With Nokia's Ovi Store being rather cluttered and with other application stores being somewhat scattered, I thought an update to All About Symbian's definitive 'Top 20 Freeware' has never been more overdue. In fact, it's now a 'Top 25'!!
Note that in order to be considered for our Top 25 Freeware, an application must:
- be either free or at least 100% fully working in demo form, with no time restrictions and not more than one nag screen
- be (more or less) fully optimised for S60 5th Edition, a touch-screen and a nHD (or similar) screen size
1. Google Maps
The first really huge third party S60 application to get a full touch makeover, this works superbly on S60 5th Edition, on all phones, in both landscape and portrait modes, and with touch-panning of maps and of the StreetView displays (in countries where this is supported). Version 3.2.1 is the latest and has built-in Latitude (friend-finding), Traffic and Wikipedia (layers) support. It's also terrific as a general purpose location-centric search tool (e.g. find the nearest plumber or pizza or hairdresser).
Get it at m.google.com
Yes, there's now a mobile version of the YouTube main web site, but exactly what it serves up is dependent on the device you use to browse it - and there are the delays caused by having to bring up different pages and by waiting for RealPlayer or Flash Lite to do its thing. Better is to use the dedicated YouTube client for S60 5th Edition. It's fast to search and browse from clip to clip, works over Wi-Fi or 3G and the only trick is in getting hold of it in the first place.
Picture quality is QVGA, scaled up, but it's quite good enough for casual viewing.
Try m.google.com, but if you're not offered the client for your phone, grab v2.2.17 from here instead.
The third big Google application, GMail is Java-based, which means that you need to take a trip into Settings | App Mgr | Installed apps and turn off the S60-supplied navigation and function 'keys'. That done though, you've got a fully touch-enabled, full-screen view into your GMail, complete with all features, such as 'Stars', 'Drafts' and your full list of emailed contacts. Try it - it'll work better than you expect.
Get it at m.google.com in Web on your phone.
4. BBC iPlayer
For UK residents only, of course, and almost certainly only really practical while in Wi-Fi range, this presents the best of the BBC's TV output in very high quality, in streaming or DRM-protected download form. There are hundreds of programmes on offer, mostly from the last few weeks, plus a number of radio programmes as well, better for listening on the move since the bandwidth requirements are somewhat lower.
It's the download option, available for many programmes, which really impresses, since you can grab things for watching later while travelling, with no worries over needing expensive connectivity. The DRM isn't a problem as long as you watch your downloads fairly promptly (within a week, usually).
Although BBC iPlayer is now in the Ovi Store, you can also go directly to www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/ to see what the BBC's site offers you automatically. If your S60 5th Edition phone hasn't been added yet to the BBC's compatibility database (they're not very quick at updating this), it's worth trying www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/iplayer.wgz directly. There's a great chance that the widget will work.
5. Opera Mini
Why on earth would you want another web browser? You have S60 Web, after all? Moreover, why would you want a mouldy, ol' Java app? Because it's faster, slicker and more frugal than Web, that's why. Once you get past the initial Java hand-holding 'Do you want to go online?' question, Opera Mini, quite simply, rocks. Backed up by special proxy servers, even huge web pages like BoingBoing can be opened in just a few seconds and browsed around with full touch-panning. If you find S60 Web too slow for tradition text-based pages then Opera Mini is a definite candidate, especially if you're not on a flat rate data plan. The new version 5 beta introduces multi-tab browsing and an integrated touchscreen keyboard to save you messing with the standard Java text box forms, but the production v4.2 is also well worth installing.
Get either version from mini.opera.com
6. Quickoffice v6 (upgrade)
It may seem a little odd to see Quickoffice in a list of freeware and, it's true, I'm cheating slightly. But by default, Quickoffice's document viewers aren't in the 5800 XpressMusic's ROM. Instead, they're a free addition, giving you Word, Excel and Powerpoint viewing with full touchscreen support. And on other S60 5th Edition phones, the viewers included are often 'old' v4 or v5 editions. So, make the most of the downloads and upgrades offered in your phone's Download! or 'Sw update' system. In particular, note that all Nokia phone owners are entitled to a free upgrade to the latest v6 viewers, giving extra document compatibility - look in the 'Updates and upgrades' section of Quickoffice if you're not already on v6.
And I can't resist a plug for upgrading to the latest editing version. The Quickoffice folks always seem to have one offer or another on, so check out their web site for details.
As with Opera Mini, don't write this off because it's Java-hosted. Snaptu offers to bring whole swathes of your online life together in one, streamlined and optimised application. Social networks, news, TV listings, the works. And it's extensible, with new modules being added weekly.
Get it from the Nokia Ovi Store or by going to m.snaptu.com in Web on your phone.
One of S60's best kept secrets, AccuWeather was always a useful little widget to have installed. With the advent of S60 5th Edition and touch control, it has been dramatically improved, now with hourly and daily forecasts, weather charts, maps, and even GPS integration, to query the exact forecast for your current location - and all for free, quite amazingly. Admittedly, it takes a good ten seconds or so to retrieve the necessary weather data over the Internet, but in this case it's well worth the wait (and anyway, with your multitasking smartphone you can just switch away to something else and come back shortly, can't you?)
AccuWeather is best found in the Ovi Store for Nokia phones (especially if you're after the version with the N97 homescreen widget) and it's also archived and up for download on many sites right across the web, e.g. here as accuweather.wgz (1.3MB).
9. Files on Ovi
A terrific way to keep your important desktop folders automatically backed up (you get up to 10GB free, amazingly, in Nokia's 'Anytime files' system) and to have remote access to your master documents - on either Windows PC or Apple Mac - through the phone, Files on Ovi is fully compatible with Nokia's S60 5th Edition phones - it's just that Nokia doesn't make it easy...
Although you can simply access your 'Files on Ovi' through the mobile web site, it's tedious having to keep signing in, which makes the Files on Ovi widget so important, since it handles this for you. In order to get the widget, either sign in to the mobile site (and yes there really are half a dozen 'secure' warning dialogs to step through) and then look at the bottom of the home page - OR - type in files.ovi.com/wrt/fl/downloadw into Web and grab the widget directly.
You'll also need to install the Windows or Mac OS X 'connector' utility, which handles the remote file access and the uploading to 'Anytime files'.
PS. I believe this solution also works with the Samsung S60 5th Edition phone(s), but don't tell Nokia... 8-)
10. Wireless keyboard
Although this hasn't been fully updated officially yet for S60 5th Edition and thus shouldn't qualify for this list as not being optimised, I couldn't resist adding the necessary install for driving a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. With this onboard, you can treat your S60 full-screen touch phone (a 5800 is shown below) as a mini-laptop and the solution works rather well.
Use this install file, the version for S60 3rd Edition FP1 phones, until such time as Nokia get round to doing a formal S60 5th Edition release.
11. France 24 Mobile
Full credit to France 24, the TV/media company, for putting out their content for free on all mobile platforms. And no, don't worry, you don't have to speak French. There's general news, business, culture and weather content here, in pre-edited (but regularly updated) 10 minute segments, all in either French, English or Arabic, plus a genuinely live stream onto the appropriate language France TV channel.
Video quality's not the best by default, but you can change the stream to 'Highest quality' in Settings, after which picture quality is easily up with that of the BBC's iPlayer.
You can get France 24 for your S60 5th Edition phone from the Nokia Ovi Store or by going to m.france24.mobiclip.com in Web.
Fabulous. With the dual LED flash system able to be used during video recording, why on earth didn't Nokia let us use the LEDs as a torch when needed? Why indeed, which is why PhoneTorch is such a little God-send. On devices with the LEDs covered in normal use (e.g. the Nokia N97), you'll need to prepare the way by opening the camera slider and then closing the Camera application.
Get it from here. (Nokia phones only)
13. "JoikuSpot Light FREE Hotspot"
Perhaps a pinnacle of modern software engineering, JoikuSpot turns your S60 phone and its data connection into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices (of yours) to hook into. The premium version has loads more functions and security, but for cheap, cheerful and ad-hoc use, the free 'Light' version does very well, letting you surf away on your laptop, for example, using (in this case) the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic as the hotspot. Yes, PC Suite also allows through-Internet connections, but isn't is just so cool to be making your own Wi-Fi hotspot?
Get it from the Nokia Ovi Store or from Joiku's download page.
14. Fring and 15. Nimbuzz
As ever, I can't split these two, offering very similar feature sets. Both are Nokia 5th-Edition-optimised VoIP and chat clients, and both include Skype integration. So I'm going to let you try both and make your own mind up!
Grab both utilities from the Nokia Ovi Store or directly from the developer mobile sites: Get Fring by going to m.fring.com in Web, grab Nimbuzz by going to m.nimbuzz.com in Web.
This well known live video capture utility. The quality of its output usually disappoints (relative to capturing video with the native Camera app), but hey, if you need to stream live then you need to stream live...!
Get it from the Nokia Ovi Store or (e.g. for Samsung i8910 HD) here.
Get it from here.
Aside from Skype, its one omission, this is perhaps the ultimate instant messaging client for S60, building in every other chat system, including (unusually) Facebook Chat. There's GPS support too, so that your contacts can see where you are in the world.
Get it from the Nokia Ovi Store or from www.palringo.com in Web on your S60 5th Edition phone.
19. Psiloc World Traveler
Similar to Worldmate (but here compatible with all S60 phones and not just Nokia ones), this offers free travel related functions, including daylight globe, currency conversion and 5 day weather forecast. It's all rather slick and, like Worldmate, Psiloc probably plan to make their money on the premium flight information, coming soon. The rest of the application is free, however, which is why it's included here.
In theory, World Traveler is in the Ovi Store, but it's currently giving an error. So get it from here. Note that the install is incredibly slow - I'm guessing the SIS file is very complicated and has all sorts of language options which need to be worked through by the OS!
20. Paint Pad
A rewritten version (allegedly) of a Forum Nokia source example, Paint Pad does a good job of standing on its own two feet, with proper load/save/background/send options, plus many more painting tools. It's the paint utility that Nokia forgot to add!
Yup, it's a full blown Twitter client and a whole heap more friendly than using the Twitter mobile web site each day. Not in the same league as Gravity but then this is free, after all. The functionality's mainly there, with the usual columns/lists for tweets, replies and direct messages. Sadly, there's no web-like 'kinetic' scrolling, so you have to use the fiddly scroll bar.
Get it from the Nokia Ovi Store or from here.
(shown above-right) With a decidedly non-standard interface, X-plore is still mightily functional and is the current file manager of choice on S60 5th Edition. Although shareware, it only has the one 3-second nag screen and there's no time limit to your trial.
Get it here.
23. TFL Tube Map
A little specialist, to be sure, it's only appropriate to someone visiting London, but it's a slick conversion from paper to pixels (as the company name suggests). Browse around the London tube network without having to remember to bring your paper tube map.
Get it from here.
24 S60 Internet Radio
(shown above right) Nope, not Nokia's nice, friendly version, which has yet to be ported to S60 5th Edition, unbelievably apparently. This is the original Shoutcast player from a few years ago. It's been minimally updated since, but does work. It only comes with a handful of Shoutcast stations, but it's reasonably easy to create .pls (playlist) files yourself on the desktop and then copy these across to a /shoutcast folder on the device.
Get it here.
25. The Musician's Swiss Knife and Chords
Two sister apps from the same developer, both shown/grouped here. The perennial BPM counter, metronome and note generator, implemented here in full-screen Java. Impressively, there's a range of different instrument tones that can be generated. And... a guitarists chord database deluxe - just pick the root chord and the variation and the fingering is shown - and can be played by tapping on the plectrum. There's even a choice of four guitar tones, but I was disappointed not to be able to scroll up the neck to see the various inversions as well. Still, for a freebie....
Again, I'd like to emphasise that ALL the above are free to download and use. So if you don't fancy trawling the online stores for the best freeware then just bookmark this page and use it as your quick reference when getting a new phone up to speed!
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 30 Feb 2009 updated 16 Mar 2009 updated 20 October 2009