Flying Business Class with Nokia

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 12th, 2005, 08:00
Category: Mobile Phone

DSCN0130For Mac users who want to make the jump into what is currently available for business-class mobile devices, there are the usual options such as the Treo and the BlackBerry, and then there are the glitzy handsets from Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
The BlackBerry and the Treo are staples in the enterprise market. You can’t swing a fist in a conference center and not knock one out of the sweaty hands of another attendee. These devices do what they do very well, but there are other options available that you may find more interesting.
In particular, the BlackBerry really has no media capabilities to speak of, and the Treo is still showing its age, like a has-been supermodel who can’t stop telling you how hot they are. I’m not about about to start using Windows Mobile on my mobile devices, so this brings us right to the doorstep of Symbian.
There are a lot of different flavors of Symbian. There are the Nokia Series 60 devices, which are the one-handed smartphones you see plenty of. Then there are the UIQ devices from Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and others, which offer a touch-driven display. And there are also the Series 80 devices from Nokia, such as the Communicator line.
Nokia and SE are both renovating their flagship smartphone lineup. Sony Ericsson as recently demonstrated the Sony Ericsson P990 smartphone at the big show two weeks ago, and a lot of people are very interested in it. They should be. Its a great device.
And Nokia is making some changes as well – their two newest Communicators, the 9300 and 9500, are getting some changes as they position them in the US market. The 9300 is now getting WiFi added to it, for example, so that Cingular can more effectively market it in the US, and this incarnation of the 9300 is the 9300i .
All have push email capability, from BlackBerry via BlackBerry Connect, or other solutions from a variety of vendors. I am more interested in solid IMAP compatibility, though many corporate users may already have a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which means a BlackBerry Connect option for these devices is the prefered method of getting email.
So how well do you fly when you fly business class? You may be surprised.
Read More…


DSCN0130For Mac users who want to make the jump into what is currently available for business-class mobile devices, there are the usual options such as the Treo and the BlackBerry, and then there are the glitzy handsets from Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
The BlackBerry and the Treo are staples in the enterprise market. You can’t swing a fist in a conference center and not knock one out of the sweaty hands of another attendee. These devices do what they do very well, but there are other options available that you may find more interesting.
In particular, the BlackBerry really has no media capabilities to speak of, and the Treo is still showing its age, like a has-been supermodel who can’t stop telling you how hot they are. I’m not about about to start using Windows Mobile on my mobile devices, so this brings us right to the doorstep of Symbian.
There are a lot of different flavors of Symbian. There are the Nokia Series 60 devices, which are the one-handed smartphones you see plenty of. Then there are the UIQ devices from Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and others, which offer a touch-driven display. And there are also the Series 80 devices from Nokia, such as the Communicator line.
Nokia and SE are both renovating their flagship smartphone lineup. Sony Ericsson as recently demonstrated the Sony Ericsson P990 smartphone at the big show two weeks ago, and a lot of people are very interested in it. They should be. Its a great device.
And Nokia is making some changes as well – their two newest Communicators, the 9300 and 9500, are getting some changes as they position them in the US market. The 9300 is now getting WiFi added to it, for example, so that Cingular can more effectively market it in the US, and this incarnation of the 9300 is the 9300i .
All have push email capability, from BlackBerry via BlackBerry Connect, or other solutions from a variety of vendors. I am more interested in solid IMAP compatibility, though many corporate users may already have a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which means a BlackBerry Connect option for these devices is the prefered method of getting email.
So how well do you fly when you fly business class? You may be surprised.
Today we’ll be specifically covering the Nokia 9500, a wide-format handset with a full qwerty keyboard, a VGA camera, and Bluetooth. Those are standard fare on most handsets designed for professionals on the move, but the Nokia 9500 also adds WiFi, similar to the baby brother, the 9300i (available with a contract via Cingular in the United States).
DSCN0121
At first impression, the 9500 is big. Not only is it similarly shaped to a handset 10 years old, but it weighs about as much to boot. Having said that, it is much more managable compared to older Communicator designs, though with that heft you get an awful lot more functionality than my 10-year-old Audiovox.
DSCN0111
The 9500 is designed to be used as a traditional mobile phone when you’re speaking to someone or doing light messaging, but to open ‘er up when you need to work on a document, really manage email, or use the browser. The camera only functions when the device is flipped open, and you can use the internal features of the device (the PIM, other applications) with the radio turned off, for use on flights or if you just want to go off the radar for a while.
Instead of wedging a tiny keyboard with tiny keys onto a handset like so many others do, Nokia opts to make the device bigger to accomodate a more reasonably sized keyboard. The keys aren’t raised too high, gently arched keys reach up to your fingertips timidly, and they have a shallow keystroke. The little joystick in the bottom-right corner is surprisingly good, allowing the user to quickly navigate through menus and select fields in various applications included or user-installed.
The keyboard is backlit, which is good. The Sony Ericsson P910 devices aren’t, and it means that you’ll be using handwriting recognition in dark environments, which some people dislike.
The display on the 9500 is fantastic.
DSCN0106
It is surprisingly bright, visible outdoors or indoors. The wide screen gives you ample room to view and work on Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or project files in Projekt (my favorite outliner for handsets).
It is easy to hold the device and view what you’re working on, and Opera works great on the 9500 giving a nice web browsing experience.
I had hoped to give screenshots, but the only screenshot application I had available wasn’t giving me very good results for some reason, so sadly I have no fancy tour of Series 80 devices available at this time. I hope to resolve this in the near future to allow people to get a real feel for the 9500 as an organizer.
The UI is themeable and allows you to set a nice color scheme as well. Most applications respect this look and feel and everything seems to fit rather well.
Since the device has both GPRS and WiFi access, I was curious how well that this would work out. I found it worked very well, using WiFi when available to check email and let me browse, but failing over to the T-Mobile internet access I have on my account when no WiFi was to be found. This worked pretty well, only being marred by a lackluster email client onboard, requiring me to use the fantastic IMAP client Profimail from Lonely Cat Games. I would be happier with the email client if it allowed me to change ports for services as well as allowed you to actually install and manage self-signed certificates for S/MIME and servers. As it is, you can speak TLS with the built-in client, but only on regular ports and you have to acknowledge that you are talking to a device with a self-signed certificate when you connect. For crying out loud, just let the user approve it once and remember it. Series 60 and UIQ devices do this too, it seems to be a shortcoming in all Symbian devices.
The Calendar and Tasks are easily navigated due to the large display, and since the device is on a hinge its easy to sit it down on your desk and glance at it throughout the day. The 9500 is a perfect “go-to” device for light browsing, messaging, and a capable way to edit and view typical Office documents on the go. The note-taking feature on this OS is pretty slick too, letting you drop text files directly into whatever folder you’re currently in, allowing for fast methods of recording snips of data you will usually pile onto post-its throughout the day.
Using removable MMC cards for storage lets you pile more ringtones onto the device, as well as documents and other media files. I found the video player and music player to be reasonable, though I would recommend getting an adapter for the Nokia PopPort connector to allow better headphones. Another handy feature is that you can backup the contents of your 9500 to the MMC card, in case disaster happens and you need to restore your device completely. Keep that MMC card somewhere safe. Nokia doesn’t give management software for the Mac to you, so the only way you have to backup and restore is using the Backup application and the MMC.
The voice recorder is nice for those who use it, simple, no surprises.
Some great software for this besides the fantastic Profimail would be IM+ or AgileMessenger for IM on most major IM networks, as well as PuTTY for Series80, giving you a full SSH client right on your mobile phone. The keyboard is very useful when logged in to remote systems, making the 9500 a good fit for systems administrators or power users that would love a nice SSH client they can put in their pocket. On most devices like this, SSH is kind of irritating because you don’t have a lot of screen real estate available. When using the 9500 however, this problem is quickly resolved. You can even run pine if you wanted to use that instead of getting email via POP or IMAP. This is the first device I’ve had that made that even a possibility.
As a Mac user this device comes up a bit short, however. It isn’t actively supported by Apple in iSync, meaning you can only synchronize the device using a hacked conduit supplied by a third party and completely unsupported. Having said that, it did work in my experience, and worked pretty well with only minor issues now and then. To be honest if I was commited to this device I would be fine — I’m not losing any sync functionality from the P910, which is also severely limited.
The usual complaints apply of course: Symbian devices do not retain categories when synchronized. This means if you’re using Groups in the Contacts application, categories in the Calendar and Tasks applications, they will not be synced back and forth. Therefore, iCal and the 9500 (and any other smartphone) are completely out of touch regarding how you categorize data. Adding insult to injury, if you categorize things on the handset, they are obliterated when you sync. Horrifying if you’re an avid user of categories because you use GTD or some other productivity system that lives in categories.
My solution is a kludge that I’m not happy about, so I don’t really want to document it today until I figure something better out.
Not everyone relies on category sync for Calendar and Contacts so they wont be upset about it. Some of us, however, do, and Apple really needs to get iSync speaking better Symbian. Last I heard, an Engineer from Symbian works on iSync for Apple now, so there really is no excuse why the support is so badly implemented.
In spite of the synchronization shortcomings, I love the 9500. It seems to have some performance issues now and then with a CPU that comes across as a little anemic when you have several applications running, but the size isn’t much of a deterrant in this device since it makes exceptional use of its obvious size through a nice keyboard and a beautiful display.
The battery life is fantastic, going days between charges, in spite of heavy GPRS and WiFi use with email checks. I was very impressed with the 9500’s battery performance. I charge my device every night regardless, but was happy that I didn’t have to. Voice quality and reception are also quite good, Nokia has been producing some handsets with great RF lately, I had no problems holding strong signals everywhere I went, though users of Cingular may not be as lucky since this device does lack GSM 850. I would recommend most Cingular users get the 9300i instead for that reason, sure you lose the camera, but it is a bit smaller and will get better reception.
You can purchase a 9500 unlocked and unbranded from My World Phone, whom I have purchased from before quite happily with great results, as well as everyone I’ve refered to them.

Recent Posts