Mobile Phone: Still waiting to Replace Nokia N97

I was an “early adopter” of the Nokia N97 about 18 months ago.  It has been one of the most disappointing – in fact iunfuriating – phones i ever owned.  For teh first 6 months it was bug ridden, crashing and running out of memory and then the slide to unlock switch on teh side would not unlock the device!

The web browser was really poor, the camera+flash had a severe design flaw,  the music player was horrible to use, email was vile and Ovi-Suite (the PC software) was  slow and buggy – I had to stay with PC Suite.

The only redeeming factors were the good voice telephony and text messaging – with excellent “Remote SIM” mode for advanced car phones – and the OVI maps, which have all the data in the device. Also I use Opera as teh web browser and the Gravity Twitter client. Basically the hardware is good, but the software is embarassingly poor.  I have used a Nokia since switching from Motorola in 1998, going though devices including 7110 (banana), 8110 (WAP), 6680, N93, N95 and N95 8Gb. I temporarily switched to the Sony P800 back in 2001. All of these devices were relatively reliable and  were class leaders.

Back when the iPhone was launched, I realized that I could not tolerate the poor web browsing that Apple was pushing – nor the need to sync things with iTunes, so I was up for a change to something new. I chose the N97, which seemed great from the (as it turned our exagerated) video promos.  I wanted the device to work, waiting for new software updates. I bought a Nokia direct – avoiding operator tinkering – expecting to get the latest software fast.

In mid 2010 I was about to smash the phone to smithereens when its lack of memory stopped me sending text messages, but a “Nokia VIP program” person invited me to courier the device back and get a “reflash”. Which I did. That reduced my pain for a few months but I am now in teh market for a new phone.

Current Candidates are:

iPhone 4 – closed, needs iTunes, lack of innovation, expensive, poor web browser (with no alternatives allowed), Bluetooth file transfer does not work, proprietary docking.

Blackberry Torch – Slightly heavy, small screen, but actually looks quite good – and has benefit of a keyboard.

HTC Desire or Desire HD – got one for my 11yr old daughter and it looks great. Slightly worried about the bluetooth software.  Samsung Galaxy was a candidate but it has no LED-flash for the camera.

Nokia N8 – Actually its not a candidate.  I tried one out for a few days. The software is still really poor. Sorry!

Nokia N72 – My wife and 2 colleagues have these.  For mail, text, voice and maps they seem great. Problem is the size of the screen for web use, and i am now addicted to touch interfaces.

Windows Phone 7 – COming Soon.  I don’t expect this to be much good in its first iteration, and from what I hear Microsoft’s team for this phone is following Apple’s “closed” philosophy – Bizarre!

My plan is now to wait till Xmas and then decide.  Current front runners are HTC Desire or Blackberry Torch.

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POWER Supply: Charging all gadgets

Computer, Phone, and other electronic gadgets need to be charged. I carry two packs: “mains power” and “in-plane power” plus a spare laptop battery.

My  “model” is to go for USB (preferably micro-USB) power for all gadgets. A laptop computer – with enough USB ports – can therefore be the charging hub. Ideally the laptop has “USB bower when turned off” mode.

The Laptop itself needs power.  I selected the smallest possible 100-240V AC to laptop (15v) power supply available (Its the standard Toshiba R600 unit which is quite tiny).

I then changed the mains cord from a long heavy one, with a UK plug, to a very short cord (from Japan) with a US/Japan 110V mains plug.  This works in shaver sockets as well as in US and Japan, and is nice and small.  I then carry the smallest US to UK adapter I can find, plus a US to 2 Pin european adaptor.  This set up means I can travel almost anywhere in the world, including the UK, and get power to my laptop.

As a seasoned “roadwarrior”, I used to carry two bits of “chopstick”, a screwdriver and I used to just have “bare wires” for the power supply. If you had time, and took teh risk, this was quite flexible. If you were around in the 80’s you often had to use wire strippers and screwdriver to wire up your modem to a hotel phone outlet – so that way of working was standard! Nowadays, an extra 60g for teh adaptors is fine, plus you can’t carry a screwdriver through security any more.

For charging phone and bluetooth headset, all that is needed is a USB to micro-USB cable, and I carry at least one of those.

Finally, when travelling on a long plane flight, in-seat power is often available with a 15V em-power socket. I therefore carry the lightest adapter that can charge my laptop from in-seat power. This is the Kensington 120W DC to DC adapter.  It has teh benefit of charging from a 12V DC car cigar lighter socket as well.

NOTE: I tried using various DC/AC to DC converters, like teh bigger Kensington 70W device. I found these heavier than the two small seperate items. Hopefully I will find something better during 2011.

I also carry a spare laptop battery. The Toshiba battery is very light – about 190g.  This gives another 7hrs usage on my laptop – ideal for longer journeys without seat power, and it is vital if you need to charge your phone from your laptop and you don’t have mains or seat power available.

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Carry-On Case: Selecting the Rimowa Salsa Cabin Trolley

The most important piece of Flyer Kit is the “carry-on” case.

Requirements are:

  1. Must meet carry-on dimensions of most airlines – which means 55cm x 40cm x 20cm – see http://thetravelinsider.info/travelaccessories/airlinecarryonluggageallowances.htm
  2. Must be light and have a lot of capacity. For example, Virgin Atlantic restricts bags to a ridiculously low 6kg – compared with Easyjet which just says you must be abl eto lift the bag.
  3. Must be able to be wheeled (in case its carrying a heavy load) – ideally with a way to “stack” items on the case when being wheeled.

Ideally it must also be able to be checked in easily (so it should have TSA locks on it) and be tough enough to last many travels.

I chose a hard case for three reasons: Good protection of gear inside the case, especially when it is checked in; can be used as a seat when waiting around or wanting to sit and work on a laptop; and better at being a container for items inside without bulging.

I chose the Rimowa IATA cabin trolley, 55cm by 40 cm by 20cm, weighing 3.4kg. And coming in 4 colours.  http://www.rimowa.de/main#/product/850.52

Here is my Red Rimowa Salsa being carried across the snowy apron at Buffalo Airport:

There are only two real weaknesses in this case:

  1. Not fully waterproof. The closing is by a zip, and there are some rivets in the case that could leak. The only fully waterproof case I have tried is the Peli case, but these are very heavy.
  2. Although the dimensions are quoted as 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, I found that the bag is a few milimetres smaller – so it could have been made a bit bigger.
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