Jul 222012
 

There are only a couple of big, de-facto sites (which shall go unnamed) to visit for Nokia/Symbian related news. The problem though is that they have not only been complacent about Elop’s “mistakes” (if you are willing to give Elop that benefit of the doubt: i.e. that he is simply so stupid/incompetent that he makes one huge mistake after another which, unfortunately but simply by chance, have killed both Symbian and Meego, as opposed to the “mistakes” being deliberate actions…), but those sites have actively supported and constantly rationalized, and they still do, Elop’s actions and his decision to move to Windows Phone 7 while ditching Symbian and Meego, the same platforms they defended fiercely prior to Elop’s 2/11 announcement. At the same time they have attacked any and all of their previously loyal readers who have voiced their disagreement with Elop’s actions, all while bashing Symbian.

As such it is, at best, odd that they are now reporting and cheering about Jolla, as the start-up is a direct result of Nokia’s/Elop’s decision to kill off Symbian and Meego, the very same decisions that they have supported and justified all this time. At worst, it is a blatant display of hypocrisy and cowardliness, and a complete lack of respect of their old reader, which leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

You be the judge yourselves but I’m inclined to think it is the latter, and as a result I rarely visit those sites anymore. And I bet that they will continue to report about Jolla, incapable of admitting how foolish their unconditional support of Elop and WP7 was all this time.

May 182012
 

The short answer: given that HTC came up short, again, with the RAM in their latest flagship device, the Galaxy S3 is the obvious and easy choice this year as well; just like last year, the One X’s superior display can’t make up for the worse user experience as a consequence of that.

For the long explanation: read yesterday’s post.

May 172012
 

If you are into Android then you probably haven’t missed the debate regarding the HTC One X’s odd/poor multitasking implementation: in order to free up RAM HTC decided to close background apps more aggressively in order to make the Sense skin run more smoothly. I’ll give my take on the subject from different, and related, angles that I have posted on my blog earlier.

(And if you think that this matter is no big deal then have a look at this video and judge for yourself if you would be willing/wanting to put up with HTC’s implementation: note that the One X is compared to Windows Phone 7 device, which is notorious for its atrocious multitasking, yet it performs better than the One X!)

1) Back when I compared the Galaxy S2 with the HTC Sensation I argued that the Sensation’s less RAM, coupled with the Sense bloat, was a reason enough to not buy the Sensation due to the impact that would have on the user experience. 2) And after I played with the HTC One X I posted that I really don’t like the multitasking-UI in Sense (nor Sense for that matter). 3) In my very last post I suggested that HTC should make a phone with stock Android.

These three separate observations all converge on one single point: the importance of having enough RAM on your device, and HTC’s inability to provide that in order guarantee a good user experience on their last two flagship smartphones. It’s obvious that some people/companies don’t learn from their mistakes. There is simply no reason for users to put up with that as there are other alternatives out there, fortunately.

Android Central tries to be apologetic about the matter and claims that only tech-nerds will be unhappy with HTC’s implementation, but that is really unfair to all non-techie buyers who expect an excellent user a experience on their new and expensive high-end device. But even if you are a techie and know about Sense you still would not expect the One X to behave that way a priori, and one of AC’s readers makes a relevant observation in relation to that.

In all, a very disappointing release from HTC.

May 122012
 

Reading the comments when the Galaxy Nexus was released it was evident that lot of people didn’t buy it because of the less than stellar hardware: only 16 GB of memory and no micro-SD slot, the rather poor 5 Mpx camera and an outdated GPU.

But given the obvious interest in having a stock Android ROM, why doesn’t HTC (or any other OEM) sell such a device with, but with solid hardware-specs instead? It seems like an easy task to create a phone with better HW which would attract all those buyers that rejected the G.Nexus. The only advantage the G.Nexus would have then is that it would still be the device that first receives Android updates, but given that HTC would not need to spend any time on skinning the OS with Sense they could themselves provide an update to their phone almost as soon it becomes available to HTC. I am sure many people would be willing to trade a few weeks of waiting for an update, in exchange for having solid HW. I certainly would.

UPDATE:
Seems like it might happen sooner rather than later:)

May 102012
 

Despite the excellent hardware on the Samsung Galaxy S3 (with that DPI I don’t mind the Pentile-display) I am a little underwhelmed by the S3. Particularly one thing disappointed me after having owned the Galaxy S2: I was hoping for on-screen controls on the S3 (a la the Galaxy Nexus), for three reasons.

1) It improves the usability by simple touching the control instead of doing a long-press of the home button. I feel that when you switch a lot back and forth between open apps those long-presses add up and slow you down, interrupting your flow.

2) By having a dedicated on-screen for multitasking you make it clear that you can multitask on the S3; it may sound like a ridiculous reason but I am amazed how often I have met people that don’t know that their phones multitask, regardless of platform. E.g. just a short while ago I talked with a friend about her iPhone and when she saw me task-switch on her phone she was completely surprised that you could actually switch between apps by double-clicking the home button and immediately replied that it would save her a lot of time. Also, I remember that back in 2006(-ish) Nokia made a deliberate push to make users aware of the fact that Symbian S60 was a multitasking OS in order to try to make them use it as such (and a few months ago I had the exact same situation with a friend who was using an S60 phone: I was even so certain she wouldn’t know about the multitasking that I said upfront “Let me show you something cool you can do with your phone”, and sure enough she had no idea you could do that, and also said that it would make it easier to use the phone).

3) Supposedly the Galaxy Nexus is a reference design/platform for coming Android phones, and the fact that it has on-screen controls presumably means that that is how Android will evolve in the future (just look at Android tablets: they don’t have any buttons on the front); if that’s the case then the S3 isn’t as future proof as it could/should have been.

I was certain that upgrading to the Galaxy S3 would be a no-brainer, but now I’m not sure. Instead, the Galaxy Nexus is calling me more than ever (too bad they never released that 32 GB version). But what’s worse, there probably won’t be any significant new phone releases until fall/September, so this is as good as it gets right now; problem is it doesn’t seem good enough…

Apr 172012
 

I wanted to post about this a couple of months ago when I first read it but I never did, so here it goes anyway, because it’s still relevant.

I wrote about Window Phone 7′s utterly useless implementation of “multitasking”, the reason being, among other things, the arbitrary number of five apps that you can have “running” at the same time instead of the number depending on the available RAM available; running a game such as “Infinity Blade” will inherently use considerably more RAM than a shopping list app, so it simply makes no sense to have that artificial limit of five apps. I thus predicted that the five-app limit would be way too restrictive (and making matters worse is the fact that you have a 3 min timeout before a background app closes on you).

Well, it turns out that prediction was quite correct, as even WP fans are now complaining about the five-apps limit. Problem is though most of them WP users STILL don’t get it, as they are still arguing about what fixed number of apps/cards should be able to run in the background.

But then again, if they really did get it they wouldn’t be using WP7 in the first place…

And when The Verge reviewed the Lumia 900 they wrote:

…Though Microsoft has added some form of multitasking to the OS, there is nearly never a feeling that apps in the “background” are actually still waiting for you. In fact, many apps still deliver a splash screen to you when you reenter them — if this is a developer issue, then I guess most of the hardworking coders on this platform never got the memo. In short, it kind of sucks to use. Where iOS and Android at least feel responsive in packing and unpacking background apps, Windows Phone often comes across as broken and limp.

I rest my case.

Apr 162012
 

I had the opportunity to play around with the HTC One X today, and the overall it was a mixed experience.

On the plus side: it’s very light and thin, with a [seemingly] thinner bezel than the Galaxy SII has, and the display was drop dead gorgeous, this is definitely the display to beat right now, regardless of platform.

The minuses: I think Sense UI was a very good thing (read: “a necessity”) on Windows Mobile, but on Android it just feels like reinventing the wheel, but not for the better. E.g. I really didn’t care for how the multitasking screen is represented, with the “half-profile” screen shots. But I am very much aware of that this is a very personal thing. What’s worse though was that every time I returned to the home screen I got a “Loading…” animation for about 5 sec. before all the widgets were loaded. Every. Single. Time. Something was obviously amiss, but that only confirms my opinion of Sense UI…

But again, the hardware is excellent, with a real good feel; let’s see Samsung’s response with the Galaxy SIII…

Oct 272011
 

I was really looking forward to the Galaxy Nexus with its rumored HD display, I was quite certain that it would replace my Samsung Galaxy S2.

However, I was also expecting that the display would be surrounded by a thinner border than the Galaxy S2, thus creating a device that was basically of equal size as the S2. Instead, they kept that border width and we now have a phone that is 10mm taller than the already-not-small S2. And that is the main reason for me not buying one: it is simply too large.

The other reason is the lack of a microSD slot though I could live with that in the shape of the 32GB version, but it’s certainly a disappointment.

I do expect though that we, by Christmas, will see other Ice Cream Sandwich phones, among which I’d like to see a new top-of-the-line device from HTC, which I expect will have learned from their mistake with the Sensation compared to the Galaxy S2 (only 768MB RAM vs 1GB) and pack everything they can into a device with a slimmer form factor.

But if we don’t get anything for the holidays there is always the rumored Galaxy S3 of course, which will surely be worth waiting for; in the meantime, ICS running on the S2 hardware is certainly nothing to sneeze at….

Oct 272011
 

After a vacation and a long break it’s time to blog again; plenty has happened since my last post so there will be a lot to cover!

But for the last couple of days the blog has been flooded by a spam bot, so at the moment I’ve set that all comments needs to be approved by me: I really don’t like that process I prefer to see the comments being published immediately, but it will have to be that way until the spamming stops.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

 Posted by at 9:47 am  Comments Off
Sep 022011
 

The latest news out of Nokia is that they are going on a patent offensive in order to try to generate revenue.

Given how they are voluntarily choking the availability in various countries of the Nokia N9, which could provide them with much needed revenue, it is sad to see how Nokia are desperately recurring to the same tactics that Microsoft is known for; whether it is just a coincidence that all of this is happening, including Nokia’s economical calamities, at the same time that Stephen Elop – a former Microsoft employee – is Nokia’s CEO, is anyone’s guess….

Aug 302011
 

A while back I wrote about two features that are often overlooked in smartphones: a notification LED and profiles. But those features are not brand new, they are “out there” and ready to be used. What I am proposing here has not been implemented yet in any touchscreen phone (to my knowledge at least).

1. A way to easisly scroll a webpage by a full page (i.e. pageup/down). Currently, the constant dragging of the page is tedious and unnecesarily fatigues the eyes by forcing you to track how much you drag the page. This functionality could easily be implemented by either some gesture, or better still, to allow for a remapping of the volume keys so that they could [optionally] provide this functionality within the browser only.

2. The ability to add shortcuts to the multitasking screen. If you look at the multitasking screen in both Android and iOS you’ll notice that there is a lot of empty, unused space there. But that space could be put to excellent use if you were able to define app-shortcuts in that empty space; that would be an easy, and intuitive, way to significantly boost the number of “one-click-away”-apps, beyond the four permanent apps at the bottom of the home screen.

Both these ideas would greatly increase the usability; will we ever see them in our smartphones?

Aug 282011
 

I find it amusing that Matthew Miller points out that during his year with various Windows Phone 7 devices he hasn’t experienced a reset yet.

Well, duh! That is hardly surprising, nor impressive, given that WP7 has so far been little more than a feature phone, with no multitasking; if WP7 wouldn’t be rock solid even under those conditions then that would truly be an impressive feat of crappy engineering, wouldn’t it? But I guess WP7 fans just need something to rave about, what with the lack of other basic functionality.

And for the record, my iPhone 4 hasn’t had a single reset in the 9 months I have owned the phone. So what’s his point?

Rather, that still begs the question: what’s the point of WP7? Why would anyone bother with WP7 at all instead of an iPhone if you’re OK with a “walled garden”, or something like the Samsung Galaxy S2 (which is my current device) if you want a truly powerful and customizable phone? That’s the question that WP7 fans still have not been able to answer, beyond their loud yet empty and nonsensical hyping of the platform.

Aug 202011
 

I have commented before how many WP7 users/fanboys are in complete denial about their platform, and rabidly go into defensive- and name calling mode when someone points out a flaw or make a negative comment about WP7. They surpass, by far, the iPhone zealots in that regard. (And to any WP7 users reading this: no, that is not a good thing).

The latest example of their attitude and behavior towards anyone who is not impressed by WP7 can be seen at WMPoweruser, who sum up Cnet’s Molly Wood’s experience for the last two weeks with WP7 Mango. It’s seemingly incomprehensibly to them that someone might simply not be impressed by, or even dislike, WP, and that WP actually might not be good. But what’s worse, it certainly was no good at all before Mango, and yet they reacted, behaved and responded exactly in the same way back then.

Is anyone, beyond your typical WP7 user/fanboy, surprised that WP Mango failed to impress a potential user?

Aug 192011
 

I don’t mean that literally, but I had to come up with a brief title that sums up the post, and it is close enough. Let me explain.

The latest rumor says that the iPhone 5 will be out in stores in October, which sounds reasonable. Spec-wise, I’d guess that it will be very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S2, i.e. with a 1.2-ish Ghz dual-core CPU and 1 GB of RAM (the screen will likely be smaller – whether that is a pro or a con is entirely subjective of course). Now those specs, in themselves, are obviously very good and it would make the iPhone 5 compete directly with the SG2.

However, the SG2 will already have been out for over 4 months by the time the iPhone 5 is released, and though I am certain the SG2 will be able to hold its own against the iPhone 5, it really won’t be the new iPhone’s real competitor. The real competition will be the (Samsung?) Nexus Prime, which is rumored to be out before Christmas – maybe even by November – and which, presumably, will have a Super AMOLED HD display and a 1.5 Ghz dual-core CPU. That will be the iPhone 5′s competition almost from day 1, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the iPhone 5 is “outspecced” by the Nexus Prime. And if you add to that that quad-core CPUs are just around corner (in the shape of the rumored Samsung Galaxy S3), and that the next iPhone won’t be out by the summer of 2012 at the earliest, I think there is a real possibility that the iPhone 5 specs will fall short throughout its lifetime when compared to the competition, and might provoke a reaction that goes little beyond a mere “Meh.”.

Aug 152011
 

I am genuinely excited about Google’s purchase of Motorola, though I am not surprised one bit, as many apparently are. I believe that some of talk about the other OEMs being worried that Google is going to compete directly with them, and hence consider going to WP, is ridiculous and simply projects those posters wishful thinking; Google didn’t get to where it’s by alienating their OEMs, and their sure won’t continue their success if they did; I think they might, cautiously, use Motorola to create some reference designs (beyond the Nexus line), but that’s it.

At most, I think the other OEMs might watch Google a little more closely, just to see if the will in fact live up to what they said in that press release that nothing will change for the other OEMs. Beyond that I think they are genuinely relieved that Google has showed, in a huge way, that Google will aggressively defend Android and thus them.

For us smartphone lovers, or at least for us agnostic/neutral (and Android) smartphone lovers (as opposed to miscellaneous fanboys), this is great news as each platform will be able to go head to head in the market, with no restrictions due to IP, and it will be us, the consumers, who will decide which is the best platform and business model – not some patent portfolios and sleazy lawyers.

Aug 112011
 

It is now official that Nokia/Elop won’t offer the N9 in the UK either (along with the US – Update! nor in Germany). Among other things, the statement says:

…Although we are delighted with the very positive reception [my emphasis] that the Nokia N9 has received, here in the UK there are no plans to offer the Nokia N9 at present.

Given that Nokia is hemorrhaging money through their jugular vein right now, you would expect them (heck, any company!) to be desperate to sell a device that has had a “very positive reception”, even more so given that Nokia don’t have any other new high-end product right now and their WP7 phones don’t even have a launch date yet. And since, according to Stephen Elop, WP7 is superior to MeeGo/Harmattan, there is no chance of the N9 cannibalizing Nokia’s upcoming WP7. Right? Because that has been Elop’s message and argument all this time. Right? That WP7 is what consumers want, not the N9, hence Nokia’s decision to fully go with WP7. Right? Thus, the people who buy the N9 will eagerly jump to Nokia’s WP7 phones once they are out. Right? Because those devices will be superior to the N9 and will be what consumers really want, what with their “ecosystem” and everything. Right? So Nokia could make twice the profit by first selling people the N9 and then any WP7 phone, that people will be dying to get their hands on. Right? Because that should be the logic if Elop’s all-out WP7 bet is so right and sound. Right? Because if Nokia really wanted to release the N9 in every country then they would be allowed to do so because Nokia, under Elop, is not Microsoft’s biotch now. Right?

Yeah, right.

Given everything that Stephen Elop has done and said regarding the N9 since it was announced, I think it is now safe to make the name ‘Elop’ a synonym with the word ‘stupid’.

Thus, you could say:
That’s just plain Elop!

Or:
What are you, Elop!?

I wrote a post a few weeks back that could then be titled:
It is not about Qt, it’s the OS, Elop!

You could also use different forms of the name to mimic a noun. So Einstein’s famous quote would be:
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human Elopness, and I’m not sure about the former.

Of course, any word with a negative connotation (such as ‘stupid’) can also be used as an insult:
You’re an Elop!

‘Elop’ is obviously also equivalent to any of the synonyms of ‘stupid’, such as ‘dumb, ‘imbecile’, ‘ignoramus’, ‘dense’, ‘idiot’, ‘dimwit’….

So what other examples of ‘stupid’, sorry ‘Elop’, can you come up with??

Aug 102011
 

I have written on several occasions (e.g. here and here) that I want a true mobile computer, with the power and freedom that that brings; on the hardware side, it means having good enough specs to reasonably effortlessly run any and all kind of programs (as opposed to “apps”), and the OS should basically be as powerful and open as a desktop OS – and that of course includes “real” multitasking (as opposed to iOS and WP7).

But Apple is apparently taking a Bizzaro-style, reverse route to make the smartphone OS meet the desktop OS: with the latest OS-X (Lion) Apple have included the iOS style of silently closing down apps in the background in their desktop OS! To that you can add the other iOS behavior of (by default) only showing the scrolling bars when you scroll a document.

So what’s next for OS-X users: no file system? A single app-store of Apple-approved programs only? No possibility of attaching files from the email? No Flash?

Is that how Apple view their users? Do they think their users are so incapable, or lazy, or intellectually challenged, or detached, that they can’t manage the programs they themselves have opened?

That is just ludicrous and is certainly not something I would want on my mobile computer, let alone my desktop.

Aug 052011
 

I think every single opinion I have read regarding Nokia’s decision to sell the N9 only in markets where they won’t launch their first WP7 phone, have given the same explanation so far: the N9 is threat to Nokia’s own WP7 sales and as such they will exist mainly (completely?) in separate markets.

WP7 users however seem to believe that the N9 would not stand a chance against a batch of WP7 phones on display, hence Nokia’s decision.

Personally, I find the latter explanation comical: given the rave reviews of the N9, which will likely be repeated in various magazines and newspapers when the get their hands on it, the N9 will likely receive a huge push as a result. And of course the unique colors only make for original and more personal phones than your standard black slab, which would make a blue/cyan or pink/cyan N9 stand out in a sea of black WP7 devices.

But imagine if Nokia would spend $120 million on promoting the N9 instead of WP7: does anyone really think that the N9 would not be a huge success for Nokia?

Aug 012011
 

In hindsight there is little doubt that the first iPhone paved the way for a whole new smartphone experience, and it is often attributed to have started the “computer first, phone second” trend. But when you analyze what it actually brought to the table you see that it its main improvement, (software wise) compared to what was available then, was the vastly superior web browser. Beyond the browser it was actually one and often two steps backwards in several important areas for a device that was presumably a “computer first”.

Both Windows Mobile and Symbian were [beyond the browser] much more capable and resembled more a “mobile computer”; sure, the overall performance on WM was abysmal and its multitasking, though present, was virtually unavailable to the user unless you installed some third party app. But with both WM and Symbian you could do and had “basic” features that you would take for granted in a “mobile computer”:

-real multitasking
-copy & paste
-a user accessible file system
-use you phone as a USB drive / drag & drop files between PC and phone
-user replaceable memory cards
-GPS
-installing applications from any source, as opposed to a single “app store”

Given all the features the first versions of the iPhone was missing, can you blame Nokia for thinking that the iPhone/iOS was not a threat to them? I myself classified the iPhone as a smartphone (just barely) only starting from version 4 of iOS, when it gained the limited multitasking – prior to that it was simply a “smart dumbphone”; heck, the “phone second” bit seemed to refer more to the missing basic phone features of the first iPhone (no MMS and 3G) than to it actually resembling a computer.

However, you expect a lot more from a “mobile computer” than from a “smartphone”, and as such both iOS and Windows Phone fall way short – there is absolutely no way you can classify either one of them as “mobile computers” out of the box (i.e. without jailbreaking/hacking it). That is one of the reasons I am excited about the Nokia N9 as it is currently the device that, by the looks of it, most resembles a computer in your pocket.

But in the [not] long run I do want a true mobile computer that will give me the same freedom and capabilities as my desktop computer, which I why I am looking forward to see what Windows 8 is all about as it presumably will truly bring the PC to the phone; of course, if MeeGo or Canonical could come up with something before or around that same time, then that would be even more interesting.

Jul 272011
 

Mozilla’s announcement of their new project Boot to Gecko (B2G) is certainly very ambitious, but their intention alone to create a truly open mobile platform that would leverage the web and its technologies is not only something to be very excited about, but should be wholeheartedly embraced by everyone who can see past the “ecosystem”-fad and its shackles.

Will it be easy? Absolutely not, and there is probably a large risk that something never comes out it. But I for one applaud them and completely support their decision, and genuinely hope that I at some point will have a reason to add B2G to my platform category list!

Jul 252011
 

Apple’s business model is of course very clear: complete control over the platform and devices they sell. Android is the complete opposite: the platform (hardware + software) is open to everyone.

But what about Windows Phone? Where does it fit in? It is a hybrid between Apple’s and Android’s models: from the Apple-side, there is the tight control of the user experience and hardware, leaving little room (so far at least) for the OEMs to tweak and innovate; from Android you have the licensing model. So on the surface it seems that Microsoft have the best of both worlds with WP. But it is also a risky model as it is very easy for the phones from different OEMs to end up being virtually clones of each other, with the only differentiating factor being minor differences in the hardware, which could potentially be reduced even further by the specs/architecture requirement defined by Microsoft (which of course is why we have not seen any dual core CPUs in WP7 so far).

Some might point out that Nokia will be the exception, what with their supposed VIP status within the WP-sphere, but as I argued a couple of months ago, Nokia’s “green card” does not really make much sense, which was confirmed a few weeks ago when a senior Nokia executive said that they will in fact share the improvements they make to the platform with the other manufacturers.

So if WP7 phones do in fact turn out to be clones of each other I think that only a very few WP7 phones will sell well [relative to other WP7 phones], while most will simply be ignored by the consumers.

Jul 242011
 

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: yes, absolutely.

Really long answer: yes, absolutely, along with anyone on the board of directors who has approved of Elop’s actions so far. And I am not talking about the decision to go with WP7, though I am not a fan of it, but rather how Elop has decided to execute certain key events, specifically:

1) the burning platform-”leak”.

2) how he decided to announce Symbian’s EoL on Feb 11, without any replacement for it for the following 12 months at the time of the announcement.

3) Elop’s public statements about how there won’t be any more MeeGo devices no matter how successful the N9 is, before the N9 is even available and despite the rave reviews it received after it was presented.

4) Elop’s “leak” of the Sea Ray right after the N9 announcement, seemingly in an attempt to stifle the N9 excitement, instead of riding the N9-wave that had been created.

5) His decision (as opposed to “action”) to only release the N9 in select countries and seemingly the ones where Nokia’s first WP7 phone won’t be launched, instead of releasing it world wide and let it go head to head with WP7 if necessary, and let the consumers decide, and directly gauge, which platform/device they like better. But by selling the N9 in limited markets he not only artificially chokes the N9′s success but also deprives Nokia of much needed revenue, as the N9 is a premium device and as such has high profit margins.

Elop’s actions have, at best, been naive (as an ex-colleague of his noted in the Bloomberg interview: “His superpower isn’t his great intuitive judgment…“) or, at worst, sinister. All the conspiracy theories about him and Microsoft come as little surprise when you look at some of his actions so far, and the rumor that the BoD was pressured to pick Elop rings ever more true.

But even if Nokia decided to stay right on course with the plans so far, including everything regarding WP7, at the end of the day it is quite simple: if you believe that Elop handled the Feb 11 announcement poorly and that he only poured more gasoline on the “burning platform”, then that would be reason alone to remove him from his position; the potential consequences of such a misstep at that level, with the loss of device sales and Nokia’s dethroning as the smartphone leader, is simply inexcusable. And if he did that with the BoD approval, though it seems unlikely, then they should all go.

Jul 172011
 

The title of this post is a question I posed back in 2009. The conclusion was basically that I considered the iPhone to be a smart dumbphone. But then version 4 of iOS came out, with a host of new and crucial features that was enough for me to reconsider my conclusion and eventually even buy an iPhone to try it out first hand.

But after using the phone for a while now I have increasingly began to swing back to my original position regarding iOS, and yesterday an event occurred that really questions the iPhones’s “smartphone” status.

In relation to a purchase I made yesterday I had to show a proof of document. I then remembered that I have a digital copy of that document in my Dropbox account so I swiftly launched the Dropbox app on my iPhone and opened the document in question (a PDF file), and showed it to the sales woman. As any smartphone aficionado knows, it was very satisfying using the smartphone for something else besides your typical web browsing, video watching and music playing for once, and in this case something critical even. But then I was asked to e-mail that same document to the sales woman, which provoked a twinge of apprehension; anyone that has an iPhone knows that you cannot attach any files directly from the e-mail client, that functionality simply does not exist in iOS. Instead, you attach files by sending it from the application that contains the file. So for example, if you would like to e-mail a photo, you would have to go to the Photo app and and from there select “e-mail photo” (that is a truth with a slight modification: with specifically photos you can copy a photo and then paste it into an e-mail). Thus, the logical and only place where I would be able to send my pdf file as an attachment would be from the Dropbox app. Lo and behold, that option doesn’t exist in the iPhone version of Dropbox, which demonstrates an important/critical limitation with iOS, namely that it is up to each application to implement that [e-mail attachment] functionality, instead of it being a native feature of the e-mail client (of course that limitation is a direct consequence of not having any means of storing files directly on your phone and no user browsable file system, which means that it simply would not be possible to browse and select files from the e-mail client). So I literally spent a minute thinking how I might be able to solve the problem, and more importantly, solve the real need that I had at that moment. It then occurred to me that I have iCab installed (which, for those who haven’t heard of it, is the most powerful and best browser you can download on your iPhone) and that, just perhaps, I might be able to do it from there. So I consequently had to fire up iCab, navigate to Dropbox.com, log in to my Dropbox account, navigate to the PDF file, download that file and then cross my fingers and hope that iCab would give me the option to attach downloaded files to an e-mail. Fortunately, it did.

You might ask if I couldn’t have achieved the same thing with the native Safari browser, but the answer is no: Safari does not even have the option to download files. In other words, I was only able to solve the problem by 1) fortunately enough having iCab installed previously and 2) because it occurred to me to try attaching the file from there.

Now if this were an iPhone blog and I wanted to be gentle in my wording, I would probably say something along the lines of “my solution was an inelegant workaround”. But being neither of those I will call it for what it is: it is complete crap. Obviously a regular smart phone user, and even more so your normal iPhone user which is typically a non-geek would never have been able to solve that problem (heck, the only thing that saved me was iCab). And it also highlights the much greater issue with iOS and its limitations, and that I have been saying among my friends for some time now, namely that I don’t think the iPhone is really suited in an enterprise environment, which makes its increasing use there surprising and even questionable.

Some of you may have noticed, if you have read my “gripe-series”, that iOS is conspicuously absent so far. I can assure you that the reason is not because I don’t have anything bad to say about iOS but rather it is the hard time I am having in deciding exactly which feature is the one that annoys me the most; the woefully inadequate e-mail functionality in iOS would certainly be a top contender for such a post…

Jul 142011
 

That is the phrase that I am beginning to associate WebOS with; anyone who has followed the platform since its launch in 2009 will have noted the same comments floating around now in 2011 regarding the TouchPad and WebOS 3.0 as back then when the original Palm Pre was presented: “It [whatever feature/improvement/device/update] is coming soon” (or in Rubenstein jargon: “in the coming months”); “WebOS has great potential but needs refinement”; “There is always a small lag present”; “There are a few bugs that need to ironed out”…

Now, I am aware that version 3.0 is based on Enyo and a complete re-write from the earlier Mojo, but that is no consolation for buying customers – at 3.0 there should not be any talk about “potential” but rather that “potential” should have materialized by now and all that should be left is to get that fulfilled “potential” out to those customers. But when you read Precentral’s latest article about the TouchPad, with the author claiming to have a love/hate relationship with the TouchPad, that means that for a casual (=non-geek) user who is not enamored with WebOS itself (as any author of Precentral would logically be) there will mostly be hate involved and consequently a poor purchase decision.

Remembering how Sony pushed the limits of Palm OS with their Clié devices back when it was a licensee of the platform, often including many features that Palm themselves did not provide and thus forcing Palm to innovate in their devices in order to keep up, that rumored licensing of WebOS can’t come soon enough not only for us potential buyers that would love to see WebOS take off but also for HP themselves if they are serious about being a contender in the smartphone arena.

Jul 112011
 

So expanding on my previous post…: any article at Precentral almost invariably degrades into a discussion about carriers in the comments section, which often makes for very predictable, and boring, reading; if HP is announcing their next killer-device I am not interested in debating whether it will available on Sprint or Verizon, or the pros and cons with each carrier, or people complaining about their carriers not offering the phone, or the superior plans of any given carrier. It is a shame since Precentral is basically the only site you can go to for WebOS news, but it really ruins the experience and the quality of the debate on the site.

But that also reflects one of Palm’s/WebOS’s underlying problems so far: it has been a USA-only phone up until very recently and hence the obsession with carriers (which of course, in turn, is a symptom of the American telecom market). Though to be honest, and despite the Pre 3 being available in Europe as well, HP need to make WebOS much more high profile than it currently is – they should do everything they can to convince someone like Samsung to license WebOS; if it were up to me I would license it for free to anyone interested (though with some minimum hardware requirements of course) for the first year or two (or however long it takes) until it gains enough momentum, and only then potentially charge for it. But that, once again, is a completely separate post…

Jul 092011
 

Select your carrier, not your phone“.

That has got to be the last rule a genuine smartphone lover can live by simply because of the restrictions it puts on your choice of devices, both in terms of available phones for any given carrier, but also because of the lock-in that usually goes with subsidized phones. (I buy all my phones unlocked. The last and only locked phone I have ever bought was a Nokia back in 2004. And the reason for not buying locked phones is simply the freedom it gives me to switch phones, and carriers, whenever I want to).

Case in point, have a look at Precentral right now: people are going crazy over the fact that the Pre 3 apparently won’t be available on Sprint (now I am on touching on a subject that is worth a post on its own, but that’s for another occasion…). Of course, being on a CDMA network opens up a whole other can of worms when it comes to lock-in… But the point is that as long as you choose to live by the advice above, be prepared for plenty of more [frustration] where that came from.

Jul 072011
 

Microsoft has, legitimately or not, been chasing many Android OEMs for the last few months regarding alleged IP infringements, and the last “victim” in the list of companies is Samsung, which is likely a milestone in this process.

Now I don’t know if Microsoft has a legitimate case or not (I don’t even know what the supposed infringements are – if anyone knows something then I’d be interested in hearing it), but I am inclined to think they do have a case given the number of OEMs that have quietly agreed to pay MS without any legal dispute, but maybe even more so because of Google’s absolute silence throughout this time.

But if Microsoft even goes after big players such as Samsung then no one is safe; even Google, with their own Nexus branded phones, could then potentially be a target it would appear; in fact, it only makes sense for them to eventually also become a Microsoft ‘payee’. The problem is that these payments do not make Google look good as it gives the impression that Google is incapable of protecting its licensees (heck, judging by Google’s silence they actually are right now!). But I am sure they are extremely worried about the situation and it seems unlikely that they will continue to sit by idly while Microsoft not only earns money from Android but also their own Windows Phone 7, which will also [unfortunately] likely increase its market share. Thus Google are probably hard at work looking at a way/strategy/solution to end Microsoft’s “persecution”.

I have a feeling that something will have to give soon, and whatever it is, it will make big headlines….

Jul 062011
 

First read this, which I posted back in 2009 (i.e. before iOS4 and multitasking was available on the iPhone) at my old blog.

I was quite certain that since the launch of the original iPhone, crippled multitasking would be a thing of the past on new devices/OSs. But this post (how’s that for history repeating itself?) then reminded me just how utterly useless Windows Phone 7 is in its current state.

But just when I thought that it could not get any sadder I came across this post about the multitasking in the upcoming Mango. Here is the relevant part for your convenience:

“You’ll be able to have up to 5 apps open and “multitasking”, and once you open a new application, the last app will be bumped off your multitasking list. That’s probably a perfect number for everyone, and will definitely help keep the operating system running smoothly.

And further down in the comments section by the same author:

“If you let an app sit in the multitasking section for awhile (like 3 minutes), it’ll tombstone and not be instantly resumed anymore. So it works fine as long as you’re switching between things quickly and frequently, but don’t expect to instantly jump back to a game after a few minutes!”

If true, that is just so wrong (read “pathetic”) on so many levels I don’t know where to even begin: the fact that a “modern” OS in 2011 still does not have multitasking; that people actually buy such a device at all; that when MS finally do come with a “solution” it is not even half baked (as in iOS); the arbitrary number of 5 apps that can “run” simultaneously (as opposed to the number being based on available RAM memory, though some WP7 users think that the criteria for that number should be based on the name “WP7″; he’s lucky MS did not chose the name WP1 then…); the author of the post jumping up and down in excitement because he will get multitasking on his WP7 device; the fact that the author even matter-of-factly states that the number 5 will be absolutely perfect for everyone(!); the author’s ignorance when he implies that multitasking will necessarily degrade the user experience on any phone (or maybe he just means WP7, but what does that say about the OS then?).

God forbid Windows Phone ever becomes the dominant OS, what with such followers/users and such poor OS design that it apparently cannot efficiently handle a reasonable number of concurrent process without noticeable slowdowns.

Oh, and if you have not been able to deduce so yet, I will not be buying a WP7 phone in the foreseeable future (again, if that post is true – it is such a poor implementation of multitasking that I am doubting whether the author is correct), whether it is from Nokia or any other maker; it is apparent that Windows Phone 7 and phones based on it will remain on my ‘What’s not’-list for a long time still….

Jul 052011
 

There is no doubt whatsoever that a flashy UI (i.e. “eye candy”) can sell phones. Lots of them. Just look at the first version of the iPhone: even though it had less features than a feature phone in many respects (no MMS, copy&paste, video recording, etc.) it still sold by the millions and managed to change the whole smartphone market. To be honest I do not entirely blame Nokia for not seeing that the iPhone would be successful – I myself did not believe that people would be willing to put up with a functionally crippled phone and it was not until iOS 4 (that included the multitasking) that I classified the iPhone as a smartphone.

But the point is that people will buy feature restricted phones if they like the UI (and WP7 is another recent example of that: even without multitasking and copy&paste in late 2010(!) some people would actually still buy it…). However, the downside of the manufacturers realizing this is that they can quite freely remove features that should be available in any smartphone – consumers are apparently very indifferent about it, a large number just want a nice/cool-looking UI.

But for someone like myself who always value features/functionality over a flashy UI it is a disappointing trend and one that often proves frustrating as it distracts from the real advancement of the functionality of smartphone platforms. And the “Qt on the next billion devices” is good example of that trend: people are seemingly thrilled with getting Qt on S40 phones but with no apparent concern for what functionality they might have to give up in the process (i.e. is Qt on an iPhone1 anything to be excited about?). As such, I hope that we will see an end to that trend, or better still, that someone will actually be “brave” enough and say “Hey, let’s try to provide maximum features with a minimum of restrictions, ALONG with a great UI!”.

Jul 032011
 

The HP TouchPad has received rather lackluster reviews, mainly because of the buggy state of the software. The sad thing is that some of the issues that I have read about the TouchPad I recognize from my own Palm Pre 2, which I sold very shortly after I bought it. One such issue that someone described in a review was the problem with setting up multiple chat/email accounts – I myself was unable to set up two different Yahoo! accounts on my phone.

All of those small issues add up of course and leave an impression of an unfinished OS, even though WebOS is now at version 3.0; at this point it should be all about adding features, but the fact that HP is seemingly carrying over bugs across major version revisions is both surprising and disappointing. So given my own experience of the Pre 2, and if the HP TouchPad reviews are anything to go by, it is all enough for me to not contemplate the Pre 3, unfortunately.

Jul 022011
 

A few years ago, before the first iPhone, having a user accessible filesystem on your phone was basically a given. With Symbian you could/can just plug in your phone into your PC and it would show up as a USB drive (after selecting the USB mode). With Windows mobile it was not quite that straightforward, but there were free apps that you could install that would allow your phone to act as a USB drive. And then of course there was ActiveSync: when you connected your phone for syncing you were able to browse the filesystem within your personal documents folder. (Palm OS was a different matter since it basically did not have a file system).

Customizable ring tones were a little different though. On a Symbian phone you could/can simply select any track or MP3 file on your phone. On Windows mobile it was slightly more complicated, you had to store the file in a certain folder on your phone in order for it to show up in your list of selectable ring tones.

The point is that those feature were/are more or less readily available, and it was a given that for example you would be able to set any ringtone of your liking on your phone. But then came the iPhone and “everything changed”, though not necessarily for the better (even though Steve Jobs would like you to believe otherwise). And even now, in iOS4, there is still no way of selecting your own ring tone. In version 5 you will supposedly be able to buy ring tones from the App Store (what is this, 2002 all over again??), but that is obviously a completely useless “feature” and a blatant attempt by Apple to rake in easy money. And now it turns out that WP7 won’t be much better.

So while we are gaining some other features in our phones, for example better Twitter and Facebook integration, powerful browsers, etc, we are losing if not an equal then certainly an important number of features along the way. Apple obviously started the trend but what is disappointing is that Microsoft/WP7 has decided to follow exactly the same path instead of saying “we can do better than that while providing the same quality user experience”. But unfortunately the trend seems to be that while the so-called ecosystems are growing and the overall user experience is becoming more cohesive in many respects, some companies unfortunately seem to believe that a good user experience is incompatible with those useful, and dare I say basic, features.

Jul 012011
 

Given Nokia’s size and influence in the mobile space, if Stephen Elop had chosen to go with MeeGo instead of WP7 Nokia would have contributed to a huge and significant market shift from proprietary to open source/Linux solutions (yes, even though Nokia are in trouble they are still THE undisputed handset maker, which automatically gives them that market influence). Instead, he chose to go with the alternative that was likely very familiar, and safe, to him given his past at Microsoft. But after the N9 unveiling, and judging from the general response, it feels as if the cat is out of the bag no matter how hard he is trying to shove it back in by saying that the N9 has no future and then by “leaking” Nokia’s WP7 Sea Ray in a desperate attempt to overshadow the N9.

It is difficult to imagine that none of the other manufactures have not taken notice of the attention that an upstream Linux platform such as MeeGo has received by the public. Instead some of them are likely hard at work to bring such a solution to the market, as we speak. If so, then Elop’s decision to not support MeeGo will only have slightly delayed that inevitable massive shift to Linux that will eventually take place, but with Nokia having lost a single and unique opportunity to be the leaders and at the forefront of that shift instead of following it.

But in the meanwhile, let us be “grateful” to Elop for releasing the N9 and thus opening up the floodgates, because judging by his negative comments about the N9′s future, he must have been extremely reluctant to release it or any other device based on MeeGo….

Jun 292011
 

Continuing with my “gripe-series” (Symbian, BlackBerry, WebOS) the turn has now come to Android. This is actually one of the more difficult posts I have written so far, and the reason is that Android is arguably the most customizable/tweakable OS of all the relevant platforms on the market right now and as such there is very little that you cannot change or fix if there is something that you do not like with it.

Yet still, there is this one nagging issue I have with Android. In reality it is something rather visceral and though I can express it it is hard to put my finger on why it is an issue. What I am referring to is Android’s virtual machine.

I am aware of that the Dalvik virtual machine is arguably one of Android’s strengths: it is the portability of the virtual machine that allows RIM’s PlayBook or the upcoming Nokia N9 to run Android applications. But at the same time knowing that all the code runs inside a virtual machine instead of natively just does not feel…. ideal? We all know how much the virtual machine improved Android’s performance with Froyo, and that is a testament to the impact a VM can have on the overall platform. And it is the impact that “extra layer” that keeps nagging me at the back of my head…

But at the end of the day what matters is of course the user experience, and if a user cannot tell that the apps/OS are running in a VM then the point is moot, really.

But still….

Jun 282011
 

There have been many articles and posts the last couple of days (so many I won’t even bother linking to them) regarding MeeGo’s future after the N9, and virtually all of them cheerfully argue that the most important thing is that Qt will live on after the N9 and thus that people shouldn’t be worried about Elop killing it.

But those posters are completely missing the point. It is not about Qt, it never was. It is not about Qt living on Windows Phone 7 (not that it is likely) or the next billion devices (i.e. S40), or some other feature phone (though some people are apparently excited about that). What is about, and what it was always about, is the OS that Qt is glued to: it is the Linux OS/kernel that matters and that people are primarily interested and excited about in the case of the N9, not Qt. Qt is just the icing on the cake. If those people could choose between a limited OS such as WP7 or iPhone with the Qt on top of it, or a full-fledged Linux OS with a non-Qt UI-framework, it would be a no-brainer, the Linux OS would win every time.

And yet a surprising amount of people only talk about Qt, completely disregarding the fact that the kernel behind it, the engine itself, has no clear future in Nokia right now, no matter how well the N9 might sell.

And I think that is why many are frustrated with Elop’s decision to ditch MeeGo regardless of how successful it is; Nokia is the company closest to bringing that potentially disruptive device to the masses and yet Elop’s main concern seems to be to make absolutely clear to people how the N9 is the last of its kind and thus to not bother with it. It is as if he cannot see the forest because of the trees (or more likely, he wants the forest to consist of WP7 trees).

So from now on, when we talk about Maemo/MeeGo or the N9, let us focus on what really matters, OK?

Jun 272011
 

The N9 has been received favorably by everyone, it has generated a record number of visits on at least a couple of sites. My own “What Nokia should learn from the N900″, which is related to the N9 obviously, has been the most read post on my own site; given the interest in the N900 when it was launched the N9′s success comes as no surprise.

Under normal circumstances the title of this post would read “What Nokia should learn from the N9″, but the circumstances are not normal. I really did not expect to have a reason to write a post like this. But since Stephen Elop has publicly stated that regardless of the success of the N9 (i.e. no matter how many millions N9s Nokia might sell) it will be the last of its kind. And the CEO said this before it is even available; when was the last time you saw any CEO kill its own product as swiftly and mercilessly as that?

The speculation is the N9 was released only as a contractual obligation to Intel. Be that as it may, the fact is that the N9 would likely, by the looks of it, be an extremely successful device for Nokia and as such you would expect them to be interested in promoting it further. But Elop’s mind and dreams are apparently completely set on Windows Phone 7, he is determined to make WP7 the wiz-kid in the family and he will not allow any internal project stand in its way; as I said in another post: ‘Elop is cutting off the heads of all the other siblings that could potentially outgrow WP7 so that he can say “Look, WP7 is the tallest!”‘.

But Elop’s determination to kill the N9 does not change the fact that there seems to exist a huge pent-up demand for a device/platform like it: a true mobile computer with a completely open OS. So the take away point for the rest of the manufacturers is that whoever creates the next N9-clone (where ‘clone’ refers to ‘open mobile computer’, not the UI or form-factor) will have a runaway hit on their hands.

So can those manufacturers who want to create and sell that next disruptive technology please raise their hands. LG? Intel? Canonical? Anyone….?

Jun 252011
 

These two features should be a MUST on every smartphone, regardless of platform:

- Notification LED: this one is so basic and obvious I cannot understand why it is left out most of the time: you should not have to wake up your phone only to see if you have any missed events (or worse in the iPhone’s case: you don’t even get a notification on your lock screen about new emails!). Therefore a notification LED should be obligatory, and it should blink for all relevant events on your phone that you would get a onscreen notification for as well, though it should be configurable so that you can define the apps/events of your liking and for how long you want it to blink (including ‘forever’).

- Profiles: i.e. the ability to the volume and ringtone (including for calendar alarms) for your phone through preset profiles. I used it a lot on my Symbian smartphones (which by the way come some predefined and useful profiles) and I always had close to 10 different profiles. You should be able to create and name as many profiles as you need (again, an old Symbian feature).

Now that’s not asking too much, is it?

Jun 242011
 

Not a day goes by without some kind of rumor about the iPhone 4S/5, or what Nokia’s WM7 phones will be like, or some shots or videos of the new BlackBerry Bold 9900. Most of the time the manufactures themselves don’t create the buzz but the fact that these devices are on everyone’s lips is good advertising, it is good business. It creates a brand awareness and makes people hold off buying phones because they are waiting for that phone. All companies know that and act accordingly.

But not HP, they know better. According to HP the best thing to do is to fly under the radar of the media and public, to pass as unnoticed as possible. The last thing HP want to do is create excitement about their products. Because how can you otherwise explain the fact that even though the Pre 3 is slated for a July release we are not hearing anything about it, no images, no press release, no leaked devices, no nothing. If you go to PreCentral you will instead be able to read about Verizon’s pricing plans (wohoo!). I know, I had to take a few deep breaths myself just to calm down a little from the excitement.

It is not as if HP have several high selling devices that they do not want to stifle by leaking the Pre 3 (no, the HP Veer absolutely does not count!). On the contrary: given the launch of the TouchPad any day now the Pre 3 would the perfect combo to promote.

It is really sad how first Palm and now HP continuously manage to screw up with WebOS and all its potential.

Jun 232011
 

At this point I don’t think anyone have not heard about the N9 that was presented by Nokia a couple of days ago. As expected, the excitement that was present at the N900′s presentation is still, if not more, very much alive and the general response has been thoroughly positive. In fact I think most people were surprised by the quality of MeeGo at this point after having read that article that contained the infamous “Oh shit”-moment and many are now asking themselves what that moment was all about. The overall impression after that article was that MeeGo is in an Alpha-stage, at best, but after having seen the N9 presentation many are genuinely perplexed about Elop’s decision to not pursue MeeGo more decisively.

But Nokia will of course eventually publish the number of N9/MeeGo units sold in a given quarter, so that begs the question, what will Nokia do if the new N9 sells by the millions? I.e. if the N9 sells well even without an ‘ecosystem’ what will that say about Elop’s decision to pursue WP7 instead of MeeGo and what would that mean for his argument that everything is about ecosystems these days? Obviously at this point it is all speculation, but if the reaction of the public is anything to go by then Nokia might very well be in for a surprise.

Now what constitutes good sales is obviously relative. If you compare it to Symbian volumes then the number will probably be “low”. But if, in absolute terms, the N9 sells better than, say, HP’s WebOS devices, what with all their ‘ecosystem’, then you really would not be able to talk about a MeeGo failure. Will that then be enough shift Nokia’s attention to MeeGo or will they continue to relegate it to that seemingly eternal beta status?

If the sales of the N9 closely correlates with the public’s reception of the device then I genuinely hope that Nokia will give MeeGo the time, attention, resources and money that the platform deserves. If not, then I might actually begin to believe all those conspiracy theories about MS and Stephen Elop in regards to Nokia….

UPDATE:
I just read Engadget’s editorial, stating exactly the same thing. I hadn’t come around to reading my RSS feeds before posting my own opinion only 3 hours earlier.

But, in the meantime, I also came across this news article from Finland, which claims that Elop is set on killing off MeeGo; if true then it is truly staggering and I think it raises several legitimate questions regarding Elop’s WP7 decision.

Jun 222011
 

There is absolutely no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S2 is the best phone on the planet right now. It really is as complete as you can expect from any phone currently. Sure, you could perhaps add a better camera to compete directly with the Nokia N8, and a notification LED is a something I always want in a phone. But in the grand scheme of things that is nitpicking, really.

The fact is that the Galaxy will still be one of the best phones in the market six months from now, if not the best. I would even argue that in a year from now it will still be a very competitive phone, hardware wise, and will be able to perfectly run anything you throw at it – the dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM will make sure of that.

But the important thing about the Galaxy, and what the other manufacturers should take note of, is that when you create a phone with the right hardware, when you don’t pull any stops, people will flock around that device. It will be talked about, it will get press, it will get attention regardless of the platform it is running on (whoever said that it is all about the software?); so the next time you manufacturers want to create the new iPhone killer, have a look at the Galaxy S2 and let it inspire your hardware decisions.

Jun 212011
 

I haven’t heard the term ‘ecosystem’ as many times in my whole life as I have since Elop’s announcement on February 11. All of sudden it is all about the ‘ecosystem’, everyone is attributing everything to the ‘ecosystem’ – even when your phone stops working because it got crushed by a bus it apparently has something to do with the ‘ecosystem’ these days.

But you know what? I could not care less about an ‘ecosystem’. Honestly I don’t. And I am getting bored hearing about it everywhere, even more so because everyone seem to take at face value that an ecosystem is the way to go in the future. I have argued before that the concept of an ecosystem doesn’t exists on your PC, so why do I need it on my phone? I don’t need it on my PC, and I don’t want nor need it on my smartphone/mobile computer; the more tied you are an ecosystem the less flexibility and freedom you have to use your phone the way you want to, and if you do not agree with that then just have a look at this – that is a direct consequence of your beloved ‘ecosystem’. And you can be sure that we will see more of that if everyone, manufacturers and consumers alike, is set on jumping on the ‘ecosystem’ bandwagon. (And no, an appstore is not an ‘ecosystem’, appstores existed long before the iPhone no matter how hard Steve Jobs is trying to sell you that they were first, eg. google ‘Handango’ and ‘Palmgear’, both existed years before Apple’s appstore).

I am certain that the future will be about openness, so that you can connect to any cloud that you wish, and the lock-ins that we are see now will seem antiquated. It will about open services and open APIs, and those manufacturers who chose to continue the current path of lock-ins will disappear or be marginalized.

So instead of an ‘ecosystem’ what I want instead is a true mobile computer. I want the full experience in my pocket, with no compromises. I want to be able to carry around my phone and use it just as I would use a laptop. I want access to the whole web, be able to download any file or media and then consume it directly on my phone or my TV, no matter what kind of media it might be.

So who will be the first to throw ‘ecosystem’ in the bin where it belongs and instead focus on what we should be striving for: true mobile computers with complete freedom and unrestricted access to everything in the cloud? That is why I have such high hopes for MeeGo, as I would like to see it as being the stepping stone to something greater and better beyond where everyone are rushing right now.

And if not MeeGo, there is always Canonical of course….

Jun 202011
 

No, it has nothing to do with the old ‘M$’. It has nothing to do with open source vs. commercial software either. My hope does not even have anything to do with my “disinterest” in WP7 right now.

The reason really is much more simple, and pragmatic, than that: whenever Microsoft has been the leader in any market they have all but stopped to innovate. Just to give a couple of examples, look no further than what happened after Microsoft came out victorious from the browser war between Internet Explorer and Netscape. They virtually stopped developing their browser and it was not until Firefox and later Chrome began to gain popularity that Microsoft finally put some effort into improving their browser again. And then of course there is the example of Windows Mobile: after Palm committed suicide by refusing to improve their hardware and software in their devices Microsoft had a window (no pun intended) of opportunity of 2-3 years to get a stronghold of the smartphone market. But instead, seemingly true to their modus operandi, they simply seemed happy that their largest competitor was out of the game and basically put their mobile OS in the drawer to collect dust. And look just how long it took Microsoft to react after that – even Steve Ballmer admitted they were late to the party.

Now I’m not saying that the other players would be any better if any of them became market leaders (just look at Nokia how complacent they became!). On the contrary, if I had to make a bet I would say that they would likely behave in the same way. But that is a supposition – with Microsoft it is a fact. They have proved that on more than one occasion.

Having said that, I really don’t expect either Microsoft nor any of the other players to become so dominant in the smartphone space that they can afford to just sit back and relax. But if one of them were to become the leader then, again, I sincerely hope that it will be Microsoft’s lot to be the chaser.

Jun 192011
 

If you have read the smartphone news the last couple of days you will likely have come across various discussions regarding RIM’s dire situation in the smartphone arena. But when you follow a market long enough you begin to see patterns and trends, and I have already in two occasions seen the fall of two large, even dominant companies that you simply did not think could happen before it was a fact.

The pattern goes something like this:

1) The company is not keeping up with the latest trends, in software and/or hardware.

2) The company denies that there is any trouble and instead simply talks about how great they are doing and that they still have a large market share and are an important player.

3) The company is slipping financially, both in shares and sales.

Both Palm and Nokia fit this pattern. Palm stubbornly refused to come out with better hardware while, on top of that, they were trying to dictate what the users wanted, for example when their CEO stated that Palm’s users did not want to listen to music on their devices, they simply wanted a simple organizer. Add to that an outdated platform, Palm OS, and you can easily see how Palm’s demise was inevitable. And Nokia of course followed a similar pattern, though the big difference is that Nokia never restricted the features they offered in their phones (on the contrary), it was rather a question of implementation and execution, though the ideas were right.

So how is RIM doing if we compare it to that pattern? 2) and 3) certainly fits. And to some extent 1) could also be applied: up until now they have certainly trailed behind the rest, but their upcoming devices are not bad by any means hardware wise and are certainly competitive in today’s market, so they seem to be aware of that they need to come out with more competitive hardware. But I also think that the one thing that they have in their favor is that they know that they need a new and modern platform, hence their purchase of QNX. And as we know they are hard at work adapting QNX for their phones; without a doubt they would have benefited greatly if QNX was running on their BlackBerries already but I get the impression that they are very aware of that and are doing everything they possibly can to get it out as soon as possible (the Playbook, though incomplete feature wise, was developed and launched in an impressively short time). And that sense of urgency was something that I never saw in either Palm or Nokia.

So, in conclusion, I think RIM still has a good chance to remain one of the dominant players in mobile computing if they manage to get QNX on their smartphones relatively quickly, say H1 2012. At the same time, I would not be surprised if they offer their new QNX-based phones without the BIS/BES lock in; remember, you read it here first….

Jun 182011
 

I had the last Pre, the Palm Pre 2, for only a week before I sold it. There were mainly two reasons for selling it.

First, it was the poor phone signal: when it lost the signal, for example while on the subway, it would take several minutes for the phone to grab the signal again which was very annoying as you could not take advantage of the brief moments when you did have a signal to text someone or to rapidly load up a web page.

The second issue, and this was a disappointment after having read opinions about the previous Pre-devices, was the battery life. All Pre-devices so far have been kind of notorious for having a rather poor battery life, and given this I was counting on that they had made rather drastic improvement in this area over previous phones. And based on all accounts (the Pre 2 was the first Pre I had owned) the Pre 2 did in fact have a longer battery life, but I expected more. If I pampered the phone it would barely last me a day, but if I used it more seriously I would not even get to late afternoon.

I have looked at the Pre 3′s specs and it seems that HP only gave it a very small boost in battery capacity compared to the Pre 2, going from 1150 mAh to 1240 mAh . Given the larger display, larger resolution and faster CPU on the Pre 3 I expect its battery life to be, at best, the same as on the Pre 2, which really wasn’t good enough. Unless, of course, they have made some serious optimizations in the OS, though I would not count on that.

So for all you prospective Pre 3 buyers out there: consider buying an extended battery for your Pre 3. Believe me, you will need it!

Jun 172011
 

I remember when the N900 was released in late 2009. The blog sphere was abuzz and everyone was genuinely excited about this brand-new platform. The videos and published images were so cool. It had beautiful graphics and the multitasking was amazing, both as far as performance was concerned (i.e. the number of apps that you could run simultaneously) and the UI. Everyone wanted one even if it was being pitched primarily as a developer device. In fact, it seemed as if Nokia was taken by surprise by the interest that people were showing in their new device and platform, and as a result they repeatedly tried to downplay its relevance as a smartphone for the masses. I even recall one article saying so explicitly, that when they asked the Nokia sales rep about the N900 that it was quite odd and frustrating to see how the Nokia rep was trying to “cool down” the excitement of the article writer.

It was thus very clear that the N900 was not aimed at the masses, and as such that Nokia wasn’t prepared to completely back the phone up. It was as if they knew that the platform was not quite feature complete yet and as such would not be suited for everyone. Maybe it was because Nokia simply did not have the team in place that could fill the gaps in the platform and therefore did not want it to take off in a big way. I don’t know. But the fact is I have yet to read a single post by people who have owned the N900 that have not said that the N900 was a great device and that it is a shame and big mystery why Nokia did not put more effort in trying to evolve the platform. Many of them still use it and I have read numerous times that the N900′s browser was the best mobile browser ever made so far. The opinions on the N900 make me regret that I didn’t pick one up when it was launched, even though I knew that certain features were missing.

I think everyone agrees that it could have been the next major mobile platform, that disruptive technology that Elop keeps referring to. So, given the rumors that Nokia will launch a MeeGo device on Tuesday the 21st, what can and should Nokia learn from the N900? It is very simple, really: if you see that people are genuinely excited about the it, if it receives a lot of press, if you see that it creates an group of devoted fans just like the N900 did, then back your phone and your device 110%! Don’t hold back, put any and all resources you have into the platform. Run with it as far as you can. And if it means that you have to steer away some resources from the Windows Phone 7 development, then do so, because at this point WP7 is just a plan, a wishful thinking, while the N9 is real and is here and is creating the buzz and the attention that you desperately need! Don’t downplay MeeGo only because you have bet all your chips on WP7 at this point. OK?

But to be honest, at this point my real and only wish is that, come Tuesday, that N9/MeeGo rumor turns out to be more than just a rumor!

Jun 162011
 

Phandroid made an interesting affirmation yesterday, saying that iPhone users don’t really talk about smartphones with one another.

Not only do I agree with that, but I would even go further and say that vast majority of iPhone users are not interested in smartphones, let alone what the competition does. And as I have stated before I think that stems from the fact that the iPhone caught traction with the public when it was still a dumbphone, and thus most of its users were in reality dumbphone users. I have only met ONE single iPhone user who was supposedly interested in what is going on with the other platforms but you couldn’t expect much of any kind of decent and objective discussion with him, which wasn’t surprising given the statements from him of the kind “I love you Steve Jobs!” (yes, those were his exact words).

Whenever I try to engage in a conversation with “fellow” iPhone users about smartphones I am always met with either a sheepish expression (i.e. “I have no idea what you are talking about”) or simply disinterest. I sometimes even feel embarrassed when I use my iPhone in public as I don’t want to be labeled as that clueless, “just-another-iPhone-clone”, “follow-the-crowd” individual.

In contrast, my most interesting discussions have invariably been with Android users; so yes, I absolutely agree that Android users are much more prone to strike up conversation about smartphones and OSs then iPhone users. (But to fair, WebOS users have in even more in common, but that is simply because they are as rare as the Dodo….).

Jun 152011
 

Continuing with my series on what I dislike the most with each OS or platform (see this and this), the turn has come to WebOS.

WebOS is a little different though in that there isn’t any single or major showstopper, which is a testament to how good the OS is. Sure there are some features that are poor such as the few supported video formats, and then you have that ‘Oreo-effect‘ in the slider mechanism, but these things are not features per se and can be fixed. The point of these “gripe-posts” is to get at more fundamental issues/features in each platform.

So what is my issue with WebOS then?

Answer: it is the card view when you switch between the running apps; though neat and pretty, I find it a chore to swipe several times to get from one end of the card view to the other. The new stacks feature in WebOS 2.0 is supposed to mitigate that somewhat, but it is rather clumsy to handle and it takes a long time to stack cards that are not right next to each other (and yes, I know that you can zoom out to see more cards, but that involves an extra step and still is not enough). I think that the “single” card view is poor usability and would like to see at least the option to view the running apps in a grid (think multitasking in Bada or Maemo), e.g. a 2×2, 2×3 or ideally 3×3 grid. And as the Nokia N900 proved each icon can be live just as in WebOS. But even if they aren’t I would still prefer a grid/row of static app icons (think Android) than the card view. In other words, I even prefer the iPhone’s row of 4 scrollable icons over the single card view.

The card view has of course been copied by RIM’s QNX and it will also be used in the Windows Phone 7 Mango update, and I really don’t think that is an attractive feature, which it why it was disappointing to see it implemented in exactly the same fashion on HP’s new TouchPad: with that screen you could easily have done something along the lines of Maemo/Nokia N900. And note that I complained about a similar thing in Symbian^3, but I would even rather have kinetic scrolling as well, even if I overshoot sometimes, than WebOS’s cards.

So my request to HP is: please add at least the option to be able to view the running apps in a grid view, even if that grid would not be live.

Jun 142011
 

1) What was your planned strategy for Nokia while you were expecting to be elected the new CEO?
2) What is your opinion regarding Elop’s decision and strategy to go with Windows Phone 7?
3) If you were to replace Elop as CEO as of tomorrow, what would you do going forward given everything that has been done and happened so far?

I can’t but envy the person who has the opportunity to chat with Anssi by the water cooler every day….

Jun 132011
 

I wrote in another post that I think/hope that the new buzzword ‘ecosystem’ is a just fad that will eventually be replaced by largely platform-independent services and an open OS.

I am aware of that there is little economical incentive for the current big players to go down that path (with Google possibly being the least one to resist as long as it generates traffic for them), something that was also mentioned in the comments of that post. So I have was thinking about it when I came across this article at The Register about Canonical. Since I use Ubuntu it should immediately have occurred to me that Canonical is one of the obvious candidates for coming up with that open solution I am hoping for: if I am not tied to or need nor want any ‘ecosystem’ on my desktop then why would I want it on my smartphone/mobile computer?

In the meanwhile I am crossing my fingers for that rumored MeeGo announcement on June 21!

Jun 122011
 

OK, just for the record: I am completely and utterly unimpressed by Windows Phone 7, and that is putting it gently. I would be hard pressed to even classify it as a smartphone right now, what with the lack of multitasking.

I stated this before on some other site but I will repeat it here again: I would never, with a clean conscience, recommend a WP7 phone in its current incarnation to anyone I know. And I have tried it enough to know. I think that the live tiles are plain boring and very limited compared to widgets, and the Metro UI is appalling – it looks as if the design team came to a complete stop in the middle of the wireframe stage of the design process (wiki).

One of the sacred UI rules on a small screen is to take maximum advantage of the limited screen by displaying the maximum amount of useful information, but instead WP7 have these huge headers in most apps, with a font size that seems to be targeted at the visually impaired. But apparently the Windows Phone 7 team thought that was more important than always displaying the top status bar. How is that good usability?

And while I am at it: I have all but stopped reading comments on WP7 sites as the posters (=WP7 users) sound like they are in a state of as much denial and defensive regarding their platform as your typical iPhone user was, circa 2007, and I have little patience for that.

And for those who have not had the chance to make up their own minds yet, and if you actually are still in doubt about Windows Phone 7, have look at this and this video review of a couple of HTC phones.

Will I be able to look past Metro UI once Mango arrives? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE:
No matter how much the zealots in the comments below yell in a desperate attempt to distract from the matter at hand, there are in fact other professional designers who do agree that Metro UI is not very attractive (shocker!).

Jun 112011
 

Sometimes it is good to keep a perspective on how far we have come technology wise in just a few years. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to pitch the best phone currently in existence, the Samsung Galaxy S2, against one of the best and most desirable devices back in 2000, the Palm Pilot Vx, the king of the hill back then, and my first PDA and which ignited my passion for PDAs (which later of course would morph into the smartphones we all know and love).

So let’s rumble!

Samsung Galaxy S2 Palm Pilot Vx
Display Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen
4.3″
480 x 800 pixels
16M colors
LCD resistive touchscreen

3.2″
160 x 160 pixels
monochrome, 16-grayscale
CPU 1.2 Ghz Dual-core Exynos 20 Mhz Motorola Dragonball
I later overlocked mine to a whopping 28 Mhz!
RAM 1 GB 256 Kb (in the form of heap space where the actual programs ran; RAM memory referred to the storage capacity back then, i.e. what the ROM is today)
ROM 16/32 GB (expandable up to 32 GB) 8 MB
Phone Yes In my wet dreams!
Wifi Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n Huh?
Bluetooth v. 3.0 Bluewho??
GPS Yes Yeah right pal! Maybe in 2020 if we’re lucky!
Infrared No Yes
Camera 8MP + HD-video recording Why would I want to always carry a camera with me!?
Music playback Yes No
Though there was a hack that allowed you to transfer a mp3 file; I say “a” because with only 8 MB of storage, shared between apps and data…. you do the math! And then of course there was that piezo speaker and no headphone connector.
Oh, and does this count?
Video playback Yes Watching videos on a 160×160 pixel grayscale screen and a 20 Mhz CPU!??
Stop it, you’re killing me!
Browser Yes, including full Flash 10.3 support The closest thing was AvantGo.
I felt so vanguard reading news on my PDA during my daily commute!
Apps Yes Yes
I spent hours and hours playing Bejeweled!
Weight 116 g 114 g
Battery life 1,5 days 3-4 weeks!



To be fair, the comparison would have been slightly different if I would have compared the Samsung to a Psion Revo (which back then I looked long and hard at for a couple of weeks, before finally deciding on the Palm Vx mainly because of the size difference). And then of course there was Microsoft’s Palm PC and the Nokia Communicator.

But the Palm Vx was the sexiest of them all even though it was less capable in many was, but the things it did it did them very well (does that sound familiar??).

And if you wonder what happened to my Palm Vx, as I said above I overclocked it using some hack, and it was hot! And I mean that in a literal sense as well as it would heat up noticeably, but after a couple of months it died on me – the CPU had burned out. But I still keep around here, somewhere….

Jun 102011
 

On my old site I wrote about my biggest gripe with Symbian, but my beef with BlackBerry has, no matter how odd it might seem given the bashing RIM’s OS is getting lately, nothing to do with the OS.

I also posed the question of the point of BlackBerry beyond push email, and that is related to my biggest issue with BlackBerry. I am talking about RIM’s BIS/BES server (for an excellent explanation of the two servers, read this); the idea of adding a whole other service layer on top of the carrier completely puts me off, and when you take into account the consequences of RIM’s extra layer it immediately becomes a non-option. We have all seen what happens when those servers are down: it means not only no e-mail but none of features you would expect on a smartphone, i.e. you BlackBerry turns into a dumb-phone which will only allow you to make phone calls and send texts. Another result of going through BIS/BES is that the download speeds depend on the server (as opposed to your network) and email attachments have a maximum size limit, which is again limited by the BIS.

It is a real shame because as an OS I actually like it (sans the infamous battery pulls) and the new Webkit browser is actually very good, with pinch-to-zoom text reflow! Add to that that I am a sucker for front-facing QWERTY keyboards – the upcoming Bold 9900 would be the ideal phone for me as far as design is concerned! – but alas….

Jun 092011
 

Nokia has said that they will have some kind of VIP relationship with Microsoft, and as a result be able to tweak the OS and add their own exclusive features to the platform.

That whole argument strikes me as odd primarily for one reason: assuming that Nokia actually will be allowed add significant, deep level features to the OS that they will not need to share with the other WP7 manufacturers, then why should the other manufacturers (e.g. Samsung, HTC, LG) want to continue to produce WP7 phones at all given that they would be in a permanent and default disadvantage against Nokia; for them it would be like being in an abusive relationship. I do not see any reason, no incentive, for them to license and manufacture WP7 phones under those conditions. For anyone wanting to buy a WP7 phone, and for the sellers, it would be a no-brainer: Nokia would be the brand to buy and recommend just for those added and exclusive features.

So again, why would the rest of the WP7 manufacturers bother at all with WP7 under that scenario? Obviously they wouldn’t.

And that could explain why both Microsoft and Nokia keep repeating that the other manufacturers are important in the WP ‘ecosystem’, i.e. it could be a false reassurance so that they stay in the game until Nokia starts producing their phones so that WP7 sales don’t stall completely in the meantime. It could also explain HTC’s recent announcement to wind down their WP7 efforts.

Jun 082011
 

(I also wrote about the Galaxy S3 vs the One X here, though everything I posted here is still relevant, but perhaps much more so with the S3/One X!)

One of the first things (the second, to be precise) I look for in the specs of smartphone when I want to decide on the best performing device is RAM memory, both total and ideally how much is available to the user after a soft reset.

Having enough RAM is the difference between a pleasurable user experience and an exercise in frustration: I would much rather have a phone with a somewhat slower CPU than a RAM-starved device (and I know that from my personal experience). Given this fact alone, and when you take into account the RAM specs for the Galaxy S2 and the Sensation, 1GB vs. 768MB respectively, the decision is obvious, even more so given some reports that Sense 3.0 on the Sensation uses up half the RAM on the phone! Yet most people only look at the CPU when they compare two phones for performance, seemingly unaware of the significant slowdowns that occur when the OS has to start closing down apps in the background and then run the garbage collector due to lack of RAM memory, or worse, completely reload the apps.

So in the case of the Galaxy S2 and the Sensation, comparing CPUs is virtually pointless as far as day-to-day performance and usage is concerned. Any bottlenecks will much sooner be a result the amount of RAM available. And with the Galaxy’s RAM you can also be much more certain that your phone will be able to run future versions of Android, as it invariably grows and requires more demanding hardware (look no further than the HTC Desire and Gingerbread-update debacle, where HTC claimed that the Desire does not have the required hardware to run Gingerbread well).

Add to that the superior battery life on the Galaxy S2 and there is nothing to think about, really. And no, not even the Sensation’s qHD display nor HTC’s Watch video streaming service can make up for this.

In all, the Galaxy S2 is almost the perfect phone right now as far as the hardware goes (the only thing I would *desperately* add is a notification light!), and the other manufacturers should take note.



UPDATE:
I had heard about the so-called “death grip” on the Sensation but since I had not seen any evidence of it I did not include it. But then I came across this where you will be able to see it firsthand; if you still were not convinced that the Galaxy is the right choice then you should be after watching that video.



UPDATE 2:
I now have an SG2, coming from an iPhone 4 – i.e. I absolutely meant it when I said that the SG2 is the better phone compared to the HTC Sensation, and that it is the best phone currently on the market.

Jun 082011
 

NOTE: this is an older post from my previous site which I disabled. But due to the interest and large amount of feedback I got I have republished it here again (though unfortunately I wasn’t able to migrate the comments).
If you want to give some feedback then please do so here.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

As I wrote a while back now, a firmware update was provided by Nokia for the E72, which was available to me only a few days later and which I then immediately installed.

I have used the phone now for several weeks with the updated firmware, and I think that I can safely draw some definitive conclusions not only about the bugs that I reported here and the firmware update, but also provide some overall impressions of the E72.

I will start with the bugs that I reported.

  • I’m happy to report that the A2DP bug has been completely solved. Since I installed the update I haven’t had *any* problems with listening to music both through my BT headset and my BT stereo headphones, including after a phone call.
  • Unfortunately the phone still disconnects from the BT headset for no apparent reason, though possibly with less frequency than before. However, the phone doesn’t hang anymore as a result of a disconnection as it did before, and “all it takes” is to toggle the BT off and on and reconnect the headset.

    It is still very annoying, but a significant improvement over how it behaved before the update.

  • The speakerphone echo that I also reported has been resolved. I haven’t received any complaints of any kind since the update.
  • On a couple of occasions I have also discovered my BT headset to be completely out of battery only a few hours after a complete recharge, even though I’ve only used it briefly. It’s as if the phone leaves a connection open with the headset which consequently rapidly drains the battery.

That’s as far as the reported bugs goes.

Now for some general impressions of the phone.

  • I was on a business trip to London last week, as a result of which I put the E72 through its paces. During that trip I had several apps open constantly, including a large pdf file of the London tube network, Metro, the built in music player and CorePlayer. I would also use the GPS/Nokia maps and the camera extensively . With all these apps up and running, the limited RAM on the E72 reared its ugly head several times during my trip, silently closing apps in the background as a consequence. That, along with some hangups of the camera when I tried to take a “screen shot” of a computer display, made for a somewhat disappointing experience, and I was left with an overall impression of the phone not being entirely up to a “business critical” task.

    With the exception of Nokia, I am not aware of any manufacturer that produces high-end smartphones with only 128 MB of RAM (of which only 45 MB is free after a reset). This fact alone makes the whole RAM issue particularly disappointing, especially since Nokia could and should have easily predicted the impact of this.

  • Though not strictly E72 related, I just can’t adapt to how poorly alarms are handled on the Nokia/Symbian(?). It’s something that keeps annoying me every time an alarm goes off. Heck, even my fiancée has started to complain about how tiresome they are.

So what’s the overall verdict?

On the one hand I love the efficiency of this device: the things it does well it does really well, and during those moments I love it. On the other hand you have the BT issues, the low RAM, the alarms.

If you use the E72 “lightly” and don’t depend on its bluetooth, then it is a cracking phone which there really isn’t anything to complain about. But this phone wasn’t made to be used that way, and it is marketed as a business device. As such, I feel that the negatives are simply too prominent for me to be able to use the E72 reliably and in a consistent manner.

As a result I have decided to get rid of it. I will give it to my fiancée who won’t have any of these problems precisely because she doesn’t depend on the bluetooth and won’t “push” the phone . In fact, though she is well aware of the issues I have with the phone she still can’t wait to inherit it, knowing that she won’t experience these problems (and she hardly uses alarms).

So what will I buy next then?
That will be the topic of my next post.

Jun 072011
 

I wrote yesterday what I was hoping to see in the next version of iOS. Well, it turns out I was overly optimistic, as the release only fixed the two most glaring issues (notifications and lock-screen) while leaving out everything else.

I was certainly expecting quite a lot more, and more so given the fact that it won’t be available for another few months while that the competition (read “Android”) keeps updating and improving at an astounding speed – Apple seems almost flippant in its perceived superiority over Android (and I think Android is the better OS at this point, with vastly superior hardware).

And as always Apple continues with the process to build even higher walls around their walled garden, or to use the current politically correct term ‘ecosystem‘ , what with their iMessage.

Add to that the lack of any new hardware (officially at least) and I see very little reason to wait to “upgrade” from my current iPhone 4 to an iPhone 4S/5; it’s time to look into those contingency plans….

—————————
UPDATE
According to the Business Insider, it seems as if there will be a couple of more of my requested features:
- FaceTime over 3G (though it is still crippled since it only works between iPhones, in typical Apple fashion)
- LED notification. According to the article you can use the camera LED, which seems odd since you would have to keep your phone face down in order for it to be useful; but maybe the iPhone 4S/5 will have an notification LED on the front….?

Jun 062011
 

With only a few hours left before the announcement I’ll give a brief list of the features I would like to see in the updated iOS (some have been predicted, but regardless…). Some of them, not all, are actually critical if I am to consider upgrading to an iPhone 4S/5.

- Less strict rules for background apps. E.g. currently you cannot have an alarm app play a song instead of an alarm without leaving the app running which drains the battery at night.

- Improved soft-keyboard: I would like to see long presses to access numbers and other characters, instead of having to switch to a different mode (think Android on HTC phones).

- Customizable ring/sms/mail tones. ‘Nuff said.

- Much improved notifications.

- Quick access to the different radios, instead of having to dig down into the settings, in various places, only to toggle the radios.

- User accessible file storage. Let users manage part of the memory as file system where they can freely create files and folders and move them around, and also to allow to use the phone as a thumbdrive.

- Widgets. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but simply make the app-icons “live”, meaning that they update themselves with the relevant information. You could take it one step further and allow icons of different sizes as well in order to provide more information.

- Video calls over 3G as well instead of Wifi only. As it is now it’s virtually a useless “feature”.

- Active lock screen. Display some useful info on the lock screen as well.

- Text reflow in the browser when you pinch to zoom.



Regarding the hardware, despite the rumors of a delay, I would like to see:

- HD video recording (a given).

- A louder speaker, as the current one is ridiculously low, you are guaranteed to miss many calls and all messages/mails with the phone in the pocket right now.

- A notification LED! Having to wake up the phone only to see if you missed something the minute you have been away from the phone is a chore, and just awful usability. Apple should really know much better!

- Larger display. I think 3.8″ – 4.0″ would be ideal.

But in a short while we’ll see and I will know what my next phone will be, as I have several contingency plans…!

Jun 052011
 

Tomi Ahonen has written an interesting post over at his blog – it is very long but relevant for anyone who is truly interested in smartphones, so much that it prompted me, after a looong break from posting (and after having moved to and back from abroad in the meantime), to start posting again and write about my own view of Elop’s decision to go with WP7.

Overall I agree with Tomi, though think that maybe he underestimates the perception of who are the market leaders. Also, one thing is units sold (where Nokia is still the undisputed champion), but another matter is the profit made regardless of the number units sold which (where Apple reigns), and I don’t think he gave that distinction any attention; at the end of the day, it is the profit that matters.

But one of my main issues with with Elop’s decision to go 100% with WP7, which he based on the term ‘ecosystem’ which he constantly keeps throwing around, is that I believe the idea of an ‘ecosystem’, and which obviously stems from Apple’s attempt to create one (i.e. “the walled garden“) is vastly overrated. It’s a buzzword, a fad, that will disappear.

Let me explain. On your PC you don’t have an ‘ecosystem’ nor does anyone think in those terms. What you do have is a platform (=OS) and all you want is simply the tools (=apps) that will allow you to do what you want/need, whether it be the browser or dedicated programs.

Why do people think that it is a good idea to treat smartphones any differently, and even more so when smartphones are becoming more like PCs? Why would I want to be tied to any ‘ecosystem’ to have access to and download my tools (=apps), or upload files, or participate in a social network?

What Apple got right, besides from the UI/usability, was the appstore, i.e. a simple way of finding and downloading the tools/apps that you want or need. But that is it. (Note that an appstore is not the same as an ‘ecosystem’).

Now some people make the case that people want to have a seamless experience on their phone, and that inevitably requires an ‘ecosystem’. But that is not true nor the solution, or at least not the ideal solution. What they *should* be focusing on instead is to create a solid API so that the app developers can provide that experience (if the platform creators haven’t already, that is).

Nokia had the clout to bring that open platform, with superior hardware, to the masses (probably in the shape of MeeGo) but, as Tomi notes, they failed miserably with the execution. But that doesn’t mean the idea was wrong.

So even though Elop is absolutely right about that drastic changes are needed in Nokia (especially note the last paragraph in the link), the solution is not to copy the other players, but rather to drastically change the organization in order to quickly get Nokia to execute on that broader, greater vision that goes beyond ‘ecosystems’ (think what Google did on the PC). Now that doesn’t happen overnight obviously and in the meantime they would have needed to do a lot of firefighting which could very well have included adopting WP7 or Android in some way, but certainly not to the extent and fashion that Elop executed it; e.g. imagine Nokia doing their very best to create the best speced Android phone on the market (aka. a Samsung G2 but with a better camera, perhaps a keyboard, etc.); Samsung will be selling millions of their high-end G2, with high profit margins, so why wouldn’t Nokia do equally well or better while they get their act together?

Nov 152010
 

When I last wrote about my impressions of the original Palm Pre I noted that the main issue, besides from the build quality, was that it was quite slow. Fortunately, according to all acounts (and videos) all of that seems to changed with the new Palm Pre 2. Thus, as soon as the new Palm Pre 2 was on sale, unlocked, from Palm.uk I immediately placed an order for a unit.

I am really looking forward to receiving it as I have wished to have a Palm Pre device ever since WebOS was announced almost two years ago (!), and I have since openly complained about the fact that Palm didn’t sell them unlocked. But they (=HP) finally came around!

It should arrive in a day or two, and I will continuously post my impressions of  it for the next few weeks.

Nov 132010
 

My fondness for Symbian is hardly a secret at this point, so when the Nokia C7 was announced I was looking forward to it more than the N8, so much in fact that I decided to wait for its release. I ordered the C7 as soon as it was available, but despite being excited to finally get my hands on a Symbian^3 device it was only with me for 24 hours before I returned it.

There were mainly three reasons for returning it.

Browser. If you have read any review of the N8 or C7 you will know that the browser has been widely criticized. To be honest, I think most reviewers have been too kind in their criticism because the browser is, by far, the worst browser on any smartphone platform out there right now. It is so bad it is borders on being unusable: it is extremely slow at loading pages, scrolling on desktop sites is choppy at best, it does not auto
fit the page to the screen width when you zoom in and it doesn’t have multiple tabs. In short, there is absolutely nothing positive that can be said about the browser.

Text input. With no portrait qwerty keyboard on board and the fact that entering text is done in “pop-up” mode, any text input is a chore.

Multitasking. No, it’s not what it sounds like. Rather, it’s a usability issue in S^3. The sliding of the horizontal list of open apps is fun for about oh 30 seconds. You then discover that you constantly overshoot the app you are looking for so you end up slowly dragging the list instead of swiping it. It’s definitely a step backward from the previous icon grid of open apps.

Then there were minor issues such as the threaded messaging: it looks nice but it’s rather slow, every time you send or receive a message it blacks out for second when it updates the list. And of course the old Symbian alarm “feature” is still there.

On a positive note though, the Bluetooth issue has been completely resolved.

In all the Nokia C7 was a rather disappointing experience, and one that left a dent in my faith in Symbian, not because Symbian doesn’t have the potential to be a great OS but rather because of Nokia and their inability for the last few years to rapidly execute plans. The next few months, what with Meego and the promised Symbian updates, will be crucial for Nokia.

Sep 202010
 

The Nokia N8 was finally supposed to be released at the end of this month, but now Unwiredview.com reports that it has been delayed, once again, until October.

The reason is apparently that they are still fixing bugs!

Now, the fact that Nokia wants to release a device that is bug-free is all good and well. But Nokia’s competitors also strive to release devices that are without issues, and not only are they arguably more successful in doing so, but they also A) do not need to make a big fuss about it, but also B) manage to do so, and C) without any delays.

Case in point, you have the HTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z, which were announced only a few days ago and will be available in less than a month.

The difference in productivity between the two companies is staggering. How many sales will Nokia lose as a result of this? Unless one is specifically interested in Symbian^3, the average consumer is not going to hold out for the N8; instead they will walk into a store, see the excellent new HTC phones (among many other options) and get that instead. By all accounts, even Windows 7 will be available by then. In other words, Nokia had an excellent window of opportunity right after the summer which they will now miss.

You would expect certain basic processes to be in place at Nokia, the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Yet their absence is painfully obvious, once again, with this last delay.

Sep 032010
 

There is no doubt the Nokia N8 will be a very important device for Nokia, but not because of its specs and what it will bring to the smartphone market, not even because of Symbian^3, but because it will be Nokia’s opportunity to prove that they really can deliver when they set their mind to it. As such, it is arguably the most important device Nokia has ever released to date.

After the failure of Nokia’s last flagship device, the N97, (and to a lesser degree, and in my experience, the E72), they really need to show the world they can deliver a good user experience on a new device from day 1. This means making the right decisions in terms of hardware specs, software, and a thorough QA before the release.

Whether Nokia have learned from the past remains to be seen. On paper at least I would have liked to see more RAM than the announced 256MB. But regarding the software, Eldar Murtazin from Mobile-review.com doesn’t seem very optimistic, as evidenced in a very interesting interview with the Unwiredview.com.

The fact is that Nokia really will need to nail it this time in terms of user experience, otherwise they might very well permanently cement their reputation as the company that constantly “under-delivers” as a result of skimping on the hardware (CPU and/or RAM) and an awful (non-existent?) QA. I am sure the wish and the awareness of this is very present at Nokia; the question is if they can make necessary changes within the company and execute upon this awareness.