Becoming a real mobile developer, and a return to blogging

This site has been pretty quiet for a while now, but I will begin adding content here again soon. I’ve got my first app submitted to the Windows Phone app store and I’m hopeful that it will pass Microsoft’s testing and be published soon.

My work towards this target has meant in general I’ve been on a  bit of a blogging hiatus for a while but I really wanted to get something published.

So, yeah.. more to come, including some developer focused posts, with code samples and the like.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

In the meantime, I want to mention Microsoft Virtual Academy and their Windows Phone 8 JumpStart series.  These video tutorials run through a lot of information for budding Windows Phone developers, some obvious, but other bits are real nuggets of useful info that you might not otherwise come across or figure out until it was too late.

Andy Wigley and Rob Tiffany host it, and it’s broken down in to 20 parts which run between 30 minutes and 1 hour each.  There isn’t any self-assessment, but you can download the presentations and code snippets from some of the modules. While these videos are available through Channel 9, accessing them through the MVA makes them in to one continuous course, and can track your progress as you go through the videos.  They have now added an associated Exam – Pro: Designing and Developing Windows Phone Apps. So if you are looking for some training material around windows phone, this might be a decent place to start.

Building Apps for Windows Phone 8 Jump Start is here, and the Microsoft Virtual Academy is free.

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Why the Lumia 521 is right for T-Mobile

One of the smaller announcements during MWC was T-Mobile announcing it is picking up a variant of the Nokia Lumia 520, which will be the 521.  The 520 is Nokia’s new bottom-of-the-range smartphone so it’s somewhat surprising that T-Mobile USA would want that, especially compared to the higher spec and uni-body design of the Lumia 720, which was also announced during MWC.

 

T-Mobile has a few windows phones right now, but the standout ones are the Lumia 810 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X.  The Lumia 710 is a Windows Phone 7.5 device (T-Mobile branded devices won’t even be upgraded to 7.8).  The 810 and 8X have similarly specs in some ways, but crucially, both fall into the high end, or at least upper mid tier of the Windows Phone world.  In some ways, it’s desirable to see more of this, and perhaps people are disappointed that it’s the 520 and not the 720 that is coming, a device that has slightly lower spec’s than both the Lumia 810 and 8X but blows the 810 out of the water in the looks department, and is much more affordable than either of those.

However, T-Mobile announced earlier this year that it was dropping phone subsidies altogether and going 100% towards it’s current “Value plan” model in which you have cheaper calling plans but have to buy your phone outright or pay it off in installments.  The Lumia 521 should only differ from the standard 520 in supporting T-Mobiles 42Mbps HSPA+ network which uses 1700/2100Mhz bands. This means that customers should see a slim and sleek Windows Phone device, with a dual core processor, and it’s how much? Nokia suggest the device is about 140 Euro’s before taxes and subsidies, putting it close to $200. Many of the high end devices might start with a downpayment as high as that so this gives customers an affordable device option – something like $200 or $60 up front and $7/month for 20 months.

If T-Mobile is going to pull off the trick of dropping phone subsidies, it needs to stock a solid range of devices, including at mid and low prices and with the Lumia 810 and HTC 8X filling the upper-mid and high end of the spectrum, the 521 comes in at the lower-mid/low end.  And for a low end phone, what you will get is a smooth operating system that runs well on a dual-core processor with half a gig of ram, a 4″ screen, up to 42Mbps HSPA+ and it has a sleek design, and comes in a variety of colors. Once you get it home, you get to shove a 64Gb Micro SD card in it if you want and stuff it full of music or whatever else.

So when the day comes and T-Mobile switches over to it’s new pricing system, and the devices aren’t all something between free and $200 with a 2 year contract anymore, but their actual, full, retail price, users might fear that if they can’t afford the (I/m guessing here) $600 or $200 down and $20/month for 20 months for the iPhone 6, they have a good looking Windows Phone 8 device they can pick up and enjoy without sticker-shock.

You can read more about the Lumia 520 and 521 at Nokia Conversations.

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5 loves and 5 hates of Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 810

So, I’ve been using Windows Phone 8 a while now and here are a few things I like and don’t like about it:

IMG_0915Likes

  • New lock screen – seeing the pictures from Bing, or prices from GasBuddy on my lock screen and knowing it might look different each time makes it much more interesting and it’s nice to have more app notifications and customization available.
  • Office and productivity – not a new feature but amazing how useful it has been to have Excel and OneNote documents that I normally access via PC available to me on my phone.
  • Lenses – the new lenses system is great, and I’ve been impressed with some of them and how easy they are to use.  It’s a great way to extend the camera functionality.
  • Live tiles and home screen – better customization and it feels like more 3rd party tiles are now more “live”- I’ve notices far fewer occasions when they showed out if date info.
  • Skype – Well, lets face it, it actually works now.  A nice improvement and complemented by the Lumia 810’s front facing camera.

Dislikes

  • No TV-Out, not even via DNLA right now.  My dad was showing picture from his Galaxy SII over Christmas using MHL to hook it to a TV.  When done, he asked if I wanted to connect my phone and had to admit that my fancy new Windows Phone can’t do that simple task.  The thing is, people assume it now
  • Shorter timeout for the screen, and now sleeping screen to take advantage of AMOLED technology, or way to keep the screen on when charging.  This is something that comes with me using the phone as a media player in the car.  I love to randomize my music and want to be able to see what’s playing and to skip without having to unlock the phone – it’s easier to tap the screen than  reach the lock button on the side when it’s in a holder.
  • Lag. Yes, it is true that windows phone is pretty responsive but there are times when you find yourself waiting. Mostly, these are times when its reconnecting to WiFi. It’s reconnecting because it decided you were done for now, and was saving your battery. Also, everything has a splash screen, nothing opens all that quickly, though it is snappy once opened.
  • Missing album art. I have a windows 8 computer and used the Windows Phone app to import music, most of which has album art in windows 8’s Music app but didn’t on the phone. It’s an encoding issue of sorts as Zune would embed album art and the windows phone app doesn’t, but the average user will just see the grey square where album art should be.
  • Some aspects of use are confusing.  Windows Phone is a relatively simple operating system to use and understand but there are a few things that are just not that obvious. For example, attachments on emails – if you are typing an email, you can’t attach much other than pictures from the email app, but if you go to (e.g) Office, and long press on a file Email is one of the ways you can share it.  Speaking of sharing, if you want to share by Bluetooth, you have to turn it on first for the menu item to appear- it would be better if it you could choose it, and the phone would turn it on while it shares whatever it is, then turns it off again.  Stuff like that anyway – oh, and curious about what’s on your Micro SD card – well, if it’s not pictures or music, you will never know (at least not via any interface in Windows Phone anyway).
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Nokia Lumia 810 Review

small-frontOK, so MWC is going, on, Nokia have announced new phones and I haven’t finished the review of the phone that I have been using these past few months. The Lumia 810, which is available on T-Mobile’s network in the USA

Around a two months ago, I received a nice new Nokia Lumia 810, the Nokia Windows Phone 8 device that is available now on T-Mobile. I’ve been looking forward trying windows phone 8, and while the 810 doesn’t have the hype of the bigger, curvier, 920, nor the thin frame of the HTC 8x, it does have a few tricks of its own. For many, the key thing will be that it takes micro SD cards, and that ability to boost your devices to an effective memory of 72GB outweighs the voice of those that say its resolution makes it mid-range, even if it really isn’t.

Specs

  • 1.5Ghz Snapdragon Processor
  • 1Gb Ram
  • 4.3” AMOLED Screen at 800 x 480 pixels
  • Super Sensitive souch, clear Black and Gorilla Glass screen technologies
  • 8MP Autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss Lens and dual flash
  • 2Mp front facing camera
  • 8GB memory with support for Sd cards up to 64GB
  • NFC, Bluetooth 4?
  • 1800mHa battery
  • Wireless charging with the right back cover

Compared to Lumia 920

  • 920 Has 1080 x 720 IPS LCD screen
  • 920 has PureView camera with Image stabilization
  • 920 has 32 Mb built in but No Micro SD support
  • 920 has Wireless charging built in
  • 920 is larger and heavier

Comaperd to 820

  • 810 Has Gorilla Glass screen
  • 810 has higher resolution front camera
  • 810 has bigger battery
  • 820 is heavier

So you can see in terms of specs, the difference to the flagship 920 is not that great and amounts to screen resolution and that PureView camera, and the 810 is a better phone than the 820 by virtue of a bigger battery, stronger screen and higher resolution ffc. However, specs only tell half the story.

Initial thoughts

When I opened the box, the phone to me was big, slightly ugly and not helped by the depth. It also has a definite edge which you will notice if your coming from a device with softer sides.

On the other hand, it’s easy to see why the stark black body will appeal to many, and it feels very solidly built. You feel this could be dropped and come out ok.

The sides are flat with a almost sharp corner at the front and a curved one towards the back.  The back cover is made of a sfter, grippy matt plastic that is easy to hold.  The left is blank, the righ has the volume, power and camera keys, the bottom has the speakers and Micro USB ports and the top has a 3.5mm jack plug.

SavedPicture-201322605155.jpg SavedPicture-201322605145.jpg

SavedPicture-201322605128.jpg

Sadly, the sales package is as stark as the phone which ships with a charger, a quick start guide and little else. Ah well.

SavedPicture-201322605140.jpgInserting the micro SD card felt odd, and I wasn’t certain it was in properly, but once the sim and battery were in, and it was turned on, it told me a memory card was present and would be used to store media. It’s notable (at least for me) how much space back there the battery takes up.

And wow, the screen looks good. Colors pop and with the AMOLED technology, the blacks are just that.  Others who have seen my phone have also commented on the vividness of the colors. And then they comment on how responsive it is.  This is helped by the Super-Sensitive touch technology, which is a big helpt o me living, as I do in Minnesota.  Obviously, there are smart phone gloves these days, but with theis phone, you don’t need to buy those, and the screen should be usabvle with pretty much any globve.  Unfortunatley, this didn’t include the first pair of gloves I tried, hieavily grippy synthetic gloves I had been using when driving, but it did work with the other gloves I have tied so far.  It’s not perfect when it comes to this aspect, but t is good enough to be usable and I do seriously appreciate it.  Having to take gloves off to use your phone on a cold day is frustrating and this means you shouldn’t have to.

Windows Phone 8

Does what is being displayed by the screen work as well as the screen itself? For the most part, yes, and Windows Phone 8 is a welcome improvement to Windows Phone 7.5.  However, many improvements are subtle in nature, for example, being a OS feature that developers can use in their apps. If you don’t have any apps that take advantage of the feature, you may never use it.  One such feature is  for apps to control the lock screen background – a feature that I know is used by GasBuddy, WeatherFlow, Groupon, and more, in addition to Bing. Bing certainly has provided some excellent backgrounds.

wp_ss_20121224_0001 wp_ss_20130226_0002So coming into Windows 8 you are first presented with this new lock screen.  You can now have 5 different apps pass notificatioin to the lock screen and these show along the bottom of the screen.  However, there isn’t a notification center still, so to follow up on those notifications, you will have to launch the app it’s related to.

The main home screen’s main improvement over Windows Phone 7 is the 3 tile sizes and the removal of the black bar at the right edge.  It also seems like improvements have been made to the way live tiles update allowing the possibility of an app like Battery Widget to have a tile that is pretty accurate at reporting remaining battery life. Over-all I am happy to say that live tiles seem to be more alive and more accurate in Windows Phone 8.

While there have been improvements to the main screen, the app menu is unchanged.

Phone and Communications

In some ways what you have in this regard is very similar to Windows phone 7, which is to say it’s quite good.  The People hub is an excellent organizer, the facebook, twitter and LinkedIn integration is helpful and it’s great to pin individual contacts to your home screen and get notifications, not just for calls and texts, but for email and other status updates by that person too.

In Windows phone 8, this has been expanded on a bit with 2 new features.  ONe is the introduction of “Rooms”, which are simple groupings of contacts that allow public messaging to all the contacts in the room at once. This is great if you have a set of people you need to keep up-to date about something.. It has an annoyance too – 2 people in your room get into a conversation and you will still get the new message beep for every message they send to each other, even if you don’t particularly care about the conversation at that time.  Overall though, a useful feature.

The second new feature is VOIP service integration.  This integration is pretty loose though, but does now mean the Skype app functions properly and can use all the contacts in the people hub.

As for the traditional phone call, I have to admit, I have been disappointed in with reception in the Lumia 810 and it seems worse than the 710 I had before it.  A shame as it supports T-Mobile’s 42Mb HSPA+ network, which in Minneapolis is strong, and it ruins the mood when driving around listening to slacker the track suddenly cuts off due to poor reception. Call quality seems decent though and I can hear callers clearly.  This is true where through a normal voice call or via Skype.

Music and Media

There is a graphic equalizer function aswell as settunngs for Dolvy audio.  These settings only take effect using headphones/other wired output device, but the do genuinely make a difference. The phone’s Loudspeaker is decently loud and souds pretty good for a phone. The soeaker grills are at the bottom rather than the back of the phone meaning when it’s lying on a surface, the sound won’t get muffled, which seems to be a good design decision.

One disappointment of Windows Phone 8 is it still doesn’t support TV-out, leading to embarrassing moment where my dad was showing pictures from his Galaxy SII on his TV via MHL/HDMI and asked if I wanted to connect up my phone, at which point I had to admit my phone can’t do that.  And with PlayTo/DNLA not yet available for Windows Phone 8, even though it was for Windows Phone 7, right now the best way to share your media is via skydrive, or via USB.

SavedPicture-201322605119.jpgCamera

Speaking of pictures, how is the camera I hear you ask?  Pretty good, though a bit iffy indoors I have to say.  You can certainly take some half decent shots though, but on the phone screen, pictures look off with contrast way too high. When viewed on a different screen, you get a better sense of what the image really is like, but even then I find that the balance isn’t right with darker areas and shadows coming out way darker in pictures than they were in reality.

That said, you can take some nice pictures and the lenses are useful too. In particular, the Panorama lens option is very easy to use, though if you don’t follow the directions carefully, and follow the line on screen, it’s often easier to just start over.  However, despite this, it’s 100 times easier here than it is on my Canon point and shoot digital camera.

Here are a few camera samples:

Office and Productivity

It’s amazing how one of the smallest changes affects things but with the removal of OneNote from Office within Windows Phone 8, so it’s now a separate app, I’m using it a lot. It’s great how with SkyDrive it all seems to work together so I can update the same note book, spreadsheet or word document on the phone or on my PC and it’s all synced the whole time. Doing some operations in Excel such as copying formula’s seem to be a bit awkward though, but overall, it’s a hand productivity tool

Other New Windows Phone 8 features:

  • Wallet – links payment cards with your Microsoft account, as well as (in some markets I think) allowing you to do mobile payments. It’s passcode protected, as it should be.
  • Kids Corner – Allows you to set a small subsection of apps that can be accessed from the lock screen without entering you phone lock code (if you use one) or properly unlocking the phone.  YOU swipe the lock screen to the side rather than up to get to kids corner and you are able to designate which apps can live there.
  • HERE Maps & Drive – ok, so they are not new, but now part of the HERE platform, Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive are pretty much the same as on Windows Phone 7, and provides good offline mapping, navigation and directions.  Now available for all Windows Phone’s

Other software:

Nokia and T-Mobile have added software to the Nokia Lunmia 810 and most of it is quite welcome.  From Nokia you get Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, Nokia City Lens, Nokia Music, and Nokia Transit, as well as a range of lenses, as mentioned in the camera section. T-Mobile adds in MyAccount which provides a useful live tile showing current amounts of minuts, texts and data used, 411 & More (which is frankly, useless), CallerTunes (so people on hold or waiting for you to pick up can hear music), Slacker Radio and T-Mobile TV. You also get free Zynga Games “Words With Friends” and Draw Something”.

Sadly Nokia Drive is in beta, and doesn’t currently have traffic info or the MyCommute feature, you have to use Nokia Maps (or your own, favorite mapping/traffic app) to get traffic info.

One nice thing in windows phone is that any of these apps can be uninstalled if you don’t want them.

Conclusions

I am enjoying using My Nokia Lumia 810 and I’m sure many others will do too.  However, there are still some rough edges and incomplete features to the platform, and still things that Symbian users can say “yeah, but it doesn’t do X ” about, such as Tv-Out. It also has a poor sales package.  That said, it’s a good effort and the larger battery, good performance and call quality, great screen and decent camera all point to a higher end device, even if it’s not a Lumia 920.   If you are interested in Windows Phone and on T-Mobile, I gladly recommend the Lumia 810 and even suggest it might be preferred by some to the HTC 8X, with expandable memory being the key differentiator here as the 8X only has 16GB (surely, if you don’t provide any support for memory expansion, surely todays minimum is 32? It wouldn’t have killed HTC to do that would it?). If you are happy to shell out a few extra dollars, there are now Wireless Charging shells available in black and cyan, though the hard part is tracking down a store that has them in stock.

This has been a largely enjoyable first couple of months with the Lumia 810, and while the 521 will take the cheap spot for Windows Phones on T-Mobile before too long, and the HTC Windows Phone 8X is thinner and has a higher resolution screen, I can recommend this device. It’s a goo device, if a little unspectacular, and perhaps underwhelming, at times, but it does get a thumbs up from me.

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Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 4 Audio, Recording and Conclusions

Also in this series:
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 1 Hardware.
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 2 Software
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 3 Photography

So this is the final part of my lengthy look at the Nokia 808 PureView. I’m going to get my apologies in early for the dodgy video and audio samples here, which are more the users fault than anything being wrong with the device, but as I returned the phone to Nokia already, there’s not much i can do about it. OK, here we go then, Video and audio recording on the Nokia 808 PureView:

Video

In part 3 I took a close look at the photographic capabilities of the Nokia 808 PureView, which are considerable. How does it stack up during Video recording?

The Nokia 808 PureView can record video in 1080p HD quality, which means that lossless zooming is possible and works very well. Video comes out well, though that entirely depends on who is recording as to whether it’s worth watching.  My cameraman skills leave a lot to be desired, sadly, which can be seen in the sample video.  One nice feature is that it’s equipped with rich recording – basically this means a series of really good mikes so recorded sound should be very clear.

Don’t forget, both of these videos can be viewed at 1080p.

And in contrast to that, here’s a really short, very close range video.

Rich Recording

I was impressed with the sound during video recording and decided to see how it compares to another device – The Nokia N9 (I did record with the Lumia 710 too but couldn’t get the recorded files off the device). The Nokia N9 sounded clearer and crisper than the 808 PureView. However, I have since realized that the N9’s Recorder app was recording at a much higher bitrate (705kbps) than the 808 PureView was (128kbps), so I can’t really call it a fair test, sadly. So for a rich recording sample, see what you make of the audio in the videos above.

So the upshot of this is that audio recording can sound quite good, but if you are making an audio recording with no video and want it to sound good, be sure to check the settings first to make sure it will have the quality you desire.

Performance

Honestly, it’s a mixed bag here. It’s great to open the multitasking view right now and count 12 apps running. Not in some dormant state but running. It’s great that I’ve barely cared about battery life, because as long as I connect it to my PC to transfer some pictures or music for a while each day, it’s fine. It seems, for the most part smooth, quick and does the job.

However, that isn’t the end of it.  Symbian can be awkward with dialogs (for example when installing, or receiving a message), inconstancies (the sometimes split-screen keyboard) and sadly, bugs and crashes. I had to restart the 808 3 or 4 times from what I’m dubbing the “blank screen of death”. The first time I saw this I thought it was turned off as it was totally unresponsive, but then realized the green and red glows beneath the call and end keys were still there. Then there were the times holding the lock switch didn’t turn on the flashlight. I really like Sports Tracker, ahving used if back on a N85 and every device since. I was excited to use it on Symbian again as it’s more feature rich there than on the N9 or Windows Phone. Sadly, the GPS was dropped at some point in my walk every time and as a result, the maps showed me as having walked in a straight line across houses, gardens and other immovable objects, occasionally at incredible speed too. You get the idea – some of these things aren’t catastrophic, but just annoying that mean you can’t do what you set out too.

Conclusions

This is a good phone, a decent media center and an amazing camera.  A person could buy this and quite enjoy using it, well, most of the time anyway. It has frustrations that you will 100% run into at some point.  There will be apps you want that you can’t find as well, and sadly, the list will likely only grow as Symbian nears end of life .  If you can put up with that, then this could be a great phone for you, for now. Lets face it. This is the best camera phone on the market and will be after the release of the iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and any other phone announced for release this summer.  If you want that raw photographic  power in your hands, wherever you are, with no worries about forgetting to bring your camera with you, this could be for you. However, if you care more about a smooth, consistent mobile experience, or absolute app availability, or just want something either smaller or thinner and more fashionable, then you will probably not find this a good fit.

As I mentioned in the software section, Feature Pack 2 is now available and might give yo a better experience than the one I had. To get the full details about this update and what it provides, please read this article on Nokia Conversations:

Update makes the Nokia 808 PureView even better

Posted in Nokia, Reviews, Symbian | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 3 Photography

Also in this series:
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 1 Hardware.
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 2 Software
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 4 Audio, Recording and Conclusions

So this is the part that many people might be most interested to read, but also the part that ultimately has been written most about, including on some professional photography websites. Where we look at the camera.

Camera

I’ll state it here and now. This is the best camera phone on the market now, and will be after every phone announced this summer so far is out in shops, and may still be a year from now. It lives up to the hype and frankly, it has to given the specs.

So, a few facts – I’m sure you already knew this but here we go anyway:

  • The 41MP sensor is round and doesn’t actually give you a 41MP image. The highest resolution is 38MP for 4:3 images and 34MP for 16:9 images.
  • The reason for the 41MP camera is not so you can take pictures and have them look good on a wall (and by that I mean all of the wall, not hanging in a small frame from a nail). YOu are encouraged to shoot pictures at 5MP with other options for 8MP and 2MP. The huge sensor does allow you to zoom at those resolutions.
  • When you are zoomed out, on (for example) a 5MP photo, it does use the whole lense to create the image, using oversampling to remove noise or other artefacts and defects from the image.
  • When you are zoomed in, it can no longer use oversampling, so the output is from only that much of the lens it needs to make up (for example) 5MP. While no oversampling takes place, the picture is still good because the lens and other camera module parts, are really good, high quality parts.
  • Yes, you can still take bad pictures and I have lots of them, mostly because I wasn’t still or focused properly on the object.

OK, so that’s out of the way. The quality of the images can be excellent and the default, “Automatic” modew does a good job. the two other modes are Scenes and Creative. Scenes has a list of pre-set options for things like macro, landscapes, pets etc. Creative is the one where you get to pretend you know about cameras and can set the resolution, ISO, aperture, white balance and other settings. You get 3 slots in creative mode to have different settings – I have been playing with Full resolution in 4:3 and 16:9, as well as an 8MP 16:9 image. It is a shame you can’t really change anything much, except from creative mode.

Zooming is really easy – sliding your finger up and down near the left edge of the screen. While many might assume pinch to zoom, I realized that this is harder to do while holding a phone to take pictures and so the change makes total sense. Because no physical lens is moving, zooming in and out is fast and smooth. You can tap on the screen to move the focus to other objects too. In some modes you do need to pause when pressing either the real or on screen shutter button, to make sure you are properly focused and it’s not clear which scenes need this at first.

In low light it works to light up the room or space well, with the Xenon flash. However, you still need to keep the camera still to get a good picture in low light. I got some pretty well lit, very blurry shots at night.

Image Quality and Samples

IN general the image quality was excellent and the relative quality of pictures was only degraded by my inability to either stay still or frame a shot properly. That said, it wasn’t perfect and in particular, bright patches washed out on several photos (see the sky on the photo of the bridge, the woodland lake and waterfall).  That said, in general the images looked great, and it handled close up’s and landscapes impressively. Images looked fairly natural and neither oversaturated or dull, which is nice, though if you feel the need to beef things up, there was a vivid color mode.

The pictures here were taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Minnehaha falls, Lake Calhoun,  Lone Lake and a few other locations around south Minneapolis. If you like your waterfall pictures to have water, please bear in mind we are in a bit of a drought right now in the US upper Midwest.

These are 5Mp pictures

So here are some examples of the zoom you can get at 5MP

Here are some that were taken as full resolution (38MP at 4:3 and 34MP at 16:9), and fully zoomed out samples.  I realized after this that while you might want to do panorama’s and landscapes for full resolution shots, the one that came out best still had the closes subject.

Here are a couple of comparison shots, with the 808 PureView set to 5Mp.  The other cameras used are mobile and point-n-shoot.  Canon 300HS, Nokia N9 and Lumia710. I’m not expecting the N9 or 710 to compete on photo quality, but represent upper mid and lower mid range camera phones.

Nokia 808 PureView Canon PowerShot 300HS Nokia N9 Nokia Lumia 710
 

So there you have it. The 808 PureView can take great pictures (an my camera skills or lack thereof can’t do it justice). It has simple point and shoot modes, which allow for zoom which does a good job, though most point ‘n’ shoots can out-zoom it. It also has “creative” modes for getting to know the details of the camera, and where you can set, for example, the ISO for a picture.  The quality of pictures produced is good enough to rival point and shoots, though this does depend on setting up the shot correctly, as it does with most cameras. In essence, not every picture with this will be better because you used the 808 PureView instead of a digital camera, but you certainly don’t need to take an additional camera with you once you have this.

I was going to include Video and Audio in this page, but this is getting long, so you can check out Video and Audio in part 4, coming soon.

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Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 2 Software

Also in this review:
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 1 Hardware.
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 3 Camera
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 4 Audio, Recording and Conclusions

(The red camera in the images is from the screenshot app I used – serves me right for not taking a look at them or finishing the review before I had to return the device. I also didn’t get nearly enough screenshots)

The 808 PureView runs Nokia Belle Feature Pack 1. I have recently seen demo’s of Feature Pack 2 start to appear around the web so there may be a quite significant software update coming soon. After reading this, why not check out this video of Feature Pack 2 to see what’s coming. In the meantime….

Nokia Belle in itself is a useable mobile OS with excellent multitasking and intelegent landscape rotation. The homescreens can be customized thoroughly with various witdgets and shortcuts and custom wallpaper. YOu can have up to 6 homescreens but can cut that right down to 1 if you want. Android users will feel at home with this. All the while, the bottom of the screen has 3 shortcut keys – app menu, dialer and homescreen menu, the last of which is identical to longpressing empty space on the screen. Swiping down from the top brings a notifications panel, complete with toggle buttons for Mobile data, wifi, Bluetooth and Silent – very useful indeed.

The preloaded widgets include things like Media player, elail, calendar, Microsoft Office, clock, weather, mapps and contacts , though there are many more. Oh, and that rotation – there’s a cpoomplete de-coupling between the landscape and portrait layouts, meaning you can put the widgets and icons wherever you want – the only rule is that the same widgets will be on a given homescreen in both landscape and portrait modes.

The app menu brings up exactly what you would expect – a scrolling grid of apps/icons. However, if you don’t like the icon grid, you can rearrange the order, or add folders and put icons in them, or turn it into a Windows Phone style list view.

A long press on the home key in the bar below the screen brings up the mulit-tasking view, which is a line of cards, one for each open app. tap it to go to it – simple. If you want to close an app, click the red X in the corner of it’s card.

A flick of the lock switch locks the phone, showing the sleep screen with it’s clock. This screen will show missed call / text message notifications too and for me this glancability is a is a much maligned feature. Flicking the lock switch again will unlock the phone to the last thing you were doing, where as pushing other buttons (e.g power) will show a second lock screen with a Unlock button – tap it and you’re in. ONe of the best things with the lock screen is the intelligent “Sleeping Screen” app, a must for any Symbian user. It looks great in the day with it’s customizable colorful images, and at night, switches to show the clock in red.

So far, this is pretty decent stuff. Not mindblowing but that how it is. Symian is quite a reasonable mobile OS for navigating and customizing and it’s just a shame it’s stuck in 360 by 640 resolution.

Phone and communications

This is a phone (despite what others may say) and so pressing call anywhere wil bring up the call log, so you can call the people you are most likely to – the ones you have called recently. Taping the phone icon on the home screen menu takes you to the dialer instead. It’s also nice to be able to place shortcuts to favorite contacts right on the desktop.In a call, nokia’s earpiece and mic work well leadin to a clear call. If your network supports it, it supports 3G video calls too, with the front facing camera used to record video.

Texting is unremarkable too. I have 2 minor niggles for basic commmunicaton, and one is that when tapping a contact, if they have a phone number and email address, it includes both in the Message option as well as mail, adding an extra tap or two to send a text. Secondly, the keyboard is awful. It really is bad. Ultimatley, it’s too cramped meaning (for me anyway) that I type slow and make lots of mistakes. YOu can install Swype which is much better, but in a lot of apps you don’t get the split-screen keyboard after that, meaning you lose context to what you are typing.

The email client also has to suffer the keyboard, but that aside it’s pretty decent, and comes complete with a widget allowing you to see your email on your homescreen. Attachments and html emails are handled well too.

For twitter and facbook, Nokia social is provided, but isn’t very good, so you may find yourself downloading Twitian or Gravity to use instead. Shame, you still have to use the poor keyboard with them.

Music and Media

The 808 pureview is a good multimedia device. However, I was disappointed by several things. Firstly, the supplied headphones have a button and this button can’t be used to play/pause music. Instead, itactivates voice operations. Secondly, a reliance on DNLA or a non-supplied HDMI adapter for TV out. This one is a shame as it means I didn’t have any way to test the awesome Nokia Big Screen app. There’s also the FM transmitter, FM radio, and surprisingly good loudspeaker.

The music player itself is good, though has a quirk or two such as only having a coverflow view in the music library in landscape mode, and list in portrait. It’s not a big deal, until you realize that in landscape, if you want to listen to an artist for whom you have multiple albums, or just randomize everything, you can only do these things in portrait mode. The music player interfacty is nicely layed out, with album art at the top and controls at the bottom. Sadly, it can’t retrieve album art over the internet so make sure that’s get transferred along with your tunes.

As for video, it can handle video well, with nice but simple on screen controls that disappear while the video is playing. The video player’s library lists videos by title, with a thumbnail next to each which is helpful.

One last nice touch, is that the sleep screen can be configured to show the currently playing track. Also look out for media controls in the notification menu in Feature Pack 2.

Web Browser

The web browser is OK. It’s a big improvement on previous Symbian browsers, but still the message here is to get Opera, at least until Feature Pack 2 comes out. Opera is easier to use and also includes it’s own keyboard which puts all the keys you need for URL’s up front and not in a secondary menu, as well as having bigger keys which are easier to type with.

Other Apps and Features

Maps

Nokia Maps is one of Nokia’s crown jewels and the Nokia Belle implementation is currently the most complete implementation of it. Maps suite is all nicely integrated including Maps, Drive, Public transit and Guides (trip adviser, lonely planet etc), as well as having a small weather app, and an current position home screen widget. Maps can be downloaded for offline use and navigation works offline or online. The only thing you don’t get offline is traffic information and re-routing.

That re-routing thing – it’s actually good and gives you a level of trust when you see it working. Symbian doesn’t have the MyCommute feature that has been bought to Windows Phone, but for 90% of it’s functionality, it honestly doesn’t need it – the missing 10% being the live tile showing you how long it will take even before you leave. Open up maps, choose your destination by searching, choosing from favorites or history, and drive can route you the fastest way based on traffic, and tell you what you are likely to arrive. And if traffic conditions change for the worse, it might re-route you, if it thinks there’s a faster way and it doesn’t need any saved routes to do it.

My only caution with Nokia maps here is that some times it didn’t properly get traffic info and, just like it does on my Lumia 710, it sometimes tries to route me through a closed interchange for my fastest way to work.

Office

Microsoft have included a series of Office apps here too. Office Mobile lets you create word and excel documents, and view powerpoint presentations too. There is a set of intro files starting with the workd Explore that open in the app they are each about and guide you through what you can do. Documents here don’t sync to SkyDrive, but the sync options both here and in the Microsft Configuration are for sharepoint. Lync 2010 is also here for connection to corporate IM services. However, OneNote does sync with skydrive and is a nice, easy to use, note taker solution.

Ecosystem

The Nokia ecosystem has been growing for years and as such there are a large collection of well established apps. So you will find Gravity (Facebook/twitter/etc.), Angry Birds, BBC iPlayer, Slacker radio, Skydrive and Dropbox, and many other household names. However, there are lots of gaps too (Netflix for example) and with most businesses focusing on getting apps out for Android and iPhone (and to a lesser extent Windows Phone) this is increasingly a platform where the developer community are making unofficial apps to fill in those gaps.  That said, many people will find the selection adequate.

Aside from the app store, Nokia can backup your contacts to their servers, and there is Nokia Music which operates In many countries and provides music downloads right to your phone.

Performance

Honestly, it’s a mixed bag here. It’s graet to open the multitasking view right now and count 12 apps running. Not in some dormant state but running. It’s great that I’ve baely cared about battery life, because as long as I connect it to my pc to transfer some pictures or music for a while each day, it’s fine. It seems, for the most part smooth, quick and does the job.

However, that isn’t the end of it. Nokia Belle can be awkward with dialogs (for example when installing, or receiving a message), inconsitancies (the sometimes split-screen keyboard) and sadly, bugs and crashes.

I had to restart the 808 3 or 4 times from what I’m dubbing the “blank screen of death”. The first time I saw this I thought it was turned off as it was totally unresponsive, but then realized the green and red glows beneath the call and end keys were still there. Then there were the times holding the lock switch didn’t turn on the flashlight – I’ve no idea why. I really like the app “SportsTracker” and was excited to use it on Symbain/Belle again as it’s more feature rich than the version on the N9 or Windows Phone. Sadly, the GPS was dropped every time and some part of my walk was shown as being in a straight line across the map. Some of these things aren’t catastrophic, but just annoying that mean you can’t do what you set out too.

That said, Nokia Belle has come a long way and is worlds apart from when Symbian 3 was first released on devices like the Nokia N8.  It is a usable platform and while it has it’s problems and quirks, it can also be a quite pleasant and intuitive experience at times. Still, I have to feel that Belle is 12-24 months behind where it needed to be. Feature pack 2 will help, but I think the biggest help would be if feature pack 2 improves stability and car remove those frustrations I mentioned before. As it stands, I have to report that anyone considering buying the 808 PureView has to expect that you will see bugs, crashes and quirky errors. It’s a shame because this is a media powerhouse, both in terms of consuming, as described above, and in terms of creating. Camera and video samples to come in part 3.

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