N810 in a nutshell

N810 unboxing

N810 unboxing by Matt Biddulph. License:

Got my N810 yesterday. Some thoughts:

GPS: sexy. All kinds of interesting possible results. Kudos to Nokia for leading in this, though now that my blackberry does rough triangulation from cells, I’m not sure how pragmatic it is. (Modulo concerns about privacy that go along with cell geolocation.)

look and feel: much improved. The switch from plastic to metal makes a surprisingly big difference.

keyboard: A little cramped, and I think slower than the screen keyboard for small amounts of text entry. But probably much better than the touch screen for long note-taking sessions. Using it I’ve actually IM’d from a maemo-based device without wanting to stab myself, which I’d never achieved before :) (IM, it was pointed out, is something you can’t do from the iPhone ;)

adding keyboard while still shrinking the size of the device: miraculous and impressive. (You can feel the extra weight when comparing the N810 and N800, but nothing that I’ll notice day to day.)

improved UI for non-keyboard/non-stylus use: the bigger menus do a lot for me, but there is still a long way to go here. Why do I have to choose one of four small objects after I hit the power button, instead of large, readable objects 1/5 or 1/4 of the size of the screen? why is the unlock message small, quietly colored, and in one corner of the screen, instead of over the whole thing? Most importantly, when I turn on the device, why am I presented with giant, empty, useless space (ooh! a web bookmark! a clock!), instead of a big, helpful list of things that are one click away from usefulness? Device-modal, full-screen dialogs, menus, and notifications should be used frequently and to good effect in this thing, and it is frustrating that they aren’t.

OS 2008 user site: surprisingly useful; was easily/quickly able to install apps from it. (though there is some non-friendly stuff there- what does ‘catalog installed but not enabled’ mean to non-technical people? Even to most technical people it won’t be obvious. Got that when installing Pidgin, which otherwise went very smoothly.)(But I can’t uninstall Skype? seriously?)

reduced storage capacity: big negative for anyone who uses it as a music player, like me. I’ve got 16G of music on my N800. Cramping me down to 6G total on the N810 is… eww. May be a showstopper for my daily use of the device, since that is my primary use case for it right now, which is a shame given the keyboard. N900, here I come. ;)

still no cell network access: Argh. I DO NOT WANT TO CARRY TWO DEVICES. I’m not the only one. Creating a new category of device is great, but ideally you want to create a category that people will reasonably want. Apple (and to a lesser extent Blackberry) are proving that there is a huge market for always-networked phone-email-browser combo devices/platforms. I fear (for Nokia’s sake) that when faced with the choice between a reasonably capable phone (like iPhone or Blackberry) with always on networking, or a very capable nokia with inconsistent networking, or carrying two devices to get nokia capability plus reliable networking, they’ll choose the extra convenience of the single device. Certainly most days I choose to go Blackberry-only, and while the N810 makes that choice a little harder, it isn’t by much.

I’ll continue to use it, and to help Nokia improve it, because it scratches my unusual itches. But I’d be a lot more excited to help out if it had a snowball’s chance in hell of commercial success- and that, to me, seems to depend on always-on networking, which for better or for worse means cell for the foreseeable future.

quick notes on using the N800 for a week

I left my laptop at home this week when I went on spring break, and used good old fashioned pen and paper for reading Con Law, and the N800 for everything else. Before I forget, a few notes:

  • if I could figure out how to get ogg support on this thing, I’d buy very large memory cards tomorrow. But so far the only docs I can find explaining ogg support are long and painful. With the very few mp3s I have (mostly from podcasts) this is a fairly capable replacement for my much-missed Rio.
  • text entry continues to be a major pain.
  • opera chokes to death on my planets. The new minimo build, unfortunately, is not much better (though otherwise quite nice.)
  • I need to see if I can use the N800 to grab/review photos- that was the one thing I really, really missed having the laptop for. (pictures soon.)
  • Otherwise, was quite useful for occasionally skimming my email and checking up on various little things- a very nice vacation tool.

n800 notes

Less than 24 hours after I blogged that I was glad I wasn’t getting an N800, I got the code for an N800. And of course I bought it, because I’m a sucker for toys, even ones that I predicted would become paperweights. ;)

I used it extensively for the first time today. Some thoughts:

  • great battery life. Used it as an mp3 player, tromped around downtown new york for almost three hours, played some tetris while waiting for lunch… still reporting 5 hours of use time left when I got home.
  • mp3 player. Why no ogg by default? can’t be more than a handful of Kb of extra binary, no?
  • opera has improved; google maps mostly works now, ditto calendar. Still would prefer a working minimo (which was crashy and slow but handled google calendar on my 770.)
  • still miss my palm’s text entry; nothing has changed in that respect since my first impressions of the 770.
  • application installation has gotten much better than it was on the 770. Still needs some love, though- some application installs from the otherwise nifty applications repository fail mysteriously, which is irritating to me and probably hugely frustrating to a normal user.
  • was very, very disappointed to find out that canola is closed source. That dampens my excitement for it considerably.
  • when I import an opml file to the rss reader, it makes me manually check every feed that I want to import. Not going to bother with that with my feed list- too long. Should default to assuming that I want to import them all.
  • tigert’s theme is so much better than the overly dark default theme that it isn’t even funny. Really look forward to the tango port.
  • video is cool, though I was unable to use it reliably with tigert- bad connection. (generally I seem to lose connection to google talk very often, even though otherwise my wireless connection seems reliable. No idea what the problem is there.)
  • I really, really want the novell slab menu on the N800. Giant, deep hierarchical menus are bad enough on a full-size screen; on the N800 they are terrible. SLAB NOW! :)
  • the widgets metaphor on the micro-desktop is broken. I wrote a long email about this to tigert that I’ll spare everyone else, but suffice to say that having a ‘desktop’ on a device that small is a confusing waste of pixels.

Overall, I am guessing that this will end up not getting used too much- I already carry my laptop just about everywhere, so this won’t buy me much. But I think as of today I’ve already used it more than my 770- so who knows, maybe it’ll keep growing on me :)

pdf performance torture test, New York style

It turns out that if the evince or maemo pdf reader teams want a good performance torture test, I can strongly recommend the MTA’s all-in-one NYC Subway map. Completely, unusably slow on the maemo, unfortunately; merely painful on evince. On the plus side, even acrobat takes its time to render it, so it isn’t an easy case, and given a choice between a map that can be rendered quickly and the NYC system, I’ll probably take NYC. Get back to me after a few months, though; by then the persistent NYC smell may have turned me into an MBTA fan again…