Tuesday, December 04, 2007

N800 thoughts

I've had my N800 for a little over half a year now and, as I'll shortly upgrade to the new operating system, I've decided it's time to produce a considered view of my experiences.

To start with, some personal information that might influence my opinions.. I've got large hands, I'm short sighted, and I've reached that unfortunate age where you need reading glasses. So how do I find the N800 to use?

The screen is very good and easy to read. However, at 800x480 pixels, there are problems with some web pages and applications designed for larger screens. I think this is a fundamental problem, increasing the screen size would impair portability and unfortunately increasing resolution won't help unless my eyes get upgraded. A bit of an impasse.

I used a Palm for many years so I'm perfectly happy with a stylus. For selection and scrolling it's better than using a fingertip (although iPhone kinetic scrolling, as in UKMP, is great). For typing I prefer the fingerboard to the stylus; it is less tiring, if a fraction slower. The biggest issue I have with the lack of a keyboard is not the ease and speed of typing, but the way the screen disappears when entering text. While this is not a problem when ramming in text that I'll edit later, it is real pain when using, for example, an x-termal.

I mentioned that I used to use a Palm. In fact, I first got an organiser ("pda") sixteen years ago long before I had a home PC. It was a Sharp, given to me as a christmas present. Slightly to my surprise, it was not a nine-day wonder; I used it for many years before it died and was replaced by a sucession of unreliable Palms. The key thing my Sharp did for me was to get my life organised - all my contacts, my diary and odd notes in one place and backed-up. Things got more complicated over time with the accumulation of home PCs and mobile phones. (I could go on about the problems of syncing multiple devices at length.....). I bought the N800 hoping that it would make a good pda replacement; it doesn't. I use GPE calender which is ok but GPE which doesn't sync with my phone or PC. I do use Erminig which will sync GPE calendar with Google calander but this only solves part of the problem. The biggest single improvement would be for the (Nokia) N800 to sync with my (Nokia) phone.

So, having established that the N800 is something other than a pda, what is it about? I think the N800 is all about the web and internet access. And that's what lacking in many places where I want to use the N800. In my office there is no available wireless connection; even at home the wireless connectivity is limited - the Victorians didn't place ease of penetration of 802.11 very high on their list of priorities. Things would be better for me if I could plug the N800 into my wired ethernet. Even when connected, the N800 experience isn't as good as it should be. The browser is slow and bit quirky. Although the screen is great, it isn't big enough to use Web2.0 applications easily, and there has not not been speedy progress in getting web sites which run well on the N800. For example, Google mail is just about OK, if a little prone to crashing the browser. On my (Nokia) phone the old (Java) version of Google Mail for Mobile looked better than Google Mail does on the N800, and the new, Native for Series 60 version runs fast too. Yes, my Nokia E50 has a better engineered Google Mail than my Nokia N800.

On the other hand, the N800 can be great platform when the application is build sympathetically. Meamomapper is great example - good looking. snappy and useful even when offline.

So what would I like to see changed about the N800? Firstly, a good PIM suite which syncs with everything under the sun. Secondly, a more robust, snappier browser. And finally, a keyboard. And then there are some things tha need to be changed about the world. Firstly, we need fast, cheap, ubiquitous wireless internet access. And secondly, web applications which work well when you are offline.

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