12 Aug 2007

nokia n95 sucks

if you have no interest in mobile phones, or if you have no interest in software design, you can stop reading now.

i have spent three weeks with a nokia n95, and it sucks big time. there were warnings and writing on the wall that it sucks. but the symbian faithful (yes, there are a few) have insisted on comparing it with the jesusphone iphone. on paper, feature for feature, the iphone is way behind. things like 3G, open development, expansion, GPS, MMS, 5MP camera, dual processor, opengl on the nokia n95 really beats it. but in terms of usability and least aggravation, iphone definitely wins by miles.

it's what computers have become

that is the slogan for n95. and it really is. look at what the PC has become? it's become an n95. and yes it is all powerful, dual cpu, wifi, bluetooth, etc etc. but it is let down by some very disappointing software. close to the point where i can call it the windows 95 of mobile phones.

why multitask when you run out of memory all the time?

 Media 2007 04 Nokia-N95-Hands-On-043-Sm
(credit: engadget.com)

* i cannot run more than 3 applications at one time. web browsing while listening to music is a no-no. the music player will get killed by the OS as my web browser hogs all the memory.
* i cannot turn on the camera app without it killing all the background applications.
* after a while, the phone actually leaks so much memory that i can't even start up the camera app or the web browser. i have to actually reboot the phone!

why even bother with multitasking if you don't spec out the phone to do it properly. if they learnt anything from palmos, that is to keep the least amount of stuff running in memory. palmos, actually switches apps to a low memory mode whenever you switch between them, so that when you switch back it will actually restore itself rather than just hog the memory.

and ok, so you want to have a multitasking os there, so why not give it some virtual memory so that you do can actually SWAP out memory and avoid aggravating the user with random dying applications? at least it will run even if it will be slow.

ridiculous battery life

i think everyone who owns an n95 will agree with me. if you want to exercise all the features on the phone, you get pretty dismal battery life. for every minute you have the phone playing music, or web browsing, you are exhausting the battery at the same rate as you making a phone call. i managed to drain a fully charged n95 in 2 hours of web browsing.

does gps work?

for three weeks, i have never once got gps to work on the phone. why even bother? i've had it out in the open for more than 10 minutes and it still would not get a lock.

the other very disappointing thing is their built in maps application. its not user friendly at all, it took me a full minute to figure out how to zoom in, which i thought would be the most obvious function since the default view is of a globe. how often do i just want to check out the globe?

xhtml web browser? give me back the wap browser please!

so the n95 has a fully functional xhtml web browser based on the safari browser engine (webkit). even though the rendering is based on that, the interface of the web browser itself it horrible. it doesn't cache the previous page, so every action you make, you're faced with the waiting hour glass.

the fact that you have to move a pointer around the screen using the joystick on the phone already screams of careless ui and hack-job. i've resorted to visiting wap versions of web sites even though i have a fully capable xhtml web browser just because the experience is so horrible. despite misgivings i have about opera mini, i think it is the best browser on the mobile at the moment (excluding the iphone's safari).

[update: you can't enter a carriage return in a multiline text box either]
[update2: finally figured it out, press * and select the carriage return symbol on the bottom right corner]

60+ applications? what the hell?

there are 60 plus pre-installed "applications" on the phone. and there are three folders which holds them, "tools", "applications" and "office". those are three of the most useless categories known to man. so, let me give you a pop-quiz. what category do you think "calculator" is? WRONG, it is in "office".

here's a list of all the applications on my phone that were preinstalled:

contacts, messaging, camera, music player, web browser gallery, file manager, calendar, clock, bluetooth, infrared, usb, profiles, settings, themes, application manager, memory, transfer, internet telephony, wlan wizard, home network, connection manager, 3d tones (??), call mailbox, speed dial, voice command, device manager, modem, sync, landmarks,gps data, activation keys, log, welcome, visual radio, video centre, lifeblog, realplayer, flash player, sre, snakes, help, about, interactive, download, maps, search, quickoffice, notes, recorder, adobe pdf, calculator, converter, zip, wireless keyboard, barcode.

questions i have about these apps:

1. why is there "zip"? do i really need to zip files on the phone?
2. what is the difference between video centre and video player?
3. what is the difference between home network and wlan wizard?
4. why is there an app called "download"?
5. what is device manager, application manager and file manager?
6. what are 3d tones?
7. what is visual radio?

you know what that experience reminds me of? that experience reminds me of windows.

music phone? barely.

so i've been using the n95 as a music phone. that is i sync my podcasts and music to the phone via the mac sync tool (which is one thing that i admire nokia for doing, that is releasing up to date mac isync conduits and a half way decent sync application for itunes and iphoto). but the music player is no ipod.

it doesn't remember the last played position of the files (so listening to long podcasts is very painful). when a dialog box pops up, the music pauses for a second for an "alert tone", but if you have the phone on silent, the alert tones doesn't sound, so you're just left with really annoying noises.

gallery. annoying carousel mode.

i have taken some photos on my phone and i want to browse them. unfortunately, the gallery does not want to show photos in any mode other than their enormously annoying carousel. what is wrong with a perfectly good grid system or a list? it's fun for the first 2 seconds, then it gets really annoying when you're browsing a list of 100 photos.

flickr support. can't get that working.

there's built in flickr support. i can't get that to work, simple as that. keeps on saying the authentication doesn't work even though i'm positive my username and passwords works. the experience is terrible. i ended up just using the flickr upload email to send photos to my filckr account. speaking of email ...

outgoing mail doesn't work until i used the gmail smtp server

funny because there are yahoo smtp servers setup in the messaging application, but that also doesn't work until i just setup the gmail authenticated smtp server manually. i'm pretty sure no normal user would be able to do that. the out of the box experience is pretty horrible.

camera is slow

the camera interface is awkward and slow. when you use the main camera, it automatically switches to landscape orientation. however, the buttons and interface keys are still in portrait mode. so left and right buttons are zooming in and out, and up and down it selecting options.

the worst of all, it takes up to 15 seconds from sliding the camera cover off till i can actually take a photo. and after taking a photo, it takes an additional 10 seconds until i can take the next photo.

prompts at everything

installing software takes like 6 prompts. plugging in a usb cable or headphones result in a prompt that asks what you've just plugged in. many of the apps use an over zelous use of "are you sure?" or "confirm?". even pausing a video and then resuming it will result in a menu popping up. [update3: doesn't do it any more, maybe i confused it with something else.]

good things about the n95

of course, after i've blown off a lot of steam about the n95, there are good things about it.

* third party app development. being able to run apps like shozu, jaiku, google maps, gmail and yahoo go is a welcome relief from the nokia apps.
* pdf viewer is great
* the built in 2d barcode scanning actually works. i tried using it to scan this link to liquidx.net and it works great.

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