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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Camera comparison: Nokia's new N96, N85 and N79 versus Sony Ericsson K800i

This evening, I had a chance to play with the new Nokia N96, N85 and N79 phones up close and personal. I didn't get a chance to do as much as I wanted to at yesterday's media event for the Nseries phone launch, so this was a welcome treat. And since I use the camera feature quite often on my phone, I decided to put the camera-cum-photo feature to the test.

And it was a simple test: what sort of photograph would I get from each of the phones? Given that the new Nseries phones are top-notch, my hypothesis was that they would have the best visual output (excluding image size, since they're five-megapixel cameras, while my Sony Ericsson K800i's camera has three megapixels).

All photos were taken with the default camera settings under the same indoor conditions. I've re-sized them here to fit this blog entry.

First up, Sony Ericsson K800i.
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

Next: Nokia N85
Camera phone comparison: Nokia N85

Hmm, not too shabby.

Up next: Nokia N79
Camera phone comparison: Nokia N79

Err, a bit washed out?

The Nokia N96 should be better.
Camera phone comparison: Nokia N96 take 1

Wha...??? The photo looked as washed out as the N79! Okay, maybe it was this particular phone, so I tried another one.

Camera phone comparison: Nokia N96 take 2

Slightly better than the previous photo. And its flash was bright enough to capture more of the dark background.

But of the three Nseries phones, I think the N96 produced the best photo, though the photo looked over-exposed to my untrained eye. And, of course, this happened when the camera wasn't acting up. (Or maybe there were smudges on the lens? Ah, the benefit of a lens cover!)

The Nseries-taken photos also came out slightly blurry. I attribute this to a poorly-designed camera button. I don't know if it was because these were prototypes, but their buttons were difficult to press. I had to use the tip of my finger to force the button down to take a picture -- and then hold the camera in place for almost a second to save the picture!

I suspect that my hands would've shaken slightly during that time, resulting in the blurred pictures. While the K800i has about the same time lag, the picture looks clearer, which could be due to easier-to-use button and image processing.

So overall, I wouldn't bother with the N79. The changeable covers are a novelty that would wear off quickly on me. The N85 looks like a decent package overall. As for the N96, I'll say that it's a matter of luck. While it's a feature-packed phone, as seen from the photos, the quality obtained from the features would seem to depend on whether I land a good one or walk off with a lame duck.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nokia introduces one phone in three disguises - N96, N85, N79

Modelling the N79 and its faceplates
Thanks to Nokia and Text 100, I had a chance to attend the media event for the launch of Nokia's brand-spankin' new N96, N85 and N79 phones... ok, "multimedia devices". Though I was probably the only blogger in a sea of journalists and editors, I wasn't complaining.

It was held at House, and I'd actually walked up Dempsey Road to it from the bus stop. As a result, and because I departed late, I missed most of the spiel from Grant McBeath, GM of Nokia Singapore. I don't think I missed much of the proceedings though, except for the product videos. Oh, and a video that supposedly showed DJs Glen and Ros using the N96 in public. I would've preferred meeting Ros in person, but I guess that's another dream that'll have to wait.

Setting up for CNBC filming
We were then given to try out the three phones around a small booth. The big screens showed how the phones were integrated with Nokia's Internet services, e.g. N-gage gaming, Ovi photo and video sharing, Nokia Music Store, etc.

I played a Star Wars game on the N85 and I think the only outstanding thing of that experience was the OLED screen. It was well-lit, brighter than most other high-end phones that I've used. The colours were vivid, and the lines and details were clear. On the other hand, a screen that good was wasted on the small display.

Oh, and the N85 is the first Nokia phone to supposedly have a dedicated USB charger. Err, I suppose that's useful somehow. I currently charge my Sony Ericsson K800i through USB too, though the phone-end is connected through the same power connection. So I wonder why there's a "dedicated USB charger" on the N85.

The other phone I tried was the N79. Its distinguishing feature was its changeable rear cover, which would then change the phone desktop's theme. If I snapped on the green cover, the theme would turn green. If I replaced it with a red cover, the theme would change to red.

This change-a-roo is done through little sensors on the cover and phone's innards, though it's no rocket science. On the other hand, after my experience with Sony Ericsson's Z600, I must say that I'm not the type who will change my phone's covers.

I didn't get to try the N96 much, aside from listening to its speaker quality. Which, by the way, is a universally irritating feature for any phone. In a public place, I really don't want to hear whatever trance-techno music the punk next to me is listening to. That's what earphones were invented for -- to save others from putting up with your "music".

Ok, but that's just my ranting. In addition to the seemingly good quality speakers, the N96 seemed more "solid" than its predecessor, the N95. So it seems like Nokia has also improved its manufacturing quality.

DJ Glen Ong gave away some prizes later. I don't know what the winners won, since I'm not one of them. But I got a press kit, and the swag (free gift) is a Nokia USB charger (model CA-100). This is of no use to me since I don't have a compatible Nokia phone.

Nokia N96, N85, N79

Personally, I think of these three phones as the same model but with three disguises. That's because the majority of their specifications are the same. Same form-factor, same camera lens, same multimedia features, same connectivity.

What differentiates the three phones are:

N96: 16GB removable memory card, 8 free songs from Nokia Music Store, TV-out
N85: 10 pre-loaded trial games, OLED display
N79: 3 snap-on covers

Those are pretty much what I could glean from the specification sheets. And they don't seem like much. But I suppose they are trade-offs. Including an OLED display in all three phones would probably introduce manufacturing and cost issues. So would TV-out.

And, err, I guess some people absolutely need to be able to change the look of their phones.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Two cups and a string -- Nokia event invitation

I was pleasantly surprised when a small cardboard box was presented to me. It's wrapper simply stated: "Communication. Now made by hand. Nokia Nseries"
Nokia blogger event invitation

Ooooookay. I shook it and heard a soft rattling sound. I hoped there was nothing fragile inside. At least I didn't hear any crackling of glass.

On opening, I found a brown card, with this tantalising line: "From the simplest communication tool made by hand..."
Nokia blogger event invitation

For all I knew, the contents could be two sticks, a firestarter and a small blanket.

Opening that card revealed the actual invitation. Apparently, Nokia has some super-secret upcoming "multimedia computer", and I had been invited to the launch event! The tagline read: "The web. Now made by hand."
Nokia blogger event invitation

And yes, I put "multimedia computer" in quotation marks, to be pronounced/used in the same way one would do the "air quotes" with your fingers to indicate sarcasm. Nokia makes handphones. Its Nseries line of phones is still far, far away from being truly usable computers, so I refuse to call it that. At least Apple doesn't call the iPhone a computer, and that device has freakin' Mac OS X (albeit a modified, slimmed down version) under the hood! (And if this opinion gets me kicked out of Nokia's exclusive invitation list, so be it.)

Anyway, yes, I was elated to find the invitation. But then... it's at 3pm? On a weekday??? Gah, for a full-time employee, that means I'd need to get time-off to attend. Oh well, I guess I'll have to pass on this.

But back to the invitation. Instead of glassware or wooden sticks or some such, there were two paper cups and a nicely coiled-up string. Yup, the earliest communications device was two-cups-and-a-string (though, fortunately, not two women and a cup*).
Nokia blogger event invitation

It came complete with instructions on how to set it up. And to make it easier to assemble, the cups already had tiny holes in their bases. Hmm, interesting and fun! Of course, it'd be more fun if I had kids to play this with. I think we adults are more used to our fanciful gizmos... and whatever Nokia has coming this week.

* Two women and a cup -- if you don't know what this refers to, look it up. But be warned: it's grossly Not Safe For Work!


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Social Media Breakfast 3 at Asian Civilisation Museum

On a bright and sunny Saturday morning, I went down to the Asian Civilisation Museum to attend the third Social Media Breakfast. This must be the swankiest venue ever for such an event. The previous SMBs were at small cafes, so this was definitely a leg up, especially in terms of first impressions to new attendees.

Aside: the ACM could do with better signage to tell people that it is the friggin' Asian Civilisation Museum. I only confirmed the location because of a small sign that had a write-up on the history of the building (complete with a dried-up bird dropping on it).

I arrived half an hour late, though still fashionably early for a Singaporean event. I chatted with a few familiar folks and met new ones, November and "Min-tea". There was also food galore, and I helped myself to egg sandwiches, chocolate swiss roll and grossly diluted bandung.

At about 11am, things kicked off... in a manner of speaking. There was a round of introductions from Daryl, the organiser, and Walter Lim from the National Heritage Board. Then, the theme of the day was recapped, which, if I remember correctly, was about how and why bloggers could be engaged for mutual benefits.

Or something like that, because things didn't go according to plan. So people just went back to doing what they did at previous SMBs, i.e. chat and mingle and eat.

Who is Emily?
BTW I wonder if anyone has the contact of the girl at left (without glasses)? Her name is Emily, but I didn't get her contact information. (And yes, I'm an idiot for not doing so.)

The only on-topic conversation that I had was about the relationship between blogs and old media, i.e. newspapers, TV, etc., and how/why blogs could rise above the noise. And I was also advised to start using Facebook "like the other 90% of people".

I didn't really notice the time till I saw that chairs were being stacked up. People had already started leaving at around 12:30pm. An hour later, there was just a handful of us left. Those who attended could supposedly tour the museum for free, but I chose to skip it. Besides, Chinese propaganda doesn't really appeal to me... though on hindsight, it should. (I've since found out that the finalists of the Omy blog awards had a guided tour, those lucky "devils".)

I think it's a good development that such so-called "social media" events attract the turn-outs that they do. One person mentioned: didn't these attendees turn to new media because they value their anonymity? I think that's a myopic over-generalisation. We "social media" blokes are human beings, and human beings are, at their core, social beings. While some people can live their lives as hermits, the greater majority of us still yearn for human contact.

New media simply makes it easier to create and maintain such connections. I personally would never have met any of these people if not for the connections built up through Internet services. So I don't see anything wrong with identifying ourselves publicly, if it helps to foster greater social connectedness among individuals.

Read about the first Social Media Breakfast, held at Frujch.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Nokia invited me to WOM World... but I can't go!

I saw a curious email this evening. It came from "womworld" and the subject read: "Invitation to Nokia Workshop in Helsinki". Intrigued, I opened it up to see what this was all about.

Turns out that it was an invitation to attend Nokia's WOM World event in Helsinki. It's on 11-14 September. Attendees would get a free trial device and other goodies.

And get this: free travel and accomodation!

Alas, I already have plans for that weekend that I cannot avoid -- and it's highly unlikely that I'll get to skip it! This is so frustrating!

Okay, the free trip was definitely an incentive to go. But just once, I'd also like to get a European customs stamp in my passport. It seems that I'll have to wait a wee bit longer to make that wish come true.

Anyway, here's the email from Nokia:

As a quick intro, I’m from the WOM World / Nokia. We’re a Nokia-sponsored blog covering what’s being said in the social media about Nokia devices and services.

We sometimes help Nokia run events involving participants from social media, like bloggers and forum members. The latest being a new annual workshop that hopes to involve an eclectic mix of the online community in a discussion of what the future holds for everything from mobile technology to media creation. It’s a three day event in Helsinki and we’d like to invite you, flights and accommodation paid for.

It’s taking place in September between the 11th and 14th, and will be the first of its kind hosted by Nokia. We’re contacting everyone from creative’s, designers, video producers to open source software bloggers and mobile tech pioneers. There will be a number of workshops that’ll see discussion with participants, and with Nokia guys, about the future of different online arenas and mobile technology. Workshops that we hope you’d like to join in with and make yourself heard.

Like we mentioned, Nokia will cover expenses, including return flights, accommodation, food etc, we are flexible on return dates, if you’d like to come back on the 13th that’s fine. You’ll also be provided with a ‘trial pack’ that will include a Nokia device and other things for trial prior to and during the event.

So, please email back or call us on +44....., if you’re interested, and please bear in mind we’re on Greenwich Mean Time.

In regards to the flights, Nokia are obviously very keen on keeping things as Green as possible. The trial device that you will get will come pre-installed with We:Offset. If you’ve not already head of it, it’s a Nokia application that allows you to offset your carbon emissions via the handset and a small donation. You will be expected to offset your trip yourself, more details on how revealed closer to the time, or read up on the app at:

Also, feel free to tell your community that you’ve been invited; we’ll soon be introducing the event website that will include participatory media for you and anyone else to join in with.

If you’d like to know more about us, our blog is Alternately you can see some pics of previous events we’ve been involved with at Flickr. This recent set shows us at a Nokia launch event in London. We took a group of five online community members with us for the handset launch.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Donna and the WOM World / Nokia team
So sad, right?