MIR: Taking a firm hand with firmware

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FW: Whatley on Wednesday - 12/12/07

Two weeks ago, after writing my review/rant about the N81 8GB, Stefan Constantinescu (of IntoMobile fame) left a comment:

‘With the new N95 firmware out that breathes new life into the device I too can’t understand why anyone would want the N81.’

Fantastic point Stefan, the new N95 firmware does INDEED breathe new life into the N95 and anyone that comes anywhere near me with their pre-V20 firmware will get it upgraded in a flash.

What a great move by Nokia. That is, of course, if Nokia actually bothered to TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT!

Yeah yeah yeah, so Nokia told a few bloggers and released a techie press release (maybe). But fundamentally – WHO is actually going to benefit?

Ok – so as an old friend used to say – let’s do a quick fag-packet analysis:

I reckon, best guess, maybe 5% (and that’s being EXTREMELY generous) of all N95 owners are aware that they can update the firmware (or ‘software’ as a normob may refer to it as) on their handset maybe?

Of that 5%, how many actually are going to know/check that there is a new firmware available.

You could probably argue yourself up to quite a high figure, what with the ‘firmware aware’ having a higher propensity to be techies/mobile geeks. But still.

Of THAT percentage, how many N95ers are going to risk upgrading their firmware, having had their fingers burnt in the past trying to upgrade a previous handset?

Or, what about those of us who have no intention of going anywhere near the Nokia Software Updater (NSU) after having heard such horror stories about bricked handsets and nudged USB cables?

Right – ok – how many hands are left up? Not many.

And even you brave few who are left standing still aren’t guaranteed a new piece of firmware because guess what?! Computer says no.

(Or in this case: Your Operator/Carrier – see some of the comments from last week’s article as a case in point).

Moving on from this – let’s take a look at the iPhone model.

The sync cradle becomes (as I heard recently) the centre of gravity for the user. They charge it, sync it and, above all, update it from one place.

The user is told, at point of sale, plug this into your PC/Mac and register online. That is the first thing the user does and immediately the user-behaviour has changed. Or has it?

How many iPhone users out there own (or have owned) an iPod? A fair few? Ok so how many of those users already associate having an Apple product that must be plugged/synced up to their Mac to optimise usage? Again – I’d bet a reasonable amount.

Apple have been very clever in a) Tapping into that pre-defined user behaviour and b) Educating the new user on how to get the most from their iPhone.

Nokia, to me at least, have a lot of catching up to do in this department. My N95 is a phone that happens to play music. The iPhone is sold as an iPod that happens to make calls.

This one simple, strategic change has resulted in a paradigm shift in how the end user benefits from updates back at base.

To put it simply: Push instead of pull.

When updating the firmware on a handset, Apple have it nailed.

Nokia we love you but, to reach the masses, you have a lot of catching up to do.

MIR: Whatley on Wednesday: Vodafone’s MusicStation

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I woke up on Monday morning with the intention of writing this week’s Whatley on Wednesday piece about firmware and firmware upgrades.
Recently a fellow Mobile Geek of London was exclaiming to me that “Nokia Rule for doing this [latest release of their firmware – V20]”

I disagreed. The idea is great, but the application and execution leaves a lot to be desired.

We argued… and then decided it didn’t matter and discussed something else, (like whose round it was next). I left the pub with every intention to write this argument up (or at least my side of it) and post it right here for your reading (dis)pleasure. Delete where applicable.

That was until, just as I was leaving the house, I heard the latest single from UK indie group Scouting for Girls, ‘Elvis ain’t dead’. And, as with every song that you hear just before you leave the house in the morning, it became stuck in my head.

By the time I made it to the train station I had hummed the bloody thing to death and had decided that I needed this track NOW.

So I thought I’d make the most of NOW and jump onto Vodafone’s new Music Station service.

Awesome, not only will I get the track I want but I’ll also make notes throughout and then I can write it up as a review the service for SMS Text News. Score!

This – rather oddly – all happened before Monday’s Unlimited Drinks and also before yesterdays Omnifone stories that Ewan ran… Hmm… Telepathy’s working then.
But alas, Vodafone were not going to make it easy for me.

I arrived at the Vodafone Live! music page and I’m asked to download and install the Music Station Application (I had no idea it was an app?!).

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Not a problem, I thought, I’ve done this before. I wonder how good their user education/hand holding is. To their merit, it’s not too bad at all. I think any average normob could find their way through this process. Well. Right up until they hit this point:

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Rubbish. I tried again: Same problem.

This is becoming annoying. I turn the phone off, turn it back on again, try again and…. STILL the same problem!

I hit 191 on my phone and call customer service. After a little explaining I eventually get passed through to the technical dept…

‘Hello Mr Whatley, what error do you have?’

‘It says here: “Certificate error, contact the application vendor”.’

‘Is there an error code?’

‘No, it’s a certificate error… No number. I have a screenshot that I can email over if that helps?’

‘Er…(small amount of confusion at this point on my keenness to help maybe?) No sorry. We’re not actually allowed to give out our email addresses.’

‘Okaaaaaaaay…’

‘Can I call you back on a different line?’

So I say yes, and they do. And lo and behold I’m requested to repeat the process (obviously my word isn’t good enough) and guess what? Same error.

THEN I was asked to do something, and I must state that VF UK have NEVER EVER asked me to check this in the history of being a VF customer, they asked me to check my firmware!

To the layman – this is the software version that your phone is running. Same thing on every Nokia, got an N95? Try it now. *#0000# – anything below V20 means you really should think about upgrading.
(Benefits here.)

Anyway – ‘Sam’ (I think that was her name) informs me that my current firmware, (V20, obviously) is the problem as “the Music Station is only compatible with Vodafone branded firmware versions 10b and 10c”.

Let’s just pause and take that it in for a moment.

That’s right. Vodafone’s flagship ‘Hero’ service, The MUSIC STATION, the big one they’re pushing this Christmas does not work with the latest Nokia N95 firmware.

‘Sorry Mr Whatley, you’re going to have to go back to version 10.’

‘That is not going to happen.’

Thinking on this now, a few hours after the event, when I originally got the handset from Vodafone it was running V11. I didn’t even know VF had V10. On top of that – I didn’t know you could go backwards with firmware either! That’s a new one on me.

VFUK suck for not making sure their leading application is compatible with the latest Nokia firmware.

So I’m sorry folks – no MusicStation review from me today. I do have a MusicStation handset but alas the generic Nokia firmware that I’m running is not compatible with the service.

Doh.

EDIT: I met Terence Eden of Vodafone at the Unlimited Drinks on Monday. He explained to me that the Vodafone MusicStation is only compatible with Vodafone’s own firmware. He also assured me that the MusicStation does work above V10 as he has seen it working on (Voda’s own variants of) V11 and V12.

Terence’s defence was that I should not have changed my firmware from VF’s to Nokia’s Generic.

Thinking on this now – that’s not a bad argument – anyone who knows me knows how much I like to hack… ahem… augment my phones so I can the optimum functionality out of them.
Well. It’s not a bad argument when you consider someone who might not buy their handset directly from Vodafone. Whose firmware is already generic upon purchase, what about them?

Next week: That rant on firmware and firmware upgrades, (the one I wanted to write this week).

Whatley Wednesday – Nokia’s Latest “Music” Phone

Nokia’s Latest ‘Music Phone’ The N81 8GB.

First off can I state, for the record, that I tried.
I tried and I tried and I tried.
I really did!

Whenever I get a new handset I am aware there’s that ‘bedding in’ period of a couple of days where you have to get used to the nuances in the UI and re-learn the layout of the buttons etc… (you can stop grinning now you there at the back with the iPhone) …so please believe me when I say I was chuffed to bits when I got an email from those lovely people (and friends of SMSText News) over at Nokia WOMWorld asking me if I’d like to Trial their latest music device – the Nokia N81 8GB.

My response? YES PLEASE!
Always happy to try out the latest handsets – they’ve sent me a couple before and irrespective of whether I liked the phone or not – it’s always been nice just having a play, y’know?

So, before I rant, here’s the good stuff:

The slider mechanism is the nicest to date. Every hand I’ve put it in has resulted in a ‘Ooooo… that’s nice’.
Taking photos is now easier. Simply hold down the ‘Shoot’ button to boot the cam and you’re away, (a’la the newer N95 models).
And that… is… Oop no – sorry – it’s got a really nice screen too. Yeah, that too.
Ok – that’s it.

Now for the bad stuff:

A complete lack of joined up thinking through the entire design of the handset.
Yes it’s a phone. Yes it does all the things a phone should do but it’s the little things that get me.

For instance:

The ‘c’ button is right next to the ‘play/pause’ music button. AARGH! Sorry. I say ‘right next to’ I mean ‘may as well be the same button’.
That’s right – a negative button right next to a positive button. By pushing the button that I want to stop doing something I accidentally push the button that starts doing something.
In this instance Kate Nash starts blaring out at me whenever I try and correct a misspelt SMS!

That ONE thing frustrated me SO much that within a week I went back to my N95. For the record you have NO IDEA how hard it was to not go back after day one. “No” I told myself “You must TRY and use it properly” –
(so good luck to Ewan on his ‘Normob Challenge’, I know I couldn’t do it)

There are a couple of other things that annoyed me – the overall ‘feel’ of the handset is a bit too plastic-like for my tastes. It’s like one of those dummy models you might find on the shelf of your local P4U.
The keylock system has changed. The N81 now features a ‘flick’ switch on the top that locks and unlocks with a quick flick. Which is fine up until it gets stuck in the flicked position where upon the phone continuously locks and unlocks until you un-jam the button.

*sigh*

Don’t get me wrong – Operators/Nokia will probably sell a bunch of them this Christmas as the cheaper alternative to the iPhone. What with it having an 8GB internal memory and being about £200 cheaper on an a similar contract. Yeah, why not?
It’s EVEN got the ipod-esque ‘Navi-Wheel’ – but even that has managed to become an annoyance…

(WHY have something as a USP on a handset and not even have it switched on out of the box?! YES. That’s right. You have to go in to your phone’s settings and manually switch the Navi-Wheel to ‘ON’ to actually get it to work)

The whole phone feels completely rushed and not thought through at all.
When shopping for a new phone this Christmas by all means have a look at the N81 and have a play too.. but I personally would not recommend it.

You (and Nokia) can do a whole lot better.

Whatley becomes a Flashmobbing gun slinger

The Date: 17/11/07
The Time: 14:00
flashmobbingThe Place: Tate Modern
The Event: Flash Mob Finger Gun Shoot Out! (See facebook event)

Your friendly neighbourhood Whatley went undercover at the weekend and took part in his FIRST EVER (shocking – I know) Flash Mob event.

This is how it panned out…

12:00 – Alarm goes off, and I’m ill.
12:05 – Twitter comes in from my mate Ben: “Anyone who doesn’t go today is a loser”
12:10 – Practice gun poses in the mirror
12:11 – I realise I’m 27yrs old and if I’ve made it this far and I still need to practice my gun poses in the mirror then there’s clearly something wrong with me
13:10 – Packing my best Matrix poses I head off into London
13:55 – After fighting weekend trains and tubes I finally sprint into the main turbine room of the Tate Modern just in time for… Nothing.

Nothing at all.

No inconspicuous looking gunfighters, no shifty looking sharpshooters, no nothing.

Just a bunch of people milling around a giant crack in the floor (this apparent encroachment on every day health and safety standards is ‘art’ would you believe?).

I look around some more, I spy my friend Jay, he too is looking around for more ‘Finger Gunners’.
And still we find nothing.

13:59 – Suddenly become aware of a lot of people wearing sunglasses… Jay reminds me that this was part of ‘the uniform’. This I was unaware of.. Fortunately I just so happen to ALWAYS carry my SunnyGs so we don our specs… and we wait.

14:05 – By now the tension is unbearable. There quite frankly a LOT of people hovering around all wearing shades and giving sideways glances in all directions (but mainly… sideways).

We ALL know we’re here to shoot each other.. We ALL know why we’re ALL wearing sunglasses.. and yet we ALL know we have to wait for ‘The Signal’.

14:08 – The Signal!
Two girls. Both dressed in black, wearing red ties, appear in our midst. Spreading out we watch… AND THEN THEY DRAW!

Suddenly what looked like just a bunch of hollywood stars wondering around the Tate turns into an audition for the next John Woo film… Finger Guns are drawn… Stares are met… Breaths are held… until…

flashmobbingBANG BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!

And in seconds it’s all over… Too soon..
We came, we shot, we died:

Then we.. er.. kinda got up.. and went on our merry way!

Cue much bemusement from tourists, museum goers and security guards alike.

Hehehe…

And the Whatley Verdict? Awesome. Bring on the next one.

Any SMSTextNews Readers Flashmobbed before? Would love to hear your story…

PS – In case you are interested – the next planned event is here – bring ammo – I’ll see you there.

MIR: Future of Mobile 2007

Here’s the Whatleydude’s overview of the Future of Mobile conference held yesterday in London.

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Morning. Whatley here reporting live, or semi live, after the event. I was fortunate enough to attend Carsonified’sFuture of Mobile‘ – which was held at the simply huge BFI IMAX Cinema at Waterloo yesterday.

During the event I kept my notes on Jaiku – this was awesome because not only was I able to quickly capture soundbites and thoughts on the fly but my colleagues, peers and Jaiku buddies were also able to comment (the whole thread can be found here).

I’ve been trying to regurgitate most of the content into some kind of context to make it easier to consume.. but the more I try the more I struggle! So.. I’m just gonna crack on and do my best.

Right then – the schedule (along with more detail re: the speakers) for the day can be found here. And I believe that the slides from the days presentations can be found not far from there too.

2014431447_07bbf863f4_b.jpgMoving on.

First Speaker: Tony Fish – Cool.
I thought of Ewan especially when I heard him say something along the lines of ‘The assumption of what is available on the web is what is wanted on the mobile web.. ..is utter bollocks – Brilliant. Here’s a slide from Tony’s presentation—- >

See?! MASSIVE SLIDES!

The next thing he said that rang true with me is something I truly believe in – which is ‘The mobile web is NOT an extension of the Internet’ More on this later.

There was a kind of Mobile Web ‘Content Sandwich’ that made up the first part of the day.

So first, the meat of the sandwich: This came in the form of Luca Passani of Admob and Andrea Trasatti of dotMobi talking about how the Mobile Web should be and how they think it should be done’ from an industry perspective.

And then – either side of these guys – (the sandwich bread – as it were) – Tony Fish and the Content Panel (Prashant of Mippin standing out in particular) talking about how the Mobile Web IS and how it’s being used from a USER perspective. This sandwich method demonstrated – to me at least – how the there are so many different ways of trying to get to the same destination.

Luca Passani of Admob had his rant at Vodafone – Big Wow. NEXT!

Dan Appelquist of Vodafone told us about ‘one web’ (something which I’m still not convinced about – my opinion being that the mobile web and the moving interweb are two completely different creatures and should be treated thusly).

Andreas Trasatti of dotMobi discussed about ‘Best Practices’. I’ve had various conversations about dotMobi and have made no secret of my feelings about (what I see as) the futility of this domain but –  and this is a HUGE but – after having seen this presentation I understand now that it isn’t JUST about having a .mobi address. (I’m a firm believer in the m. solution) It’s more about putting in rules and regulations to help make the mobile web a friendlier place for the user in the long term.

As Dan Appelquist explained to me recently, “It’s not the URL destination, it’s what it looks like when you get there.”

Charles McCathieNevile of Opera talked about web browsing and without a doubt, wins the Best Comment of the Day prize with his one liner about widgets “Yeah, because I need another clock, right?”

Brian Fling of Blue Flavour – ‘The iPhone is the first Mobile 2.0 device’. Discuss!

Dave Burke of Google showed us some Android stuff – but I’m not a developer so, alas it made limited sense to me!

One thing that really stood out for me all day was that the conference was very focused on what was happening in mobile today. Whilst that’s useful to many, I, and I think a large majority of the delegates attended to find out more about the future. We were, I think, hoping for some insightful future-gazing viewpoints that didn’t quite materialise.

Tony Fish laid it out in his parting thoughts when he commented:

“Don’t forget voice when thinking about mobile”.

A valid reminder when 99.9% of all mobile users use their phones primarily for VOICE. So let’s take Voice and see what we can do with it  *cough* – SpinVox is Awesome – *cough* ;)

Unfortunately the conference was simply far too much about the Mobile Web. In fact, a recurring theme of conversation throughout the ‘networking breaks’ during the day was the fact that the event should’ve been more accurately labelled ‘An Introduction to the mobile web‘ not ‘The Future of Mobile‘.

This takes nothing away from the efforts of the FOM speakers and/or organisers.. it’s just a comment on something that promised so much but didn’t actually deliver. But hey.. the post-conference party was good!

Please leave any questions in the comments field below and I’ll reply accordingly’

Cheers!

MIR: Whatley’s starring role on Symbian-Guru

Originally published by Ewan Macleod on SMS Text News.

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Episode 3 of Rickys Symbian Guru podcast is out and ready for your audible pleasure. This time hes talking with James Whatley of Spinvox (formerly of Refresh Mobile).

Ricky talks to James about his experiences as a company blogger and midway through the conversation, James gets on to the subject of me, SMS Text News.

Link: Chatting With The Guru: Episode 3 – James Whatley aka Whatleydude

This episode, my guest is James Whatley, aka Whatleydude, and we talk about corporate blogging, among other things. Definitely a good conversation. James currently works at Spinvox, but his views here are entirely personal and in no way represent the views of Spinvox. So sit back, grab a coffee, and listen in.

That link above will take you directly there to listen.

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Mobile Geeks of London Unite!

“Do you consider yourself a mobile geek? Do you live, work or hang out in (or within easy reach of) London?

SMS Text News reader James Whatley has just launched a Facebook group called Mobile Geeks of London. It’s open to anyone (assuming you’ve got a Facebook account, of course), and promises chat, discussions, and general merriment.

To join up, just click this link. There’s rumours of the first group get-together in London this coming week – and if you ask James nicely he might bring his iPhone along.. :)