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Archive for July, 2009

Free Game: Connect4 for the Nokia N97 (5800, Samsung i8910 and other S60 5th Edition)

July 30, 2009 1 comment

mgHere’s another of a growing number of free gems on the Ovi Store for your N97 (or other S60 5th Edition phone)

Connect4.

You can play in single player mode against the computer or go against a person in two player mode. Drop your discs and connect 4. Simple, but really fun.

To download, you have to find it in the Ovi Store.(I can’t link it to you as you’ll just get, “Sorry this item is no longer available” as accessing the store is account-based.

Unfortunately, (at time of writing) it’s horrendously difficult to search for apps using the actual app’s name on Ovi Store. I don’t know why.

Go to the Games directory and filter out “Show Free only”.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX7zqfUwuB0]

(More demo vids in next post – gtg)

How to: Improving the menu layout of your N97 for faster application access

July 29, 2009 10 comments

Wrote this post a few weeks back but somehow never got round to ‘publishing’ it. After deep resetting the N97 and finding out “restore from memory card” did not restore my menu layout (as it did on 3rd edition), I got stuck in using the old S60 default menu layout, which was/is a pain!

S60 Default Menu Layout

I’ve never been much of a big fan of the default S60 menu layout.

  • Moving between devices often means different menu layout, making looking for an app into a hunt.
  • As your applications grow, they get stuck into one folder. Scrolling in S60 menu is painful. Tap tap tap with 3rd Edition and an annoying kintetic-less scrolling in S60 5th Edition.
  • End result – Finding your app takes too long!

Folder layout

For seasoned S60 users, reorganizing the default menu layout maybe one of the first few things you’d do to the handset.

MNB000125MNB000124

From the days when Series 60 was a 3×3 grid, reorganizing the menu into 9 categorized folders meant:

  • a quick 2 click access to 81 applications. (up to 144 in 3rd/5th edition s60)
  • no more feeling lost and guessing”where is this application located?” – e.g. if you wanted the calendar application, a second of reasoning would direct you to the “office folder”. If you wanted maps, then the best folder would be “Navigation”.
  • In a little while, you just get used to the icon placements. With the keypad corresponding to the icon position, you could quickly open, say “Calendar” by pressing “88” (code depending on location of icon)
  • eliminating the need for scrolling to find other applications. With up to 144 applications easily accessible within 2 clicks in menu view, you could space all your applications out so that you’d never have to use the scroll bar, reducing the amount of clicking, and for 5th edition, preventing the need to use the unintuitive non-touch friendly scrolling.

I’ve had this similar S60 layout since the 7610. For S60 newbies (relatives/friends I’ve recommended to get S60), setting this layout made it much easier for them to get accustomed to the new platform as applications were not randomly and confusingly buried away from use.

Here’s an “interactive” YouTube video of a modified N97 menu. (Basically identical layout to the rest of my S60 phones)

Note: There is no delay in the actual N97 as there is in video loading. Nevertheless, I’d still be able to find my applications faster this way than the scrolling/hunting route.

HomeScreen for quicker app access.

Applications that need to be accessed even quicker, can have their own shortcuts on the standby or with the N97 on the homescreen. I’ve got a combination of the two. 3×3 grid folder, with another direct row of applications.

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My homescreen on the N97 contains one click access to 16 applications

  • two shortcut widgets, (4 icons each widget)
  • 3 live information widgets (gravity, facebook, email)
  • Connectivity icon at top right (present only if bluetooth/WLAN is on)
  • Contacts bar
  • Clock
  • Profile
  • Calendar

How to: Reorganizing your N97 menu:

  1. In menu view Click “Options>Organize”. You’ll notice all the icons are highlighted.
  2. Click “Options>New Folder”. I’ve got 9 folders: Multimedia, Office, Tools, Applications, Navigation, Extras, Connect, Internet and Games. Choose how many you want, but try and keep it to 12 or less.
  3. Move your folders
  • To move an icon into a folder, click “Options>Move to folder”. Alternatively, you can hold and drag an icon over the folder and drop it into that folder.To move an icon around the grid, drag it over the icon. If the icon is a folder, you can accidentally insert it in that folder. To prevent this, drag the icon over the folder’s name and not the folder itself.

This will take you about 5-10 minutes but will save you hours in the long run.

Video: The Phones Show – Episode 86 – Samsung Omnia HD/i8910 Review

In Episode 86, as shot on the Nokia N86, Mr Litchfield focuses his attention on his long awaited Samsung Omnia HD…I mean i8910. But before that

  • News: Surge in the States, HTC and 3.5mm jack, Ovi Files now free, Symbian Horizon, Nokia’s Q2 09 results
  • QWERTY Keyboard Rant
  • Discovering Real/Usable Digital Zoom on the N86
  • Unparalled 3.7″ screen
  • Blindingly fast at almost everything
  • DivX playback – Native !!!!!! (Nokia, helloooooooooooo?!)
  • 154MB free RAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Nokia! Power User Multitasking!!!) Never ever an out of memory message?! Jeez!
  • No Software support for Nokia Centric apps
  • Widget homescreen is utter Gimmick – no live info like N97

Via 3lib

Firmware Suggestions: Software improvements I’d like to see in the Nokia N97

July 27, 2009 15 comments

I just read an email from the WOM crew [the Don ;)]inviting me to a “virtual Q&A session” to discuss the latest firmware release (V11.0.021), where we see the N97 going in the future and what we’d like to see in future updates. This will take place on Thursday.

I’m absolutely shattered right now and just want to go to bed, but here are some of my suggestions I’m quickly gonna jot down . They’re just how I feel would improve my experience with the N97, the ideas which you may likely disagree with as you might have different needs, if so please feel free to shoot them down , maybe add your own suggestions too.

Now – the handset I’m using has a couple of faults (Voice dialling [though this works after hard reset, but fails again after memory card restore] and GPS [cannot get a GPS fix]) which I’m not too entirely sure how it affects other software aspects, so I’m not at all certain that bugs I encounter will be bugs you’ll encounter too (e.g. icon fonts spontaneously changing size when set to small). So I’ll either update with the bugs tomorrow and/or update with your suggestions of bug fixes.

Suggestions:

1. Keyboard

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  • When pressing shift, leave shift on. This is for both caps lock and inputting numbers/symbols.
  • Long pressing over a number gets you that number. e.g. instead of “RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR” you get “4”
  • Since the fullstop/comma/apostrophe are all annoyingly on the same button, the first keypress should be fullstop, two in a row gets comma and three get’s apostrophe. If you want to quickly have several fullstops then press “back” on the Dpad and the fullstop quickly. This is how I did it on traditional Nokia keypads and it’s still the best option for the N97 (for me, anyways) unless it miraculously receives a dedicated button for it.

2. Browser

  • Let the user have the option when they want to see the toolbar and when they want to hide it. Don’t leave it there to randomly decide upon its own choosing when to disappear and let me have the fullscreen view again. i.e. If I tap it, I see the toolbar, if I tap it again, it disappears.
  • Keep the progress bar there until it’s actually finished with the page! Sometimes it disappears, and you think the page has finished/frozen but no, it’s loading, it’s just that the bar is gone. (Then I press the toolbar to check, and oh, it’s stuck there for some predetermined time)
  • From Opera Mini: Pressing back immediately goes back to the previous page, without having to reload it. Yeah, that multi-window thing is nice, but it’s much quicker to press back a few times than to let the page reload (If it also allowed to quickly go forward again too, that would be a bonus)
  • Perhaps there could be an additional toolbar  (perhaps at the top) that when pressed shows you icons of your favourite sites (set via bookmark). A lot of the pages I browse are from a few main sites stuck in my bookmark toolbar, with just their icons. When in landscape, perhaps have a list of top 8? When in portrait, perhaps cut it down to first 5? Maybe if they’re feeling adventurous, for novice users have the icons set to the most visited on the N97 – though this may be a resource hog.
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some icons in by FireFox bookmark toolbar. The N97 would render a lot of these applications redundant, having a better dedicated application instead. e.g. Facebook/Nokia Messaging/BBC iPlayer/Amazon/Gravity (for twitter) leaving me space to fill it up with other top book marks instead.

  • Have keyboard short cuts!!!!!!!!!! There’s a whopping 33 buttons (not including the D-Pad) which do absolutely NOTHING except help in text input. Going back to the opera mini point, I love how simply pressing delete lets me go back a page. One click. Done. Pressing “1” gives me a toolbar/menu which I can easily escape from. I understand that takes away from optimizing a touch interface, but what’s the point of having that keyboard there if you’re not going to take advantage of it?
  • When zooming in web pages, please stay zoomed in at that level until I manually zoom out myself. I don’t like having to constantly tap or set the zoom-slider again and again after each new web page.

Camera

ca

  • Unless we go do the double icon columns as seen in the Samsung i8910 and Sony Ericsson Satio, the four big icons on the side must be extremely useful/important. The camera icon to take a picture is insanely redundant! We have a freakin shutter button for goodness sake. Perhaps change that with something more useful, i.e. switch to video (and vice versa in video mode)
  • When I change a setting, sometimes, I maybe done and just want to take the photo. But you can’t because you have to exit out of that menu first. Either let me take the photo with the settings window still overlapping, or, bring up the settings when you cover up the light sensor, and then hide them when you take your thumb off (the latter for optimal use with two hands, although this may not work in pitch black/extreme low light)
  • The camera UI itself needs a bit of an overhaul
  • Most likely, not possible, but have 16:9 photos, using up the entire screen?
  • Not necessary at all, I just liked the option to make time lapse videos with that function. Really like how fast sequence mode is now, it truly is burst mode (though crashes some times).
  • In video mode – could we have the option to turn video light on or off whilst taking the video?

UI Feel/Effects

  • Continuity, Continuity, Continuity.
  • Kinetic scrolling should be possible wherever scrolling is applicable. Normal scrolling is not fun with touch! i.e. Menu/contacts (as seen in 5530)/all other apps
  • UI effects – even with Theme Effects on, UI effects is PANTS! Even the 5800 has better theme effects. Have some minimize/maximise animations when closing/opening/switching apps. Even something like making that sliding animation (when you bring up options or dialler) would have been nice enough.
  • Transition effects are pants. I really like how nice Nokia PhotoBrowser looks, especially in terms of dealing with rotation. Take a look also at  the video of what we were supposed to expect from the N97.
  • Auto rotate screen should be left on as default.
  • Closing the QWERTY does not mean I want to view the phone in portrait mode. Most times, I just want to hide the keyboard after inputting some text. That’s all. I still want to use the phone in landscape. However, unless you turn auto-rotate on (which should be ON by default btw!), you’re going to be stuck in portrait. And even if you did turn auto-rotate on, the N97 will still switch to portrait, then switch back to landscape (when it should never have switched at all!). See Nokia PhotoBrowser again, as this best deals with rotation.
  • Resolving the 1tap or 2tap issue (make everything accessible by just 1 tap only please!)
  • Possibly have a 4×5 grid, and maybe have a similar autohide feature for the toolbar? (That damn toolbar takes up so much room! See full rant >>here<<)

Other

  • More Widget Support – There are growing numbers of apps for the N97, but not as many that can become a home screen widget. Always let me have the option to install something to mass memory. (Sometimes Ovi Store automatically installs it to where it wants)
  • When Installing something to mass memory, does phone memory have to be eaten up to? Is it possible to just leave that phone memory alone? It’s so astonishingly microscopic, I wouldn’t have cared, given the 29.8GB memory, I thought I’d never use that 61MB (from deep reset), but no.
  • When backing up to memory card, restoring should bring back everything. After a deep reset, restoring only got back my contacts and some settings. No messages, not my modified menu layout, not my apps annoyingly installed on phone (I can deal with the latter).
  • A lot of things are buried in menus that should not be. e.g. Ovi Sync, connectivity. By all means, add them to settings but don’t remove the dedicated app.
  • Slightly better connectivity management. When browsing within WLAN, then cutting off, I’d expect N97 to switch to GSM data but it doesn’t. It just gets confused, needing a restart of the browser/app.
  • Gallery does not recognize images previously taken by N97 after a deep reset (still stored on mass memory). – Though gallery isn’t really worth using when you install Nokia Photo Browser (I love that App!)
  • RAM improvements
  • General Speed improvements.

App specific improvements

  • Facebook  app needs further updating to be more aligned to current facebook features. Even at least to a couple or more months back. i.e. Hiding some contacts/viewing contact feed filter/viewing my own/friends statuses from profile thus letting me reply/add comments to those statuses (not only in feeds). Perhaps being able to zoom in on photos/save a photo?
  • N-Gage app – poor implementation of touch. Even Bounce isn’t touch (it was on 5800). Poor execution of keyboard keys. Could have been an excellent gaming form factor, but only real usable key is the D-Pad. Why also isn’t it full screen?
  • Homescreen App – Multiple Homescreens? I absolutely love the homescreen thing – great when really busy/in work, quick glance, I know my last 2 emails, last 3 tweets, last 3 facebook statuses, last 3 news headlines, in one second.-

Perhaps, 3 homescreens accessible by horizontal swiping. e.g. from the main/middle homescreen:

  • a swipe left could change the layout to a work oriented homescreen – emails/stocks/news/calendar
  • a swipe right could change the layout to a “home” homescreen – music player/facebook/bbc iPlayer

Video: Behind the new Nokia homescreen – multiple homescreens coming soon?

Future?

  • Possible compatibility with New Symbian Foundation OS?

OK OK OK – My brain is seriously going to explode I’m so tired. There are still things I wanted to add….

  • for a blank homescreen, you could have vertical (up/downward) swipe – or being greedy – just have the upward swipe for blank homescreen and have a downward swipe for the classic/5800 style homescreen?
  • Review: MobileBurn’s Nokia N86 Review

    July 26, 2009 1 comment

    IMG_3854

    Russell Jefferies from MobileBurn put’s Nokia’s “flagship camera phone”, the Nokia N86, under the scrutiny of review.

    To find out why the N86 received a “Highly Recommended” rating, you can either check out the 6 page article and/or watch the 3 part video review:

    For me, the N86 is one of, if not, the best non touch screen phone. If you’re looking for a traditional keypad input device, packing a whole load of multimedia and oozing style, the N86 is the phone for you.

    Via MobileBurn

    Video: Hands on with the 5530 XpressMusic

    The 5530 XpressMusic is Nokia’s latest touch screen for the masses. It’s pretty much the same as the super successful 5800 except notably:

    • +Faster Processor
    • +Software Tweaks
    • -Smaller Screen
    • -No GPS

    The 5530 is also the first Nokia to demonstrate kinetic scrolling within the contacts phonebook. It looks just as smooth as it is on the application, “Gravity”, which by far best exploits this feature.

    Hopefully in future firmwares, Nokia will see fit to bring consistency to making kinetic scrolling, not just in the contacts application of the 5800 and N97, but to the entire UI wherever scrolling is applicable.

    Another thing I’d like to see brought to the N97 is better UI effects. Even the older 5800 has better theme effects than the N97 – why didn’t the more expensive flagship get that?

    Via SymbianPlanet

    Freeware: Top 10 ‘fun’ free apps from the Ovi Store for your Nokia N97

    July 24, 2009 4 comments

    Last week when I was checking out the Ovi Store, 9 of these apps were on my recommended page, with the 10th one app’s related download section. You may have seen them elsewhere before, on different download locations, but now they’re all available through Ovi (well at least versions of them anyway) – great for casual users who won’t want or don’t want to be trawling the net for applications.

    Now they aren’t your must-have downloads, like Gravity/Nimbuzz/Nokia Photo Browser/Facebook/Opera Mini/BBC iPlayer/ (and DivX Player if it worked properly on S60v5)/Nokia Messaging  etc – they’re just some “fun” free free apps to fill up some space on your phone. Whilst most are gimmicky, some are quite fun and have some potential if executed a bit better.

    They’re all available through the Ovi Store, directly from your device or via your computer. Just search for the App names and download/install.

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    Recommended applications from Ovi Store on the N97.

    Check out the video demo of these apps in action:

    Apologies for using video screenshots – Screensnap on the N97 is refusing to take screenshots within the application, taking once the moment I exit them (Low RAM issue?).

    10: Watch

    Watch

    It’s just a big analogue clock

    Improvements: If it were implemented as a screen saver

    9: Rotary Dialer

    Rotary Dialler

    I remember using one of these  in my Grandad’s house when I was about 2. (They had button ones too but somehow were also using one of these). Oh the pain when you got one number wrong. It’s got all the animations of an old fashioned rotary dialler, and uses the vibration to give that feedback.

    Improvements: Being able to make a call? This isn’t the same Rotary Dialler by Jamie Fuller – you can actually dial out with his. That version is available here

    8: HourPower

    hp

    It’s a speaking clock. Pressing the icon uses the text-to-speech to announce your current time.

    Improvements: Whilst it would be quicker to just look at your clock, if you could use this whilst the phone was locked – e.g. pressing menu button – it would make for a good night clock so you don’t have to open your eyes and have the glare of the backlight hurting your eyes to know the time.

    7: FridgeMagnets

    FridgeMagnets

    A bunch of letters that you can move around. I don’t know if it’s supposed to spontaneously move and create words and sentences of its own but it does – and some are rude, insulting and jokey – it’s like as if it’s possessed.

    Improvements: Maybe inbuilt screenshot or share? Or control another users FridgeMagnet over the net? Perhaps have the letters shake about if you shake the phone – but then if they’re magnetized they wouldn’t move about much. Ok ignore that last one

    6: Speedtouch

    Speedtouch

    It’s a thumb-eye coordination game. This is actually a pretty ok game to waste a minute or two.

    Improvements: Have different levels? Gradually build up?

    5: Compass

    Compass

    Turn your N97 into a compass. It looks really good, like an old fashioned nautical bubble compass, and tells you your current GPS coordinates and the exact degree your N97 is pointing. You have to calibrate it first to get it working properly. Check out tutorial here

    Improvements: None really. Though the N97’s compass feature is best with Ovi Maps, as a stand alone Compass app – this is really good. Would have come useful for when I had to do the Duke of Edinburgh Award >_< – but then again, if I had the N97 I’d use Ovi Maps and to tell me where to go instead of the horrendous paper map. There’s an alternative version available here from Think Change

    4: Mirror

    Mirror

    You may have just been turning on the forward camera to do this but now there’s a dedicated app for it, and this one’s got glitzy decoration and reflective light streaks to make it seem like an actual mirror. :p

    Improvements: Maybe somehow utilise the entire screen?

    3: Bubbles

    Bubbles

    Touch the screen and make bubbles appear. I found it amusing. Simple things please simple minds I guess :D.

    Improvements: Being able to pop the bubbles once you’ve made them?

    2: Level

    Level

    It’s a two bubble spirit level, using the accelerometer. It’s very sensitive and quite accurate.

    Improvements: None really, except being implemented in the camera application. It’s useful where a spirit level would be useful, from setting a portrait straight to DIY – though you may not want to completely rely on the N97 for the latter.

    Now for the camera application – it would be useful if there was some sort of indication on screen if you’re holding your camera straight. Yeah you can see with your eyes, and the 3×3 grid helps, but something like an actual indicator to show precisely when you’re level might be quite useful for those scenic shots/group photos.

    1: SpintheBottle

    SpintheBottle

    It’s an animated Spin the bottle. It spins in both directions and as fast or slow as you spin it.

    Improvements: None – it’s great for drinking games 😀

    ____________

    Side note: Though the title is top 10, I was hard pressed to find alternative gimmicky/fun apps on Ovi Store. Content is growing steadily though, and a lot of the other free apps were too ‘useful’ to be included in this post.