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Nokia the Next Gizmondo? 115

An anonymous reader writes, "Yesterday Symbian announced that 100 million Symbian smart phones have shipped to over 250 network operators worldwide since the company's formation. According to a CNet article, however, Nokia phones running on the OS are actually worse than their non-Symbian predecessors. From the article: 'The fact is, Nokia's phones are in danger of turning from the iPods of the phone world into the Gizmondos — from devices dedicated to doing one thing well to jacks-of-all-trades that do too many things poorly. The S60 3rd Edition interface has received tons of criticism from veteran Nokia users for being far too complicated to use. It's great that there's new stuff to play with, but not so great that the old stuff, as in making calls and sending texts, has been made more complicated.'"
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Nokia the Next Gizmondo?

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  • by Corpus_Callosum ( 617295 ) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @02:52PM (#16897788) Homepage
    The stakes are high, the players are mammoth and everyone is making the same damned mistakes.

    Today's smart-phones are actually very stupid; The interfaces are cumbersome, the features over-hyped while underperforming, the battery and performance problems legendary and yet, the mistakes are accumulating rather than being corrected.

    In my opinion, the primary problem is that everyone is using the wrong metaphore for these phones. These phones are not mobile computers and should stop being treated as such. They are supposed to be lifestyle devices. Lifestyle devices need to be simple, elegant and stylish. The only manufacturer that has come close, IMHO, is Motorola with the Razor.

    Nokia has some nice features, but as the article correctly posits, the interfaces are simply hideous.

    Motorola has taken a shotgun approach and has such a wide variety of different offerings that it makes your head scratch. The Razor is a good phone, but it has yet to be seen whether Motorola knows how to parlay that into a spectrum of lifestyle devices of a higher generation.

    Sony Ericson makes hideous phones, in my opinion. They may have nice hardware, but the software is simply terrible.

    Samsung has a decent compromise in all categories and their phones are quite popular in Asia, but nothing stands out as outstanding.

    Windows Mobile? You have to be kidding. I would rather shoot myself in the foot and use the blood to write on big signs that I hold up than navigate through a start menu on my mobile.

    But alas, we are shown a possible beacon of light in the smartphone race. Can Apple offer us some innovation in the lifestyle smart-phone department? I certainly hope Apple teaches these other companies what style and simplicity actually are. A device that quickly morphs from one purpose to another, represents each purpose flawlessly and innovates outside-the-box. Simply the addition of iChat compatibility over WiFi would put the iPhone in a class by itself.

    But anyhow, let the arguments begin.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:13PM (#16897980)
    I've never actually seen someone use a camera on a phone

    That's because in the US you're several years behind both Japan and Europe when it comes to cellphones. I'm not kidding - you're welcome to broaden your horizon.

    Cellphones are rapidly replacing both dedicated mp3 players (yes, even iPods) as well as low end digital cameras for "party shots".

  • Re:Hurry up Apple (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ajmuller ( 88594 ) <> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:22PM (#16898034) Homepage
    Indeed, i should have mentioned this specifically. The pocket browser on here is amazing. It even beats the mobile version of Opera by a long-shot. Mostly in how it *doesn't* render pages "properly". When absolute widths are specified, it will automatically minimize them so that no column of text is wider than the screen, meaning: no side scrolling, this and about 1000 other little tiny things makes this the absolutely best mobile browser i've ever used.
  • My list of flaws (Score:4, Informative)

    by EvilNTUser ( 573674 ) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:27PM (#16898080)

    No, I love my N73 too, but there are several problems. I'm sure someone somewhere is going to post about how all they want to do is make a call, but that's actually implemented fairly well, although not perfectly. People who want to use the hardware to its full potential are the ones who will suffer! Here are some real issues I've found, and they amaze me:

    • Simple yes/no-toggles are implemented with dropdown menus. Unforgivable in a mobile device. One press should change the setting, not open a menu. To add insult to injury, the active option is the one that's selected when the menu opens.
    • The music player is retarded:
      • Instead of listing your songs, it wastes the whole screen on empty space. You have to open a menu to get to a playlist.
      • Instead of mapping playing functions to keys, you have to select virtual buttons on the screen.
      • It doesn't let you set it to a specific folder, so if any game uses mp3 sound effects, they will be added to your playlist. That would work on a dedicated mp3 player, yeah, but not on a goddamn general purpose computing device. Jesus Christ, morons!
    • The photo/video viewer does the same thing. Want to hide porn or just some boring diagrams you copied onto the memory card? Nope, can't do it, they'll all show up when you're trying to show someone the cool photos you got.
    • Not a single application including the main UI tries to use the keys that are available. The interface designers seem to be completely in love with menus and virtual buttons you have to select on the screen. What happened, did they fire everyone who worked on Series 40? I want my quick to access alarm clock back.
    • The calendar is obviously NOT designed to minimize button presses.
    • The clock has lost its timer and countdown timer for no reason at all.
    • The phone will display a picture of the person who is calling, but it'll be a 10x10 thumbnail at the bottom of the screen. WTF??

    I could go on and on with this crap, but in summary: The hardware is great, but I'm looking to replace every single official application that came with the phone. Oggplay already takes care of my music, and it's brilliant. I hope the application UI designers are out of a job by the time S60v4 comes out.

    Although I must say the web browser really shines, to be fair.

  • Re:Hurry up Apple (Score:3, Informative)

    by karoliina ( 977670 ) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:44PM (#16898218)
    Well, Nokia does also simple mobile telephones for those who can't understand the complexity of the high end models. They are called the Series 40-phones and they are not running Symbian OS. If you are not a gadget freak that wants all the new features of Series 60 OS and N-series plus possibility to use a large number of 3rd party applications, you propably better to get a Series 40 phone which is not based on Symbian. And if you really want simplicity and lifestyle and status, you can always get a Vertu-phone if that is the style & feel you are looking for. It is nearly guaranteed that you have a higher status phone if you have a Vertu than any of your neighbour. As a gadget-lover and early adopter, I am using the Nokia N93 camcorder phone which runs the Series 60 software which is based on Symbian OS. I got it for the features of it, the user interface played insignificant role and besides of that, as a nerd, it is no problem to use it, it is a lot easier to use than phones from other manufacturers that I have tried, despite of being packed full of features. I could even call the user interface quite intuitive and it is quite quick to do thigns I want to do with it, generally I am very happy with it. Of course I prefer more the touch screen interface of my Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and it is also otherwise a lot nicer as it runs Linux rather than Symbian OS, but as a phone and camcorder the N93 does just fine and compared to the current available alternatives, the N93 is an excellent choice for the use cases it is best intended. There are two kind of people, those who want to get these multimedia computers and those who don't. Both are significant and there are choices for both of them - for the multimedia computers, go for N-series and for the simplicity go for Series 40. There are choices for everyone, better luck next time picking the correct choice. I am happy with my feature rich devices which have high cool and geek factor, I have my devices to be able to do all sorts of things including phone calls, not to do only phone calls, in fact, most of the time I am using my phone, I am not having a telephone conversation with it, but doing something else, e.g. taking video. The video quality of my N93 is pretty nice for a camera phone and the quality of all the stuff it does is top notch. But for those who want to just talk with their phones or who aren't technically oriented enough to use the advanced features (despite they are pretty simple to use really on the N93, the UI is not bad in my opinion, e.g. Windows is zillion times harder to use than that) of it this is not the correct choice, there are number of simple Series 40 models for those.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:05PM (#16898378)
    No. The Symbian OS API is the same on every phone, but every manufacturer implements a GUI of their own. You can't replace the GUI from an user application. The great idea was that every manufacturer would get a distinctive look & feel, while porting applications to each platform would require only minor GUI changes. Of course this is not the case in the real world.

    The major problem with Nokia and Symbian is that the Symbian "C++" dialect has grown beyond retardation. It was designed back when C++ compilers were broken and memory was scarce on mobile devices. Symbian is archaic enough to assume that all software has to be able to run in ROM, which has introduced all kinds of resource & memory use weirdness. You can make an ex-Symbian programmer explode by repeating the "TDesC" mantra a few times.

    Also, there are no nice and clean C++ exceptions in Symbian, you've got to manually write your exception cleanup stack using ugly macros. Due to lack of exceptions, RAII is an unknown concept in the Symbian world. You're not allowed to do any initialization in a class constructor. Instead, you have to call the initialization method of a newly created instance.

    In a perfect world, where the documentation that Nokia has provided to you is up-to-date, the firmware isn't full of bugs, and the Symbian "C++" has more in common with modern C++ than just the name, there just might be more useful (and open source) software available for mobile phones.

    Back to the original topic. I suppose that using the Symbian API is less painful with Python, even if it's just a heap of leaky abstractions. I've done Symbian programming only in "C++" and I'm never going back.
  • Re:Hurry up Apple (Score:2, Informative)

    by stewwy ( 687854 ) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:20PM (#16898542)
    I've had an old n-gage(the first one) for a few years ....until it was lost/stolen a few days ago.
    It's OS was pretty intuative everything worked well the address book was useful, and well laid out and its bluetooth connected to my car,computer and headset quickly and easily.

    I replaced it with a motorola l6,because it was cheap,but bare in mind this is one of the latest models.
    The address book is stupid you seem to have to have seperate entries for each persons phone no. mobile no, email etc
    It took me an hour to get an initial connection to my computer via bluetooth but at least it improved my text speed, It only stays 'discoverable' for about 30 seconds,and you cannot change this, not long enough to 'discover' the phone AND type in the passcode reliably. Although its fine once its been done.
    I had to read the manual! (something I never had to bother with with the N-gage) to find out where mp3's and ringtone samples I downloaded were stored.

    Lest the replies state how to do these things quickly and easily.
    My POINT is that using the N-Gage I did all these things without the manual and on first use, the OS/keyboard layout is to my mind intuative.
    Using the Motorola I had to look up in the manual, and in one case look up Online, before I could accomplish the same tasks, this makes the OS/keyboard unintuative to me.

    The phone is not too bad, its just not what I expect from a phone who's OS should be 4~5 years more advanced, next time I lose it I'll be going back to a Nokia
  • by jas203 ( 942742 ) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:36PM (#16899194) Journal
    I've posted a few comments in this thread already....mostly clearing up mis-conceptions.

    Also, there are no nice and clean C++ exceptions in Symbian, you've got to manually write your exception cleanup stack using ugly macros.
    Pre-v9: Correct
    Post-v9: Incorrect - infact Symbian "leaves" are now done in terms of C++ exceptions! (try it out yourself using intrumentation)

    Symbian is archaic enough to assume that all software has to be able to run in ROM, which has introduced all kinds of resource & memory use weirdness.
    Wha..? I don't understand? Surely you should be praising it for this fact as it is clever enough to not have to load into RAM code that is on ROM (I believe it is called execute-in-place)! Certainly apps installed after you've purchase a phone don't go into ROM.....
    Oh, I see, you're talking about the Pre-v9 limitation of no static data in dlls. Post-v9 dlls can have static data btw.

    You can make an ex-Symbian programmer explode by repeating the "TDesC" mantra a few times.
    What is it? Symbian's foresight in encapsulating size with data from the ground up means that buffer-overflow attacks against OS executables that result in arbitary-code execution are incredibly rare (if not completely non-existant) ;)
    (Although I should also note that the "Active Object paradigm" also helps in this area)

    I've done Symbian programming only in "C++" and I'm never going back.
    How come?

    Seriously, I appreciate programming in C++ for a Linux app is different to programming a Symbian app, but surely any programmer should be able to program in different environments. There seems to be a general mis-conception that Symbian forces you to do it in its own "wacky" way, but that is simply not the case. You have your standard primitives of process, threads, semaphores, etc. One can easily wrap up C-strings into TPtrC's etc. And you don't "got to manually write your exception cleanup stack", you can handle it your own way. And since v9 onward, a lot of the truely frustrating limitations (i.e. static data, exceptions, etc.) have been eliminated.

    The facilities provided in Symbian are there to help the programmer write good, tight, robust code.
    * You can do multi-tasking with threads (context switches?), or you can use Active Objects (no context switches).
    * You can use C-style arrays/strings (stack overflow?) or you can use descriptors (stack overflow will panic your app).
    * To handle cleanup on an exception, you can put all your objects on the stack (how much space is on the stack?) or you can put them on the heap and used the CleanupStack (much more resource friendly).

    I personally like the Symbian "style", and I think learning to do it properly (rather than just dismiss the unusual as broken) has made me a better programmer.

    p.s. I think the reason for all these misconceptions is due to a lack of abundant example code of a significant size and of a high quality.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2006 @11:18PM (#16901488)
    If you spell it correctly you get 799,730 hits instead of a lousy 1400. Cameraphone is the largest category on Flickr AFAIK. []

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