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Nokia’s Tube ‘iPhone killer’. I’ll eat my hat if it’s anywhere NEAR an iPhone killer

I’ve been reading about Nokia’s Tube. The supposed iPhone killer.

It looks a bit like an iPhone, some accounts say.

Well I’ll eat my hat if Nokia pull it off.

I’ve been wanting them to do actually innovate for a while. I don’t mean hair-brained innovation. I mean smart thinking; modifications that I don’t know that I need. Proof that the handset developer teams aren’t sat on their arses drinking a little too much Nokia kool-aid.

Now and again people have an argument with me. A pitched battle. They think I’m mean to Nokia with my coverage here on SMS Text News.

(SMS Text News is the 7th most influential site on the planet for the term Nokia, by the way, according to Buzzlogic. Phoneboy, you’re above me, I think.)

I’m always clear that I think, on balance, Nokia products are excellent. My E90, when I’m not chucking it in the back of oversized limos, works very well. It’s reliable, good battery, good facilities and so on.

Likewise, the Nokia N95 — still very much a brilliant handset.

But with stupid, stupid flaws.

That the designers rectified in — what — version 20 or something of the device. It finally takes pictures quickly, for example. And, er, the GPS — well, it’s a bit better.

But if you’re a standard normob with no idea — or inclination — to wipe your phone and upgrade it, then stuff you. You’ve got the shit version. It still works — mind — it’s still usable. That’s what I sometimes miss when I’m ranting. The key point, although I’m frequently annoyed with the lack of innovation or silly development issues, the handsets still *work*.

So this Nokia Tube.

If it’s an N95 in a smaller, sexier shape, I will go nuts.

If it’s actually innovative, I’ll be delighted. If it’s upgradable in-line, so that the development team can easily make updates when the smart readers of SMS Text News suggest them, fantastic. (“Witness Apple releasing the iPhone — no multi text function. OK, you want multi text? Ok. It’s done. Upgrade. There.”)

If it actually shows some original thought. If you can get music on to it with one click, if you can share stuff easily, if you can add applications piece-of-piss-style, brilliant.

My viewpoint is, unfortunately, that it’ll be another fake-smile launch. Let’s look at applications. You can actually do a lot with your N95. Order flowers, live-stream with Jaiku, book a flight to Las Vegas with ShopQwik, use maps, stream video — man there are TONS of things you can do with add-on applications.

The problem I’ve got is that *I* can do this. James Whatley can do this. YOU, dear reader, can do this.

My mother can’t.

My friends COULD but can’t be bothered. It’s too sodding difficult. Too annoying.

Even Windows Mobile is rubbish with applications. Ever tried installing Opera Mini or Google Mail on a Windows Smartphone? You get presented with a horrific set of ‘UNARCHIVING JAR’ bollocks. Total rubbish that’s presented to the consumer.

Try installing an application on a Nokia that isn’t signed. Normobs get very nervous when they get stupid and scary INVALID CERTIFICATE errors.

Apple get this.

You don’t get this kind of bollocks on an iPhone. Click, click done. If you’ve ever unlocked your iPhone and installed one of the application installer services, you’ll note that installing an application on your iPhone is an absolute dream. Click, install, thank you, it’s ready to be used. No arsing around.

You can agree or disagree with Apple’s desktop itunes application strategy. But it works. Shortly I will be able to buy an application on iTunes and have it loaded on to my iPhone without even thinking.

I reckon my mother could install an application on her device this way. And you know what, she would. If she read about some £30 application that helps you track your pet’s health or something — something relevant to her — she’d go on to iTunes, buy it and expect it to work. What’s more, it *would*. When Apple finally release their applications store, just sit and watch the innovation.

When we’re talking iPhone killers, I wonder just how Nokia is planning on handling applications, music, video…

Perhaps the best policy is to sit back and shut up. Yes.

Sit back and wait. Look. Explore. Then eat my hat. I’m well prepared to be astounded by Nokia. Perhaps that’s good news.

Perhaps that’s why Nokia simply vomited out the Nokia N96 (nicer shaped N95, bit higher spec): They were busy working away on the Tube. Bring it on.

We’ll see. I’ll be it’s biggest cheerleader if there’s clear innovation.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

22 replies on “Nokia’s Tube ‘iPhone killer’. I’ll eat my hat if it’s anywhere NEAR an iPhone killer”

I respect you alot, Ewan, but I have to point out that this post is full of double-standards and unfair comparisons.

You say that it’s not easy to install an app on S60, and I don’t refute that. However, you then go on to point out how easy it is on the iPhone, AFTER you’ve unlocked/jailbroken the thing. I had first hand experience (as do you, if I recall) on how “easy” it is to unlock/jailbreak an iPhone, and I would say that puts things about even.

Also, you say that Apple listens directly to users, while Nokia doesn’t. I’ve heard people asking Apple for the iPhone to get MMS, voice dialling, A2DP, and other common features, to a deaf ear. Meanwhile, users have long awaited being able to watch YouTube videos directly in the browser of their N95, and Nokia obliged (well, except for us damned N95-3 owners). The sped-up camera is also something N95 owners have requested, and received. Personally, out of all the mobile handset manufacturers, I would easily argue that Nokia listens to consumers the best.

That’s not to say I don’t agree that updating a Nokia handset is a painful experience. It is.

Also, in regards to the whole ‘signed’ thing for Nokia applications, that’s a big, deep issue, and is kinda weird. Developers were never really supposed to release their apps unsigned, but have been forced to because of the SymbianSigned program, and, well, it’s messy.

I don’t intend to be an all-out cheerleader, and will be the first to tell you that Apple is a welcome addition to the mobile industry, as they’re clearly pushing others to innovate. However, let’s keep things honest and balanced. 😉

Ricky’s last blog post..I Like T9, How About You?

@Ewan: Tedious nuance: this is not just a Nokia thing. The hardware will be Nokia (obviously), but the OS will be S60 and the first iteration (I presume) of the ‘Touch’ update.

Right behind you, Ewan.

One ‘test’ for Nokia Tube will be if they’re willing to stand up to the big networks and insist that *Nokia* will control OS updates and the bundle of default applications on phones. If the networks don’t want users to have a native voip client, for instance, then they’ll have to explain why it doesn’t work to their customers.

I rate the Nokia Tube’s chances at taking on the iPhone as less than 10% but it’ll doubtless sell 10x as many!

HeavyLight’s last blog post..Whatleydude’s N95 saga: VF comes out shining!

@Ricky: tried ZiPhone recently? My mum could unlock her iPhone….and after that Installer is,er, installed.

Granted, you then need to hunt around for the apps you want, but overall the experience is easier than Nokia PC Suite IMHO.

I Agree the iPhone doesn’t have the ability to receive an SMS with a link that kicks off an install. But I’m sure that cannot be far off, given the ease of the WiFi iTunes store. Betcha it will be EXACTLY the same experience. Then Apple will see the ca

I’ll stand up for the operators here, with respect to firmware… Would you expect anything else? 🙂

When a network like Vodafone receives a phone it goes through a rigorous quality test. This tests (broadly speaking)
1) That the phone’s radio works properly and doesn’t kill the network and that the SAR tests are safe.
2) That the UI works (people complain about the branded UIs that operators sometimes use. Trust me, they’re often a lot better than some of the vanilla UIs which have obviously been designed by a blind and exploited Vietnamese child)
3) Other quality issues (does it send SMS properly, does the browser work, do ringtones work, etc)

It’s time consuming but, ultimately, worth it.

When a handset manufacturer releases a new software version, the software has to be tested again. That’s why it takes some time from manufacturer release to network release. If it’s a small bug fix – not only does that bug have to be checked, but the rest of the software has to be checked to make sure nothing else has broken.

I imagine Apple has struck a deal saying that they won’t alter the software that controls the radio and that they will do a full QA on any new software drops.

The other side is that the iPhone has sold eleventy-billion handsets – the Nokia N84 has sold five. Is it economical to fix the bugs in the N84 and then have every network test it for the handful of people using it?

Of course – it would help if all manufacturers opened the source of the their handsets (less the radio interface) so that old handsets could be fixed… but that would probably destroy their future revenue stream.

So, in conclusion, Apple has huge economies of scale – 1 platform, millions sold – which means it’s worth their while investing in new features and bug fixes.

(It’s been several years since I’ve worked on the firmware side, my views don’t represent my employer’s)

@Denny
“If the operator firmware is an improvement, then why are people so keen to get rid of it?”

They’re not. Or, rather, “normobs” are not.

I’ll readily agree that there are several UI horrors from operators – and I include Voda in that.

Operator branded UIs came about for two main reasons

1) Get rid of the crappy manufacturer ones

2) Drive Operator loyalty rather than manufacturer loyalty. Y’see, Operators noticed that people wanted an upgrade which had a familiar UI. So, they had a Nokia and they would be perfectly happy with a Nokia supplied by any other network. Why stay with T-Mobile when Orange had the phone with the right UI for you? So, get people hooked on your specific UI and they’ll happily pick up a Nokia, Sagem, Moto *from* *your* *store*!

Incidentally, what is it that you – or any one else – don’t like about the Vodafone UI? In most phones it is simply a change in icons and a change in the order of certain menus. No functionality is removed*

Terence
*Except for the VoIP debacle.

@Denny: Absolutely agree. I have never seen operator customisation that enhanced a handset and I’ve never had a customised handset that received any firmware updates to address the bugs that are discovered during it’s life.

@Terence: As others have said, here and elsewhere, I’ve not personally seen an operator UI that improved on the manufacturer UI (my experience is largely with Nokia phones on Orange, others can comment on their own pet hates).

If Vodafone scrambling the menus doesn’t make matters worse for the average phone user, I’m sure it didn’t do much to make matters better either. Consistency is a key factor in usability, as you’re apparently aware… I’m not convinced that a network can achieve sufficient consistency of UI across devices from different manufacturers to justify breaking the consistency of the manufacturer UI of a single device on different networks.

You can’t give me network lock-in as a *good* reason for doing something, not from the customer’s point of view. Lock-in is specifically there to prevent the customer from being able to take the best deal available to them in an open market… it’s not a plus point. Unless you’re working for the network of course.

@Denny I’ll try and take some screenshots for you – but next time you’re in a VF shop, take a look at the VF-branded UIs on Moto, Nokia, Blackberry etc – it is a consistent set of iconography and, for the most part, menu placement. Having a consistent icon for “Address Book” is a welcome feature for people upgrading their handset cross manufacturer.

That said, I’ll agree that network lock in is a bad thing – but so is manufacturer lock in. However, on all phone which support it, the VF UI is applied as a theme*. You can switch the VF UI with any one that pleases you – the manufacturer’s, a competitors, hell, we’ll even sell you a different one 🙂

If you want a good overview off all the possible UIs and how the VF one fits in, take a look at
http://help.vodafone.co.uk/DeviceHelp.php?e=0
Choose a device and click “Animated quickstart” – you can see how the VF UI looks and works compared to the stock firmware.

Incidentally, why I think most “normobs” don’t dislike branding (too much) is
1) That petition has got 96 signatures.
2) In most fora that I frequent, it’s only the extremely image conscious or supergeeks (like myself) who want to change such things.
3) The dirth of posts on the subject at http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/

For the records, I change the theme on all the phones I get – then I design my own.

T (speaking for myself, not my employer)
*AFAIK
PS Don’t Google for “remove vodafone branding” 😉

It occurs to me that if you average out the usability of a Motorola, a Samsung, a Sony Ericsson, and a Nokia, you’ve probably improved life for two out of your four customer groups. Maybe networks should restrict themselves to only tweaking handsets from manufacturers with shoddy UI teams 😉

I hope if you the phone does turn up to be that good, you don’t try and fob us off by re-publishing the photo of you eating your hat last time….

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