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Two weeks with Ovi: Day 1

It’s the end of day 2 with my new Nokia Ovi equipped phone. Over the next fortnight I’ll be giving the various services a workout, but this time it’s just about first impressions.

It’s the end of day 2 with my new Nokia Ovi-equipped phone. Over the next fortnight I’ll be giving the various services a workout, but this time it’s just about first impressions.

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N81

Ever since I first posted about it I’ve wanted to take a proper look at the Ovi services- Nokia’s online service offerings for media sharing, gaming, music and maps – as a complete unit, but unlike many other contributors I’m not a daily N-Series user or even equipped with a camera in my S60 device, so the nice people at WOM World have leant me an N81 8GB and a set of bluetooth headphones to give it a work-over.  There’s no conditions or talking points – just a device capable of running all the services on my everyday tariff.

Talking of the hardware, whilst this isn’t the focus of the article, I should give some background… Launched mid-2007 the N81 8GB is by no means a class-leading device – it’s bested by the N95 and N82 easily on specs – but launched at the same time as Nokia’s music store with dedicated music and gaming keys and it’s obviously intended to complement these services.  The large internal storage is well suited to media use and the built-in stereo speakers are also strong indicators of its intended use. The H903 headset (a pendant-syle) features a similar keypad layout and finish and looks a good way to test the music services.

Unboxing the handset, as ever, it’s good to note that the Nokia automatically notes the network I am connected to and sets up the data and MMS access points automatically.  Similarly, the download icon on the main menu presents a nicely familiar list of S60 applications and I quickly download a few old favourites I can’t be without – Ovi aside, this will be my main handset for the next 2 weeks.  So far so good – I’m up and running with minimal fuss.

It’s not all good news though, the gloss plastic feels cheap and hollow – disappointingly so for a handset at the more expensive end of the market – and the many, poorly distinguished buttons on the front fail the ‘girlfriend test’ early on.  The presentation is confused and a bit intimidating – with a little explanation (in lieu of reading he manual) she happily navigates the main menus, but it’s too easy to hit the small silver media button and switch the view to a completely different view.

Ready to try some Ovi I search the device for a menu… nothing.  I look through the ‘downloads’ and ‘catalogue’ items… nothing.  Oh well… I suppose the service is still in beta, but I expected Nokia to be pushing it a bit more.  ‘Beta’ is a tag we’re all used to seeing on everyday web services, but I guess this is staying below the radar despite the bells and whistles launch.  No problem, I open the phone’s browser and navigate to www.ovi.com speculatively having seen the full-browser version.  That does the trick and although the main site is a bit light on details that I’d like I find a link to the N-Gage gaming site, create a login and download the client.

I’ve not been a regular gamer for many years, so am a bit apprehensive, but N-Gage immediately feels like a well polished product.  From within a single well-presented client I’m able to create my profile to utilise the social features and browse a catalogue of games.  There’s some big names listed with current titles and everything is available for a trial play.  I’m really surprised by the quality of some of the titles – it’s not going to embarrass a dedicated handheld but the responsiveness and video quality is much better than I would have expected.  Even my first game of Tetris for a good few years is well presented and makes good use of the dedicated gaming keys on the ear-piece which feel well placed and make gaming an involving two handed process.  I can see myself ditching some of the usual video podcasts on the train next week and getting back to  few games.  Kudos Nokia.

The other feature I decide to try out at a friend’s party is the photo sharing feature.  Before I leave home I access it via the Ovi website again and am disappointed to note that one of the earliest criticisms – the need for separate accounts for all of the services – is still the case… when you have a name as common popular as ‘Smith’ finding something consistent and memorable can be tricky!  Still, the process is slick and the site itself feels very simiar to Flickr.  I note it’s still using the Twango (pre Nokia aquisition) name despite the Ovi branding.  Over the course of the night I snap away pictures and am impressed to see the Share application will use Flickr and Vox as well.  Less good is the need to individually upload each image as taken.  It works, but during the evening the process begins to grate.  The image quality of the 2MP camera is also really poor – the phone has a bright flash, but it doesn’t seem to be able to use it well.  I ditch all of the pictures I take during the evening – in the poor light of the bar they’re worthless and pixelated.  The next day I take a few snaps in good daylight – these are better and it’s nice to be able to select the public or private channels for sharing from the phone with a greater range of embed codes than Flickr.  However, long-term I’m not sure I could live with the click-intensive client… we’ll see.

This morning I quickly played with the music store as I sat on the train.  However, of the free tracks available, only one would download and the clumsy client together with Shaggy informing me that it is a ‘mad mad world’ was enough for me to decide to give up and look at that more closely later…. not a good start though.  Sound quality through the buetooth headphones was very impressive though.

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More as it comes during the weeks.  Please let me know if there’s any features or questions you’re particularly interested in via the comments!

By Ben Smith

Ben is an expert on enterprise mobility and wireless data products. He has been a regular contributor to Mobile Industry Review since 2007 and is also editor of Wireless Worker.

7 replies on “Two weeks with Ovi: Day 1”

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Charles

I hope you don't mind the off-topic comment but I see your site survived the “dreaded Google PageRank update” (insert ominous voice) unscathed. Congratulations 😉

Charles

I hope you don't mind the off-topic comment but I see your site survived the “dreaded Google PageRank update” (insert ominous voice) unscathed. Congratulations 😉

Charles

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