I really thing I should get some credit for this: I managed to wait until March 2008 to buy myself an iPhone. I didn’t rush out and wait in line on the day they shipped. I didn’t buy myself one when the price fell. I even bought my wife one first, in December for our anniversary. Admittedly, I was in a car on the way to the nearest Apple store when Steve first announced the iPhone last January, before he bothered to mention that it wouldn’t ship for 6 months, but it’d be totally unfair to count that against me.
More seriously, it took me quite a while to convince myself that it was time to retire my trusty Nokia E61. The E61 served me well for almost 2 years, but it was time to swap. In theory the two phones are fairly similar–fairly large screens, WiFi, EDGE (the E61 does 3G in Europe, which doesn’t help me much here), and Safari-ish browsers. In reality, they’re a wonderful demonstration of why feature checklists are worthless. Here are the things that I care about most:
- The iPhone is hands-down better for reading and writing email via Gmail. The native IMAP client is good enough, and the iPhone version of the Gmail web interface is vastly better then the version that we feed to the E61, even though they’re running very similar WebKit-based browsers. The E61’s keyboard is better, but the HTML edit box in Gmail’s mobile web interface is so bad that it cancels out the keyboard advantage.
- The browser is better. It’s faster, it doesn’t crash on every third Amazon page that I try to load, and the touchscreen scrolling is better than the joystick on the E61.
- It’s actually usable as a music and video player. In theory, the E61 can play movies and music, but (1) there’s no easy way to copy content onto it (unlike the N-series phones, it doesn’t come with an iTunes plugin), (2) out-of-the-box it only supports wacko video codecs, and (3) the UI’s bad.
- It’s easier to charge. My E61 has never charged right; swapping batteries and chargers never made a big difference. The iPhone, on the other hand, uses a semi-standard connector and charges via USB. It’s easy to find iPod cables and USB jacks, but finding a spare Nokia charging cable is tough, at least around here.
- I’m never, ever going to have to see Nokia’s stupid “which network connection do you want to use?” dialog box again. For some reason, Nokia decided that asking the user before letting apps use the network every single time was a good move. It’s smart enough to know which networks are available, and which ones I’ve configured it to use, but it’ll still show me a list with one or two choices every time. Bleh.
- The on-screen phone keypad includes letters. It’s a stupid thing, but the E61 doesn’t give you an easy way to dial vanity phone numbers, because there’s no way to tell which numbers map to which letters. I mean, can you tell me off the top of your head which numbers you need to press to dial ‘1-800-884-SOIL’?
The E61 wins a few points, though:
- It comes with a SIP client that’s actually be useful at home for me.
- It’s open, and you can install useful software.
- The Nokia podcast client does a great job of copying new episodes of Escape Pod for me on the fly.
- It’s louder. That makes it harder to miss calls.
SMS is kind of a push between the two; the E61’s ringer is louder and it has a better keyboard, but it takes way too many button presses to do anything.
So, for now I’m using the iPhone. Yeah, I could have waited for the 3G iPhone or Android, whenever they appear, and I may swap for one (or both?) of them when they’re available. From everything that I’ve seen, Android’s programming model will be vastly better than the iPhone SDK, at least for the weird types of things that I care about, but it’s not shipping yet.
One of the things I really like about my Nokia E61 is that it’s not just a cell phone, it’s also a VoIP phone. It includes a SIP client that works with Asterisk, mostly, so I’m able to get by with just one phone at home–incoming calls headed to either my cell number *or* my home number ring to the same phone. Which is great.
Except it all stopped working when I upgraded to the latest E61 firmware a couple months ago. I re-created my SIP settings, but the phone just wouldn’t register with Asterisk. Deleting and re-creating the settings didn’t make much of a difference, and eventually I decided to put off debugging it and wait until I had more time.
So, this morning I spent about an hour and a half trying to fix the phone. I re-configured it using several different configs that I found on line, and none of them worked. They all just generated “Registration Failed” messages on the phone. So I turned on SIP debugging in Asterisk, but it wasn’t very helpful–it didn’t show the phone trying to register at all. So I fired up tcpdump and discovered that the phone wasn’t actually sending any SIP requests at all–it was failing locally without ever talking to the network at all.
So I did a bit more digging, and found a Nokia forum comment that suggests that the upgrade from firmware 2.x to 3.x corrupts the SIP settings, and simply deleting SIP configurations won’t fix it. The poster recommended deleting SIP connections before upgrading, and then re-creating them after.
That isn’t an option for me anymore–I can’t downgrade the phone back to 2.x–but a simple backup/restore cycle (using the built-in backup to memory card option) fixed everything. It took about 10 minutes, but my E61 is now registering with Asterisk again.
I bit the bullet this morning and upgraded my E61 to the new firmware release that’s been floating around. I was planning on putting it off until I got back home from California, but there was kind of an E61 upgrade party going on in the office (E61s are kind of popular at Google), and the guy before me didn’t have any problems, so I went ahead and bit the bullet. It took 20 minutes or so, but everything seems to work fine.
The process was simple:
- Run Tools/Memory and select ‘Backup phone mem.’ to back up everything to your flash card.
- Run the Windows-based Nokia firmware upgrader.
- Run Tools/Memory and restore your backup.
The only real change that I’ve seen is that my phone’s browser doesn’t lock up with a specific HTTPS site that I use anymore. Other then that, everything seems the same, including the inane behavior with IMAP IDLE servers. Unlike firmware 1.x, though, it doesn’t seem to hang the messaging app when it loses track of the IMAP session, so SMS still seems to work.
For whatever it’s worth, the built-in web browser in my Nokia E61 uses this user-agent string:
Mozilla/5.0 (SymbianOS/9.1; U; en-us) AppleWebKit/413 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/413 UP.Link/18.104.22.168.0
I knew that the browser is derived from Apple’s open-source webkit tree, but I didn’t expect it to call itself Safari in the user-agent header.
For what it’s worth, here’s the most recent Safari build that I’ve seen in my logs:
Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/418 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/417.9.3
Given the version numbers, it doesn’t look like Nokia’s lagging very far behind Apple right now.
I love FedEx–they somehow managed to deliver my new Nokia E61 today instead of Monday, so I have the whole weekend to play with it.
A few first impressions:
- It’s much more solid then it appears on the website. It has a metal case, and everything about it feels well-made.
- The screen is wonderful. It’s big, bright, and easy to read. While doesn’t have as many pixels as some of the other models in Nokia’s latest lineup, I have nothing to complain about. The text fonts for the browser and office apps are small enough that it’ll fit a lot of text on the screen.
- It seems to work fine with Asterisk. I was able to make and receive a few VoIP phone calls over WiFi without any problems.
- The built-in web browser works well enough. I was able to check gmail and look up a few directions without a problem. Strangely, the only site that hasn’t worked for me is http://www.google.com. I think Google’s trying to feed the phone a WAP page or something, while the phone is expecting HTML. It shouldn’t be hard to fix.
- Google Maps for Mobile phones works great. That’s half of the reason that I wanted a new phone :-).
- The audio quality is better then my old T616.
- The keyboard is good. I’m not used to the layout yet, and it’s weird having to hit a shift key to get numbers, but it’s better then Graffiti.
- I’ve had some weird problems when copying large files using the USB cable. For some reason, the transfer locks up from time to time. Unplugging the cable solves the problem without rebooting either end, but it’s annoying. I should probably find a USB-to-SD adapter; it’ll be faster.
I’ll post more later, once I’ve had a chance to really break it in.
Long-time readers here know that I’m prone to getting all excited about getting a new cell phone, and then never quite pulling the trigger to buy one. My current phone is a Sony-Ericsson T616 from early 2004. I came close to buying the Treo 650 and waited for most of a year for the Nokia N91 to ship in the US. Then, when the Nokia E70 was announced, I stopped waiting for the N91 and started waiting for the E70.
The E70 just started shipping in Europe. It looks like a nice phone. The problem with the European E70 (and the N91 that’s finally shipping in the US) is that it doesn’t support GSM at 850 MHz, so it’s mostly useless on Cingular’s network. And it’s increasing looking like Cingular is the only US GSM provider with a decent data network. So, unless a US-specific 850 MHz version of the E70 starts shipping, it just isn’t going to work for me.
Right now, I’m carrying too many gadgets around–I have my phone, an iPod, a Palm TX, and (unfortunately) a 2-way Pager for work. I’d really like to roll the Palm and the phone into a single device, but I can’t cope with PalmOS 5 anymore. Similarly, I can’t cope with mobile versions of Windows–I tried it for a month with the Motorola MPX200, and it just didn’t work for me.
Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion, again, that I can’t cope with non-keyboard input methods. I don’t like T9, Graffiti, or any of the alternate input methods that I’ve tried on the Palm. If I’m going to enter text into a pocket-sized device, then it’s going to have to have a keyboard. I’ve found that the pain of writing with the Palm keeps me from using it, and that makes it mostly useless. And that leads to me missing appointments and forgetting tasks, and I can’t cope with either.
So, basically, I want a phone with a QWERTY keyboard that doesn’t run Windows or PalmOS, and works with 850 MHz GSM. I believe there are two phones on the market that fit that description–the Nokia 9300 and the Nokia E61. I’ve played with the 9300 before, and it’s just too slow for me–loading web pages crawls while it’s slow little CPU renders pages.
The E61, on the other hand, has almost the same features as the E70 that I wanted, except it’s Blackberry-shaped and doesn’t have a camera. It does have everything else, though, including 802.11 and a native SIP client that supposedly people have been able to get working with Asterisk. Someone at work just bought one off of eBay and is really happy with it.
So, after over 2 years, I finally ordered a new phone. My E61 should be here on Monday. I’m still trying to sort out Cingular’s data plan options, but I should have that dealt with by the end of the day today, and then I’ll be set. I’ll be able to drop the Palm and T616 out of my life, and probably be able to get by with a few songs on the E61 most of the time–it’ll hold a 2 GB flash card, and there’s a sync plugin for iTunes, so it’ll work with almost everything but iTMS songs. I’ll still be stuck with the pager, but that’s a whole other story for an other day.
The N80 is a nifty little phone, with 802.11g, bluetooth, a 3 MP camera, and a 352x416 display, all bundled into a relatively compact package. It’s reasonably well-known that the N80 has some SIP abilities, but from reading the online manual, it looks like SIP on the N80 is really intended for UMTS video calling, not end-user VoIP calling.
It looks like the Nokia E-series phones are going to ship in Europe within the next couple weeks. It’s not clear when they’ll ship in the US, but it won’t be this month. Probably May or June.
I’m still planning on picking up either a N80 or an E70 as soon as they’re available in the US. It looks like they’ll be able to take 2 GB flash cards, and that pushes my earlier favorite, the N91, out of the competition. The N91’s 4 GB hard drive made it really attractive in a world of 512MB flash cards, but its lower-resolution screen and months of delays make it a lot less attractive then the newer N80 and E70 designs. Frankly, I just wish that one of them would ship–my T616 is getting really long in the tooth, and I’m getting fed up with the Palm T|X that I’ve been using for months.
The FCC was polite enough to post the users manual for Nokia’s upcoming E70 phone on their web site, and it makes for fascinating reading. The manual doesn’t go into a lot of details about features, but there are a few fun tidbits hiding in there. First, the phone clearly supports SIP-based VoIP services. There’s a SIP configuration section in the setup menus. The manual explicitly states that the phone will attempt to make 911 calls via the cellular network whenever possible; I’m not sure what this implies about other calls–is there a way to explicitly choose which network is used for each call, or is it implicit somehow?
Surprisingly, the N80’s manual also lists a section for configuring SIP settings, but I didn’t see any details in the manual on actually making SIP calls.
Page 67 has another surprise: the phone includes an RSS reader of some sort. The manual explains how to subscribe to blog feeds.
There are a few more E70 documents on the FCC’s website, including internal and external pictures.
My current phone contract has expired, and I’m just waiting for the right phone to come along. I’ve been tempted to order a 6682 and be done with it, but the N80, N91, and E70 are all approved by the FCC now, and I’d be much happier with any of them then I’d be with the 6682, so I’m willing to wait another month or two. A couple shopping sites online claim that the N80 will ship at the end of February, but I don’t know how believable they are. No matter how you slice it, though, the US models of these three phones are getting closer, and Nokia is clearly making an effort to promote them in the US market.
Mind you, I doubt that T-Mobile or Cingular will actually be shipping any of these phones any time in the next month or two (or three, or four).