Symbian, Android or the latest iPhone; all available from 3UK!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks, 3UK have released (or will release) a fair range of new handsets, covering the main smartphone OSes; a couple of weeks ago, they released the Desire S running Android, which although not a great upgrade from the old Desire, is a worthy phone contender for someone looking for a new Android phone.

Yesterday they also announced the Nokia E7 (Symbian^3 with a flip out QWERTY keyboard) was now available, and today they have announced that from tomorrow you’ll be able to buy the long-awaited white Apple iPhone 4 on 3UK.

So, it seems whatever your smartphone OS choice is, you have an option to get one of the latest phones available from 3UK (although less popular, they also have BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices).  As always, head to the 3Store for more details.


Permalink

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.


Permalink

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.


Permalink

Moving from Symbian to Android; first impressions

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last week I picked up an Android mobile phone.  With Nokia’s planned move to Windows Phone, I wanted to see what options are out there for something a little better software wise than Symbian until Nokia release their first Windows Phone.  For those interested, I personally don’t think it will be that long until we see something; internally Nokia had phones running Windows Phone available for staff to look at within days of the announcement, and although they may not be shipping large volumes until next year, I believe they will be announcing and planning to ship models this year.

So, after a few days with an Android device, what are my initial reactions? Actually, it’s some of the little things that have been built into Nokia hardware and Symbian software that I miss, like a hardware unlock switch on the side of the phone (especially useful when in the car).  Having said that, the Symbian default browser is rubbish compared to Android’s default.  In terms of applications, there seems to be multiple choices to achieve anything on Android, which although gives choice does seem to make it more difficult to choose a good product; some aren’t kept up to date, and, as with all mobile platforms, there are few that truly stand out.

We’ve covered a number of “stand out” Android apps over the years (see here for reviews of some), and these were some of the first to get installed, including purchasing some that I know will come in handy over time.

So, what have I missed; some apps such as Gravity and ViewRanger (I need to arrange to transfer the maps so this is just in the short term).  Equally, having many more options for widgets (of different sizes) on the homescreens is a pleasant change, plus access to apps where the developer hasn’t yet (or may never) release a Symbian app.  Also, as a heavy Google Calendar user, having my calendar updates available within minutes instead of hours is a pleasant change; in fact, I have some services that feed into additional Google Calendars which then appear on the phone; given it can take Google a few hours to update the calendar in the first place, it meant it could often take a couple of days to appear on my Symbian phone; reducing that time down to the same day is an impressive start.

Oh, and Ovi Maps. Offline maps, and more importantly, offline satnav means a lot to me, especially when we aren’t yet at a universal position with unlimited data rates, so I’ve missed this.  Strangely, I’ve also missed the other services built into the Ovi Maps client; Qype, TripAdvisor etc.; yes, I can install separate apps, but it did seem neat all wrapped into one application.  The traffic information was pretty good too, plus the walking mode, where it would vibrate just before reading out a new instruction (given you time to bring the phone close enough to your ear to hear it) was pretty useful too.

Having said that, on my phone, it was nigh on impossible to get both Ovi Maps and Gravity running together as both take a fair chunk of memory, so hopefully the new phone will make this easier.

Will I stay with Android, or move back to Symbian? I think I may well move my main phone number over to an Android phone, but I suspect I’ll still carry a Symbian phone with me for some while…

I’ll provide more details on my experiences soon, including long term usage of an Android tablet too!


Permalink

Ovi Maps updates

Friday, February 25th, 2011

There have been 3 key Ovi Maps updates in the last week and a bit, and I thought it was worth recapping on all of them.  Firstly, these only apply to the Touch devices, so although other devices such as the Nokia E71 still have free Ovi Maps, it’s not yet clear whether it will ever see these updates, which would be a shame if the elder devices were abandoned.

Many users have been using the v3.06 Beta that was available via Ovi Maps, and one feature this version added was the ability to check for, and update the mapping data directly from the phone.  Well, for those running this Beta, two weeks ago Nokia released updated maps.  Unfortunately some of us suffered crashes when trying to update, which left the phone without any mapping, and no ability to update to the latest maps.  This was resolved by using Ovi Suite on the PC to apply the “latest” maps (although this took you back to the Q4 2010 maps, which were released with the original v3.06 beta).  However, a little while later, Nokia resolved the issues, and it was possible to update to the Q1 2011 maps (either on the phone or via Ovi Suite).  I can’t say that there were any major updates in my local area, and in fact a major road project (the new A421 between Bedford and Milton Keynes) was missing from these February 2011 maps, despite the road opening in November 2010 (and Google Maps managing to get the new mapping available the same day the road opened).  Although I can understand minor road updates not making it into their database, one would have thought a key update like this would be there; let’s hope it’s there for the next map update.

Then, Nokia formally released the v3.06 Ovi Maps, which is now available in the Ovi Store.  Due to the way Nokia doesn’t really handle updates, it depends on the phone whether or not you will be notified that the update is available (phones that support applications within the Software Update application should see a notification, either on the phone or in Ovi Suite).  Other phones will have to go and pick up the update manually.  It’s worth noting that this version was slightly newer than the last beta, so it was still worth upgrading to.

However, yesterday, Nokia went one stage further and released another Ovi Maps v3.06 beta version.  This version is still newer than the Ovi Store version, and adds the ability to use the CheckIn facility to checkin to both FourSquare and Qype locations.  Bringing support for FourSquare makes a lot of sense, and seems to work pretty well in the testing I’ve managed so far.

So, if you have a Touch Symbian device, it’s well worth looking at all of these updates; a combination of application and mapping data updates continue to make Nokia stand out from the crowd with their free SatNav application, but there’s a risk the Nokia-owned Navteq mapping data is falling behind TeleAtlas (and hence Google Maps) in terms of quality of the UK major road network.


Permalink

mobbler updated and in Ovi Store

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

mobbler, the Symbian Last.FM client, has been updated, and is also now available in the Ovi Store.  Due to a limitation in the Symbian Signed process, the version number has now been moved up to v2.1.  The full feature changelog is:

  • Fix for radio on Nokia N8/Symbian^3
  • Subscriber-only radio
  • Share on Twitter
  • Signup
  • Biography
  • Local events based on cell ID
  • Better lyrics display
  • Username limit increased from 15 -> 32 chars
  • Better equaliser support
  • Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Ukrainian added and other languages updated
  • Old scrobbles warning
  • Play Mix Radio station
  • Play Last.fm group radio station
  • Play a custom lastfm:// radio station
  • Removed discontinued Loved Tracks and Playlists radio station
  • 20 volume steps where available (Symbian^3)
  • Display subscriber’s prestigious black icon
  • Rejigged the Start a station menu

For anyone who tried out the Beta which came out last November, then this latest version is very similar, but worth upgrading to.


Permalink

ViewRanger updates Android app

Friday, January 28th, 2011

ViewRanger, who produce a very feature rich mapping application (which can use multiple map sources, such as OpenStreetMap and more importantly, 1:25000 and 1:50000 OS maps) has updated their Android application. Currently the new version (v1.4.1) is in beta, but available direct from ViewRanger here. Although originally a Symbian app, ViewRanger have expanded to cover the Apple iPhone as well as many Android devices, although some features are yet to arrive on these platforms.

The new features include:

  • Support for selected Android tablets
  • Local and online searches
  • UI improvements

The full feature list is here.  If you are somewhere who spends time in the countryside and don’t currently have a device such as a Garmin GPS or the SatMap Active 10, then you should look at ViewRanger for your smartphone.


Permalink

Nokia release Ovi Maps 3.06 updated beta

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Another update to the v3.06 Ovi Maps beta has been released by Nokia Beta Labs, and although it features a few new features, the key one must be that it’s now (finally) possible to download whole countries directly on your phone (although you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection).  However, this isn’t perfect, when I tried it, it kept given a “Map download failed” error after about 187Mb through the 216Mb UK download, which resulted in me having to use the PC after all.  When you first install the v3.06 beta, it will wipe your existing maps, as it needs a v3.06+ specific map data downloaded.  Once you have done this one though, subsequent betas (and hopefully the final released version) will be able to use the maps already downloaded.

Having the facility to download directly on the phone, plus having a “check for map updates” option on the phone itself is very useful, and a good move (and something a lot of people have been asking Nokia for).

The other features of this beta include:

  • New! Download street maps directly to your device! A new feature called “Update” on the main menu which allows you download Street Maps directly (via WiFi) to your phone without a PC! Please note that phones without WiFi (e.g. Nokia 5230) will not work.
  • New! My Position and Search are now integrated (now called Map). When accessed, it will show your last map view
  • New! Back button in Favourites
  • New! Long tap functionality to delete & rename collections & routes
  • New! Pop up for first time use – to inform user to download new map data (when upgrading 3.04 > 3.06 for the first time)
  • New! Improved behaviours of transit lines settings in map toolbox (no more grey out)
  • New! Compass calibration hint
  • New! Refreshed place details information view
  • Pinch to zoom interaction (Only available on Symbian^3 devices)
  • Visually refreshed main menu and icons,
  • New maps with public transport lines (as a new map layer) for subways, trams and trains in 80+ cities around the world. Just click the map toolbox icon and select Transit lines,
  • Improved search experience – find places and addresses around you – or anywhere in the world – fast and easily. Browse places or enter a keyword in the search box. Now with suggestions and “did you mean?” functionality,
  • New place pages with description, reviews, pictures and places nearby. Interact with places in a whole new way – you can check in, contact, navigate, save, rate, share, report or see place on the map,
  • Share a place – send a place to your friends via SMS or Email. The SMS contains the address and a link to the place page with description, ratings, contact, URL and a mini map. The link opens up on the mobile browser (also on non-Nokia devices),
  • Check in – keep your friends up-to-date with where you are and what you’re up to. Check in to places and share it with your friends on Facebook and many more social networks. See places you’ve been to in your check in history,
  • New Drive assistance mode with live traffic flow – after clicking Drive, you’re instantly in drive assistance mode with live traffic flow and more. Once you start moving, get safety camera alerts and speed limit warnings,
  • More folder with many rich content services relevant to your location. Personalise your Ovi Maps by selecting the services you’d like to keep on your main menu for instant access.
  • Traffic flow: In Drive mode, a number of improvements to the traffic flow colour scheme and layout.

(The items marked New! are new in this update; the others were available in earlier v3.06 beta versions)

I like the new facilities, and the way the menus are being rearranged, and this bodes well for the final release.  One word of warning; one of the known issues is that occasionally it will keep the GPS subsystem open (with the eventual battery drain); when I’ve seen this, I’ve found starting Ovi Maps back up and shutting it down again seems to have fixed, but it’s something to watch out for.  I also really like hitting the Drive option and being able to see my location on the map with traffic updates immediately available even without a destination set; this is another key feature for me, as I often want to use my phone’s SatNav simply for traffic without a route calculated.

Although the Share (location) option now supports a whole range of social networking sites, I would still love to see sites such as BrightKite and FourSquare integrated directly into the interface, but hopefully that will come in time.


Permalink

Nokia announce Nokia Situations

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Although not as full featured as Tasker or Locale (both for Android devices), Nokia Situations enhances the built in Profile management with the ability to create custom profiles, and choose when these profiles are selected.  The screenshot above shows some of the range of options you can use to trigger the change in profile, and I’m especially pleased to see Network support, and not just GPS location, allowing location based changes without needing the phone to constantly use drain the battery by keeping the GPS running.

Although currently a Nokia Beta Labs product, it’s likely we will see this either integrated into future devices, or the app being made available in the Ovi Store to allow a wider coverage.

Nokia have also created 4 versions of this, which is also good to see.  Firstly, there’s the Symbian^3 version (Nokia N8), an S60 5th Edition for phones with homescreen widgets (Nokia N97, Nokia N97 Mini, Nokia C6-00), remaining S60 5th Edition phones (such as the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic), and even a S60 3rd Edition FP2 (Nokia E72, Nokia E5); it’s good that Nokia are remembering they are still releasing new phones with S60 3rd Edition installed.

If you are interested in this application, head over to Nokia Beta Labs for more information.


Permalink

Have you tried TrueCaller; what did you think?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I was browsing the Ovi Store the other day, and I came across an app called TrueCaller.  Having investigated a little, it appears the app has a lot of functionality in common with Socially App, in that it can present Social Networking updates when an incoming call comes into your phone (it “only” supports Facebook and LinkedIN, unlike Socially App which also supports Twitter), and it has some similar call blocking options.  However, that’s not the main purpose of TrueCaller.  If the phone number is not known (ie not stored in your local Contacts), it will head off to the Internet to find out more about the number and present it to you.

In many countries, they use publicly available reverse lookup services to tie the number (often supported landlines only) to a name, and that’s quite impressive.  In the UK they are honest enough to admit that there are no such services (preventing by various laws), and hence there is no automatic service they can deploy, so instead they will at least provide you a rough location based on the STD code (again something I’ve seen Socially App do too).

However, they are slowly rolling out updated clients with support for a function called CalledID+ (currently available for Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian and Android, with BlackBerry coming soon).  This takes things to another level, and will crowd source the caller ID service, and allows your phone to access TrueCaller’s central database of people’s addressbooks to see if anyone else recognises the phone number.  Although each person has to select to Opt-In to this facility, I wonder how many of the 500,000 TrueCaller users have done so…

This sounds a very powerful and useful system to have, yet equally there are privacy alarm bells going off in my head that make me wonder whether my own phone numbers are already on this system, and I wonder whether that information is 100% accurate.

What do you think? Have you used TrueCaller? Did you share your addressbook with others? How accurate have you found the crowd sourced data in the UK?  Let us know by leaving us a comment…


Permalink