Latest Nokia Application Review – Part 1 of 2

N97 on Nightstand, photographed this morning

For the second time this year, Nokia has passed me some credits to try out applications of my choice at their OVI Store.  This is exciting of course.   Although some I would have bought anyway, it is good to test out others that I would have missed.   The size of the store has grown quite significantly over the last few months, especially in the gaming section.  Many of the real good applications and games come free of charge.   Part 1 of this review focuses on standard applications.  Part 2 will focus on games.  Some of the games are so fun that kept me going night after night.   Stay tuned for that.

On the standard application front, more similar – either competing or complementary – applications start to emerge.  It is interesting to see how some applications are sluggish and unappealing while a similar one with very similar functionality is blazing fast, looking stylish and professional.   Same Nokia Symbian operating system, very different in performance.  And it is also good to see applications continue to push the frontier of what a Nokia phone can do.

I use a N97 to test out some of the noteworthy applications.   If you or your friend owns a Nokia phone or intend to own one, I hope you enjoy reading this part 1 review as much as I writing it.

To continue reading, please click here.  For more articles on this particular phone model, you may also wish to check out the “Experiencing Nokia N97” page.

GCA 2009 – “Hacking” Our Way Into Games Convention Asia, Lol

OK, they got my name wrong ... lol ... sort of.

I didn’t wake up on a Thursday morning thinking that I would attend an exhibition.  “GCA” sounded familiar.  As though I have been to such an event before.  I did some checking on my website and guess what?  One year ago, on this day, I was wearing the media pass for this event, invited by Nokia!  It’s been a year already?  And neither did I wake up on a Thursday morning thinking that I would wear a professional visitor pass, acting as my good friend’s assistance for a day.

This morning, a text message arrived at my phone.  My friend wanted to meet up at SunTech for a meal before heading to an exhibition.  Fine by me.  “What are we going to do at an exhibition?” I texted.  “I will tell you later,” she texted back.

As I made my way to the convention center, there she was, looking absolutely stunning , and professional too.  Fashionable long dress and jacket, with a Prada handbag to match.  Her job title is “Head of Regional Sales”.  Not long ago, we were peers, same company, same team.  I really ought to catch up on my career progression.  And I am happy for her.  Sales type of work suits her better than my 9 to 5.

It seemed like her first time here in this kind of exhibition.  Feeling excited and all.  It was definitely my first time in this kind of exhibition, without a media pass.  I too felt excited because … oh well, computer gaming is in my blood.  GCA is primary for the business partners to meet.  Nokia doesn’t seem to participate this year.  I wonder why.

With confidence, my friend headed to the registration counter to get the professional visitor pass.  I doubt if anyone would say no to my very pleasant looking friend, together with her equally pleasant name card.  I played along when it came to my turn and said with a smile, “She is my boss and I am her assistant, today!”  The young chap seemed amused and he didn’t say no to me neither.  Hooray!  I played a good assistance, helped my ‘boss’ to sign in, and …

… Oops.  I bumped onto a few journalist friends from the media.  One of them asked, “What are you doing here?”  And I said, “I am with my boss, on a mission!”  “But you are usually the main guy!  Where is your camera?” he asked.  “Not today!  Ha ha ha, I will see you around,” I waved goodbye.  My media friends seem to remember me by my camera.  How strange!

Upon receiving our passes, my friend suddenly turned professional, looked at me and said, “Since you are my assistant today, tell me what’s our game plan?”  Hmmm.  I put on my consultant hat, pulled out the program guide and said, “If I guess your intend right, we should check out the business exhibitors first and gather some contacts.  After which, we could head over to the consumer side as it is usually more fun.  As for the conferences, we can think of that later.”

Of all the business exhibitors, I enjoyed chatting with the folks from Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.  It is a collaboration between MIT and Singapore.  I asked if it is the MIT and the students said yes.  Amazing.  One Western lady is currently studying computing and mathematics in MIT.  We had a friendly chat.  And I had also chatted with some of the Asian students in order for me to understand what it takes to build an Indie computer game prototype.  It is often a 10 weeks or so project with up to 10 team members taking on the roles of producer, game designer, graphic designer, and etc.  The passion these students has was infectious.  I could feel it immediately.  If you have time, check out GAMBIT’s official site.  Before I left the booth, I asked one last question, “Have you considered joining Blizzard?”  For those who are new to the gaming industry, I think Blizzard at present is the place to be at.  “Funny you asked that,” he continued, “as I have considered working with Blizzard before.  But I prefer to work in an Indie environment instead.”  Good answer.  And I wish them all the best in their studies.

Moving on to the consumer side, it did have the bells and whistles, big monitors and girls in sexy outfits to make people go wow.  OK, my friend was as excited as me, for slightly different reason.  Taking the center stage was none other than the Xbox 360 game “Forza Motorsports 3”.  If only those were Formula One cars, that would have been perfect – for me.  There was a costume shop that showcased a life size Thrall (a famous dude from the online game World of Warcraft who gets murdered globally perhaps a hundred times a day) and Ironman.  The Counter Strike costume worn by a group of real life male models was just so hilarious.

After we have covered both the business and consumer sides, the only agenda item left for us – or rather her – to visit is the conference.  Since we are not from the media, we have to pay S$700+ per person.  Uh huh.  OK, somewhere somehow, we have got to …

… my friend pressed on insisting that her company is sort of like a media company.  Hmmm, really?!  I guess we could see it that way.  The young chap got a bit lost, politely asking us to wait while he was going to get his boss.  Uh oh.  I swear I was about to pull my “new media” trick telling them I am running a rather, ahem, popular website in Singapore if we got ourselves into an embarrassing situation.

No need for that because his boss was not around.  We left the convention center, went our separate ways.  One hour later, I received a phone call.

“Guess what?!  They have called and issued us a media pass!  Do you wanna …”

She got the media pass?  Again, who can say no to her?

PS. Below are some of the processed photos I have taken during my adventure.  I didn’t bring my Nikon D700 with me and have used my Nokia N97 instead.

So, Honestly, What Is It Like With The Nokia N97?

Home Screen of Nokia N97

In a world today whereby every other touchscreen phone is a Blackberry or an Apple, I certainly feel somewhat special by having the new Nokia N97.  Strangers would come up to me and ask what is it like with the N97 (as I use my phone often in public).  Like in NTUC, while I was doing grocery shopping with my family.  Or like the lady behind the mixed rice counter in a food court.  Or my colleagues whom I normally wouldn’t interact with would come up and strike a conversation with me.  Some ask for the tips of using the phone.  Some simply like many others curious of what this new flagship product is like.  For them, I am more than happy to do a live demo, there and then.  Making friends.

Throughout this six weeks, I have experienced quite a fair bit with the phone.  I have also had quite a few good opportunity to play with my friends’ Blackberry and Apple phones.  By no means the following article is meant to be a product comparison, or even a product review.  Just an honest write-up on my hands-on experience with the N97 thus far.  And if you are already a N97 user (or going to be), you may find a few good tips too.

So, are you ready?

PS. If you are shopping for a phone, make sure you work out the total cost of ownership over the contract period.  My 30GB data plan is S$13 a month just to give you some ideas when you examine the bundled price of any given phone.

Related Article: Experiencing Nokia N97

21 Nokia Applications Reviewed, Just For You

Nokia Applications

Over the last few weeks, I have been busy experiencing the different applications on my Nokia N97 wireless phone.  Most are free, some require purchase that settled via the phone bill.  Of more than 40 applications I have downloaded and tried, I have singled out 21 applications to share my thoughts with y’all here in my website.  Of which, 10 are my top favorite ones.

Maybe you are curious on what our world is like, maybe you are trying to decide if Nokia Application is your cup of tea.  Either way, I invite you to take a look at the review by clicking onto the link below.  Some applications are pretty interesting.  If you already have a Nokia phone, I hope this review will help you in deciding which are the good applications out there for you.

So, are you ready?

Related Article: Experiencing Nokia N97

The Flagship Nokia N97 – A Giant Leap From Its Predecessor

N97 on day 1

Before you go on and read more on my hands-on experience with my new Nokia N97, there are a few things about me that you may wish to know first.  Like what Haruki Murakami said, I like something doesn’t mean that everyone must get that something.  Having said that, I do feel responsible in what I write because I know there are friends out there who make certain decisions based on my words.  I am also a keen user of Nokia for a decade but because Cynthia loves varieties in life, I have also got to experience what other brands are like.

Below is an article on a more detail review based on my 1 week hands-on experience with the N97.  You will expect to read candid comments on the commonly used functionalities.  Maybe you will also find some tips that will enhance your experience with your N97.

For those who are interested in a summarized recommendation, here is the verdict based on my first week observation with N97.

Nokia’s flagship product N97 is more than a performance upgrade from its predecessor.  I find the new tilting touchscreen precise, responsive, and positions well to my eye level.  The full QWERTY keyboard is user friendly and fun to use.  I rely on my N97 to connect to my friends via instant messaging (MSN), mobile Facebook, web mails, besides the traditional phone functions – all at the same time.  The entire package – including the maps, music, camera, and additional applications from the OVI store – well positions the N97 as a mobile computing device in my opinion.

At the time of this write-up (firmware version 11.0.021), there are noticeable number of improvements to the existing suit of applications.  Although there are also some minor glitches and missing applications, I hope these issues would be ironed out as Nokia rolls out the patches.

An overall high quality product that deserves the Nokia’s flagship title.  I am certainly very happy with mine.  For detail review, please click here.

PS. Stay tuned for more updates.

A Preview of N97 – The New Nokia Flagship Mobile Device To Die For

Upcoming Nokia N97

As I was holding the beautiful pearl white Nokia N97 during the preview session held in Nokia’s Headquarter in Singapore, lost in words I was.  Researchers say that most car buyers make a decision within minutes of stepping into the cabin.  I say the same for the wireless phones.  Or shall I say, the world’s most advanced mobile computer a.k.a. Nokia’s upcoming flagship Nseries device has captivated me like no others.  No doubt the lovely, very attractive ladies from Nokia must have felt a bit jealousy that all the guys in the conference room were so engrossed with the phones and not, erm, them their presentation.  When they asked if we have questions, my immediate response was: When will N97 hit the stores?

Nokia products and I have gone way back.  One long decade.  Since November last year, I have upgraded my N95 to N96.  And I have finally converted Cynthia into a Nokia user, bought her the 5800 Comes With Music.  Needless to say, both of us are wonderfully happy with the products and services.  Despite some of the cautious messages from our friends on the product quality – touch wood – so far, so good, so lovely.  Today, we must have downloaded over hundreds of free music albums from the Nokia Music Store.  English, Chinese, Italian, French, instrumental, 80’s, latest releases – you name it, we have it.

So, let’s talk about the upcoming Nokia N97.  I am not a techie, so you won’t find the super long list of incomprehensible Symbian A, B, C, and D here.  I am a regular dude who likes my wireless phone to be elegant, stylish, and functional – a statement of *ahem* who I am (kidding!).  There are two colors available: classic black and pearl white.  My instinct took over and I grabbed the white one.  (Just curious, which color would you prefer?)

The phone doesn’t feel light, I must say.  But it just feels right, resting very comfortable onto my palm.  It is still compact compares to other brands in its class.  I was told that this phone is specially designed by Japanese.  I would associate the overall contour of the N97 with a top of the class luxury car (imagine you behind the wheel of a BMW or a Lexus).  It is hard to describe the feel of the pearl white material at the back of the phone.  You ought to try it out yourself.  It seems futuristic, and lasting.  When I slid the phone open, tilting the screen at an ergonomic viewing angle, the full QWERTY keyboard is breathtakingly impressive.  You know you can tell how expensive the car is by the feel of the car door?  The sound and feel of this phone’s opening and closing mechanism reminds me of just that.  I have seen quite a few phones of this sort during the recent phone shopping trips with my friends.  I have not quite seen something like a Nokia N97.  So much detail has gone into the design of the tiny keyboard, with the blue function keys lit up when the phone is in operation.  I thought the new Nokia E-series non-slip keyboard is impressive, this one is an art.

Like many of you (and some of my friends whom I have talked to), using the full QWERTY keyboard and the full touch screen input mechanism can be a brand new and at the same time, alien experience.  During the hands-on session, I have opened up some of my favorite websites and intuitively, I used my thumbs like a computer mouse and in just a short time, I was able to type out a message in Facebook like a pro!  I guess touch screen features such as photo flipping, webpage scrolling, and quick screen lock (imagine your boss appears out from nowhere while you are Facebook-flirting with that special someone) are standard functions and nothing to wow about.  The local edition of N97 does come with some unique widgets that worth a look.

What are widgets and why should you care?  Imagine this: latest headlines from The Strait Times and Bloomberg constantly streamed into your phone and displayed on the homepage, live stock quotes from SGX (believe me, I got some of my friends really excited by this feature), live feed from Facebook … live feed from Facebook?!  I often wonder how some of my friends manage to be so in touch with Facebook.  Now you too can!  And beyond the local contents, you can add new applications available from the Nokia OVI Store.

I am sure there are lots of other cool functionalities that I have not mentioned here, mainly because I have yet to experience them.  Towards the end of the session, I have transferred one of the songs from my N96 to the N97 via Bluetooth and tried out the sound quality.  It is just as lovely as its predecessor.  I was so engrossed that I have totally missed out the closing statements from the event organizer.  When I looked up, all the bloggers have already left the room and I was left with several pairs of eyes looking at me possibly wondered why I was not heading home in the late evening of a Wednesday.  I may not be driving a white 7-series (yet), but I can so see myself getting one of these pearl white beauties as my Christmas present.

Note: Nokia N97 should be out in Singapore some time in June, 2009, priced at the range of it predecessors, and will come with “Comes With Music”.

Related Link: Official Nokia N97 Singapore Site