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Archives for : February2012

Domains

I joined Fasthosts domain services 6½ years ago.  In all that time there hasn’t been a single hiccup with my account.  Last night I found that the domain privacy fee had been debited from my account the same day the domain was expiring.  The domain was still active and lapses in the privacy would mean people would have access to my personal details so it’s renewed before the domain expires.

Until you think how a computer thinks it seems like a sly action.  Many of us have heard of the story about the Australian man who didn’t need gas in his house throughout the summer so didn’t pay the gas board for several months, only to find when winter came he’d been disconnected.  A simple computer oversight – because the computer didn’t register a payment of $0.00 it actioned disconnection procedures on his supply.

I tweeted about what I thought was a crafty practise by my domain supplier.  Within a few minutes I’d had a response.  Someone was already looking in to it.  Within the hour (lengthened by not being able to authorise a new follower to a protected account on a mobile phone) the fee had been refunded.  JH (I’m not giving their full name) took ownership of the issue and unlike so many companies these days (Santander) I wasn’t passed from one person to the next. 

I received a tweet expressing surprise.  It seems some people may not think too highly of Fasthosts.  My opinion is simply this: after 6½ years to have one issue and for that issue to be resolved satisfactorily within the hour I’d say Fasthosts shows up most of the companies I’ve been a customer of and I look forward to many more years of happy service with them.

Nokia Lumia 800

The Nokia Lumia 800.

 

Background:

Back in May 1995 I got myself my first mobile, an NEC P100.  It was a brick and because I was on Vodafone it sounded like people were talking through bricks.

Thankfully I’ve had a Nokia since the 26th January 1996.  A date ingrained in my memory for two reasons, firstly it’s my mother’s birthday and secondly I gained possession of a brand new Nokia Orange Special Edition.  It was feature packed – 200 names capability in contacts, the signal and battery level could be seen without having to press a button, it had Caller ID and even SMS text messages were available which in early ’96 was a huge selling point.

Since the Special Edition I’ve had the Nokia 5.1, 6130, 7110, 6210, 5210i, 8310i, 3650, 7250i, N-Gage, 6600, 6260, N70, N95, N96 and X6.  I know I’ve had more but I simply can’t remember the rest.

Last year I ‘upgraded’ from the X6 as the battery would no longer last 48 hours if I used WiFi and/or GPS.  Friends had raved on about Android and the curiosity got the better of me.  For the first time since owning a Nokia I owned a different brand.  I was in unfamiliar waters.  Although Symbian had served me well for many years the app coders had already begun jumping ship and had started coding for Android and iOS.  I sold out.

I charged my new handset, an HTC Desire (an ironic name to say the least) as within a few hours of powering up I’d ran out of memory.  How could this be?  My Nokia smartphones had always asked me where I wanted to install my app to, I’d checked the SD card was in the HTC but somehow I’d ran out.  I soon realised this phone was to be permanently on a diet and accepted my temporary fate.

When upgrade time once again approached I started to weigh up my options.  I’d became accustomed to using Android 2.2 but I was losing sleep over what Nokia had done with their latest models.  It was then that @Nokia_Connects on Twitter offered me the opportunity to trial the new Nokia Lumia 800. 

[I’m not going to talk about technical specifications.  The hardware information can be found on the Nokia web site.  Instead, I’ve decided to write about how I personally felt about using the Lumia.]

I took ownership, albeit temporarily, almost a fortnight ago.  It was apparent as soon as the box was opened that Nokia hadn’t just slapped this thing together, an impression I’ve had recently when viewing other phones.  This unit was sleek, sexy and looks the business.

The screen is curved at its sides which took a little getting used to but the look works.  I’ve seen the same design on Nokias before and people have loved it. 

 

Screen
After powering up the Nokia shone brilliantly.  The background was true black, not a washed out grey colour usually found.  The AMOLED screen was clearly making a difference.  The home screen took a little getting used to.  There wasn’t an option to create a background picture, something I’ve seen with Windows Mobile in the past, and unlike many other Nokias these days there’s only one home screen.  A minor irritation considering the quality of the screen.  What really frustrates me is the heading of each area/app is spread across however many side-swiping screens show within the app.  This means you have to flick through each screen to read the heading!  If there’s no screen to the right then you don’t get to read the full heading.  To the side of the home screen is a full list of each installed app.  What I particularly liked was when the list becomes more populated the letters each app starts with become visible and interactive.  By tapping a letter the screen shows the alphabet.  If you wanted Youtube, for example, you can then tap Y rather than scrolling past every app.

The touchscreen’s interaction is acutely responsive, on occasion perhaps a little too responsive.  It is my opinion that an update should be released to configure the sensitivity of the screen.

 

Set up
Setting up the phone takes a fraction of the time it’s taken me with other phones.  After approximately ten minutes I’d set up WiFi, emails, security and settings and was on the Marketplace browsing the apps.  Although my son’s not long turned five I got the feeling that he could have set it up with very little guidance. 

The settings are simple and straightforward.  They’re categorised in to two columns: system and applications.

It’s in the settings that you’re reminded that the WiFi will only store three hidden SSID’s.  What the settings, technical specifications and other sites haven’t mentioned is the range at which you can still connect.  The WiFi adaptor in the phone does it proud.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Bluetooth, OBEX (OBject EXchange) is missing entirely as Mango only allows audio transfer over Bluetooth.  Transferring photographs to family via Bluetooth simply isn’t an option.

 

Apps
The apps found on the Lumia do work well with the phone.  They’re responsive and do as you would expect.  The design of some apps wasn’t to my liking.  Twitter, for example, takes up a large portion of the screen to remind you of your username and the huge “timeline, mentions, messages” etc. dominates the screen without reason leaving the buttons looking squashed at the bottom.  So much so that the description of each icon is hidden with their description available by tapping the ‘’ icon.

Even considering how new Mango is, the Marketplace is poorly stocked.  The number of free apps feels low and many of the apps have not been spell checked or have poor grammar.  This in itself fails to give the user confidence in the app itself.

The first app I looked for, a necessity after keeping the same number for over sixteen years, is Blacklist.  Unfortunately after several searches no app to block anonymous or annoying callers appeared to exist.  It seems this feature is unavailable on Mango.  It certainly wasn’t a feature of the operating system itself.

 

GPS
I don’t know what Nokia have fitted to this phone but it works.  Well.  There’s no option to link a GPS over Bluetooth (audio only remember?), which appears at first glance an oversight as phones these days have the capability either inherently or via an app.  It’s no oversight.  After travelling to a new area and loading GPS from a cold start it took a little under three seconds to get an accurate fix.  Three seconds!  I thought this was a little too good to be true so tested this in as many places as I could.  Indoors, outdoors, it made no difference, three seconds was the longest it took from a cold start.  If you wanted to geocache or have a Sat Nav in your pocket then the Nokia is ideal. 

It’s best to have the Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive set up before going out and trialling them but this isn’t necessary.  They operate well and the Drive app has a good clear layout and the screen is visible even in direct sunlight.  [It probably wasn’t a good to test it on a bus.  I was sitting near the front due to a lack of mobility and still in pain after being knocked off my motorbike. The driver could clearly hear the voice prompts as he deviated from his route and followed the instructions, an action which confused the other passengers greatly].

 

Xbox
The Lumia comes bundled with Xbox Live where games can be downloaded and the phone connected to your Xbox.  Despite an obvious appeal to many, I opted not to link this based on poor support from Microsoft in the past.  The Xbox can no longer be linked to the MCE2005 Media Centre – all support offered is circular resulting in hours of wasted time so I had no confidence in any future Xbox connectivity issues being resolved.  If the phone’s Xbox app couldn’t be linked to the Media Centre then it wasn’t of any use to me.

 

Browser
The Lumia comes bundled with Internet Explorer.  It has the option to view web pages formatted for mobile view or as the original desktop version which is invaluable.  Some sites, Twitter, Facebook etc. have added functionality on the desktop version so the option was definitely welcomed.  Unfortunately the browser is the slowest I’ve seen on a mobile device for a long time and the desktop option lags so much the site rarely loads. 

There are other browsers available for download but the aforementioned spelling/grammar errors in the app description didn’t fill me with sufficient confidence to download it.

 

Volume
The telephone itself is of good quality.  Calls can be understood by both parties and the loudspeaker has noticeable volume.  The calls don’t sound as though they’ve been made through a paper cup, which is a refreshing change after using my HTC.  I also tested the loudspeaker with Youtube and mp3’s.  The Lumia doesn’t have the volume of the 5230 but it’s certainly good enough for everyday use.  Not even the excessive background noise left me struggling to understand a conversation.  The microphone also performed well picking up every voice in the room.

 

Battery
For the most part the battery lasted a full day.  Considering that most of that day the WiFi and/or GPS will have been turned on it’s performed very well.  Unfortunately the battery can’t be replaced in a year or two as the handset is a sealed unit.

 

Connectivity
As mentioned earlier the Bluetooth doesn’t have OBEX but the WiFi range impressed me.  Unfortunately the WiFi must drop out as it used £7.52 of a £10 top up while in stand by.  The handset was left on overnight each night to test the battery life and there are two routers it can connect to so why it used the remaining credit remains unclear.

The signal strength was compared to several phones including an N95, N96, X6, various Android phones and iPhones.  It beat all of the iPhones, most of the Androids but the N96 and X6 did better the Lumia on signal strength.  All phones were compared using SIMs from the same carrier for objectivity.

 

Security
The Lumia comes with security in mind.  These phones aren’t cheap and if you lose one, have it stolen or you’re mugged then it’s comforting knowing that it can be locked and your personal data/photographs etc. can’t be used by nefarious parties.  I decided to test Microsoft’s Find My Phone and Lock facilities.  Unfortunately these can only be actioned online which is an obvious drawback if you’re out and about.  Microsoft did find the phone and lock it but it certainly wasn’t on the first occasion despite having good signal strength indicated and being connected to WiFi throughout the tests.

[I’ve removed the phone number and email address below for obvious reasons.  The screenshots remain otherwise untouched.]

I particularly like the phrase “If you like, we can keep trying and send you an email if we find it.” – the presence of ‘if’ surprised me.

 

My final act with the Lumia before boxing it up was the Erase option on the web site.  The phone was locked, wiped and the familiar Nokia logo came up.  It took around half the time of my previous Lock and Locate attempts which showed some promise.  As the phone is a sealed unit without an SD card you can rest safe in the knowledge that it can’t later be opened and your personal files read with a card reader.

 

Overall opinion
No phone is perfect.  We all must acknowledge that much but after using the Lumia for a fortnight I’m left with disappointment.

  • The flap to access the USB charging socket is, in my opinion, too flimsy and waiting to be snapped.  Whether or not it would last the full 12 months is dubious.  If you’ve signed up for a 24 month contract I wouldn’t expect it to still be there at the end.
  • The lack of access to the battery concerns me greatly.  My girlfriend uses my old N95 for her 365 project as its camera is far superior to the camera on her mobile phone.  Whether or not the Lumia could still be used five upgrades down the line cannot yet be answered but you can’t pick up a new battery and have the phone working again.
  • Why your Date of Birth is required in the set up to use the phone is beyond me.  It seems completely unnecessary.
  • The live tiles are a nice idea but I wouldn’t want others seeing photographs of who is in my contacts list.
  • Transferring data exclusively through WiFi or 3G seems a little short sighted.  My parents, for example, don’t use 3G enough to warrant a data plan.  If they took a photo and wanted to share it they would have to wait until they got home to send it.  Unfortunately this means via email as the Skydrive only worked once during trials.
  • The spelling/grammar in the Marketplace makes you wonder how much scrutiny has been placed on each app.  Are Microsoft so desperate to get apps on there that they simply haven’t bothered to check anything?  It wasn’t this way with Symbian!
  • So many apps seemingly request your location needlessly.  Why a QR code reader needs to know where you are is beyond me.  Why do apps that don’t need GPS request its use, and perhaps more importantly, what is the data used for?
  • Why one of the buttons is mapped exclusively for Bing is beyond me.  I could understand if the search icon searched in each app but it doesn’t.  It only ever takes you to Bing.  It also troubles me that it can’t be remapped to another search engine.
  • Once you begin installing an app it can’t be cancelled.  This is particularly annoying if you scroll through and it’s interpreted as a tap.
  • I’ve become used to remote printing.  Lumia doesn’t offer this anywhere that I found.
  • The calendar only offers week view beginning on a Monday.
  • Common apps such as Dropbox, Tweetdeck, Skype and Blacklist aren’t present.

On the upside however,

  • The interface is sleek and doesn’t lag despite my attempts to overload it.  It continued to operate admirably.
  • It’s simple to use.  Nothing has too many options that you become overwhelmed.
  • The GPS fix is astoundingly good – both quick and accurate.
  • The loudspeaker quality is impressive.
  • Push emails are advantageous.
  • The dedicated camera button means the camera app is always there.  You don’t have to go hunting through the phone for it.
  • Office apps are built in to the phone in full, not just a viewer.  You can edit your documents on the go.
  • Multitasking is performed well.  Holding the back button shows you your open apps and allows you to quickly switch between them.

 

There are other aspects which gave me the impression that a great deal of thought has gone in to creating the phone.  The calculator, for example, shows working out to 16 decimal places!  The phone comes with its own case especially designed for the handset.  The camera button which will load the camera app irrespective of which app is running at the time.

If I had to sum up the phone in one paragraph it would be this:

A great phone.  The hardware is outstanding, Nokia have excelled themselves with this phone, let down only by its basic operating system.  It’s truly a shame Windows Phone 7 (Mango 7.5) is so basic and lacks apps available to most other smartphones.

It made me wonder who the Lumia was aimed at.  A businessman would get a great deal from the phone but I suspect it’s been aimed at someone who wants a smartphone for the first time.  A foot on the ladder so to speak.  Its design is one of the more appealing out there.  It certainly turned heads when I took it out. 

Of course, these are only my opinions.  This phone may very well be ideal for yourself.  I’m very technically minded; my house is automated and I’m an RFID implantee.  I found Android basic in comparison to Symbian which seems never ending in its settings.  I think if Nokia ever decide to launch an Android phone I’ll be the first in the queue.  If the hardware in the Lumia 800 is anything to go by it would have the potential to out-sell most things on the market.

No doubt with time the Windows Mobile system will develop greater apps, hopefully spell checking them before launching them on the Marketplace.  In the mean time, visit a phone shop and ask them to show you the phone.  Make your own mind up.  The 800 certainly deserves your attention.