Sunday, November 30, 2008

What’s up with Friend View!

Hi all! We are very grateful about all the feedback we’ve got during Friend View’s first three weeks of public experience in Beta Labs.

We have been reading feedback thoroughly and discussing it in the team. There have been many questions and we have been answering as many as possible, some through e-mail and some by replying to comments on the Beta Labs’ Blog and even in some other blogs. Unfortunately, it is not possible to answer to each and everyone, so through this new post we’ll try to clear some common concerns and questions that have arisen since Friend View’s Beta Labs launch.

Client update

A new S60 client has been released already. Updates should come automatically when you start the application on the phone.

This update has some small fixes, probably not very visible to many but meaningful nevertheless. Some fixes were requested by our users, as e.g. supporting T9 and adding the same zoom keys as Nokia Maps for E71 & E90, among others.

Web version improved

There is already a mobile version of for downloading the client. Now, when you go to our home page from your S60 browser you’ll be able to instantly download and install Friend View to your phone. Since last week we’ve also done some small fixes in the web UI in general.

FAQ & concerns

Maps & Cache: Friend View does cache maps in your phone’s memory card, so they are not downloaded more than once (unless you clear the cache yourself). There sometimes can be some slowness of the previously cached maps shown on screen, and this has led to a possible misconception about the loading of maps.

Also, as some of you have noticed, we’re following the Sports Tracker look-and-feel in order to share map content. Our map content cache is shared with this version of Sports Tracker. This is the reason why Friend View maps are different than Nokia Maps, which may be on your phone already.

Location & Standby: If you have Location Sharing ON, your GPS (precise location) or Network-based (approximate location) are updated to the server and shared with your friends periodically. And while Friend View is in the background (or standby mode), your location is still updated but this happens less often. In this way your phone saves battery. So far, Friend View does not load information from the server while it is kept in the background, it only updates again when it comes to foreground (a blinking icon on top-left corner indicates searching network) . Your location might seem old , when the application comes from background to foreground, until the foreground application re-acquires your position from GPS or network based location.

Keep up with Friend View

We are working on more improvements and considering your ideas and requests. There is still a long way to go, and we’ll hope to keep hearing your comments to make Friend View more fun and interesting.

Let us hear from you!

GPS-Action 1.0 for Series 60.3: Alarms and actions depend on your mobile location

With GPS-Action your mobile will become even more smart: it will fire alarms and perform different actions depending on your geographical position (GPS). Available also for devices without internal GPS, basing on Cell ID positioning! Version 1.0 released 25.11.2008

Bored with alarms firing in the wrong place? GPS-Action will fire reminder exactly when you reach the target place, no sooner and no later! Depending on your geographical location GPS-Action will fire alarm, open the application, change profile, launch the website, open a document or a certain application for you. Bluetooth status change included, of course.

No more time lost with GPS-Action: your mobile knows the right time and right place!

General information:

GPS-Action software sets automatic alarms and performs different actions according to the GPS and Cell position of the mobile phone.

You can launch the application, which you have selected, launch the desired document or change the profile or a Buetooth status of your mobile phone when achieving some geographical position.

Application may fire alarm and display a custom note as soon as you reach your destination.

All actions are performed without any user interaction, only using the location based information.

You have no GPS inside your mobile? No problem! GPS-Action works also with CellID information that is available to all devices without GPS module.

Nokia native landmarks are included automatically into the application.

Easy to use software

GPS-Action is very easy to use. You need to undergo only three simple steps after installation:

* Adjust software settings: here the main thing to adjust the way of geo-positioning: based on GPS, Cell location or both ways. Also you should define your working days and alarm sound volume here.
* Create your own landmarks (if you have your Nokia landmarks already, this step can be omitted): your target places where you want the alarms to be fired and actions to be executed are called landmarks. You can define landmarks as your current place, add landmarks from ready Nokia Landmarks (for devices with built-in GPS) or define landmark coordinates manually.
* Create alarms and actions schedule based on the landmarks: during this step you set type of action and alarm to be executed, as well as alarm frequency, minimal playtime, condition and corresponding landmark.

GPS and Cell ID positioning: available to all S60.3 devices, also without GPS.

There are two types of location positioning: GPS positioning and Cell positioning. GPS positioning is very precise. It is achieved via satellite and it is available for the devices with built-in GPS or external GPS-receiver. This location type has its drawback: connection to the satellite is not possible through walls. So if you are inside, your GPS position will most probably not be retrieved.

For this case, and also for the devices without built-in GPS receiver, we have the second positioning type: location by Cells. Cells are available at all GSM operators, it is the mast where your mobile is receiving the information about the GSM network and your mobile operator. This info is available everywhere, where the GSM network is available. However, the CellID positioning is not so precise. As the GPS positioning, sometimes cells are situated far from each other, so the area for your landmark can be vast enough

Key Features:

* Alarms and actions performed silently, as soon as the geographical target is achieved
* Recurring alarms and actions with many scheduling conditions
* Variety of actions include: change profile, change BT status, open document, launch application, launch website.
* Action frequency can be restricted for the case you are approaching the same landmark more then once
* Time range for the action or alarm can be restricted, you will not be bothered at night.
* Two types of geo positioning: based on GPS and Cell information
* Available for all Series 60.3 devices, even to those without GPS receiver.
* Full synchronisation with native Nokia Landmarks
* Minimal alarm playtime can be set, as well as personalized alarm note
* Customizable alarm sound for every single alarm.

Registration Information:

The trial version of the software is limited for 10 days. The full version of the software is obtained by a license code provided upon purchase. The license code is based on the unique IMEI provided and the application can be used exclusively on the device it is licensed for. The license cannot be retrieved and applied to other devices.

You can buy the application also directly from the application menu in Options- Buy. You will be taken to a secured online page of SymbianGuru where Credit Card payment can be done.

Please make sure that the trial version of the GPS Action Series 60.3 is installed on your phone and you like its performance. The Full Version will have exactly the same performance, so please try before you buy.

We do not grant any money back guarantee for the software you purchase.


We will be glad to support you at support (at) if you have any questions or concerns. We are always glad to hear from you!

GPS-Action: Place-dependent actions

Kudos to Symbian Guru (the developer, not the blogger) for introducing a new genre of S60 utility. GPS-Action uses GPS and/or cell ID to fire alarms, switch profiles, open applications, etc. according to where you are rather than the time of day. So, for example, you could be reminded to look for a particular product the next time you get to the shopping mall. Lots more other examples and information at the main GPS-Action page.

"With GPS-Action your mobile will become even more smart: it will fire alarms and perform different actions depending on your geographical position (GPS). Available also for devices without internal GPS, basing on Cell ID positioning! Version 1.0 released 25.11.2008

Bored with alarms firing in the wrong place? GPS-Action will fire reminder exactly when you reach the target place, no sooner and no later! Depending on your geographical location GPS-Action will fire alarm, open the application, change profile, launch the website, open a document or a certain application for you. Bluetooth status change included, of course.

Key Features:

* Alarms and actions performed silently, as soon as the geographical target is achieved
* Recurring alarms and actions with many scheduling conditions
* Variety of actions include: change profile, change BT status, open document, launch application, launch website.
* Action frequency can be restricted for the case you are approaching the same landmark more then once
* Time range for the action or alarm can be restricted, you will not be bothered at night.
* Two types of geo positioning: based on GPS and Cell information
* Available for all Series 60.3 devices, even to those without GPS receiver.
* Full synchronisation with native Nokia Landmarks
* Minimal alarm playtime can be set, as well as personalized alarm note
* Customizable alarm sound for every single alarm."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nokia N79 Review

Putting the Nokia N79 (metaphorically) next to the original N73 is instructive - not only has the specification dramatically improved in the intervening three years, it's smaller, sleeker and lighter and is a testament to the onward march of technology. Putting the N79 next to the N78, it's closest living relative, is also instructive, in that the N79 is smaller and higher specification again, and with a more normal design to boot. Rafe's commented at length on the positioning of the N79 and N78 in the article linked above, so I won't repeat it.

Another interesting comparison is putting the new N79 up against the year old N82 - as two of Nokia's leading 'candy bar' form factor smartphones, both still in production, it makes for an obvious 'which one to buy' moment. However, referring back to Rafe's comments again, the N79 is pitched much more at the mass market, with its XpressOn covers, white iPod-like front and NaviWheel, and with its diminutive size. While the N82 was pitched fairly squarely at photo-and-video-centric power users, a market which it continues to serve well. So I won't go into more depth in terms of an N79-N82 comparison, apart from the little spec table added as 'Appendix A' at the bottom of this review, which will give you a quick overview of the N79's relative specification plus points compared to the (now very well known) N82.

In fact, despite the lack of heavyweight features like the hardware graphics acceleration, the list of Nokia 'toys' (FM transmitter, NaviWheel, keylock, dual LED flash) that's now integrated and taken for granted in such a mid-tier smartphone is really rather impressive. But how well have they been integrated in the N79 and how well do they all perform as part of a whole?

N79 - The hardware

At only 15mm thick for most of its length, at 97g in weight and at only 74cc in volume, the N79 is commendably small, considering what's packed inside. Whereas the N82 always seems a little over-sized compared to the average High Street candy bar, the N79 slips into the hand or pocket just perfectly and, if this is where monoblock phones will end up, it's a pretty good 'sweet spot' in terms of compromise between screen/key size and overall bulk.

As witnessed by my tour of Nokia's test centre at Farnborough, responsible for testing N78 and N79s (in particular) to destruction, the N79's hardware is pretty robust. Any creaking of the case when pressed is minimal and, given what Nokia put it through, there's just about zero chance this thing will break, short of dropping it from a great height or running it over in something very heavy.

The display's 2.4", as on the N82 and N78, but very clear in all light conditions, including bright sunlight, an area where some modern devices [FX: Steve looks at HTC...] fall down horribly.

The much-hyped Xpress-On covers are a bit of a gimmick, to be honest - yes, it's cool that the phone's theme changes automatically to match, but a) you won't spend much time looking at the back of your phone and b) the theme change may override a favourite theme you've set manually. In fact, even sticking with just the one cover, it's annoying enough that even a simple removal of the back cover (to change a SIM card, for example) is enough to revert the N79 back to its 'matching' theme. Thankfully, this behaviour can be turned off in 'Settings'.

The control and numeric keys are a bit of an acquired taste - Nokia continue to experiment. Here, the function, call and hang-up keys are all raised, N82-style, with the S60 menu and 'c' keys recessed in between and with the infamously useless 'multimedia carousel' key offset to the left.

The numeric keys don't have much separation between them, in terms of feel and I didn't like the way the critical bottom row has been squeezed in at the very bottom - pressing '*' or '#' is almost enough to fire the phone from your hand in response to the necessary pinching action. In common with the N79 and N82, the N79 has an approach to key backlighting that means that under certain conditions (here it's half/dim light) the key legends effectively become invisible, with the backlight just counteracting the darkness of the legend in such a way to render them unreadable:

All of which I can live with though - the strangest thing about the N79 design is the d-pad. After getting used to phone d-pads in which the outer 'ring' is raised, it's a big shock to use the N79's 'inverted' arrangement, with a central dimple that's raised a good 1mm above a flush (to the control surface) outer ring. It certainly makes the design point about the d-pad centre being the 'third/central function key', but it will take some getting used to. The outer ring is a full 'NaviWheel' here, interestingly, so you can cycle round applications or photos by circling your finger around the central dimple, a system that works well enough without really being as convincing as the original iPod control wheel, the device that started the craze.

Around the N79's perimeter are:

* a 2mm charging port (not a huge problem, although clearly USB charging will be used more in future devices)

* a wonderfully elegant combined hatch (with retained flap) for microSD (a 4GB card is included with each device) and microUSB connectivity

a keylock ley (a trend first started on the Palm Treo, I think, and one which I heartily approve of - it's so much quicker to flick one key than fiddle around manually activating an S60 keylock with left function + '*' or using the power key shortcut)

* a 3.5mm audio jack (also enabled for TV out, although there's no cable for this in the box, and in practice a bug in the early firmware means that photos aren't passed through the TV out system correctly - Nokia, work needed here!)

* the power key

* up/down rocker (for call volume changes, for photo zooming, for music volume changes, and so on)

* camera shutter key

* stereo speakers (positioned as on the N82, at either end of the right hand side, for use when the phone is in 'video mode', and as loud as those on the N95 and N82 and of quite decent quality)

The exterior keys on the N79 are very well made, again backing up what I saw at Farnborough. The back cover is plastic, of course, complete with theme-changing microchip, and is something of a fingerprint magnet, though thankfully you won't be looking at the N79's rear too often, so this isn't really a problem.

The 5 megapixel camera is well protected with a manual sliding shutter. Opening this starts the Camera application, closing it closes the app, etc. Very convenient and quick when you've simply got to grab an important snap. Camera is much the same as in all other recent S60 phones, with the addition that you can now 'Customise toolbar', taking off adjustments that you find yourself not using or just re-jigging the order of the toolbar functions, a tweak which is very useful indeed.

The dual LED flash works well, as documented here, although clearly not up to Xenon levels. Photos taken in daylight come out well and are comparable to those from the flagship N95 8GB and N82. Here are some samples, click each to download or open full-size:

Video capture is not so satisfactory. Detail in this mode isn't as good as on previous devices like the N95 and N82. Here's a comparison of frame grabs from video of the same scene (weak winter sunshine by the duck pond), with the N79 first and the N82 below:

A noticeable difference. The effect is more dramatic if you try and film something closer, such as a person in front of you. Again, the N79's video frame grab is on top, the N82 below:

Now, we know that there's no focussing in video mode in any of Nokia's S60 smartphones. A shame, but there you go. Instead, on the N82/N95/N93 Nokia preset a sensible focus that, in good enough light, means that the depth of field is from about 1 metre to infinity. For some reason, the focus seems messed up on the N79 (and N96, if you remember) - I'm really hoping that this glitch can be fixed in firmware, otherwise I simply can't recommend the N79 to anyone hoping to capture video on the go.

Being able to flick on the dual LED unit as a 'video light', for evening videos doesn't work well. If your subject is close enough to be lit then they'll complain strongly about the 'dazzling' light into which they're forced to look - I know, I've tried it. And then there's the aforementioned focussing problem, meaning that if the subject is close enough to be lit then they're also close enough to be out of focus.

The presence of a biggish (1200mAh) battery is very welcome and should mean that no new user gets caught unawares by a failing battery, as was the case with the N95 Classic. A 4GB card in the side means that there's plenty of space for getting someone started on the data front too. Particularly interesting was the decision to pre-download SIS files for a dozen or so of the most popular N-Gage games onto the card, ready for installation without the user having to find and download them. With flash memory so cheap, this makes a lot of sense, though letting the user install them to 'C', i.e. the internal disk, makes less sense - with some N-Gage games being tens of Megabytes, a new user could quickly get themselves into trouble. So why not force all games to install to any disk other than 'C'?

Once powered up and running, the N79 is as familiar as any other S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 phone. The fade-in, fade-out, swirl things all around transitions are fun for the first hour but then it's good to turn them off to speed things up - unfortunately, Nokia has rather buried the setting for this - it's in 'Tools|Settings|General|Personalisation|Themes|General|Options|Theme effects' - whoever decided that this was the place to stick this toggle should be shot at dawn.

The other thing that you may want to change quickly is automatic overriding of the theme system - just change it to 'Ask'. The built-in, back-cover-matching themes are decent enough, but it's annoying when you've set up something else and the theme reverts simply because the back cover slipped off and had to be put back on. With the display at only 2.4", I found visibility the main problem, just as on the N82, and so I plumped for my old favourite 'White revisited', shown here (just to be boring) in the screenshots.

There are no surprises in the basic S60 application set. Nokia Photos and Video Centre have taken over from Gallery - largely a positive change, though there are still a few bits of functionality that need to be ported over from the old pre-FP2 system. Some web sites have reported that zooming into a photo takes an eternity, but with the latest (v10.046) firmware I had no problems at all. It was my first experience with the new FP2 'smooth zooming' functionality, but that aside there's little to report.

Nokia Maps is v2.0, of course, there's the Music store widget. Music player itself is unchanged, producing great quality output from files of decent bit rate. The headphones supplied are broken into the 'phones themselves, plus a wired remote, also with a 3.5mm jack, a flexible system that means you can work your audio in any of several different ways. There's A2DP if you want to go wireless and, following in the N78's footsteps, an FM transmitter, offering a second way to ditch your wires.

Designed for use in a car, this works extremely well (in my tests, up to 2 metres) to get your music from phone to car stereo (which even displays 'Nokia' as the RDS station!) without any messing around with adapters or standalone transmitters - a very cool addition and with surprisingly good sound quality.

A 'SW checker' icon in the 'Applications' group turned out to do the same job as the old '*#0000#' from the standby screen, with the addition that, this being one of Nokia's new devices with Red Bend's Over The Air upgrading system built-in, you can check for updates automatically on a schedule of your choice and install any updates seamlessly without loss of data. UDP (User Data Preservation) also seems to be present for Nokia Software Update installs (from a PC) - I tested this and my data and installed applications weren't touched.

Rather confusingly, 'App update' is also present and it's not at all clear which applications are covered by this separate over-the-air system - perhaps there will be a list of approved applications which are kept up to date. Time will tell.

Although video playback was comprehensive (even down to handling WMV and FLV files, for example), proving that there's some decent video decoders in the N79, there's no 3D Graphics Accelerator, as on the more expensive N95 and N82. This isn't a problem for all the N-Gage games, none of which expect acceleration, and it's not a problem for most third party games, but the N79 does come a cropper where you try running just a little too ambitious on it. For example, the racing game Oval Racer runs like treacle on the N79, and the YouTube client Mobitubia stutters along in a way that makes it almost unuseable. I'm presuming that these two applications make use of graphics acceleration.

The status of TV out on the N79 is up for debate - it's advertised as having it but there's no composite AV cable in the box (unlike on other Nseries TV-out-compatible handsets) and, when you do plug it into a TV, photos aren't shown at VGA resolution - rather, the QVGA screen of the device is simply echoed. I'm assuming that this is a firmware bug and that this will be fixed.

Two things which are built-in and fully working are Wi-Fi (always good to see this on a mid-tier phone) and GPS. Contrary to other ill-informed reviews from around the Web, the GPS in the N79 is very fast and as sensitive as on any other Nokia S60 phone. Where casual reviewers talk about slow lock-on times, they almost certainly haven't set up Assisted GPS properly - it's vital to assign this a working data connection for grabbing its satellite data from. Nokia must share some of the blame here - a first-run wizard asking the right question would help avoid similar misunderstandings in future. In practice, I was getting lock times of under ten seconds from a warm start.

Nokia Maps comes with 3 months trial of turn by turn voice instructions, so that's an extra £20 or so value built-into the N79 purchase price. Maps 2.0 may not be the best satellite navigation system for S60 but it's very flexible and does the job most of the time. Most importantly, perhaps, its maps and data are free all the time you're not using the application for road navigation.

Connectivity is, as you would expect, excellent, with 3.5G data, Wi-fi (not always a given in mid-tier phones) and subtleties like UPnP, should you need it. Nokia's implementation of Wi-fi is rarely the best performing, but then the aerial has to be very small to fit the device, so a compromise clearly has to be made. Overall performance is good once you've turned the theme transitions off. Free RAM is 72MB, plenty for even the very hardest of uses. There's 76MB of free flash memory on the internal (C) disk, enough for most of your non-game third party applications.

Looking at the N79 at launch price (over £300, SIM-free) and then at the N82 (for example), currently at less than £300, makes the N79 seem over-priced, but I'd expect its SIM-free price to come down to the £250 mark within the first three months, once the early adopters have had their fill. Looking at Nokia's Nseries candy bars, the N79 is a lot better than its predecessor, the N78, but it's arguably quite a bit worse than the N82, making the N79's price look incongruous. But, as I say, this will come down quickly and won't make much difference when buying the N79 on a modest (£25 a month) contract.

Despite its current failings (poor video capture, fiddly keypad bottom row, lack of graphics oomph), the Nokia N79 is packed with toys and will be a good introduction to S60 3rd Edition FP2 for new users. Moreover, it's extremely robust, rather fashionable (with the cover gimmick) and will provide an awful lot of people with a reliable day to day gadget-packed phone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Opera Mini 4.2. get it now

New in Opera Mini 4.2 (quoted from Opera themselves)

* Skins - Personalize Opera Mini by choosing a new colorful skin. We have reintroduced the popular skinning feature from Opera Mini 3.
* Performance - Opera Mini 4.2 can use our newly established server park in the US. This means significantly faster page downloads for our users in the Americas and Asia-Pacific region. Users in the rest of the world will also experience faster page downloads since we’ve reduced the load on our other servers.
* Video - We are working to make video content available on more phones through Opera Mini. If you have a new Sony Ericsson or Nokia phone, the chance is high that you can take Opera Mini for a spin on
* Sync your Notes -The handy Notes functionality from the Opera Desktop Web browser just got more portable through Opera Link. All of your notes are available in Opera Mini directly from the Bookmarks menu.

You can download Opera Mini 4.2 on your phone by directing its web browser to

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Preview

Please bear in mind that these impressions, observations and pictures come from pre-release hardware and software. As such they may be subject to change, we will have to wait for production hardware and software before drawing any final conclusions.


Announced at Nokia's Remix event in London, at the beginning of October, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a mid-range, music focused phone, running S60 5th Edition on Symbian OS 9.4, with a 3.2 megapixel camera, integrated GPS, WiFi and HSDPA connectivity, and a 3.2 inch touch screen. It's the last item on this feature list which draws attention to what would otherwise be a fairly standard mid range phone.

For the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is one of Nokia's most widely talked about (and leaked) phones of recent memory. There's no doubt that it is going to garner attention, coming in the wake of the recent spate of touch phones, including, of course, the Apple iPhone. While it's not Nokia's first touch phone (Nokia 7700/7110) or its first recent touch device (Nokia N810), it is the first S60 touch enabled phone and is a significant landmark in Nokia's mobile device story. However, it is worth noting from the start that it is not "Nokia's touch phone", instead it is the first in a portfolio of touch enabled phones from Nokia. This is an important distinction because, while the 5800 can tell us much about Nokia's touch platform generally, it can only be fairly assessed in the context of its own market positioning (music focused, cost of 279 Euro before taxes and subsidies).

General Design and Hardware

The 5800, at 111 x 51.7 x 15.5 mm, is a reasonably small package. It is similar in size to the N78 (113 x 49 x 15.1 mm), but slightly heavier at 109g versus 102g. Volume wise, the 5800 is bigger at 83 cc compared to the N78 at 76.5 cc; it does feel bigger in the hand, mainly due to the greater taper on its edges. While the 5800 is significantly bigger than the typical mid-range phone and would do well to be thinner, it compares favourably to other smartphones and does not feel over sized.

Thanks to its relatively narrow width it is, proportionally, closer to the traditional candy bar shape (long rectangle) than most touch screen based phones (short rectangle). If you think of your typical candybar smartphone, remove the keypad and lengthen the screen and you'll get pretty close to the feel of the 5800. The key advantage of this shape is that, for most people, it will be possible to use the device with just one hand; even those with smaller fingers should be able to reach all points on the screen.

The overall design of the device, screen apart, is in line with typical mid range candy bar phones from Nokia. The materials are dominated by light plastics, chiefly black, but with a coloured highlight running around the sides of the phone. Build quality is good, with no rattles or unwelcome squeaks, and it should have good long term durability. It certainly gives the feeling of being able to stand up to quite a lot of abuse.

The front of the device is dominated by the 3.2 inch resistive touch screen, which has a resolution of 360 x 640 pixels (Nokia refer to this as nHD). This is much higher than most previous S60 devices (QVGA: 240 x 320) and has a wider aspect ratio (16:9 compared to 4:3). Touchscreens typically use resistive or capacitive technology; capacitive touchscreens (as used on the iPhone) are generally regarded as more sensitive and work better in sunlight, but only work with finger touch, whereas resistive touchscreens can work with any object (finger, stylus, when wearing gloves etc.). The 5800's screen is set behind the resistive layer and is therefore well protected.

Resistive touchscreens work by having two thin layers of conductive and resistive material which detect a 'touch' when they are pressed together; this means a physical push is required for a touch to be registered. The main concern with such screens, from a usability viewpoint, is how much of push is needed. If you're using the stylus (easily the most accurate way to interact with any touchscreen) with the 5800 then there are no problems at all. Even with the less accurate/controllable finger touch, I was pleasantly surprised about the performance; I've only had one or two instances where a touch did not register. That's extremely good compared to other resitive touch screens I have used. Incidentally, the pre-production model I've been using is much improved over some of the models that were being used for demos at the launch.

The other typical problem with such touch screens is that the resistive layer can dull screen clarity and brightness; but again this isn't an issue with the 5800. Indeed I think the 5800's screen is one of the device's high points; Nokia were quite serious when said it was industry leading at the launch event. Colour range and accuracy is excellent for an LCD based screen and its high resolution gives it impressive detail and sharpness. Outdoor performance, in bright sunshine, is OK, although it doesn't quite measure up to the N95 8GB's transflective screen or the iPhone's capacitive touch screen in terms of visibility.

At the bottom of the screen there are three keys: a send key (green), a home key and an end key (red). The home key (the equivalent of the swirly S60 key) switches between the home screen and the application screen (or with a long press pops up the multi-tasking switcher). The inclusion of the send and end keys is a sensible addition - it allows you to quickly answer or end phone calls without looking at the screen, and, as with other S60 phones, they can also used for shortcuts in numerous places (e.g. activating the call log from the home screen, initiate calls in contacts and so on). At the top of the screen, next to the usual VGA video calling camera, is a proximity sensor which locks the screen (deactivates touch) when you hold the phone to your ear, which should prevent your cheek inadvertently ending calls or sending naughty text messages.

On the left hand side of the device are two plastic doors hiding the slots for the SIM card and microSD memory card respectively. The microSD card, which is hot-swappable, can be taken in and out easily enough (it’s on a spring), but removing the SIM card requires you to remove the back of the device, remove the battery and use the stylus to push the SIM card out. It's not a major problem, but it is a bit fiddly if you regularly swap SIM cards. The device's twin stereo speakers are housed towards the back of the left hand side at either end of the device. This positioning is intentional, the result of which is, when the device is held in landscape orientation, the speakers face towards you and your hands form part of the auditory channel improving the perceived sound quality.

The top of the device has, from left to right, the microUSB port, the standard 3.5mm audio/TV-out port, a standard Nokia 2mm power port and the power button. It is a neat arrangement, and while the audio and USB ports are best placed here, the power port is inconveniently positioned for use with in car chargers. The right hand side, has from top to bottom, volume controls keys, a screen lock slider, and a camera capture key.

The back of the device has a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss optics and an accompanying dual LED flash. The LED flash has the traditional 'concentric-circle' windows rather than the enhanced 'diamond-square' windows found in the N85. The back of the device, which is removable as one piece, is made of a rubbery-plastic material which gives better grip than the shiny plastics used elsewhere on the device; it contains the device's stylus which is accessed from the lower right hand corner.

Connectivity, Battery, Memory

The 5800-1 is quad-band GSM and dual band WCDMA (900/2100MHz) with HSDPA. There will be a number of regional variants (5800-2 and 5800-3) with different WCDMA bands (850/1900) as well as a version for China without any WCDMA radio. All variants also have WiFi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth and USB for local connectivity. TV-out support is provided through the in-box cable which plugs into the 3.5mm audio port.

In software, the 5800 uses the same 'Destinations' (grouped access points) as were first seen in S60 3.2 devices. This means the phone will automatically use the most appropriate access point (e.g. WiFi hotspots, once set up, can be used in preference to the standard cellular access point). Destinations are fully implemented in S60 5th Edition; more of the in-built applications take advantage of destinations and as a result the annoying 'choose access points' dialogs are much less common. It's still not perfect, for example, it can not hand over between access points, but it does address one of the main bug bears of S60 users.

The device ships with a 1320 mAh battery and has a quoted talk time of 9 hours (WCDMA). In use, I found the device would comfortably last 2 days with typical usage, and even with heavy usage it should have no problem getting through a day. Web browsing, video playback, GPS navigation and other activities that involve leave the screen switched on and constant processor activity obviously drain the battery more quickly, but even with constant, non-stop use you should get between 3 and 5 hours, depending on what you're doing. For activities that leave the screen off, the figures are even more impressive, the 5800 is quoted as managing 35 hours of music playback and my tests would certainly support a figure fairly close to that. It is a testament to the skill of Nokia's hardware engineers and the power management capabilities of Symbian OS 9.4 that such figures are possible.

Forum Nokia specifications reveal that the 5800 has an ARM 11 processor running at 369 MHz (presumably the Freescale model as used in other recent S60 devices). The processor speed is, as ever, fairly meaningless; the overall performance of the device is very good. The 5800 has around 80 MB of internal memory available to the end user, enough for a decent number of applications and important user data. There's an 8GB microSD card in the box, adding to the feeling of value for money, which gives a generous amount of room for maps, music, applications, videos and photos. In some markets, there will be music and videos preloaded on to the card and you can also expect to find Maps for your local country preloaded. The phone worked fine with a 16 GB card and should also be compatible with the forthcoming 32 GB cards. There's 128 MB of RAM on board, of which around 72 MB is free after switching on the device, which should be more than sufficient for even strenuous multi taskers.

The most visible addition to S60 5th Edition is touch, and it clearly has a huge impact in the way you interact with the device. It enables both finger touch and stylus touch and supports several device configurations: those with D-pads and keypads, those which are purely touch driven (e.g. the 5800) and those which mix elements of both.

The Nokia 5800 can either be used two handed (stylus or finger touch) or one handed (with finger touch). In pure speed terms, two handed use will generally be quicker and a stylus is more accurate than a finger, but this is set against the convenience of one handed usage (finger). Having this flexibility is a real boon. After all, many short phone interactions (making a call, writing and sending a text message) are done while on the move or in parallel with another activity generally one-handed). Equally, there are times when you'll be able to use two hands and certain activities, mainly centred around multimedia creation and consumption, definitely benefit from this mode of usage.

It is important to realise that S60 5th Edition really is the enabling of touch interaction for the existing S60 UI. If you look at screenshots side by side you see obvious commonalities; those that have used S60 devices before will find a marked feeling of familiarity as they use the new platform.

I think it is fair to say the focus has been around enabling and optimising current UI elements for touch usage, although there are also some brand new UI components. The basic elements are straight forward: applications launch when you touch their icon, menus are accessed via on screen softkeys and items are selected by a simple touch. But the implementation goes much deeper: touch the status icons and a status window opens with summary information, touch the clock and the Clock application opens, touch the profile and a profile switcher menu appears. UI components are redesigned to optimise for finger touch: icons are bigger, the softkeys and menus are fatter, lists are more widely spaced and on screen buttons are larger.

There are new UI components too: in portrait orientation a toolbar appears above the softkeys to giver quicker access to commonly used functionality, in landscape these are combined into a single toolbar/softkey, made up of five components. Web and Camera both use dialogs which pop out from the toolbar to offer multiple shortcuts to key functions. There are also the multiple new text entry options, which are discussed in more detail below.

Scrolling is harder to explain concisely. S60's scrollbars were previously visual indicators, but with a touch screen (and in the absence of a D-pad) they too become an interactive component. You can either drag the scrollbar’s thumb (box) up and down to move quickly to a specific place or you can touch the scrollbar above or below the thumb to move up or down one screen at a time - and to make them easier to use, they've been made wider. It is also possible to scroll using drag methods. For lists it is drag and hold: touch centre of the screen, hold and drag up/down and hold; this scrolls, slowly, through the list. For canvases (e.g. those instances where you can scroll in both directions, such as Web, Nokia Maps and zoomed in images) it is drag and release: touch screen, hold drag to move entire canvas.

For longer lists, scrolling can be cumbersome and, as with earlier versions of S60, such lists (e.g. contacts list) have an adaptive search box towards the bottom of screen. When you start inputting text, the list shrinks to show only those items that match the search term. When you touch the search box an on screen a-z keyboard is shown, but this keyboard is also adaptive, so as you enter a letter, the number of letters on screen is reduced to only show those that will result in a match. Given that such searches usually only need 2 or 3 letters, it is far more convenient than bringing up one of the text entry methods and means that, even for long lists, most entries are just a few taps away.

The 5800 has two important additions to the standard S60 5th Edition offering. The first of these is a customised home screen, 'Contact bar', which Nokia refers to as a 'people centric UI'. It shows four contact shortcuts on the home screen; when a contact is selected, an activity log of communication and recent feed entries for that person is shown, along with shortcuts for calling and messaging. Contact bar is one of three choices for the home screen; the others are the standard basic home screen and the shortcut home screen which offers application shortcuts and notifications (previously known as the active idle screen).

The second addition is the Media bar, which is accessible, at any time, via the dedicated touch-key on the top right of the device, and offers shortcuts to key multimedia applications: Music player, Gallery, Share online and Web. Both additions are worthwhile, though the Contact bar, because it is limited to just four people, feels only skin-deep.

S60's touch implementation is bound to be somewhat controversial because, rather than starting from a blank slate, its origins as a softkey driven UI are clearly evident. Whether you regard that as a benefit or not is open to debate; there are advantages: user familiarity and platform compatibility, and disadvantages: some legacy elements are not well-suited for touch. Furthermore, I do expect people to say that some things have not been done in the 'right way'; an example of this is the absence of finger flick scrolling in contacts (and other lists). In this particular instance, S60 provides adaptive search fields which are arguably more functional.

I think the area that will stir most debate is the use of a focus driven UI. On the 5800, this applies particularly to lists (as used in Contacts, Settings and many other applications). In practice this means that double taps are required to carry out certain actions: the first to select the focus of an item on a list and the second to trigger the default function for the item in focus (for example, in contacts you first tap to select a contact, and then tap again to open the contact).

This contrasts with other touch UIs, where a single tap is required (non-focus driven UI). The advantage of a focus driven UI is that it works across a greater range of devices (e.g. devices with a D-pad); the advantage of non-focus driven UIs is that they tend to be more intuitive for new users. Focus driven UIs tend to have more functions accessed from a menu ('Options' in the case of S60) rather than on screen and this, arguably, allows for richer functionality (but this is a complex area and much depends on the context).

I do think there is room for further touch optimisations. For example, many S60 applications use tabs to switch between screens (e.g. in the Contacts application you can switch between the main list and the groups list), but the tabs only take up about half the available screen space, it would be better if they used all the space, thus giving you a bigger target to hit with your finger. Similarly there are multiple instances, in landscape mode, when only two of the five buttons of the toolbar are used; in some places this is for sake of simplicity, but for others it is a wasted opportunity. There are also instances where the implementation is sub-optimal using finger touch, the best example of this is the scroll bar in landscape mode (it is too easy to inadvertently select something to right or left by mistake).

However, I would class all of these issues under quibbles; and you'll find these in any user interface system you care to name. Clearly there is room for the UI to evolve and improve, but I do not think, given the context, that there are any fundamental flaws in the UI. My overall impression after two weeks of use is very positive. Given some of the negativity that surrounded early previews I have been pleasantly surprised by the first real world implementation of S60 5th Edition.

What impresses most is its flexibility. You can use it either with finger touch (likely most common in western markets) or stylus (likely more common in Asian market) or a combination of the two, making the UI suitable for a global audience. This flexibility is a hallmark of Nokia's platform approach to touch. In assessing the UI, it is important to understand that for Nokia it is not a question of creating one touch phone in isolation, but rather enabling touch in the platform so that there can be a whole portfolio of touch phones. This enables a single platform running on many different devices of different form factors, interaction methods and price points across which Nokia can run a single software and service platform that, through hundreds of operators, reaches across the globe, into many millions of devices.

The 5800's touch implementation includes haptic feedback - when you touch the device, it vibrates. While this does not replicate the feel of touching a button, because the feedback is generalised rather than specific, it does make the device come alive and provides a confirmation that you've touched the screen. It's not perfect, but does significantly enhance the user experience and is especially useful when touching the screen multiple times in quick succession, such as when you are entering text. There are three levels of feedback, of varying strength, or you can switch it off altogether. As an alternative, you can use an audio tone, but, as with keypad tones on non-touch screen, a beep tends to get a little irritating after a while.

There are four distinct methods of entering text on the 5800 (and five, if you include Bluetooth keyboards): on screen, virtual alphanumeric keypad with T9 or multi-tap (portrait), mini-QWERTY keyboard (portrait and landscape), full screen QWERTY (landscape) and handwriting recognition (portrait or landscape). Both the alphanumeric keypad and the full QWERTY keyboard take up the whole screen, when you touch a text entry area they'll occupy the whole screen. By contrast, handwriting recognition and mini-QWERTY appear in a 'window' floating above the active screen. You can switch between the different methods via a pop-up menu (the button with a keyboard icon).

The great benefit of the alphanumeric keypad is that it can be used one handed as you would with a physical keypad. It also works particularly well with finger touch as the on screen keys are larger. It is a complete implementation, letting you use multi-tap or predictive text (T9). Indeed the touch screen allows for some extras, including showing capitalisation, a selectable list of matching words in T9 (usually selected using the star key) and the ability to change cursor position by touch.

The mini-QWERTY keyboard doesn't work well with finger touch (the keys are too small), but is well suited to stylus usage. It floats above the current screen, which means it is also less intrusive than the alphanumeric keypad or full screen QWERTY and this is particularly useful when entering a large amount of text.

The full QWERTY keyboard really needs two hands to be used effectively. I found I achieved about the same speed as with the alphanumeric keypad, but that's probably because I'm more used to using such keypads. There is no automatic text correction software, which is a shame, as mis-hits do inevitably occur; in the future, it would be good to see something similar to the Nokia E71's implementation here.

The handwriting recognition method is necessarily stylus driven and uses a floating window which can be moved around the screen. No special symbols are required; you just need to write each character individually (either lower case or upper case works fine). Recognition occurs as you enter text, with each drawn letter remaining on screen for around half a second (enough time to cross a t or dot an i). Capitalisation occurs automatically or can be forced by an on screen button; while the recognition includes punctuation, less common characters are not as well catered for and are easy to enter via the on screen symbol/character button. Recognition was generally good and can be improved by training the recognition software in the phone's settings. You can also create your own 'character' shortcuts for regularly-used text strings.

For text entry, I tended to use a mix of the alphanumeric keypad and full screen QWERTY, principally because these work best with finger touch. However, it is great to see that the user has a choice; some methods are more suited to certain markets than others, for example, handwriting recognition is likely to be popular in some Asian countries. On occasion, Nokia rightly receives criticism for having multiple ways of doing things in its UI, but in this instance it is exactly the right decision. While I suspect many users will settle on one method and forget the others are there, the critical point is that they have a choice.


After touch, the second headline addition for S60 5th Edition was the introduction of the sensor framework. This provides a standard way for the platform and applications to query and interact with sensors that are available in the device. Accelerometer powered functionality has been seen in earlier devices, but the framework for this varied from device to device - it's now been standardised at the platform level. The 5800 doesn't break any new ground in one sense: automatic screen rotation, flip to silence for incoming calls and alarms, but it is good to see all of this available out of the box. There is now a dedicated 'sensor settings' module in the phones' Settings application which can be used to activate or deactivate each action. Much of the potential is in how third parties might take advantage of the functionality. Now that it is standardised, developers are more likely to use it. For example, in Global Racer, a driving game bundled with the phone, you steer by tilting the phone from side to side. Again it's nothing ground breaking, but it's the starting point for a whole new set of ways of interacting with S60 devices.

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