The BBC's mobile site has been a classic reference point on phone browsers for years - yet searching it was often a pain. Today sees the rollout (albeit with 'beta' labelling) of a new mobile-optimised search experience for anyone using a smartphone web browser rather than something on a desktop OS.
From the BBC's blog:
For the past year, if you performed a search on http://www.bbc.co.uk/ from a mobile device, you would have received the main desktop search results page, where ‘pinch and zoom’ was required to resize the page to an appropriate size. This wasn’t a great user experience and with the mobile search audience more than doubling in the past 12 months, we wanted to improve their experience urgently.
The resulting mobile-optimised, search results page allows you to search quickly and efficiently across News, Sport, TV & Radio, iPlayer and Editors Choice. The search query and results page will resolve to your handsets orientation and screen size.
It works pretty well too, here on a Symbian smartphone, going to the BBC home page and then tapping on the search icon (magnifying glass):
Search results now appear in proper mobile-optimised layout. And here's the same thing on a Windows Phone:
It's worth emphasising that the search function doesn't find matches across all the BBC's content yet - hence the 'beta' and link to the desktop site. But it's a great improvement to an already top notch phone-accessible (so smaller, portrait screen and possibly limited bandwidth*) web site.
* Those in cities on LTE will scoff that bandwidth is still being taken into consideration, but across large chunks of the UK, even 3G isn't ubiquitous and dropping back to 2G while travelling is commonplace. Under such circumstances, having a mobile-optimised browsing experience is extremely welcome.
There's one gotcha, explained by the BBC's John Barratt:
If you are unable to reach the mobile-optimised results page, you may have previously accepted a cookie that will redirect you to the desktop version. To remove this, please navigate to the footer of any BBC page and select the Mobile Site link (if you can see the Desktop Site link, then this cookie has not been set) or alternatively, open your browser settings and clear the cookies (generally stored under privacy), and then navigate to Search.
If you would prefer to keep using the desktop results page, this can be reached by selecting the Desktop Site link in the footer.
Great stuff - if you're part of the English-speaking world and haven't already got bbc.co.uk bookmarked in your smartphone browser then shame on you.
Nokia's Sustainability Operations team, source of weird and wonderful videos, has returned to YouTube to explain how you can "charge your phone by dancing" (assuming you have a friend in Nokia's research labs). The video showcases a prototype of what we assume is a piezoelectric kinetic energy harvesting system, which generates energy when crystals are compressed by movement (e.g. dancing).
This is something that Nokia has been working on for some time, as demonstrated by the filing of this patent in early 2010, but the general idea goes back much further. There are quite a few chargers that allow you to use kinetic energy to recharge your phone, such as Nokia Bike Charger accessory, but the next step innovation is making some that works during day-to-day activity (i.e. walking, or dancing, around) and is small enough to fit inside a phone.
The prototype demoed in the video is getting close to that goal, but there's still some way to go, as is ably demonstrated in the video... you need to do a lot of dancing to get a significant amount of energy.
The kinetic system isn't the only approach Nokia is working on. For example, another research project is investigating the way in which energy might collected from ambient radio waves, and Nokia's Morph concept foresees devices being covered with "nanograss" structures that harvest solar power.
Ultimately, none of these methods are likely, in the immediate future, to result in a device that never runs out of a charge, but the idea of a device that can stay in a permanent stand-by state (i.e. trickle charging when device is inactive) may not be so far away.
The video is part of a wider campaign that is seeking to promotes Nokia's sustainability and environmental initiatives and policies. Nokia is encouraging people to join share their thoughts via the #sustainablelumia Twitter hash tag.
It's all very well seeing phone manufacturer after phone manufacturer adding faster image processors and (ever so) slightly larger sensors in their smartphone cameras. It's all very well them proclaiming in their marketing "the best phone camera ever". And, in extreme cases, even adding two lenses and two sensors. But, ultimately, physics wins. It always wins. Never mind the tiny sensors used in even the likes of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, use a large sensor like that in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and photos are immediately better, especially when allied to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and (when needed) also to a proper Xenon flash.
Am I being disingenuous in describing the Samsung and Sony phone camera sensors as 'tiny'? Perhaps a little. Samsung seemed really proud of the fact that it had stretched the sensor in its imminent 2014 Galaxy S5 to 1/2.6", but as you can see from the chart below, it's really not very far towards the ground-breaking (for phones) camera sensors in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and 808 PureView.
It's worth noting that the actual resolution of the sensor is fairly immaterial these days. Higher resolutions are usually used intelligently for oversampling (to some degree), reducing noise and improving pixel purity. What matters, ultimately, is the sensor size.
In case you're confused by the relationship between quoted sensor size and the areas depicted below, note that "optical format" (the number usually quoted) has a somewhat complex relationship to actual (plan) size of sensor, but as a rule of thumb the area 'goes as' the square of the optical format 'number', i.e. it's a square relationship and not a linear one.
Staggering as the chart above is (especially for fans of devices down at the lower end), it's also interesting to note that Nokia was using 1/2.5" sensors in its S60 (Symbian) smartphone range for ages, during 2007-2009, starting with the classic N95 range. So, where even the Lumia 1520 is hailed as having a large sensor today, in 2014, note that it's only matching what Nokia itself was doing in many tens of millions of classic smartphones six years ago.
Of course, other aspects of the technology have improved in the intervening years, not least image processor speed and sophistication, sensor sensitivity, the introduction of BSI (Back Side Illumination) and OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) - but it's still worth bearing the N95-era benchmark in mind.
Given how relatively slim the Lumia 1020 is (only 14mm at the thickest part of the camera island), I find it odd that no manufacturer has tried to get close to Nokia's camera system yet - maybe the upcoming Oppo Find 7 will be the device that takes the 1020 head on?
Modern photography is, at heart, the science of getting pixels of light to register on an electronic sensor - and the more of them that do, the more accurate and consistent the result. So the larger the optics (the aperture of which is set relative to the sensor size) and the larger the sensor, the better.
So a significantly larger sensor, as in the case of (for example) the Lumia 1020 relative to that of the Galaxy S5, with an area ratio of around 3:1, means that much better results should be achieved. In fact, in the case of the 1020, there's also OIS to help out by allowing longer shutter times (i.e. more light) without shake or blur. Plus Carl Zeiss optics, for what they're worth, and a proper Xenon flash to keep the 'more light' theme going even when there's little ambient light.
But what do we see across the industry? A focus on faster and faster supporting electronics, with more and more sophisticated visual effects, and little priority given to simply including a bigger camera sensor. Now, admittedly, HTC's Zoe system, taking shots all the time so that it can capture a burst of photos starting before the shutter icon was tapped, is downright innovative, and the iPhone (and Nexus 5's) integrated hardware-accelerated HDR can produce very impressive results without needing a tripod. Plus a mountain of shooting modes that centre around taking a burst of photos and then post-processing them for special effect.
I'm not knocking all of this - innovation and intelligence in camera hardware and software is always a good thing. And such modes and tricks help close the gap to Nokia's pair of camera phone champions. But they don't get there in the end. I'm often quoted as saying "physics always wins". What I mean by this is that, everything else being equal, the device with superior physics will win, i.e. the larger sensor. Now, although it's hard to directly compare cameras hosted on different devices running under different smartphone operating systems, the size gap demonstrated above (e.g. a factor of 3:1 from the Lumia 1020 to the Galaxy S5), plus the OIS and Xenon, mean that there's a big mismatch in the physics. [Another snapshot example: the Nokia 808 PureView's camera sensor is SIX times larger than that in the Apple iPhone 5S.]
"Yes, but the Lumia 1020 takes a couple of seconds at least between photos!" is a popular retort. "When you're faced with kids and pets, this is too long and you'll miss the shot!" This is partly true and I've missed a few golden photos while waiting for my Lumia 1020 to 'process' the previous snap. But the photos, in such indoor, low light, fast moving conditions, that I get with the big sensor and Xenon flash on the 1020 are all sharp and usable, while the typical iPhone or Samsung Galaxy or Sony Xperia snaps will all be blurry messes to some degree.
Quoting from my own article "Stunning Black imaging":
No, not a pub shot mock-up from yours truly, but a real world shot of a different small relative. Two years old and never staying still ever - no concept of striking a pose, and the only way to photograph her reliably is with Xenon flash, as on the Lumia 1020. Again I've blurred her face to protect her privacy, but you'll get the idea:
It's this sort of shot which means that, once you've used a camera phone with Xenon flash (in my case, starting with the Nokia N82, back in 2007) you can't really go back. In this sort of indoor situation with kids, you could take a hundred photos with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy and every one would be blurred. Or you could take just one with Xenon and get something you can share instantly around the whole family - crystal clear.
Yes, Nokia has experimented with fancy burst mode effects too, there's even a 'Smart Camera' mode in the main Nokia Camera application on the Lumia 1020. But you know what? Quality is lower, even under optimal circumstances, and I never use it. Every time I've tried, I end up with something with artefacts or noise or blur or some other weirdness.
In fact, in addition to my chart above, this photo (credit below) speaks volumes too...
From left to right, a front-facing camera, an 'entry level' camera (probably 1/4", but not a million miles from the camera size used in most other smartphones of today), the Lumia 1520's 1/2.5" camera (so very similar to that in the imminent Galaxy S5) and finally, on the right, the Lumia 1020's 1/1.5" unit, positively dwarfing the rest. In fact, every time I look at this photo and then look at the Lumia 1020, I find myself somewhat incredulous that the cuboid above fits inside the sleek camera phone in front of me. The same goes for the Nokia 808, with an even larger camera body, yet fitted within relatively sleek lines.
But this isn't meant to be a 'rah rah Nokia' article, the key takeaway here is that, however many software and processing gimmicks a manufacturer adds to a smartphone camera, none of them has as much impact as a significantly larger sensor in the first place.
The 'All New HTC One' was leaked yesterday and I was asked if its rumoured dual 2MP/4MP cameras would combine to produce better photos than the 1020 and the 808. I was asked the same, in the past, about the 'clear pixel' camera in the Motorola Moto X and the 'EXMOR'-technology in the Xperia Z1. Whatever the innovations and advances in each new technology, they're small compared to the giant deficiencies in sensor size.
In each case my answer's the same: "Not a chance. Physics wins. Physics always wins."
You've got to love an informed summary, in this case Marc, from The PureView Club, summarising the pros and cons of the Nokia Lumia 1020 and 1520, with special focus(!) on the camera side of things, and set against the context of the older Nokia 808 (PureView), which still might be a valid choice for some people. It's a longish piece, but a good primer on the devices with high resolution sensors and oversampling.
From Marc's article:
What Nokia PureView flagship to choose: the Lumia 1020, the newest Lumia 1520? Or still: the 808 PureView? I’m getting the question more and more often these days – and boy it’s a pretty tough one to answer. Like so often in life, it all really depends on your personal situation and preferences....
I’ll illustrate this post with some of the shots I got from all three devices, working with them over the past months or even years. Click on the shot to see the original on Flickr (or OneDrive). Like this shot very dear to me, captured on the first day I could actually use the Nokia 808 PureView I had been looking forward to so much.
Nokia 808 PureView
The first PureView device (and flagship), the Nokia 808 PureView with its overwhelming 41MP camera is getting harder to get, although it has become pretty cheap now if you’d like to settle for a second hand device. Where I live people are offering it roughly for somewhere between 150 and 250 euros. Would it be a good choice? That depends on what you expect from it.
Its OS won’t receive any more updates, part of its functionality (like the weather service) isn’t supported anymore and might even drain the battery if you use 3G (I use my 808 offline only).
Although you’d be buying into a “dead OS”, making calls with it won’t be a problem of course. Standby time is absolutely excellent (especially if you turn 3G off). And although it’s not as easy to share your shots, it’s not impossible – you could even choose to only use WiFi.
There are other advantages when choosing this “old” device (available since june 2012). The camera settings menu is still very rich and versatile, although you can’t manually change exposure time.
Its 16GB internal memory is extandable with a micro-SD (up to 64GB according to some, I use 32GB). It has HDMI out and supports USB-on-the-Go (both of which I never used in the years I worked with it).
It has a strong Xenon flash (stronger than the one on the 1020, the 1520 has a double LED). Pushing the “wake” button for a longer time will start a very strong flashlight too (which I used a lot!). You can actually exchange the battery of the Nokia 808 PureView, or even put a ridiculously large one in....
Marc then goes into more detail on the background of the Nokia 808, before launching into the current camera phone champion:
Nokia Lumia 1020
....That’s why the built-in software is so extremely important, and we’ve seen major changes coming to the Nokia Lumia 1020 with the Black update, also apart from Raw support. Much better compression, much better colours and contrast – a much better JPG result in general. This isn’t new by the way – owners of the Nokia 808 PureView have seen major improvements coming with software updates.
With Nokia Camera, you still choose an enormous amount of different settings to get the exact shot you’d like: white balance, distance, ISO, shutter time, exposure value – but there’s no seperate ND-filter and there still are no controls for sharpness, contrast, brightness and saturation.
....I don’t think I have to explain the major advantages of the Lumia 1020 running on Windows Phone. The once limited Store is now piled up with all the apps you need. I can’t think of any I’m missing to be honest, in fact: I couldn’t think of one application missing at all – but I’m quite sure some dedicated apps you might know from Android or iOS isn’t there yet. So be it, I guess it will come in the near future.
...Also, the Nokia Lumia 1020 offers Rich Recording like the 808 PureView, but it adds Optical Image Stabilization Nokia introduced with the Lumia 920 – enabling you to make incredible shots under not so great or even dark circumstances.
Marc then closes the classic 808/1020 argument with:
So the 808 could still be a good choice and most likely a cheaper alternative if you can get it, with a few imaging features you won’t (yet) find on the 1020, but also some things you might really miss, like OIS.
Marc also seems impressed by the 1520 'phablet', also with oversampling camera...
Nokia Lumia 1520
This is the device with which the Black update was premiered, but it didn’t just stand out for that. In a lot of respects this is Nokia’s best Windows Phone so far in term of specifications. It has got a whopping screen size and quality. Flying to Barcelona I’ve been looking at not much else than this fantastic screen, watching several videos I copied to the micro-SD – since yes, the Lumia 1520′s 32GB internal memory is expandable.
...Nokia Camera is exactly the same application on your 1520. The only important camera difference is – of course – the size of the sensor: 20MP, which means 19MP effective in 4:3 aspect ratio and 16MP shooting in 16:9. Do you notice that difference? Yes of course you do: the Lumia 1020 has a sensor twice this size, so no wonder. But still, the Lumia 1520 is capable of making some great shots with high quality, and it’s even easier to show them to others on the 6 inch screen.
You can read the full article here. Marc doesn't really pick an overall winner, but his expansion of the pros and cons for each should be enough for any prospective purchaser. I'd include my own one line summary of each:
- Nokia 808 PureView: Biggest and most flexible camera, but slower and less future proof for everything else
- Nokia Lumia 1020: The best camera overall, with an almost perfect set of hardware and (fixed) software after the Lumia Black update
- Nokia Lumia 1520: A compromised camera but still decent, in a very high spec phablet body
Due to the large sensors, wide angle optics and relatively long focal lengths, Nokia's 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 haven't traditionally been thought of as great for 'macro' photography, i.e. this is seen one of the only weaknesses of these two 'PureView' cameras. However, it's worth noting one top tip for achieving great results anyway - and, thanks to our friend Olivier Noirhomme, we have some stunning examples of the technique in action, as proof!
It all started with Olivier's shot of his cat's eyes:
There are several things to note here:
- It was taken on a camera phone not known for its macro shots (in this case, the Nokia 808)
- There's terrific lack of depth of field (i.e. bokeh effect)
- The shot is incredibly crisp and well focussed
Now, note that although the Nokia 808 PureView is used as the example device here, because it can shoot in 2MP with a genuinely lossless 5x digital zoom, much of the same technique will apply to the Lumia 1020 - with the main difference that in the 1020's case, you'll need to shoot at 5MP, using its maximum lossless zoom of (up to) 3x and then crop in slightly in the built-in imaging tools.
The trick is to use the PureView digital zoom to get 'closer'. Not physically closer, since the 808 and 1020 can't focus once you get closer than about 12-15cm, but optically closer. This trick has been known since the 41MP PureView devices were first launched, in 2012, but there's a subtlety here that hasn't been specifically mentioned before.
You see, you might say "What's the point in using PureView zoom to get artificially closer? Why not just shoot at the full resolution (manually in the 808's case and by default in the 1020's case) and then crop in ('zoom later') to get the bit you want at a later date?"
Now, admittedly, the zoom/crop later technique is flexible, in that you can crop in on subjects and framings that you might not have considered when taking the shot, but by zooming in at capture time, the auto-focus algorithms (which trigger off image contrast in the centre/manually-selected 5% or so of the viewfinder) can be a lot more accurate. In other words, they can adjust focus to be perfect for your subject, rather than just 'pretty good', since that 5% of the viewfinder is now only concerned with your primary target.
If this all sounds as if it shouldn't make much difference, look again at the cats eyes above and then have a look at some more examples from Olivier here:
If you've ever tried to take good macro shots of nature subjects using an auto-focus camera phone then you'll appreciate how remarkably good and crisp these are.
The procedure then, if you wanted to experiment, is:
- Find a great subject, preferably in good light, and hope it doesn't fly away or otherwise move in the couple of seconds you'll take to set the shot up!
- Start up the Camera application (usually by long pressing the shutter key) and (on the Nokia 808) switch to Creative 2MP mode
- Swipe up the screen to go to maximum PureView 'zoom'
- Frame your shot and tap on the viewfinder on the exact spot that you'd like to centre the focussing calculations on
- Tap the shutter icon to take the shot (don't use the physical camera shutter button as it will override the focus centre and also introduce extra possible 'shake')
- (on the Lumia 1020 only) Use the 'Edit' cropping tool to crop in better on the exact subject framing needed
Since you're unlikely to get the perfect shot in one go, now that you have one 'in the bag' already, take a few more, experimenting with different framings and angles and zoom factors*. After all, the single, huge biggest secret of the very best photographers (like Olivier) is that they only show off their very best photos. In other words, they might shoot 10 photos of a grasshopper but only show you the best one, creating the best initial impression.
* Astute readers will note that, by zooming right in, to 1:1 on the sensor, on the 808 and 1020, all benefits of oversanpling are lost. While this is true (and accounts for the 'good light' caveat above), it may well be that your subject doesn't need maximum zoom. In other words, you can use (say) 3x zoom on the 808 at 2MP and still get a degree of noise-reducing oversampling.
This isn't cheating, it's part of the skill of photography - nothing screams rank amateur like someone showing you "25 [almost identical] snaps of a nice rock formation I came across on holiday". Far better to take the single best snap, crop and frame it perfectly and then let the viewer's eyes linger and appreciate.
Another of Olivier's examples, to whet your photographic appetite. Bumblebee:
Pretty impressive, eh?
In summary, whichever PureView device you have, experiment with zooming at capture time for macro subjects, giving you more precise control of (auto-)focussing.
I love a bit of geeky research. Even more when it's done by me! In this case, a generic piece which should be of interest to all, looking at the improvement in battery capacity in the first few charge cycles - turns out the same phenomenon happens after extended storage too. See the quote and link for details. Don't worry about the testing being done on an Android phone - Li-Ion is a standard technology and this applies to any Symbian or Windows Phone device.
From my own article over at Android Beat:
...I decided to test this, buying a brand new cell for my smartphone, charging it fully and then playing the same one hour video numerous times, noting the battery percentage reported at each stage, then recharging and repeating several times...
...Here then are the results from the first four charge/discharge cycles on a new aLLreli replacement battery. (aLLreli was a new name to me, but in use it seems just as reliable as the ever-popular ANKER cells):
...After some research, it seems that, following long periods (months) in storage, a ‘passivation’ layer* builds up on the cathode of the battery and it takes a few charge cycles for this to be effectively broken up and battery capacity restored. So, when you buy a ‘new’ battery what’s actually happening is that you’re buying a battery that was at full capacity and raring to go from the factory but which has sat on a supplier’s shelf for months waiting for you to buy it...
You can read the whole article here, which goes on to point out that the same passivation layer builds up if you store a battery or a sealed smartphone for long periods, plus there are links to a piece on reducing the degradation of your smartphone battery over time.
There's a school of thought which says "Why worry about all this, just use the phone/battery and be happy?" I understand this viewpoint, but you have to admit that there's a certain satisfaction in knowing that your battery is giving you the most it can each day and that, a couple of years down the line, your device will still be saleable or useable by whoever you pass it on to, all because you understood a little of what makes a battery tick in the first place.
Jan Koum, WhatsApp's CEO, has announced that the popular cross platform messaging application (bought by Facebook outright a couple of days ago) will be adding "voice services". Although WhatsApp's upgrade will happen first on Android and iOS, Jan did say that this would be followed "on some Nokia and BlackBerry phones", implying either support for voice services on Symbian or Windows Phone, both of which platforms have active WhatsApp clients at the moment.
From the TechCrunch article:
Today Jan Koum, the CEO of WhatsApp — acquired by Facebook last week for $19 billion — delivered another news bomb on top of last week’s milestone: he announced that the messaging giant is finally moving into voice — a move announced at MWC, the conference for mobile carriers that apps like WhatsApp are disrupting.
The move will put WhatsApp — and by default Facebook — more squarely in competition against the likes of KakaoTalk, Line, BBM and other messaging apps that also offer voice services.
“We use the least amount of bandwidth and we use the hell out of it,” he said. “We will focus on simplicity.” Voice will come to Android and iOS first and then following on some Nokia and BlackBerry phones, he added.
Koum today said that WhatsApp to date has 465 million monthly active users and 330 million daily users — an increase of 15 million on the number released just last week when news of the Facebook sale broke. “We couldn’t be more humbled by our growth,” he said. Interestingly, today is the company’s birthday. It was founded on February 24, 2009.
WhatsApp works across all mobile platforms, delivering messages and other content between users, but it's all keyed to user's SIM cards, phone numbers and address books. Adding low bandwidth voice services was perhaps the next logical step.
The emboldened phrase above is ambiguous in terms of its platform intentions. Common sense would dictate that he means Windows Phone and Blackberry OS 10, but WhatsApp has been old-school in the past and I wouldn't put it past the company to upgrade the older Nokia smartphone platform (Symbian) instead - this client continues to be updated regularly, even in 2014.
As does the Windows Phone client, of course. Maybe both platforms? We shall see.
Today, at MWC, Nokia announced the Nokia X range of affordable smartphones, running on a customised version of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) software. The devices, the Nokia X, X+, and XL, are aimed primarily at "growth economies" and are compatible with generic Android apps, but also run a range of Nokia and Microsoft apps and services.
With the introduction of the X range, Nokia is adding a fourth product tier to its portfolio of mobile devices, complementing the existing mobile phone, Asha, and Lumia categories. The Windows Phone-powered Lumia range remains Nokia's "primary platform" and "is where we introduce the greatest innovation and provide full compatibility with the Microsoft experience".
Stephen Elop noted that while there would be some overlap, the Nokia X products would generally be priced below the lowest cost Lumia product (currently the Lumia 520) and that the price points of both the Asha and X portfolio would be pushed downwards as Windows Phone devices moved to lower price points in the future.
The X family runs a Nokia customised UI, dubbed the 'Nokia X platform', that draws on elements of both Windows Phone and the Series 40-based Asha software platform. The homescreen, a true mix of Asha and Lumia, has a set of customisable and re-sizable (app) tiles, some of which show "live information". The Fast Lane screen, drawn directly from Asha, shows a list of recent activities (tasks), allowing users to quickly switch between their most commonly used apps and services.
Stephen Elop, executive vice president of Nokia's Devices & Services, said:
"Nokia has connected billions of people around the world, and today we demonstrated how our portfolio is designed to connect the next billion people to great experiences."
"Our deliberate approach is to offer four tiers of products including our affordable entry-level devices like the new Nokia 220; our entry-level Asha touch phones like the new Nokia Asha 230; our new Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL smartphones primarily for growth economies; and our Lumia portfolio, which is where we introduce the greatest innovation and provide full compatibility with the Microsoft experience."
Nokia X, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL
The Nokia X is the entry level product in the X portfolio and is priced at €89 (before taxes and subsidies), with immediate availability in select markets in Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. It has a 4" IPS capacitive display (WVGA), 3G connectivity, 1GHz dual core processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB eMMC internal storage, and a 3MP fixed focus camera.
The Nokia X+ is a specification-bumped version of the Nokia X, optimised for "multimedia enthusiasts". It has the same core specifications, but has additional RAM (768MB) and a 4GB microSD card (replaceable, obviously) is included for additional external storage. It is priced at €99 and will be available in select markets in Q2. Both the X and X+ will be available in bright green, bright red, cyan, yellow, black and white.
The Nokia XL sits at the upper end of the X portfolio. It has a 5" display, 5MP autofocus (with flash) rear-facing camera, 2MP front-facing camera (ideal for Skype video calls). The Nokia XL has a price point of €109 and will be available from Q2 in bright green, orange, cyan, yellow, black and white.
All three Nokia X devices are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (1 GHz dual-core) and support Dual SIM, letting people switch SIM cards to get better tariffs.
Android app compatible, but with a range of Nokia and Microsoft services
Nokia describes the X as being "compatible with Android apps". Apps can be installed on to the device using the Nokia Store, but third party app stores (e.g. Yandex) are also supported, and it is also possible to side load apps using a file manager. Around a dozen third party apps will be preloaded on the X devices. Many apps will run unmodified on the Nokia X, but some may need to be recompiled. In most cases Nokia says that developers will be able to bring their apps to the Nokia Store "in just a few hours".
As an AOSP device, Google services are not available on the Nokia X family. Instead, Nokia has "very deliberately" provided Nokia and Microsoft services instead. The Nokia X family was described in the press conference as "taking users to the Microsoft cloud".
Key services on the X family from Nokia will be HERE Maps and Nokia Mix Radio. The first of these comes in the form of a single app, but includes walk, car, and transit navigation. Each X device will come with a navigation licence for a single country, reflecting the low price point of the product (there is, currently no way to add a license for another country). Nokia Mix Radio, as on Nokia's Lumia devices, provides free streaming music across multiple mixes and includes the personalised "Play Me" feature.
Microsoft services available out of the box include Skype and OneDrive. Other services will also be available via the Nokia Store (e.g. Outlook) and it was made clear that additional services will be delivered in the future. In select markets, the X devices will come with 1 month of free Skype calling and 10GB of OneDrive cloud storage space.
Stephen Elop described the X family as a "feeder system for Lumia" and as a "gateway to Microsoft services". He finished the press conference by saying that Nokia will enable Microsoft to "connect and empower a mobile and cloud-first world", echoing a statement recently made by Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella.
We'll have more (on AAWP) on the Nokia X and some of the strategic implications for Nokia and Windows Phone in due course.
File this Friday flow under 'link of interest', certainly, but it's a pointer to a way in which our smartphones might get even smarter in the future. In this case it's a Google project, based on an Android prototype, but the ideas and principles might very well be seen across other platforms in the future - at least three or four years down the line. Project Tango's prototype hardware and software enables the humble smartphone to be intimately aware with the physicality of its surroundings in a way which hasn't previously been possible.
From Android Beat:
Google today took the wraps off Project Tango, a prototype smartphone from the Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. ATAP, now under the oversight of Google’s Android group, has developed a sensor-filled smartphone capable of mapping the 3D environment of a device.
Tango is a 5-inch prototype Android smartphone with a low-powered, vision-processing chip, Myriad 1. The Myriad 1 was custom designed by Movidius for Google and can map the surroundings with minimal impact on the phone’s battery. The chip and associated sensors make more than 250 million 3D measurements every second, and then use this data to build a 3D model of the phone’s surroundings.
Google points out the many uses of a phone with 3D mapping technology, which range from everyday activities like shopping to entertainment like games:
"What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? What if directions to a new location didn’t stop at the street address? What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building? What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?
Imagine playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or transforming the hallways into a tree-lined path. Imagine competing against a friend for control over territories in your home with your own miniature army, or hiding secret virtual treasures in physical places around the world?"
There's clearly a huge potential here, but also a huge demand on hardware and data resources. In principle, our phones could build up (and keep up to date) a complete physical model of the world, right down to furniture and positions of pot plants(!)
My gut feel is that the technology is at least five years away - maybe more, but it's something that we've also seen in a much more limited fashion already in the HERE Maps indoor mapping, of course.
In terms of hardware, the key to the project are the extra sensors:
It's interesting that a second camera is thought to be needed - I'd have expected accelerometers and gyroscopes to have been enough, along with the depth sensing (i.e. how far away things are). Curious.
Naturally there's a glossy video to accompany the project, well worth a look:
The Project Tango hardware includes a set of custom APIs, giving access to the position, orientation and depth of the phone. Google is making available 200 prototypes and will distribute them to developers 'who are experienced in Android and can leverage the technology in the Project Tango phone'. See also the ATAP group at Google’s Project Tango web site.
I didn't think this comparison would happen, due to the QX-100's price and availability, but we've been kindly loaned one and I set out to pitch it, chained to an Android smartphone, against the best of Nokia past (the 808 PureView) and Nokia future (the Lumia 1020). The QX-100, in case you hadn't been following the tech buzz, really is the guts of a high end standalone camera in a form that can be used directly by any compatible smartphone. Let battle commence!
Don't confuse the Sony QX-100 with the budget QX-10 that I used for comparison recently. The QX-100 has a much higher spec:
|Sensor||21MP, 1" BSI CMOS sensor|
|Lens||Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T, 3.6x optical zoom, Steadyshot stabilisation|
|Shutter Speeds||Auto (4 - 1/2000) / Program Auto (1 - 1/2000) / Aperture Priority (8 - 1/2000)|
|Aperture (depends on zoom employed)||F1.8 (W) - 4.9 (T)|
|Focus range||AF approx. 5 cm (0.16') to infinity (W), approx. 55 cm (1.80') to infinity (T)|
|Shooting Modes||Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Video|
|ISO Range||ISO 160 - 25600|
|Memory Card||microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC, Memory Stick Micro (included)|
|Connectivity||USB 2, Wi-fi, NFC|
|Dimensions||63 x 63 x 56 mm|
|Video||1440 x 1080 @ 30fps|
Anyone remotely technical will realise that a lot of these specifications rise up to, and slightly beyond those of even the mighty Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 smartphones, meaning that these two devices have a real challenger on their hands. Admittedly, the challenge is coming from an accessory that clamps on the back of a rival smartphone, as opposed to a device that's as slim and light as the two Nokias, but it's still a challenge worth exploring.
There are some pros and cons for the Sony 'clip-on camera' approach, of course.
Can shoot independently of the attached Android or iOS phone, i.e. doesn't have to be attached
There's no flash integration, for really low light or moving subject shots
It's one more device to carry, and bulky
It's one more device to remember to charge
It's not quick to set up for an ad-hoc, impulse shot
Shot to shot time is high, for full resolution shots close to ten seconds
OK, mainly 'cons' then. But the Sony system will garner a few fans, I'm sure. In terms of specs, the sensor here is almost 50% larger than that in the Nokia 808 and twice as large as that in the Lumia 1020, though the use of optical zoom means that, when zoomed, the aperture decreases significantly, letting in less light.
So, an interesting accessory and an interesting set of tradeoffs. I'm expecting that images will on the whole be better and more detailed with the QX-100, but not to the degree that it's worth putting up with the 'cons' listed. But let's put it all to the test out in the real world.
Direct comparisons are complicated a little by the various shooting resolutions. The QX-100 shoots, for best quality, at 18MP in 4:3 mode. The Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 are both set to oversample the high resolution underlying images (typically 38MP) to produce 5MP output that can be easily shared. Comparing 18MP and 5MP is obviously not fair to either device set-up - they're just different. Add in the (just over) 3x optical zoom compared to the (just under) 3x lossless digital zoom on the two Nokias and you've got a recipe for confusion.
As a result, I've varied the approach, appropriate for each test case, considering both the scene overview, looking at exposure, contrast and colour, and so on, and the maximum resolved detail, often by using zoom in each case as needed. The real world application of the latter test is, of course, when you can't get closer to take a photo of something - perhaps in a wildlife park or in a crowd of people at an event.
Also noteworthy is that the QX-100 and its 'PlayMemories Mobile' software has to be set so that 'Review image' is set to 'Original', so that the resolution asked for actually gets transferred over to the phone rather than just being stored on the microSD card within the camera. If speed is of the essence then 'Review image' can be turned down to '2MP' but this complicates the workflow a lot.
Finally, the sheer capability of the three camera phones/gadgets here means that I'm going to have to think laterally in order to find some test shots that stretch their capabilities and show up differences. So no sunny day shots, no easy snaps.... Everything below was shot in challenging light or situations.
With all this in mind, I headed out one evening to the Warner Bros Studio Tour, not far from my home...
In moderate ambient lighting, the famous Harry Potter flying car, suspended from the ceiling high above, and needing a touch of zoom to frame properly. You can see how relatively low the light was, in that the weak stage headlamps come out overexposed in the photos. Here's the overall shot, focussed on the nearest bumper corner, which appeared almost identically on each test device:
In low light, physics will nearly always win, and this is borne out by the QX-100, with its larger sensor and higher output resolution. Having said that, if more zoom had been employed (as you'll see below), the effective aperture would have been reduced, with negative effect. This shot also shows up well one of the use cases where the older Nokia 808's oversampling arguably just pips that in the newer Lumia 1020.
In lower lighting, some Chinese lanterns. Here's the zoomed shot, i.e. this is already at 3x, the middle lantern was the focus point and was perhaps 60cm in diameter:
Here, for direct comparison, are crops from the images from the Nokia 808 (top), Nokia Lumia 1020 (middle) and Sony QX-100 (bottom) - click the links if you want to download the original JPGs. Note that in this case, for ease of comparing the patterns, I also did the QX-100 a slight disservice by downscaling its crop slightly so as to match the width of the other two:
A semi-transparent, vividly-coloured shape, lit from behind, was never going to be easy to capture. At full digital zoom, the Nokia 808 loses its oversampling completely, of course, so we end up with something that's rather noisy and grainy. The 1020 should suffer the same, but is helped by its BSI sensor and newer image processing algorithms, while the optical zoom in the QX-100 nails the pattern and colours, and all with minimal noise - very impressive.
In really low lighting, a mock Hogwarts portrait, around 6 metres away. Again, here's the zoomed in shot, i.e. this is already at 3x:
Despite the lack of ovesampling (because the zoom was all used 'up') in the Nokia 808, I'd give its photo the edge over the 1020 here. Possibly down to the larger sensor, possibly just the different subject matter. The QX-100's higher output resolution, after the 3x optical zoom, is dramatically 'closer', though you can see that the contrast and quality of the image is starting to go in such zoomed low light conditions.
Outside, lit only by the fairly weak floodlights, was a giant poster. This time I moved closer so that no zoom was needed, and then cropped. Here's the full scene:
That the QX-100 and Nokia 808 images are almost identical is a tribute to how good the latter is, with the oversampling and larger sensors producing stunningly clear images, even in such low light. In truth, the Lumia 1020 isn't that far behind, with only a slightly odd colour cast giving us a three way draw here.
Outside again, but an hour before, as the sun set, there's this shot of some statues. This time I was more interested in handling of exposure and overall atmosphere. So this time I've downsampled each to fit the page here and then cropped top and bottom for convenience of comparison, from the Nokia 808 (top), Nokia Lumia 1020 (middle) and Sony QX-100 (bottom) - click the links if you want to download the original JPGs:
In fact, it's tough to draw conclusions here, since each phone's algorithms decided on a slightly different approach. The 808 flat out goes for more of a silhouette effect, while the 1020 and the QX-100 both try and deliver some foreground texture and detail. I prefer the Lumia 1020's rendition, from the bottom two, i.e. above the QX-100's, getting the colour of the outer two statues. The 808 and 1020 images could be reversed quite happily through tweaking the settings in the relevant Camera applications, mind you.
OK, take the light right down to nothing, the (rainy) dead of night and just a few street lights, let's see how the three devices do. Here's the full scene, as seen by the Lumia 1020:
Here, for direct comparison, are crops from the images from the Nokia 808 (top), Nokia Lumia 1020 (middle) and Sony QX-100 (bottom) - click the links if you want to download the original JPGs. Again, I've downsampled the QX-100's a bit so that the framing matches better and you can compare more conveniently:
From top to bottom(!), the Nokia 808 gets the light level about right, it really was that dark, and with only minimal digital noise, but the overall photo is uninspiring in terms of colours and shades. The Lumia 1020 and Sony QX-100, both with OIS, allow a longer shutter time and, as a result, produce something that's lit more like a movie set (ironic, considering where I'd just been!). The 1020 does well, but there's noise that even the overdsampling can't get rid of, while the huge 1" sensor on the QX-100 produces a wonderfully clean image and, arguably wins this comparison.
Take the six text cases above and the Sony QX-100 comes out the winner by a small but noticeable margin. The huge sensor (bigger even than the Nokia 808's), allied to BSI technology, OIS and optical zoom, produces stunning images in indifferent light conditions - as you'd expect from the guts of a £500 high end standalone camera.
However, there are several big takeaways here for me:
- The fact that I'm even comparing the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 with a high end standalone device (think 'micro four-thirds' units) is a huge compliment - that they only lost out by a 'small' margin is very impressive.
- The QX-100 is a lovely piece of hardware, beautifully built and highly specified. But it's an unwieldy lump to have to get out, turn on and attach to an Android (or iOS) smartphone, not to mention using it and waiting an eternity for shots to be saved across by Wi-fi. And then putting the whole kaboodle away again afterwards. In comparison, the two Nokias were an utter breeze - just mash down on the shutter button to launch the camera app and snap. A couple of seconds at most.
- The test cases here didn't include any that might need flash - because the QX-100 doesn't have one. So low light shots may well be fabulous, you might even get away with posed shots of people at parties and events - the big sensor means that shutter times can be quite short, etc. But there's no concept of illuminating subjects in very poor light ot or 'freezing' them mid-action with Xenon flash.
Would I consider a Sony QX-100 accessory (currently about £300 on Amazon UK) if I had a bog standard Android smartphone like a Galaxy S4 or an Apple iPhone 5? I don't think so - yes, the quality would be better in almost all use cases, but the compromises listed at the top of this article are just too many. Taking photos on a phone is all about 'the camera you have with you' - and I have a feeling that, with the best will in the world, the QX-100 is bulky and heavy enough to be left at home most of the time - and so won't be with you when you need it most.
Every time, during the tests, when I reached for one of the Nokia smartphones, I'd breath a sigh of relief and how quick and easy it was to get the shot... and I'd sigh with frustration every time I had to wrestle the phone+QX-100 combination out of my coat pocket. Which kind of says it all....
As regular readers will know, Skype for Symbian has been in an uncertain state for around two years, with the official (somewhat underwhelming) client unchanged and periodically available in the Nokia Store and then.... not. It seems that we're entering into an official period of the latter now, with Skype's underlying architecture changes meaning that very old clients like Symbian's are going to be left behind.
Here's the Skype statement in full:
We have been working hard to make Skype for mobile better than ever, and adopting Skype cloud enables us to drive improved battery life, improve connections and introduce exciting new features. However Symbian wasn’t built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS and Android.
The Skype for Symbian app will be removed from the Nokia store today, however users that have already downloaded the app can continue to use it."
It's no secret that Skype, under Microsoft's ownership, has been drastically altering the way Skype works in terms of connections and notifications. In truth, it's a miracle that a two year old client still works at all.
The installer for Skype has been online and able to be sideloaded for ages. Feel free to install it and use it, though the fact that the Skype team made this announcement at all doesn't bode well - I suspect that they're worried that they're about to 'break' something in terms of compatibility with the old Symbian client. Will it work for another week, another month, another year? Who knows.
Do let us know in the upcoming months if you notice Skype stopping working - we'll update this story or create a new one, etc.
In All About Symbian Insight 246, hosted by Steve and Rafe, we start by reviewing the state of Symbian with regard to signing, which leads to news of the forthcoming curated on-device app store AppList. Other topics covered in the podcast include Delight custom firmware releases for the Nokia E7 and X7, and a discussion around the three year anniversary of the February 11th announcement.
This podcast was recorded on Wednesday 12th February 2014.
Topics covered in this podcast include:
- A few last updates break through the iced-up Nokia Store (updated)
- Volunteers needed to help with (post-Nokia) Symbian app store and client
- Delight custom firmware for the Nokia E7 now available
- Nokia N8 Delight v6.4 custom firmware (CFW) released
- Symbian application updates in 2014
- Revamped Nokia Developer website drops Symbian SDKs and documentation
You can listen to earlier episodes of the AAS Insight Podcast in our media section.
Richard Dorman has been one of the leading Nokia camera phone photographers for several years, with some groundbreaking long exposures of water in particular - and in this detailed blog post he goes through ten years in his life, with examples from the first ever camera-toting smartphone, the Nokia 7650, through a mountain of Symbian-based handsets, up to the very latest Lumia 1020.
In addition to the examples, Richard also includes links to each relevant Flickr set, in case you want to see more from each.
The low grade images from the 7650 and other early 'Series 60' handsets are astonishingly bad - can you remember when camera phones were this primitive? It's evident from Richard's examples that it was the arrival of the Nokia N70, with 2 megapixel camera and decent optics, that the camera phone art became a 'thing'. And even the N70 didn't have auto-focus, with Richard really finding his stride, it seems, in the massive-selling Nokia N95, the world's first 5MP auto-focus camera phone - I still have one and fondle it lovingly sometimes!
From the detailed article:
Nokia 6600 – year 2004
And from more modern times:
Whilst in US we drove down to Washington DC to meet up with our Californian friends for a few day. I made sure to get up at 5am one morning and I think it was worth it for the pictures. Full set here
Nokia Lumia 1020 – 2013 to present
Nokia and HTC have entered into a patent and technology collaboration agreement. As a result all pending patent litigation between the two companies, which spanned seven countries and multiple technology areas, has been settled. As a result of the agreement HTC will make payments to Nokia, essentialy marking a victory for Nokia in the dispute between the two companies.
The technology collaboration portion of the agreement is in reference to HTC's LTE patent portfolio. The logical assumption here is that Nokia will help HTC gain revenue from its 4G related intellectual property, potentially by bundling it with Nokia's own intellectual property portfolio. The two companies note that they will also explore future technology collaboration opportunities.
The full terms of the agreement are confidential, which means there is unlikely to be any disclosure of the level of payments that HTC is making to Nokia. HTC already pays a license fee to Nokia for standard essential patents (SEPs), but this will now be increased, reflecting an additional license fee for non-SEPs.
Paul Melin, chief intellectual property officer at Nokia, said:
"We are very pleased to have reached a settlement and collaboration agreement with HTC, which is a long standing licensee for Nokia's standards essential patents. This agreement validates Nokia's implementation patents and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities."
Grace Lei, General Counsel of HTC, said:
"Nokia has one of the most preeminent patent portfolios in the industry. As an industry pioneer in smartphones with a strong patent portfolio, HTC is pleased to come to this agreement, which will enable us to stay focused on innovation for consumers."
Florian Mueller, writing on FOSS Patents, suggests that HTC may have agreed to settle because it was facing a potential US import ban from this coming Monday as a result of an ITC ruling. He also noted that the agreement "simplifies things with a view to the formal closing of Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's wireless devices business", especially since HTC and Microsoft have an existing cross-licensing agreement.
For Nokia, the agreement, quite apart from any financial implications, is important strategically because it underlines the strength of the Nokia patent portfolio. Given previous litigation prompted agreements with Apple (2011) and BlackBerry (2012), plus the in place licensing agreements with Samsung, Huawei, LG, Lenovo, and many others it appears that any company wishing to manufacture smartphone will be obliged to make patent related licensing payments to Nokia.
HERE, Nokia's location business, has launched a new blog, Three Sixty, in order to provide information about HERE's activities and related location topics. Describing the blog as a "conversation platform" HERE is encouraging its audience to contribute comments, questions, and ideas.
So why the Three Sixty name? As the blog itself explains it's all about providing a broad and insightful view into all the many topics that make up location:
We aim to cover all the location-related topics so that you can get the full picture of the world of location. That means we will not only look at location from our own point of view, but also through the eyes of independent contributors, including experts in cartography, connected driving, design and much more.
And this is why we decided to name our blog Three Sixty. We want to build a social platform for news, views, and conversations that provide a 360-degree perspective of the location business. The name also relates to the roots of location, back when people used the compass and its 360-degrees to map the world around them.
The new blog can also be seen as early preview of the sort of marketing and communications actions that will be necessary when Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's Devices & Services business is completed. Previously, topics and posts around HERE's activities have published on the Nokia Conversations blog. Nokia Conversations, which has always been device heavy, will presumably move into the Microsoft purview, hence the need for a new home for the HERE blog.
In terms of current Windows Phone activities it is understood that the development and distribution of HERE apps for Lumia devices (i.e. HERE Maps, HERE Drive, Here Transit) will pass to Microsoft. However, the HERE platform (maps, places, navigation, traffic, and other services) will remain with HERE. In other words the client apps are going to Microsoft, but the platform very much stays with Nokia.
There will be close collaboration between HERE (Nokia) and Microsoft, with the latter having direct input to the future development direction of the HERE platform. It is now clear, if you want to keep up with the latest details of the HERE platform, then the Three Sixty blog should be your first port of call.
One of our regular readers, Brian in Florida, USA, has been out and about with a new steadicam-like mounting system for generic smartphones - in the video below, he demonstrates it by strapping his Nokia 808 onto his chest and going for a bike ride over rough terrain. Effectively your own arms and legs (and, in this case, saddle!) provide the steadicam action - but the Velocity Clip does seem worth a look, whatever smartphone you own.
As you know, I am always looking to new tech gadgets to make my Nokia 808 (and other smartphones) take better photos and video. The family and I started biking recently, and I wanted to film some of our outings.
So I started looking into ways to mount my 808 on my bike to capture some video. Everything I tried resulted in horribly violent shaking video. I doubt even the 1020's video stabilization would help much with the off-road mountain biking we are doing.
Nevertheless, I finally found a website with a relatively new product which is a universal mounting option that will fit all smartphones, and has optional accessories for a chest mount, helmet mount, bike mount, and special adhesive mounts for you to mount the phone to virtually anything you like.
The product is called Velocity Clip and basically any smartphone users (like me) who don't want to shell out a lot of money for a 'go phone action camera' can use this. I used the chest mount accessory for my 808 and went for a ride with the family on an off-road trail. The results riding a bicycle on a flat pavement are almost Steadicam smooth. And the results on an off-road bike trail are excellent (in my opinion) using my 808. See the video below.
NB: once you start playing, up the quality in the settings to '720p' for best effect.
Thanks Brian. Quite impressive - yes, many of the top end Lumias include OIS, but as Brian says, even these can't cope with the sort of macroscopic shaking associated with a push bike bouncing off bumps on a track. Turns out that human-stabilisation and an innovative chest mount does a great job though - comments welcome!
PS. Embedded below for your interest is the official promo video for the Velocity Clip. Note that we (or Brian) have no affiliation with the company, this is purely unsoilicited testimony(!)
February 2014 and it's time to break silence on a skunk works project to provide an alternative to the now-frozen Nokia Store client/system. The client provides a way to download applications via unsigned, self-signed or legacy Nokia Store sources and replicates much of the experience that users are used to from prior to January 1st. Why is this post in 'flow' and not 'news'? Because it's all still very much in beta and volunteers are needed, as detailed below.
Although fully functional and pretty stable, there are two main needs, going forward:
- Beta testing of the application - I've gone through a month of testing myself, with a limited number of applications integrated, but more eyeballs and more screen taps are needed from others.
- Data entry - the underlying application database is seeded from parts of my own (static) Curated Symbian Application Store and Games Directory, but there's obviously a lot more to input. I'd estimate that around 500 curated and updated entries would provide Symbian smartphone owners with a decent 2014 source. 500 may not sound a lot, but remember that this is without any of the rubbish, novelties and bloatware that infected the Nokia Store (and other mobile stores, to be honest) in its lifetime.
Data entry is via a web form - eventually this will be for developers to add in URLs of their own 2014-updated self-signed (and unsigned) application installers, but in the short term, volunteers are a faster way to get up to speed.
Whether you feel you can help with beta testing or data entry, please don't volunteer unless you're serious. In addition to agreeing to keep the project's client and developer identity under wraps in the short term, you'd be expected to put in a few hours effort at a bare minimum. The rewards for us all, if this gets off the ground though, are a live Store client that can be recommended to all Symbian users going forwards through 2014, 2015 and 2016.
To volunteer, please comment below, along with a public email address that you don't mind being contacted on. If you're worries about web page email spam, obfuscate the email address in some suitably obvious fashion (or, if you're really paranoid, just leave your name and email me the address to use privately).
Note that the developer of this project isn't named yet - I'll let him introduce himself at the appropriate time, if he chooses to do so.
So, roll up, roll up, in the comments below. Let's get this thing rounded out and available!
Sometimes an AAS news or flow item is as much about the community gathering data points as it is about delivering hard and fast news. That's very much the case here, with many conflicting reports coming in from around the globe this week that Exchange sync with Microsoft Hotmail and Live addresses (i.e. email, contact and calendar), plus POP3 access to Microsoft email systems, have both been broken. [Updated - see below]
Given that Google stopped Exchange access for its services for most people many months ago, having full email and PIM sync through to Microsoft's 'cloud' was a core part of many of our Symbian set-ups, so this week's reports are rather alarming.
Exchange is Microsoft's own property, so it's inconceivable that it would terminate something here on purpose. What's more likely is that some certificate in some versions of Symbian OS has expired, or perhaps a specific legacy Exchange protocol has been modified or deleted at Microsoft's end - it's all very strange. Which is why we need your help, as Symbian power users and (hopefully) with more knowledge of the inner workings of Exchange and Microsoft than ourselves, to chip in with theories and conclusions.
Zero messages, and, more worryingly, zero contacts on my Nokia 808 this morning!
Even if you haven't got any more clue as to what's going on than ourselves, you can contribute by providing a data point in the comments below - is email/PIM access still working for you to Microsoft's servers, and if so, is it using Exchange or POP3, etc.
Right now, as I write this first version of this post, about half the people I've asked agree with me that it's all horribly broken - and half the people say it's working fine. Which is exactly the sort of thing that shouldn't happen in the binary world of computing.
So - is it a certificate thing? Is it region-specific? Is it just a temporary glitch at MS's end? Help!
Update, Saturday evening, UK time. The mystery seems to have been solved - Microsoft has updated all its root certificates on its servers, which means that, the next time you connect up to check email or sync PIM, you'll be prompted to accept the new certificate (e.g. 'This time' or 'Permanently'). Accept this and you're back up and running.
What caused the confusion was that the 'sysap' module in Belle FP2 custom firmwares, e.g. on the Nokia 808, had been modified to suppress pop-ups of this kind and thus people running such custom firmwares (e.g. the latest Delight on the 808) weren't being offered the chance of accepting the new certificate - meaning no way to re-establish secure communication with Microsoft's servers.
I've contacted the guys behind Delight and it seems that the module will be modified for the next Delight release for the Nokia 808/701/700 etc.
Watch this space. And, if your phone does get offered a new certificate from Microsoft - grab it with both hands!
PS. See below in the comments for several ways to sideload the new certificate. Did this method work for you?
Yes, yes, a link to a page with nothing but photos. But a) it's Friday, and b) the photos are all mobile-only and rather impressive. All are taken by the Unleash The Phones crew, and naturally includes a fair smattering of Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020-shot images. Worth a browse, and note that all photos are hyperlinked to their full resolution versions on the likes of Flickr.
From the article:
Exactly one year ago, we posted the best pictures we’d taken with a mobile phone so far. It was a glorious gallery of how mobile phone photography has evolved, all the way from the Nokia N73, Nokia N95 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, to the Nokia 808 PureView. But that was until January 2013.
2013 was a huge year for mobile photography. Atleast in my opinion. We saw fantastic camera efforts by many mobile manufacturers, leading to the 20 Megapixel camera on the Sony Xperia Z1, the 41 Megapixel PureView OIS Camera on the Nokia Lumia 1020, and even HTC’s “UltraPixel” experiment with the HTC One.
As such I figured it’d be really fun to post the best pictures we took with a mobile phone in 2013, just to see what we managed with the phones we reviewed and used during the year.
Here are some of my favourites from the gallery. This one's taken on the Nokia 808 and (as you may be able to tell) cropped from a 38MP monolith of an image. Yet it still manages this sort of detail at 2MP:
And this was taken on the Lumia 1020:
Finally, another 1020 shot - it could have come from an 808 too, but nothing short of a PureView camera would get things this pure under such tricky lighting, I'd warrant:
Debate over IAPs (In App Purchase) has raged here on the 'All About' sites over the last six months, with my passionate rant against IAP mis-use and Ewan's equally passionate decree that IAPs were the saviour of the industry. As usual with such polar opinions, there's a common sense middle ground and the UK's Office of Fair Trading today published its final principles for online and in-app games, warning online game companies that they must ensure their games do not breach these principles by the deadline of April 1 (2014).
This news comes to us via Gamasutra:
Nearly a year after the UK's Office of Fair Trading said that it planned to investigate free-to-play apps and games aimed at children, the consumer protection group has now ordered the online games industry to "get its house in order."
The OFT said last year that it was looking into whether children are being unfairly pressured into buying additional content or virtual currency for free-to-play games, or being wrongly encouraged. Following the investigation, the company said that it was planning to soon publish its list of rules.
The company today published its final principles for online and in-app games, warning online game companies that they must ensure their games do not breach these principles by the deadline of April 1.
The main crux of these rules revolves around consumers being told up front what costs are associated with each game, and what sorts of in-game advertising will be displayed during play. Games must also state clearly what sort of personal data will be required, and how it will be shared with third-parties. The rules also state that any in-game purchases must be authorized by the account holder -- e.g. a parent -- and that if informed consent has not been given, payment should not been taken.
"Failure to comply with the principles could risk enforcement action," states OFT, adding that many of these issues are not compliant with the Consumer Protection (from Unfair Trading) Regulations set forth in 2008.
In the report, which you can find here, the OFT says:
We considered that a set of Principles would be the most helpful and proportionate approach to address the concerns we identified during our consultation because they clarify our view of the entire industry's obligations under consumer protection law. The concerns we articulated were:
- a lack of transparent, accurate and clear up-front information relating, for example, to costs, and other information material to a consumer's decision about whether to play, download or sign up to a game
- misleading commercial practices, including failing to differentiate clearly between commercial messages and gameplay
- exploiting children's inexperience, vulnerability and credulity, including by aggressive commercial practices
- including direct exhortations to children to buy advertised products or persuade their parents or other adults to buy advertised products for them
- payments taken from account holders without their knowledge, express authorisation or informed consent.
Apparently, the Competition and Markets Authority will, once it acquires its powers in April 2014, pick up from where the OFT has left off in respect of children's online games.
You can download the full PDF version of the report for yourself, it offers plenty of examples of game monetization that would be "unlikely to comply" with the new principles.
See also my rant against IAP mis-use and Ewan's response that IAPs were the saviour of the industry. Since those articles were written, it's fair to say that both my and Ewan's opinions have mellowed slightly, helped by a number of apps and games with IAPs that were pitched far more sensibly (e.g. Flower Garden for Windows Phone). 'Shock' IAPs (e.g. $99) have on the whole become a thing of the past, with typical IAPs simply offering a 'download for free and then gradually pay a smaller amount (than $99!) if you want to keep on playing and make better progress.
Flower Garden had it about right. If, after months of gameplay, you find that you've needed to spend about £5 then I don't see a problem - it's an alternative to spending that up front, without seeing the game, etc. Doubtless there are still titles which misuse IAPs, but hopefully after April 1st they will be fewer in number.