The N900: just a Qik note

Last weekend I visited London’s Natural History Museum (the NHM) to take part in a secret filming mission for a new and yet-to-be-made feature film. With an N86 in one pocket and an N900 in the other I set out, intent on recording the action… as it happened.

As it happened, the shoot was so intense and so quick that I only had time to capture a few photos here and there as well as just a couple of Qik videos before and after. Once on my way to the NHM and once again after my part of the filming was at an end.

The first one, I streamed from my N86. The second, from the N900. Not much difference in quality if I’m honest, but that’s not why I’m here.

Take a look at these two images:

Qik - N86
Qik - N86
Qik - N900
Qik - N900

One of the many great things about Qik is that you can share your location while filming. It would seem that the new N900 version has had a slight upgrade over its N86 counterpart.

From what I can tell, the N86 only pinpoints the location of where you started filming. The N900 however pinpoints you where you start, then tracks you while you move around and then pinpoints you where you stop!

Great stuff.

This might not be a new feature, but it’s certainly a welcome one on the N900. I love geotagging my photos and videos and if we’re now moving into the world of geotracking then I’m a very happy man indeed.

Stavros will be pleased.

My Phone of the Year

Now that’s a fair amount of linkbait right there, but before I reveal which handset I’m going to bestow such a high prize upon (chortle), let’s first cover off those who definitely haven’t won my phone of the year.


The first phone it’s definitely not, is the iPhone.

Before you all launch into the whole ‘iPhone is the best thing in the world’ spiel and flame me from here well into 2012, just stop and think. The iPhone was – and arguably still very much is in its 3GS form – a luxury device.

Costing at the absolute minimum £300 – £400 either on PAYG or on contract, the iPhone has priced itself out of the competition by attempting to manufacture an allure of exclusivity. Yes, the iPhone is a great handset, but phone of the year it is not.

Nor for that matter, is the HTC Hero.

An Android device heralded by some as the best yet, after having a hands-on, I must say that I still prefer the HTC Magic. Either way, the still ‘in beta’ Android OS is yet to break into the hearts and minds of the mass-market. Though I have a very strong suspicion that – what with the upcoming Nexus launch next month and the apparently awesome work that the Motorola Droid is doing stateside – Android will truly arrive in 2010.

What about the Palm Pre? Er…Not a chance.

Which of course, leaves us with Nokia.

Is it the N97?
No. The early firmware troubles playing a key factor here, leaving the mobile users of the world divided. The mini may yet turn things around, but has arrived too late for this party.

Could it be the N86 8MP?
Close, very close in fact. For me, the N86 would have snagged it, but you simply don’t see it anywhere. I know that I personally have been responsible for at least ten sales of the N86 from an extended network of friends reading the N86 review I wrote earlier this year. However, the networks didn’t buy into it and – as we all know – without operator backing, nothing sells.

So what does that leave us with?

Of course, the N900 – right? Wrong. The N900 has only just been released! So how on earth could it even be a contender? Even though Dan loves his and I love mine, here – the N900 does not win. Not this year anyway.

No, the handset that I’ve chosen as my phone of the year is…

The Nokia 5800


This phone, launched in January 2009, brought touchscreen smartphones to the masses in a way that no other handset has yet to reproduce. Two years ago, such an accolade would have gone to the Nokia N95; ubiquitous, funtional and a big step towards change in the mobile computing world. You couldn’t move for N95s when you asked anyone what phone they had.

For me, this year (and based on entirely the same science), the 5800 snags it.

I’ve had one in my possession since around March or April, and I am STILL using it. Be it as a secondary device or as an email device, this small yet functional phone is the 2009 equivalent of the N95, no scratch that – the N73. Not the best in class by any stretch, but pitched at exactly the right price, at exactly the right market, this handset has sold by the bucket load. The 5800 has repeated that success. On the tube, on the bus, in the pub and on the street, I see the 5800 everywhere.

Available for less than £200 SIM free, the 5800 is a fantastic entry level device for all ages. Featuring a surprisingly capable 3.2mp camera, Nokia’s first touch screen (and forerunner to the Xseries range), is still to this day a regular in my pocket. Its design is simple yet durable and  is perfect for the days when you just need something to last all day, without fear of crashing halfway through an important call/email.

It’s light, cheap and it just works.

For me, the 5800 is my 2009 Phone of the Year.

What’s yours?

N900: A Gallery

Hopefully by now you’ve all read Dan Lane’s Really Mobile N900 opinion piece from last week (based on the development unit he ‘borrowed’ from Ewan Macleod), and, while we all sit around with baited breath (read: twiddling our thumbs) waiting for the actual release date, November 19th I managed to lay my hands on a production ready model to try out some of the imaging technology.

“…I find myself sitting here at my desk two months later cradling what is, in my not so humble opinion, the best mobile device that Nokia has ever produced.”

High praise indeed from Mr Lane. But when it comes to the camera, exactly how good is it?

Judging by these images, “Stonkingly good” is  the answer.

N900 Macro Mode FTW
N900 Macro Mode FTW
Excellent colouration
Excellent colouration
Berry Nice Indeed
Berry Nice Indeed

You can check out more images on the designated flickr page, in the meantime: how excited are you about the Nokia N900?


giffgaff gives the goss (on pricing)

giffgaff, the people-powered network to whom we gave (what we thought was) a fair preview of, has released a teensy bit of news about their pricing. Well, that’s not strictly true, but we’ll come back to that part shortly….

giffgaff love you
giffgaff loves you

The ‘news’, coming in the form of a blog post from marketing chief, Kylie (no – not that one), explains that based on the feedback they’ve received so far, they’re now not really sure what kind of tariffs to launch with. While this may seem odd and somewhat indecisive on the part of the not-yet-launched MVNO, giffgaff have opened the question out to the blog readers:

“…we need your help. How do you think we should charge? Per minute / per text? Or bundles? Or something else?”

This is pretty much unheard of in the carrier space and we can only applaud giffgaff for sticking to their ‘people-powered’ principles.

While this isn’t actually news about the pricing (it’s more along the lines of ‘um.. we don’t know yet’) what the post does go on to say is that data on giffgaff will be totally and utterly free*.

Yes, that’s right… FREE*.

But not the kind of free* that you’re used to, not the kind of free* that comes along with a ‘fair use policy’, no, no. This is free* until we build the billing system!

“When we launch, data will be free. Honestly, that’s because we won’t have had time to build the bit of our backend system to charge for it, and yet we don’t want to launch without data – so we thought we’d just let you have it.

All we ask is that you don’t take the mickey, and that you do give something back by topping up, making calls, answering some questions, doing some marketing etc.”

That’s not too bad is it? Free data for the period of time it takes us to build the billing system. That’s certainly honest guys. Good work.

So the news from giffgaff:

We (still) don’t know our tariffs and data will be free until we know how to charge for it.

Honesty is the best policy but – with respect – this is still looking vague guys. Admittedly we haven’t come to visit yet, (we really are hideously busy day job wise), but it is on our to do list.

PS. Give us something a little more convincing and we might be convinced 😉

Hat tip to contributor Ricky Chotai for spotting this one.

Vodafone Live!, not available on the N86 [UPDATED]

POST UPDATED 12/10/09 – Scroll to the bottom of the article for the latest…

Vodafone, oh Vodafone, why do you upset me so?

Regular readers of my work will know that I have an ongoing love affair with Vodafone UK, or ‘Big Red’ as I affectionately call her.

A mini Voda-moan

We’ve had our ups, our downs and our fallings-out, but over the years we’ve grown to appreciate our mutual quirks and subsequent relationship demands. Lo and verily,  today we have another… hurdle to overcome.

Some of you may remember me wondering just where my handset of the moment, the N86, would land when it reached these shores. I speculated that it would be land on the lap of Big Red, but alas they passed and plumped instead for the N97.

Ah well.

So far, so what eh?

Being the Nokia aficionado that I am however, I wasn’t going to let a small thing like no carrier support prevent me from owning my handset of choice, so I promptly went out and bought one.

End of story, right? Wrong.

Thing is, among the myriad of reasons for me having been a Vodafone customer for the best part of 15yrs, one of them – today at least – is its home portal, currently going under the name of Vodafone Live!

It’s through this portal that I find music, games and mainly, my train times. I don’t drive and when I make plans, I keep them. I often plan my journeys with an almost military-like precision and Vodafone ‘My Trains’ is an invaluable service that I use pretty much every day, without fail.

From here I may choose to visit different parts of the Live! service… but this particular saved bookmark is nearly always my jumping off point.

Now, look at these two pictures….

Vodafone Live Vodafone Live on the N86

Something’s wrong with the one on the right, right? Of course there is.

Even worse though is this, the Vodafone Live Homepage:

Vodafone Live Vodafone Live on the N86

Both pages are from, both are connected using the Vodafone Live APN. The only difference is the handset I used; my old N95 8GB is on the left and on the right, my beloved N86.

I asked @VodafoneUK about a possible fix on Twitter, to which they replied (over three tweets):

Using the WAP access point will give you best chance of it rendering properly however it maybe a case of it not being Vodafone Live! compatible if it’s not rendering normally through the WAP access point. It may be worth posting your settings on the eForum to make sure everything is set up as much as it can be bearing in mind the N86 isn’t a phone we stock. Thanks.

The first part is fine. Naturally I’d check to make sure I was using VF Live as the default access point. I did. I am. The latter part, ‘bear in mind isn’t a phone we stock’… hmm. This was backed up and re-iterated by a couple of Vodafone staffers who also said ‘we don’t support phones we don’t range’.

This is also fine. A perfectly justifiable reason for not rendering your web pages. However, to me at least, this is EXACTLY the reason that you should be doing just that for these devices. Here I am, with a T-Mobile exclusive device (for argument’s sake) and I’m looking for a new network. I decide on Vodafone and sign on for a SIM-only deal. Then I discover that my phone isn’t supported on their webpages, so I decide to go somewhere else.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

The N86 is a similar screen size, build and design to the not-too-shabby (and Vodafone supported) Nokia N85. If it’s a simple case of switching the user agent* sniffer to present the N85 screens for the N86, then this is not a big job. Nor is it complex. Quick fix. Done.

*For the uninitiated, a user agent is basically the identifier string for the browser that you use when you browse the web (mobile or otherwise). For instance, the user agent string for the N85 looks something like this:

NokiaN85-1: Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.3; U; Series60/3.2 NokiaN85-1/11.047; Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 ) AppleWebKit/413 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/413

Whereas the N86 user agent string looks a little something like this:

NokiaN86:  Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.3; Series60/3.2 NokiaN86-1/10.086;; Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 ) AppleWebKit/525 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 BrowserNG/7.1.13380

(Thanks to friend of Really Mobile Richard Hyndman, CTO at Mippin for that extra detail)

A final thought…

Back in my youth, while working through college, I had a friend who spent a his time working at a rather large chain of fast-food restaurants. The Manager of which had a policy that meant that for any food voucher or special offer coupon presented at the counter, no matter for which chain (be it for McDonald’s, Burger King, Wimpy etc), if they could fulfil it then they would honour the voucher.

As he told me at the time:

“It is better to please someone else’s customer who might come back another day than to tell them you’re not interested and never see them again.”

————- UPDATED – 12/10/09 ————-

A member of @VodafoneUK’s PR team has literally just been in touch to let us know that the Vodafone Live! pages have now indeed been provisioned for the Nokia N86.

Here’s a screen shot to prove it…

Huzzah! Its a-Live!
Huzzah! It's a-Live!

Congrats Vodafone, you’ve just earned 20 ReallyMobile points.

Keep it up! 🙂

Nokia & Dopplr, sitting in a tree…


Ten days ago reports were coming in that Nokia had purchased the super smart online travel sharing service, Dopplr. The one liner that I dedicated to it in my last post ended with ‘apparently’. This was an addition which, at the time, made perfect sense.


You see, at the time of writing, the story itself had come from a source that TechCrunch described as ‘close to the deal’ but, no had yet come forward to confirm.

Then, one week ago, a rather short but sweet blog post appeared on Dopplr confirming the sale but not really releasing any further details on the intricacies of the deal.
However, there were some nuggets of information given away. The final paragraph in particular is key:

The acquisition does not change the current Dopplr service which is available at and on platforms where Dopplr is integrated, like Flickr and Twitter. As always, if you so wish, you can get a copy of your data from your account.

See that?

First up. ‘The acquisition does not change the current Dopplr service…’. So this is good news right? Of course it is. I mean, you wouldn’t expect them to suddenly shut up shop right? All the users that currently exist aren’t going to all be poured into one large Nokia silo… are they?

The next thing to take away is the ‘…on platforms where Dopplr is integrated’ part of the sentence. Dopplr, my friends, is available on the iPhone.

But will it remain so?
According to the post from Dopplr themselves, we’re leaning towards ‘Yes’.
Time will tell.

Soon after the sale, Nokia also announced that Dopplr’s CEO, Marko Ahtissari, was to head up a new design and consumer experience unit within the Finnish HQ. Curiouser and curioser.

The big thing for me here is that as a service on it’s own Dopplr has never really proved that useful. Yes it’s fun to load in your trips on one of those dull days when there’s nothing going on on twitter and you’ve got a spare moment between emails, but has anyone here ever used it for what it is? Your ‘Social Atlas’?

Today, probably not.
But, in the future maybe? Yes. Maybe.

You see when the announcement was first made and the release landed on my desk, the first thing I instinctively said was ‘Makes perfect sense‘. Why? Well, you all remember Nokia announcing at Nokia World about their Social Location ambitions right?

You don’t? Let me remind you with the words from Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo:

“Automatically lets you avert traffic jams or crowds. By putting together your location, your contacts, you get mashups. I love this idea. Imagine what can happen when we mash up social networking and your location, when your device knows where you are, where your friends are and what they are doing. Your social location, or SoLo will become your here-and-now-identity.”

Combine that (ok admittedly rather vague) way of thinking into Ovi Maps (that’s the Ovi Maps that’s shipping on every mid-to-high-end Nokia device from now until forever by the way) which also, is now including their latest feature ‘Good Things’. You can begin to see where Nokia are going…

Good Things for those that missed it, is Nokia’s new way for Ovi Maps users to share their favourite places around the world. This is from the Nokia Conversations blog post:

It’s made up of three key elements. The first is the ability to spot Good Things on the map, where you can click on each one to find out more information, add it to a route or to your favourites. There’s also a live Good Things feed which shows the latest good things, as they’re added. And of course the key part is the ability for you to add your own Good Things. Once you’ve found where on the map you’d like to add, you just drag a Good Things pin onto the map to add it. Fill in a couple of details, walk through the security check and you’re good to go. You’ve made the mapped world a better place.

Make sense? Of course it does. User generated reviews populating your navigation. It’s all coming together nicely. Now let’s compare that to the contents of Dopplr’s about page:

Dopplr is a service for smart international travellers. Dopplr members share personal and business travel plans privately with their networks, and exchange tips on places to stay, eat and explore in cities around the world. Dopplr presents this collective intelligence – the travel patterns, tips and advice of the world’s most frequent travellers – as a Social Atlas.

What else can we add into this? Well, one of the really useful parts of Dopplr – one that I’ve been paying attention to of late, is the Carbon Calculator. Once your trips are complete, Dopplr, powered by AMEE, gives you an overview of your carbon emissions for that trip. Admittedly while there is no option currently to immediately recompense the climate for your travel, this information is handy for when you get round to doing it yourself.

It’s at this point that I’m reminded of several Nokia false start applications: Nokia viNe, Friendview and also, WE:OFFSET.

The former is a life-streaming service which was bascially a jazzed up version of Sports Tracker. Friendview, Nokia’s very own Google Latitude and of course WE:OFFSET, an application that monitors where you are and works out your emissions based on your methods of travel.

If Social Location really is the future as Nokia insist (and I’m leaning towards agreeing with them), what other mobile applications/services/experiments can they bring into the mix to really spice things up?

Your thoughts and comments as always, are welcome.

So much news, so little time…

After yesterday’s triple whammy from Ben, Vikki and Dan, it’s time for me to stroll back into Really Mobile town with three stories of my own that I’ve been watching unfold from afar.

Andy Warhol would be proud
Snap, snap, snap...

You see, I’m in Pittsburgh at the moment and, along with a certain Vikki Chowney, I’m helping cover the G20 Summit with Oxfam for the G20Voice project.

However, not only is it the week that the leaders of the world come together and try to do something about the World’s biggest issues (namely: Climate Change), it is also the week that EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE MOBILE WORLD has decided to happen!

First off we had the announcement of a new MVNO from our friends at o2 called, and I kid you not, ‘giffgaff‘. I’ll come back to this shortly.

On top of that, yesterday we also had three, count’em, three mobile development days, with Vodafone, Google and Nokia’s Ovi all wanting to play with our codes.
Google and Ovi we can come back to, there’s nothing new there – Vodafone however, that’s a new one.
(see our quite possibly extremely exclusive UI video for more)

Finally, Nokia went and bought Dopplr (apparently).

Like I said, much too much to talk about, much too much going on and much too much to catch up on. Let’s get on with it shall we?

Got the goss on giffgaff?
giffgaff - bees make honey?

Riff Raff, sorry. Giff Gaff.. Sorry, giffgaff.
What do we have here?

giffgaff is a brand new mobile virtual network operator from deep within the bowels of o2’s HQ. The Really Mobile team had been invited to go along and meet the giffgaff team to see what it’s all about but, what with half of us out of the country and the other half up to their eyeballs with actual work, alas – time was not on our side.

From the press release and from the website so far we can gather that giffgaff will be the first ‘people powered’ network.
Let’s take another look at that release:

“giffgaff, which means ‘to give and receive’, will operate with a low cost base, without the overheads of high street stores, handset subsidies and running large call centres. It offers a simple SIM only tariff and a range of online tools to allow members to self-serve and suggest answers to each other’s questions in online user groups. As well as that, members will be rewarded for things like referring giffgaff to a friend or relative, creating user-generated marketing, or voting on business decisions. The more that members get involved the greater the reward and they will be able to get up to 100 per cent of top-ups back.
giffgaff members have a choice of what to do with their rebate; they can use it for mobile calls and texts, take the cash, or donate it to their preferred charity or fundraising group.”

So far so good, but aside from that details are thin on the ground:

The Q&A gives little away –

Launch? Before Christmas

Costs? We don’t know

Will it work in my phone? “It will work in any ‘unlocked’ mobile. Find out more about unlocking by searching on Google.”

Coverage? We use o2

Can I pre-register? Not yet.

I’m not being picky, I know some of the folk behind this launch, I just feel there’s not much to go on right now. I’m hoping that we’ll find out more when we get to sit down with one of the fourteen members of staff behind the service. That’s right, fourteen. There’s no phone line support if you have a problem and well, that’s about it.

What we can commend giffgaff for is the seemingly open approach that they’re taking with this ‘launch’. The ‘gaffer’ Mike Fairman, is putting himself front and centre of the network’s communications strategy and is asking for as much feedback as possible. Their blog pages are young and Mike’s twitter profile is gaining followers fast so, what happens next – who knows…

For now, we’ll file this under ‘one to watch’.
But for how long, we’ll wait and see.

I seem to have written a bit more than I thought I would, I’ll come back to Vodafone and Nokia later on today.

Stay tuned.