Nokia Lumia 800 & 710 – First Impression

It has been a while since I last attended a Nokia’s media event for the bloggers.  My personal schedule seems to be in conflict with Nokia’s calendar lately for some reasons.  I have been anticipating Nokia’s next generation smartphone.  Suffice to say, I am happy to be able to make it for the Lumia event held last week – a first in the region.  We went through a lengthy demo of what the new Windows phone can do.  And we spent some quality time with the product managers and other Nokia professionals as we experienced the Lumia 800 & 710.  So what’s my first impression?  Read more to find out!

Form Factor

A phone’s design is important to me.  It is a statement of who I am.  I use an Android phone for the simple reason of not wanting to be like every other mobile phone user in Singapore.  Lumia 800 is sophisticated, and beautiful.  It has a smooth, one piece body that slightly curved onto the screen.  The design is breathtaking, like no other.  Lumia 800 comes in three colors: black, cyan, and magenta.  For a sharper looking design, I would strongly recommend cyan or magenta.  If you are a music lover, you may consider getting the Nokia Purity Stereo Headset or Purity HD Stereo Headset by Monster.  One is for in-ear style, and other one is for on-ear.  Monster has created headsets for Apple iPhones.  It is good that Nokia gets them to design not one, but two for theirs too.

Lumia 710 is the entry level Windows phone.  I asked if Lumia 800 is considered as Nokia’s new flagship and they said no.  Price-wise, I would expect Lumia 800 to be below the flagship products of other platforms.  Hence, whatever I get to say here, do take cost as a consideration.

Lumia 800’s screen size is 3.7″.  For those of you (like me) who are used to 4.2″+, it could be quite an adjustment if you switch to this new Nokia phone.  For Apple users who are used to 3.5″, Lumia 800’s display area may seem OK.  Lumia 800 has a lower resolution compares to other top end smartphones.  And it weights 142g, almost as heavy as an iPhone.  It is 20% heavier than the Android phone I am using.  Does weight matter?  Personally I prefer a lighter phone.  But 99.99% of the local users who use iPhone may say nah.

Windows OS and Nokia Unique Offerings

I must admit that I am not that familiar with Windows OS on a mobile phone.  The Lumia 800 seems responsive.  Then again, almost all new phones are responsive before they are loaded with apps and contents.  So I have no idea if Lumia 800 will remain as responsive as days go by.  I know for sure my single core Android phone is crawling at this moment.

The design of Windows OS is pretty clean.  There is a wall of tiles for the widgets.  And swipe to the next screen is a list of applications.  If you are familiar with Nokia phone, you will find yourself at home.  Both Lumia phones have Nokia Drive with turn by turn voice navigation as well as Nokia Map.  Free, for more than 100 countries.  However, in order for Nokia Drive and Nokia Map to work, you must have data access.  This could become quite costly when you are overseas.  Because turning on data access usually means that you allow other applications to access the Internet on the go.

Lumia phones come with Nokia Music application.  A 192kbps MP3 track free of DRM costs around S$1.29 from the Nokia music store.  Does this sound enticing to you?  The price seems about right, if purchasing music online is your cup of tea.

And it does come with Whatsapp, free.

Unlocking the phone can be via a numeric password pad (like iPhone).  It does not have a pattern unlock (like Android).  Locking the phone is via a physical button positioned naturally on where your index finger is when you hold the phone upright (not sure how it will be like for left-handers).

Social Networking

Nokia Lumia phones combine Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn feeds, chat and SMS message in one conversation.  I seldom social network these days, only on Google+.  And I am told that Lumia does not interface with Google+ as of now.  I must be an odd ball because majority of the active social networking users I presume spend much time with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  I can imagine majority can continue to do just that with the Lumia phones.

Web Browsing

Do you often browse full sites on your mobile phone?  I do.  And I find that for some of my favorite websites, when I double tab onto the screen for the default zoom (that does auto page wrapping), the fonts can be tiny.  Maybe I am used to a large screen size and a higher resolution, it can be quite straining to the eyes when browsing the Internet on the Lumia phones.  I am not a fan of further zooming onto a webpage and having to scroll left and right constantly to read each line.  I strongly suggest trying it out if you are heavy on web browsing.

Under the Hood

Recently I have visited Hong Kong.  From the old man I met on the street, to my own cousin, dual core phones seem to be the in-thing.  If I am to buy a phone today, I too would prefer a dual core processor (and a large screen would be good).  As for the Lumia 800 and 710, they are both equipped with a 1.4GHz single core processor.  Do you multitask often?  If not, this should not bother you.

This phone is fitted with a 8Mpix Carl Zeiss camera with LED flash.  16GB internal memory.  It is pretty decent in today’s standard.  Of course, iPhone has the 32GB and 64GB version.  But that may cost more.

What about Other Stuffs?

With limited amount of time, there are areas that I am unable to cover.  Can Lumia extract the contact list from my Android phone via Bluetooth as promised?  What is the collection of Apps like for the Nokia market (I can’t live without Internet Radio these days)?  Are the Apps affordable?  Can the battery last for a day?  These are some of the questions you may need to further investigate if you are serious about wanting to buy this phone.

Singapore National Youth Orchestra – A Musical Chemistry

We’ve missed the previous media invite on the LANXESS SYNO Classic event due to our Spanish commitment.  And they are kind enough to invite us for the main event that took place yesterday at Esplanade, an event coincided with the JP Morgen Corporate Run that caused half of a highway in town to be sealed off.  We were forewarned about the anticipated traffic condition so as the clock struck EOD (end of date) at work, Cynthia and I made haste to our Singapore’s very own theater by the bay.  I love the architectural design of Esplanade.  It cost – if I remember correctly – 650 million dollars to build.  I thought that was a lot of money.  Years later, the integrated resort next door cost billions to build.  That is Marina Bay Sands.

“A Musical Chemistry” is mainly performed by Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO).  The program involves a short piece by Richard Wagner, which to be frank, I have not heard of before last evening.  A piece by Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 25 – which I love to death.  I can easily hum the notes from beginning to end.  We have Lara St. John as the guest lead violinist.  Deep inside, I was hoping that someone from within SNYO would take the lead position.  That would truly speak for the quality of the orchestra.  But I can also understand that as a public event, having an international master such as Lara St. John would help to attract the crowd.  I am not too familiar with the violinist scene.  The only violinist I deeply respect is Hilary Hahn.  Lara St. John’s approach to Tchaikovsky’s concerto is unique, in a sense that she devours the music supplied by the orchestra and pours her personality into the music.  Her phasing and timing is significantly different from the traditional recordings that I am familiar with.  In a way, I did struggle a bit to see how this free spirit performance gelled with the structure provided by the orchestra.  One audience during intermission commented that she felt exhausted – in a good way I suppose – watching Lara St. John performed on stage.  In the contrary, I was totally absorbed into Lara’s own world and was yarning for more.  During the meet the artist session, I asked if it was her first visit to Singapore and she replied that this trip is her second.  Her first visit was to the Zoo.  And I said to her, you should come back to Singapore one day and perform for us.

Then there was the world premiere of a piece written by Darrell Ang, the musical director of SNYO.  It is called “Fanfare for a Frazzled Earth”.  Something to do with caring for environment.  It sounds modern (it has to be) and contemporary with lots of complex dialogs between the instruments.  I am a more classical kind of person and have always been struggling with understanding a modern piece of musc.  This piece sounds lively, almost like a celebration.  It is shorter than we have anticipated.  That left me wonder how beautiful it would have been if he could expand the piece into a full fledge symphony.  Last item of the program is Symphony in D minor by Cesar Franck.  A Dutch composer I have not heard of.  I may explore on his other works later.

Last evening was an emotional evening.  Because I was once played in Hong Kong Youth Orchestra.  I would say, the standard of SNYO is really high.  When I heard and saw the entire orchestra playing and moving in unison, that brought back fond memories.  During the intermission, Cynthia commented that such feeling must be exhilarating.  And I replied that in real life, the orchestra spends much time repeating short segments of the music, usually stripping down the individual or a subset of instruments.  To that extend, once an orchestra pastes all the parts together and plays, that feeling is exhilarating.  However, that short moment of spiritual joy only happens through months of practice, a few bars at a time.  That makes such moment more precious I suppose.

Upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, neo, and PLAY

Xperia arc

This blogger event could not have come in a better timing.  Cynthia took over my Xperia X8 because she has ‘accidentally’ soaked her old phone that I bought for her with water, inside her gym bag.  X8 is good as an entry level Android phone but we are looking for something with a more executive outlook.  When the folks from Sony Ericsson unveiled the upcoming Xperia arc (together with two other new models), I was instantly in love.

Xperia arc features a pure black screen, noticeably striking when on standby.  It makes the rest of the smartphones that have a dark grey screen looks less appealing and somewhat dated.  Xperia arc is slim.  At its thinnest, the phone measures at  8.7 mm.  The screen size is 4.2 inches, which I believe is one of the largest in the smartphone category.  Xperia arc scores very high on the form factor.  But what about the multimedia offering?

During the video playback demo session, arc was put side-by-side with Sony Ericsson’s current high end model, X10.  Because arc employs Sony’s BRAVIA technology, looking at the same video, arc produces more crystal clear picture and the image looks vibrant and brilliant.  In terms of image and video capturing capability, with an Sony’s Exmor R technology as well as an aperture of 2.4 (quite possibly one of the lowest I have seen), this phone supposes to shine under low light condition.  I have tested the evening shots on top of Esplanade and I am pleased with what I have seen.  Perhaps I can share some live images with you once I get hold of one.  Xperia arc has a 8.1 megapixel camera that comes with HD video recording capability.  Not the highest I have seen.  But not too low either.  I suspect Exmor R technology should be able to boost the image quality.  Sony, after all, makes cameras as well.  This phone has a HDMI output.  I don’t see much use to it.  But if you need it, it is there.

Xperia arc will be launched with the latest Android for smartphone version 2.3.  Although I am not fanatic towards the version of the operating system (I still yet to see that huge different between 1.6 and 2.1 besides that animated screen, it is certainly not like an upgrade from Vista to Win 7), it is good to see that Sony Ericsson has fixed the perception issue.  Now, I am keen to see if they can keep up the platform update for their existing Android models.

Quite honestly, the moment I plugged my personal earphone onto Xperia arc was the moment when I said to myself, “Woah, this is the one”.  I am much impressed by the music playback quality.  It is a class on its own.  You have got to hear it for yourself.

Xperia arc will be available in Singapore in Q1 this year (which is just days away!) in two colors: Midnight Blue and Misty Silver.

Xperia neo

Xperia neo is very much similar to Xperia arc, in terms of technical spec.  Hence, I would not repeat here.  Xperia neo is more compact.  It has a screen size of 3.7 inches instead of arc’s 4.2 inches.  And it also has an unique design, equally ergonomic in a different way compares to arc.  At launch, neo will have two colors – Blue Gradient and Red – and is going to be available in Singapore Q2 this year.  It should be priced below Xperia arc.  By how much?  We have to wait and see.

Xperia PLAY

For the avid gamers, the above image would mean something dear to your heart.  I have heard the rumor of such release a while ago.  I was trying to get a confirmation from the PR company that handled Sony Ericsson’s account.  But you know how marketing team works.  It is all hush hush.

Xperia PLAY combines both PlayStation gaming experience with the latest Android platform.  PLAY is the first PlayStation certified device.  It does not come with the BRAVIA technology (color vibrancy is less of an issue as far as gaming is concerned because video games by default are designed with vibrant colors).  But it has a better graphic processing system.  On paper, it delivers a 60 frames per second gaming experience with minimal power consumption.  I have tried out a racing game on the 4 inches screen.  Pretty good experience.  I was hoping to try out some fantasy role playing games but did not have a chance (not sure if there is one).  At launch, PLAY will be preloaded with: Sim 3,  FIFA 10, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior, and Crash Bandicoot.  On top of that, more than 50 game titles will be available – for purchase I suppose.  I have seen the list of games.  It looks diverse.  Surprisingly, I do not see Final Fantasy, or any fighting games that I can recognize.

When will PLAY be out?  Q2 this year, in Singapore.  In black, and in white.

Got a question?  Drop me a comment!

Peranakan Museum – A Trendy And Happening Boutique Museum In Singapore

Picture this with me.  Across the road, you have found the entrance to a museum.  It is your first visit.  Outside the museum, there are stalls crowded with curious shoppers, genuine shoppers of all ages.  Stepping inside, the high ceiling hall is brightly lit filled with youngsters dressed in trendy clothing socializing with one another, all appear to be having a good time.  But that is not the first thing you notice.  In the center of the hall, at the reception area, a band is performing for the visitors.  Lively music moves your feet.  And you wonder: Is this a museum?  Some watch the band’s performance.  A line of human traffic constantly moving up and down the stairs on either side of the main hall that leads to different exhibition halls.  And if loud music raises your eyebrows, once you walk into one of the exhibition halls, such as the special exhibition “Ramayana Revisited”, the volume of the live music fades away.  Soon, the things that capture your senses are the artifacts and their descriptions.  Old people, young people, not-to-old people, families, friends, and couples – all having a good time.  And soon you conclude: What a lovely way to spend an evening at the Peranakan Museum.

Cynthia and I were invited for the museum’s open house event.  We have been to a few events organized by the Singapore museums and this must be the liveliest of all.  Before we got a chance to make our own bags (see photos below), we were greeted by Ms Barbara Fras, the Assistance Director of the Programmes Department who took the time to introduce the museum to the bloggers.  Peranakan Museum may seem small but it has attracted 200,000 visitors a year, of which majority are from within Singapore.  The museum does have an interesting cross-cultural collection of artifacts (part of the museum’s collection is now being exhibited in Paris) as well as a good line-up of fun events that prompt visitors to return.  I think the make-a-bag session is a great idea.  We get to keep the bags as souvenirs.  What a lovely to keep a piece of our memory at home in a tangible way.

Peranakan Museum’s website can be found in here.  The museum is located at 39 Armenian Street.  You can check out the upcoming events at their website.  To enjoy the discounted admission charges, you may wish to visit on Fridays between 7pm to 9pm (S$3 for adults).  Below are some of the photos we have taken during the event.

David Archuleta, And The N8 Launch Event By SingTel And Nokia

Looking back, I think it was the little disagreements that glued Cynthia and I to American Idol.  Cynthia supported Elliott Yamin and I, Katharine McPhee.  We would debate for days that (a) I was not staring at McPhee’s boobs and mesmerized by her look and (b) I thought McPhee really sang well and sang really well.  But who would have thought that Hicks would beat those two?  Have you checked out the latest Christmas album by McPhee?  Even Cynthia agreed with me that she has a good voice, finally.  Season 6, I supported Jordin Sparks and Cynthia, Blake Lewis.  It was a dull season.  Nevertheless, you know how that season turned out.  In the following season, we have David versus David.  I think Cook rocked and Cynthia was in love with Archuleta.  Again, it was my shoulder that Cynthia cried on.  And then something happened in season 8.  Both of us supported Adam Lambert wholeheartedly.  And our hearts were shattered into millions of pieces.  Really?  The idol of the idol did not win?  We have boycotted American Idol since then.  The morale of the story?  I think I have a better chance to pick a better singer than Cynthia.

Ha!

OK.  Jokes aside.  One fine day, a media invite arrived at my mailbox.  It was on a Sunday.  Normally I would think twice because of this work-blog-life balance of mine.  Weekend is a time to do something very personal, may or may not be blog-able.  Before I hit that tentative reply button to that media invite, Cynthia exclaimed, “Can I come?!” and I went, “Erm … your were in love with Archie like 2 years ago.  Are you still a fan?”  I guess her undying love to Archuleta is as strong as mine to McPhee.

The event was organized by SingTel and Nokia for the launch of the Nokia N8 mobile phone.  Our hosts were Muttons (hilarious Singapore DJs) and David Archuleta was there to sing us 5 songs in an acoustic setting.  He does have a great voice, especially on stage.  Cynthia was in high spirit and so were the ecstatic fans in Zouk.  His new album “The Other Side Of Down” was released very recently and the fans already know all the lyrics!

We had Japanese food near Zouk and made it home in time for the final race of F1.  What an eventful weekend.  Here are a few photos to share.