Friday, 18 July 2008

Nokia E71: First Impressions

The Nokia E71 has arrived here at the Nokia Guide and having just a weekend to play with the new enterpriselicious QWERTY device so far, it’s not enough to write a full-blown Mega Review, but how about a few random thoughts and opinion based on my usage for now? The E71 arrived in a box similar to what we are used to with Nseries devices, except for two interesting things: a much much smaller box and using the color red as an “accent color”. Normally we are used to the grey, white and even pinkish Nseries, but red for the Eseries?! As you’ll soon see, it’s not only a part of the box that’s red.

The sample received was a “Grey Steel” E71-1 supporting Dual mode WCDMA (900/2100 HSDPA) and Quadband GSM (EGSM900, GSM850/1800/1900MHz) with the v100.07.76 firmware. The standard retail package comes with:

· Nokia E71

· Nokia Battery (BP-4L)

· Nokia Charger (AC-5)

· Nokia connectivity cable (CA-101)

· Nokia Headset (HS-47)

· Nokia Eseries Lanyard

· Nokia Eseries Pouch

· User Guide, Quick Start Guide and other documentation

· 2GB microSD card

-Build-Quality is exceptional. Coming from something like N95 8GB, N95 or even the N82, the E71 stays true to Eseries tradition by delivering outstanding build quality that only gets better with the use of metals and the tight gaps between parts. The E71 leaves the N95 and N95 8GB far behind when it comes to build quality.

-The textured metal on the back adds a surprising amount of grip, yet adds an interesting and sophisticated design element.

-The E71 has a layout that’s the closest thing to perfect I have ever seen from Nokia, everything from the QWERTY keyboard, the overall size, the space between the elements, the buttons, it all just works perfectly, if only they could make the screen bigger: 2.8 or even 3”. The Nseries definitely should get such a device with such a layout and QWERTY keyboard.

-The included 2.5 mm Nokia AV connector is a disappointment and believe me it’s a big one. You truly appreciate the 3.5mm audio jack when a device lacks it. This is probably the biggest negative side of the E71.

-No TV-Out. With full-office editing and viewing functions, having this would have been the ultimate “leave your notebook at home” feature. Doing presentations via a TV-out function would have been ideal for the business user.

-The E71’s keys remind me of the excellent N93 keys, only slightly smaller and not as “spongey”, with the same rounded shape pointing upwards. The keys on the E71 work really well and are a positive change from flat keys we’ve seen so far from the likes of the N78. N93i. Even though the keys on the N82, N95 and N95 8GB worked, they should have been like the N93 and W71. Every key on the E71 exudes a quality feel, including the solid feeling Naviwheel.

-The new Nokia Tune is an interesting change, but where’s the original one?

-The addition of a lanyard and a pouch is nice touch and Nokia should this every Eseries and Nseries device. Too bad the pouch doesn’t have a belt loop or clip.

-Remember the red color on the box? This color is again repeated on the power button, lanyard and even the inside of the pouch. Red isn’t the accent color I would think of using when designing a business device, but it sure works well. This leads me to believe that the E71 and slider E66 are despite their business roots, they seem to have robbed a few ideas from Nokia L’Amour and Super Nova fashion devices.

-Despite the inclusion of a fairly decent (on paper atleast) 3.2 Megapixel Auto-Focus camera, the E71 falls behind other 3.2 MP devices like the N73 and N93 or even 2 Megapixel devices like the N70. The reason why the camera falls behind is due to the noisy sensor and poor dynamic range. This is expected from a business oriented devices, but this probably means that unlike devices like N82 that can double as a camera, the E71 should be left for emergencies only. In the case of the N82 you could leave the camera at home, in the case of the E71 you’ll probably need to carry more devices to cover the multimedia side of things.

-The breathing light is a cool, yet functional touch.

-The E71 is smaller in person than what I expected and let’s not forget how thing the device is, especially when you realize that the battery takes quite a bit of space.

-Speaking of batteries, the E71 battery life is quite impressive.

-Devices like the N76, N800 and even N93i screen were almost unreadable in direct sunlight, luckily just like the N95, N95 8GB and N93, the E71’s screen stays readable even in the brightest tropical sun.

-The E71 is a finger print magnet, especially the back. This is probably caused by the abundant use of metals and shiny surfaces. Just in case you were wondering the E71 should double as a signaling device in case of any emergency due to the shiny surfaces. Even when taking pictures of yourself, the back can be used as a giant mirror.

-The menu is very responsive and apps open up very quick.

What would you like to know about the E71? And if you were lucky enough to score an E71, what interesting things have you noticed?

Nokia launches retooled N-Gage

High-end gaming platforms like N-Gage and iPhone could spur a premium gaming market.

Nokia’s new N-Gage platform finally went live today, officially discarding the old dedicated N-Gage phone for a software platform that runs on multiple Nokia N-series handsets.

Nokia first announced it would revamp its gaming platform in August, after the N-Gage handheld gaming device generated a cult following but lackluster mass market sales. Instead of trying to create a singular handheld device and game library to compete with the likes of Sony’s PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo Dual Screen, Nokia opted to follow a software approach, turning N-Gage into a robust run-time environment that can be supported on multiple high-end phones. That strategy would open up N-Gage’s premium gaming experience to the more casual gamer unwilling to purchase a dedicated gaming handset.

The launch was originally set for November but was delayed first until January. Instead, Nokia soft-launched the service, allowing N81 owners to trial it before it finally went live today. At launch, N-Gage is supporting five N-series handsets and offering an initial lineup of six game titles--two from Nokia’s own publishing unit and the rest from third-party publishers EA Mobile (formerly Jamdat Mobile), Gameloft and Glu Mobile. Nokia said those releases will soon be followed by an additional seven titles.

Nokia appears to be betting that a premium gaming service and platform may succeed where a dedicated mobile gaming device won’t. In fact, the industry may be witnessing the beginning of a premium mobile gaming segment, driven not only by N-Gage but by popular high-end platforms like the iPhone. Apple recently launched a developer program, opening up the Mac OS X-based platform to third-party applications for the first time.

Sega Mobile director of marketing Carrie Cowan said that the multimedia and processing capabilities of the iPhone match those of the portable gaming consoles such as the PSP, presenting an excellent opportunity for developers to build feature-rich games specifically for the device. In addition, new interfaces on phones allow game developers to look beyond the awkward mechanics of the 12-key number pad and navigation toggle. Sega has already built a prototype version of Super Monkey Ball for the iPhone and iPod Touch that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer as a way to interface with the game by tilting the device from side to side.

“At the end of the day, the RAZR is very important to us,” Cowan said, referring to the simpler Java and BREW platforms that most game developers design their games for. “But the iPhone and N-Gage—we love them. It’s an indication of what’s ahead for us.”

There are already examples of game developers building more graphically heavy and immersive games for specific platforms. MVNO Helio as well as now-defunct Amp’d Mobile have launched several titles designed to take advantage of their device’s high-end hardware. Magmic Games has created a development platform and market place for games on the RIM’s BlackBerry OS. Most games that make it into smartphones are ported titles perhaps with a few more functions or higher-resolution graphics than their Java counterparts.

While game developers will definitely try to take advantage of the new capabilities of N-Gage and the iPhone, it will be a while before that market grows large enough to justify dedicating resources to making games specifically for premium platforms, said Russ Eisenman, senior vice president of global marketing for Hands-On Mobile. At CTIA Wireless, Hands-On released its wildly popular Guitar Hero III title for the BlackBerry platform, which, while optimized for the BlackBerry OS, was essentially the same game released in Java and BREW for Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

“We have to build to the feature sets out there,” Eisenman said. “Phones like the iPhone will always enhance game play, but our strategy hasn’t shifted because of the iPhone.”

Whether the new N-Gage platform will be a bigger success than the N-Gage handset remains to be seen, but its total addressable market has certainly ballooned. Between its launch in 2002 and 2007, when Nokia stopped selling it, the N-Gage sold only 2 million units, a far cry from the 6 million units Nokia originally estimated it would ship in its first year.

The Symbian OS-powered N-series has become the world’s leading line of smartphones as Nokia has come to dominate the smartphone market. The five supported devices at launch--the N95 and N95 8 GB, the N81 and N81 8 GB and the N82—are all later releases in the N-series line, so they don’t comprise the majority of the installed base, but Nokia has said it plans to extend the N-Gage platform to more N-series devices as well as other Series 60 devices made by Nokia and other manufacturers.

N-Gage’s success in the US, however, will be severely mitigated by the lack of availability for the phones. Of the major carriers, only one, AT&T, carries an N-series device, the N75, which is not supported in the initial N-Gage launch. While Nokia has gotten back into the CDMA business, it has focused on low-end devices, not smartphones. Nokia has been trying to build its own direct retail strategy, selling N-series devices at its Nokia stores and online, but it has only designed one other smartphone besides the N75 for US 3G frequencies, the N95, which significantly limits the data capabilities of most of its devices.

Due to its focus on lower-end devices in the US, Nokia underperforms the market when it comes to mobile gaming, according to M:Metrics. In February, 20.1% of Nokia phone owners—about 5.9 million people--played a mobile game on their handsets compared to the 21.4% market average, M:Metrics said. But among the limited number of people who own an Nseries device, Nokia outperforms. More than 30% of all Nseries owners played a mobile game in the same period, M:Metrics said.

By Kevin Fitchard

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Nokia N810 WiMax

Nokia took the shroud off its WiMAX-capable N810 Tablet today, which promises 4g mobile broadband speeds for the handheld internet tablet. The updated N810 will use Sprint's Xohm service, and adds a new mobile dimension to the device, which was previously Wi-Fi only.
Aside from 4g internet, the N810 WiMAX Edition now allows firmware updates over the air without complete memory reformatting (3rd party apps can also utilize this wireless update protocol). The updated tablet also includes a few cosmetic changes to the OS interface and a new, Web 2.0-compatible Mozilla browser. Nokia claims the N810 seamlessly switches from WiMAX to Wi-Fi when available and features a new, Web 2.0-compatible Mozilla browser.

The n810 still has the same 4-inch touchscreen, same cameras, same GPS, and same 2 GB of storage (expandable to 10 with an 8 GB MicroSD card). It also still uses Nokia's MAEMO Linux interface, which is fully open source and supported by an online community specifically focused around the device. Because of the N810's open source emphasis, VoIP apps will function over WiMAX (something the iPhone SDK won't allow with its mobile internet). No price point has been set yet, but expect the Nokia N810 WiMAX Edition in stores before the end of June.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

New Nokia N75

Providing a complete multimedia experience in a thin and elegant clamshell design, The Nokia N75 brings all the latest cell phone media and calling capabilities to the table while still incorporating Nokia's renowned ease of use. As the first Nokia phone released with Cingular to boast 3G capabilities, the N75 lives up to high expectations with included features such as S60 smartphone OS software, a full Web browser, a bright and colorful QVGA main display, external camera and music controls, a 2.0-megapixel camera, USB mass storage capabilities, Bluetooth, a memory card slot, and more. Simply put, it's the perfect companion to Cingular Wireless service.

The new NOKIA 6124 Classic

Nokia announced their newest phone, the Nokia 6124 classic, available exclusively through Vodafone. This new handset is a compact multimedia cell phone option that will offer Vodafone users a fast and easy way to access all the features they are already used to via a sleek Nokia design. Nokia and Vodafone have come together to offer users all the high speed internet and entertainment options they have come to expect from their handset. The Nokia 6124 classic offers Vodafone users an easy access to the internet with the simple click of a button. The full suite of communications, content, Internet services and browsing will be at their fingertips. With the speed and convenience offered by this handset, the user can run several applications at once, even download from the internet while listening to music or talking on the phone… uninterrupted!