Nokia N8 gets a camera update

Fortunately Nokia still keeps supporting their Symbian devices. Today they released a beta (test) version of a camera update for Nokia N8. According to Nokia, it contains several improvements both to still and video capturing. These include red-eye reduction in the automatic shooting mode,  a smoother digital (that is, software) zoom), exposure control in video and faster access to scene settings, especially the close-up mode (macro shooting). There are more details on Nokia Conversations blog. Please this update is still beta, so if you don’t wamt to accept any risk of bugs, wait for the final release.

The update requires Symbian Anna, so you need to install that first, if you haven’t done so yet.

I already installed this on my Nokia N8, but I didn’t immediately notice any changes.

Updated 24-08-2011 @ 06:32: Nokia released a quick fix to activate the promised 30 fps video recording.

“Symbian became a religion inside Nokia”

In case some of you haven’t yet noticed, Nokia’s former boss for open source projects and Maemo/MeeGo Ari Jaaksi has spoken in public about what he considered went wrong with Maemo and later MeeGo. Jaaksi gave an interview for the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, but unfortunately it’s available only in Finnish.

To summarise, Ari Jaaksi claims Symbian had become a “religion inside Nokia”, a ”holy cow” to be respected and protected. Jaaksi told that when Nokia N900 was announced, the biggest worry was how it would affect Symbian, not if it was any good or would it sell.

Jaaksi tells the faith in Symbian finally started to falter inside Nokia too, but “Symbian dropped faster than anyone could expect”.

This interview has already been discussed a lot, see for example Nokia Gadgets or Maemo.org forums.

The timing for this interview was a bit bad, because it was apparently mostly done before HP announced they would kill  their webOS smartphones and tablets. Ari Jaaksi moved to HP from Nokia to lead the webOS development in October. In the interview Jaaksi briefly said he still believes the development of the webOS platform will continue, even though it’s difficult to communicate this. That’s the official word from HP until they decide what to do with it.

Jaaksi has a personal work related blog too, but he hasn’t updated it after HP’s news last week.

Some have critized Nokia is repeating old mistakes with the Nokia N9 MeeGo device (or Maemo 6/Harmattan, as many see it) by ”not allowing it to compete against Windows Phone devices”. Nokia has announced N9 won’t become available in many large markets, such as Germany, UK. or U.S.

I’ve personally met Ari many times and I know he’s a great guy, so I hope he’ll find interesting new projects in (the likely?) case HP decides to discontinue development of webOS.

My first look at Windows Phone Mango

I had a chance to get familiar with Windows Phone Mango with a quick hands-on, the highly needed upgrade for Microsoft’s latest mobile OS. Until now I have been quite skeptical about WP7, but now I have more faith in it.

I liked the new multi-tasking kind of visual task manager for third party apps, even though it’s not real multi-tasking, but instead apps are left in a special frozen state in the background. It seemed to work, based on what I saw with Angry Birds (beta) and a couple of applications. I hope at least Spotify will be launched as soon as Mango phones and updates for current WP7 phones are available.

I was also fascinated by how Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are so integrated into the user interface (Metro UI), for example on the start view, contacts and photos. It’s very nice you can group your contacts, so you can follow relevant people in different situations, such as you family members and friends on free-time or colleagues or partners in work related stuff.

Having tried Mango, starting a special Facebook app on Android, iOS or Symbian feels very old-fashioned. However, there are those apps on WP Mango too, and not all the features are supported in those integrated views.

The developer device I saw didn’t have Finnish language support yet, but according to Microsoft the translation has been ready since the RTM announcement in July. Unfortunately I didn’t yet see how well Scandinavian characters (or ”ääkköset”, as we call them in Finnish) have been placed on the virtual keyboard.

There were a few disappointments too. The Metro UI  and many WP apps don’t rotate into landscape mode which I find annoying when quickly switching between apps I usually use in ladscape mode (such as the web browser). The zoom feature didn’t seem to scale text bigger or smaller cleverly to always fit on screen.

Some of the features won’t initially be available to Finnish users. These include the mobile scout for Bing searches, plus music and video recognition.

Unfortunately I don’t now have time and cbance to write about this more here. But to summarise: the Windows Phone platform deserves a second chance, if you were disappointed with the first Windows Phone 7 release. I was, but now I’m a lot more optimistic. If you want a more in depth preview, search for ”Windows Phone Mango” preview . There are a plenty of them available.

I also had a few points in my work blog post in Finnish (or see a bad translation by Google) about the Mango update.

Updated: Symbian Anna update finally available

Updated blog post: I just downloaded and installed Symbian Anna (firmware version v.022.014) on Nokia N8. The file was about a 22 MB download from the firmware over the air (FOTA) selection in Settings  -> Phone -> Phone management -> Software updates menu.

It’s also available for Nokia E7, and probably C6 too (I could not confirm yet). Edit: Press release from Nokia confirms it should become available for all the Symbian 3 devices. There are release notes with new features and fixes on Nokia Conversations blog.

The first new thing you will notice are the new icons and the portrait mode virtual QWERTY.keyboard. Application icons are updated too.

I will write about my experiences, when I played with this for a while. After the first two hours, everything seems to work fine.

Ovi Store client broke, get the latest update

Yesterday my Ovi Store client broke totally. When starting it, it wanted to download an update. But this update didn’t work, but instead gave an error message saying “installation failed” or something like that. I still tried to use the old version, but it wouldn’t let me.

So I went to look for help on Nokia’s support forum. They have suggested re-installing some of the Qt files. The instructions tell I should install six separate .sis files in certain order. No f*cking way I’d go through that process.

Just when I thought this would end my co-operation with Ovi Store (soon to become Nokia Store, I believe), they fortunately released a new update (reported by Symbiantweet and others) that enabled me to easily install it again.

Note that some unofficial download links have spread on the web, but getting the update straight on the phone will download the official one.  So if your Ovi Store broke too, waiting for the latest v2.12.x update should be the easiest way to fix the problem. It’s probably already available for everyone.

Thanks to Nokia for solving this so quickly.

Will Android remain open?

Finally today morning I managed to listen the conference call (see the end of the press release for a link  to listen to it) about Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Nothing very special was reveaded, but it was interesting to hear Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page and mobility chief Andy Rubin argue many times that Android will remain open and licensed to many manufacturers.

“We built Android open and it will stay that way”, said Larry Page on the conference call to investors and media. He also praised how they launched the Open Handset Alliance where Motorola was one of the founding members.

“Android is still open and we want to keep it that way”, repeated Andy Rubin.

They also emphasized having many Android device vendor is key issue for the platform’s success to eliminate speculations Motorola would be favoured against other device vendors. That way Android can “spread as widely as possible”, Rubin argued.

There are a few good analyst comments on ReadWriteHack about the opennes. Even though many agree Android could become a bit more closed, it’s still a licenseable platform with room for differentiation.

Of course, even today the “opennes” of Android is controversial, as not nearly all the code is open source, and Google has been accused of violating the GPL license (see Google News for reports).

To close up, Google promises to keep Android open and treat all the Android vendors equally. Should we believe? I believe it’s the logical assumption, at the moment at least. It doesn’t seem possible for them to conquer the world alone with Motorola. They really need vendors of advanced Android smartphones like Samsung and HTC, and Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE for the developing markets.

Google gears for wireless patent wars acquiring Motorola

Exciting news today (edit: oops, it’s that late, so it was yesterday), as probably everyone has heard already, Google announced to acquire Motorola Mobility, the mobile devices business unit of the U.S. technology company. The acquisition valued $12,5 billion is the biggest Google has done so far.

I won’t repeat the news, but instead I’ll summarize in short what has been commented after this:

  • Google will get a very strong mobile and wireless patent portfolio (over 17 000, and about 7000 pending) valued probably of several billions of dollars which will help in IPR negotiations against Apple and Microsoft. Especially Apple has sued Android vendors like HTC and Samsung.
  • Google will get tighter co-operation on building user friendly and powerful Android devices. However, they have already had co-operation with HTC (Nexus One) and Samsung (Nexus S), so this isn’t necessarily so revolutionary.
  • Android will remain open and licensed to the competitors of Motorola, Google promised.
  • But what will other Android vendors, especially Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony Ericsson do? Probably they won’t hurry to do anyhing. In the long run they might feel insecure to focus too on Android from now on.
  • Research Manager Francisco Jeronimo from market research company IDC commented immediately after the acquisition announcement other Android vendors might now become more interested in Windows Phone 7 to decrease dependency on Google.
  • HTC, LG and Samsung have already developed and shipped a few WP7 phones too. Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE are also interested in WP7 even though they have focused on Android as their smartphone platform until now.
  • Thus this deal may indirectly benefit Microsoft and Nokia, if Windows Phone gets stronger support from mobile phone vendors. At the same time it would mean more competition for Nokia and the need to really differentiate in Windows Phone hardware and software.
  • Even though Google’s move probably came as a surprise to most people, Motorola has been espected to give up its mobility unit ever since and even before the company was split into two companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions (focused on enterprise services) about eight months ago. Motorola also sold its network business to Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN).

There’s a lot of news coverage on this, and it’s easy to find on Google News. Also worth reading is  the Business Insider article where Google co-founder Larry Page explains why they’re buying Motorola Mobility.

Google and Motorola also held a conference call for investors to which there’s a link in the end of the press release. I still couldn’t watch it today, because it wouldn’t load (maybe I should blame OS X and its Flash / Windows Media support), so I have to try it again in the morning.