Category Archives: Nokia

Altair Semiconductor Powers 4G and LTE

Altair Semiconductor logoThe Altair Semiconductor Company specialises in 4G and LTE wireless chipsets for the mobile telecoms industry. Andy and Courtney chat to the CEO of Altair to find out more more about the transition to the latest wireless standards.

4G, LTE and mobile broadband were all key technologies at CES this year, with products incorporating 4G announced from Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and LG, to name but a few. When compared to the relatively slow penetration of 3G, 4G uptake is happening much faster and it’s even surprising the industry. Verizon is expected to have most of the USA covered by the end of 2012. China and India are not far behind with major deployments.

Tablets and smartphones are driving the market but Altair’s chipsets are included in 4G dongles, MiFi-type units and wireless broadband routers.

Interview by Andy McCaskey  and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Nokia E6 and X7 Smartphones Announced

Nokia today announced two new smartphones, the E6 and the X7, both sporting the latest version of Symbian, codenamed “Anna”. The Nokia E6 adds to the business range and the Nokia X7 excels at games and entertainment. The new Anna software has new icons and usability improvements, including better text input, faster browsing and a refreshed Ovi Maps.

We are further strengthening Nokia’s smartphone portfolio with these two new devices, both of which offer a more beautiful and intuitive user experience that will soon also be available for the Nokia N8, Nokia E7, Nokia C7 and Nokia C6-01,” said Jo Harlow, head of Nokia’s Smart Devices business. “With these new products and more Symbian devices and user enhancements coming in the near future, we are confident we can keep existing Nokia smartphone customers engaged, as well as attract new first-time and competitor smartphone users.”

The E6 takes over from the E71 and E72, coming with a keyboard and hi-res touch screen. Designed as a premium device with glass and stainless steel, it offers the business user access to Microsoft Exchange, Communicator and Sharepoint.

The X7 features a 4″ display which is great for games and movie playback. The 8 megapixel camera rounds out the features, with HD video capture. Also constructed from glass and stainless steel, it’s a solid device, albeit with an unusual design. It will come preloaded with Galaxy on Fire HD and Asphalt 5 HD games.

These look like good phones but are these Symbian’s last hurrah before Windows Mobile 7?

Deloitte’s 2011 Teaser Predictions

Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunication’s practice have given a sneak peak of their global predictions for 2011.

First up, over 25% of all tablets bought in 2011 will be purchased by businesses, with retail, healthcare and manufacturing purchasing over 10 million. Initially, the use of tablets in business will be by people who have brought their own device into work but by the end of the year, businesses will be buying for employees.

Secondly, less than 50% of all “computing devices” sold in 2011 will be traditional PCs and laptops. Peter O’Donoghue, head of Deloitte’s technology industry practice, adds: “In 2011, more than 50% of computing devices sold globally will be smartphones, tablets and non-PC netbooks. 2011 will mark the tipping point as the growth of applications for non-PC items outstrips traditional software sales and consumers embrace a wider variety of devices.”

When you consider that PC sales will hit 400 million in 2011, you suddenly realise how big the non-PC market has become, that it’s grown from almost nothing in only a few years and that the growth is likely to continue at the expense of the PC market.

Finally, Deloitte is of the opinion that no single OS will dominate the smartphone or tablet market. The top 5 operating system developers have plenty of cash to keep the OS wars going through 2011.  The top 5 aren’t named but I’d guess that it’s Google, Apple, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft. Deloitte points out that this fragmentation causes problems and additional cost for application developers, media companies and IT departments.

The full report will be released on Wednesday 19th January.

Nokia N97 Mini Smartphone Review

This week, it’s the turn of Nokia’s N97 mini to come under the harsh glare of the GNC spotlight.  Now over a year old, the smartphone market has changed significantly in the last 12 months, so how does the N97 mini stack up against the current offerings from Android, Apple and Palm?

As the name suggests, this is smaller version of the N97. At just over 11 cm tall, 5 cm wide and about 15 mm deep this is a small phone and would have been the smallest smartphone on release. Unfortunately, the Xperia X10 mini probably holds this crown now. The styling of the phone is simple without being utilitarian but does feel a little dated compared with the latest offerings from htc and co. The resistive touchscreen is 3.2″ with 640 x360 pixels and looks clear and detailed.

Continuing in the long-established tradition of Nokia Communicators, this is a side-slider (or horizontal slide) with a bit of a difference as the screen tilts up as well. This is a great feature as when the phone is on your desk with the slider open, it’s really easy to see what’s on the tilted screen. Unfortunately, there’s no chance of typing while the phone is on the desk as it wobbles too much. If there just been a little bump below the camera, it would have stabilised it beautifully.

Other than that little issue, the keyboard is good to use. The keys are flat and slightly rectangular with plenty of space round them. You’d need very large fingers to have a problem hitting more than one key at a time.

In use as phone, I thought that the call quality was good to excellent as I could hear people very clearly. The people at the other end of the phone commented that while they too could hear me very well but sometimes the microphone also picked up other noises, such as the phone rubbing against my face.

Moving onto the software on the N97 mini, it’s all very similar to that found on the E5 last week. Too similar in some instances, in that the non-touch screen Nokia heritage is often evident by having two choices displayed on the screen in the same locations as the (non-existent) buttons. Instead of pressing the buttons, you tap on the screen.  Clearly this is a great way of getting software onto the phone without having to recode for the touchscreen, but at times it felt like a missed opportunity.

It was also evident at times that the OS on the E5 was just a little bit more up-to-date. For example, making a data connection on the E5 was handled without leaving the requesting application, whereas on the N97 mini, if no data connection was present, the application would tell you to establish a connection before running the application.

In terms of the applications available, the two phones were largely identical. Email – check; QuickOffice – check; Adobe PDF reader – check; music player – check; YouTube – check; and so on…  Some features were missing such as the dual Personal and Business modes (though you can have two Home screens) and some of the setup wizards were less comprehensive, but not much in it.

The Home screen does take advantage of the touchscreen, with the ability to rearrange the icons and applets by simply dragging them around.  It’s not completely free-form in that there is snap grid.  Applets can also be downloaded and added to the home screen. With the weather here in the UK, the first app I tried was AccuWeather which delivered further bad news.

Further, Ovi maps is much improved through the use of the touch screen as it makes moving around the maps and selecting options easier. The GPS tracking was quick to lock-on to locations, even when inside, though your mileage may vary.

The web browser on the N97 mini is also much better than that on the E5. Most websites rendered well, particularly when in landscape mode and it was much easier to scroll round the webpage using your finger.

The N97 mini also comes equipped with dual cameras. The main 5 MP (2584 x 1938 pixels) camera is in the normal place on the back, but there’s also front-facing camera for video calls. It’s only 640 x 480 pixels.  Regrettably, I wasn’t able to actually try out a video call.

The Ovi Store has loads of applications for the N97 mini, both free and paid-for. Downloading and installing is a doddle as is updating software when new versions come out.

A quick mention about the touchscreen. It’s only a resistive screen, rather than the newer capacitive screens, though frankly you’d be hard pushed to tell.  I wasn’t sure until I discovered that styluses worked. Personally, I think multitouch is overrated so if you’d rather have a screen that works with a stylus, the N97 mini is for you.

I really liked using this phone in landscape mode – it kind of felt more natural – but this showed up one irritating bug.  Normally, the phone doesn’t auto-rotate but assumes that if you have the keyboard open, the phone should be in landscape and if the keyboard is closed, the phone should be in portrait mode. There is a setting to auto-rotate the screen display and the screen rotates to match the orientation. The bug is that if you are in landscape mode with the keyboard out, when you actually close the keyboard, the screen always changes to portrait mode before taking a couple seconds to revert back to landscape. Not a big deal I know, it’s annoying when you’ve merely opened the keyboard to enter a web-address and now you want to read the page with the keyboard closed.

Overall, the N97 mini is a good phone even 12 months after release. It’s certainly not in the same league now as the Windows Phone 7, Android, Apple or even Palm offerings but if you are a long-time Nokia user wanting a small touchscreen phone, this is a great choice. You can get it free on a £25 per month 24 month contract or direct from Nokia for £289. There’s also a limited edition gold-plated variant at £479.  No really.

Thanks very much to Nokia for the loan of the N97 mini.

Nokia E5 Smartphone Review

The Nokia E5 is a non-touchscreen smartphone with a split personality, bringing business features to the social networking crowd.  It’s an interesting idea but are the features let down by lack of touch?  Let’s find out.

The E5 is a candy-bar phones with a 320 x 240 2.4″ screen above an alphanumeric keyboard.  Separating the two is Nokia’s trademark arrangement of softkeys, four-way rocker and answer / reject keys.  There are also two additonal keys for “home” and “email” in the middle.  The phone is 11.5 cm by 6 cm by 13 cm (ish) and weighs in at 126g according to the specs.  Consequently, it feels solid in the hand and appears to be built to the usual Nokia high standards.  I found the “chalk white” colour of this model attractive and a change from the fingerprint prone glossy finishes.  The E5 is available in four other colours.

Earlier on I referred to the split personality of the phone.  Fundamentally, there are two modes, one called Business and one called Personal.  Each mode can be configured independently so that, for example, you can have a serious workplace view with corporate greys and a sensible background in the Business mode but wild colours and a risque image for your Personal mode.

With regard to the basic functions of a phone, everything that you’d expect is there.  Call quality was good and the contacts database was comprehensive with lots of fields.  It’s possible to sync with Ovi Contacts, storing your contacts on the Internet and making it easier to switch between Nokia phones.

Email-wise, Nokia provides connectors to Exchange, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and generic POP3 / IMAP accounts.  Unfortunately, it only seems to be the email components provided by these services – it didn’t seem to be possible to pull contact or diary information.

With regards to media, the E5 comes with a radio, music player, video player, the ubiquitous camera and a podcatcher, which I was pleasantly pleased to see. There’s also a Facebook client which is quite usable and you can easily see what your friends have been up to and respond to them.  YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster and hi5 apps are also installed for your pleasure.

On the business side, QuickOffice provides the requisite Microsoft Office compatibility and there’s also a .pdf viewer from Adobe.  There are other apps such notes and unit converters.

There’s a whole section devoted to Ovi Maps, which is a basically a GPS with maps and navigations.  I didn’t severely tax it during the test but it appeared to be competent enough with directions and didn’t get me lost.

Other useful features are the wizards that take you through the steps to, say, setup email accounts or connect to WiFi.  However, if you do make a mistake, such as a mistype which you don’t notice during the wizard, can be difficult to correct because there are just so many settings scattered across different areas.  Case in point, if you want to delete an email account, it’s not in the email app, it’s in Control Panel, Settings, General, Email.

Surfing the web…..not so good.  If you’re on a website such as the BBC, where the content is specially formatted for mobile devices, it works fine.  Going to a general web site, such as GNC, it makes an fair attempt to render the page and there’s a kind of zoom view that allows you to see where on the overall page you are. Not great but not bad for such a small screen.  Surprisingly, you can have multiple web pages open at the same time and you can switch between them quite easily.

Acknowledging that people sometimes use their smartphones as torches, you can actually toggle the camera flash by holding down the space bar in the Home screen. Great feature which I hope other manufacturers copy!

The battery life was good – I used the phone for a couple of days and never had to the charge the battery which I thought was pretty good.  Obviously the smaller screen helps and it has a fair sized battery (1200 mAh).

There are loads of other features that I simply didn’t have time to play with fully – Home page customisation, chat, push-to-talk, the ovi store, downloading apps, 5 megapixel camera.  There is a lot to this phone.

In terms of money, in the UK it seems to be selling on contract for about £15 month on a two year contract or £200 on pay-as-you-go, which is probably where it needs to be priced to have any chance of success.

Overall, this is a competent phone with plenty of features at a mid-range price. The business and personal modes are a nice touch and give it some differentiation. However, I wonder where a non-touchscreen smartphone fits into the world of iPhone and Android, especially when trying to appeal to the social networking crowd.  To me, it just feels out of date. Anyway, if you are looking for a non-touchscreen smartphone, the E5 packs plenty of features and is definitely worth considering for the apps, connectivity and ovi maps GPS at a fair price.

Thanks to Nokia for the loan of the phone.

Smartphones Growing In Europe

IDC‘s latest press release on mobile phones and smartphones in Europe shows the sector grew 8% in the past year, that smartphones represent over a quarter of all phones shipped and that current leader Nokia is losing market share.

The total mobile market grew 8% year-on-year with over 42 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2010.  Of this, smartphones were 12 million units, representing 28% of the market and up 57% on last year.  Mobile phones actually dropped 4% showing the trend towards the more powerful devices.

Overall, Nokia still rules the mobile market, with just under 33% of the market in the first quarter but this is down 9% in the year.  Samsung runs a close second with 29% of the market.  No-one else has anywhere near the  market share of these two.  Even Apple and RIM only have 7.0% and 5.6% respectively.

Looking at just the smartphone market, Nokia is still out front with nearly 41% market share, but again this is well down from 57% last year.  Apple is second with 25%, closely followed by RIM with 20%.

HTC comes fourth with 7.5% and consequently, Android outsold Windows Mobile for the first time.  No sign at all of Palm’s WebOS devices which anecdotally have only sold well in Germany.

To honest, anyone familiar with the space doesn’t need IDC to tell them that Nokia is struggling.  Partly it’s because the smartphone range isn’t great, but I think Nokia just isn’t hip anymore.  Forgive me if I’m being shallow but Apple = cool.  Blackberry = cool.  Android = cool.

The full tables are in the press release but they’re not labelled very well.  The first table is the total mobile phone market, the second table is the smartphone market.