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All About Symbian - N-Gage News

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Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 16:30:03 GMT


Review: Smartphones and Beyond

Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:45:40 GMT

Guest writer David Addington brings us a detailed review of one of the landmark texts in the smartphone industry and a superbly detailed history of Symbian itself. Read the review and then grab the (e)book!The book is now out in electronic form, at least, for the Kindle, here on the UK site and International (US) site.  David writes: As media technology has advanced in the last few years, there are now countless opportunities for all and sundry to vent viewpoints across the web. Certainly smartphones have played their part in advancing this, so it’s only natural that the merits of smartphones and their operating systems will be a keen topic. What seems harder is getting measured debate concerning smartphones, but more specifically around operating systems. Viewpoints tend to be subjective as users firmly rationalise their preferences, whether that be iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.. Therefore it seems unusual that in order to get some objectivity around the various operating systems you should read an ebook from a former Symbian executive director. But that is exactly what you get with David Wood's mammoth e-book: Smartphones and Beyond. This is his detailed review of his time at Psion and Symbian and how the market changed and evolved, right through to Symbian’s demise. During the book Wood is candid about the strengths and weaknesses of the operating system itself, the organisation and the opportunities that were missed. At 800 pages, no review could possibly cover the detail Wood has gone into; but some interesting points were: The work of Psion: it was astonishing how visionary they were. EPOC (that evolved into Symbian) which ran their PDAs, was well ahead of the field which gave them an early headstart with Symbian. Interestingly, even then Symbian was not seen as just for phones – it was intended for everything. When originally set up, Symbian had Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola as paid shareholders who had governance responsibilities. The grand vision was that it would be a co-operative approach to ensure that Symbian was the base standard for phones. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly), differing phone manufacturers were less keen to agree on approaches that didn’t suit them. This hugely compromised Symbian’s decision making ability to focus on one solution. This came about partly because of financial requirements - lack of investment/available capital was a recurring problem, with Symbian's ambition far outstripping its ability to deliver.  Despite being world leaders for a period in the smartphone operating system area, they always had one eye on Microsoft, who they saw as their ultimate threat. Both Apple and Google were not seen as threats initially. Symbian were slow to realise that their ultimate path was with Nokia and there were many years when software development was harder because the organisations were separate. A recurring theme of the book is the alternative histories in terms of the key business decisions Symbian had to make at the time, the perspective at the time and what could have happened from a position of hindsight. What you learn is that predicting technology futures is very difficult, as little is ' black and white'. For each failed technology approach there is scope to, next time, turn that into a success. Certainly Apple and Google learned very fast as they overtook their more established competitors. In fact, Wood highlights how good Apple and Google were at making things easy for developers in terms of ease of software design and the security elements required for their App stores. In contrast, Symbian with its complex C+++ programming requirements and onerous security certification process simply put developers off. This lack of developer support was a key reason in its ultimate failure, and also contributed to the bad press concerning Symbian.  Wood (shown belo[...]

AAS Insight #248: The Last One

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 21:22:46 GMT

The end of an era? Rafe and I record the last ever All About Symbian Insight podcast. No, the site's not going away, but after an absence of over six months, we felt it appropriate to at least draw a line under the Symbian-centric podcasts. And we go out with an hour-long bang, with a heady mix of news, retrospective and our picks of our favourite Symbian devices.... ever.

Covered are:

  • Recent news in the Symbian world.
  • The State of Symbian and a look back at the last decade or two.
  • Our favourite five Symbian devices EVER. Each. Plus a few extras!

You can listen to earlier episodes of the AAS Insight Podcast in our media section.

Smartphones and beyond - Lessons from the remarkable rise and fall of Symbian

Wed, 15 Jan 2014 09:00:07 GMT

Admittedly being written more for people in the industry than consumers, David Wood's upcoming restrospective on the lessons to be learned from the rise (60% market share) and fall of Symbian still looks interesting for enthusiasts, with all sorts of nuggets of both wisdom and insider knowledge from the last decade. The book's still in progress, but some sections and teasers are already online, see the links below. 

David Wood is something of a legend in the Symbian world, having been one of the architects of Symbian's predecessors, Psion's SIBO and then EPOC/32 operating systems, and then being intimately involved with the OS throughout the 2000s. If anyone was going to 'write the book' on Symbian then David's the man. 


The upcoming book (which has no publication date as yet, so don't hold your breath) has its own web site here (screencapped above), with links of interest being:

Having read through a number of the chapter intros and also a full review chapter, I can say that this is a fairly definitive insider look at the thinking inside Symbian from the mid 1990s to about 2010. Its core purpose is to draw out lessons that can be learned for current smartphone industry participants, but there's a lot of interesting history along the way.

Peppered with quotes, press release extracts, internal meeting slides, and so on, 'Smartphones and Beyond' isn't a light read, but for anyone who's genuinely interested in what went right and what went wrong inside this industry, David's book is well worth looking out for later in the year.


The Top 10 of Symbian Weird - ugly, odd or bizarre

Mon, 08 Apr 2013 21:04:00 GMT

You may remember that I featured the Top 10 Most Beautiful Symbian phones a while back? This is the exact opposite, a condemnation celebration of the very worst in cosmetics, practicality and pocketability... This is Symbian wierd, or at least as weird as phones linked by a common software platform can get. From the freak show below, see how many of the phones you owned - a prize (or at least major sympathies) if you owned the lot! NB. All of these designs run Symbian OS, though there are at least three different UI variants on 'top' - UIQ/Series 60/Series 90. Hopefully most will be familiar to you! Warning: some of these designs (especially at the pointy end of the 10) may boggle your mind and cause bodily eruptions - I suggest you avoid drinking liquids that may stain as you read on...(!) 10. Nokia E55 Never mind my rant at the time about cosmetics (the silver/grey version had an impossible to see keypad in most light conditions), the weirdest thing about the Nokia E55 was its 'Compact QWERTY' keyboard, wherein you'd mash down the key for the letter you wanted, regardless of the 'other' letter assigned to the key, and the software would work out what you wanted to say. In use, it worked surprisingly well, with only occassional halts while you muttered "Now, how the heck do I enter that?", but you have to admit that it was odd. So odd, in fact, that the design was never used by Nokia again. Which is a shame, I think Compact QWERTY had more development in it, I'd have liked to have seen where it went.... 9. Sony Ericsson P910 I've gone on record before about the P800 being the 'pure' design and the P900 something of a bastardised version, with a forced electronic keypad and coiled ribbon cable in the hinge. The P900 was higher spec though, so we all learned to live with this and the world was happy. Then Sony Ericsson, up a design creek without a clue paddle wondered what else they could do with their Symbian flagship and some bright spark suggested adding a QWERTY keyboard for the P910. Eh? Where on earth would you put it? On the back of the keypad. Well, duh, obvious really. And ugly. And impractical. And horrible. And... yes, downright weird. After this, the whole line of Symbian UIQ smartphones got a big shake up. Thank goodness for that. 8. Nokia 7610 The 7610 was one in a string of smartphone designs with utterly weird keypad designs. One can only guess that manufacturers were trying the 'throw everything at the wall and see what sticks' approach. Certainly the 7610 design didn't, with a thoroughly disorientating skewed keypad. Admittedly it looked quite stylish and sexy in a quirky way, and if one had this phone from the start and had used nothing else, then that keypad would be all you knew and familiar. But, in the midst of a phone world which had standardised on a rectangular keypad, it was odd and painful to use.  7. Nokia X5-01 As a piece of lateral thinking, I guess you could give the Nokia X5-01 a pass - there's a square simplicity when closed and a fully useable (think E71) keyboard when open. A win-win? Well, not really. It turns out that a square isn't a great shape for a phone - the human hand is used to something it can grip its fingers round, something taller than it is wide. Funky colours though! 6. Nokia 5700 This wasn't the very first twist-bottom Symbian smartphone, but it was the most dramatic, with keypad, music player controls, camera and speaker all housed in the bottom section. It's very Thunderbird 2 - you can almost hear the theme music playing in your head as the hardware turns to change its function... The labelling of the main control keys is also quirky, off to the side - I bet loads of new users pressed the labels and not the buttons... 5. Sony Ericsson P1i Now, don't get me wrong, the Sony Ericsson P1i certainly wasn't ugly, and build quality was pretty good, but check out the lower third. This wasn't the only 'dual function' keyboarded device - the earlier M600i had h[...]

The Branding issue: was Symbian always doomed?

Mon, 17 Sep 2012 12:25:00 GMT

I've been over Nokia's greatest mistakes before, but there's another elephant in the room that needs addressing. It was a hot topic of debate back in the early days of Symbian and the ramifications of what was decided then worked themselves out in the following twelve or so years. Branding. I contend that Symbian as an OS has always been fighting a massive rearguard action - if the name itself had been allowed as much prominence as Android and iOS and Windows Phone have now, I suspect that Symbian's trajectory might have risen a lot higher and extended further. Nokia marketing the 6600 back in 2003. You'd have to dig hard into the product marketing to find even "Series 60", let alone "Symbian". The OS is the platform is the ecosystem  Look at the High Street today, or at least the phone shops. iPhone is in every one, everyone seems to aspire to (affording and) owning one, with perhaps half of iPhone owners being familiar with the term 'iOS'. Samsung 'Galaxy' phones are everywhere, and, again, I'd say that about half their owners are familiar with the word 'Android' as the OS. Plus 'Android' itself is often listed right on the display boards of vast swathes of the phones on sale these days. It's all a far cry from the millennium, with Symbian emerging as by far the leading light in the brave new world of smartphones - except that almost noone who bought a Symbian smartphone from 2000 to 2010 would actually have known the name of the operating system or platform that their device used. Instead, we had mass confusion, with manufacturers (Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Sendo, Samsung and others) preferring to use their own name behind the device or, if pushed, the latest rebrand name for the interface skin being used. Sony Ericsson was typical - if pushed, it would say that the P900 and successors "ran UIQ". The only association with Symbian tended to be the company's appearance at the annual Symbian trade show - and the fact that we covered UIQ here on AAS! It's worth noting that all of this was deliberate - back in the earliest days of Symbian, it was agreed that the OS name itself should be deprecated in the way described above. 'Buyers don't want to know about operating systems' was the agreed (if shortsighted, in hindsight) wisdom... Interface branding! Thus we had: Series 80 Series 90 Series 60 UIQ S60 S60 3rd Edition (don't get me started on the subtleties of 'Feature Packs' etc!) S60 5th Edition Symbian^3 (then Anna) Nokia Belle (plus feature packs etc.) Quite a list. Now, it's true that iOS and Android have been through almost as many versions in their lifetime, but the name didn't keep changing. Brand aware consumers can cope with a number incrementing, but changing the core name of the platform/OS/ecosystem was just crazy. I should point out that to us, the tech industry writers, and (probably) to you, the informed Symbian smartphone enthusiasts, most of the above terms are familiar and each interface iteration not only made absolute sense, they were rightly welcomed and they provoked excitement. But the proportion of smartphone buyers who were/are enthusiasts has been falling steadily over the last decade. We often focus on the proportion of overall phone sales which are smartphones - an equally interesting metric is the proportion of smartphone buyers who care enough about the technology to try and understand how their device ticks. How many times have you bumped into a fellow N8 owner (for example) and asked if they were using the latest 'Belle Refresh' (or similar), to be met with a blank look and the revelation (when you show them how to check) that they've never applied any updates, and that their device is still running launch firmware?  Back in 2004 (ish), most 'Series 60', 'Series 80' or 'UIQ' smartphone owners knew more or less what they'd bought and paid attention to the software involved. In 2012, the vast majority (say 95%) of smartphone owners have absolutely no clu[...]

People Made - Nokia exhibition at London Design Museum

Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:56:24 GMT

A free exhibition is currently running at the London Design Museum (28 Shad Thames, London SE1), entitled, 'People Made - Nokia products that changed the world' and tells the 'inside story of Nokia - past, present and future'. The exhibition is free to enter, but is only running from October 28th to November 2nd, leaving you three days to go along and take a look.

The exhibition celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first mass market GSM phone (the Nokia 1011) and uses phones from throughout Nokia's history to illustrate and explain changes in both mobile and design. 

Many of Nokia's most iconic phones are on display, serving as a reminder of the impact Nokia and its products have had in the last two decades. As you might expect the Nokia Communicators (Series 80) make an appearance, as does the Nokia 7650 (First Series 60 product), the Nokia N95 and many more.


Here's Nokia's description of the exhibition:

Spanning the first floor of the Design Museum in London, three discrete sections offer different perspectives and experiences. 

An immersive statistics room, featuring mesmeric imagery shows the enormous scale and reach of the brand, vividly demonstrating how Nokia positively affects millions of peoples’ lives. Another powerful audio-visual space sees designers taking a speculative look at Nokia’s role in shaping peoples’ lives and advancing design.

And finally, the flowing main space celebrates the products themselves, vividly telling the stories of the most iconic and influential Nokia phones. An intriguing mix of exhibits and information reveal how Nokia has continually redefined the possible and captured the zeitgeist.

Using key products to mark moments in time, the visual narrative tells how Nokia has steadily influenced the way people interact and connect, and how Nokia’s design studio has grappled with the limits of materials, forms and interaction to create small objects of immense practicality and understated beauty.


Video trailer

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The (almost) complete N-Gage game collection

Mon, 21 Feb 2011 14:29:01 GMT

This will either be a complete blast from the past or a glimpse into a world you never knew existed, but.... Nokia had a complete multimedia-accelerated game scene going on back in the early 2000s under the name N-Gage (no, not the software re-invention, we're talking plug-in MMC games on dedicated S60 hardware) and Martin from Retro Game Tech has been putting up occasional videos showing this growing collection of N-Gage's illustrious past. The latest is shown below. Thanks to Jay for the heads-up.

In the clip, 49 of the 56 possible N-Gage 'hardware' launches are shown (Martin appeals for anyone who can help complete the set.... Ewan?), plus you get a peek at one of the original N-Gage titles being played on the N-Gage 'classic' - a terrific little phone that I used and loved for a while (it had everything - for its time, including radio and line-in audio recording!).

Here's the video, you've got to admire a collector this dedicated(!):

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If you can help Martin, drop him a line here.

Symbian's Five Forgotten Form Factors

Sun, 12 Dec 2010 22:17:00 GMT

Maybe I'm turning into a sentimental old codger, but despite Nokia's efforts with the recent E7 (and N97 before it), the majority of modern smartphones are turning into either large screened tablets or tiny-screened thumb qwerty affairs, with a side branch of low end numeric key-driven devices, effectively for the feature phone market. It occurs to me that five of the very best form factors of the last decade, all of which debuted on Symbian, have been (sadly) forgotten, despite their proven advantages. A quirk of providence? Or negligence on behalf of the manufacturers? Here are the form factors which I'd like to see revived, with modern software and services on-board. (image credit) 1. Nokia N95 8GB It all started when I caught several non-techy tradesmen using the black monster, the Nokia N95 8GB, as their main phone. In each case, they'd tried a touchscreen phone (respectively a LG Cookie and an iPhone) and in each case had returned to 'their old Nokia' because it was foolproof and wasn't fiddly to use while working. But this isn't a touchscreen rant - what caught my eye for the umpteenth time was the huge 2.8" display, to this day unusual for a non-touch device. Appearing on the N95 8GB and N96, this large, clear, transflective display was stunning for its time and, for information display, still streets ahead of most of the pack. What's happened to this form factor? The newer N86 has only a 2.6" screen, noticeably smaller, and there are a plethora of 2.4" and 2.2" screened sliders also available.  Comparison, 2.8" display (N95 8GB), 2.6" (N95), 2.4" (N82) It's been tempting to go back to the form factor myself - the N96 is the most up to date, but it's so plasticky and slow, with no graphics acceleration. So I find myself about to bid on N95 8GB units on eBay and then have to stop myself, remembering that quite a lot of the software we take for granted these days, including up to date Ovi Maps with free navigation, is either not available or requires extra downloads or payment or hassle. Plus there was the non-expandable 8GB of flash memory. Gah. What's needed, Nokia, is an update of the N95 form factor. Use the N96's 2.8" transflective screen, use the N86's keypad (or perhaps a slide down E71-style minature qwerty?), put in the very latest builds of Ovi Maps, and Ovi Store, on the latest version of S60 3rd Edition FP2, as used in the likes of the N86 or E72, put in the N86's camera (there's plenty of room) and - hey, let's shoot for the moon - a Xenon flash. Call it the N87, perhaps? I would buy the result in an instant. 2. Nokia E61i Now - the 2.8" transflective display wasn't only used in the two Nseries smartphones. Oh no. It was also the highlight of the qwerty-based Nokia E61 and E61i - we'll skip over the former as it was very much a first-gen attempt at the form factor - and had, among other big downsides, no camera. The E61i was almost decent though, with microSD expansion, the huge BP-4L battery and a 2 megapixel camera, just held back by being the last Nokia to use the dreaded Pop-port rather than a form of USB, and by a rather weedy processor and RAM quotient, which meant that using the E61i required a healthy degree of patience. Most importantly of all, there was the 2.8" display and, mounted in landscape mode, this enforced a certain width to the device - which meant that bigger keys could be fitted. Where the modern E71, E72 and E5 all require pretty small and nimble thumbs, the E61i could be used with comparative ease, however much text you needed to bash out in an email or text. So what happened? I guess someone at Nokia's design bureau made a strategic decision that the E61i form factor was too big - which is strange since some of the RIM Blackberrys of the time had similar width, screens and keyboards. So the E71 was borne - with a 2.4" display and a shrunk-down keyboard. And, even curiouse[...]

The history of Snakes is the history of Nokia

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 10:50:07 GMT

Over on the Nokia Conversations blog, they’ve looked at the history of their “Snake” game. Right from the first bundled version on the Nokia 6110 handset through to Vanixon’s Snake game on the Ovi Store. It’s a nice article that I suspect gets to where the author wanted (i.e. let’s link to a game on the Store) but really does show just how much Nokia’s eye is no longer on the Snake. When you look closer, the winding path of the snake seems to follow Nokia's smartphone strategy.There’s no doubt that the inclusion of the first Snake game was a revolution. It clearly showed that applications and games could not only run on a smartphone, but that the users would happily accept them. When you look back, this was one of those moments where you could see an industry ready to change. Nokia continued to push Snake with their handsets. As their Symbian powered handsets started to appear (in the 9210 and 7650), a quick check on the bundled CD showed an installable Snake game. Initially it was Snake 2, which lost the classic blocky look, to be followed in later devices with Snake 2 EX that polished the ideas of terrains and maps in the game. Snakes reaches the N-Gage. The high water mark of Nokia’s reptilian adventures has to be the two variants of Snakes. The first was available on the original N-Gage platform, this game (along with a one level demo of their strategy game Pathway to Glory) was given away as a free download through their website. Many variants of the Snake game add a twist with their own rules, and just doing things differently, but Nokia managed something special. They managed to bring a 3D psychedelic experience to the snake game, and it all worked. Not only did they have a good game, but again they showed what was capable on the mobile phone as a gaming platform. The second variant appeared on the N95, which was essentially the same game. However, the larger screen, faster graphics, and TV-Out cable (!), were just more impressive parts of the package that marked the N95 as a landmark phone. Your portable console, the N95 - TV-Out and Snakes. Since then, many perceptions of Nokia have been damaged. Not least of their skill in promoting the Snake game. Their next effort was Snakes Subsonic, for the "Next generation gaming platform that was N-Gage." It would be polite to say that they dropped the ball. A clunky, unresponsive game, low frame rate, and slow game play. Basically Nokia got it wrong. Rather than fixing it, we’ve not seen any more official Snake action. There have been various third party developers taking a swing at it (such as Snake Revolution from Digital Chocolate), but nothing from Nokia themselves. Instead, they're pointing towards one of many alternatives, while not providing their own.     Now here’s the spooky thing. If you were to look at the perception of Nokia as a leader in the smartphone market over time - the curve of "just how good people think they are", you’d have a curve that fits in with the quality and impact of their snake games. So on that basis, I don’t want to see Nokia telling me to go buy someone else’s effort at a Snake game. I want them to come out with an updated version, that has the same zip and addictiveness as the old version. A game that makes you want to play it, and that I can be proud to show off around the pub. Rather like I’m hoping the new Symbian powered phones will be accepted. -- Ewan Spence, Nov 2010. [...]

Let’s be cool... or what Nokia could do next

Fri, 16 Jul 2010 14:45:21 GMT

In all the talk of user interfaces, promises, updated software and hardware, there is one other area that Nokia need to look at. Making the Nokia name one that everyone is the world is happy to be associated with. How can they do that? Here are some thoughts.And yes, I mean Nokia here. Though the strange symbiotic relationship means that Symbian is separate from Nokia, they are tied closely together. The fortunes of Symbian in the near future rely heavily on how Nokia handles the next six months, so it’s important for the Finnish company to play the N8 correctly in the marketplace. How can the Finns be cool again? They have had 'it' before (remember all the fuss about the Matrix 8110 phone?), could they get 'it' back again? This is of course assuming that they have lost 'it' – their image in the Far East is different to that in the US or Europe. So let’s go from a starting point that Nokia need to be globally cool and get their mojo back. Let’s also assume the software and UI is tweaked and everyone is happy with that. What could we suggest? Get the influential voices talking about you A smart online campaign can get a lot of perceived buzz which can easily be noticed by the more mainstream media channels. Witness the work of Old Spice over the last week who have supplemented their “Old Spice Man” by having the actor appear in personalised videos to online ‘celebrities’ who naturally tell all their friends. An old brand becoming cool again? See it can be done!  Reach as many people as possible And that means TV advertising. It’s interesting to note here in the UK that Nokia has sponsored the fantasy show Misfits on Channel 4 during the initial run on E4 in November and now for the repeat showings on Channel 4. The Ovi branding is present on the adverts for the show, and during the episode, while the initial run had the characters tweet and appear on social networks in real time between episodes. More of this, with lots more visibility would be smart. And maybe next time choose a show that can reach a significant number of viewers? Choosing a cult hit they can ride along with isn’t going to be easy, but if they want my suggestion, go speak to the team behind Slingers and sort something out. Try to connect emotionally, not through a spec sheet People don’t watch Columbo to try and solve the murder, they watch it to see how Columbo solves it, what he does, how he connects with the special guest star of the week, how he niggles their emotions and learns everything. If Columbo was a detective going through the motions he’d be boring. It’s the emotional connection the audience make with him that makes it a success. The N8 has a great camera, amazing sound reproduction, HDMI output, but while these are important I don’t think they can be the core of any advertising of the handset. There is no emotion in saying it is “the best” and “better than ever.” Glance at Apple’s adverts for the iPhone 4 – all pretty much focussing on people using Facetime to connect to family and friends (and directed by the Oscar winning Sam Mendes). MG Siegler at Techcrunch has done a comprehensive piece on these adverts, and it’s worthwhile reading for everyone in the mobile industry. Get the handsets out to people Give people the opportunity to try the N8, or your latest hardware. I know this might seem a little bit self serving, but if you want people to talk about the company, the phone and the service, then you need to make sure they have said phone and access to the service. One of the few times that gaming blog Penny Arcade mentioned the N-Gage was when Nokia proactively sent o[...]

Video: Tour of Nokia's Experience Lounge

Wed, 02 Jun 2010 14:06:00 GMT

During a recent visit to Nokia's Espoo (Helsinki) offices, I had the opportunity to look round Nokia's Experience Lounge, which showcases all of Nokia's latest products and services - from Ovi Maps and Nokia Messaging to the latest Nokia handsets. As an additional bonus, tucked away in one corner of the room, is a set of shelves that contain one of almost every Nokia phone model ever produced. So how to share this with loyal readers? Film a walkabout of course! 

The video was filmed in co-operation with Ben Smith from The Really Mobile Project. A big thank you to him for his excellent camera and editing work. Ben has published a post describing the video here.

The Nokia Experience Walkabout with Rafe Blandford

Ben Smith: "Welcome to Finland, we're here attending Nokia's 'Open for Ideas' event - it is all about innovation. However earlier in the day we got to attend their experience lounge at their Espoo headquarters and like a mobile sniffing bloodhound we sent Rafe Blandford to pick out the best and the classics that they have on display".


This video is also available in HD on YouTube.

Here's our earlier still image gallery of the Nokia Experience Lounge.

Ben and I also teamed up to shoot some other videos, including a closer look at the X3 and C6 handsets and video demos of Nokia Research Centre prototypes. We aim to publish these over the next few week or so.

Phones Show Chat 25 and 24

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 08:55:41 GMT

Forgive the plug, but I haven't mentioned Phones Show Chat for a few weeks - audio podcasts 24 and 25 are now online for your listening pleasure - around an hour each of myself and Tim Salmon of this parish wittering about Symbian, Maemo and Android smartphones, answering Q&A, and so on. Here's the RSS feed for you to plug into Podcasting, to subscribe, if you haven't done so already 8-)

What will Nokia learn from the Failure of N-Gage?

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 20:24:30 GMT

Two weeks after Nokia announced that their N-Gage system was to be closed and the titles merged into Ovi Store, N-Gage old-hand Ewan delivers his verdict, looking at what Nokia did wrong, from support to marketing to community. More worryingly, Ewan also worries that similar errors might be being made with Nokia's other Software and Services. 

"Be in no doubt that the N-Gage is a failure. And it's not a failure of ideas - it's a failure of implementation, support and addressing the needs of the consumer. And as Nokia's first foray into a software and service bites the dust, they'd better learn the lessons of N-Gage pretty quickly."

Read on

Potentially faulty Nokia AC chargers to be replaced for free

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 18:07:34 GMT

Nokia have announced a product recall of around 14 million AC chargers for their phones. The products affected are the AC-3E, AC-3U and AC-4U models, built within a certain time-frame. The potential fault would see the plastic casing working loose and separating, exposing potentially live wiring inside. Full details on the affected units and how to obtain a free replacement can be found at

Nokia's Press Release on the subject says:

During a routine quality control process, Nokia identified a potential product quality issue with certain chargers manufactured by one of its third-party suppliers. The plastic covers of the affected chargers could come loose and separate, exposing the charger's internal components and potentially posing an electrical shock hazard if certain internal components are touched while the charger is plugged into a live socket. Nokia is not aware of any incidents or injuries related to these chargers.

The full release can be found here.

What will Nokia learn from the Failure of N-Gage?

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:23:31 GMT

So the dust has settled on Nokia's 'as late as possible in the working week' announcement at the end of October that the Next-Generation N-Gage Platform will be closed down in September 2010. The internet sites piled in with “I thought this was dead” and made the obligatory reference to sidetalking and including a picture of the original smartphone. Okay, we made the same digs as well, but then carried on. Most tech sites left it at a joke and moved on. And while the Nokia fanboys reared up their heads and complained in the comments, it illustrates one of the reasons why Next Gen N-Gage has failed. And the blame is, squarely, at the door of Nokia. The annoying thing is that, as the Next-Gen Platform launched, the technology was pretty much in place. It had an on-device client that was targeting the majority of handsets in the S60 portfolio; a built in application store before they became fashionable; not only their own development studios but third party support from THQ, EA and Gameloft; they had an addressable base that rivals any gaming platform... yet it slipped through their fingers. Be in no doubt that the N-Gage is a failure. And it's not a failure of ideas - it's a failure of implementation, support and addressing the needs of the consumer. And as Nokia's first foray into a software and service bites the dust, they'd better learn the lessons of N-Gage pretty quickly. The Legacy of the N-Gage and the N-Gage QD I'll touch on this briefly, but Nokia were not starting from scratch. Thanks to the N-Gage handsets and games developed, they should have had an understanding of the market they were already in. I suspect the inability to get MMC cards in retail stores drove them to creating the online concept of sales and distribution; but what lessons had they really learned? Two things that never changed were vital. The first was that there was no change in the appreciation that the games market was wildly different to the handset manufacturing department, this never seemed to change the basic modus operandi of Nokia. Perhaps this was arrogance, but if they'd acted more like a Sony or Nintendo department rather than a Finnish handset manufacturer that would have made a difference. They were new to the table, and new companies need to play the game and follow the unspoken rules that already existed in the 'family' of gaming. Nokia didn't, and were shunned. And they kept the name N-Gage. Why? It already had a huge negative connotation, you'd never escape people going “is that the taco phone from three years ago?”, yet they carried on. A serious look at what people perceived of their games effort should have started with step one: rebrand the gaming service. The First True Device App Store? So lets look at what should have been the Cullinan Diamond in the Next-Gen Platform's crown jewels – the on-device Client. This is the portal into the world of N-Gage, where people would download the games, pay for them, chat to their friends, discover new products and keep everything up to date. It's a mix of IM client and app store, software updater and personal achievement record. And I'll give the designers credit here, when it launched, this was state of the art. Yes, it had problems that we all spotted straight away. What happens to your games when you need to switch phones, for example. Well, you license the game per handset, was the Finnish answer. Err... Again Nokia were thinking like a hardware manufacturer and not a publisher. Even after pressure (especially from us) this issue was never solved beyond negotiating on a per-case basis with the support lines. A solution that could never scale. And the client, w[...]

AAS Insight 93 - SEE 2009, Q3 Canalys, N-Gage

Sat, 07 Nov 2009 18:13:08 GMT

In All About Symbian Insight 93 (AAS Podcast 157) we discuss the Q3 smartphone figures from Canalys and Rafe explains that Fujitsu and Quic have joined the board of the Symbian Foundation. We move on to a retrospective of SEE 2009 with discussion of the media reaction (which send Rafe into rant mode). We finish with thoughts on N97 PR 2.0 and the closure of N-Gage (sniff). You can listen to AAS Insight 93 here or, if you wish to subscribe, here's the RSS feed.

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In this podcast we cover:    

  • Q3 Smartphone figures from Canalys
  • Fujitsu and Quic join the board of the Symbian Foundation

  • SEE 2009 retrospective and media reaction (Rafe rants a bit)
  • N97 v20 firmware comments and thoughts from Steve
  • Closure on N-Gage - thoughts and comments from Ewan and Steve


Powerboat Challenge sums up N-Gage

Tue, 03 Nov 2009 10:12:18 GMT

And so the final N-Gage game slips out the harbour. Perhaps Nokia were hoping for a quiet maiden voyage for Powerboat Challenge? Whoops. Despite a solid game structure and good enough graphics, this title just - in Ewan's words - isn't fun. Read the illustrated review here on Ovi Gaming.

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An Obituary for the N-Gage

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 19:57:09 GMT

With the announcement that Nokia are closing the N-Gage service, Ewan has been looking back at the troubled gaming strategy from Finland, from its launch in 2003 to today's ticket to Dignitas in an Obituary for the Nokia N-Gage (2003-2009). We'll pass on any messages of condolence to Finland you may wish to leave.


(aka the Next Generation Gaming Platform)
Died aged 6 of neglect and misunderstanding,
October 30th 2009, Helsinki, Finland.

Born October 7 2003, Helsinki, Finland to a proud parent company, Nokia, the N-Gage had a difficult birth as it struggled to overcome physical defects that, while revolutionary in vision, left many people wondering what had happened during the design and testing period of the initial handset – concerns that would be repeated throughout the life of N-Gage.

I've made mistakes and its no disgrace,
the final page that I can't erase
even though I look back on my past,
could have loved you more could have made it last
Time has changed me I hope you'll see,
no one could bring your love to me
The fork in the road looks more like a knife,
when the cards have been dealt and pains in your life
my time has come there ringing the bell,
so long my love, goodbye and farewell.

Lost Love, by T. P. O'Connell

The full obituary can be read here.


N-Gage 2003-2009: An Obituary

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 19:32:24 GMT

Ewan looks back at the life of Nokia's original software and service platform... the N-Gage.N-Gage(aka the Next Generation Gaming Platform)Died aged 6 of neglect and misunderstanding,October 30th 2009, Helsinki, Finland. Born October 7 2003, Helsinki, Finland to a proud parent company, Nokia, the N-Gage had a difficult birth as it struggled to overcome physical defects that, while revolutionary in vision, left many people wondering what had happened during the design and testing period of the initial handset – concerns that would be repeated throughout the life of N-Gage. Setting high expectations and a high price, the initial N-Gage service was built around a phone, also called N-Gage, that was briefly the highest specification consumer smartphone on the planet. Unfortunately, very few people could look beyond the speaker and microphone on the edge of the machine, leading to the N-Gage being called Taco for most of its life as people discovered “Side Talking”. The initial impression and the subsequent release of almost no games left its parents no choice but to opt for reconstructive surgery. Given a new name for a hopefully new life, the N-Gage QD brought respectability to the name, but not the mass market success of six million devices that was hoped for. Nokia stood behind their plucky youngster and continued to pour funds both at the device but also at developers to create new games for the portable gaming smartphone. A prized franchise, Snakes, was brought over from the regular phone line-up to bolster N-Gage in the winter season of 2004. In a bid to show what the platform was capable of, the game was released for free and in the process showed that N-Gage could deliver. But it also showed flaws in Nokia that are still there. What should have been a launch title was delivered to a platform where the public had already given up, and the press had made up their mind. Why, they asked, was a phone company dabbling in software? No game developer would work on a platform where piracy was rife and every game was available online for free. Which is exactly what Sony and Nintendo have to do now. Nokia, yet again, were blazing a trail and showing us the future. And after a ropey start, the games were arriving with style. The classic turn based war game Pathway to Glory handed gamers something genuinely new and exciting; while Pocket Kingdom built up a huge following of RPG fans as they played in a game that connected every single one of them to a single world – in the same month as the first version of World of Warcraft was released. Unfortunately, this triumvirate of titles was the peak of the original N-Gage software catalogue. A decision to focus on gaming on all smartphones, as opposed to dedicated hardware, accompanied the appointment of Gerard Wiener as the Director and General Manager for Games at Nokia. The fans were kept engaged with titles such as One, Rifts and Settlers of Catan, but the N-Gage hardware and its portfolio of 58 games was stood down and placed into hibernation in November 2005. In public, little was said about the N-Gage, which stumbled to sales of around two million handsets. But in private N-Gage was looking to mature and make itself available to the huge number of handsets that ran the Symbian OS-powered S60 interface. Announced during the E3 gaming conference that year (and then again in 2006), it would take 18 months for the public to see the N-Gage service. Named “The Next Generation Gaming Platform”, it reached public beta in February 2008 on Nokia's N81 dev[...]

Review: Mega Monsters for N-Gage

Fri, 23 Oct 2009 15:46:10 GMT

Hulk smash!!! Or in this case a giant panda, as Ewan takes a look at the B-movie-inspired Mega Monsters from Nokia on N-Gage. It's a stomping, rip-roaring rampage through the city, either against miniature opponents or against these plus the clock/another online opponent. And it all hangs together rather well, rounding off what has been a relatively good week for N-Gage.

"What's interesting about this title is who's behind it. Firemint are well known for their titles on the iPhone platform, including the smash hit Flight Control. So to have them behind an N-Gage title should be something that Nokia would want everyone to know – yet the game comes out with little fanfare, apparently at the end of the life of the Next Gen system."

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