25 July 2005

Nokia 6680 first thoughts

A serious post now.

I've had my Nokia 6680 3G phone for about 5 days now, and been playing with lots of different features - as you can see from the earlier part of this blog (ie photoblogging, email etc). So, here are my first thoughts. Contradictions, comments, suggestions are welcome!

I'm using this phone on a monthly Orange UK talk plan. Many of the features I'm trialling on a free basis for however long they're provided. This especially applies to data. I have discovered (and partly knew this already) that the Orange phone is "customised" theoretically to make access to Orange services easier. But this also serves to restrict what can be done to it, or to make it harder. I'm not too familiar with the limitations yet, but one of them revolves around the standby menu which can't be easily customised. At least Orange is better than 3 for instance in that with this phone you CAN access the internet, not 3's heavily restricted walled garden version!

I have paired the phone via Bluetooth with both my mac mini for media centre use, and with my powerbook for syncing. I have installed Salling Clicker (remote control app) on the phone and on the mac's. I bought a USB BT adapter for my Powerbook - supposedly class 1, but with an apparent range of about 5 feet! The mac mini has BT installed, and the phone seems to be able to reach about 15-20m away through one wall. I have not tried a headset yet. I have also installed Apple's iSync agent.

Things that impress
The phone is a reasonable size - certainly one of the most usable small 3G phones I've seen, and only a little bigger/heavier than previous 2G Nokia "business" phones (eg 6310i). So, I'm happy with it's size!

The call quality seems excellent - just like all good Nokia's I've owned. That's important and often overlooked. I can't say much about signal quality yet, but it seems to get a signal in the same places my 6310i did - and that was a good phone. It's been on 3G in the London area consistently. Out rural, I've had it in the same place and it's switched between 2G and 3G, though mainly on 2G.

I am quite amazed at the amount of things that can be done with this phone in theory. Lots of software available for all sorts of things. This is a phone that should be able to last for some time.

I have been impressed (mostly) with the synchronisation from my Mac for addresses and calendar items. It seems easy and fast. A couple of problems I think I've observed - if I've set a default phone number for a contact (eg use mobile) when there are 3 phone numbers for that person, I think it is dropping that default on every sync. Also, I've heard problems with recurring dates (eg birthdays) not syncing. Haven't really checked this yet. Generally the software does a good job of resolving duplicates etc. The speed also makes it something I will do regularly. The calendar feature on the Nokia is now good enough to use as well, so I can see myself adding events on that only.

The Salling Clicker application is also amazing in terms of what it can do. I've also written a very simple script (to show/hide the dvd controller on screen) and managed to get this working without a huge amount of hassle. I'm not sure I could do more complex things though. But this application is very useful for me the way I use my macs as media centres. I would also use it when giving a presentation as well - controlling Powerpoint or Keynote. I have had problems with making reconnections with this. I think that is my Maplin BT adapter, or something to do with the computer going to sleep. So, I've sometimes had to reboot the phone or unplug/replug the BT adapter. Not seen this yet with the mac mini though.

The camera seems quite capable as well. However, one fundamental problem I've observed is that it does not easily allow you to control the file size AFTER you've taken the shot. Why is this important? Well, I'd like to take the photos at high res, but for blogging purposes, or sending them over the internet, just send smaller more compact versions. Some blogging software will reject the large files, forcing you to take low res photos only. I'm now trying Flickr, and sending higher res photos. But this is expensive on bandwidth and not suitable for when this is no longer free! There are plenty of apps on the phone (and one from Nokia's site) for viewing images and doing stuff. But I haven't found one (except expensive software) for down-converting to say 640x480 or using higher compression on the jpg to create a copy. I also think Nokia could have done a better job with the camera integration - more like the SE K750i where you hold it more like a normal camera and the screen display rotates accordingly.

I put a few mp3/aac files on the phone from my iTunes library. I've made 2 of these ringtones, though I would rather not have to have the whole file on there just for that. It works well, and the music player sounds good with these files too - even over the speaker. Why Nokia can't allow you to use regular headphones though seems an oversight!

I also tried using the phone as a 3G modem for both the mac mini (which would never need it as it is connected to Broadband) and my powerbook. It worked first time, and I was generally impressed with the speed of surfing - esp on the mini. The connection in both cases was via BT

Things I don't so much like (or haven't understood yet)

The phone has shut itself off on several occasions - presumably a crash of some sorts. This shouldn't happen with a phone. This was in normal use - not running the extra apps I've added, which in any case are not many. This caused me to miss an important call. I've also had to reboot to get BT functionality working again, though this may be just the BT adapter on my powerbook, which I probably shouldn't have bought.

I've mentioned the lack of image editors with respect to file size. It also seems that many other apps are sort of beta apps or severely limited, or just toys. Orange ships 2 music apps which are useless in reality unless you want to buy music from apple.

On a related topic, it seems hard to find the right app sometimes. There are folders that contain different apps, and many of those apps overlap. It's not always obvious where you go to do something in particular. For instance there are folders called "Imaging", "Apps". "Tools", "Connect". Which one do you open to view photos? Depends what you want to do. And there's also the Gallery app at the top level. Because of the orange customisation, it also gives me 2 different ui's - one when on Orange standby, and one when I go to the Nokia app. I figured out how to change the two keys that I call "menu" keys. I used these a lot on all previous nokia phones to search contacts and to cancel. But they were set to "Camera" and "Home". Home means connect to the internet, which of course starts to rack up charges. I would have preferred it to be set to do something equivalent to taking you back to the main screen. And camera is a waste, because you can just open the slider to activate this! But changinge the stuff on the left side of the Orange standby screen cannot be done - you're stuck with what Orange would like you to do for the phone as far as I know.

There are some other interface things that are not intuitive. Having sent an MP3 file onto the phone (which arrives like an SMS message). I couldn't find an easy way to put it onto the MMC card rather than on the phone memory. You really have to search around for this, whereas it could have been made much easier. When you first access the message, it plays the mp3. There is no option to save it somewhere else - it is still with the message. So, go into messages and view it. Again, no easy way to move it. In fact it turns out if you STOP the playing of the sound file, THEN bring up the options, you can save somewhere else, but only if you stop (not pause) the track.

Incidentally, there are 2 user guides - an Orange guide and a Nokia guide. They overlap of course, and also contradict!

Other comments

Battery Life: I wasn't expecting this to be brilliant, and it's not. It will need charging every 2 days, even with not a huge amount of activity. My 6310i is still doing about 7-10 days after 2.5 years (not much call usage). The battery is surprisingly tiny. Couldn't they give a bigger battery with just a small increase to size/weight?

Screen: The screen is good, but has already scratched from being in my pocket. Not good, though primarily visible when the screen is dimmed.

USB: The included USB cable is no use to mac users. You can not charge with it , and you cannot mount the phone on the desktop to move things around that way (you can do both with SE K750i).

Live TV: Orange provides several channels of live tv eg Sky News, sent using 3G to the phone. Sure it is watchable for key news events, but what an incredible waste of bandwidth. To me, this is a brain-damaged approach to sending video to a phone.

I won't be sending this back! It's basically a good phone with many useful features. In my case the upgrade was free, though I hadn't upgraded for some time. So, it was a simple decision really. I seriously considered the K750i, which would have been an excellent direct replacement for my old phone. But the Nokia is really a phone that can do a lot more. Will I use some of these features, and will I even carry on with some I've just tried out (like data)? I don't know yet. In some ways, the phone doesn't quite seem ready for prime time, and in other ways they have not carried the simplicity of old Nokia UI forward well. Will the average user even begin to grasp the features available, and be encouraged to use them?

I'll be adding updates on this topic over the next few weeks as I discover new things about the phone. Thanks to this blog for helping me realise some of the things I could do!

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