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Nokia World 08 - touch-friendly smartphone and new services
It's still three months to World Mobile Congress, but Barcelona already seems to be crowded with journalists from all over the globe, eager to see what Nokia World 08 will bring. Over the years, this event has become Nokia's tribune for delivering keynotes and, to a lesser extent, launching new products. Originally they were planning to showcase two phones, but since the Nokia 6260 Slide had been unleashed several days before that and most European distributors gave it a cold welcome, it was ruled out of the agenda. That's why this year's Nokia World has a special emphasis on services - the company's officials have already disclosed some bits of information as to when certain offerings will be launched across Europe.
Perhaps, most ordinary consumers won't find anything of interest in Nokia World 08, for the vast majority of announcements made there aren't anywhere near revolutionary. For example, the brand-new Maps on OVI service will allow the user to scheme his/her routes on PC and then upload them to a compatible mobile phone. Handy? No doubt about that. Is it available with today's navigation-savvy phones? No. Will it revolutionize the market? Definitely not. It's merely a small step forward that doesn't make all the difference in the user experience.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves and rather review the things Nokia has announced so far in order of their appearance. The first man to appear on the scene was Nokia's CEO - Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. His speech focused on further personalization of mobile phones and their ability to show not only your current location but also where your friends are what they (you) are doing. This service is called SO-LO, which is short for Social Location. Also Nokia have presented image-based search functionality, meaning that from now on all you need to do to get a detailed review of some point of interest (such as a monument) is take its picture and run the search. Furthermore, you can go as far as snapping a poster of some movie and have your phone sniff around the Web for more info. Curiously, it's only the beginning - Nokia are planning to tack on auto-translation functionality onto this service down the road, plus on-the-fly navigation that will allow you getting exact coordinates of your location based on the images you have submitted (in a way, it's an enhanced version of Google's StreetView). Sounds like a dream, but first we'll need to take this service for a test drive to see if it can handle all points of interest equally well.
As far as Nokia Maps service is concerned, Nokia now allows planning your routes on PC and synchronize them with mobile devices (this service is free of charge); plus there are 3D landmarks available for 216 cities around the globe, update local guides and weather forecasts.
Olli-Pekka also quoted some interesting numbers - according to him, up to 75 percent of all mobile phone users don't have email, and most of them get their mail solely via cell phones (instead of PCs). With this in mind, no wonder why Nokia have been so serious about Mail on OVI service (compatible with MS Exchange or Lotus Domino) of lat. The good news for all these consumers is that registration of a new mail box doesn't require them to have a PC at hand - a mobile phone will do too, although you'll still be able to retrieve emails with PC or web-interface. Also, he didn't fail to mention that the Nokia E71 become one of the most popular, and therefore best-selling devices in its segment.
Apart from numerous updates of their old services, Nokia have rolled out some new ones, such as Nokia Messaging push email service that allows gathering all your mail in one place for easy access and management.
Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's EVP, talked about the development of mobile computers, also known as S60-based smartphones. Apparently, his entire speech was centered around the Nokia N97 presentation - we won't give you a summary of his 30-40 minute long digressions on what a phone, oh well, mobile computer, should look like these days, and rather get straight down to the most interesting part, the N97 itself.
The N97's centerpiece is its 3.5 inch display, similar to that found in the Nokia 5800, that comes with tactile feedback and allows the user to tap with either fingers or bundled stylus. But, more importantly, the N97 ships with a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard, plus its opening mechanism is very similar to that of some HTC-branded communicators (such as the TyTN series), enabling you to tilt the display at 35 degrees.
Other features include automatic screen rotation, standard Nokia's set of features, bundled GPS, dedicated audio processor and microUSB socket. What's more important, the N97 allows you to put an assortment of widgets right on the home screen (whose location is fully customizable), so that apart from contacts and applications you will also have blogs and images within fingers reach.
The phone will retail for 550 Euros (before local taxes and subsidies), meaning that it rivals Sony Ericsson's limitedly available Xpreia X1. On the other hand, its release date is slotted for spring 2009 (some time in April). Going for the Nokia N97 are its huge built-in storage (32 Gb), microSD memory card slot and 5 Mpix camera (that is far superior to the camera found in the X1) that manages to snap pretty decent photos, even though it's not an imaging-savvy solution.
Plus the N97 comes included with an electronic compass, which is quite an offbeat feature. Other than that it looks very much like the recently announced Nokia 5800.
Published 2 December 2008
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