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Site changes in the new year.

December 28, 2010 15 comments

 

The new year is fast approaching and with the monumental growth this website has seen in the past 12 months, in no small part due to Jay’s very hard work , plans have been made to overhaul and improve the site so as to better the experience for our readers. Just to give an idea of the growth that this blog has experienced in the past year refer to the following:

  • 4.44 Million page-views since the inception of this blog in September of 2007 with 3.62 Million page-views in 2010 alone!
  • Current pageviews at 505,000 for the month of December at an average of 18,000 a day

 

  • The following graph is a trend of blog growth for the period June 2008- December 2010, pretty crazy huh! 🙂

 

We enjoy doing this for you guys and we aim to make the entire experience a better, more informative and fun one. As such we’re considering a voluntary survey for our readers where you guys can leave your input on how we can make the experience better for you all.

If any of you wish to maintain more up-to-date contact and/or share tips, opinions or pitch ideas with us you can do so via my twitter or Jay’s.

 

From Jay and the rest of the Mynokiablog crew, thanks for the support, hope you guys have a wonderful new year.

 

Categories: Blogroll, MNB

Nokia taking Symbian development back in house, Foundation remains to control licensing and patents

November 8, 2010 24 comments

 

As mentioned before in the press release Jay posted, and has been rumored in the blogosphere for quite a while, it seems that Nokia and the Symbian board have taken a decisive step towards improving the Symbian OS, speeding up time to market, improving developer and OEM relations and at the same time cut out some of the bureaucracy that has held Symbian development up for so long. This move was hinted at when Lee Williams stepped down from the Symbian Foundation as executive director and was replaced by Tim Holbrow (former CFO) with rumors circling that winding down operations would commence imminently.  It seems that such a guess was not far off the mark.

I’m certain that a large percentage of people in the blogosphere are now shouting at the top of their voices that Symbian is dead, Nokia is down the toilet and are doomed and that Symbian has no place in the smartphone market (Engadget commenters are truly  remarkable no?). But I’d have to respectfully say that they are patently wrong. Below I’ll outline a few of the reasons why this change has happened and what the future may/may not hold for Symbian development in light of current news.

One of the most telling statements concerning Symbian development were the announcements of Sony Ericsson (SE) and Samsung, that they were discontinuing Symbian development and had no plans for the continued support and/or production of Symbian devices. Looking at those two announcements in a vacuum one might be inclined to think that two of the three major OEM  supporters and Foundation contributors (not dissing Fujitsu here) had withdrawn from an OS that was seemingly about to fail miserably.

Looking at the situation in context however, yields a starkly different story. Having tracked code package submissions to the Symbian Foundation from the fledgling days of S^2 & S^3, I’d yet to see any significant contributions of code by either company. While that’s not to say they didn’t provide any monetary support, the fact that the entire idea of the foundation was to distribute work amongst large companies with significant resources in the hope of faster iterating the OS than any single company could possibly achieve. Unfortunately for the Symbian Foundation, this was not to be, and Nokia has and will continue to contribute the VAST majority of the code.

 

 

 

Worse still, Android came along whereby OEM’s could get a free ride in essence, contributing little if any code, little if any monetary support while getting an OS that they could basically flash onto the base hardware provided by Qualcomm and run with it. While that’s not to say that this is a “bad” approach, in some ways it leaves the OEM’s at the mercy of Google’s whim and provides no real benefit, in the long term at least, for OEM’s looking to differentiate, grow profits significantly and control their own fates.

 

Android also had the benefit of provided an app store that integrated directly into the OS in the form of Android Marketplace, something that Symbian had categorically lacked before 2008. When Nokia came out with the Ovi Store in 2009, it became clearer still to all OEM’s involved with Symbian that not only could they not compete with Nokia in terms of hardware costs, reliability and scale, but they also couldn’t compete in terms of value added services to Symbian OS.  Worse still, Symbian Horizon, which would have been the go-to application repository for Symbian applications for all OEM’s, failed spectacularly leaving Samsung and SE high and dry with regards to added services, through no fault of the Symbian Foundation of course.

NB. Symbian in it’s base implementation comes without mapping applications and application stores

 

Having realized that there would be no financial benefit in sticking around, both companies decided to jump ship to an OS where all the work was done for them and they simply needed to toss an OS on some hardware and meet some nebulous requirements concerning the use of Google services and market and they’d be just peachy.

 

 

The second most telling statement made was by Nokia where they said that they had no intentions of sticking to the large-scale generational changes to the Symbian platform formerly known as S^3, S^4.x , S^5 etc and that they would be sticking to continuous, smaller scale improvements to what they would call “Symbian” with most recent devices getting the changes initially slated for the generational S^4 release. Furthermore, they publicly stated that Symbian development would give way to Qt development, in essence both dog-fooding and relegation of Symbian C++ to legacy status.

In hindsight, these events in addition to the rapid pace of development of both software and hardware in the mobile sphere has led to the predicament the Foundation has faced, and thusly the decision made in the conference call and board meetings today.

 

 

 

On the bright side of course, SEE2010 begins tomorrow with the MeeGo conference slated for the following week. Here’s to hoping for at least SOME positive news and seeing positive strides being taken in both domains.  Keep your browsers pointed here for more news on both Expos in coming days.

 

Damian Dinning Flickr set with the N8

September 17, 2010 9 comments

It would appear that post-Nokia World, Mr Dinning, the man in charge of the Camera and imaging features on the soon to be released N8 ( seems like we’ve been hearing that all year!!) has put up a ~140 photo Flickr set of images taken with the N8. The majority are photos that we’ve all yet to see and some demonstrate the brilliance of the engineers over at Nokia.

One more photo below and a link to the entire set.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinning/sets/72157624971870802/

via

Categories: MNB, Nokia, Nseries, Photos, Promotion, Qt, Symbian, Touch Tags:

Gallery & Video: Portait Music Player “Instinctiv” free on the Ovi Store – What Nokia Music player should be

July 18, 2010 13 comments

Here’s a little GEM of an application that’s free on Ovi Store for your Nokia N900. This is by far the most promising user interface for a music player I’ve ever come across on a Nokia handset. It’s called “instinctiv”, download it from the Ovi Store on your N900. The player supports wma, flac, ogg, aac, mp3 and can be synced with the instinctiv desktop player (I think Mac only at the moment)

CLICK HERE FOR THE CONCLUSION

The first thing to note is that it’s entirely designed for portrait, which IMO is great on a music player. I’m often on the move when I’m listening to music and such only have one hand available to browse the music player. Portrait in this sense is a must. (Can’t do this by default with N900)

At start up, you’re presented with either LIBRARY or SHUFFLE view. (You might want to let the player load up the album art on initial use – it automatically fetches these so your albums can look great too)


In LIBRARY, you’re presented with SONGS, ARTIST and ALBUMS. At the top, you’ll have a really helpful breadcrumb trail that will help you quickly get to any point in the menu in one click. No more digging around or pressing back!

Notice also the nofication of number of tracks/albums/artists. I have only just got my N900 back so my music isn’t all on this yet (And some tracks came with it:p)

Notice there’s nothing at the bottom (for now). Note, when you select something, it’s highlighted in blue. It’s a little bit like the iPod player, but IMO, much better in terms of navigation. (Though the breadcrumb bits could do with possibly a little label)

Below is ALBUM view. Yes, it has kinetic scrolling (leave Instinctiv for a bit to compile its archives, once that’s done it’s quick and smooth)

Here’s within Album view.

The main player view is absolutely beautiful. The breadcrumb finishes with the title of the song, you have a HUGE album art to take advantage of the screen real estate and at the bottom you have your music controls. On top of this, you get Album, Artist and Song details (really helpful  when in shuffle mode).

It would have been cool if Album/Artist was selectable (to quickly switch to their album/songs if you happen to like that song).

What’s really nice though is that the track time line is ALL of the bottom space underneath the line and above the player controls. (See first screenshot above – it even covers the music controls, very nice) you can tap in the space below the time line and you’ll jump to that section – much better than having a skinny line.

Another thing I’d have loved here is adding to playlist/rating function.

Notice that now, in any view you’ll have visible music controls. This makes it really easy to switch music tracks. The bottom right most button (triangle) brings you back to “Now Playing” view (like in the default N900 Media Player)

I’d really love a persistent music player buttons to be visible throughout the OS, like a swipe left (or some sort of gesture) to bring up music controls in any view – whether you’re in an app or browsing the web.

Below is all songs view.

Below is artist view. When there are multiple albums per artist, songs of each album are grouped next to each other.

Finally there’s shuffle mode. It’s not just plain random shuffle of all songs, there’s options for “INSTINCTIVE SHUFFLE” which supposedly is based on the tracks you skip as opposed to frequently played songs. That’s actually quite smart as there are some songs on certain albums I just always skip but just can’t be bothered to delete.

“PLAY SONGS SIMILAR TO” which I’m hoping might be like Sony’s “Artist Link” or Apple’s Genius Playlist to find songs that you like and go well together.


CONCLUSION

PROS:

  • Fantastic intuitive interface, easy to navigate
  • Looks great, clean but very visually appealing (huge album art, with song details)
  • Persistent music player buttons throughout music player with button to go back
  • Automatic album art – no fussing about.
  • Breadcrumb trail to bring you back to any point (without mindlessly having to keep clicking back)
  • Intelligent shuffle
  • Works in portrait (not in landscape yet though sometimes it switches to landscape and it still looks good – not a default feature though)
  • It’s FREE

CONS:

  • Does not yet work with bluetooth headset music buttons. (Though plays perfectly, including volume. Skip/back/pause/play not working)
  • No playlists
  • Initial startup is a little slow (10 seconds?)

It is a little slow at first but that’s only because it’s archiving. When that’s done it’s quite quick. I’ve put this note here to make it more noticable.

WISH LIST

  • PLAYLIST/RATING OPTION, with quick access at Now Playing view
  • Search function
  • Bluetooth controls
  • Perhaps labelling of the icons in the breadcrumb (I’m fine without, though it might help others)
  • Landscape view – though I wouldn’t mind completely portrait.
  • For this to be the default UI of Nokia Music player on touch phones.

I would have done a video for you guys for an app as nice as this but I my cam has gone walkabout -_-. There’s a video demo by ericube840218 though, even showing installation.

So what you waiting for? Head over to the Ovi Store now and try it out.

“Review”: Nokia BH-505. The BEST Bluetooth Headset evaaarr! (updated with video)

May 13, 2010 79 comments

WOMWorld sent over some Nokia original accessories last week but I didn’t get a chance to really share my findings with you guys due to exams.

Ha, I should really be revising. This wasn’t meant to be a review (haven’t used it long enough really- but best to get it done now than forget eh), but it sort of turned into one.

Video will be updated some other time. YouTube is currently giving me stupid “The upload failed due to an unknown error”

Somehow it’s appeared.

In the mean time, I’ve taken some photos of the BH-505 which is now probably my favourite of all Nokia’s headsets. Wired or Bluetooth.

Prob my favourite audio accessory ever really. I was surprised as I didn’t expect this at all to be this good.

Why do I love it so much?

1. Design

  • It is unbelievably comfortable to wear.
  • It is light so it doesn’t drag your ears or squash them.
  • It is extremely secure. Great for any sporty activities (I think that’s what this headset originally aims for) but even more so just for everyday use, so you can bop your head to your tunes without fear of it falling off.
  • It feels invisible – you forget you’ve got it on.
  • it is invisible (design is small, discreet, and hides away if you have enough hair :p).
  • Very strong, flexible material (it’s somewhat very springy – bend it and it jumps back to original shape),
  • has nice rubbery/velvety feel all over with metal music player control buttons. It feels great.
  • This trumps the BH-214 for me as it kills all wires.

2. Well Placed Controls

  • It’s great and all having music controls but annoying when it’s hard to use them.
  • BH-505 has the easiest placement of buttons.
  • Volume rocker on the right, skip/back rocker on left.
  • Call/End button on right
  • Play Pause Button on left.
  • It’s such a breeze to use – even if you’ve got a big woolly beanie.
  • Power button is at the curvy bendy bit. Very easy to press, good location as you won’t confuse this as the play button and turn headset off.
  • Power button can still be accessed when worn
  • You get three coloured light indicators to indicate connection. Green, red, blue.
  • Green is when it’s just turned on. It may seek a previously paired phone and connect automatically.
  • Intermittent blue when connected
  • Flashing blue is when in pair mode (long hold of power button.
  • Brief red when you’ve turned it off.
  • Oh – it’s very easy to pair (bluetooth)
  • THE CONTROLS WORK WITH PC TOO. ^_^ Very nice pausing movies with BH-505

3. Sound Quality

  • Excellent sound quality
  • VERY LOUD! It can get super, super loud if you want it to! Warning!
  • Bass is fantastic. I’ve embarrassingly used “Candy Shop” over the years to listen out for that distinctive rumble and it can give my Ultimate Ears Super.Fi Extended Bass a run for its money.
  • Excellent stereo separation.
  • Videos sound great too. Very immersive.
  • Connection over bluetooth is very strong. There are no disruptions in connections when phone is in pocket (does with BH-501) and I can be at some distance away from N900 with this.
  • Calls – pretty good. Need further extensive testing but it’s clear on both ends (though being sound isolating, it sounds weird hearing your own voice dampened – eerie sensation)

4. Sound Isolation

  • BH-505 uses passive sound isolation techniques, i.e. creating a vacuum with those silicone buds to prevent external noise affecting your music.
  • Against the BH-905 (which has active noise cancelling with 8 microphones) the BH-505 outclasses it in terms of sheer noise blocking.
  • That’s because the BH-905 sits over your ears so any gaps will let sound through (although it is still an excellent solution).
  • The strength with the BH-905 is that you can achieve sound isolation at lower volumes due to that active sound cancelling, but with BH-505 you will need to ramp the volume a little bit more.
  • That of course depends on how loud ambient noise is anyway. Outside traffic – 60-70% cuts it out completely. A little dangerous, haha.
  • In doors, you could set it to about 40%.
  • It’s not simply due to the silicone buds. Many other similar in ear buds do not produce the same sound isolations. E.G. my Shure E2C>Super.Fi (not advertised for noise cancelling) and I might even say the BH-505>Shure E2C
  • Material/Fit is of course important. You need to get the right combination to fit you. The default buds were perfect for me.

5. Battery Life

  • A really strong point in Nokia’s headsets recently.
  • Haven’t ever had it die yet but so far >24h 60% volume with lots of standby time.. Will rigorously test this out after exams.
  • Charging is really quick. Haven’t charged it that many times but it goes blue (full) in under an hour?

Charging Port

Charging port hidden. Bit fiddly to open but fortunately you won't be needing to charge too often.

6. Price

  • It’s about 50GBP depending where you look.
  • I feel gram for gram, for me, this is a superior product to the BH-905 (160-250GBP!)
  • I’m not an audiophile (maybe Devin/thenokiaguide) can point out where the differences are in audio quality but for the majority of users this is an excellent headset.

Negatives:

  • White. I don’t know how easily this may get stained.
  • The battery flap is a touch difficult to undo if you haven’t got long nails
  • It’s not mine. Ha :p

My mini N900 Review (loaded with screenshots)

December 8, 2009 11 comments

Hey all,

This is my first post on MyNokiaBlog.com so thought I’d share with everyone a post I put on the Maemo-Freak forum a week ago. Before I start, I thought I’d just thank Jay so letting me post on here…OK now down to it!!

I got my phone a week and a bit ago and thought while you are waiting for yours to come you might want to know a few things so here are a few insights about the phone from my experience.

First I Just want to say that it is as great as I expected it to be but one thing I have noticed though it that it does lag sometimes…but this could be down to the fact that before I properly started using it, I loading every application I wanted onto it, and have loads of things on the desktop!

The only 2 things I don’t like about the phone right now is that it doesn’t support MMS and that it’s mostly in landscape mode but like I have said to others before, I think I can live with this for now, and I’m sure that Nokia will eventually sort this out!

I have to say one of the best things about this phone is that it is really designed to be used for browsing the web, checking e-mail and viewing & recording media and I’ll go into that a bit more below:

Built in Browser

This is really a Firefox browser, and I don’t mean based on Firefox…it is Firefox! You can view full websites, play flash, view YouTube smoothly…exactly as it would be on your pc, and because you can open multiple windows easily, you can just let it load videos in the background while you browse another site, and just go back to the window later. You can also get access to some quick options if you long press on a link or an empty area i.e. open in new window, copy link address, etc.

Firefox Browser

Personally I prefer what Nokia have done with their browser but when the final version is released it might work better. Currently things like the flash support isn’t that great, it stutters, doesn’t play the video’s, etc, and the general support for content rich websites is very sluggish and incomplete as you can see in the side by side comparison on image 5 below!

One thing that I’m torn between is the way you see multiple pages, in Firefox you have the panel on the left opposed to just through the Nokia task manager in the Nokia browser…I think I’m leaning towards the Nokia way!

Switch Connection

I love this feature; it makes switching internet connection easier than on any Nokia before, just click the one you want to connect to, I don’t think they can make it any easier!

E-mail

The e-mail client is easy to use, either set up a normal e-mail or even a mail for exchange one, through a simple step by step process, I’ve got 4 set up on mine and works nice! When you get an e-mail or text notification, what you will get is the menu button in the top left corner goes fuzzy which opens the task manager so you can open the -email or text.

Video Player

The video player supports a lot, and the things it doesn’t support, I’m sure it will soon enough through codec’s, etc. It does work with unaltered AVI videos i.e. one with the specs below work:

Video: 512×272 – 1000kbps – 23fps – X-Vid MPEG-4
Audio: 129kbps – 48kHz

Regarding MKV files, the information provided by gsmyoda (on Maemo–Freak) answers the question:

Concerning MKV support, check this thread out: http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=35332
It adds MKV container support but the video format must still be something the N900 supports (h264, divx, etc) try it out and look for the dependencies package in the maemo extras

Navigation

The navigation is a bit confusing at first, but once you know what is where it’s good. The only thing it doesn’t seem to have is the turn by turn voice guidance (please correct me if I’m wrong – I hope I am).

It has route directions, and allows you to track where you are like Google maps (benefit of this is that the maps are stored on the phone – I think!) and it does pick-up location very quickly and keeps it.

I tested it and it does work really well, rotates to the direction you are going as you move and tracks you along the route, lets just hope the voice guidance comes in an update!

One thing you will need to take note, the scroll bars you see image 4 & 5 of the pictures need to be used to scroll through the menu which is annoying as hell.

Desktop

The desktop is very useful, if you set it up correctly you will rarely need to ever go to the main menu which is what I think that Nokia were going for when they designed the UI. You can add as many widgets, shortcuts, contacts, and bookmarks to the desktop personally I’m only using 2 of them and you can hide the ones you don’t want and customise the wallpaper, and theme. The widgets will also show the spanner icon (i.e. in the bottom left of the Facebook widget) if there are additional settings.

Related Post: Tour of N900 Panoramic Desktop

On Screen Keyboard

The on screen keyboard works fine it’s good, it’s there but personally not used much, only thing I think it needs is a 0-9 number pad for when Nokia sort out the portrait mode.

Calendar

This is another place that this phone shines, the Calendar automatically adds the birthday’s that you set in contacts to it (phones like N97 did not do this) and if you have something that spans over a few days you can see this visually like in image 1 below with the blue line. You can also easily view the Calendar in several different formats from month to agenda, to task view.

Images

The Image browser is as you’d expect plus a little more, you can customise which folders you view, how you view them, tag, share and much more.

Settings

I won’t go too in-depth with this but you can find all the usual options.

RSS

You can have your RSS feeds on the desktop (see right of image 2) and is quite easy to setup.

File Manager

This is exactly as you would expect it, navigate around, check memory and to do something with a specific file just hold it down and you will get a popup menu with the different things you can do to/with the file. Something I think all of you will be happy to hear, all the applications, etc seem to just get installed onto a reserved part of the 32GB memory (about 2GB worth) so I doubt you’ll run out of space like on the N97!

Backup

This is very useful and works well. You can choose what you want to backup, where to backup to (N900 memory or memory card), and even password protect your backup! And as you’d expect you can choose what to restore and see what you have backup when you highlight the backup.

Application Manager

Here you can uninstall application you have already, download new application and update the ones you have, it’s simple enough to navigate so I doubt you will have any trouble!

X Terminal

Ok this is something I have never used but basically it allows you to access everything on the phone, instead of having to hack the phone, Nokia literally hand this phone to you on a silver platter and say “Do what you want to do with me”.

Clock

Nothing surprising here, just what you would expect!

Notes

This is more similar to WordPad you have on Windows, basically a simple but just above basic word editor, you can change font, have formatting or just choose in the options to make it plain text.

Take from this what you want In my opinion this is a great phone, one of many I hope!

p.s. if you want me to add anything in particular, just comment below and I’ll try to add it!

Nokia N900 Review: First Impressions of Nokia’s Mobile Computer (Hardware Preview + Live Pics inside!)

September 14, 2009 45 comments

Nokia N900 Preview-Review

Jay

This is a quick hardware preview-review of the Nokia N900’s hardware, which is a final production grade. The N900s we were using in London had pre-production firmware. Annoyances if any could still be solved, not that we played long enough to check everything out sufficiently for even a preview. Unfortunately, we had the impression we’d have the N900s for the whole day (thus paying more attention to other things going on in event, meeting other bloggers/Nokia peeps), but last minute changes meant they had to go back to Helsinki pretty quickly with Jussi.

This meant that we didn’t get a change to get a decent set of photos. When we realised the N900s were going home, we had the Q&A and a Dev talk to pay attention to, and in an obviously dark cinema – I hope that this random mix will do for now. Oh, and 90% of everything written below was written with the N97’s keyboard on the way home.

  1. Quick tour of the N900
  2. Screen
  3. Keyboard
  4. Camera Related Aspects
  5. Status Light
  6. Stereo Loudspeakers
  7. Access to the back
  8. Appearance/(Build)
  9. Maemo 5 UI
  10. Conclusion

1. QUICK TOUR OF THE N900

Before we start, let’s just quickly through where’s what on the N900 in terms of ports/silos/buttons. I’ll discuss them a bit more later on in this preview. Note: This N900 was being used on the Rolodex demonstration (hence the microUSB being fuzzed out) and are the only set of photos I got with decent lighting.

N900 3

From left to right you’ve got an infra red port :), camera shutter button, power/quick settings button and volume buttons.

n900 2

Here’s where you push to slide the QWERTY and also the stylus silo.N900 5

The three row QWERTY keyboard

N900 4

Back of the N900, with the camera lens cover and tilt stand.

N900

From left to right, stylus silo, microphone, 3.5mm jack, screen lock and right stereo speaker

MNB 4from left to right: left stereo speaker, miscro USB slot, slot for a wrist strap.

Note also the front of the screen – light sensor, front camera, proximity sensor, main call speaker and LED status light.

2. The screen

MNB 2

Unlike the “leaked” pictures of the Nokia N900 that we saw, the screen of the N900 is not reflective to the point that it hides the presence of a screen when the baklight is off. (perhaps that reflectiveness was due to the screen protector?) I guess in a functional sense not being reflective improves readability in sunlight.

The 3.5″ WVGA is vibrant and absolutely pin sharp, and at this pixel density they’re pretty much invisible to the naked eye. Some internet tablet users accustomed to the 4.13 inches might not like the “step down” to a smaller 3.5″ screen but it’s sufficient for me. Because of the ratio and 800×480 resolution, it just seems much bigger than the N97’s screen as much more information can be displayed at one time. Obviously there’s minimal advantage to microscopic text sizes, but it does mean that no matter how small text/images are resized, they’ll appear crystal clear on the N900. This makes it even better for watching DVD videos, particularly if you hook it up via TV out where all those extra pixels can be even more appreciated (I think it does at least 800×480 TV out? I’m not sure – but the demos of the N900 via TV showing fine lines were very clearly visible.MNB 3

The resistive screen is very responsive, much more so than the N97 and all the previous Nokia tablets. Not going to go on a resistive/capacitive debate but being resistive, you do need more pressure on the screen than capacitive. As a comparison, normally just minimal contact and barely the weight of my finger on a HTC Hero/iPhone’s screen is sufficient to get it to do something on screen. You can’t do that with the N900’s resistive screen but on resistive standard, it is really good (but please, no more!). Perhaps also worth noting is how Maemo (5) is vastly superior to S60 5th edition’s main UI in that it’s completely intended for touch, thus having much more optimizations for intuitive touch interaction.

Stylus

Long slim stylus that hides away in N900.

Back to being resistive – I guess, for some being able to use the stylus is an advantage. When Gary Birkett demonstrated how notes could be taken on the device, that actually seemed like a practical function. Together with the high res 800×480 and pen friendly resistive screen, Gary could write a note which could be shrunk to something like a calendar – and you could still read the writing in “month view”. I’ll upload that video, most likely tomorrow as I have to figure out where to put videos >11 minutes.

3. KeyboardN900 5

The slide isn’t spring loaded, meaning you’ll have to put a little bit more force to push it open. There’s a definite click when it locks into position. The slide seems solid enough when used normally but when in transition you can force the slide to wobble from side to side a little.

The keys themselves have somewhat of a rubbery feel about them which is perfect for a physical thumboard. The keyboard has lots of tactile feedback which is even throughout all the keys. The N900 has much more tactile feedback than N97 and comparable to the E71, possibly much better because the N900’s keys are way bigger. There’s no mistaking when you’ve pressed the button, and the learning curve will be much quicker. Having been used the N97’s keyboard, it’s fair for me to say that new keyboard layouts/feel takes time to adjust to, but you will. As a testament to the N97’s keyboard, I actually typed at least 90% of the text in this post on the train home. What more with the superior keyboard on the N900? After a few minutes of readjustment, I could pump out some pretty long sentences on the N900 pretty quickly – possibly even faster after using the device for a long while.

Another neat thing about the keyboard is that it’s paired with a good word prediction software (much better than the N97 where it’s plainly unusable). I haven’t tested it completely but I like how it predicts previously typed words without having to manually add them again. e.g. instead of having to press N, then 9, 0, 0 it suggests N900 with the 900 highlighted in blue. Pressing the right arrow key inserts the word. Basic punctuation is now a breeze to use.

12092009227

Text input options

I didn’t like how the N900 had a 3-row QWERTY (as opposed to a 4-row with dedicated numbers row) and doesn’t even use half of the space available.

According to Jussi, it wasn’t so much about how much they could fit in – there’s a functionality aspect about it. It seems, in the opinion of Nokia, because of the flat slide design and the intended integrated “Physical keys and touch input combination input” (made easier by the N97’s tilted screen), having a 4-row keyboard would apparently make that “touch and key combination” harder to achieve.

However because of the flat slide design, and the intended integrated physical and touch input, according to Jussi, having 4 row would apparently make the touch and key combination harder to achieve. Whilst I buy into that reason slightly, I don’t think the compromise was worth it to prevent what could have been an amazing keyboard. When you consider the point of the physical QWERTY is to enhance text input, the whole action of sliding out the QWERTY indicates you want to focus your input now on the physical keys. Touch then becomes the secondary form of input so improving access to the touch should not have had that much consideration as to affect physical QWERTY keyboard’s design.

[as a side note, here’s a 4-row keyboard ms paint job which attempts to fit within the space contraints]

4. Camera related aspects

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The shutter button has a really springy feel. You can definitely feel the difference when you’ve pressed halfway to lock and when you’ve pressed all the way to take the photo.

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Lens cover won't make scratches over the camera glass. But this whole portion of the N900 is a major DUST TRAP. See tilt-stand photo.

The camera slide cover, though appearing similar to N97 cannot scratch the screen because there’s a significant gap between the cover(notably comes off with the back cover) and the glass over the camera lens. It also means it’s much harder to smudge!

The camera appears to be quite good.. I didn’t test it exhaustively but the one I used produced really good pictures in good lighting conditions. Flash is only Dual LED, not a proper xenon. In the Q&A with Jussi, he did say that Nokia were happy with the performance of the dual LED.  They’re going to see how the market takes it, what people will use it for, and that of course they will work to make things better. I’ll leave a xenon flash rant out – in this case, it isn’t as necessary as in the N97 for me because the N900 has so much more going for it in other departments to compensate.  20090102_002

I like how the photos are 16:9 and thus occupies much more of the screen when used as a view finder and when viewing photos (instead of wasting it in N97). The original photo above is 2576×1488 – only about 3.7MP. I’m not sure if that’s the highest resolution for 16:9. The full 5mp is 2584 × 1938. No touch focus yet though.cAM

Video is great, the highest resolution ever on a nokia (848X480 at 25FPS) and much higher than nearly all other mobiles except the 720p i8910. It’s fantastic in all light conditions, plays fluidly on the N900 itself, though it did have some conversion problems in uploading to youtube/vimeo. I didn’t get a chance to see if video was fixed focus, however, it isn’t stupidly set in the distance like the N97 so you can actually take videos of people, pets and video blogs of yourself should you want to.

Camera ui is simple, but much easier to access. I don’t think I managed to open all the settings as I don’t have a shot to set other photo settings like white balance, sharpness etc. I think below maybe the view when you press the video/camera icon (changes according to your mode). If you’re in video, pressing that button shows you the screen below, and you immediately switch to camera in auto or macro or landscape etc.

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5. Tilt Stand

There’s a slight springiness once the hinge is perpendicular. I’m a bit concerned about how much of a dust magnet these crevices are going to be after extended use.

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Unless your chair is significantly higher than the table you’re placing the N900 on, for me the angle provided by the stand is insufficient.. The angle is somewhat similar if you open a Nokia N97 upside down. You maybe able to adjust the angle slightly but I’m not sure it would stay that way for long.

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6. Stereo Loudspeakers

Now, I cannot demonstrate this to you, but the loudspeakers did seem loud and had a bit more bass than the N97 – perhaps even slightly comparable to the N95 but still, no other device from Nokia’s portfolio (not including the booklet 3g) has surpassed the stereo speakers of the N800. This needs much further testing  to confirm.

What I do like are the placement of the loudspeakers. Finally, they have returned to where they should always have been, as demonstrated in the Nokia N73 – they are at the top and bottom when held in portrait.. This is the best position to not only exploit the stereo speakers but is also the most symmetrical orientation for listening to the loudspeakers in either landscape or portrait.

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7. Status light

I’ve been a fan of the LED status light on a phone ever since the Sony Ericsson t68. A bit of a novelty for some; for me it’s both. This status light changes into at least 3 different colours, white, yellow and blue. Now I don’t know for which situation they would do that, or how many other colours are available, but I really appreciate how that could come in useful for me to know certain notifications/activities without requiring to hear it, or to turn the screen on.

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8. Access to the back

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Entire lens cover mechanism comes away with the back. I'm not sure if that single clip at the top is going to be sturdy enough.

The back cover removal is similar to n97. Just get a slight fingernail into the gap and pull with. Easy access to the battery.

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Smaller than the 1500mAh BP-4L, the BL-5J stands at 1320mAh. How much will this affect battery life in such a powerful phone?

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The memory card unfortunately has to be accessed via the back and not simply via a memory card door. It’s easier to get to than the fiddly one on N97.

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It’s a book-hinge mechanism like the sim slot (behind the battery). Slide back to unlock and swing open. Put card in, swing closed and push back up to lock.

As aforementioned, along with the 3.5mm jack and right speaker, there’s an unlock switch at the bottom which feels much less flimsy than the one on n97.

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Traditionally, the 3.5mm jack  would be at the top of a phone when it’s held in portrait. Perhaps it makes sense in that if you think about how you hold your phone (in portrait) if you’re also using headphones? It makes it slightly easier when 3.5mm is placed  at the bottom of the phone particularly when putting the phone back in your pocket as you don’t have to turn it 180 degrees so that the cable faces out properly. I’m not sure what the exact reason was.

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The power button acts to let you change profile, lock the device with or without a code and of course turn the phone on or off.
Also quite neat is when the phone is locked, you can also unlock it using the power button. Press it once and the screen will say swipe to unlock. There, you have iphone slide to unlock.

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9. Appearance/(Build)

I’ve left this more or less last as it’s the most subjective part of the hardware review.

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The N900 shares a lot of the aesthetic qualities of the Nokia N97. The N900 is beautiful in it’s glossy piano black front enclosed in a gun metal frame. It would have looked slightly better if the metal rim was flush with the rest of the phone.

The rest of the matte black looks alright on the sides and back of the N900, but I would have preferred the entire thing to be glossy piano black.

As aforementioned, the face of the N900 does not have that reflective appearance about it that hides the screen underneath when the light is off. This may have been changed to improve readability or the the reflectiveness is owed to the screen protector. For me, I would have preferred the reflective look – I hope someone brings out such a screen protector to do that (not as reflective as mirror screen protectors, just subtle enough to hide the screen.

If some N97 reviewers have said the N97 was built like a tank, then the N900 even more so. Apart from that slight wobble that you can force out from the hinge, this is that tank, Mark 2.0. Everything is solid, nothing creaks.

Although pretty thick by today’s standards at thick at 18mm, it looks much thicker than it actually is because it’s wider, as opposed to the more elongated N97 (though the N97 is thinner than the N900). Despite that thickness surprisingly quite comfortable to hold, and I can more than forgive it’s size given the power and potential this “mobile computer” has compared with any other Nokia device.

10. Maemo 5 UI

This should be just as detailed if not more than the hardware portion of the preview but unfortunately, we didn’t test out the OS as much as we thought we were going to have much more time with it during the evening but our ‘personal’ N900 had to go back to Finland.

Of what I did manage to see in Maemo5, it looks great. The ui is smooth, fast, and with some pretty slick, subtle eye candy. It’s a small addition, but extremely long awaited and for me, very worthwhile. It makes the OS appear like it belongs in this century. I did notice some lag with animations in one N900 but it wasn’t present in the other two N900s.

Of course it’s going to take some getting used to. Some things don’t come naturally, but that’s not because it isn’t as easy to use as say, an iPhone. I mean, without the video ads to basically teach you how to use the JebusPhone, would you be pinching in and out to zoom?

Web is very fast, renders page appearance not only accurately, but you can interact with everything just like as iff you were browsing on the desktop! Zoom tap is nice, it centres in to where you tapped. Circular zoom is good for gradually adjusting, such as gradually changing text size. Did not manage to test tabbed browsing.  Unfortunately, no screenshots of the web browser but you’re most likely familiar with it, having seen the videos, no? Long time user and developer on the N900, Gary Birkett, says the N900 has an outstanding web browser. The browser is Mozilla’s Fennec Fox MicroB, but in future, users will have the options to use firefox on their N900.

Panoramic desktop with 4 individual desktop is one of my favourite features on the N900. I love my instant access, always online homescreen on the N97 and this could be a step up from it. In our N900s, they had seamless wallpaper using 4 different images. I’m not sure whether the user can make a long “360 degree” interconnecting wallpaper automatically or if those were just special wallpapers. Most users will most likely prefer to have a different background for each desktop. E.G. one for work, one for home, one for the gym, and one for travelling.

Ovi Maps – I did not get a chance to use this at all, just long enough to snap northern Europe.

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In 3D view

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Note the compass which isn’t listed in the official specs (neither was infrared – TV/DVD Remote applications again ^_^)Update: There’s no compass.

To get the the icon menu, click the top left. Much better than pressing that tough menu button (i.e. N97) or a physical button for that matter.

I don’t know if i can move icon folders around or whether i can organize into folders. Apps in excess of the page must be accessed by clicking ‘more’ instead of scrolling. Hmm – think I’d prefer side swiping for more icons.

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To go back, I think I just clicked a space around the icon (12092009051

Multitasking is phenominal. I opened every application and it did not bat an eyelid. Switching between apps is so easy. What’s great is that you don’t get an icon of the active app, but the actual live app window so you know exactly which window to get back to. Great if you’ve got multiple browser windows open.

What’s also really nice is that the active apps windows change size to accomodate the number of open apps. This is really useful because you won’t be excessively scrolling (I’m not sure what the limit is)

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As a glimpse into the future, you may already be aware that Maemo 6 Harmattan, will be compatible on the N900. So there’s longevity for you. The only thing you may miss is multitouch, which is a hardware issue. Future Maemo 6 handsets will have multitouch capable screens. Not sure about the final Maemo 7 but that’s surely won’t be appearing any time soon.

11. Conclusion:

As I have not had enough time with either software or hardware of the N900, I cannot give an adequate conclusion rather than an extremely positive first impression of the device. But knowing that the hardware inside the N900 is similar internally to the iPhone, it’s very reassuring that it has been proved to be powerful enough for even the most demanding of iPhone users. Even more so because of the flexibility that Maemo 5 offers in terms of software development and multitasking, as demonstrated by Maemo developers.

In terms of design the N900 is the sleek, robust evolution of the N97. Everything from the ‘new’ keyboard, the improved placement of ports/buttons/speakers to the more professional streamlined design combines to make the N900 just that extra bit more attractive to use from day to day.

Being picky, there’s still room for improvement, such as having a memory card door, perhaps a 4-row keyboard, and possibly even an active slide as I did miss that satisflying “snip” then “snap” that the N97’s screen performs each time it effortlessly reveals the QWERTY and later hides it.

The only potential weaknesses of the N900 could be an unstable firmware or an appalling battery life (neither of which I experienced due to lack of play time). With more or less the same 3.5″ screen and a weaker 1320mAh battery, there may be valid concerns for battery life. However, without knowing how much software can optimize battery life, all we can do is wait and hope.The N900’s in our use were not final production software and there’s still room to improve the quoted “4 hour battery life”. Eldar in his proto N900 said he got about 6h. Neither really a full day’s work, but again, neither were final firmware.

The star of the show really should be the OS itself and how the UI delivers it to give an intuitive user experience. This will need much more time to test out and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that for the preview review.

Otherwise, this N900 is phone so full of potential. The N900 is a phone you can push to its limits and be impressed at how high you’ve reached. The N900 is an Nseries that delivers the promise of multimedia computer, mobile computer, computer in your pocket and whatever jargon Nokia have used to hype up their devices. The N900 is the flagship worthy of the title and the Nokia device that will U-turn the negative opinion that Nokia have more or less been inflicting on themselves with their less than adequate offerings since scoring big with the N95.

I’ll leave you with a few more images of the N900. I was going to include comparison pics with some classic Ns but this post is already taking very long and image heavy, so I’ll put it in another post.

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Review: SmartMovie by Lonely Cat Games – the best AVI/DivX/XviD Player for your Nokia N97 (and 5800/5530)

August 22, 2009 11 comments

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SmartMovie by Lonely Cat Games is a video player application for S60 (and other platforms) that allows you to play MP4V, FLV and 3GP videos.

I’ve been a big fan of SmartMovie ever since I got my 7610. When most phones out there couldn’t even play a video, SmartMovie was playing back music videos and TV shows.

You may have several videos stored in AVI format (.xvid/.divx/.avi), be it your home movies or backed up DVDs*.  For S60 5th Edition Nokia handsets, like the 5800, 5530 and N97, there is currently only one solution to play your AVI videos on your phone. SmartMovie. The other S60 alternatives, DivX player nor Core Player do not work on S60 5th edition either properly/at all. DivX Player is jerky, does not work with touch and options are limited because it requires softkeys. Core Player is incompatible with S60 5th edition, (I would have tried it out but they have no try and buy).

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You can try out SmartMovie at lonelycatgames.com. After downloading, be sure to install the “3rd edition” version – it works on S60 5th too.

Stick around as the Lonely Cat Games team have agreed to give away 5 licences** for the Full SmartMovie after this review to you guys.

The review will cover SmartMovie’s:

  1. Optimized Touch Controls
  2. Qwerty Keyboard Shortcuts
  3. Playback (TV out)
  4. Converter
  5. Settings
  6. Compatible Files
  7. Choosing Video Folders

Video demo part to be updated later.

(Sorry about the length of the review – it got longer than I had anticipated.)

1. Optimized Touch Interface

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On S60, you can operate SmartMovie completely either by touch (as in 5800, 5530) or  entirely by hardware keys (e.g. N86, N85, N82 etc.) On the N97, you’ve got the option for both which gives you the best overall experience.

SmartMovie works in portrait though landscape view is the best for viewing video (it’s nice that the option is still there).

Videos appear as a 2×3 row of thumbnails (when in landscape) or 4×2 when in portrait.


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Under each thumbnail is the title (including file type), video length and the video’s size. When you hover over (tap) a thumbnail, you get a slide show of scenes from the video and titles that were too long scroll across. Much better than simply either a list of video files or just random thumbnails.

Something quite surprising is that SmartMovie has kinetic scrolling. It really helps to get through a long library of videos (and it’s simply nicer to flick than do drag when scrolling).

This next feature is very nice indeed. When you long press over a video thumbnail, a really cool circle expands around your finger giving you the option to delete, rename, play or view the file details. If you tap outside the circle, it disappears.

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A bit like the first time you “slide to unlock the iPhone” or experience Gravity’s flawless kinetic scrolling, I just had to keep pressing around to just watch this bubble of options grow around my finger. Very intuitive way to display some quick options.

Another nice touch (no pun intended) is how the colour scheme matches your theme, even the animated bars that run behind your video list.

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Nseries 1 Theme
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Nseries 2 Theme
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Nseries 3 Theme
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ShazamiD theme

To play a video, just double tap it. Though the whole one tap, double tap thing may be an issue for some, it kind of makes sense because single tap allows the slide-show of scenes from the video.

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(Screencap at medium quality)

To access the basic controls (time line and volume) just tap somewhere on the screen.

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When you drag the time line, a “picture in picture” window appears that shows a snapshot the precise scene you’ve dragged to. In longer videos that weren’t converted by the SmartMovie Converter, scrolling back gets more difficult.

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Alternatively, instead of dragging you can just tap on a position in the timeline.  Again, tapping backwards doesn’t seem to work that well for longer videos that are unconverted.

Double tapping pauses the video and brings up the settings. As you’ll see later, there are three setting views. Below is the touch screen version during playback.

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You can exit by clicking files. When you exit SmartMovie, restarting it opens that video back to where you left it.

You can also access settings via the menu. This is the second view of settings.

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By default, the time line and time remaining are always visible. But you can hide these if you want (I do because it looks nicer hidden and my mind tries to work out how it could end given the amount of time remaining >_<)

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Screencap at high quality. Very sharp picture.

2. QWERTY Keyboard Controls:

Utilising the QWERTY keyboard for shortcuts has been an annoying scarcity on the N97, with few apps taking advantage of the keys.

Not for SmartMovie. The D-Pad allows for the basic player controls, whilst other QWERTY keys have been specifically chosen so you can easily access settings whilst a video is playing (not possible via touch). This is particularly useful when adjusting the audio sync, as you can immediately see how you’re affecting the audio and can quickly alter get it synced up.

The first time I used SmartMovie, the key short cuts were simply corresponding to the generic keypad. i.e. 1 and 4 were A/V settings (I think, I may be wrong) But for some reason, though it’s the same 4.15 version, they short cuts seem to have been specifically adapted for a QWERTY keyboard.

Full set of controls are as follows:

Smart Movie N97

When using QWERTY controls, indication status pops up for a second then fades away, e.g.

  • as you press “G” you’ll see “Brightness: 100%, Brightness:110%” etc going up in the top left of the screen

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  • as you press “V” (directly beneath G) you’ll see “Brightness: 100%, 90%” going down in ”                          “
  • zoom notifications (if available) appear in the bottom left

The “intelligent zooming” is a particularly nice function. If your video isn’t already 16:9, 640×360, pressing “Z” lets you zoom in to fill the screen as much as possible. The number of steps and the amount you can zoom up to depends on the file.

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It even works when you’ve got a 16:9 video encased in a 4:3 frame (we’ll see this in the Playback section)

Suggestion: Additional extra shortcut keys I would like to see:

  • to exit the video/smartmovie and them resume playback (only possible via touch)
  • show/hide time
  • in 3rd edition, pressing 9 goes through frame by frame each time you pause, holding makes it play is slow-mo. <<This latter suggestion is more gimmicky.

3. Playback –

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DivX DVD backups played by SmartMovie look absolutely fantastic on the N97’s screen. Before, the only way I could get my video-fix on the N97 was via BBC iPlayer (and video quality was quite good – but of course, only BBC content). SmartMovie really shows of how stunning the screen is; absolutely crisp pictures. As you’ll see later, you can adjust contrast/brightness/saturation within the player to further enhance your viewing.

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Photos By N82 (doesn’t do the vividness and sharpness of the picture justice)

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The frame rate/smoothness of playback is entirely dependent on how the video was originally encoded. Videos converted by the SmartMovie converter always playback fluidly, even at the fastest action scenes.

As long as your videos are already not too high in either resolution (i.e. not HD) or bitrate, you won’t need to convert them to play them with SmartMovie.

SmartMovie on the N97 handles my AVI library fine, although some action parts do slow down noticably. I’m not sure if there’s much hope in future SmartMovie software updates or if it’s just the limitations of the N97. On S60 3rd edition, overall SmartMovie plays at higher frame rates – (display is only 320×240) though it also slows down slightly in faster scenes.

Though also dependent on the source, sound quality is excellent, and the volume is astonishingly high. You can fix any audio-sync issues  (either due to the file itself or an artifact caused by the N97) really easily.

The audio is best heard through headphones – either wired or via Bluetooth.

3.1TV OUT

You’re going to need a CA-75U cable for this (not supplied with N97 but you may have one if you own other Nokia other models)22082009139

[demo in beginning of video]

The TV-out cable and SmartMovie adds another dimension to the N97, transforming it into ultraportable “DVD player” – no additional power source required (there’s enough battery life for at least a couple of films). Even more reason to love that SmartMovie handles my DivX catalogue well.

The TV-out resolution is 640×480, although most of the time, you’ll only see 640×360 (to match your screen). So 700MB film looks great on the big screen.

It’s not exactly the same as watching it directly from the 700mb source (i.e. not via a phone as you’ll experience dips in frame rate at faster scenes) but it’s good enough, and has wowed enough of my friends/family when they seen the TV playing a videos from my phone.

4. Converter.

If you do need to use the Converter for whatever reason, the SmartMovie converter is a very good one as it’s optimized for phones.

Just drag and drop a video, choose the phone model, convert and you’re done.

SmartMovie Converter

By default, the converter is set to 320×180, 112kbps, audio at 40kbps and in mono (XviD encoder). You can increase settings, but based on videos I’ve converted, the default 320×180 is somehow still better than 640×360 (it turns quite pixelated for some reason. You may want to increase the audio to stereo to take advantage of the N97’s stereo output via ispeakers/headphones (and also bitrate to 128kbps/Frequency to 44K whilst you’re at it).

It’s surprisingly not bad on the N97’s screen,quite comparable to BBC iPlayer quality

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Original
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Converted, default 320×180

There are random blips of big pixelation/blockiness, but they aren’t that frequent.

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Converted

Overall, it’s pretty good considering how small the file is (110MB) and is good enough for viewing on a phone (though not really if you use TV-OUT).

Conversion speeds depend on the original file, the resolution you’ll convert to and your computer. On average, to convert a 700mb/140minute movie it’ll take about:

      • 10-15 minutes  to 320×180 – <<Best quality to size ratio (Approx 110MB)
      • 20-35 minutes to 640×360 – << No point using this resolution (with XviD) (Approx 150MB)
      • 25-30 minutes via DivX encoder (320×180) << Best quality overall (Approx 560MB)
      • 40-50 minutes via DivX encoder (640×360) << Not worth it. Frame rate drop, additional quality only visible if played directly on HD screen (i.e. not via phone)

“Back in the day” the main reason I’d use the SmartMovie converter was to shrink file sizes. When a 512MB card was considered a lot of memory on a phone, you simply had to be efficient with conversion. But with nowadays you don’t really have to (especially on devices like the N97 with oodles of memory to spare)

5. Settings

SmartMovie has an extensive array of settings accessible from the menu or during playback.

Configuration Settings

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Pressing C brings QWERTY optimised settingsMNBx000073
Settings view via double tapping during playback
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Settings via menu.

Note: Hardware A/V sync changes all videos A/V sync. However, when you change A/V sync within video playback (e.g. wth “k” and “m” keys,) only that video alters their A/V sync, and SmartMovie remembers you’ve settings so you won’t have to repeat it. Changing Brightness/Contrast/Saturation changes it for every video.

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Portrait view, 3 screenshots. All of settings are visible (no scrolling), but obviously isn’t best for watching video. Either it’s small or zoomed up that big chunks left and right are missing. But it’s very nice to have the option nonetheless.
Program Updates makes sure SmartMovie gets the latest stability fixes and new features, and it’s very easy to do it from within the SmartMovie app.

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6. Compatible files

SmartMovie used to be just for AVI (.avi/.divx/.xvid) – the popular format for long videos as your files can be shrunken down but retain their quality. Though dependent on a number of factors, e.g. resolution, your standard DVD backup (around 640×360, 128kbs says Windows) of a 145 minute movie is only around 700MB. That means you can store 100 hours of DVD footage or 42 feature films on the N97’s internal memory alone, and still more to go with the memory card.

You may already have a collection of videos in DivX/.Avi format, be it backed up DVDs or camera footage saved in that format, so it’s a huge convenience NOT having to convert them to play them on your phone if you’ve got SmartMovie

SmartMovie plays .flv files – as found when downloading from flash video sites such as YouTube. Although the N97 can play .flv natively, it doesn’t treat it as a video file. You cannot rewind/fast forward, nor do you have smartmovie’s intelligent zoom. SmartMovie can minimize the black bars you’d see when you have videos that aren’t 16:9. Sometimes on YouTube, you’d have a video that was 16:9 but it’s encased in a 4:3 frame (i.e. double the black bars). SmartMovie zooms in to the center to give full screen viewing.

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Flash video directly from youtube. No conversion. SmartMovie treats it perfectly as a video file. Original file is 4:3 with a 16:9 video in the middle

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SmartMovie zooms in correctly to the 16:9 portion hidden in the 4:3 video

That covers practically all the bases of videos file types I’d ever want to transfer to my phone. SmartMovie also plays .mp4 extensions though at the moment, it doesn’t like the H.263 variety that your N97 records in – result is stuttering video.

.wav is also recognized.

7. Choosing video folders.

By default, SmartMovie scans your phone memory/massmemory/memory card. With all those recognizable files, your library is going to be swamped and a bit difficult to manage.

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Note size of scroll bar: Camera folders (for videos) recognized too

Since the 4.15 update, you can specify which particular folder in each memory bay to use.

I’ve created a SmartMovie folder in the mass memory’s Video folder. (You can do this on the N97’s file manager, or on your computers file browser)

To show videos only from that folder, go to Tools>Configuration>Video Folders, E>Videos>Smart Movie.

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It’s a lot easier to do this with the N97’s D-pad. Centre button selects the folder whilst Left/Right are used to navigate. With touch, you have to press the tiny +/- to move around folders.

You can organize it even further, i.e.. within SmartMovie, I’ve created a folder for Movies and one for shorter clips.

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As well as being useful, folder selection is somewhat of a necessity to do, because currently SmartMovie is prone to crash when you autorotate after having tons of N97 recorded videos being recognized. It doesn't always happen, but it stops happening if you do folder selections

Suggestion: In future updates, it would be nice to see folder selection feature more prominent/accessible instead of packed away within settings. Perhaps within the video menu view, have an option to view certain folders. e.g. clicking an icon lets me see the youtube clips you the youtube folder, clicking it again hides. it.

Finally, from the menu, you can arrange the order that your videos are shown.

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Conclusion

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For the N97 with its 3.5″ 16:9 nHD screen, 29.8GB memory plus more with expandable storage, QWERTY keyboard and TV-out – it was always screaming to be your portable video player. Until I rediscovered SmartMovie, I thought the only way I’d be getting any of the videos I want to watch on my phone is via BBC iPlayer or converting videos AGAIN to something the N97 could handle. With SmartMovie, I’m not limited to either options.

SmartMovie is a fantastic AVI/DivX/XviD video player, as well as handling FLV and 3GP.But as well as being capable of playing a wider selection of video formats, SmartMovie has a great UI to match – with brilliant touch and QWERTY keyboard customizations on the N97. There’s also a neat video converter included, though I’ve not needed to use that yet as it plays my video library quite well.

It would be nice if it was a frame rate or three faster at times (for higher resolution DVD backups – never an issue with converted files – which btw still don’t work on DivX player) – I’m not sure if that’s the N97’s limitations in software/hardware or something a future SmartMovie upgrade could do. I mean, DivX player is extremely similar to SmartMovie (in 3rd edition)and it’s inability to play AVI videos properly led me to assume neither would SmartMovie. I’m glad I was wrong.

Pros

  • It actually works with touch AND hardware keys (DivX Player)
  • Playsback .divx/.avi/.flv/.mp4 (except native N97 video) quite smoothly.
  • Great UI,
    • Displaying videos as animated slideshows, with scrolling thumbnails is pretty slick. Much better than having just thumbnails or just a list of video files.
    • Touch optimizations are very nice – kinetic scrolling and the settings bubble that grows around your finger when long pressing
    • Picture in Picture thumbnail when seeking through a video
    • “Intelligent Zooming”
  • Great QWERTY short cuts
    • Not only is it nice to have shortcut keys to quickly adjust settings, it’s great that they’ve been located specifically for a QWERTY keyboard, i.e. specific controls are adjacent to each other – brightness +/-
  • You’ve got a video converter included

Cons

  • Price

Though it’s among the higher priced applications at 21.99EUR (around 30USD/19GBP – same as CorePlayer) it’s not difficult to see that it’s actually a worthwhile purchase considering how much use it will add to your N97 (or applicable phone)

You can try out SmartMovie at lonelycatgames.com. After downloading, be sure to install the “3rd edition” version – it works on S60 5th too.

Licences for SmartMovie are transferable 3 times during 2 years after purchase.

Win a Full SmartMovie Licence

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of SmartMovie, there are 5 free licences to give away.

Check out: http://wp.me/p73J2-vB for more details.

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*Disclaimer – as far as I’m aware, it is fair-use to back up your own DVDs for personal use. Just don’t share/distribute/sell them.

**Will get back to you as how this will work – not done a licence give away before.

Accessories Review: PDair Black Leather Case for the Nokia N97 (Flip Type)

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I received my Black  Nokia N97. Iit’s from mobilephonesdirect (ordered Monday) unlocked and unbranded ^_^.

It was free on a T-Mobile £35/m 18M contract with 700 minutes/unlimited text and apparently 3GB fair usage free internet (that’s what the T-Mob Rep said). I saw that I could have got more minutes from dialaphone except it’s Orange-locked/branded (i.e. slow/no firmware updates and stuck on orange). I was paying about £30 on sim-only so this was a pretty cheap deal for an unlocked/unbranded and decent tariff ‘flagship’ phone. No I’m not being paid to mention any of these sites.

Anyway, included with my N97 was a free (supposedly hand) made leather case, with additional belt clip. You can get these yourself from PDair.com for 28USD (about 17GBP) or from mobilefun.co.uk for 19.53GBP.

Contents:

  • Black DPair leather case with silvery/grey stitching
  • Belt clip attachments
  • Instructions

Pros+

  • Good quality, soft leather case with silvery stitching
  • All areas of the N97 are immediately accessible (Except the back)
  • Protects the N97’s screen well – the flap bit is firm yet soft and smooth as not to scratch the screen. Held closed by the magnetic clip.
  • Holds the N97 firmly in place
  • You can use the N97 without having to remove the case, touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard
  • If you’re a belt-clip fan, you can connect a detachable one that’s really strong.
  • Makes it easier to set the N97 on it’s side (for taking group shots)

Cons –

  • Plastic that holds the N97 to the case makes all the keys of the keyboard flat making it more difficult to use.
  • Bulky – N97 goes from 17.2mm to about 25mm
  • Right side is not protected

Some pictures below:

case n972

case n97

It’s a nice case – not a major fan of these extremely formal looking cases myself. I’m sure there are many that are. I’d probably use it if it didn’t affect the keyboard. There are similar much cheaper (but maybe worse quality) flippy style cases on eBay where the N97 just clips into the case, but the keyboard is unaffected.

Video: The Phones Show – Episode 87 – Your favourite phone at the moment?

August 10, 2009 1 comment

Episode 87 takes a break from Steve’s news and reviews of the phone world, instead shifting the limelight to his PhonesShow viewing audience as they reveal which phone they’re using right now, and why they love it.

It’s a strong Nokia showing, but then again, Steve is from All About Symbian :).

via 3lib

My favourite phone of the moment?

n97

[N97 from 97 images of the N97 – 5000 tiles]

I was using a Nokia N97 but that has returned to the World of WOM after a lengthy trial. Thanks guys!

Despite it’s shortcomings (low RAM, bugs, some further improvements required via future firmware upgrades) it worked for 90% of the things I needed it for really well.

  • Really good messaging device – the keyboard took some getting used to. It wasn’t as tactile as I’d hoped, but eventually, I was able to type without looking at the keyboard. Makes text messaging/facebooking/emailing (push!)/instant messaging really fast, fun and convenient.
  • Great media player. Stacks of Memory means I can pile on my music and my videos. Though I could have done with dedicated music buttons, the included remote helps sort that out. 3.5″ screen great for viewing BBCi Player videos and my movies. TV out turns it into a media centre.
  • Never getting lost with Navigation – either by car or on foot. GPS sorts itself out pretty quick – network gets your general position within about 5 seconds, and GPS lock around 15 seconds. Ovi Maps is a really good navigation solution but Google Maps is also a really good alternative too. I did have an issue with the GPS not working but managed to sort that out after a hard reset.
  • Pretty good Web browser. I switch between 3 browsers, Opera, native S60 and digia. When Digia @Web comes out of beta and becomes a lot more stable and a bit faster, then I’d be really happy with surfing the web on the N97.
  • Apps – they’re slowly coming along to Ovi Store. There’s a lot of content now to download, and quite a few of them are free. (still needs more content and slight reorganization – still a lot of great apps that aren’t on Ovi Store).
  • Video – not perfect, not in HD nor is there an adequate focus point. However, the video recording is surprisingly good on this device. I’ve found it to be really stable – it doesn’t do that jelly wobbling effect that most phones do when you move the camera about. It’s even better if you can mount it on a tripod. Sound recording is also really good.
  • Calling – with O2, not had a problem with reception. Call quality is excellent on both ends.

-Not really a feature but I like knowing that upgrades will come; that perhaps after collective ranting, it might get the push necessary for firmware team to take a look.

Major gripe is taking still pictures with the camera. I’ve been used to the N82 always being able to capture photos in any condition, snap photos of friends/family/friends – always being glad to have such reliability to capture great quality photos as I always have my phone with me – and also never regretting not taking a dedicated digital camera with me as the N82 captures what I need it to capture really well. N97 only takes good photos in optimal lighting. Everything else is bleh.

Overall, I had a really positive experience with the N97. Out of the box, it wasn’t all that. A couple of firmware upgrades, reorganizing of the menu/settings, installation of my favourite apps, finding out about some new apps, learning some quick hints and tips – the N97 grew up to be the phone I needed it to be and that’s why I love it. (note “needed”, not “wanted”. If it had Xenon/more RAM…etc etc :p)

o2

[tiles]

I’m FINALLY gonna be getting MY OWN N97 after Friday… waiting a few more days as I have an exam to do that I missed the first time round. I know I won’t be able to concentrate, playing with a “new” toy (and sorting out any problems :p).

via 3lib