Friday, September 04, 2009

Nokia N79 Active

Recently I started using twitter, facebook and blogs more and I got a little bit annoyed that I couldn't update those sites with my mobile phone. And then my digital camera died on me, which resulted in no new photos by me in the last couple of months. The final point which made me want to get a new fancy phone was me getting lost on Tibidabo without a GPS.

My old phone is a Ericsson t39m, which is one of the best mobile phones ever made. It was one of the first phones with bluetooth and does stuff like email, WAP & T9. It also supports lots of accessories, like different sized batteries, different antennas, docks and travel chargers. It also pretty small and has a nice monochrome screen.

But there comes a point where you need a new toy and after looking at all kind of phones I finally came up with a list of requirements:
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • digital camera > 3M
  • GPS
  • small and light
  • not too expensive, because it might get stolen here in Barcelona
  • normal phone keys, no touch phone
  • some way to program for it
  • WLAN
  • bluetooth
  • USB storage support for photos and music
This ruled out pretty much most of the phones including the iPhone, which was out of the question anyway, because my recent experience with iPods and Linux.

At one point I discovered the Nokia N79 Active, which was announced beginning of the year. It also has one nice additional feature which is was the real selling point for me: it comes with a Polar heart-rate belt.

Buying one turned out to be a bit more difficult then I hoped. First it was just released in Finland, Sweden and South Africa, and not available on-line. It was announced in Germany, but the date got pushed back every month until they finally took it off their website. Then it got released in the UK and was available on the Nokia on-line shop, but they obviously don't deliver to Spain. Finally a friend of mine in the UK ordered it for me and forwarded it to Barcelona.

Now I have it since a little bit over a month and are fairly happy with it. I use it every day as my phone, for photos, web browsing and twittering.

Together with the Nokia Sportstracker website and software it is also brilliant to track your sports activity, which is in my case mainly cycling and mountain biking. Here is the information about my last long ride on Tibidabo: 4h on Tibidabo

Here are some other things I like about it:
  • pretty light and small for a smart phone
  • some good software available, like GPS tracking (AFTrack), twittering (Gravity), Putty
  • there is a Python version for it
  • some nice google stuff, like Maps, Latitude, Youtube, ...
  • good Nokia mapping software
  • the podcasting client is nice and you can add your own OPML files as directories
  • contacts & calendar can sync with google
  • camera is good enough
And some stuff that is rubbish
  • the software and menus are structured very strange, you can reorder them but some stuff just makes no sense at all. The worst bits are all the different settings and preferences. Others think so too
  • there is a "Media" button & menu, which doesn't make any sense
  • the whole Sportstracker thing seems to have a unsure future
  • the WLAN and 3G selection should just do the right thing, like the iPhone does
  • some non-Nokia software has a completely different UI, the google apps and opera for example
  • OVI (Nokia online services and app store) is a mess
  • it crashes sometimes, even doing simple stuff
  • out of the box it comes with three different types of maps (google, OVI, Sportstracker)
  • annoying start-up screen & sound and horrible ring tones
Overall I am happy though, because I had rather low expectations as most mobile phones I had in my hand in the last couple of years were pretty rubbish. Except of the iPhone, which had the first good user interface for phones since the rotary dial, but it just was not right for me.

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