Archive for 2009|Yearly archive page

Random thoughts on the nokia 5800

In phones, tech on January 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I’ve had the nokia 5800 for about a month now.  I picked up a blue variant for $350 from nokia’s Chicago flagship store as soon as they became available. Unlike my experience with the N95, the 5800 did not blow me away when I first opened the box. Despite being 100% that I was getting rid of the N95 since I don’t see the point of having multiple extra smart phones at one time, my feelings for the 5800 were mostly muted. Until I installed google maps on it. I know, it sounds wierd, but seeing street view on that screen, as well as the buttery smooth navigation was enough to make me fall in love with the phone. We’ve maintained a great relationship since then, hence why this blog has been so neglected despite the official opensuse 11.1 release.

The phone delivers in many ways. Being an old hand at S60, I’m not complaining that the interface was not drastically altered. While I’m a huge fan of complete rewrites from the ground up, the linux community’s ongoing divide over kde4 provides a very valuable and slightly disturbing insight into people’s dislike for significant change. Anyway, I won’t bother going into a review of the phone. Rather, I will present a few random things that either bug me or that I’m really thrilled about.

1. Lack of applications. This is a huge bummer. S60 has accumulated tens or even hundred of thousands of applications over its lengthy lifetime. Many of those applications will install and a few will even open on the 5800. However, most of the apps don’t respond to touch and since the phone lacks a keypad, using the apps is practically impossible. Nokia thoughfully provided a(n admittedly oversized and clunky) virtual keypad for java applications. For native symbian apps, however, the user is SOL if the software wasn’t written to respond to touch. Some software companies are slowly getting around to recompiling their software for S60 v5, but the vast majority of S60 v3 software remains useless to 5800 owners. If even the software division at nokia hasn’t bothered to tweak many of their apps for the 5800, why should third party devs be bothered? Conversation? Sports tracker? Don’t even get me started.

2. As a result of gripe #1, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying various applications looking for decent apps that work with the 5800. Being a huge fan of mobireader and reading documents on my phone in general, adobe reader and mobireader were some of the first apps I tried. Both opened, but failed miserably in the touch department. None of the other ebook readers worked either, so I eventually returned to mobireader with the intention of using the menu to navigate around the ebook. In the process, I discovered that the volume keys on the phone can be used to skip to the next page. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled. Makes me wonder what other S60 v3 apps are programmed to use the volume keys….

3. The built in email client blows for imap. While I’m on that topic, it desperately needs an overhaul. I absolutely love the fact that the client will display html email in the browser. My issue with it is the inability to download anything other than headers when imap is setup. Seriously, if someone took the time to add automatic configuration for gmail accounts, surely that someone could have implemented the same code that allows pop3 setup to download full emails for imap. Most S60 v3 email clients don’t work on the 5800. I’ve tried a number of them so far and the only one I found that works well is emoze. It doesn’t do html emails, but emails are cleaned up very nicely, no matter the original format, unlike the built in client.

4. The SIP client has been taken out. Yeah this happened with FP2 phones, but I never owned one of the feature pack 2 phones, so was only moderately pissed till now. Of all the brain dead things nokia could have done, this is one of the  worst. Not upgrading ancient and nearly useless apps like the IM or email clients are forgiveable considering time constraints and stuff. Completely removing  a feature that put S60 head and shoulder above the pack is just rediculous. With the lack of software for the 5800, those of us that depended on that built in SIP client are basically left hanging. This really makes me mad.

5. Now that I’m writing about it, I realize that there’s nothing on the 5800 that I’m particularly thrilled about. Most of the features are things I have come to expect from symbian, or really any phone I own. While it’s good that it has GPS, wifi, a camera decent enough to be caught dead with, a browser that finally displays geico’s website (yay), sweet speakers, a nice, large and very responsive screen, etc etc, a bunch of other phones have those features as well. So why did I buy this phone, rather than any one of the others out there? Looking around at the phones that have been released since the original N95, in my failed bid to find something better, it struck me that mobile phone innovation has reached a plateau and nothing with the impact of the N95 will appear for a while.

Look at the samsung innov8 for example. The most capable phone out there right now and what does it have over the N95? A minor upgrade here. A touch up there. Nothing that would give any mobile phone afficionado wet dreams, nothing innov8tiv. The 5800 certainly doesn’t claim to be about innovation. It’s not. It is about branching into a new field, a new form factor, a new way of doing things. I gripe because I know nokia can and will do better given time. I gripe because I can’t shake the feeling the 5800 was rushed out the door as nokia attempted to come to terms with being blindsided by apple. I gripe because I fear that the N97’s impending release will give S60 developers more reason to procrastinate on recompiling their apps for the touch interface (the N97 has a keypad, which makes it a lot less dependent on the touch screen).

6. There are many little thoughful things on the 5800 that I have come to depend on. The large screen and accompanying touch interface. The android-information-bar-esque implementation that allows me to jump to active applications that display an icon/notification at the top with one touch. Example, if I get a message, email or im (slick works really well), I can tap the notification icon at the top to pull up the app.  While multitasking in a phone call, I can return to the phone screen anytime by tapping the phone icon at the top. I love the screen lock switch, the way the phone feels in my hand, the little breathing light when there is a notification, the fact that I can use gps on a long trip without worrying about a dead battery, the floating and transparent menus that appear while looking at a picture or watching a video respectively. Things like that. Individually, they are not exceptional, but combined, they make the experience very worth my while. Because of that, I say kudos to the overworked nokia software developers that made the phone a reality. Hats off to you guys and gals. Now get back to work and fix up the damn browser and clean up that buggy full screen keyboard while you’re at it!