Wednesday, December 03, 2008

N97 Follow-Up

First of all, for my US readers whose iPhone was their first introduction to a smartphone, yes, that is a camera on the front of the N97. You're supposed to use it for 3G video calls. I don't know if anyone ever does in any kind of numbers, certainly not in the UK. It is awkwardly positioned: you either have to hold the phone right in front of your face making your arm tired, or you are sending a lovely picture of your chin.

The real camera is at the back, a 5 megapixel sensor behind Carl Zeiss optics. 5 is considered a let down now in a flagship phone, especially since Samsung is shipping 8 and 10 megapixel sensors, but in reality, all those pixels just let you print bigger pictures, which nobody really does, and for the web all those extra pixels just mean you have to shrink the image even more to make it fit your Hyves / MySpace / Facebook etc. Plus a denser sensor just introduces more noise into the picture. Seriously, if device manufacturers want to offer making better pictures, camphones are going to have to be designed around bigger sensors and bigger lenses, and not continue to cram more electronics on the same size sensor chips. The shutter button for the back camera is on the side, so the whole phone works like a point-and-shoot camera.

As for an application download store like the iPhone and Android devices have, well, Nokia already has one. Has had one for years for the N Series, and it barely got any press. It's called 'Download!', and lives on the top level menu screen. It's totally annoying to use because every step drilling down into the hierarchy requires an explicit and long round-trip to the server, the round-trips often fail suddenly erasing half the store, items are organized by publisher which means you can't get a list of all games or all books, it all looks like somebody threw up tiny cartoony icons and cutesy names and expects that to be enough information to spend £5, there are no working previews, and in the US it actually asked me to enter my credit card data with the keyboard and in the UK makes the premium SMS billing really confusing (I get two SMSes per purchase). Right now on my N73 on T-Mobile, every single attempt to browse the catalog is failing. It's shameful.

If Nokia wants an app store to compete, they will have to

  • demand the N97 only gets sold with data plans where the user won't have to care about extra charges when browsing the catalog and downloading applications

  • have a back-end that allows the store to work reliably al the time

  • streamline the process so 3d party developers can get on the store

  • make freeware or try-ware possible

  • streamline the process to make the store global

  • make payments easy everywhere on the planet

Yeah, it will take some work.