Tag Archives: Windows Phone
Nokia recently launched a Beta version of Nokia Xpress, a proxy browser for Nokia Lumia Windows phones. The new browser is somewhat similar to the Nokia Series 40 proxy browser that I reviewed previously and which is now also called Xpress.
Like Opera Mini and the UC Browser, Xpress uses a proxy server to pre-format and compress pages before they are sent to the device. The compression cuts page size by up to 85%, reducing network traffic and saving lots of money for users who pay for data by the KB or MB. The compressed pages also load faster on slow networks.
See the video below for a quick run through of Xpress on Windows phone in action.
The Lumia version of Xpress has a number of new features compared to its Series 40 sibbling, including:
- Data Usage Monitoring Live Tile - Data usage and savings are shown on a live tile on the Windows Phone start page.
- Saved Pages – save any web page locally to view later even with no cellular data connection.
- Save to SkyDrive - save videos (MP4 files, not steaming videos from You Tube, etc.), images, PDFs and other file types directly to Sky Drive without using any mobile data. You can view the saved items later on any device or download them to the phone when WiFi is available.
- Magazine - when you visit sites with RSS feeds the browser asks you if you want to add them to its RSS reader (image below, left) which uses an Flipboard like magazine layout (image below, right) that even lets you flip quickly between pages.
- QuickLinks – frequently visited sites appear as tiles on a QuickLinks page (image, abfor one click access.
- Smart & Easy Discovery - tap on a word and Nokia Xpress will display related content from Wikipedia, Bing and YouTube.
- Translations - tap the ‘translate to’ option in the app menu to translate the current page into one of 10 languages.
Xpress is only available directly from the Nokia Beta Labs. It's free but you will need a a Lumia and a free Nokia account to be able to download the app. You can register right on the Beta Labs site.
I don't have a Lumia device so I can't give you my hands on impressions of the Xpress browser. For that refer to Steve Litchfield and David Gilson's All About Windows Phone post.
Images and video courtesy of Nokia Beta Labs
Opera Mobile and Firefox Mobile and the browsers on other smartphone platforms are often as poweful or more powerfull than iOS Safari or the Android browser. But they don't have the market share and designers (and the bean counters who control development budgets) could care less about low market share platforms and browsers. I can't really blame them, it's not cost effective to develop for or test against a platform that accounts for a single digit percentage of traffic.
Fortunately, some web publishers do expose URLs that will let you load the bleeding edge webapp goodness on any device. I've started to try to find as many of these URLs as I can and test them against all the reasonably capable browsers I have access to, which is currently the Symbian Belle browser, Opera Mobile 12.0 on Symbian and Android, Firefox Mobile Beta 11.0 on Android, the WebOS 188.8.131.52 browser, bada 1.0 browser and Opera Mini Next on Android and Symbian.
I'll be adding the URLs of Android and iOS webapps that work on one or more of my alternate browsers to the WapReview Mobile Directory. To distinguish them from legacy webapps from the same Publisher I'm adding "Touch" to the site's name. Today, I added the following Touch apps to the Directory. I'll add more in upcoming editions of the regular "Found on the Mobile Web" feature here on WapReview.
Facebook Touch touch.facebook.com Advanced mobile version of Facebook that's served to the Android, bada and iPhone browsers by default. Also works in Firefox Mobile and Opera Mobile, the Symbian browser and, except for the check-in feature, the WebOS 184.108.40.206. (Pixi, Pixi Plus) browser (the WebOS browser has no geoLocation support).
Google+ Touch m.google.com/app/plus/?force=1 The rich mobile web version of Google Plus with check in and the ability to create circles, which are missing in the basic mobile version. Served by default to Android, the iPhone and Firefox Mobile. Also works well in the WebOS, Symbian, bada and Opera Mobile browsers. There's a link to this version at the bottom of the basic mobile version (m.google.com/app/plus/x/) that's served to unsupported browsers.
Google News Touch www.google.com/news/i The iPhone and Android version of Google News. It uses geolocation to serve local news based on where you are and has a a more attractive layout, more content per page and more and larger images than the basic mobile versiion at news.google.com/m/news.
IPhone, Android, WebOS and bada browser visitors to news.google.com are redirected to this touch version. But it also works well in Opera Mobile, Opera Mini, Firefox Mobile and Symbian browsers it you enter the URL
Google Calendar Touch www.google.com/calendar/gp Google Calendar optimized for advanced mobile browsers. Looks and works more like a native calendar app with separate day and month views. Served by default to the iPhone, bada, WebOS and Android browsers. Works well in the Symbian browser. Minor rendering issues but usable in Firefox Mobile, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.
Google Reader Touch www.google.com/reader/i/ Enhanced mobile version of Google Reader served by default to Android, bada, iPhone, WebOS and Firefox Mobile browsers. Also works well in Opera Mobile and the Symbian browser. It's usable in Opera Mini but slow because expanding items requires a server round trip
Not everyone of these iPhone/Android apps works perfectly in every unsupported browser. There can be, mostly minor, performance or rendering issues, but I generally prefer these Touch webapps to their legacy equivalents in all the browsers mentioned in this post.
Today at Nokia World in London, Nokia announced its first Windows phones, the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 701. I wasn't able to make it to London but Nokia held a press event at their US headquarters in the Silicon Valley today where I got a chance to see and try both phones. Here are my first impressions.
The Nokia 800 (above, left; below, right) is the higher end of the two. It is a gorgeous device with a quality feel. Externally it's almost identical to the N9 MeeGo phone (below, left). Like the N9, it has a one piece polycarbonate body with a non-removable battery and a glass screen that is smoothly curved into the body at the edges. The only physical differeces I could find between the N9 and the 800 are that the Windows phone has a physical camera button and a slightly smaller 3.7" vs 3.9" screen to make room for the three standard Windows phone capacitive buttons.
The 800's camera has nearly identical specs to the N9 too; 8 MP, autofocus, Carl Zeiss lens and dual led flash.
The software on the 800 looks to be Standard Windows Phone Mango with the addition of a couple of exclusive Nokia apps.
- Nokia Drive which brings turn by turn navigation with voice guidance to Windows Phone. As with Nokia Maps on Symbian, maps and waypoints can be downloaded and stored locally on the phone for instant access regarless of network connectivity. I found Drive worked well, quickly finding my current location and an address that I searched for and calculating ehe route between them.
- Mix Radio which will deliver free streaming music worldwide. The music comes in the form of mixes of multiple full songs. The mixes can be streamed for free with no registration or login required and can also be download and stored on the phone for offline playback. Unfortunately Mix Radio was not installed on the either on the phones I tried which were running pre-release firmware.
Zooming and scrolling in Drive's maps was very snappy with no noticible lag. The same was true of the entire Windows Phone interface on the 800. There was no hesitation when switching from screen to screen or scrolling.
Priced at 420 EUR ($584) unsubsidized, the Nokia 800 will be available in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in November and in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan by year end. UK customers can pre-order a Lumia N8 now. If your willing to sign a two year contract at 30 GBP or more you can get the Lumia 800 for free! That's typical of the UK operators who subsidize phones much more heavily than their US counterparts.
US availability was not announced although Nokia did say that a "portfolio" of Windows Phones would be offered in the US early in 2012 and that it would include GSM, CDMA and LTE models.
Nokia's unique Pentaband 3G radio is missing from the 800 possibly due to limitations with the Qualcomm Snapdragon SOC that Nokia is using. There is quad band (850, 800, 1900, 2100) 3G support. This means both of AT&T's 3G bands are covered but not T-Mobile's unusual 1700/2100 combo. I suspect that there will eventually be Nokia Windows Phones with support for T-Mobile USA'S 3G band.
The Lumia 710 is the value offering on the Lumia line. Priced at 270 EUR ($375) it gives up very little in specs or performance compared with its higher priced sibbling. Both phones use the same 1.4 Mhz single core processor and 512 MB of RAM, both have 3.7" 800 x 480 px ClearBlack screens and an auto-focus camera and both include the Nokia Dive and Lyric apps. The main differences are that the 710's screen uses less expensive TFT LCD vs AMOLED technology, the camera is 5 MP instead of 8 MP and has a Nokia rather than a Carl Zeiss lens, there's 8 MB of storage memory rather than 16 MB and the battery is smaller but removable.
When I tried the Lumia 710 its performance seemed just as snappy as its pricier brother. The lower spec screen might not have been quite as bright but I really notice the difference. Although I've heard the 710 described as "clunky" I really can't agree. While it's not as elegant or as expensive feeling as the 800, its lighter and only insigniffigantly thicker (a third of a millimeter, about the thickness of a business card) and is eminently pocketable.
The Lumia 710 will be available by year end. It will be offered initially in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan with other countries getting it later.
The Lumia 710's 3G radio is limited to 3 bands (900, 1900 and 2100) which should be fine for its target markets.
Overall I'm impressed with Nokia's Windows Phones. The combination of WP Mango's ease of use, performance and stability with Nokia's elegant design sensibility, best cameras in the business, free navigation and music looks like a winning combination. Personally, I'm especially happy to see the return of auto-focus cameras to Nokia smartphones. The EDOF (fixed focus) cameras on the E6, C7 and E7 worked very well for general photography and videos but their inability to shoot closeups made them unusable as the main camera for a blogger who sometimes needs to photograph phones.
I'm still trying to digest today's announcement that Nokia will adopt "Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy". Symbian will become a "franchise platform", which based on the slide below (from one of Nokia's announcement press PDFs) means will it will be gradually phased out.
Meego will become a research project for exploration of future products. As the side below shows R&D investment in MeeGo will drop by about two thirds. That slide also suggests that massive layoffs in Nokia R&D lie ahead.
I've had about 30 minutes of hands on with Windows Phone. My first impressions as a user are generally good. WP has a fresh new UI that seems responsive and intuitive. It's a young platform and a bit unfinished in some areas. For the sake of the company's employees, investors and partners I hope that Microsoft and Windows Phone prove to be a good fit for Nokia and help to reverse its slow decline.
But I'm also sad for all the dedicated Symbian and MeeGo developers, designers and QA folks inside and outside of Nokia who will have their lives and livelihoods disrupted. I've been through a couple of these sorts of transitions myself and it's hard, very hard both for those let go and those who remain.
As a proponent of open source and open systems in mobile the news is disheartening. Symbian and MeeGo are open source. Windows Phone is closed. The geek dream of a truly open mobile platform is dashed yet again.
I feel that Symbian could have been saved. It's a great multi-tasking OS with excellent imaging and video support that is also very power-efficient and runs well on low cost hardware. The knock on Symbian has been that its user interface is dated and user experience clumsy and unintuitive. I feel that with Symbian^3 Nokia made a great first step in modernizing and simplifying the Symbian user experience. I still think that with a bit of performance optimization and a committed effort to quash some annoying bugs, Symbian would make a great OS to compete with Android in the low-end smartphone market.
I'm even more disheartened with Meego's demotion to a lightly funded lab project. Over a year ago I had a Nokia N900 running Maemo, MeeGo's predecessor. The hardware was clunky but the OS was very good. It was fast, stable and had a gorgeous, intuitive and powerful user interface. In 2009 Maemo was more finished than Windows Phone today. It had multitasking, desktop Flash, copy/paste and the best browser I've ever used on a mobile phone - all things that Windows Phone currently lacks. Best of all Maemo ran the full desktop Linux plus X11 stack and could install apps from any source including many desktop Linux apps. There's something very exciting about a handheld device ably running a full open source desktop coupled with a touch friendly UI.
I had high hopes for Maemo and expected Nokia to quicky tie up a few loose ends like the lack of portrait mode support in most apps and begin releasing a long line of polished, consumer oriented Maemo smartphones.
Instead Nokia entered into an alliance to combine Maemo with Intel's Moblin netbook OS to produce MeeGo. Unfortunately the alliance seems to have resulted in nothing but delays and setbacks. Rumors suggest that the N900's successor has been cancelled and that Nokia is switching to using the not yet commercially available Intel Medfield CPU instead of the ubiquitous ARM processor for its first MeeGo phone.
At least Intel seems committed to MeeGo and Nokia is still saying they will ship a MeeGo phone this year. I hope they do and I hope they sell millions of them. If the OS is as powerful and open as Maemo I'll certainly buy one.
Hindsight is easy but I bet if Nokia had stuck with Maemo they would not wound up in the humbling position of having to downsize and rely on using someone else's OS for their flagship phones.