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Monday·14·April·2008

New mobile phone and what the Nokia 6310i did better than the E51 //at 00:31 //by abe

from the habits-and-gadgets dept.

Habits control our choice sometimes more than we would like to admit…

New mobile phone

Since about two weeks ago I’ve a new mobile phone. The Nokia E51 will replace my slowly dying Nokia 6130i.

I knew I needed a new mobile phone when my 6310i started to turn off itself shortly after I turned it on. I needed up to about ten times switching it on to make it stay on. Sometimes it already switched itself off before I could enter the PIN. Looks like a loose contact, but I never figured out where it is.

Although I know about Nokia’s behaviour in Germany, I still had to buy a Nokia, because after using a 6130 (the GSM 1800 only clone of 6110 and 6150), a 6210i and the already mentioned 6130i over the last decade, I got so used to how Nokia mobile phones are navigated and how you type with Nokia phones (blank on 0, point and comma on 1, case changing on #), everything else (especially those with blank on 0 and case changing on *) would be worse than the half-dead mobile phone, I’m currently using.

Spoilt for choice

So which Nokia? For a long time I refused to buy a mobile phone with a camera or radio in it. But since the E70 was no more available (and is said to have quite buggy software) and the E61 has been replaced with the E61i, there are no more smartphones without a camera, at least not from Nokia. But I also found some useful uses of camera phones. After a while I could track down the number of choices to four: Communicator E90, E61i, E65 or E51:

Sizeasy Size Comparison: Nokia E90 vs Nokia 6310i vs Nokia E61i vs Nokia E51 vs Nokia E65

The picture above shows that the main differences of those models is size: Although having a QWERTY keyboard on the phone would be nice (for ssh, Jabber, the web, etc.) and the E90 being only slightly bigger than the 6310i on the paper, the size difference to the 6130i is more than only noticeable since the 6310i tapers off at the top. Besides, for the price of an E90, I get an E51 and an EeePC together… (Thanks to maol in whose blog I read about Sizeasy.)

The E61i also has a (very small) QWERTY keyboard and is primarily only much wider than any of the other phones. It even has no bigger screen resolution than the E51 or E65. (Only the no more available E60 – a normal monoblock smart phone like the E51 – had a better resolution: 352x416 pixel instead of 240x320 pixels.) And since I usually carry my mobile phone in my trouser pockets, width matters most.

So I had the choice to either get a phone which is too big for my trouser pockets or one without a QWERTY keyboard. The I remembered those foldable external keyboards for PDAs. There are at least three different makers of foldable bluetooth keyboards said to be working with Nokia Symbian S60 3rd Edition phones, so a QWERTY keyboard on the phone itself was no more important. (Only passwords will need to be entered over the number keypad since I don’t want to broadcast them… ;-)

The choice between E65 and E51 was made easier by their reviews (E65, E51) at Xonio: The E65 seems to have not that good standby and phoning times while the E51 seems to be quite good regarding endurance.

I looked through the usual shops around Z¨rich HB: Swisscom Shop, MobileZone, Phonehouse: All had the same prices (about CHF 250 for a two years contract at CHF 25 per month), except that Phonehouse had no E51 available in the shop. Interestingly digitec had a much lower price (CHF 100 for the same contract) and the choice of color (the shops always only offered one color), so I ordered a black one there.

Converting a prepaid card to a postpaid contract isn’t that easy

I wanted to change from a prepaid card to a postpaid contract, both at Swisscom, so I already own a SIM card. But digitec only offers new contracts including a SIM card or contract renewals, but no switching to a contract with keeping the number. And a new SIM card costs CHF 40 extra in their online shop. So I called their hotline and asked. The answer was: I need a new SIM card since prepaid SIM cards can’t be converted to postpaid SIM cards (but can be used with different providers).

When I came to the shop, the employee needed three tries to fill out the Swisscom form for the number migration and still did it wrong somehow. No postpaid contract acknowledgement from Swisscom after two workdays. So I called their hotline. They told me, the wrong SIM card number has been entered and I need to make digitec to enter the correct one.

A few days later back at the shop they were overextended. After a while an internal e-mail was on the employee’s screen which clearly stated that in case of prepaid to postpaid conversions (and a few other cases) no new SIM card must be given out and if this happens too often for the same employee he will be charged the CHF 30 a new SIM card costs digitec… (So they have a 25% margin of every sold SIM card…)

About one hour after they closed their doors (I was there about ten minutes before shop closing time) Swisscom had accepted the contract changes and I had a credit note of CHF 40 for the erroneously sold SIM card. And the mobile phone became even cheaper than in all the other shops. :-)

New gadget, new features

So after a week, I can say that in general I’m quite happy with the new phone. It has a nice web browser, an IMAP over SSL capable mail reader and a feed reader, it can connect to the internet via WLAN and the 240x320 resolution isn’t as bad as I expected. I already have a Symbian port of PuTTY on it and sshing into my workstation works fine, even if I currently only have the phone keyboard and T9 as input device and helper.

I also have Opera and Opera Mini installed, but to my own surprise the included web browser from Nokia (said to be based on Apple’s HTML rendering engine WebKit which itself is based on KDE’s HTML rendering engine KHTML) is way better, especially in navigation, even although Opera Mini 4.1 caught up a little bit in comparison to Opera Mini 4.0. (Hey, and you hear that from a web browser fetishist and Opera fan!)

The only thing which currently really bugs me on the builtin web browser is that even an enforced updating of my feeds sometimes just results in nothing. Maybe a firmware upgrade can help…

As barcode reader, I have installed the i-nigma Reader. (The Quickmark QR Code Reader download just showed the content of something which seems to be a Windows DLL instead of downloading it. *plonk*) It’s amazing how fast the i-nigma Reader recognizes a 2D barcode from Semapedia on my laptop screen.

Of course I also have ScummVM on my new Symbian phone.

I will also play around with Amora which turns your Symbian S60 mobile phone into a remote control for your presentations on Linux (or any other unixoid operating system) running laptop as soon as I managed to get an amd64 Debian package of it. (Currently there seems only i386 packages and no source packages available, but this may be due to the “Show all downloads” link gives a server error…) Oh, and many thanks to foosel since I found Amora in her blog.

BTW: Any recommendations for a free (preferably free as in DFSG) Jabber and/or IRC client for Symbian S60 3rd Edition? I already downloaded and installed Gizmo5, but somehow it refuses to work each time I try to create an Gizmo account.

Accessories

Since the E51 has no QWERTY keyboard, I ordered a Nokia SU-8W Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard at Brack. It was a little bit bigger and thicker than expected, but OTOH the metal case seems to be very stable and robust.

Since this keyboard is designed to fit on Nokia mobile phones it also has the two Nokia typical soft keys and the middle select key. So nearly all phone functions can be used with the external keyboard, even turning off the phone’s key lock. Only locking the phone’s keys again doesn’t work via the external keyboard.

Additionally I equipped my E51 with a 2GB microSD card. Probably a bluetooth headset for driving will come once, too.

What the Nokia 6310i did better than the E51

There are a few things which are annoying regarding Nokia’s UI consistency over the years. That the backspace key is no more the right soft-key is ok. It took me only five tries to get my e-mail account setup without hitting the abort key (no “Do you really want to abort?” questions ;-) instead of backspace key.

But what’s really annoying is that the menu navigation via number keys only works for the first level and no more for all levels. So no more “menu 4 4 4” to switch to manual network selection.

It’s also annoying that you (or at least I ;-) can’t enter phone numbers as the recipient of SMS directly anymore, at least those SMS never reach their receipient neither do I get an error message.

Same counts for the missing acoustic acknowledgment of locking the keypad. You only hear pressing the first key but not even the second key anymore.

And if you press the volume keys on the side of the phone, you also have neither acoustic nor visual feedback if you pressed them hard enough so that the volume changed. The 6310i had visual and acoustic feedback.

The alarm clock in the E51 seems to be artifically castrated: After having pressed the snooze button two or three times there is no more snooze button on the right the soft key anymore. With the 6310i you could press snooze as often as you want. Only disadvantage with the 6310i in regards of the alarm clock: the snooze time was much too long (10 minutes)…

Oh, and what’s also annoying is that I can’t move over the whole addressbook of my 6310i in one piece but have to send each contact via bluetooth or infrared and then the E51 even get’s the contact names mixed up: ‘Beckert, Axel’ becomes ‘Firstname: “Beckert,” Lastname: “Axel”’… Great! I have to edit nearly all contacts manually… The cut and paste feature helps here, but it takes about one to two dozens of key clicks to copy the whole content of a filed into the clipboard…

The E51 can run several applications at the same time and that you can switch between them any time. While that’s generally a nice feature I started using quite soon, it’s sometimes annoying that you have to wait up to a second or so after you’ve chosen some menu entry until you can do anything further. Also the screen often flickers while loading applications, showing them, then showing only the background, showing them again, etc.

… but finally

I already got used to the new mobile phone so much that I already have the feeling that my old 6310i became more thick since I have the E51. (Won’t think about how thick the about ten years old 6130 feels now compared to the slim E51… :-)

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert

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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the IT Support Group (ISG) of the Departement of Physics at ETH Zurich.

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