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Choosing for the Nokia N97

Mobile phones

2009 is indeed without a doubt the year of the smartphone. From that viewpoint, I'm really an early adopter since I have a smartphone since 2007. In retrospect, my current Nokia N80 has been the most fun mobile device ever. It has consolidated my MP3 player, my GPS, my internet communications device, my PDA and of course my mobile. But technology moves forward. Initially, smartphones were designed with the business user in mind. But then came the iPhone; and changed all that. Big touchscreens for everyone (thank you Apple). My initial idea was to acquire a second-hand N96 device, and wait a year for Android to mature. But an idiot changed my plans, and I decided to wait for the next Nokia device, the N97.

The N97 is important : Nokia produces mobile phones for everyone, and controls 40% of the market. The N97 is their top line model, and therefore a direct competitor for the iPhone. Nokia has released the 5800 Expressmusic as their first touchscreen mobile, and it has been a smashing success. The N97 is Nokia's aim at a new N95 success story and their new flagship device. Nokia decided to continue with Symbian as the operating system for their smartphone line, with some additions for touchscreen support. They probably did this to provide a solid base and a broad range of applications for the N97. However, the result is S60v5, and has some strange and sometimes confusing behavior, like single/double tap in lists. I applaud the stability of the operating system, but I'm quite sure that the N97 will be my last Symbian powered mobile.

If you take a look at the competition, the Nokia N97 has some serious opponents. The iPhone off course, with its glorious eye candy, and many available applications. Whether you like it or not, the iPhone has become the mass standard for smartphones. Unfortunately, as with many Apple products, the hardware is pretty impressive, but the resulting functionalities are pretty limited. My new mobile must support a GPS (and I'm talking about voice guided satnav, Apple, not about a map software which pulls data from the internet), and that pretty much ruled out the iPhone.

Android is the new kid on the block, and a very interesting one. Crafted in the dungeons of Google, this open and attractive operating system is the new standard for HTC mobiles. Unfortunately, Android software still is limited (but growing with a fast pace), and it fell out the list of candidates for the same reason as Apple, because of the absence of GPS software.
The Palm Pre came late to my attention : it looks like Palm really took the good things from the iPhone and even went a step beyond that. This resulted in a gorgeous looking interface, which got quickly copied by HTC in their Sense UI interface for the Android.

In a next blog post, I'll explain my experiences of one week of playtime with the N97.

Enterprise mobile calendar

Mobile phones

Mobile people as we are, we find ourselves pushing more and more functionality to our mobile phone. Take a look at my own Nokia N80 : it is my mobile, PDA, MP3 player, PIM and GPS (and probably some stuff I forget right now). As versatile my phone is, there is still one functionality I miss in it, and that is not the little device its fault : enterprise calendar. It's very handy when you decide to go to work later, that you know what meetings are planned that day. That way, you can give the people involved a notice you won't make it, or at least will show up later.

There are plenty applications around that do this trick for you, at least if you have the chance (?) of working with Outlook at work. At our place, we're the victim of the GUI nightmare called Lotus Notes. And there seems no application that does the syncing with Symbian, and if there is one, little chance I can get it installed on my desktop at work. So I needed an extra man in the middle, and that is Google Calendar.

CalSyncS60 is a Symbian application that syncs your Google calendar automagically with your Symbian one, either by 3G or by entering the hotspot of your choice. That leaves me only with the task of getting my Lotus calendar into Google. No chance with Domino 6.5 (the export function gives very weird results), but in later releases, this should be possible. There is ATM no option left but manually entering my enterprise calendar into Google calendar (I'm not a meeting animal, so this isn't such a daunting task anyway).

Cell phone radiation levels

Mobile phones

According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, specific absorption rate (or SAR) is "a way of measuring the quantity of radiofrequency energy that is absorbed by the body." For a phone to pass FCC certification, that phone's maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6W/kg . In Europe, the level is capped at 2W/kg while Canada allows a maximum of 1.6W/kg.
CNet has a list of the radiation level of different phones, ordered by manufacturer. My Nokia N80 has a SAR value of 0.86, which leaves it around the middle average. Best (minimum) SAR values of current phones are around 0.16 W/kg.

The evolution of mobile phones

Mobile phones

e2save features a nice flash slideshow of the evolution of mobile phones in the last 20 years, and provides a sneak peek into the future.

Tomtom navigator op de Nokia N80

Mobile phones

Recentelijk heb ik Tomtom navigator geïnstalleerd op mijn Nokia N80 smartphone. Het was echter wachten op een Bluetooth GPS receiver en een Nokia N80 car holder vooraleer ik deze software deftig kon uittesten. Ik had al Tomtom op een PDA geïnstalleerd, en ik was benieuwd hoe Tomtom op de Nokia zich gedraagt tegenover een rasechte PDA. Hier het verdict :

- Tomtom werkt aardig en redelijk vlot; ik had al eens een route demo afgespeeld, en het viel me op dat als een richting wordt aangegeven, de schermupdate even blokkeert. Volgens wat ik op internet vind, zou dat aan een te traag micro SD kaartje liggen. Maar tijdens het rijden valt dit enorm mee.

- Ik vreesde dat ik het touchscreen van mijn PDA zou missen, maar de N80 versie van Tomtom gebruikt het toestenbord van de gsm, en dit op een verrassend ergonomische wijze. Deze vorm van interactie werkt zeer snel, en uitstekend !

- Wat wel tegenvalt, is de grootte van het scherm. Ik vond de Nokia N80 altijd wat tegenvallen qua schermgrootte, alhoewel de uitstekende resolutie dit terug goedmaakt. Ik vermoed dat Nokia dit deed om het gewicht en de prijs van de smartphone te drukken, maar voor Tomtom is het scherm nipt. Je moet dus de gsm redelijk dicht bij je ogen plaatsen, wat dan ook weer vermoeiender werkt dan de normale afstand waarmee je een gewone GPS gebruikt. Ook een nadeel (van Tomtom dan weer), is dat die bij redelijk lage snelheid al vlug uitzoomt op de kaart, zeker bij 2D kaartweergave. Dat maakt het algemene overzicht op de kaart ook iets moeilijker.

Het algemene verdict : of de Nokia N80 mijn oude GPS gaat vervangen, is waarschijnlijk; nog even verder uittesten. Voor wie occassioneel Tomtom gebruikt, lijkt me de Nokia N80 een uitstekende keuze. Bovendien heb je je GPS altijd bij. Voor wie de GPS dagelijks nodig heeft, vrees ik dat de schermgrootte van de N80 een te belemmerende factor vormt.

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