Nokia Sleeping Screen graduates

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Back in April I mentioned a new Nokia Beta Labs application, Nokia Sleeping Screen. Well, this has now graduated from the beta programme and is now available from within the Nokia Store (as part of many other changes this year, Nokia are removing the Ovi name, so what was the Ovi Store is now the Nokia Store). If you want to try out the new Nokia Sleeping Screen, head here.

As I said back in April, I’d like to see apps like Nokia Sleeping Screen and Nokia Situations being included as standard from within the firmware to allow Nokia Symbian devices to compete with the other smartphone OSes, such as Android. Having said that, with the new Belle firmware due out in the next month or so (*) (which will replace the current Anna firmware for Symbian^3 devices), Nokia will have a good all round package to compete.

(*) Nokia are already making new devices available with Belle, but the upgrade for existing models is not due for a little longer.


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Nokia bringing “Anna” updates to older phones

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Nokia started a rollout of new firmwares to a range of S60 v3.2 (3rd Edition FP2) and S60 v5 (Symbian^1) devices yesterday which will bring a range of new features to these phones.

The main update is a new Web Browser, the same as will/is shipping in the Anna update for Symbian^3 phones.  This is much faster than the previous browser, and even in the short time I’ve had access to it, it does seem a much faster and better browser.

Additionally, Ovi Maps has been updated.  For S60 v3.2 devices, the latest version available is v3.04, but that does bring a range of new features such as WiFi and Cell ID positioning to help speed up the initial GPS fix.  For S60 v5 devices, this means v3.06, which also brings the ability to update the maps direct from the device (although the latest maps released by Nokia are still from back in February 2011; it would be nice to see Nokia moving to a quarterly map update schedule).

It should be pointed out that for some of the devices, the Maps update has been available from the Software Update tool built into the phone, and in this scenario, the main firmware update does not seem to include the Maps update.  If you have such a device, you have already got the latest Maps, and the new firmware does not modify that.

Finally, there is support for emoticons within Messages.  If you type characters such as : ) it will automatically turn it into a graphical emoticon.  Otherwise, you can select to insert an emoticon from the keyboard menu.

So, which devices will this be rolling out to?  Nokia have said:

S60 v3.2:

S60 v5:

My understanding is that the Nokia 5230, C6-00, E5, E52 and E72 all started to receive the firmware update from yesterday, with the other devices following over the next few weeks.

If you have a Symbian^1 phone, you can also download the Nokia Evolve theme from the Ovi Store (here), which will give the built in apps the same style of icons as the upcoming Anna update for Symbian^3 devices.

One word of warning though; it seems that this firmware update has a bug on all devices with homescreen widgets which will cause the very useful “Coming Next” widget to break and display an error message.  Nokia are aware of this (basically any attempt to access the Calendar from a Web Runtime Widget returns a blank response), and have indicated it will need a further firmware update for all devices to fix, so if your busy schedule relies upon the “Coming Next” widget, you might want to think long and hard before applying this update.

Overall, I’ve found a combination of the latest Ovi Maps, the latest Anna browser, and the Evolve icons does bring a good refresh to existing Symbian phones, and should extend their life a little further; it’s definitely nice to see Nokia releasing these software updates to elder phones; oh, and if you are a fan of Gravity (the all round best Social Networking client for Symbian) you’ll be glad to know the latest Alpha has an Anna-style application icon to match the rest of the icons.


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Symbian Anna finally coming to existing devices

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

If you own an existing Symbian^3 device (Nokia N8, Nokia E7, Nokia C6-01 etc.) then you might want to keep some time free in August.  The latest major firmware update (now called Anna) has been shipping on the new Nokia E6 and Nokia X7 since release in the last few weeks.  Now Nokia have confirmed it will be available in two phases for the existing devices.  Firstly, if you haven’t yet bought one, those existing devices will start shipping from Nokia with Anna pre-installed from July, but for all existing customers, you’ll need to wait until August when the firmware will be able to be downloaded via the latest Ovi Suite (or direct on the device).

This is good news, although it is a lot later than it should have been.  However, the new styling that Anna brings will breathe some fresh air into those existing devices.

One small ray of hope though; if you have a Nokia N8, Nokia C7 or Nokia E7 from 3UK, and you make a call to another user of one of those devices also where the phone came from 3UK, then you might find your call actually goes via their new HD voice service which will provide much better clarity on the call.  Although currently not available cross-network, 3UK have stated they are hoping to be able to support cross-network HD voice calls soon.


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Nokia continue Symbian innovation

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

A lot of people have been writing Nokia (and Symbian) off, but in my opinion they are slowly and surely still providing innovation on the Symbian platform.  As someone who now spends more time using Android, they still have a major problem around 3rd party app and 3rd party website support, but sometimes Nokia announce something that continues to progress; in this case it’s the Nokia Sleeping Screen. As with all innovation, it’s currently in beta with Nokia Beta Labs, but the Nokia Sleeping Screen allows you to see missed calls, unread text messages, and reminders presented in a clear way on the standby screen.  Better than that, Nokia have designed it to take advantage of the latest OLED screen such that it has as minimal effect on battery life as is possible.  As well as being kind on the battery, it has a Night Clock setting to dim the screen overnight, and if it notices the screen is covered (in a bag, case or pocket) it will turn off the screen completely.

It’ll only work on Symbian^3 phones, and needs either Qt v4.6.4 or v4.7.2, which is another area of concern to me in the short term; different Qt apps need different versions of Qt, and I’ve even seen one Qt app that after uninstallation managed to knock out a system application pre-installed on the phone by impacting the Qt subsystem.  Nokia need to settle Qt down, produce firmware updates for all devices to pre-install that version, and prevent the need for individual apps to be burdened with the Qt installation problems of late.

However, overall, the Nokia Sleeping Screen definitely seems to be a worthwhile new application; just like Qt, I would like to see current beta apps Nokia Situations and Nokia Sleeping Screen included as standard on updated firmwares; when that happens, it will really show Symbian is back on form.

As for my use of Symbian, there are still a few apps which draw me back to Symbian on a regular basis; Gravity, Ovi Maps (with the offline maps, decent traffic, support for walking modes, built in 3rd party mapping related information such as TripAdvisor and Qype); ViewRanger would be the other app, but as I also have iOS and Android versions of the app available to me, I simply run ViewRanger on every device I can!  I have to say going back to Symbian reminds me how limited the homescreen customisation is; with different sized widgets instead of just being able to select what each row represents (on Symbian), I hope the major UI refresh coming to Symbian in the Summer works on the homescreen, and I’ve heard it adds multi-sized widget support, so it may well bring Symbian back to the fore.

Oh, and if you’ve got a Symbian^3 phone, v2.5.1 of the Nokia Situations beta was released a week or so back and brought a whole range of greater options to the conditions used to select different profiles.  Equally, v1.3 of Nokia’s Social App was recently released too, though in my opinion, you’re better sticking to Gravity.


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Gingerbread coming to HTC Desire May

Monday, April 4th, 2011

3UK have confirmed (through a tweet) that they are currently putting a Gingerbread update for the HTC Desire through their mobile operator testing.  This can take a while, and often finds problems causing the firmware to be rejected until the bugs are fixed. 3UK stated that it’s likely the firmware will finish testing and be released late April / early May, which would indicate a mid to late April release of the same firmware for unbranded and unlocked devices direct from HTC.

For a phone now replaced (both the HTC Desire HD and the HTC Desire S could be said to follow on from it) it’s good to see updates still being released, and although the native Gingerbread is not a major update, it does bring a range of useful features to all Android devices out of the box (SIP calling, slightly better keyboard, slightly better UI, and better battery power management) so it’s still a welcome update.

It seems a large range of devices will be able to update from v2.2 to v2.3, and for those that don’t, there’s always the custom ROM scene, which as devices move out of warranty becomes a sensible option if the original manufacturer isn’t offering these updates (if the hardware is up to it).

Although brief (as most tweets are!) 3UK‘s statement can be found here.


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New firmware version for Nokia E7

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Since Nokia moved to OTA Updates with UDP (User Data Preservation), it’s been a lot easier, and a lot less painful to update a Nokia phone with firmware updates, and as a result, our regular feature for pointing out when specific operators released their specific versions of firmware updates has stopped.  This is partly because many of the UK mobile network operators have actually got faster at releasing updates, and hence the need to point out how bad they are has gone away.

Anyway, although only just starting to ship, the new Nokia E7 has received an update to v14, which is a fairly minor update.  The major update still due for the Nokia N8 as well as the Nokia E7 is likely to come in the next few months (it’s already available to selected sources, so is unlikely to be too far away), and then there will be a further UI refresh later in the year.

This last point is key; despite announcing a move away from Symbian to Windows Phone, Nokia is not going to ignore the many millions of current Symbian phone users, and still plans to provide updates over the coming quarters; how long this continues though is not yet clear.


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Humax HDR-Fox T2 Review

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

On 14th Feb 2011 TiVo announced to the UK that it would no-longer be providing Guide information to UK Series 1 TiVo owners, read the blog post in full here.

A replacement for beloved TiVo had to be found. After much searching of the net, it was decided that a Humax HDR-Fox T2 would be TiVo’s successor.  Available in both 500GB and 1TB models offering twin tuners for simultaneous recording and viewing or multiple recordings.

To found out how we got on after the delivery arrived please click to read the full article.

(more…)


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INQ Announce new Android devices

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

INQ announced they would be moving to Android many months ago now, but we now have pictures of the first of the two devices that they have now formally announced.  The first is the INQ Cloud Touch, which should be available (exclusively at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy for a limited period) in April 2011, which is a traditional touch based Android phone (see above).  Planned to be available in Black, Red and White, the INQ Cloud Touch has the following spec:

Software:

  • Android Froyo 2.2 platform
  • Built with a modular approach making upgrade to Gingerbread easy
  • Instant Messaging for WLM, G-Talk and Facebook Chat
  • Free push email across major domains, including Microsoft Exchange
  • Info Key to quick access to key handset functions
  • Fast unlock for quick access to key functions
  • Backup and sync, plus firmware upgrades to later software releases

Hardware:

  • Processor: Qualcomm 7227 chipset, 600MHz
  • Triband HSPA (7.2/ 5.76Mbps), Quadband GSM, EDGE + WiFi
  • Size: 3.5” inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen display with extended 10mm touch strip
  • Memory: 4MB with option to add more
  • 5 MP autofocus camera
  • 1300mAh battery
  • WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, GPS, FM Radio, accelerometer, compass, ambient light and proximity sensors
  • MicroUSB charging, 3.5mm audio jack.
  • Accessories included: 4GB microSD Card, Travel Charger & USB Cable, Stereo Headset, Quick Start Guide

Although not in the name, INQ have continued their long running Social Networking Support and built in some good Facebook integration into the phone; “Facebook comes alive with a homescreen Visual Media Feed for video, pictures, web pages and newsfeed.

There are one-touch links to Facebook Chat, Friends, Messages, Wall and Notifications. Facebook Single Sign On is activated across the phones and people can check in to their favorite shops, restaurants and clubs with Facebook Places, also active on the homescreen. Facebook Events fully integrates with the Google Calendar on both devices.

The phones are the first mobiles to use the Facebook social graph API, making it easy for people to follow updates from the friends they interact with most.”

Also, the phone will come with the Spotify client, with all relevant Spotify features being available to subscribers.

However, the other phone also looks very interesting. The INQ Cloud Q brings together the same software with a touchscreen based Android handset, but it also includes a QWERTY keyboard in the BlackBerry-style widescreen candybar format.  When we had the choice of the INQ Mini or the INQ Chat, many people went for the Chat as it offered all the same facilities, but with the benefit of the QWERTY.  Obviously, the Cloud Q has a different touchscreen to the Cloud Touch, so it’s not as clear which will be more popular, but yet again INQ are introducing a range of less expensive phones with the same facilities as the top end models from other manufacturers.

Photo of INQ Cloud Q courtesy of Mobile Phones Arena.


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Revo release new AXiS software

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Revo Technologies have released an updated firmware for their Revo AXiS Internet / DAB radio. This adds two features of note; firstly, the device now supports the DAB Slideshow feature (more information on this feature here), which allows the unit to display graphical content provided by the DAB radio station.  It also adds the ability to specify how long the backlight stays on when the unit is in standby.  With this feature, you are able to turn the screen back on by moving the volume control either way to light the screen, and then after the preset period, the backlight will turn off again.

Revo Technologies have confirmed that they are planning a similar update for the Revo Ikon, although there is no date for release available yet.  If you have a Revo AXiS, then it should find the update automatically, and prompt you to install.

It’s nice to see a manufacturer releasing updates for existing hardware which adds new features, instead of only incorporating these new features into new hardware.  The update was released yesterday, so should appear soon on your DAB radio. In terms of UK radio stations that support DAB slideshow, these include BBC Radio 1, Capital Radio, Heart Radio, XFM and Magic (possibly Virgin Radio Xtreme and Kiss as well), and only a handful of DAB radios support it, including the PURE Sensia and the Revo AXiS.

Revo Technologies have also indicated there are working on 3 new models for 2011, which will be on sale in Q3 / Q4 this year.  They have also announced a limited edition “Black Oak” variant of their Revo HERITAGE radio should be available for sale at some point in the next few weeks.


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Update for LiveView due soon

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Sony Ericsson LiveView device (which we first covered here), has proved quite a popular device, both in terms of sales, but also in the number of Android applications that have been written (or enhanced) to support it.  This is, overall, a good position for the device.  However, all is not well, with many users reporting disconnections (and difficulties in re-establishing a connection afterwards).  Sony Ericsson have confirmed that they are investigating these issues, and plan to release a firmware update for the hardware at some point during this month (January) which should resolve many of the problems people have been facing.

Sony Ericsson also produced this list of compatible apps that they have noticed in the Android Marketplace, some of which sound very interesting:

  • Moon Phase Pro: 3D interactive simulation of the moon.
  • LiveView™ HTC Music plug-in: Music plug-in for HTC phones.
  • OI Shopping List: Shop easily with your LiveView™.
  • FakeCall for LiveView™: Trigger sounds and vibration on your Android phone.
  • LiveView™ ContactCall plug-in: Lets you browse contacts and initiate a call.
  • LiveView™ for Cycle Hire: Quickly access and safely access docking station statuses for London’s TfL Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.
  • LiveView™ Weather plug-in: Show current weather forecast in your location.
  • SportyPal: Motivational training tool that gives you a view of your work-out.
  • Launcher plug-in: Display your application icons on the LiveView™.
  • Smart Training: GPS tracker tool, post your training record.
  • Where am I LiveView™ plug-in: Shows a map of your current location.
  • LiveView™ PowerAMP: Control any music player.
  • Gmail for LiveView™: Gmail notifications plug-in that also lets you read the first part of the e-mail.
  • Se-first.com news alert: RSS notifier for Se-first.com
  • Calendar plug-in: Gives you an overview of your calendar and you can scroll and dive into a daily agenda.
  • Twitter icon plug-in: Shows your Twitter icon or a QR-code so that you can spread your Twitter-url.
  • Mode plug-in: Profile manager that lets you switch between silent, vibrate etc.

In fact, I’ve also seen a few early beta versions of other apps that will make it even more appealing, which is good news for the £50 device.  First of all, though, we need to see that updated firmware…

Some information taken from Sony Ericsson.


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