Fancy a cheaper Symbian Handset?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Prices for phones will always drop over time, but whilst many of the network get to a point where they drop the product from their range, 3UK seem happy to continue to sell devices at some amazing prices.  Take for example last week’s price reductions; you can now pick up a Nokia 5230 or a Nokia E63 for £90 on PAYG, and both prices include a £10 TopUp, making the phone effectively only £80!

I used a Nokia E63 for roughly 6 months, and the only real issue I found with the QWERTY device was the lack of GPS, which was solved pretty much completely by purchasing Maps Booster from the Ovi Store (see here and here for a review, and I note it’s on sale even cheaper now); in fact, even on phones with GPS, I often rely upon either Maps Booster, Google Maps, or the latest versions of Ovi Maps to provide cell and/or WiFi location information as this really does satisfy the majority of my location needs.  Occasionally I need true GPS (when driving), but at £80 (plus a few pounds for Maps Booster) it’s definitely worth considering.

The Nokia 5230 (covered before here) is also a worthy device for £80.  This device, as well as supporting a touchscreen, which is becoming a key feature for many people, does have the GPS that the Nokia E63 does not have.  However, as the Nokia E63 is an E-Series device, it includes WiFi, which is the one key feature many will find missing from the Nokia 5230.  If you can survive on 3G alone (and many people can), then the Nokia 5230 may well make a nice budget phone.

Of course, 3UK have a whole range of phones available from budget models right up to top of the range models, so head to the 3Store to see what else they have!


Nokia release new firmwares

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Last week Nokia released 3 key new firmwares.  Firstly, the Nokia E71 (and I suspect the Nokia E66 and Nokia E63, as they seem to share a common base and seem to get updates at the same time) was updated to v500, although at the time of writing, this was not yet available for either the generic EURO1 codes nor the operator branded versions in the UK, but hopefully it will become available over the coming weeks.

v500 contains the following updates:

  • Maps v3.03 Lite which has Free Navigation support
  • Music Player upgrade
  • Quick Office v6.2 which has Office 2007 support
  • Ovi Store upgraded to and Download! Removed
  • Ovi Suite included in Memory card
  • Functionality improvements in E-mail configuration
  • Qwerty keypad improvements
  • Emergency call termination with RSK key corrected
  • Corrected Bluetooth link drop when an outgoing call is made in a carkit
  • Corrected localization issues in world clock
  • Fix provided for selecting desired mailbox when multiple mailboxes are configured

Probably more important is the Nokia N97 firmware update to v22, and the Nokia N97 Mini firmware update to v12.  Given the Nokia N97 is always accused of not having enough memory and space on the internal C: drive, then having to install Ovi Maps (over 10MB) to that area is always a burden. Well, this new firmware at least includes v3.03 Ovi Maps within the firmware, removing the need to have that additional 10MB application install (although we note that v3.04 is now out with the added cell ID and Wi-Fi based positioning, so without using a third party app such as Maps Booster, there is still, ironically, a need to install Ovi Maps in addition to the version in firmware for some of us).

The other new features include:

  • Ovi Maps v3.03 with free Navigation built-in
  • Nokia Messaging stub built-in
  • Default screen brightness raised to 75%
  • Default theme now the jet black ‘Nseries 2’, giving longer battery life than the previous ‘Nseries 3’
  • RAM optimisations
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes, including “Default Nokia tune is played as ringing tone for incoming calls instead of the one user has defined in Profile settings. Also sometimes device has stopped alerting for incoming calls. Both issues are now fixed” which has plagued a good few users.

As with all firmwares, you will need to decide between the impact of applying a new firmware (and the need to wipe the phone and start again with all your contacts, bookmarks, application and settings) against the fixes provided by the new firmware.  As always, expect to wait longer (and potentially forever) for operator branded versions to arrive; for example a 3UK Nokia E71 is still on v300, having never released v400 (or v410) for their devices, so the chance of v500 being released is quite small (it’s not all 3UK; an Orange N97 will still be stuck on v10, as they have never released v11, v20 or v21, let alone the new v22).

Nokia E71 firmware information courtesy of Symbian World, Nokia N97 Firmware information courtesy of All About Symbian.


Maps Booster on sale now!

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Although not exactly going to break the bank at £3, Maps Booster is a very useful program to provide your Symbian phone with a fast cell ID / Wi-Fi based positioning information, and unlike the latest Ovi Maps (which offers a similar solution), it’s available to all apps on the phone through the OS’ positioning features.

However, right now (in the UK at least), Maps Booster is on sale in the Ovi Store, and is only £1; well worth it in our opinion.

Whilst you are there in the Ovi Store, why not download the UK Gadgeteer app as well, which provides access to the news stories directly on your phone; just search for “UK Gadgeteer” within the store and you should find versions for both S60 3rd Edition as well as S60 5th Edition.


More Detail on Ovi Maps & Maps Booster

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Nokia Maps 3.0 with Ovi

On Friday I mentioned that v3.04 of Ovi Maps was available from Nokia Beta Labs.  Since then I’ve discovered that one of the main ways that this version can claim “Improved positioning speed and accuracy” is that within the application Ovi Maps now includes support for WiFi positioning.  Now, many of us are used to seeing this feature within Google Maps, which uses both Cell ID and WiFi positioning as well as having GPS support.

This now makes 3 different solutions available for Symbian; Google and their Cell ID and WiFi positioning within Google Maps (Google positioning is also used within the latest Alpha version of Gravity, the Social Networking client for Symbian via the fairly new public API), Skyhook Wireless and their Maps Booster solution (which we covered here, and adds support for Cell ID and WiFi positioning into the OS, making it available to all apps), and now Nokia are supporting WiFi positioning within Ovi Maps (in a similar way that Google support it within their Maps application).

This is a nice feature to see, although personally I would have preferred Nokia to either work with Skyhook Wireless, or to integrate the solution into the OS in the same way that Maps Booster does, as just providing it within their own application seems a little selfish, however, it’s a good start.  After all, on the iPhone there is a single positioning system used by all applications, although I do note that Android is expanding; whereas the base OS uses Google’s system, GoWalla (a social location app similar to FourSquare) now uses the Skyhook Wireless Cell ID and WiFi positioning information.

Apparently Nokia have been working on this for some while, to the extent that for the last 6 months Nokia employees across the world have been collecting WiFi location data for Nokia, allowing them to start with a fairly comprehensive database, as opposed to starting with no data at all.  I’m still waiting to understand from Nokia how exactly the WiFi location system will work in the long term; for example, if you have GPS enabled within Google Maps, then you will help Google self-learn new Cell IDs and new WiFi access points by providing the data to Google.  This self-learning also helps when an access point moves due to the consumer moving house (something I experienced when I purchased a WiFi access point from a friend, where Google constantly placed me in the old location of the access point until sufficient GPS-based survey data lead Google’s self-learning system to move the location to my house).

In comparison, Maps Booster from Skyhook Wireless relies upon their own data collection, although there is a website where you can notify them of errors in the database, which (again, based on personal experience) only takes a few days to update with the new information.  Having said that, I don’t know whether the iPhone location positioning (that is provided by Skyhook Wireless) has any element of self-learning.

As I said, at this stage, I’m not sure what method Nokia are using for learning of changes, although I hope to be able to report on that soon.

On the other hand, I have been using Maps Booster on a couple of Symbian phones since writing about it, and I am finding it very useful.  It has had the odd little blip, where it has put me in the US a couple of times, but then over the same period of tested it, Google Maps has placed me hundreds of miles away from phone too.  It seems to me that Maps Booster has some element of caching of data, as when I am at home and in range of a number of WiFi access points, my location appears pretty instantly in Ovi Maps, whereas at work, where it relies upon cell ID only, it seems to take a little longer to place me.  Although this still relies upon having an internet connection, using it with Ovi Maps (with the maps already downloaded via the Nokia Map Updater) it uses a lot less data than Google Maps for a similar journey, which is good news.  For longer journeys, I would still recommend using the GPS to keep the location information accurate, but for short journeys, especially walking (and especially when in between tall buildings, such as London), then Maps Booster is proving to me to be as useful as Google Maps’ equivalent.

Of course, ironically just after I wrote about wondering whether I could live without Google Maps and use Ovi Maps instead, Google released Google Buzz, which shows Google is still innovating within their client, and which has probably lead to me using both clients; I would love to switch away from Google Maps, but until Nokia integrate more sharing options into their client, or applications take advantage of the Ovi Maps SDK, I’m pretty tied into Google Latitude (more than I realised when I thought I could move away from Google Maps).

Finally, over the weekend I asked Nokia to comment on the situation regarding coverage on elder phones, and received the comment “It’s coming”.  Now I can’t guarantee that was aimed at FP1 (as opposed to supporting more FP2 phones which is still formally missing), but I think we’ll see an announcement from Nokia on this issues soon, but not immediately (I would suggest another few months before we see anything definitive).


Brightkite now available for Symbian

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Brightkite on Symbian

Brightkite have released their Symbian app (we first talked about it here over a year ago!), and it’s available in the Ovi Store here right now.  As you may work out from the screenshot, it’s for the touchscreen devices, and so is limited to S60 5th Edition devices (Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia N97, Nokia N97 Mini etc.) but even so, it’s an interesting step in the right direction.

In fact, maybe combining this with the Maps Booster application I discussed this morning would provide that nice alternative to Google Latitude I was looking for…


Possible alternative to using Google Maps on Nokia

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Maps Booster

I’ve always liked Google Maps, not for the quality of the maps, nor the fact that everything is repeatedly downloaded (but at least the mapping is as up to date as possible), but because it does Cell ID and WiFi location as well as pure GPS location.  Towards the end of a long day, when the battery is starting to run out (or I am nervous it soon will), one nice option is to use Google Maps (instead of Ovi Maps), and my location will be pretty accurately found on the map without the need to enable the battery-draining GPS.

This single feature of having access to a rough location without needed to fire up (or wait for) the GPS has made Google Maps a shortcut on my Nokia homescreen, whereas Ovi Maps is simply left dormant in the main menu.  Well, could I have found a solution for this…?

Something I missed when it launched last year was that Skyhook Wireless (the company behind the Cell ID and WiFi location information on the iPhone) have released a little application called Maps Booster for Symbian.  What this does is add an additional positioning server option deep within the positioning subsystem of the Symbian OS, which, when turned on, will provide, through the standard positioning interface, a rough location to all GPS-aware apps (so Ovi Maps, but also things like Garmin’s SatNav software, or even third party apps).  Now, for most scenarios, I set Google Maps to work without enabling the GPS, and by configuring your Nokia device in the same way, you could, once Maps Booster is installed, do the same thing.  The only downside would be you would need to go deep into the Symbian menu structure to turn on the GPS (it’s easier to get to within Google Maps).

In terms of phones supported, it looks like most S60 3rd Edition FP1 and FP2 devices are supported, along with S60 5th Edition devices, including devices such as the Nokia E63, which doesn’t have a built in GPS, thereby providing a nice rough location service to this device in the same way Google Maps does.

Oh, and if you were wondering where it appears on the menu, on newer devices it’s Applications->Location->Positioning->Positioning Methods, whereas for elder devices it’s Tools->Settings->General->Positioning->Positioning Methods.

I’m looking to install this app, and see whether it allows me to convert from Google Maps to Ovi Maps.  However, as with all things, it’s not that easy…

  • Maps Booster can only be installed from the Ovi Store, and costs £3 (although that seems perfectly acceptable for the functionality)
  • Of course, that’s £3 per Symbian device due to the way the Ovi Store works (purchases are by device, not by user account)
  • Moving away from Google Maps will lose access to Google Latitude, and with Nokia’s FriendView service now shut down, Latitude is a well used feature on my phone.
  • There are rumours that there is a small incompatibility between the latest firmware on some Symbian devices and Maps Booster, which prevent it from appearing in the Positioning Method list, preventing it from working.  Ironically, that’s the same firmware that is needed to get the new free Ovi Maps working…
  • Also, don’t forget to keep a copy of the install file once downloaded from the Ovi Store, else you might end up paying again if you need to hard reset your device, although we understand the Ovi Store should offer you a re-download option for this software now.
  • Ironically, by enabling the feature, it can cause some minor problems with Google Maps, which doesn’t seem to like the “inaccurate” GPS positions; of course, leaving GPS turned on should produce a good solid fix in time (or leave the GPS option within Google Maps turned off, and then it will use it’s own database for the rough location).
  • Is Google Search actually better than the Ovi Maps search function, and hence apart from when I plan in advance, will I end up back with Google Maps anyway?
  • It’s been suggested it’s not best used when driving, where GPS support is really needed, as it has a delay on updating the position; however, it should excel whilst walking in cities (where the GPS may struggle due to tall buildings and where they are loads of WiFi networks to locate you).
  • Finally, it’s not clear how much data the app uses, and whether it has any local caching, or whether it always needs a data connection; if so, don’t forget to turn it off (along with so many other applications) when roaming, where, ironically, again, it could be the most useful…

If you head to Skyhook’s Coverage page here, and scroll across to the UK, you can see there are whole areas of the country which are pretty accurately mapped with Cell Towers and WiFi, which should ensure this software offers a nice alternative to GPS, especially when the dreaded battery is running out…

I’ll hopefully report back in a month or so and let you know how I get on (now, if only Nokia would give me free Ovi Maps navigation for my main everyday device)…



Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

This page links to any reviews we have written. We will try to keep this page up to date, but we will always announce any new reviews on the homepage first.

Reviews in 2007

3 SkypePhone

Pocket Surfer 2

Reviews in 2008

3 USB Modem

Dell Mini 9 / Vodafone Netbook

LG KF600

LG Viewty

LG Secret

Reviews in 2009

Android Application: Locale

Android Application: My Tracks

3 Mobile Wi-Fi unit (3UK MiFi)

IDAPT I3 Charging Station

INQ Mini 3G – First Looks & Full Review

LG Arena

LG GD900 Crystal

LG Chocolate BL40 – First Looks & Final Review

LG SL9000 LED-Backlit LCD TV

Novatel Intelligent Mobile Wireless Hotspot 2352 (MiFi) – First Looks

orbitsound T3 Speaker

Sony Ericsson T715

Reviews in 2010

Android Application: Tasker

3UK MiFi 2 – First Looks & First Review

Dell Streak (Quick Hands On)

HTC Hero

INQ Chat 3G

Location Based Services & Privacy

Nokia Booklet 3G

Novatel Intelligent Mobile Wireless Hotspot 2352 (MiFi) – Update & Full Review (Coming Soon)

Pibbix Voicemail

SanDisk Mobile MicroSDHC Memory Card

Symbian Application: Maps Booster

Symbian Application: Socially

Reviews in 2011

Humax HDR-Fox T2