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Spillikins #6 – Recovering from a vacation
Don’t worry I haven’t been drinking too much on this vacation, so all reviews should be fine. Instead I fully enjoyed a beach, a swimming pool and a few packs of screaming and kicking children (including mine), so against this background putting myself to work was, if not out of question, a nearly epic task. But for some reason my productivity was peaking at that time and I managed to churn out articles one after another – thankfully I had stuffed a dozen phones into my bag right before leaving. However what I usually suffer from during my short, but eventful vacations is lack of time – having taken a slew of phones, gigabytes of movies and music with me I barely had enough time to make use of all these goodies. The good news, however, was that this time around there was only around 30 percent of “dead weight” that I never had a chance to twiddle with, watch or listen, compared to my normal 90 percent, which is a huge improvement, make no mistake about that.
Hilariously, during my vacation I acquainted several people all thanks to… my shorts. Normally I tend to despise gifts with some company’s logo tacked on them – they hardly ever turn out to be useful and things that are even remotely elegant are even sparser. So, since I really don’t want to be a walking poster, I usually hand these things out. But Sony Ericsson’s Nike shorts are really something, that’s why they have booked their place in my trunk whenever I decide to go to the sea. By the way I snatched these during a jeep trip held by Sony Ericsson, where they really put a lot of thought into gifts, and it was obvious that all those things were meant for their staff alone, but I got lucky.
So, cutting to the chase, one day I found a young Brit staring at my legs when I had these shorts on, and honestly, I was starting to worry about him – he was hardly blinking! But then he took a Sony Ericsson C902 out of his pocket and put it right in front of him, I… did the same thing and we nodded to each other. A couple of days later I found him in a local bar, a brief conversation ensued and I found out that he worked for Sony Ericsson, while I had to confess that I had no particular employer, but served all companies at the same time. I also flashed the Samsung U800b in front of him, thankfully it had already been announced by that time.
On the same day, while I was slowly melting down in a beach chair and killing time reading my emails on one of Nokia’s Internet Tablets (N8x0 – well, I forgot the number!), some man from Microsoft bumped into me – luckily, he was working in the same field, so we had a really long talk about designs of devices to come and whether they really needed QWERTY-keypads or these were the attribute of sub-notebooks.
A lot of things have happened since my last report in “Spillikins” – actually it’d be nearly impossible to talk about everything in this write-up, but I’ll try to touch upon the most significant things. First goes the “Nokia plus Symbian” story – the phone manufacturer announced that the remaining shares of Symbian that weren’t owned by Nokia at that time, would be bought out. At the same time they have made some claims that Symbian will see an open platform allowing third-party companies to develop their own software. But the twist is that a lot of people, for some reason, think of words “open platform” and “free” as synonyms. So, the amount of nonsense surrounding this event has gone beyond measure – for instance, one pretty popular podcast claimed that S40 is in fact a pared-down version of Symbian, the platform all Nokia’s handsets run. I really didn’t get what they were trying to say there.
The bottom line is this: for developers, the platform is a tool which they will use to create custom software, including that with open source code (should they decide to do that). And this platform will not affect license fees paid by companies employing this OS in their devices. That is, phone makers that manufacture Symbian smartphones will still have to pay for every device they churn out – nothing has changed on this front. The thing is, Nokia is just getting ready to clash with its main rival – Google. And the reports I’ve received from the “frontline” are pretty exciting: Google is currently engaged in negotiations with TeleAtlas and Nokia is rushing to integrate its own solutions into as many devices as possible. Also they are in the process of persuading Yahoo to let them use Yahoo’s services so as to counter Google, but they aren’t really enthusiastic about this deal. Plus, when it comes to local markets, Nokia has been trying to avoid Google’s search engine by all means. So while everybody is gossiping about some vaporous rivalry between Microsoft and Google, Nokia is accumulating resources and allies to take on the latter in the years to come. And it’s no wonder that Google understands that, so in fact their Android platform is more an attempt to set up an environment and proper media impact on the market, rather than deliver real phones. For Google it all started with services and now they are moving towards mobile devices, whereas Nokia is headed in the opposite direction. The moment the ways of these two giants cross there will be a big explosion, as it’s very unlikely that they will be able to share the market in a peaceful manner. I suppose in a couple of years all symptoms of this rivalry will surface, as it’s the major trend on today’s market.
Now for Sony Ericsson. After some strongly-worded reviews and a lot of feedback, some positive tendencies have started to unfold – at last. That is, they have already cancelled two pretty much doomed handsets:
Information leaks, which were the theme of one of my last articles, have become a common practice and oftentimes they are nothing but another way to warm up the audience and get some support from the press. But they haven’t really mastered this art so far, unfortunately. Or, how are we supposed to think about the rumor that Sony doesn’t trust Sony Ericsson with a gaming-centric mobile device and will rather create it without SE’s help? Obviously, there is a grain of truth in this statement, but that’s about it – what they are talking about is not a mobile phone, but a gaming console armed with VoIP functionality that will allow for calls within WiFi networks. Probably, I will have to get my head around what’s going on in Sony Ericsson and type up a good, juicy article about it. The problem is, they have been taking utterly inconsistent steps lately and the prices for their new phones have been soaring up throughout the globe. Sadly, they won’t have anything revolutionary in stock for months to come. Furthermore, their overly strict information security policies, when even the maker’s employees don’t know what’s going on, make things even worse. If their management will keep it up, LG won’t have a hard time settling on its current position – they are aggressive, ingenious and are all set to start increasing their share world-wide. On the other hand, over at Sony Ericsson they are still euphoric about their past achievements. Wake up, check out the calendar – it’s mid 2008, and your bragging rights from 2005 (and a little bit of 2006) are all but gone now.
Having played around with prototypes of most handsets planned up until April, 2009, I can say only one thing. It’s time for a serious shake-up in Sony Ericsson’s roster – they simply need to seize the people who approved most of these offerings by the scruff of the neck and throw them out of the company. You can’t copy someone else’s solutions and think that your brand power will do the rest. I could go on with my rant about the brand that I truly like (or liked? I’m not sure about the tense), but the bottom line is this – there is no method to their actions, and I really hope I’ll be able to show good examples of where Sony Ericsson’s strategy has gone wrong and what kind of mess they are in.
Actually that’s the main purpose of “Spillikins” – to express my thoughts on troublesome issues in an informal manner. By the way, among these “issues” are the LG KF600 (whose review will be available in a week or so) and the Nokia 6220 Classic, since I haven’t had enough time to give you complete lowdown’s on them.
Nokia Supernova. We already have more than enough articles on this collection – we made a piece before their official announcement (which I had to write lying on a beach, and apparently there were several mistakes here and there because of that) and covered their launch party but that’s not all. As you have already guessed we will also release four reviews that will be available on Monday (most of them). But here I’d like to touch upon the corner stone feature of this entire line-up.
The thing is, three out of four phones run S40 6th edition platform – the fifth version ruled over Nokia’s feature phone range for almost a year and here comes a worthy replacement. The new version is brimming with improvements and nice feats, you can learn more about every aspect of the new platform in our exclusive and very thorough review available here – truly there is no other place where you will find such a comprehensive breakdown of a mobile OS (no weirdos like us who review feature by feature in 20-page long write-ups!). Personally, I dig the following enhancements in the sixth edition: horizontal scrolling in lists (hence faster navigation), pop-up windows (they appear on top of the menu you are in) and contact search available right in the message editor.
Now for what I wanted to see but they didn’t oblige. There is no sign of multitasking functionality in the sixth edition, although its Java engine has been revamped on several fronts. Then, the system comes preinstalled with Maps 1.0, meaning that they don’t carry the features available with the second version utilized by S60-powered devices (such as geo-tagging). And they haven’t addressed some issues with PC synchronization, which is a pity, since this department is not flawless at all.
Nokia 7210. The most affordable device for girls… or boys pretending they are girls. While it’s a likable phone resembling the Nokia 5310, it doesn’t have a particularly bright future if it hits the market with the same price-tag. It looked more along the lines of some Alcatel or Philips phone, though – at least that’s the first thing that occurred to me when I saw it.
Nokia 7310. Same thing but in a different wrapping – this time around, literally, as the 7310 comes boxed with exchangeable covers (two of them: one flamboyant and one with a more no-nonsense color scheme). Both have fancy patterns engraved on them, but they aren’t particularly discernible. On balance, I liked this phone – no bells and whistles, but it feels like home.
Nokia 7510. The 7510’s primary focus is its secondary monochrome display with some fancy animation. Other than that, it’s pretty helpless – it can’t show images or anything else, just plain text and these squares that pop up and fly across the screen. This gives me some sort of deja vu – I remember seeing the same thing on a Sony Ericsson handset, and the truth is, this folder isn’t really consistent with Nokia's style. At least it’s pretty heavy, sports a slew of metallic accents and flaunts an auto-opening mechanism that triggers when you press the button on the right. Also it features exchangeable covers, but with less flamboyant and flashy colors. All in all, it’s a pretty decent phone that won’t pass unnoticed (which is also due to it being the first 6th edition based device).
Nokia 7610 – this slider builds upon the Nokia 6500 Slide, but comes with less sophisticated materials and mirror plastic on the front that becomes a real barrier between you and information on the display when in bright sun. As far as its newsworthy abilities are concerned, the Nokia 7610 can modify the wallpaper to match your surroundings, which is a nifty feat. The 7610 feels like a mixed bag – probably I’ll have to spend some more time with it to get a better idea of what it really is.
Nokia E71. Since the E71 is already through its official launch event, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because I can finally carry it around as I please. In fact I have two units of this phone – a barely-alive prototype and a commercial device. And you know, I like the latter more. I believe I said just enough about it in our little preview right before its announcement, so I see no point in going over the same things here again. Thankfully we will have a full review up on the main page very soon.
I just can’t help but tell you about the reaction of the Apple iPhone owners, who are all tech-savvy geeks and the interesting thing is that they dig the E71. Literally. They can’t stop staring at it and some of them even offered me to do a quick barter. Honestly, they sort of opened my eyes. Among the most curious reactions were:
Much like its predecessor, the E71 is a niche offering, and it will never become a mainstream solution. Ever. But perhaps this is the exactly the thing that attracts those who got their iPhones when very few actually owned it and it seemed like a hi-tech phone. But these days all its pros and cons have been weighted and outed, and the 3G version doesn’t seem to excite people anymore, so the Nokia E71 and those phones that are to follow will definitely enjoy decent sales. By the time Apple’s third phone arrives, the Nokia E77 will already be up for grabs and the truth is, it will simply destroy that new iPhone (well, it’s time to stop right there).
Sony Ericsson C905. This is the first 8Mpix handset that will hit the mainstream, but unfortunately it’s likely to follow in the footsteps of the Sony Ericsson K850i. It seems that the C905 has it all, but at the same time you can’t get rid of the feeling that something isn’t right, something is missing. Over at Nokia they are probably jiggling right now, while preparing their “Hello again!” operation. Their offering with a mind-blowing megapixel count is set to launch right before the C905’s release day and it will start shipping immediately.
As of today, all we can assess in the Sony Ericsson C905 is its design, since the rest is either standard (A200) or uninteresting or not-ready-yet. Even though its defining feature is camera, it’s pretty much pointless to judge this department of the C905 today, since it’s still unclear what its image quality will look like in the end. But as my experience suggests, huge improvements are unlikely – probably they will do something about user experience, bu that’s about it.
The Sony Ericsson C905 utilizes a matrix from Samsung, while Samsung themselves are set to roll out an identical solution roughly at one time with the C905. But for the same money (probably even a tad cheaper) the user will get a G810-styled phone with lots of metal, supreme build quality and very few plastic accents. On top of that it will feature a lens carried over from the NV line of digital cameras that will ensure one of the market’s best macro modes and decent color reproduction. All in all, it will be Samsung’s first cameraphone to really give the rest of the pack a good run for their money. Expect to hear more about it early in August. But for now, let us say that Sony Ericsson has ended up in a situation similar to that with the Xperia X1, and now Samsung is playing the same game. It doesn’t feel right to give up the leadership on the market, especially in terms of innovations, does it?
Samsung G400. This phone has been brought about as a rival to Motorola’s RAZR2, although it’s not as wafer-thin and seems bulkier when you put them shoulder to shoulder. But in isolation it’s a pretty likable phone, furthermore it comes with a touch-sensitive display that allows scrolling through images with bare fingers. All in all, a great idea has got a great implementation – I don’t even have any serious niggles with it. There are some glitches here are there, but I’m more than ready to overlook them as long as its looks and functionality are in place.
I’ve left almost two dozens of phones outside the scope of this review – some of them are anticipated but turn out to be hollow inside, and some, on the contrary, haven’t generated much hype but seem pretty interesting. We’ll try to keep you updated.
Published 10 July 2008
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