US tech blog Engadget has done a head to head of GPS navigation and maps of the leading contenders in the US, namely Google Maps, Ovi Maps and VZ Navigator for Windows Mobile and Blackberry. Google Maps comes out on top with some very strange caveats (“if you're staying domestic and won't need to be navigating out of any coverage gaps, its hard to find fault in Google Nav”) but it's worth reading the whole article to get a balanced view.
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While at MWC I spent some time looking at the new Symbian^1 handset - the Sony Ericsson Vivaz and its sister device, the QWERTY equipped, Vivaz Pro. Over the next week or so we'll be featuring a number of Vivaz videos to give you a closer look at Sony Ericsson's latest Symbian handsets. In the first video there's a general overview of the hardware and the 'panel' powered homescreen, while the second video looks at some of the homescreen UI additions compared to the Sony Ericsson Satio.
Over on our Ovi Gaming site, Ewan takes "Edge", a S60 5th Edition part-action, part-strategy game that should have been a slam dunk success and discovers that, ultimately, it's not challenging enough or as much fun as it should have been. One for waiting at the bus stop, perhaps, rather than a living room addiction?
Following on from Mobile World Congress the Symbian Foundation has released two videos demos of the Symbian^4 UI framework. The first video shows off the customisable, widget-centric, homescreen and the second shows off a number of UI elements and interactions via the Photos application. They demonstrate how some of the key parts of the UI are laid out and how some of the primary interaction mechanisms will work.
In this wide ranging video Julien Fourgeaud talks about his role at the Symbian Foundation (Road Map and Propositions) and shares some possible future directions for the platform. As a connected and customisable embedded system the platform has a great deal of potential. Opening up the platform, via the EPL release, adds a great deal of flexibility, has important cost implications and will enable the community to take the platform in new directions.
As I wrote six weeks ago, work has been progressing to convert the old open source Escarpod podcast catcher into an application that can be part of the (also open source) Symbian^3 operating system. Now, exclusively, with kind permission, I have much more on the app, appropriately just called 'Podcatcher'. Read on for a detailed walk through, screenshots and a link to download it for yourself, to help test it on existing devices. Note that Symbian^3 itsel f won't appear on devices until at least the summer, but at least we now know that it'll have podcasting functionality, a relief to many in the Symbian ecosystem, including me!
It’s taken some time, but Nokia are reporting that the Helping Haiti charity single, a cover of REM’s “Everybody Hurts” is now available in the Nokia Music Store. Proceeds from the single are split between two funds in the UK – which is great if you pay for the download, but what happens if you use Comes with Music?
Tackling a cross-genre game title, Ewan finds that Mini Golf Challenge 99 Holes provides just what it claims. Despite a degree of Java-kludginess, there's enough thought in the levels holes here to keep you casually entertained for many hours. Just don't expect Tiger Woods! Here's our Ovi Gaming review.
In part 3 of our MWC interview with Anssi Vanjoki, EVP of Markets at Nokia, we discuss the future. How "for the great masses of the world, the first computer they will have will be an extension of the phone based on Symbian". How MeeGo's rich contextual crossing of the real and virtual world will use a map-based user interface and will create "the possibility for people to live in the media."
In the second half, we hear about the three "buckets" (types) of competitors, the importance of open standards and ecoystems, and a three-fold answer to how we should judge Nokia's future business performance (KPIs).
Just released this morning (see my 'Install diary' below) is Ovi Maps 3.4 (build 91, if you're being fussy). This follows up the formal release of v3.3, which introduced the new interface and free worldwide voice navigation. In brief, Ovi Maps is claimed to be faster and more accurate, and, as reported below, Nokia certainly seemed to have made big strides in this area - v3.4 is hard to criticise in the performance department now. It also adds Wi-Fi positioning to the many ways location is determined, though it will take a while before Nokia's servers build up enough data for this to be useful. Read on...
Sometimes you say something and it gets a bit out of hand, the reaction isn't what you expect. That happens in the All About Symbian (virtual) staff-room as well. So what happens when a new updated (and known controversial) app comes in such as MyPhone to be considered? Ewan lets loose on the pointlessness of making your phone look like one from a completely different platform, that's what...
In the second and final part of a two parter, Steve Litchfield again looks outside the Symbian world to ask if the current Android flagship could replace a Symbian-powered smartphone. In the process of answering the question, he analyses (in order) the next eight essential functions which devices like the Nokia N97 perform for him - how easy would it then be for a non-Symbian device like the Google Nexus One to step up to the plate? (In case you missed it, here's part 1, covering the top seven functions)
Published by Nokia and developed by Rovio, Space Impact Meteor Shield is a Star-Wars-style 360 degree gun turret game, for real. Using the Nokia N97's digital compass the virtual world spins with you - play it in a swivel chair for best effect. The game is a great demo of what's possible and is currently free in the Ovi Store. Links and screens below.
In part 2 of our MWC interview with Anssi Vanjoki, EVP of Markets at Nokia, there is discussion of how moving Symbian into the Symbian Foundation stops the platform being "fractioned by individual product programs [within Nokia]". We also touch on whether there is a future for the 'Nokia N95 form factor' smartphone.
In the second half, Anssi Vanjoki talks about Nokia's software strategy and how the common elements of Qt and common Web Runtime provide a unifying layer between Symbian and MeeGo. He then touches on the importance of open source as a new 'software making model' for Nokia moving forward.
There's an interesting editorial by Chris Ziegler over on Engadget today, pointing out to its USA readership that the current carrier pricing strategy really doesn't make sense anymore, with European carriers showing the way, pricing all phones at free on contract, with just the monthly amount changing. Nice insight for Americans, though it's a pity there's no mention of the even more radical way of buying smartphones - SIM-free. A few more thoughts below.