As an industry watcher, the world of smartphones has never been more competitive or better value. It's also duller than ditchwater. And, apparently, growth has now stopped and sales are in decline... With IFA 2016 just over in Germany, where yet another batch of almost identical 5" touch slabs were announced, I'm tempted to suggest that now really is the time to look for character in our smartphones. Where are the USPs? Are they now relegated to older, almost retro, devices, while new products fall over themselves to stay anonymous?
Recent Features - S60 5th Edition
Despite the various pros and cons for 'touch' over the years, we're firmly in a mode in the tech world now where touch makes the most sense, in terms of text input, controls and general interaction. So why haven't we seen screen sizes increase to fill most of the front area of our phones? I examine the history of the form factor, in terms of screen-to-body ratio, and wonder whether we can't have our cake and eat it, in terms of phones that are manageable yet with monster displays...
One of the elements of the Symbian 'experience' that broke recently was the email set-up process, with the shutting down of Nokia's email configuration server. Effectively, if a new user (or an existing Symbian user re-setting up an old device after a reset) tried to set up a new mailbox then only Exchange was offered - if your email host only offered IMAP4 or POP3 then you're now out of luck. It's disappointing that this was turned off before the original '2016' deadline for support, but hey, I've been pointed to a workaround that can be used without relying on external configurators.
Look, I get it, there are plenty of Symbian enthusiasts here - I'm one of them. But every single time something breaks in terms of compatibility with a particular Internet service, we see the same comment from multiple people: "But Nokia promised us support until 2016!" That was indeed what was promised on stage at MWC 2011. But then you have to look at both what the word means and what's happened to the company itself since then. I'm not apologising for Nokia's multiple faux pas and for the current situation in 2014, but let's at least be realistic.
Guest writer Sabby Jolly takes us on a decade-long tour of the glory and the pain of Symbian software and hardware. 2002 to 2012, all in the one feature, almost 4000 words and a (seeming) lifetime of experience. Save this for a coffee break and then nod along with Sabby....
Guest writer Rick den Ridder writes: “De dag die je wist dat zou komen.” It’s a (pretty bad) Dutch translation of “the day you knew would come." I wish it wasn’t so, but have to admit it: my Nokia E7's BL-4D battery has trouble to make it through the day. That means I have to make a decision. I either have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to replace my sealed battery and be able to keep my phone for another year, or I spend some more and get a brand new smartphone instead. It seems like an easy decision, but it’s not at all. Saying goodbye to my phone would also mean that I have to leave a form factor behind.
One of the services which many of us had relied on for ages, Microsoft Exchange sync of PIM data with Google, stopped working for most of us back in 2013 (though some with paid Google Apps accounts may still have access), prompting an article from me on switching to Microsoft for cloud PIM sync. However, as teased in the original news posts about Google's plans, there's a third party solution that restores full two-way sync to the Google cloud to Symbian handsets for 2014 and beyond. Here's a walkthrough...
With components like Weather stopping working recently from the Nokia Maps suite in our Symbian smartphones, a very good question to ask yourself is what would happen if Nokia took its map servers offline too? Hopefully they'll be in place until 2016, but you never know, especially with the Microsoft takeover. Which is why I've been investigating how to back up your downloaded offline country maps.
Perhaps matching the debate on sealed vs replaceable batteries as a design trend for our time is that of sealed memory. In other words, flash storage for applications, files, documents and media, which is of a fixed size and with no options for user expansion. Is sealed memory ultimately acceptable and, if so, is it possible to calculate a healthy minimum for 2014 devices?
Most readers know me as someone prepared to enter into debate on the subjects of form factor and smartphone design, but also having my own distinct preferences. You'll remember an in depth feature I did on the subject of sealed vs removeable batteries? It's fair to say that, personally, I come down on the 'removeable' side of the fence - yet I find myself, in December 2013, using a sealed design for my primary device. In this feature, hopefully of interest to both AAS and AAWP readers, I examine my objections to 'sealed' and ask which of them, if any, are still showstoppers.