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Archive for May 2011

New life into an old phone 2

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Getting more useful with age

N95 8GB and the Ovi suite

Old phone + new software = Extended life

So I’ve decided to keep my trusty N95 8GB phone going as long as I can. See the other two posts on how I made that decision and what upgrades and installations I made.

So what are the actual differences?

Browser

I now use Opera Mobile as my day-to-day surfing tool. Currently it’s on version 11, from March 2011, which makes it the newest piece of software on my 3 year old phone.

It displays pages on the web properly and has tabbed browsing – I can open multiple windows at once on my phone! The simple keypad shortcuts make it really easy to move around without a touchscreen.

It can even talk to the onboard GPS so I can use location services on websites like Facebook.

It’s great that Opera are still actively developing for Symbian S60. Nokia are working on a new browser, I bet they’re not bothering about older devices.

Maps

The GPS is much faster to lock on using the assisted GPS function which uses the phone’s data connection to give the GPS receiver an initial hint about where you are. I can now get an accurate fix within 20 seconds. This used to take 2 minutes or more.

Loading maps is simpler now with Ovi Suite.

I’ve chosen to stay with Nokia Maps 2 rather than get the new Ovi Maps because of the change they’ve made to navigation. Version 3.01 of Ovi Maps is prettier, but doesn’t include free navigation (even for walking!) and it nags to remind you this and even though there are menus to buy this additional feature, they don’t work.

Nokia Maps 2 still doesn’t do live navigation (although as a much older app the purchase function still appears to work) but you can create routes and step through them manually turn-by-turn, which works almost as well. You can do this in Ovi Maps, but it’s more fiddly.

Ovi Store

Nokia’s place to download apps. This is not well designed for an N95. It’s slow to move around and takes 3 clicks to do anything where 1 would suffice. It’s far more efficient to look for software on the website and get a link sent to your phone.

N-Gage games

Interestingly while I was still getting used to this feature, the N-Gage system seems to have been merged with Ovi and has stopped working. The N95 is not a great device for gaming, and the games for it are slow and fairly expensive when compared with iTunes and Apple devices which can do far more.

One of the games which caught my eye seems not to have made it over to Ovi (save this video walkthrough) was Dirk Dagger. I can’t find it in the new store and the URL is now dead. Still, you can play it on the web.

Sync

This is a neat app which backs up my contacts, calendar and notes. If something happens to my phone they can be sent back to it, and I can access that data online too, although I haven’t found where the Notes data is. I like not having to worry about my contact book anymore. My phone is absolutely my life and the data on it is extremely precious.

Other Apps I use

Joikuspot

This takes the 3G signal in my phone and turns it into a mobile wifi hotspot. This is so useful it’s one of the few times I’ve ever upgraded to the paid version of an app. (Dirty little secret: I have an iPod touch, and with this app, it effectively turns into an iPhone)

Podcasting

I couldn’t live without this now. I have 17 radio programmes (I’m normally can’t watch the screen cos I’m doing something else, like walking) I download regularly. There’s no better feeling than knowing your phone is full of great stuff to listen to.

Skype

Just the voice version. Much better over wifi than 3G, although perfectly good for instant messages.

Gmail

Perfectly optimised for a non-touch screens. You can access most functions via keypad shortcuts. Puts Nokia’s inbuilt app to shame.

BBC iPlayer

I’m getting less use of this than I expected, partly because it’s only for wifi use, I would only use it at home and when I’m at home I use my hard disc recorder. Stuff on there is full broadcast resolution and doesn’t expire after 7 days.

Photo sharing

There are plugins for sending photos to both Flickr and Ovi Share. Flickr is very useful but I can’t think of the use for Ovi Share (and likewise Ovi Mail), no one I know has ever heard of it. It doesn’t seem to integrate to anything. Nokia will probably send it the way of N-Gage.

Various IM apps

There’s Fring and eBuddy if you like those sort of things.

My friend Abdo swears by Whatsapp and continually demands that I download it, however I have unlimited text messages (and I’m pretty sure he does) so I don’t see the point of an app which duplicates that functionality.

It’s probably more useful if you have contacts in other countries, but I use FishText for that as it sends real SMS text messages to foreign networks very cheaply.

Conclusion

So that’s the current state of my phone. It does more and for me it’s more useful now than when I bought it. Plus the N95 is a very good reliable phone, with decent battery life.

I think this refresh should see my N95 8GB still in use in 2012, and assuming the electronics keep working, this could well be my backup phone for sometime after that.

If you’re still using an N95 I’d love to know why and if you have any tips you can share. Let me know in the comments.

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Written by Robert

3 May, 2011 at 11:43 pm