Twitter hilft!

Letztens wollte ich mein über zwei Jahre altes Nokia 1800 Prepaid Handy von seinem O2-Netlock befreien und rief dazu die Hotline von O2 an, wo mir zuerst ein falscher Code genannt und dann vorenthalten wurde, dass man den Freischaltungscode nur maximal 10x eingeben dürfe. Am Ende der ca. 30 Minuten dauernden Prozedur hatte ich dann ein dauerhaft gesperrtes Nokia Handy, das fortan nur noch im O2-Netz verwendet werden kann.

Mobilfunkmast auf dem Puig de Sant Salvador, Mallorca
Mobilfunkmast auf dem Puig de Sant Salvador, Mallorca

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Hello Moto DEFY! How dey body?

So I did it.

Motorola Defy JKE

I bought this Motorola DEFY mobile phone today. It’s my first Android device and I am still to find out if I can get along with its operating system, the available apps and the user interface. I’ve picked this model (and not the HTC Desire / HTC Desire HD / Samsung S / Nexus S, etc.) for the following reasons:

  1. It is dustproof and water & scratch resistant. There are various videos on YouTube that document how this phone still works after (and while) being submerged in water and other fluids. Try this with an iPhone :-)
  2. It was recommended to me by my mate Adrian who has 10 (!) of these and uses them for a scientific (geologic) project. Of course, if I could afford it, I would probably also long for a Nexus S (like Adrian) because of the availability of a pure and fresh Android 2.3+. The Motorola DEFY currently runs on Android 2.1 with its own (lame) skin MOTOBLUR. Android 2.2 still needs to be rolled out in this region for this phone, and it is uncertain whether it will ever make it to 2.3. Of course there are unofficial releases, but Motorola only allows signed bootloaders. F*** Y**, Motorola. Not good. Android is open. You’re not. Why?
  3. It was also recommended to me by fellow blogger @bobbes who’s a Linux guy and showed me his DEFY earlier last week.
  4. It is affordable and has a very good price-performance ratio. This is an average device with an average camera. My old Nokia N95 (ex 2007) has a better camera. I’ve paid 265 EUR (this is a refurbished/like-new piece of hardware!).
  5. Android! Because I needed a change. As a Win/Linux user, iTunes is a pain in the ass. Else, I still love my iPhone on iOS 3.1.2. The iPhone is very slow on the browser, though, and urgently required an upgrade. I am not really sure if Android will make me as happy as iOS did, but I’ll never know unless I try.
  6. 480×854 pixel screen size. For an operating system, where app compatibility also depends on the pixel resolution of the target device, this is a welcome screen resolution.
  7. I’ve always kept & treated my phones & gadgets in a good way, never had a broken screen so far, but it just feels good to know that any sweat on the display (holding the phone next to your ear) will not result in a water damage. Given how fragile these phones are on the inside, this DEFY hopefully defies all water attacks :-)
  8. It’s smaller than my iPhone, faster and will presumably also run a bit longer. This argument about exchangable batteries….in all honesty, I think no one really needs that in reality. And for those moments you really need it, you won’t have a fully charged spare battery in your pocket. I usually carry a bag with chargers and spare batteries for all my phones in my laptop bag. During all these years, I’ve only used them twice. Once in Kenya, and once in Germany on the train (only to realize that the cheap MadeInChina spare batteries drained too fast).
  9. It has a good GPS chipset. My iPhone Classic doesn’t have GPS. My Nokia N95 has GPS, albeit a very weak one that needs to be hardware hacked one day (extending the antenna, that is).
  10. It has a microSD card. This alone is reason enough to drop the iPhone (where I used Dropbox for non-multimedia files).
  11. It has two microphones that “intelligently amplify your voice and filter out background noise”. This is supposed to be a modern standard (worked fine on my E72), but my iPhone Classic didn’t have this and I sometimes missed it. I don’t like to use my iPhone as a telephone, prefer Nokias when it comes to pure telephone functionality because of the improved acoustics. Estonimoja (with his beloved 6210) and Mentalacrobatic(s) (with his love for the 6230) will certrainly agree on this.
  12. As a hardware guy, I checked Youtube for “disassembly defy” and found this video. Going by the main PCB and the plastic cover, this phone is very similar to good Nokia phones. You’ll notice the difference while opening up iPhones or HTCs – which are much more fragile and consist of many small cables and parts directly printed on these copper cables. This obviously is a business decision and sometimes the cause for failures (that you won’t have with such single-board phones, imo). In other words: good built quality needs to be based on something.
  13. This being an iP67 phone, my assumption is that it will continue to live despite any stupid Motorola bootloader policies. In other words: while this phone has something that makes it unique (the water/dust proof thing), other current Android devices may only be short lived and soon dropped by many users for the prospect of using better hardware. I think this Motorola Defy will stay with us for a long time, similar to the Siemens ME45 or the recent Nokia 3720.

What I miss is a docking station, and/or the USB socket at the bottom of the device. I’ll have to open the flap that covers the USB port (on the left side of the device, see pics), which is a bit annoying. The iPhone (or the HTC Desire) clearly wins here. Obviously, there’s no perfect phone out there.

Oh, and you can buy this mobile phone holder (yeah, simu holdaaaaa!! :-):

DEFY-holder-Bikertech.de

 

…. which will probably attract Enduro-fanatics like Bwana Whiteafrican or Bwana Mzeecedric who need tough gear for their motorbikes.

This mobile phone holder for bicyles and motorbikes is available via bikertech.de – the above image is (C) by them. The guy who runs bikertech.de builds these holders one by one, they are all hand made and can be adjusted to any specific requirements. Love it! In fact, seeing this pic finally nailed it for me. I can’t imagine using an iPhone in an Otterbox case (which are awesome, see their review from my Nokia E72) on such a holder. But the DEFY? Of course!

Anyways. I know the DEFY won’t be the ultimate phone, and probably also not be my last one. If it proves to be as reliable & versatile as the iPhone Classic, I’ll be more than glad.

UPDATE: After receiving this phone, checking out Android, installing a lot of apps and slowly understanding what makes Android so special, I realized that the simplified car menu (see bikertech image above for an example) that gives you access to basic functionality is VERY nice and convenient.

Nokia 2700 Classic

It’s about time for another blog post, and since I do seem to have a slight affection for mobile phones, I thought about blogging on my latest acquisition: a Nokia 2700 Classic mobile phone I managed to buy in mint condition as a used device from eBay for a very small amount.

P1020041

I’ve used quite a few phones lately and have gotten used to enhanced services like Dropbox, Evernote, ReadItLater, E-Mail, Browsing on the iPhone, and also thought that I wouldn’t want to buy another Nokia phone since my disappointment with the restrictions set by a Nokia N95 and E72 (= great hardware but not that much software support), but for this price and for my use (as a 2nd line just for calling & music), this Nokia 2700 Classic is a fantastic phone.

Sure, the plastic cover isn’t great, the keypad is a bit narrow, there’s no UMTS/3G, no WLAN, a very grainy 2Mpx cmos cam on board, no flashlight and flash for the cam (which is a real pity) and the internal RAM is also only limited to about 10 MB.

P1020043

This phone, however, is the first Nokia since maybe the 6230 or even the 6310i where everything important works out-of-the-box . It just works and does what it’s supposed to do. Also, anything that isn’t on board can’t break. I think I like (Nokia’s operating system) S40 much more than S60. For instance, one of the things I hated with my N95 and the E72 is when you terminate a call the display/operating system would still take about 1-2 seconds to respond. That’s pretty annoying, actually. There’s no such thing on my S40 devices (6230, 6230i and this 2700 Classic). I like!

Another interesting software detail is that users are directly forwarded to the Opera Mini browser which is just so much better than Nokia’s own crippled browser solutions.

P1020047

The best part about this phone is the 3.5mm headphone socket that works well with my Sony MDR-818 headphones (headset, actually). This, along with the removable 1GB microSD card, promises a really good music pleasure. I don’t know about you, but syncing my iPhone via iTunes just sucks big times (could this also be done via SSH, btw?), and here I just connect the phone via a data cable or directly load multimedia files onto the microSD card. Yes, I also already had this on the N95 and the E72, but to be honest: this is more fun to me with a relatively simple phone like the 2700. I prefer this phone to both the N95 and the E72, albeit their other capabilities.

Also, it has the right size (long enough, slim) and a good weight (~ 85gr), SAR-value is also ok with about 0.84 W/kg (iPhone 1.3; E72 1.4; N95 0,59 W/kg). I think the product engineers who created the pcb and the external phone design did a very good job on this phone. As mentioned, the keypad isn’t top notch, but it is ok and does what it’s supposed to do. I somehow also like that it is a closed keypad with no gaps in between the keys (even though I still like the keypad on the 6230/i best). You know, when you open up phones and look inside at how they are designed and what kind of materials are used and where water/moisture could enter (water damage!), there are worlds between Nokia + SonyEriccson phones and the likes of an iPhone or the HTC Desire. The latter are indeed much more fragile, with complicated thin & flexible pcbs, not designed for rough use and African Asian road side repairs.

P1020042

You’ll notice the old-fashioned BL-5C battery we’re already familiar with since the 6230 (from 2003?), the antenna positioned in the bottom, the thin but sufficient plastic back cover (I’ve added some layers of transparent adhesive tape to limit play) and the overall simple “a few components only” design by Nokia. This, ladies and gentleman, is what I consider a good design!

Verdict: the Nokia 2700 Classic may be an average phone with some flaws like the grainy camera or the limitations set by the operating system and its resources, but it does quite well what it was designed for and is the perfect device for anyone who just wants to use it for telephoning, sms and music. The internal speaker is very loud and the music player responds quicker than any player on S60. Going by the installed ringtones on this phone, the target market seems to be the youth / 13-30yr olds.

Despite all the mistakes Nokia did lately (too many phones on the market, no emphasis on software, sticking to the wrong OS, horrible app store etc.), this phone is a good buy – which is also evident by the good sales stats this 2700 Classic already had (this phone was recently offered at ALDI Germany, btw) and the adaption of the design for other popular phones like the Nokia 6700 range. Contrary to the otherwise much more interesting 6700 with it’s metal cover, 5mpx cam and UMTS/3G support, the 2700 has this 3.5mm headphone socket. The 6700 is like the 6500 in this regard – everything is done via a micro (or mini?) USB port, which may be ok for political reasons but isn’t my first choice.

I think the overall truth is that a) Nokia’s S40 phones are less frustrating than their S60 phones (with the given competition in form of high-end touch phones based on iOS and Android) and b) these modular phones with their sandwich design (front cover – keypad – pcb – middleframe – battery – back cover) are the way to go for the future when it comes to sustainable product design.


Oh, and one more thing:

I am tired of repeating myself, really tired, but! – Nokia – seriously, I mean, SERIOUSLY!!!! we’re in 2010 now and you still haven’t managed to provide a reliable service that updates all phone address books via one click. The many, many users of S40 devices in the dev world and elsewhere – the ones with webmail accounts provided by Yahoo!, MSN, Gmail – how are they supposed to sync their address books via their online accounts? Not everyone has an instance of Outlook installed on his computer, and – this may be news to you – but: Ovi.com xux so much in so many different ways, like deleting all contacts in one go, or that it doesn’t sync itself with an external service like Gmail, Yahoo! or MSN or the app itself installed on the phones (for downloading apps and Ovi contacts).

There’s only a few things you’ll have to do: build good phones (done), sell them (done), give ppl a way to sync their data with online accounts other than this Ovi failure (not yet done).

And there you go wondering, dear Nokia, why we felt free enough to give you a lecture on what it takes to succeed in Africa?

Hej Nokia engineers, just imagine the following scenario: you’re somewhere in Kenya, have an account with Yahoo! with about 100 e-mail addresses, two SIM cards from two different operators, a simple Nokia phone (ok, let’s say an S40 device to make things a bit better, so we’re not talking about the 1xxx range here) and would like to have all these contacts from your Yahoo! e-mail account inside your phone. How will you go about that? With a limited inet connection? Yes?

That’s the issue here. Make it simple. Make it work. Not just for geeks like me who can easily google for the solution via their broadband connection.

Saanko käyttää teidän puhelinta?

That’s it. I am going to sell my 6 month old Nokia E72 QWERTZ phone.

Yes, it’s just a phone and “why should I read the following rant on Nokia”, you may be wondering. Here is why:

1. Flexibility

I mentioned it earlier that I had bought a 2G iPhone some month ago, with a broken screen and drained battery from eBay for 65,- EUR, which I managed to repair and have since been using. The iPhone may be a crippled piece of hardware and Nokia may have the best hardware on their phones (also in terms of durability), but there is just so much more I can do with this old iPhone from 2007 that I can’t do with any of my four Nokias (6230, 6230i, N95 & E72).

The iPhone (or an HTC Desire with Android OS) is my logical extension to the computer. Evernote, to name just one application, runs on the iPhone but doesn’t (natively) run on the E72. I am using Evernote to keep track of my notes, so I’ll need to have this run on a phone.

Flexibility is a matter of software support, not only hardware.

Consequently, the iPhone won. I am using it on a daily basis while the E72 slept in my drawers since February 2010. Time to sell it and sum up everything with this blog post.

P1050376
iPhone 2G vs. Nokia E72

2. Good at basic stuff

If you’re just looking for a simple mobile phone with sms, Nokia phones are good. There’s a reason why the 1xxx range of Nokias has been so popular around the world – not only in emerging markets. It is also why Nokia keeps on reinventing this series with the recent announcement of their C1 & C2 (dual sim, eventually!) phones. Even the simple QWERTY phone with Bluetooth we’ve been asking for via Eriks postNokia’s C3 – is a good phone.

For simple stuff like voice calls or sms, Nokia phones are good. Even as a mobile Twitter device (Gravity) it rocks! …but for anything else than that, you’re probably better off buying a phone from one of their competitors.

3. SOFTWARE!

This is 2010 and thanks to the iPhone and the undeniable revolution it brought to the market, any smartphone without “cool” software and a usable app store just sucks.

It’s not just the missing Evernote on the E72, or other missing applications. You know many ppl have been asking Nokia and their devs to port successful applications from competitors to the different operating systems in use on Nokia phones. No, with software I mean everything:

  • confusing, often changing user interfaces & menu structures
  • different operating systems (plus too many different phones at the same time, but that’s another – hardware – issue)
  • support of their developers (slowly evolving though)
  • unstable firmwares on their phones, always takes at least 12 month on a new phone to become stable
  • Nokia website – not optimised for use with mobile phones
  • Ovi.com (see 5.)
  • essential stuff like Sports Tracker. It took a spin-off from Nokia to get this cool software a bit closer to where it should be.
  • Ovi Maps – not yet available for all phones (who are capable of displaying these maps)
  • the successful Twitter client Gravity being one of the very few REALLY GOOD apps on a Nokia smartphone
  • Global login on all Nokia sites and products. It still doesn’t work the way it should be (one ID & pwd).
  • Ovi app wizard. Over at Apple, “apps” that provide nothing else but an RSS feed are meanwhile classified as “spam apps” – and removed from their app store. Are the “apps” built using this app wizard a way for Nokia to bloat their Ovi store stats?

Please, Nokia, software is SUCH an important issue. You’re so good at hardware – why can’t you apply the same diligence to your software products and all related processes?

Also, I’ve realized that I’ve spent considerably more time trying to fix various software issues on my Nokia phones than on the iPhone. I actually do not have the time for such things, and also don’t want to fix my phone all the time and pull information from all over the internet on why application x does not work with firmware y or mobile z. This is really annoying.

There may of course be historical and political reasons for all of this (I know Symbian from when it was still EPOC16 on a Palm Series 3), but then: does this really matter today? Make it work! And don’t make we waste time on it.

4. The mobile office.

Any smartphone that seriously tries to be good at providing some form of mobile office should have

  1. a kick-ass e-mail client
  2. a superb browser
  3. Office suite and/or viewer for various attachments

My E72 came with such an office suite which did the job for me, but the e-mail client and – the E72 is a business phone – the browser just suck.

Nokia, seeing your customers and loyal fans complaining on Nokia Forums and on blogs about the performance of the e-mail client and browser is a NO NO. EI EI!

Cooperate with Yahoo!, install Gmail as default e-mail clients, ship your phones with the Opera Mini browser – do whatever it takes to fix this because a business phone with such an average e-mail client and browser just won’t be enough for us – your customers.

Or else team up with Android.

The e-mail client on my 1G iPod Touch (30,-€ @ eBay) actually made me buy the 2G iPhone in February this year. And this although I had just invested ~270,- € on the Nokia E72 in december 2009.

5. Ovi.com

Ovi – Finnish for “the door”should be a door to combined Nokia services. But – yes, you guessed it right – it still isn’t.

The Ovi client on phones sucks, sometimes can’t be deinstalled and has a very particularly BAD user interface. It may work with Nokia’s touchscreen phones, but for all other phones it just sucks.

I can’t explain all faults on Ovi, there is just so much wrong with it. I also can’t see what changed from MOSH (which by itself already was a bad joke). This piece of software – as an app on the phone  – just makes me want to hit someone with a Nokia 2110. It’s very frustrating. Very.

The most annoying Ovi bug, imo: You’re on Ovi.com on your computer. Ok, found a nice app, have a link to it sent to you via sms. Check your mobile, the link on that sms opens the web browser – so far, so good. But THEN the Ovi client decides to chip in and re-open it inside the client. This is very annoying, especially for those who are paying a lot of money for data traffic. Can’t this hook be implemened in the OS? => “All http://store.ovi.mobi links to open in Ovi client by default”. (my N95 runs on FW v35.x which was only recently released).

See the App Store on the iPhone? It may not be perfect, but hey – I’VE SPENT MONEY ON THE APPLE APP STORE. Something I would probably never be doing on Ovi App Store. And I guess I am not the only one.

On the other hand, it has to be mentioned that I somehow like the web version of Ovi.com. There may still be a lot of details that do not make sense to me on their website, but truth be told that their app store may be opened by anyone AND that it doesn’t open any client software like iTunes or only shows a crippled version of the market like Android.

Also, the Nokia Ovi Suite has greatly improved since it was launched, succeeding their PC Suite. Nokia is slowly getting there + iTunes is worse, I think.

This whole experience around buying software and interacting with Nokia via Ovi.com and its offered services – that’s the FIRST thing I would try to improve on as Nokia.

6. Strategy

As a serious customer, I am not looking for a fun phone with lots of games, but instead a durable workhorse that will guarantee persistence.

Nokia is in a process of change, they’ve realized that revenue is made on emerging markets and that most of their top-level phones actually can’t really compete with competitors on all levels. A great camera, long battery standby time and smart design (“use with one thumb”) are very good – buy they won’t drive the masses to Nokia stores. The E72 was supposed to be a good successor to the very successful E71. Well, is it really?

Heck, they don’t even seem to have a strategy for emerging markets and still consider Africa and the Middle East as one market! Crazy.

Or their Bicycle Charger Kit which will be released to the market later on this year. You can read my thoughts on this in the comments at Julianas AfriGadget post.

On the iPhone, I can port my apps from the 2G to the 3G, 3GS and probably also to the iPhone 4 (even though some apps, like the new iMovie seem to be limited to the iPhone 4 for hardware reasons). Will this also be possible with apps I’ve bought for the Symbian 9.3 S60 FP2 platform (e.g. the E72)? Will I also be able to use them on future Nokia phones?

The Nokia E72 may be great phone with good hardware, but it currently comes with only average software (except for Gravity) and looks like a dead end street to me. It also doesn’t help that Nokia is very innovative in their Beta Labs, ships new phones with free navigation (thx, Nokia) and a full range of accessories you’ll have to pay extra on competitors.

Nokia has missed to communicate a clear strategy to its customers. Maybe they should pitch us, tell us why their phones are better than the rest. And prove it with cool software that teams up with the already awesome hardware. Right now, I can’t see a reason for the purchase of their phones. There is no persistence in the software side of their products, and my patience with and passion for Nokia products is gone.

What will you do about it, Nokia?

P1040793

The Nokia E72, QWERTZ keyboard (DE), 6 month old, mint condition, fully equipped, with Gravity licence, OtterBox Commuter Case. 250,- EUR and it’s yours.

UPDATE: SOLD!

En attendant Android

I’ve been meaning to post this on my blog, even prepared a post in German, but then realized that 50% of the post is a rant on Nokia and decided to rewrite/repost it in English.

So, the following is a list of iPhone Apps which are running on my iPhone 2G (reassembled from scrap), and which should also be available on Android 2.x (and which may already be available). Thought about documenting this private list offline, but then: why shouldn’t I share it with you?

  • Twitter (ex Tweetie, very nice Twitter client)
  • Read It Later
  • ShopShop (shopping list)
  • Alarm :-)
  • AroundMe (shops within the area, location based)
  • Barcooo (Barcodereader)
  • DB Navigator (Deutsche Bahn timetable)
  • DHL (calculator for postal charges & parcel tracking via DHL)
  • Dropbox (sync files between devices)
  • eBay (follow auctions from the phone)
  • Evernote (sync notes between devices)
  • HootSuite (another Twitter client)
  • Instapaper (similar to ReadItLater)
  • iPostbank (online banking, search for nearest atm)
  • Last.FM (streaming music client)
  • MeinProspekt / KaufDA (advertising brochures as PDF, really cool)
  • VNC (virtual network computing)
  • Morse-it (awesome morse code trainer and my initial reason why I switched to the iPhone in the first place)
  • OpenMaps (OpenStreetMap client)
  • OperaMini (alternative browser)
  • Payback (…)
  • PlugPlayer (or any other NAS player)
  • Qype Radar
  • Sipgate (Sipgate (VoIP) client)
  • Skype
  • SPB TV (live TV streams)
  • Stanza (eBook Reader)
  • TeamViewer (remote login tool)

There are about 140 apps currently installed on my iPhone 2G – some really good ones, other just very average – but the ones from the list above are the ones I use on a regular basis.

IMG 0328
JKE’s home screen on the iPhone in May 2010

I also don’t do games (except for Labyrinth2, BiA or NSFU) because most of the time when I am bored and pull out the phone, I rather use Twitter, Facebook or ReadItLater to check out news.

So why Android?

I think my next phone will be an HTC device, running an instance of the Android OS. I also like the iPhone and will keep it for the moment until the functionality of all apps mentioned above is also available on Android. I’ve even accepted iTunes running on my Windows machine, which used to be a no-go for a very long time.

I am thinking about an HTC device because I miss the good camera from my Nokia N95 (& E72) on the iPhone. A flash would also be nice – and since Apple obviously won’t deliver, it’ll be an HTC device next up.

Nokia? Maybe when they’ve returned from the current chaos.

Being a hardware guy, I think it’s interesting to see how I’ve switched my preferences to some extent from good hardware (Nokia) to the availability of various software products (Apple).

This (software > hardware) is so eminent in 2010, isn’t it?