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.

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.

Barking Seed Is One Mobile Games Community To Look Out For

Last week, I have had the opportunity to meet with one of the Indie game developers Breakdesign through a blogger event.  Originally from South African, now based in Singapore, it is inspiring to meet the co-founder of Breakdesign Rick and his team talking about game development with so much passion.  If indeed one of their visions is to offer free mobile gaming to all parts of the world – rich and the not so rich – looking at the latest list of top countries in the battle arena, I think they have more or less achieved that.

Mobile gaming is not new.  But what is special about this Indie game developer is the mobile games community they have created – “Barking Seed”.  Imagine, each time the game is over, you are given the opportunity to upload your score to their website, perhaps add a little comment to shout to the world.  You play to be amongst the top players.  And you play to represent your country as one of the top, stand a chance to win phones and accessories.  Just how additively fun this concept is?  During the blogger event, as our scores were posted to the website in real time, none of us were talking.  We – guys and girls – were going all out to score.

I have tried out three of their games on my touchscreen phone.  These are Flash games – responsive, pretty to look at, and does not take long to play.  Good soundtracks too.  “Monsterilla” (featured above) is my favorite.  It is a colorful puzzle game that has a strong appeal to either sexes.  There is another game that you keep squishing roaches (erm … I know) until you are overwhelmed.  It does get pretty intense and Cynthia got a real shock when she accidentally looked into my screen.  So many crawling roaches!  Looking at “That Roach Game” at a philosophical level, I agree with the co-founder Rick.  You just can’t win.  The third game I have tried is “Ninjani”.  Guys would love this.  This game tests your reaction time as well as your anticipation skill.  The fact that you can get better as you play repeatedly perhaps makes “Ninjani” one of the most addictive games of the three.

I look forward to more new game releases for the community “Barking Seed”.  I have high hope for them.  Three years it has taken this small team to bring this innovative offering to the world.  I still have no clue on how they generate revenue when the games are free and come with no advertisements.  Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, if you have a Nokia phone, head to OVI Store and download these free games.  If you have not heard of OVI Store – surprisingly many friends of mine who use Nokia phones fall into that category – there are many free applications and games for grab.  Have fun with these featured Flash games and good luck in winning!  As for me, I am going to work Cynthia hard and win me some “Monsterilla” points using my login ID.  Girls are supposed to be better at this sort of cute colorful puzzle games, yes?

External Links: Barking Seed Community Site and Breakdesign Corporate Site.

Nokia Christmas Party, By The Singapore River

I have always enjoy attending a Nokia party.  Familiar faces from the traditional media, the new media.  New faces too.  And as I looked across the Singapore River, I was greeted by the enormous Integrated Resort yet to be completed stood silently against the dark evening watching over the inhabitants of the-other-side, us.  What are those floating white ball-like objects in great number gathered along the middle section of the river?  No idea.  While the purpose of their existence may be unclear, those objects made great conversational topic.

What is a Christmas party without games, lucky draws, and Santa Claus?  My blogger friend was so happy when she won the N97 Comes With Music.  Unlimited music download for one year!  She said she would download Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” the very evening.  Ah, Lady Gaga, I like!  If you wonder which recently released Christmas albums I am listening to now, that would be David Archuleta, Sting, Tori Amos, and Gregorian.  And my all time favorite Christmas albums?  Mariah Carey, Jewel, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, and LeAnn Rimes – in that order.  Download them for this festive season if you can.

I was excited by the wireless Nokia headset that has a noise cancellation function.  It feels light.  Great sound (and sound cancellation).  But I was more excited by the upcoming Nokia X6 Comes With Music (see picture below).  It is an interesting product.  Those who like to interact the touchscreen with the fingertips instead of fingernails would feel at home with X6.  Kinetic scrolling, better response (for the “fingertip” users in especially) as well as the eye-candy theme effect that some users value.  The home screen has four main horizontal sections.  The top one is for the favorite contacts, it displays thumbnails of the contacts, and it supports kinetic scrolling.  It acts as a filter for the display of SMS (and latest blog entries I think) by contact too.  Imagine with one click, Cynthia can zoom into all the conversations between me and my female friends. ¡Qué horror!  This phone is not Tiger Woods friendly for sure.  The second one is email.  At this moment, I am unsure if it has to be Nokia Messaging  or if I can pick a hotmail mailbox provided by the MSN application.  The third one is a music player and the last one is favorite shortcuts.  My interaction with X6 was brief.  I think I do like the overall design.  So is it going to be X6 or N97 Mini for Cynthia?  If N97 Mini is not going to be a Comes With Music device, the decision is pretty obvious.

Oooo ... very tempting Nokia X6!

It seems that with a blink of an eye, year 2009 has come to an end.  I still have not decided on where to celebrate Christmas.  Maybe I shall start drafting my new year resolutions this coming weekend?

Nokia E72 – And The Wait Is Over

The Nokia E72

I have friends who swear by the Eseries (while I am more of a Nseries dude).  When the E75 was out, I asked one friend of mine if she would get that but she got the E71 instead.  Why?  I suppose having the full QWERTY keyboard right underneath the screen does have its appeal, a design without a need to slide out the keyboard.  Knowing that I would attend this Nokia event, I did some homework, ‘interviewed’ my friend and got to know a bit more about Nokia Eseries.

Now that I have touched and felt the new E72, I can understand why my friend – in her own words – loves the Eseries.  For those who are constantly on the go and need an efficient phone and messaging device – both email and instant messaging (and also social networking), the Eseries is optimized for just that.  There are dedicated buttons on the E72 to quickly access the calendar, contact, and messaging functions.  Holding one of these buttons create a new calendar entry, a new contact, or a new message (imagine if my N97 has that!).  There is a button to instantly return to the home screen too and by holding it, you can toggle between various opened applications.  At the center of the phone is the new Optical Navi™ Key.  It senses the motion of your finger (or thumb) as you scroll your long emails up and down.  And you can use that key to scroll through any onscreen items.  From my brief experience, it feels responsive.  And I do like the keyboard design too.  The common punctuation symbols are easily accessible, a different experience I have with my N97.

In fact, the entire phone interface feels responsive thanks to the Symbian S60 3rd Edition operating system.  For those who are already using E71, this could be a worthwhile upgrade for the following reasons.

  • 5 mega-pixel camera
  • 250MB internal memory and supports up to 16GB microSD memory card
  • 3.5 mm audio connector (now you can use the standard earphones)
  • Able to synchronize calendar items to Outlook (on top of emails and contacts that E71 is able to)
  • Better battery performance
  • Slimmer design

And for those who are curious about the key features of email and instant messaging, on email, E72 supports Mail for Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes Traveler, Nokia Messaging service (lifetime license), and POP/IMAP.  On instant messaging, it supports MSN, GoogleTalk, OVI Chat, Y! Messenger, and more.  E72 is now available in Singapore selling at a RRP of S$750 (excluding operator plan and GST).  If you have questions for Nokia, please drop me a comment here or send me an email.

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I have always enjoy blogger events hosted by Nokia and Text100.  And I had such a great time catching up with old friends, making new friends.  During the event, there was a little contest that involved a bit of instant messaging using the new E72 and a bit of creativity.  Shocking to me, I won this little Nokia Mini Speakers (MD-6).  I have no idea if Nokia does sell those little beauties but had I known such thing exists, I would certainly have bought them long ago.  Great for traveling (comes with a pouch).  And great for playing music in the bathroom while showering too!  These are active speakers taking in 4 AAA batteries.  Definitely better sound quality than the phone speakers, a design more geared towards the XpressMusic series.  So this looks really good pairing with Cynthia’s XpressMusic 5800 than my N97.

What a lovely gift!

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

Part One: Nokia Comes With Music – Too Good to be True? – A Media Event

Nokia Come With Music - Media Event

Imagine this: you buy a phone and it comes with 4 million songs for you to download for free for a year – via your PC or your Nokia phone.  And you get to keep all the tracks even after the service period is over.

It is not a question if what Nokia is attempting to do is revolutionary.  It simply is.  No doubt about it.  The questions are: Is this a step towards revitalizing a dying music industry that the existing business model is unable to cope with the way the mass public consumes music?  And more importantly, what is it in for Nokia and what is it in for you and I?

October last year, I had the privilege to attend the Nokia Remix event when the upcoming Nokia model 5800 XpressMusic was announced.  Last Friday, I have attended the media launch event of “Comes With Music”, had the opportunity to try out the phone one more time and find out more from the Nokia team on this new service.  In part one of this blog entry, you will get to read more on what this service is about.  And in part two that I will publish next, you will get to read my personal take on the impact of this new service in a larger scheme of work.

Comes With Music and the New Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

The new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic touchscreen phone is awesome.  I will not repeat what I have experienced last October.  What I did try out last Friday though was the browser capability.  Intuitively, I touched the screen, moved my thumb up and down and the web page was scrolled accordingly.  Neat.  I tried double clicking onto the page and it zoomed right in.  Very cool!  All by intuition.  I could zoom in and out smoothly via a side bar too.  In case if you wonder from the pictures below what kinky video I was watching, it was nothing R rated.  I opened up YouTube and watched one of the videos from my favorite French artist Mylene Farmer.  When I double clicked onto the video, the player went into full screen mode.  I may consider an unlimited mobile data plan if I have one of these hot babies.

OK.  Some pictures to show taken during the event.  The band All American Rejects was in the house, our local DJ team The Muttons was in the house, the event was held at Velvet Underground, and many were queuing outside for the band to perform live!

Below are some key facts about the new service “Comes With Music”.

  • Selected Nokia phone models including the new 5800 XpressMusic literally comes with music.  You can download any of the 4 million tracks from the Nokia Store for free for a year.  And you get to keep all that you have downloaded via your PC or your mobile devices.
  • Nokia is yet to announce what the service fee for subsequent years is going to be.  I am not sure how often people upgrade their wireless phones.  Personally I hope that Nokia will take this into consideration when they create a service model for “Comes With Music”.
  • You can only listen to the music downloaded via your PC or your wireless phone.  I asked: what if I upgrade my PC?  According to Nokia, I can deactivate my old PC and then active my new PC.  Pretty much like the DRM (digital right management) model that the gaming industry has adopted.  DRM doesn’t go too well with the legitimate paying gamers.  “Comes With Music” is an interesting case because of the shear amount of songs you can potentially download over the service period that come with the phone.  But if “Comes With Music” comes with a price after the first year, it all depends how much it would cost to justify the inconvenience.
  • No, you can’t burn the music onto the CD.  Again, you are not paying a lot for that 4 million song list at least for the first year.
  • What if I need to upgrade my PC after my “Comes With Music” service period is over?  I was told that there is quite a long grace period.  You can still transfer your downloaded tracks from one machine to another.
  • Which are the music giants on board “Comes With Music”?  EMI Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music, as well as Asian independent labels.

Closing Note and Coming Next

Now you have read what “Comes With Music” is as well as get to hear more about the new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.  I am a passionate music listener and I have had the opportunity to talk with many on the current situation the music industry is facing.  I get to have a better appreciation on what are the different types of listeners out there and their preferred mode of music delivery.  In part two of this blog entry, I will share more on my take on how brilliant Nokia’s move is going up against the successful Apple iTune and its products by defining their own rules and what are the implications.

When Cynthia read the advertisements on the Saturday papers, she got very excited by the new Nokia touchscreen phone that comes with music.  And she asked, “So I can download the entire album of Pussycat Dolls for free?”  I smiled and replied, “Not only that, you have 4 million songs to choose from!”  I looked at the pricing of a new “Comes With Music” Nokia phone and it doesn’t seem excessive.  For what it is worth, you can think of paying a nominal amount that is factored into the price of a phone and that opens up a world of music for you to listen to, a freedom that now you can legally experience.

As you may have noticed by now that I always love to write a small thank you notes on most of the events I have attended.  It is because what I usually enjoy most is the people I come to interact with, time and time again.  So, cheers to the Nokia team especially to the one who was so patiently showcasing the new phone to me last October and again showed me what else 5800 can do last Friday.  And of course to the lovely Text100 team, thanks for the chat and the little walk around at the stage area.  Yes, one day our band would be there and I will get your help!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 2.

Journal of a Blogger Attending “Showcase Nokia 2009” Event

The New Nokia e75

I always enjoy attending Nokia events.  With a brand valued at $36 billion, as a consumer, I am keen to learn what new products and services Nokia have in store for us in the year 2009.  Nokia has always been more than just a phone to me.  It represents a constant advance of the technology frontier and new concepts, opening the door of possibilities to the end users.  Granted, not all new ideas become instant hits at the first launch.  Nokia always finds ways to improve.  That’s why I like the brand.

Arrived at ZIRCA formerly known as Ministry of Sound 15 minutes before the start of the media registration, by the Singapore River I took half an hour break and finished reading the book sent by McGraw-Hill.  As their book review blogger, I try to publish one book summary a month.  Some asked how I find time and energy to do all the things that I do – at least from what you read in here.  I guess if we actively manage our time, there are a lot we can accomplish.

When I entered the venue, I recognized some familiar faces from the local blogosphere as well as one overseas blogger from our friendly neighboring country.  Then I learned that “Showcase Nokia 2009” is a regional event and Nokia flew in the media teams – traditional and new – from around the region.  There was one from Vietnam too!

At around 7pm, Chris Carr, VP Sales of Nokia took the stage (event photos below).  The anticipation was high; cameras were ready; the video camera from the local news station was in position.

The first new phone that took the stage was the e75.  For those who want the best email experience and are into office productivity applications, this e-series baby is no stranger.  It looks slim and stylish and I took a picture of it as featured on top of this post.  I have tried out the QWERTY keyboard and I love the feel of it.  It is not ordinary rubber, yet there is this anti-slip feel to it.  The red color model is very striking.  e75 is planned to hit the store in Q1 this year.

Next was the e55.  Up to 28 days standby time, imagine spending a month in Timbuktu without the need to charge the phone!  e55 comes with a somewhat slightly extended keypad and it is dubbed the smallest Nokia messaging device.  In this small island that the residents are so in love with email and messaging, this could do well.  9.9mm is a pretty slim phone.  Scheduled to release on Q2.

Remember the days of the good old “banana” phone that the film Matrix has made famous?  Nokia 6720 Classic (Q2) and 6710 Navigator (Q3) are interesting additions to the family.  OK, they are not quite like that good old phone that Neo used to step in and out of the Matrix.  They do have the ergonomic design that curve slightly to our faces.  With the Nokia 6710 and 6720 Classic, you can pre-plan your trip at your computer via the OVI Map (I tried that last night and it works), get plugged into your phone and be awed by the high resolution aerial images, 3D landmarks, terrain maps, weather service, traffic warning, and for those who tend to get lost on foot or inside a vehicle like me, a compass is provided (that I haven’t tried).  I really shouldn’t mention that Navigator may even have the knowledge of where the speed cameras are.  Beware!  Agent Smith is around the corner!

The highlight of the evening is perhaps the new Nokia N86 8MP (Q2).  The press related information was embargoed until yesterday.  I previously had a N80.  This N86 is a pure beauty.  For those who are into taking good photos with your phone, check this out.  Wide-angle 8MP Carl Zeiss Tessar optics with variable aperture to cater for low light condition, N86 comes with a premium authentic design: scratch resistant glass front face surrounded by prestige metal details.  It looks good on day one.  It may still look good when you take it to Timbuktu and back.

I met Damien from Helsinki in the event.  He is the man behind the new OVI Mail initiative.  OVI Mail is an interesting new service targeted at those countries that may not have a high Internet penetration.  In Singapore, email is part of our daily lives.  But that may not be the case elsewhere – like the remote towns of Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and etc.  So what Nokia has done is to integrate OVI Mail into the new series of low-cost phones.  I was at the counter and Damien proudly handed me one of the new phone and said, “Try it and see how easy it is to create your mailbox!”  I tried it on the spot and the registration is very straightforward.  No guessing of what my ovi.com email address is.  With email integration and support to a dozen native languages, these devices could be a life changing experience to many.  Imagine the first experience of email ever, on a wireless phone.  I have travelled to remote towns in the region that do not have a decent Internet connection.  It is easy to take whatever we have around us for granted.

I reckon some of you may be interested to see how the new Nokia 2009 lineups look like.  I am a simple guy so what I have done is to dump all the press images into OVI.  Enjoy!  As always, thanks to Nokia and Text100 teams for the invite.  Supriya and Felicia, good to see you in the event.  You both look fabulous!

External Link: OVI by Nokia

Nokia N96 Test Drive Episode 1 – First Impression

Rarely do I play around with my wireless phone when I am having a meal with someone.  But when the three lovely ladies from the Nokia and Text100 teams handed me the Nokia N96 for a test drive, not even the thunderstorm outside The Rogues could keep me from having my hands all over this one true beauty.  I know you wish you were me.  And you could well be!

First Impression

This lovely Nokia N96 could well be your early Christmas present.  Or for your loved one.  Or you could email the link of this post to your loved one and hope that he or she would get the hint.  When I first laid my hands on the new Nokia N96, I was much impressed by the elegance of the overall design.  This new design now comes with the eye pleasing rounded corners, new stylish materials for the side and the back too.  

The new Nokia N96 feels lighter, and certainly slenderer than the Nokia N95 that I have.  There is a total redesign of the keypad as well.  I love the flat surface shiny black material with some of the button labels light up or fade away depending on situation.  The new keypad is scratch resistance too.  I have been sms’ing, msn’ing, facebook’ing, gmail’ing, and more for the entire weekend, not a single scratch.

From N95 to N96 in 60 Seconds

When I choose a wireless phone, I don’t just choose a model or a design, I choose a brand that truly care about its customers.  And I have stayed with Nokia since 2000.  Here is one good example of how Nokia delights me.

My wireless phones contain all my vital contact information, together with my notes, to-do list, and calendar items.  And just how easy it is to transfer all that from my old Nokia phone to the Nokia N96?

60 seconds, the wireless way.

First, I logged onto the Nokia’s OVI homepage and added a new phone into my online profile.  A sms was sent to my new N96 and I opened it with my temporary PIN displayed at the OVI website (for my eyes only).  I then used the Sync tool provided by the N96 to download all my latest contact, notes, to-do list, and calendar information I have previously synchronized with my old phone.  60 seconds, with no wire or complicated desktop applications.  I now have a copy of my vital information in my old N95, in the Nokia’s OVI website, in the new N96, and any future Nokia phones I will have.

A detail write-up on the Nokia OVI blogger event can be found in here.

Incremental Improvements that Shock Me Off My Chair

The new Nokia N96 is loaded with so many improvements over its predecessor that some put a smile on my face, some shock me off my socks.

The little stand that is hidden behind the camera near the lens is very good to have.  No longer do I need to hand hold my phone while watching CNN video podcast in the morning with my cup of coffee as I wait for my corporate computer to boot up.  There is also a physical keypad lock latch that makes a lot of sense.  I often find the N95 keypad locking mechanism a bit odd at times.

The music player now allows me to adjust the volume with double the precision than before, which is nice.  And the volume output through the headphone is much louder, which is very car stereo friendly.  I have long replaced the CD changer with my Nokia Nseries.  Did I mention that the new Nokia N96 comes with a car charger in the box as well?  Big deal you may say.  But having the flexibility to perpetually switch on the GPS positioning system (Nokia Map) without worrying that I may run out of the phone battery during my road trip in Malaysia, that is very, very nice.

While it still has the same good old 5 mega-pixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens that works well (see my favorite sunset photo), the newly expanded 16 GB built-in memory with option to extend to another 16 GB and more put Nokia N96 beyond most (if not all) of the MP3 phones in the market today.  The menu feature has been improved too for better productivity and user friendiness.

Above all that are too many to mention in one post, here are two observations that make me a very happy Nokia N96 user.

  1. “5 seconds” is all it takes for the phone to lock onto the GPS satellites.  It is very fast, lightning fast.  And it is free.  Unlike the N95 that takes up to 5 minutes for initial satellite connection, you don’t need to slide the phone open.  The precision is so great now that it can be used not only for driving, but also for walking.  Think of the possibilities.
  2. “4 megabytes per second” is the transfer speed from my computer to the Nokia N96 via the supplied cable.  Big deal?  Well, this is up to 8 times faster than my N95.  Transferring one music album in MP3 format will now only take 15 seconds.  That is fast for a phone.  I timed this myself, loving it.

In Summary and Coming Soon

Throughout the years, Nokia has created wireless phones with better functionality and better design generation after generation.  It is evident when you hold one and try one, like the Nokia N96.  A big thanks to Angela, Evenlyn, and Felicia from the Nokia and Text100 teams who so patiently answered my questions from communication, to product, and to marketing.

It is impossible to cover all that Nokia N96 has to offer in one entry, nor do I enjoy documenting specifications line by line.  Depending on how long I get to hold onto this new phone for my test drive, here are some of the potential working titles for the upcoming episodes.  Stay tuned!

  • Episode 2: So Cynthia Took Over My Old N95 and My Second Impression on N96 (check out the picture above to see how happy she is)
  • Episode 3: GPS in the Highlands
  • Episode 4: Learning Spanish with Nokia N96
  • Episode 5: It is Spore!
  • Episode 6: Satellite Watches Me Jog
  • Episode 7: Geo-tagging Photos of My Year End Trips
  • And more

Related Tag: More Nokia N96 Test Drive Episodes

Nokia N-Gage Games Night – I Was There (How Video Games Have Evolved)

How video games have evolved, how they have not.  After attended several of their press / blogger events, this time I was as close to where their home in Singapore is as I can be – the Nokia HQ.  When I arrived at the lobby, I gasped at the grandeur of modernity, perhaps a bit too quiet after office hour, nevertheless a strong statement of what the 5th most valuable global brand is to be ($36 billion).

There is a little corner of a posh retail store setup, there is another little area of some secret prototyping workshop going on, a booth for the N-Gage mobile gaming station next to the retail booth, and I peeped into the heart of the office through the floor-to-ceiling glass door and saw another beautiful lobby area behind the public reception area.  I joked if I could take a look inside and the friendly Nokia staff told me that it is strictly for staff only.  Judging at some of the funky unmarked Nokia devices that some of them are carrying, I reckon there must be quite a few top secret next-next generation wireless phones inside the restricted zone.

In My Days of the Arcade

Previously, I was with the Nokia N-Gage development team and have checked out some of their upcoming N-Gage hits.  Last evening, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with some of their upcoming titles.  And how video games have evolved, how they have not.  As I was staring at the video screens, looking at how two players battle each other in the fighting game “One”, I had flashbacks of my University days in UK, when I often hang out at the social center, admired at how my best mate flair when he played the “Street Fighter” and the “Mortal Kombat” at the arcade video stations.  He is a physicist, and I often joked that the knowledge of quantum physics must have got him far to the games.  I am a computer scientist, and I couldn’t even beat the computer character in those arcade video stations.

Neither could I beat my opponents in the Nokia N-Gage Games Night.  The game play of a fighting game has not evolved that much since the days of the arcade – basic navigation on movements, a set of buttons to execute a combo move, a set of timed counter moves, and a health bar hanging on top of each character’s head.  Yet, gone are the bulky arcade video stations and they are magically shrunk into a tiny device that fits onto our hands – a device that is always switched on in our waking hours and follows us wherever we go.  Finding an opponent is as simple as making an Internet or Bluetooth connection using our mobile devices that in today’s world, it is largely affordable and in many instances, free.  How video games have evolved.

Game with Your Built-in Camera

How video games have evolved that the way we play our game is no longer constrained by what happens inside this tiny mobile device, but we take the environment around us into the game.  “Metal Gear Solid Mobile” for instance enables players to take advantage of the external environment to advance our game progress.  Using the camera that comes with the wireless phone, the game allows you to navigate precisely by how you physically move your phone.  Not only that, you can take a picture of your surrounding area and use that as a pattern to camouflage the suit of your character that helps your stealth mission.  If you need a dark suit, take a picture of a dark object around you.  If you need something light, take a picture of the sky perhaps.

In Love with Racing

One friendly Nokia staff was passionately showcasing the new “DChoc Café Solitaire 12pack” to me and for those who are into solitaire type of games, you would love this one.  As for me, I was literally glued to the upcoming racing title “Asphalt 4 – Elite Racing”.  It is fast pace, taxing on concentration (initially at least), when after a few rounds of virtual racing on the street of Paris, my head was spinning.  I must be experiencing a virtual G force of some sort (too much F1!).  To skip to the end of the story, yes, I did get a rank 1 (I swear I would have kept the entire Nokia and Text100 team locked inside this booth till I get there), with one hand (playing with two hands is not a mandatory), and I could watch the “One” tournament of how the rest of the gamers face off each other live while I raced in my Mini.

How video games have evolved, how they have not.  Kudos to those who are so passionately developing and promoting the next generation of mobile gaming.  The device may be small, the outcome is anything but.

Related Links: Nokia events I have attended