Archive | July, 2007

O2’s Cocoon

12 Jul
What caught my fancy today is a phone that might not even come to India in the near future. Yet, its simple but stunning looks captivated me and I have not been able to think of anything else. It is the O2 Cocoon, the European carrier’s latest announcement. Like a cocoon, it has been done up in white and sports a clamshell form factor to complete the look. 
What’s so special about it, you might ask. Well, it has nothing exceptional that other multimedia phones don’t have these days, yet it is special. The way the Cocoon interacts with the user is special. The blue LEDs covering the face transform the device from a cellphone to a music player to an alarm clock. 
Heck, this Cocoon has a nest of its own, which also doubles up as the charging cradle. Placing the device in the cradle converts it into a clock with the LEDs displaying the time. You can set a morning alarm and leave the phone in its nest. You have the option to wake up to the sounds of your preferred radio station or your favourite track.
The company website says that you can store as many as 500 tracks on the device, which I believe translates into a 2GB memory. Again, the track name is displayed on the face by the cool blue LEDs. The device has an option whereby you can listen to uninterrupted music without going into offline mode and details of all incoming calls and messages will be stored for you to check later.
I assume that it runs on Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard platform but the pics show a different UI. Nevertheless, it looks good in pics and I hope that it performs equally well in real life.

HTC S710 – A hybrid smartphone

11 Jul
I have never been a fan of Windows Mobile Smartphones – devices that run on Windows Mobile but lack a touchscreen. Without the touch input, it doesn’t feel like one is using a Windows Mobile device. The only reason why someone would use a Smartphone version, I thought, was because it resembled a normal phone unlike the Pocket PC version that is closer to a PDA than a phone.
HTC now attempts to bridge the gap between Smartphones and Pocket PCs by launching the S710. Its USP is its sliding QWERTY keyboard like the ones found on the Dopod C800, i-mate K-Jam and O2 Atom Life. Don’t be fooled though, the S710 is no Pocket PC and is not a touchscreen phone.
I got a chance to fiddle with the S710 during the launch of the HTC Touch last month and was awestruck. 
On the face, it appears like any other Smartphone with a normal alphanumeric keypad but slide open the keypad and the screen orientation changes from portrait to landscape just like it would in a Pocket PC device. Thanks to Windows Mobile 6.0, I could even edit Word documents or work on Excel spreadsheets. The only shortcoming was the small screen size. The debut price for the S710 is Rs 17,000 (US $425).
I think the S710 will make for a cheaper alternative for a Pocket PC device with a QWERTY keyboard. Watch this space for a complete review of the S710.

Nokia E90 – The monarch beckons

10 Jul
I met Antti Vasara, senior vice president and general manager, mobility devices business unit in January, a couple of weeks before the 3GSM World Congress. During this meeting, he revealed that Nokia was working on a new Communicator after a period of nearly two years. True to his words, the E90 was unveiled at Barcelona.
The E90 marks a change in Nokia’s perception of business devices. The Communicator, which was always looked upon as a serious, e-mailing device now comes across as a well-rounded, feature rich and classy handheld. If the original Communicator series targeted men aged 30 years and above, the E90 will appeal to the fairer sex and youngsters as well. Rather than serving the boring blacks, greys and silvers, Nokia has chosen two unusual colours – mocha and red.
Most people have a love-hate relationship with the Communicator series. They love the features that these devices have but hate the ‘pencil box’ shape and it won’t change with the E90 either. It still remains a big boy and pretty heavy as well at 210 gram. To put it into a perspective, the Sony Ericsson P990i weighs just 150 gram. To be fair to the E90, it is 20 gram lighter than the 9500, if that gives you any respite.
Nokia has given the E90 much more than a mere facelift. The plastic hinges in the older Communicator has given way to more sturdy and functional metallic ones. The most significant upgrade, however, has been the OS. Earlier, the Communicator used to work on Symbian S80 when used with the cover open and S40 when used with the cover closed. Due to the use of two different OS many tasks couldn’t be carried out with the cover closed. The E90, on the other hand, works only on one OS — S60 third edition. With the E90, one can open any application with the cover closed. What’s more, if you open the cover, the app instantly transfers on to the main screen.
When it comes to connectivity, the E90 leaves no option unturned. As expected, it is a 3G device with support for HSDPA and is Wi-Fi enabled (802.11 b/g). The Communicator is no longer just a business phone. In fact, its specifications might lead some to believe that the E90 is an over sized multimedia phone. It has an onboard 3.2 megapixel camera, FM radio, dual speakers, A2DP profile for Bluetooth and a GPS receiver. Like some other recent high-end phones from Nokia, the E90 has a mini USB port for connecting with a PC.
Despite being armed to the teeth, everything boils down to the performance of the device. We have been using the E90 for over a week now and the device has left us pretty impressed. It does feel big initially but after a couple of days we got used to it. You can see in the pic above that the E90 is as big as an open Samsung E840. The S60 third edition OS works smoothly and transition of applications from the small primary screen to the bigger secondary screen happens without a glitch. As always, Nokia bundles QuickOffice with the product and one can even edit documents. The E90 also supports Mail for Exchange and BlackBerry Connect 4.0 to handle e-mails. Talking about e-mails, typing in the dark has become easier as now even the QWERTY keypad is backlit. However, the keys could have been better demarcated to make typing comfortable.
Browsing the Internet on the wide screen is an experience in itself. We got so hooked on that we preferred the E90 to surf the web over our laptops. A new feature that Nokia has added is Active Notes. You can now attach notes to a contact and access it when you are talking to that person. You can then edit the same while talking and later e-mail it or SMS it to others. It is just like you make notes on ‘post its’ and then compile the notes after the call. Quite a handy application, we would say.
The E90’s performance as a multimedia device is exceptional. The 3.2 megapixel camera is equipped with auto-focus and flash, and is capable of delivering sharp pictures. And when it comes to audio quality it can compete with the likes of the N91 and the N95. Should we say anymore? The battery lasted for over two days with over two hours of web browsing and an equivalent duration of calls every day.
With a 120 MB internal memory and a microSD card slot for further expansion, the E90 makes for a perfect choice when you need something more than a phone. Unlike the earlier Communicators, don’t be surprised if you see affluent youngsters going for this one rather than spending the same amount on an N95. After years of spending time in hiding, Nokia’s Communicator has finally arrived.

Creating docs in WiMo 6.0

2 Jul
Now that there are a handful of devices running on Windows Mobile 6.0, users would have come to know that the new OS is nowhere close to what Microsoft had promised. Clicking on the cross button doesn’t stop the application as it should have been and you can’t create new documents on the Standard edition (Smartphone edition in Windows Mobile 5.0 terminology). The only noticeable newbies that we could figure out were the improved user interface and the ability to handle HTML in Outlook.
We couldn’t understand why Microsoft would enable users to edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets in the Standard edition but not let them create new files. Probably to not to cannibalise devices based on the Professional edition? Who knows? Anyways, a friend has found a DIY to tackle this problem.
He created a blank document on his desktop and saved it on his handset. Now whenever he wants to create a new document he opens the blank document and selects the edit option. It is as good as a blank document at your disposal and you can rename and save it to create new files. We can’t imagine that Microsoft didn’t think about it or thought about it and yet didn’t give the ‘create new’ option. 
Moral of the story: Microsoft can only limit the offerings on its services but can’t stop people from innovating.