Friday, November 28, 2008

Nokia Download! Review

It seems like every smartphone manufacturer has or is introducing an App Store of their own. When you mention App Store most people will think the first was Apple iPhone's App Store. There's little doubt that Apple was the first to successful make consumers aware of the concept but only diehard Nokia fans know that Nokia phones have been carrying the feature for the past few years in the form of Download!

Until recently, the games and applications available for your phone were either from your carrier's online WAP site (for some reason, most of them call it "mall") or something you found on the Internet and you manually loaded. Cellphone manufacturers have traditionally been locked out from creating their own App Stores as it would compete directly with the ones hosted by the carriers.

In 2007, Apple's iPhone totally changed the entire cellphone industry. I know it's been said again and again but I have to mention it again as Apple resisted all pressures to do things the way the carriers wanted. This meant no branding, no carrier control on the phone software, and the manufacturer could sell directly to the consumer (Apple with the iTunes store). The last fact opened up the door to Apple's App Store so consumers could download applications and games without them being heavily filtered by the cell carriers. This has allowed Google, Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia to similarly push their own App Stores directly to consumers.

Being one of the oldest app stores of the bunch, does Nokia Download! really have what it takes to compete? Let's take a walk through Download! and if you have a S60 device on hand you should go take a visit. Make sure you have a SIM card in your phone as Download! uses that to determine your region and what applications you will see...

For this review and all screen shots, I am running Download! version 3.2.818 on the Nokia E71 with a AT&T SIM.

Nokia's Download! opens up to a grid view:

It looks just like the regular S60 interface of your phone but just without your custom icons

Clicking on any of the folders switches you to a list view:

This view takes more screen space yet doesn't give you any more information than the grid view. That little green phone with orange screen icon at the top right of Mail for Exchange shows that I have the application on my phone and clicking on it will run it on my phone instead of trying to download it. If you see a blue phone it means an update for the application is available.

Clicking Option > View Details gives you a description of the application:

I have a hard time making a downloading decision based on this description. Imagine making an actual purchase for paid software based on it

You can download and install applications directly from Download!

If your phone gets wiped out you'll have to re-purchase everything since you don't get the SIS install file with your purchase

Purchase history (Options > My items):

This list is stored on your phone unlike Apple's App Store. Purchasing software from Download! usually involves a credit card so make sure the connection to the software vendor is secure by clicking Options > Security Details when making a purchase

You can see from the screenshots that Nokia designed Download! to work seamlessly with the S60 UI. You can even run applications you already have on your phone from Dowload! Download! is a great way for Nokia to centralize all their software and list only software designed to work for the consumer's handset.

Without comparing Download! to any other App Store you can see there are numerous improvements that Nokia make to Download! There is no list of new software so you have to search each folder to see if anything has changed. No search function so, again, you have to search each folder to find the software you want. The UI needs to be reworked so it shows more information about the applications. It's tedious to have to click "show details" for each application just to see what each does. Moreover, there's just so little information that I can't make a download or purchase decision on it alone. Lately, Nokia has been updating their software catalog so software like Nokia Sports Tracker are finally showing up on Download! after being listed on Nokia's mobile download sites for a few months. But Download! is missing a lot of great well known software such as Mobitubia (YouTube client), Screenshot, fring, and CorePlayer. Overall the Download! experience is fairly inconsistent with the view switching from grid to list for no obvious reason, purchasing something can be secure but not guaranteed, and the little icons shown at the top right of application icons are not clearly described (I'm not sure if it's even consistent because I saw a blue icon so I was downloading the update, cancelled the install, and the icon turned black. It wasn't orange to show I had it and not blue to show there's an update available).

With Nokia making Download! required for downloading some of their latest software like viNe and free software like Birdstep Smartconnect, there's no real point to recommending or not recommending as it's already on your S60 phone and sometimes there's no way around it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Buy: Nokia Maps with 1 year voice navigation for $15.99

In the latest Best Buy Mobile Buyer's Guide (11/23/08 - 12/27/08) I found a surprise. As most of us know, Best Buy Mobile sells unlocked Nokia handsets such as the N96 ($599.99) and 8600 Luna. But now Best Buy Mobile also sells Nokia Maps and N-Gage games both for $15.99.

Nokia Maps includes:
  • One year voice guided turn by turn navigation
  • Completed Nokia Maps: North America
  • Choice of multimedia city guide
  • 2GB memory card

Nokia Games includes:
  • World Series of Poker
  • Creatures of the Deep
  • Sims 2 Pets
  • 2GB memory card
  • 14 free trial games from N-gage

The Nokia Games package includes some of the most popular games with World Series of Poker hitting the top 5 games on n-gage for the last couple weeks. They've included a diverse set of games with one being card based, a strategy and more female oriented, and finally a slower paced male oriented. It doesn't really target any particular demographic. This may have been a decision to appeal to a much broader audience but considering each of these games retails for around $5.99 online, you aren't getting a significant discount purchasing the package and getting some games you don't really want. It does include a 2GB memory card but most Nokia handsets already include one with the phone so it isn't a big incentive.

The much better priced package is Nokia Maps by far. To see how significant the Nokia Maps package is, just take a look at Nokia's pricing for Nokia Maps navigation:

3.5 What does the navigation cost?
Navigation license 1 week 1 month 1 year 3 years
Category A 6,49 € 7,99 € 59,99 € 69,99 €
Category B 7,49 € 8,99 € 69,99 € 79,99 €
Category C 8,99 € 9,99 € 89,99 € 99,99 €

Countries and Regions in Category A Navigation Upgrade: Iberia, France plus Benelux, DACH, Italy plus, Alp Region, Nordic Countries, Benelux Plus, British Isles, Turkey, Eastern Europe, Canada, Hong Kong & Macau, Adriatic Plus
Countries and Regions in Category B Navigation Upgrade: Russia, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, South-East Asia, Australia, South Africa, India
Countries and Regions in Category C Navigation Upgrades: Middle East, Western Europe, North America, Egypt
Source: Nokia, November 26, 2008

Considering a 3-year navigation upgrade for USA maps (you have to buy all of North America) costs about $149, the new Nokia Maps navigation package for $15.99 with 1 year navigation is much better priced.

I personally wasn't able to find Nokia Maps package at the Best Buy by my office so I recommend calling ahead to ensure they have it in stock.

Oddly, Best Buy Mobile is selling the Nokia Maps package for $99:

Source: Best Buy Mobile, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vampent vBagX Review: Gameboy Advance on your S60

While Nokia is trying to build creditibility to their N-gage mobile gaming platform, much of the portable gaming market was and continues to be held by dedicated gaming systems like Nintendo's DS and Sony's PSP. Just the number of top rate games available on one of these systems far outweigh all the games available on the S60. One way to quickly increase the number of top quality titles is bringing it onto the S60 through emulation.

The power of S60 phones have dramatically increased in the past few months and software like vBag make emulation of yesterday's dedicated portable gaming systems like the hugely popular Nintendo Gameboy Advance possible. With vBag your phone can play any number of games from the GBA's huge library of portable games. Imagine classic like Super Mario Advance 2, Super Mario Kart, and the Legend of Zelda on your phone:

It may sound impressive so find out if the claims are true that you can really get the GBA experience on your S60 phone by following the jump to read the full review...

For this post I will be reviewing vBagX x1.20 S60v3 on the most common Nokia S60 architectures:
32bit Freescale MXC300369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSPE63, E66, E71, N78, N79, N81, N85
Texas Instruments OMAP2420330 MHz ARM1136 + 220 MHz TI TMS320C55xDSP + PowerVR MBX 2D/3D Graphics Accelerator + IVAN82, N95

I don't have all of these phones so I'll be testing on both a N82 and a E71 to cover both of these architectures on vBag 's performance. A SanDisk 8GB microSDHC class 4 on the N82 and a Nokia 2GB microSD on the E71 memory card were used during this review. vBag was installed on the memory card in both cases because all GBA ROMS (.gba) must be placed in \Data\Others\vBag\

vBagX gives you the option to use Bitmap (software rendered) or Direct (hardware rendered) but Direct has never worked for me on either the N82, E71, or even other Vampent products on my 6682.

From my experiences, the E71 renders games exactly as they are on the GBA but some games do run into issues with sprites not appearing in the right spot (see compatibility).

Super Mario Kart Advance runs smoothly with all image layers on the Nokia N82

vBagX comfortably handles the portrait layout found on most S60 phones like the N82 and the landscape layout like the E71. It can also handle screen rotations but the rotation must be done before starting a game otherwise the rotation will cause a screen problem. You can also manually change the screen orientation under Graph > Size (you can rotate the screen 90 degrees left or right, keep it at original reolution or expand to fill the screen).

You do encounter some frame drops here and there even on the higher powered N82/N95. The E71 is more choppy. You can adjust how much frames (0-9) you're OK with vBagX skipping to keep a consistent game speed.

vBagX supports full stereo audio on the GBA. However there is a very very minor lag in audio on the N82 but the audio was very out of sync on the E71 by about 0.5 seconds.

This is highly dependent on the model and firmware of your phone.

My E71 encountered choppy frame rate and lagged audio. There was no way I could play Street Fighter II the same way as I did on a GBA.

I didn't experience any of the lag with the dual core architecture of the N82. But there were a few dropped frames here and there in high speed games like Super Mario Kart. It was very playable but not as smooth as playing on a real Gameboy Advance.

There is currently a running thread of compatible games on Vampent's forum. Here is a list of games I've tested and played:
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario Advance 4 (Super Mario 3)
Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World)
Contra Advance (Contra 3)
The Legend of Zelda - The Minish Cup
Final Fantasy Advance Tactics
Mario Pinball Land
Super Street Fighter II

All of them worked for me running on compatibilty mode 1. That's the scary but powerful thing. Vampent thought to add a compatibilty setting that goes from 1 to 3 (where 3 is slowest but closest compatibility with GBA) in vBagX so some games work in one setting but not others.

The single core architecture used in the Nokia E71 lends itself better to RPG games like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

Phone keypads for gaming
You're playing games designed for the GBA's keypad. First off you're losing out on the left (L) and right (R) buttons at the top of the GBA since no S60 phone features these. Secondly, the ring D-pad of most S60 phones don't lend themselves well to diagonal (ie. left-right) presses. Similar to the keyboard on computers, a certain combination of simulataneous key presses can register an error on the phone and thus ignoring the key press. It's annoying when you have to hold one key while tapping another like flying in Super Mario Advance 4.

If you can get past all those physical limitations, vBagX allows you to map any GBA key to almost any phone key. Unfortunately only the volume up/down media keys are currently supported for N95/N96.

I've frequently referred to vBag, vNes, or vBoy under the keypad sections in my reviews as these games were designed for the highly comfortable, high quality, and dedicated to gaming keypad of the Nintendo Gameboy Advance. More often than not, the keypads of a phone aren't built with gaming in mind so button placement is compromised and button quality isn't high on the priority of phone manufacturers. If you plan to game a lot on the road then I highly recommend bringing along a Wii-mote and downloading Mobipad so you can use the better Wii-mote controller for gaming.

Playing GBA games with a Wii-mote paired to your S60 phone via Bluetooth is a lot more enjoyable and comfortable

vBagX delivers high quality gaming to the S60 platform by giving users access to Gameboy Advance's library of games. Most of my Gameboy Advance games ran fine on vBag with an acceptable framerate, little to no graphical errors, and mostly synchronized audio playback. Since most games require quick reflexes and timing, you need to get either a N82 or any flavor of the N95 to fully enjoy vBagX. I highly recommend downloading the trial vBagX to your phone to test before purchasing it to ensure it runs your favorite games smoothly and you're confortable with the keypad on your phone. If you do decide to purchase vBagX, Vampent offers lifetime upgrades of the vBagX product and I've heard their customer service is really good.

Software rating: Highly Recommend

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nokia E65 Review

Although the E66 is out, the E65 will continue to be popular because the E66 doesn't have the same visual characteristics as the E65.

Compared to the E65, the E66 is wider, uses flat boring soft keys, and loses the round "cute" look that appealed to female users.

I like the look of the E65 more than the E66 which is why I think it's still worth the effort to do a review on the E65 when its successor has already arrived on the market. Read the review after the jump.

When the Nokia E65 came out, it was the first slider available in Nokia's Eseries portfolio and a huge departure from the boxy styling of the E70, E61, and E60 that filled the Eseries portfolio. The E65 brought beauty into Eseries with its leather-life battery cover texture and round smooth shape. It was also Nokia's second S60 3rd edition slider and one of the smallest sliders in Nokia's portfolio - the first S60 3rd edition slider being the large N80. All these gave the E65 a unique position to fill a void in Nokia's portfolio and help sell millions of Eseries devices.

Although there is a later firmware available from Nokia (v4.0633.74.00), my own unit was running firmware version v1.0633.18.01 (11-01-07). I really need to update my firmware.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia E65 (RM-208)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 2100
Weight: 115 g
Dimensions: 105 x 49 x 15.5 mm
Battery life (stand by): 264 hours (GSM), 336 hours (WCDMA)
Battery life (talk): 360 minutes (GSM), 150 minutes (WCDMA)
CPU: Texas Instruments OMAP 1710, 220MHz ARM926TEJ with Embedded TMS320C55x DSP

My phone was manufactured by: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Nokia. It's probably China



The E65 is similar in width to the N82 but a lot shorter (when closed) and thinner. They're both of similar width. The E65 feels a lot more solid with no creaking.


The E65 is one of Nokia's early S60 slider devices. With a thickness of only 15.5mm, Nokia did an impeccable job in offering wifi and 2MP camera in a package that rivals that of the N80.

The sliding mechanism has won praise from many members of HowardForums for its smooth spring loaded slide mechanism and solid feel with little to no creaking even after months of ownership.

Its rounded edges give it a comfortable in-hand feel and make it pleasant to look at. The textured battery cover give the E65 a sophisticated feel.

The keypad light has little to no leakage. The D-pad is not lighted. As with most phones these days, lighting is controlled by a light sensor.

The SIM mechanisms on E-series are some of the worst designs I've encountered and the E65 is no different .

I side my SIM card out by poking it with my nails through that hole. Note the microSD slot at the top of the photo.

The screen resolution is 240 x 320 and can display up to 16.7M colors. Compared to current Nokia displays, the E65 looks pale in comparison but still performs well under direct sun. It's about the same size as the E71 screen and smaller than the N82.

The D-pad is surrounded by a cluster of 4 buttons: Contacts, "My Own" (you can set it to anything) and 2 other buttons that I never use (conference call and mute). Around that cluster is another ring with the soft keys at the top and the call/end keys at the bottom. This ring of buttons are narrow so it can be uncomfortable using the S60 menu key (like holding it to bring up the list of active applications). The D-pad itself also uses a very narrow ring for the up/down/left/right keys so holding it long to scroll through a web page can be uncomfortable. You can tell a lot of trade offs were made in the usability category to suit the asthetics of the design.

The numeric keypad buttons are all flush with each other but curved to form a crease that runs vertically though the middle of the keys. The keys offer a moderate amount of feedback due to the thin buttons.

So how is the E65 keypad for gaming? I loaded up VBoy and VNes to compare it to the pretty decent gaming experience I had with my old Nokia 6682. VBoy and VNes ran very smoothly on the phone but the thin ring d-pad is not comfortable at all to play games and there's no way to perform diagonal movement (say holding up and right) so games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 or 3 were very tricky and games requiring careful side to side movements like Super Mario 3 were difficult. The E65 does not lend itself well to gaming due to the thin softkeys and d-pad. The flush keypad also makes it difficult to feel the difference between keys beside each other.

From a phone perspective, you can comfortably use the E65 with one hand since all the keys are all clustered near the center of the phone.

At the time WiFi wasn't common on phones so having WiFi on a phone this small was quite an accomplishment in design.

With high data charge rates in Canada from Rogers and roaming a lot for my work and vacations, having WiFi will save you a lot of money. Unlike other FP0 phones, the wireless scan plug-in is included and found on the home screen allowing you to effortlessly connect.

The WiFi reception is weaker than a laptop's, stronger than my E71 but weaker than my N82.

You can connect the N82 to your computer using Bluetooth or data cable (Unfortunately the E65 is an older Nokia and still uses the pop port). You can install Nokia PC Suite to synchronize the E65 with your computer. You do not need to install PC Suite to install any applications/games onto the E65 as you can install them from the phone.

You can pair devices, you can send images/files/ringtones/themes and virtually any content via bluetooth to another device. All files received appear in your inbox so it's not obvious . If your BT is off you can still send media, the phone prompts you to turn on BT but you'll need to manually turn it off.

Transfers occur in the background so you can multi-task during this time.

Pairing the E65 with a PC gives you these features in the included Bluetooth profiles:
Dial up networking
HS Audio gateway
OBEX Object Push
OBEX File Transfer
Serial Port


Sound Quality
The outgoing sound quality has static and the receiver will know you're calling from a cell. I tested out calling to a landline from my N82 by walking along a busy corridor, quiet corridor, to a semi-busy hall. I called two different people and both reported static and I switched roles with one and heard the static. I tried to same call from my W810i to a landline and it was clean according to the receiver. I recorded my voice with the voice recorder and I didn't hear the static in the recording as I did in the call.

Incoming sound quality is clear and loud. A lot louder than my W810i in busy places.

I had the chance to use the N82 in Japan, where they are currently migrating to standardized 3G on WCDMA 2100. The incoming sound quality was loud and clear while outgoing sound quality was loud but picked up a bit of the surrounding noise.

The Speakerphone works well with a volume just lower than the E71. Voices come out clear.

Headset use
I haven't tested this.

Multimedia Features

The camera user interface (UI) resembles older non N-series phones and takes pictures in the portait orientation.

A small camera module keeps the E65 size small and your photos low in quality

Although the E65 includes a 2MP camera, it produces very low quality photos that don't even come close to matching the older Sony Ericsson K790/W810i

Surprisingly the E65 does capture photos in the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) format. EXIF is a variation on the JPEG that includes extra interchange information such as shutter speed, focal length, and lens aperture. The W810i provides: Width, Height, Horizontal Resolution, Vertical Resolution, Bit Depth, Frame Count, Equipment Make, Camera Model, Lens Aperture, Focal Length, F-Number, Exposure Time, ISO Speed, Metering Mode, Light Source, Date Picture Taken, Flash Mode, and Color Representation.

Image Resolution
640x480, 1600x1200


self timer
Self descriptive, it allows you to set up a timer and get into the shot. Choices are: off, 10 secs, 20 secs, and 30 secs.

White Balance
Auto, Sunny, Incandescent, fluorescent

Colour Tone
Normal, Sephia, Black & White, Negative

sequence mode
single, burst (6), 10 sec, 30 sec, 1 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes

The first takes one photo at a time. The burst mode will take 6 pictures or more until you let go of the shutter button. The other timed settings will take a picture every 10 sec, 30 sec, 1 minute, etc.

Shutter Sound
In most E65 firmware, you cannot silent the shutter sound or the autofocus sound even if you switch to Silent mode in Profiles. EURO firmwares allow you to silence the shutter and autofocus sounds in silent mode.

Automatic mode

Night Mode
There's a night mode as well, but it's fairly hard to use as it requires you to be completely still. These pictures were taken with very little external light.

Without night mode, E65 compared to E71:

With night mode, E65 compared to E71:

The E65 night mode makes a big difference to seeing anything in dark environments but introduces a lot of noise. The night mode is better than the E71 in terms of color and noise management.

The E65 camera is very poor which can't compare to 2MP modules found in either the iPhone or Blackberry Curve.

Macro Mode
The E65 doesn't support macro photos so every close photo turned out blurry.

From a E65 compared to a E71 (macro)

The N82 also records video. You can record directly to the memory card and length of the movie is only bound by the amount of free space available. It's the same settings as the N95.

Different quality settings:
Length - Short (max 176x144), Max
Resolution - 128x96, 176x144, 352x288

Audio Recording: On/Off

The E65 has a really slow shutter so you have to be very still and your subject has to be very still:

You're going to miss a lot of photos with this camera


The E65 has 20MB of RAM so it's not like the large amounts that adorn current S60 phones. It's enough to run one or two applications at the same timebut if you run too many you will have applications automatically close.

The menu and navigation is fast, almost as fast as my W810i.

Seeing the N82 has more power than the N73 (baseline n-gage platform) and includes 3D hardware acceleration like the N95, I don't see any issues running the upcoming n-gage games. It can play vNes and vBoy with no issues. vBag and vSun are not practical to run on this phone with major lag. The E65 doesn't have N-gage and won't likely get it. There are a wealth of S60 applications designed for the N73 that will run well on the E65. But some of the latest Nokia applications won't run on the E65's FP0 like Nokia Maps 2.0 or viNe.

I tried WPT (World Poker Tour) Hold Em 2 on the E65 and it played a lot slower than the W810i version. Bejeweled was equally slow. Java was slow on my 6682 so I suspect it's a Java implementation problem on Nokia's end. I guess it doesn't really matter as they're pushing S60 software/games over Java.

External Memory
The memory card is hot swappable so you can take it out while the phone is on. It only supports up to 4GB with no support for microSDHC.

The battery life lasts an impressive (for S60) 3-4 days. Not as long as the E71 but a lot longer than the 1.5-2 days of the N82.

Charging from 1 bar of battery to full took less than an hour.

Build quality...........9
Features for $.........9
Battery life.............7


*Beautiful design
*Solid build with little to no creaking
*Smooth spring loaded slide mechanism
*Strong RF
*Great incoming sound
*Amazing phonebook organization
*lots of existing S60 games/apps
*great battery life

*Slow CPU
*Small screen
*Narrow D-pad ring
*Poor camera
*No US 3G support
*runs S60 FP0 so lots of Nokia apps won't work like Nokia Maps

The smartphone market is highly competitive and the E65 lacks the horsepower (small display, slow CPU, very little RAM) to keep up with the rest. The E65 still makes a great phone and still highly recommend the E65 to users who are looking for a stylish thin slider with the flexibility of a smart phone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Which uses more power? WiFi or 3G?

I had that same question on my mind after Ziostilon posted that question on HowardForums. Fellow HoFo member jessi3k3 showed that WiFi consumes a little more energy than EDGE. Another HoFo member, RogerPodacter, brought up some good points to suggest that WiFi should consume less power than 3G because the cell towers are further away and it'd require more energy to move the same amount of data in longer distances. But an argument against that is WiFi was developed without mobile devices in mind so power consumption wasn't of the highest concern which is why Bluetooth was developed and that 3G is designed with mobile devices in mind so it should be optimized for limited power consumption.

So we ran Nokia Internet Radio at 128kbps and used Nokia Energy Profiler just to see for ourselves what really consumed more power...

802.11G with WPA-PSK (WiFi):

Test #1

Test #3

AT&T 3G:

Test #2

Test #4

From my test with Nokia Energy Profiler, it shows that 3G does consume more power than WiFi in streaming the 128kbps.

This is how I tested (so you can try it too):
I'm using the same Nokia E71-2 running firmware 100.07.76 for all the tests. I used a Linksys WRT54G with 802.11G WPA-PSK. According to this map of AT&T's 3G network from this summer, I'm in the blue area so I have strong 3G support. I wish I knew where the tower is so I could write a better post.

Software used:
Nokia Energy Profiler 1.1 (1-May-08)
Nokia Internet Radio 1.06 (or get it through Download! on your device)
Screenshot for Symbian OS (S60) 3.01 (just to take those pretty screenshots)

1. Open Energy Profiler
2. Turn on Internet Radio
3. Options > Settings
4. Set access point (if you change this value, you need to restart Internet Radio for the change to take effect)
5. Set all the bitrate to Best Quality (128kbps)
6. Choose a radio station and wait for it to finish buffering
7. Go to Energy Profiler and click Options > Start

I alternated tests between WiFi and 3G (which is why the screenshots go from Test 1, 3, 2, 4) to rule out the case that earlier runs might produce more favorable results than later tests and tested each connection more than once because one test is never enough.

This test really changed my perception that WiFi is a power hog. Even with the burden of WPA-PSK, WiFi consumed less power for me. HoFo member oddsocks gives a pretty good explanation on why 3G consumes just by the specs. I guess this explains why Steve Jobs of Apple added WiFi to the iPhone and complained about 3G chipsets not being ready for mobile devices.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ovi down for 2.5 hours in the middle of the day

The Ovi page as of 8pm EST on November 19, 2008

You may have read my post about switching my image hosting to Ovi. Well, they're down for maintance and I didn't notice any notifications that they would be down.

The worst part is my recent uploaded photos are inaccessible so my last post about SmartConnect is missing all the screen shots. This really makes me reconsider Ovi for hosting.

Clicking on the "For more information about this outage, please visit our Forum." link brings you to their forum where every thread is locked

The board expect us to:

subscribe to a forum board:

Log in
Go to the forum board to which you want to subscribe
Click "Board Options" at the top of the board
Select "Add This Board To My Subscriptions

Couldn't they have told us this from the Ovi Service page a couple days in advanced? If you look closely at the forum screenshot I took, there aren't any notifications for today so even if you did subscribe you wouldn't know of this down time.

The way Ovi handled this maintenance time was really poorly communicated and having servers hosting content go down too isn't good for people relying on the content.

Birdstep SmartConnect for S60

11/28/2008 Updated: Version 1.2.61 is now available on Download! which fixes a bug that can crash the phone when SmartConnect can't connect to any access points in its list. So go download it now unless you like crashes.

07/21/2009 Updated: SmartConnect is now free for select E-series and N-series phones.
Nokia Eseries: E50, E51, E51(no camera), E52, E55, E60, E61, E61i, E61i China variant, E62, E63, E65, E66, E70, E71, E75, E90
Nokia Nseries: N76, N78, N79, N81, N82, N85, N86 (8MP), N95, N95 (8GB), N96
You can download BirdStep SmartConnect 1.3.6 directly from BirdStep.

Birdstep's SmartConnect for S60 helps you manage your access points so you can seamlessly move from high speed limited range WiFi access points to highly accessible data packet access points to keep you always connected. Now you can have all your applications connect via one access point and not think twice about choosing the access point.

And now it's free for Nokia E-series devices on Nokia's Download! service.

For a full review and rating follow the jump...

Built-in access point management is not included in S60 FP1 and lower. Nokia had tried to address this in their earlier E-series devices with Access Point Groups but the feature lacked the ability to prioritize access points and many applications didn't support it like Nokia's own Mail for Exchange. A few software vendors tried to address this issue with Psiloc Connect and Birdstep SmartConnect. Thankfully Nokia is providing SmartConnect to E-series users through a free download - and it's definitely worth the download. So in this blog entry I'll be reviewing Birdstep SmartConnect for Symbian OS Standard Edition

By using a SmartConnect access point, it let's you workaround that annoying bug in newer versions of Fring where it won't let you select a hidden WiFi access point!

If you're like me, then you want some proof that this application is worth installing before you clog your highly optimized smartphone. Here's a little walkthrough of features in SmartConnect:

The connection groups created in SmartConnect resemble a data packet access point so you can use it in any application:

For each group you can also control whether SmartConnect will stay connected to the access point it's currently using or switch to a better one when available. By default it's set to Stay connected which I recommend.

You can select any number of access points:

If you're wondering, you can't select another SmartConnect access point to be in a SmartConnect access point to create an infinite loop.

You can reorganize the priority of the access points in the SmartConnect access point:

If you like fast access then you'll want WiFi access points at the top


Control the number of notifications given by SmartConnect, allows SmartConnect to prompt you to add the new access point, and disable roaming so SmartConnect won't use data packet access points when you're outside your carrier's network

You can even add hotspots that support WISPr like Boingo and have SmartConnect automatically authenticate:

Add the hotspot like you would a WiFi access point then highlight and select options > Connection Settings > Hotspot settings

Adding a new access point will prompt you if you want to add it to an existing SmartConnect access point:

You can disable the automatic prompt in Options > Advanced > Settings > Prompt on new conn.

During my week of using SmartConnect I've only encountered one hang where I was using a SmartConnect access point and I tried to edit it. I tried reproducing the problem but it didn't hang again.

If you have no data plan or a limited data plan and frequently visit the same places with WiFi access points then SmartConnect is a no brainer. SmartConnect removes the need for setting all your applications to "Always Prompt" in the connection settings. For those of you using Mail for Exchange this is a must have so your mail seamlessly gets sync'ed no matter which WiFi point you're at. For those of you that do have unlimited 3G data plans, WiFi is still faster and SmartConnect will help you get that extra speed without any extra work.

Software rating: Highly Recommend

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Nokia E71 Eseries Pouch

I personally love my E71. It looks amazing with its thin profile and classy use of chrome, very good build quality with little to no creaks, and a flexible robust S60 operating system.

Here is my E71 with the included OEM pouch:

In case you don't have a E71, a thin ring around the D-pad serves as the LED notifcation when you miss a message

But like most of Nokia's line of phones, the E71 is not without its flaws like weak e-mail program with no HTML support. But I want to bring to your attention a simple straightforward flaw in the design of the E71 that reminds me that Nokia still needs a lot of work.

Being designed by Nokia for the E71 and included with the E71 retail package, the case is exactly the right size for the E71:

The exposed stitching definitely looks nice so here's a close up:

A classy Nokia Eseries logo is etched onto the outside. The outside material is soft to touch and feels like leather.

The Nokia E71 easily slides into the case with its soft red fabric interior:

The bumps of the phone like the D-pad ring and the camera will slowly make an imprint on the case:

Now you might be thinking, what is this whole blog entry about and what's wrong with the case? Well just look at that last photo of the E71 in the case. If the LED message indicator is around the D-pad, how can I tell I missed a message when the case covers the D-pad?

It's sad that RIM got this right in every single Blackberry they've ever put out:

Look at that huge exposed notification LED at the top right of that Blackberry.

Yes, it's pretty to see the D-pad blink, sort of like the Blackberry's glowing trackball, but the practical usage tradeoff is ridiculous. If I have the E71 in my pocket or in a belt holster, I can only see the top of the phone so a notification LED should be at the top not on the face of the phone.

The good thing is that Nokia really shows a willingness to listen to consumers and the changes from the E61 to the E71 reflect that. I'm hoping Nokia's next QWERTY keyboard phone will show an improvement in this area.