Sunday, 11 April 2010

Nokia Lost the Plot

Nokia has abandoned the 4-digit naming convention for its mobile phone models and adopted four series of N, E, C, X instead. The N series is supposed to be the top notch flag-ship products of Nokia with the latest and greatest technologies. The X series are supposed to be the device for social, entertainment and youth. However, the way Nokia allocates the features to their devices is quite messy and inconsistent.

The 5800 XM is supposed to be a great music player. However, it does not have the Home Media application although the machine is equipped with uPnP capability. Also, it allows you to configure SIP settings but there is no built-in SIP client! On the contrary, N95 has both features built-in.

I was ecstatic when I heard about Nokia freeing up its Ovi Map including voice turn by turn navigation since late January 2010. So I quickly went to Nokia’s official maps site and installed them on my N95. In order to install Ovi Map, it had to upgrad my N95’s software version and wiped out all my applications, history and address book during the process! So I had to spend days to re-patch my phone, re-install all the software and games, re-download and reload the map and voice files and restore from a 2-year-old address book backup… But hey the Ovi Map (v3.01 09wk44 b01) got installed and actually worked. But my joy was short lived. My expired trial license for navigation did not get renewed or removed. So when I tried to start navigation, Ovi Map will nag me about purchasing licenses and if I don’t it will quit navigation. So meanwhile I have to feel content with TomTom 6 and its 3-year-old Australian map.

Frustrated, I did some digging and found out that the ‘Free Forever’ maps is not compatible with my N95 – as it is not in the device list. Yet you can still download the software and maps for it – it is just not free! However, Nokia’s marketing machine does not tell you this. No wonder so many N95 users share this frustration.

A glimpse of hope remains for my 5800 XM as it is in the Ovi Map compatible devices list. To install the free version (v3.03 which only works on S60v3 FP2 and S60v5 and it is designed/optimised for touch screen user interface) I need to upgrade the phone’s software to 31.0.008 or greater. I have yet to do so as I want to make sure I back things up before the upgrade…

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Using VoIP on Nokia

For years my family had relied on calling cards for making ‘cheap’ overseas calls. But these days most of the calling card services are notoriously unreliable and those companies downright unscrupulous – they promise you thousands of minutes, but you’d be lucky if it lasts more than an hour. Sometimes the company will even wind up before you can use your newly purchased calling card!

The good news is that there are more nimble telco providers in Australia that provide value for money. The ones that are suitable for my family’s needs are Lebara and PennyTel. Lebara offers cheap rates to overseas calls especially to landlines but with a 25c flagfall charge. PennyTel on the other hand has better rates to overseas overall and does not have any flagfall charges.

I like PennyTel for its competitive rates and its usage of standard SIP technology as its VoIP platform. SIP is available on many Nokia phones.  On my N95 it is as simple as following the instructions provided on PennyTel. Then you can call any landland numbers (need use either area code + number or country code + area code + number). Receiving calls to your PennyTel number also works well (calling from a PennyTel ATA device). However, I did find that calling other PennyTel numbers (either landline or account number) using its softphone or SIP clients on my mobile did not work – it either would not connect or gave me announcements…

Using SIP on XM 5800 is another story. Although the phone does have a place for you to configure SIP settings (Menu -> Settings -> Connectivity -> Admin. Settings -> SIP Settings) but there is no built-in SIP client software. Alas, XM 5800 is not in the table. So I installed Fring on my XM 5800 and the SIP configuration is even simpler – only 3 fields to fill.

On PC (Windows 7) I have tried SIP Communicator and X-Lite. SIP Communicator supports IM and VoIP from various social networks while X-Lite is specialised in SIP. Both worked well. But X-Lite seems more polished. I have used eyeBeam – the commercial version of X-Lite for work and quite liked it – it has hundreds of parameters you can tweak provided that you know your SIP and RTP well.