From” fields when you’re ready to go back from your original starting point. I’ve also had inconsistencies with the ‘locate me’ feature while on the N95 (even with GPS turned on) vs. the iPhone’s Cell Tower Triangulation which has been more reliable when time is of essence (and spot on accuracy isn’t.)


Web browsing has to be the most significant App for either of these handsets. Since they both run a version of WebKit there seems to be a lot of parallels that can be drawn between the two. Again, screen real estate and resolution are primary hindrances with the N95 vs. the iPhone (especially with a photo heavy website). Even though both handsets basically run around 400mhz, (the iPhone is underclocked on purpose by Apple to save battery life) how is the 3.5G N95 not knocking the pants off the 2.5G iPhone? This was a shocker to me too but it seems as though the superior software development skills at Apple have managed to make the most of their 1st mobile’s limited bandwidth to help give a decent enough experience for general web browsing (especially mobile optimized websites) over EDGE. The N95’s web browser tends to stagger how it chooses to load a website (this is especially noticeable in “page overview” mode) in a way that appears to load most of the text first then everything vanishes for a second until most of the pictures are downloaded too, then everything is finally there together again. 3.5G data connectivity with the N95 is a huge boon to productivity though when you need to download or upload a continuous stream of data and the battery life tradeoff is totally justified in my opinion.

Then there is the aspect of Tabbed browsing which comes heavily into play and is a very important feature to have in a mobile web browser. Again the iPhone’s web browser does a beautiful job of executing tabbed browsing (up to 9 tabs) which can be manually recalled at any time. The S60 Web browser only opens one new tab when it is “forced” to by the website that is currently being viewed. Even something as simple as sending the current URL of a website with the iPhone is a “just works” experience. On the N95 you need to dig through a few submenus only to realize that sending the link as an SMS is the most reliable way of forwarding it to someone, which I find ridiculous (the “send by email” option for a link tends to send it as a WAP attachment which doesn’t seem be work as well most of the time.)

Flash Lite 3.0 is also great to have on hand with the S60 Web browser (though most of the YouTube clips look really low quality even over 3.5G) and something that is basically nonexistent (there is currently a JavaScript bookmarklet called “iTransmogrify” that links certain FLV files to the iPhone’s built in YouTube player however) on the iPhone.

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