Categories
nokia e71 Phones Skype

Official Skype for Symbian S60 native client

At long last, Skype have released an official Skype for Symbian client.

I have it installed on my Nokia E71 and it works well. So far I have only two issues with it: when I lose 3G reception (which happens frequently where I live), despite having a preferred access point defined in the software, the client prompts you to choose an alternate AP. Now, if this happens while your phone is in your pocket, you aren’t going to see this message, and you aren’t going to be online. If you happen to go back into an area with reception, the client neither clears the access point prompt nor reconnects. This needs to be fixed.

The second is that the vibrating alert doesn’t seem to work. If my E71 is set to use the general profile, a normal Skype sound is played upon receiving an instant message or rings for an incoming call. Switch your phone to silent (where the vibrating alert kicks in for SMS and incoming calls) Skype doesn’t trigger a vibrating alert.

Now that I’ve got the negatives out the way (it’s been a long day) the client is excellent. File transfers, properly respected privacy settings (finally!) and  most of the other basic features (minus video calling) of a desktop client. It makes Skype a viable solution for me once more when I am out of the house (the one thing the 3Skypephone did very well was Skype presence and calling). I gave up with Fring and Nimbuzz as they interfered with my privacy settings, setting my desktop client back to calls and messages from contacts only, and it was annoying to remember to check them each time.

I have used the Symbian Skype client via both 3G and Wifi and placed test calls, both with adequate call quality. I have conducted a few text chats and this works well enough. In theory I could take a photo and send it to a chat recipient whilst out and about (something I liked about Fring), or have them send you a Word document etc. A minor quibble is that while text chatting you just start typing to bring up the text entry box. The trouble is, that first character simply invokes the box, and isn’t entered into it, meaning that you have to double-type the first letter of the first word of a new chat message. Not the end of the world, but it’d be nice to see that smoothed out, so you can just start typing a response naturally.

I’ll be using it extensively over the next few days and I’ll keep an eye on things like battery life to see how quickly it drains if Skype is run full-time. As I type, I have had the client running for 6 hours, and 2 bars have gone from the fully charged battery indicator. In theory, if I don’t use the phone much, I could get 18 hours out of it. We shall see.

To conclude, this is good news for the millions of Symbian S60 users out there, especially those of us with unlimited or generous 3G data packages or access to Wifi. No more having to use Skype credit at mobile rates to receive calls (a very welcome bonus). All is good. Let’s hope that the beta program gives Skype lots of feedback (do use their  Skype for Symbian forum to let them know of any problems) and hopefully we’ll all end up with a more robust Skype solution with better battery performance.

Fingers crossed.

Categories
nokia e71 Symbian S60

De-branding my 3UK Nokia E71

I bought my E71 last year from 3 UK (as a PAYG handset) to replace the first-generation 3Skypephone that I had grown to hate with a passion.

The E71 has been such a wonderful improvement over the Skypephone in just about every way possible. But it hasn’t been without its faults. The camera shutter can randomly take upwards of 5 seconds to take a photo, some photos have a horrible purple hue to them, and I have been unable to get online outside of a 3G area.

As regular readers know, I’ve been very forgiving with the E71’s camera, even taking some of its faults to my advantage. But on hearing about new firmware releases for the E71 that fixes the issue, I was, to be honest hoping that 3UK would do the right thing and update their branded firmware soon afterwards. No such luck.

But still, I wanted those fixes and improvements, and despite waiting for many months, 3 haven’t given them to us. Thankfully, I’m not alone, and “Gerrymoth“, all-round Nokia fan and also on the 3 network, wrote a guide to debranding a 3UK Nokia E71 to a generic “EURO1” phone.

In a nutshell, all Nokia phones have a product code stored inside them. When you connect your phone to the Nokia Updater, it compares the code in your phone against a list of available updates. If 3UK haven’t provided Nokia with a customised version of the latest firmware, then Nokia Updater tells you that there are no updates available for your model.

You can use freely available software, as described in his guide, to change the code in your phone from a code that identifies it as being tied to a specific operator (like 3) to a code that identifies your handset as being a generic, unlocked phone, in need of a firmware update.

I am now the owner of a generic, unbranded Nokia E71 with the latest firmware update, and much happier I am too! The camera is improved, I can get online in a 2G area, and it would appear that the already excellent battery life is slightly better too.

Time well spent.

[Update] De-branding does not affect using 3’s Skype client, so you can still use your free allocation of Skype messages and minutes on a generic E71 without any problems. I have also been told that this also doesn’t affect video calling. To download the “Skype for 3” client (only if you’re on 3) go to http://mobile.three.co.uk/sdf/skypeupdate

Categories
Gadgets smartphones Software

Life with the Nokia E71

I’ve had my E71 for about 6 weeks now, and I thought that I’d write a few words here to let people know how I’m getting along. Would I recommend the E71 to anyone who is looking for a smartphone? Absolutely. Would I recommend it over the iPhone? That depends. If battery life is important to you, then certainly. If productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheets, etc, then yes again. I’d even say that the camera on the E71 is better than that of the iPhone (based on shots that I’ve seen on Flickr).

However, I have found the breadth of software available for S60 series smartphones to be somewhat lacking. I’ve spent ages looking for a native Twitter client (not J2ME) and I’ve only found one (WirelessIRC + Twitter), which is an add-on to an IRC client. The iPhone has lots of clients, many with their own twists on user interface. [Update: As of May 2009, there are a few more options, one of which, Gravity, is superb!]

Without going in to great detail of packages that I have tried and disliked, I do have an iPod Touch with which I can compare some apps. Generally, apps on the Touch are much nicer in terms of user interface. But I do know that battery life and a lacklustre camera on an iPhone would annoy me too.

However, I have a nice core of software on my phone that do most things that I would want to do whilst mobile. I have a phone whose battery lasts me 3 days of normal use (web browsing, Twittering, some music, some photos, updating the calendar, email) and I can coax more days out of it with less use.

So on the whole, I’m a happy E71 user, and hope that the phone lasts me a good 18 months or so before the next best thing is released!

Categories
Gadgets nokia e71 smartphones

Nokia E71 Review: Part Three – Software

There is plenty of software available for Symbian S60 3rd edition phones such as the Nokia N95, and of course, the E71. Since acquiring my E71, I have tried out a lot of software, and after a flurry of installs and uninstalls, I have settled down to a core of programs that I regularly use (or have ‘just in case’).

Downloaded Software: Web service integration

Since the S60 platform has been around for a while, there are many excellent pieces of software about. Since I use many of the social networking and cloud-based services on the internet, I’m very interested in ways that I can integrate with them via my E71.

This list includes only software that I have downloaded, not preinstalled programs. These are nearly all native S60 apps, unless stated.

  • Skype (3‘s Skype client based on iSkoot, limited to 3 network)
  • Twibble (good Twitter client, J2ME)
  • Google Maps (works well with the internal GPS and can display KML files)
  • Google Mail (Gmail on the move, J2ME)
  • Google Search (add Google search to your homescreen)
  • Mobbler (superb last.fm client, with radio)
  • Socialight (Find out what’s been tagged near you, works with internal GPS, J2ME)
  • Yahoo! Go (nice way of browsing Yahoo’s services, including Flickr)
  • Fring (Skype, Twitter, SIP, Google Talk, etc)
  • CalSyncS60 (Sync your E71’s calendar with Google Calendar)
  • Jaiku
  • Opera Mini (Superb little web browser, J2ME)
  • Qik (stream live video to the internet from your phone)
  • FE Updater (update your location to Fire Eagle using the E71’s GPS)
  • Yahoo! Zonetag (geotag photos and upload them to Flickr, and update your location to Fire Eagle!)
  • NeoReader (barcode / QR code reader – read those funny squares you sometimes see)
  • JoikuSpot Lite (share your 3G data connection on the E71 via wifi – great for using with my iPod Touch)
  • Yahoo! Go (Flickr, maps, news, mail etc. Basically if you use any of Yahoo!’s services, download this! Also does location-based searches via GPS – very handy.)
  • Skyfire (amazing browser that supports Flash on the E71 – currently in beta. I’ve used it to watch videos on Vimeo and it worked really well)
  • Nimbuzz (a multi-talented instant messenger that supports Skype)

In short, this list of software allows me to use VOIP services (Skype is my service of choice), take and upload geotagged photos to Flickr, sync my calendar, stream video, find out where I am and how to get where I’m going, and keep up to date with what’s going on in the world via email and Twitter (and let people know what I’m up to, and where I am).

Supplied Software

The E71 comes with a bewildering range of software preinstalled. Picking some of the packages that I’ve found useful, here’s a brief summary:

QuickOffice 4 allows the creation of MS Office compatible documents on the move, as well as viewing existing ones. I’ve only used the Document side of this software, and it works pretty well. Basic formatting is straightforward, but to be honest I’d probably format a document later on my computer.

Nokia Maps 2.0 is installed on the 2GB MicroSD card that came with the phone, and doesn’t need network access to view maps. So finding directions etc is straightforward and quick. GPS lock is suprisingly quick if you have a good view of the sky. I haven’t yet made extensive use of it, but from a superficial play, it looks pretty good.

Dictionary is a great little app for looking up words on the move, or if you download extra language packs, makes it an excellent means for translating foreign words when you’re on holiday.

Adobe PDF reader is great for viewing PDFs, and the built-in Calendar app is reasonable enough to work out what you have to do, when, and have it remind you. The best bit about it for me, is that I can use CalSyncS60 to sync it with my Google Calendar (which in turn can sync with other calendars), so that I don’t have multiple versions and cause myself any social embarassment!

The “to do” function of the calendar is a little weak, as all to-dos have to be associated with a date, so I prefer to simply use the Notes app to jot down lists. I’m getting rather handy with the E71’s QWERTY keyboard and predictive text now 🙂

If any reader has come across some good “to do” software for S60, I’d be happy to hear from you!

I’ve had fun playing with the Nokia Sports Tracker to measure how far I have cycled or walked, and to see statistics such as average speed, maximum speed (35mph so far!), routes, graphs etc. Results can be stored locally or synced with the Nokia Sports Tracker website (I haven’t got around to doing that yet – not sure if I want to!).

Web Browsing

I’ve spent many hours surfing the web via my E71 when I have been away from home. The built in browser is based upon the Webkit engine (the same used in Apple’s Safari browser) and, since the phone comes with Flash Lite installed, I find it works very well for most of my needs. Zooming in and out of a page works well, with results being nicely anti-aliased (smoothed). I sometimes reach for Opera Mini, especially if I roam outside of the 3G network – it’s nice to have a backup that has pages compressed at the server-side.

The screen is sufficiently large enough, and especially with it’s natural landscape orientation, to browse the web for hours without becoming too cross-eyed. A combination of Nokia’s browser and Opera Mini allows most websites to be displayed correctly while you’re on the move. However, I look forward to trying out the new Skyfire browser when it becomes available.

What software is missing?

I would love to see a better “To Do” manager, and a blogging client that is compatible with WordPress. For the latter I have tried Scribe, but sadly it didn’t work on the E71. I’d also like a native S60 Twitter app, as Twibble, great as it is, does seem a little slow and clunky. The Jaiku client is wonderful, but not many of my friends use Jaiku – a Twitter equivalent would be great.

Other than that, at this point in time, it’s all there.

Mac Support

As a Mac user, connectivity with OSX is vital to me. Thankfully, Nokia have made the Nokia iSync plugin so that contacts and calendars are synchronised on my Mac, and the Nokia Multimedia Transfer program to sync photos with iPhoto and music with iTunes. In short, with these two pieces of software installed, the E71 plays very well with Macs.

Pairing the E71 via Bluetooth allows you to set up the device as a modem for your computer, and it’s pretty straightforward to do. Since the E71 supports Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) connections with newer Macs are rather nippy indeed.

Conclusion

Without reviewing every piece of software that came pre-installed, and every program I have downloaded in huge detail, I’ll summarise by saying that I can do pretty much everything that I want to do online, on my phone.

While S60 software seems to lack the finesse and good looks of software on the iPhone, it makes up in terms of functionality, and in my case, price. All of the software listed here either came with the phone, or is available for free online. I can type up documents, send and recieve emails, use Skype and other IM services, take photos and send them to Flickr, update and browse Twitter, surf the web, listen to internet radio, find out where I am and what’s around me. I can leave myself notes and appointments to remind me what I have to do and when. In short, the E71 is a mini computer, QWERTY keyboard included.

Oh yes, and of course, I nearly forgot – you can make phone calls on it too… 😉