Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Symbian, MeeGo, Nokia and prospective developers

There's a lot of misinformation regarding the announcement that Nokia is moving to MeeGo for N-series phones. A lot of rumours, leaked prototypes and some panic amongst developers.

It certainly seems that this prototype E series currently called E7-00 is a spiritual successor to the N97 from the pictures. I would presume that the N8 and this phone were conceived long before the decision to move to MeeGo for N series. The re-badging of the N to E and/or X or even C series is just that, badge engineering. It will be the next crop of phones that really show any sign of dramatic changes. From right here right now, it looks like new E-series encompasses all existing E-series style and traditional N-series, whilst the N-series moves upmarket to a sector of UMPC (ultra mobile pcs) converged with smartphones.

UMPCs aren't new. There have been a few devices just before the N900 that have just missed the mark due to poor performance and the technology simply not being mature enough. The (now bankrupt) OQO Model 1 and Model 2 range was ahead of it's time in concept but lacked the ability to do phone functions, was pricey and had battery & reliability issues. But that seems to be the vacant market niche where N-series with MeeGo is headed. It's just not clear how much of the current E-series will be MeeGo. If I was a developer on Symbian I would port to it. Also it's an open Linux platform and it may open up new market opportunities beyond phones. Or perhaps even beyond just Nokia.

Back to the present, certainly Nokia has acquired a reputation for having dropped the ball and let Apple and HTC streak ahead. Apple partially by marketing, partially by fresh GUI design. HTC from pure technical ability. Nokia have done a lot of good things lately but they simply aren't shouting loud enough. The free for life OVI mapping alone should be dripping off billboards and blaring from FM and TV adverts. But it just isn't. Nokia also simply haven't made the phones a fashion accessory in the way that Apple have. Nokia are still seen as functional whereas the iPhone is seen as an object of desire. The iPhone may be flawed but it isn't stopping sales. Even the reception issue on iPhone 4 isn't preventing it selling out. No other phone has that same level of hysteria with the general public. And general public isn't tech enthusiasts, it isn't bloggers. They're ordinary people who want a simple self explanatory interface. Big buttons!

What also strikes me as insane is the cost of having multiple operating systems. If you look at a different industry - take airlines for example. They will generally try and only use (so far as possible) one aircraft brand with one engine brand (RollsRoyce or GE/CFM) etc as it simplifies training costs, maintenance costs, interoperability. Aer Lingus uses Airbus with CFM, Brititsh Airways uses Boeing etc. Another parallel would be engine and platform sharing in the car industry.

So  Nokia have to maintain S40, S60, MeeGo. Sony Ericsson have S60, Windows Mobile, Android. Samsung seem the worst as they have S60, Bada, LiMO and Android. Even HTC have this problem to contend with as they have Windows Mobile, Android etc. Many of the aforementioned have other their own propriety systems too. But Apple have one phone operating system. Yes they're only in the higher end smartphone market now but I'll bet lesser devices when they appear will use the same iOS operating system. That's just one to maintain and develop. That's going to have some cost and profitability implications. And for a prospective developer wondering what systems they will develop and test for, it's going to have a big impact on their decision too.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Facebook games/quizzes security

Most people now have a rough idea of how to secure their Facebook profiles at this stage. Or at least have an awareness of what is publicly available versus what is available to people in their friends list.

But many aren't aware of the risks of playing games and quizzes to not only their data but the data of those of whom they're connected.

When you add a game or application to your profile you potentially agree to allow that the same access as one of your friends to the developers of that game, quiz or application. The problem is you have no idea who they are or what they're going to do with data mined from your profile be it pictures or personal information. It could be used for marketing information, republished elsewhere or even result in identification theft.

Each application is not a single person you are sharing with, it is an unknown number which could range from zero to entirely publicly accessible. In your Facebook application settings, it defaults to "recently used" but that does not take account of all the games/applications/quizzes you have authorized to have full access to your data in your profile. Click this link whilst logged into Facebook to see the "allowed" apps in your own profile:


You may be shocked at the amount of things authorised that you weren't even aware were there.
Then remove (using the clickable "X") any games or quizzes you no longer actively use or trust. Also be aware of the "Edit Settings" on each listed. Some will allow individual privacy settings as exceptions to other things in your profile which you can change from "Everyone" to "Friends only" or whatever you deem appropiate.

The other key thing I want to write about here is that when you add an application or game to your profile you are potentially opening up not only your own data to strangers but potentially that of people connected with you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Samsung H1 experiences (Vodafone 360)

Just upgraded to the latest firmware update. The general user interface is much improved. Significantly more responsive. Less sluggish for scrolling etc is particularly noticeable.

However I'm still finding hard to warm to this phone. Several things continue to frustrate. There seems to be little control of what interface your data goes by. It won't automatically reconnect to known wifi access points through reboots and moving away and back to those wifi zones. In fact if you reboot the phone wifi won't remain on until you manually activate it. This is particularly annoying as you are then faced with slow gprs connections when wifi is available.

The main failing of this device is one that affects the iphone - lack of multitasking. In some ipod applications you can switch apps and whilst it will not run them in parallel it will at least try to save the state so when you return to that application you can continue where you left off. With the H1, you close an app, you'll be starting fresh next time you load it. It seems terrible restriction to not be able to poll for new tweets or instant messages in the background whilst you do other tasks.

The range of available addon applications seems to be improving. Given this phone's leanings towards social networking it was surprising that it lacked a Facebook application. It does now, although it needs further development. I was going to include some screen captures, but couldn't find an app for it. LiMo seems to not be supported yet by a lot of popular applications such as Nimbuzz, Fring, Skype etc.

For e-mail it seems to be restricted to the services provided by Vodafone such as (in my area) Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN Live, 360 and Gmail. I have my own domain and there is no way to add that to the current native mail system which is frustrating. Also there is no way to use this in a business environment by connecting to corporate MS Exchange services.

The standard web browser is Opera based and as such is pretty good for many things, but lacks any form of Adobe Flash or even Flash Lite support as is standard on Nokia browsers. Flash 10 and MS Silverlight are starting to make an appearance in Skyfire browser, alas not available on the LiMo platform yet. No streaming internet radio is a bit of a shame. Also lack of built in stereo speakers like the Nokia 5800 would be nice.

I had a problem with my 360 services (well everybody did, it was down) and I was shocked how much relied on that. Without the 360 services you lose the GPS mapping system entirely as well a number of other key features like the shop.That's a crazy design flaw. The 3D interface is a bit of a gimmick, it does show facebook status and so on but I'm not sure it's all that useful or quick compared to a traditional list interface. There is a list interface available too so no problem there.Whilst some of us will have the time and patience to sit down and get all our contacts on the 360 site sorted neatly etc, most people won't ever bother to put in that effort and the 360 features may be somewhat wasted on them. And this becoming more mainstream is key to making it attractive to developers for the shop for apps etc.

The camera on the H1 continues to impress. The pictures produced and features seem to equal a dedicated digital camera. My only gripe is the lens is in a location that makes it difficult to hold steady in both hands with getting in the way of the view. As a phone it is very good, it just works and sound quality is decent.

I hope significant improvements are made to the firmware but for now LiMo in this implementation doesn't seem much of a rival for Symbian operating system in versatility or the Apple iPhone in terms of slick well considered design.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Listen to PowerFM Dublin into the car &more (with Nokia phones)

Bluetooth audio live internet radio from my Nokia 5800 to the... on Twitpic What you need -

1. New-ish Nokia Phone
2. Wifi and/or good data plan with your mobile phone operator
    (careful, this could get expensive!)
3. LCG Jukebox available here: http://www.lonelycatgames.com/?app=lcgjukebox
    Costs: 18.50 Euro
4. Setting up PowerFM in LCG Jukebox:

Browse - Menu, Playlist, Station manager. Menu, New Station.

Put in the following, title of "Powerfm" and beneath that:
In the bitrate box put: 128   

If you have line-in on your car stereo you can use the headphone out jack on your phone to connect up. Or if you are lucky enough to have a Bluetooth A2DP enabled car radio, you can connect and stream PowerFM wirelessly.

Where you're near wifi, you can use your phone like an old FM walkman and listen to powerfm on headphones away from your pc with no data costs.