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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Windows Phone 7.8 for Lumias on Navifirm - Update getting closer

Windows Phone 7.8 builds just popped up on the infamous Navifirm app that scans Nokia's software servers. The builds are available for at least the Lumia 800, 900, 710 and 610. These are not production builds, they are Nokia Care builds which means they are intended to be used at Nokia Care service points. That could mean these very close to the final builds that will be made available in January.

Those of you who haven't flashed a custom ROM so far, I recommend you wait a couple more weeks to the official update. The rest of the geeks can go download Nokia Care Suite and install it like you would any custom ROM.

Image courtesy of GSMArena.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nokia Asha 308 review - Touch duality

The Nokia 308 does not pretend to be a smartphone, but it does claim to be a smart feature phone. The device looks attractive and will certainly appeal to the youth crowd. The build quality is good even though not extraordinary, but considering the price tag you get more than enough for your dollar. The 308 is made of good quality plastic material and offers a squeak free experience.

The dual SIM capabilities are another plus for the budget phone buyer, but the lack of Wi-Fi is a show stopper for those who want internet on the cheap. No Wi-Fi means you gotta have a decent data plan in order to use intensity on this phone. The bright side is that the 308 is very network friendly and consumes immensely less data then your average smartphone. A couple if days of usage only ate 4MB of my data plan in which time I've download a game and used Facebook And Twitter more than a couple of times.

The hardware of the phone is not stellar, but nor should we expect such hardware at this price point. The multi touch capacitive display is I believe a first in this price bracket and a welcome addition. The 308 sports a 3 inch screen with a resolution of 240 by 400 pixels. The resolution is pretty decent for that display size keeping in mind that some Android phones have lower resolution on bigger displays. The Asha 308 is equipped with an accelerometer which comes in handy for text input in landscape mode and when playing games.

On the right side of the phone we can find the volume rockers and the lock/unlock key. On top we have the 3.5mm jack port, the micro-USB port and the 2mm charging port, while on the back we have the 2MP fixed focus camera with no flash light. On the right side of the phone we have the second SIM card and the micro-SD card slots. The primary SIM card slot is located under the battery so it's not hot swappable. However the phone can switch from SIM1 to SIM2 in a heartbeat without needing to reboot.

The box contains the phone itself, the battery, a 1GB memory card, a Nokia headset and a Nokia 2mm charger. The phone can also charger tough the USB port. Unfortunately there is no USB data cable included, but at this price point it wouldn't be a first. The usual leaflets can also be found in the box, along with the warranty card.

The camera takes not very good pictures, and it seems that the camera sensor is not the same as on the Nokia 5230 add I was expected, but a cheaper unit. Video recording is disappointing with a resolution of 176x144 pixels at 10 frames per second. I was expecting at least QVGA at 15 frames per second.

The photo gallery had punch to zoom, a feature you don't see too much in feature phones. Zoning in and out is decent even though it takes a while until you see the full quality zoomed in picture.

The Asha 308 comes with Facebook and Twitter apps preinstalled, a great email client and 40 free EA games. Yes the games are java games but just the ability to download them from Nokia Store is something not many phones can brag about.

The homescreen had been completely redesigned compared with the non touch S40 devices. The new homescreen looks more like MeeGo than an S40 homescreen. There are three panels. The middle panel is a the columns grid of applications. On the right side panel you have the phone dialer, and on the left side you have your favorite panel. Here you can add it pin shortcuts to the installed apps and also add your favorite contacts.

What amazed me about this phone was that it has badge notifications for some apps like the phone app or the messaging app, which it's a first for S40.

Bringing S40 into the touch era meant Nokia had to create an on screen input method and it looks life they've learned from the mistakes they did with Symbian touch. The full qwerty keyboard is excellent in both landscape and portrait, supporting split screen too. Another welcomed addition is the pull down notifications and switches area. Just like on Nokia Belle, you can pull down from the top of the display and you can change your connectivity settings and see your incoming notifications.

The web browser is Nokia's new Xpress browser. A cloud based browser that keeps data consumption down, compressing web pages up to 90 percent.

The Nokia 308 and the Asha touch series in general meant bringing a smartphone like experience to the low end budget phones. Nokia tried to create an ecosystem for the Java based S40 devices, with an app store, games and social apps. That is what smartphones are really about, keeping you connected and making your life easier. The Asha 308 manages to do just that, and even though it's not a real smartphone, it brings you a lot of features and apps that you won't find on any other smartphone. That being said, the entire Asha series has one great advantage over other feature phones, and that's Nokia Store. I don't mean the free app catalogue, I mean the paid ones. With Nokia Store you can pay via SMS which is a golden egg in developing countries, Asha's main targets.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nokia 808 PureView review - The last of the Symbians

The Nokia 808 is nothing short of a wonder,a miracle. The looks of the phone don't and can't tell much about what goes on inside, about what the 808 is all about.

The device has a very weird shape, going from beautiful to outright ugly depending on the angle you look at it from. The hump on it's back is responsible for this transmogrification of the device. The curved body, however, is a pleasure to hold, fits neatly in the hand and the polycarbonate shell that covers the phone's back provides an excellent grip.

The front of the phone is dominated by the 4 inch display covered in Gorilla glass. The hardware buttons are grouped in a plastic strip much like the 603 and the Lumia 710. The display is curved like on the Lumia 800, but the curvature is not as prominent as on the WP device. The curved display makes swiping left and right easier and the phone also slides in and out of you pocket easier.

On the right hand side you'll find the volume rocker, the lock/unlock knob and the dedicated camera key. The camera key fires up the camera application even when the phone is locked.

On top of the phone you'll find the HDMI port, the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm jack port. The HDMI port is protected by a plastic lid, and considering you won't use it everyday, that's a good thing.

The box contains the phone itself, a data cable and charging adapter, and a pair of hands free headset. I was kind of disappointed because I was expecting accessories at least like the N8 box. There is no USB-On-The-Go cable and no HDMI cable either. For such an expensive phone, I think those two were supposed to be in the box.

On the back of the phone you'll find the gigantic camera hump that hides the amazing 41MP camera sensor. The camera is helped by the Xenon flash which is said to be 4 times more powerful than the unit on the Nokia N8. The camera can shoot 38MP photos in Creative mode, 8MP photos in PureView mode and record full HD videos at 30 frames per second. The cherry on the top here is the fact that the 808 provides lossless zooming while recording videos, which is a first for smartphones.

The phone is powered by an 1400mAh battery which is good for about two days of moderate to heavy usage, including shooting photos and videos.

Unfortunately the micro-SIM card and the SD card slots are located under the battery so they are not hot swapable.

If you're thinking of buying this phone you'd better do your homework first. This phone is going to offer you so many shooting modes that you won't know where to start and where to finish. Don't get me wrong, that is a good thing, no, actually an amazing thing. This phone will shine in the hand of a person who knows he/she's way around a camera. That does not mean that non camera savvy people cannot use it. Just switch to the PureView mode and you'll get some amazing 8MP photos without breaking a sweat.

The phone is powered by a 1.3GHz CPU which is helped by a dedicated camera GPU to process the enormous amount of data the camera sensor captures. The device packs 512MB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage and it's animated by Nokia Belle Feature Pack 2 formerly known as Symbian Donna.

Feature Pack 2 is the last steer in the MeeGo direction that was started with the original Belle. I don't know about the performance improvements that Feature Pack 2 brings because I have no means to compare Feature Pack 2 with it's predecessors. All I can say is that the last Symbian iteration runs unbelievably smooth on the 808. Considering the experiences with Feature Pack 1 that other people wrote about, I believe that Feature Pack 2 is indeed an improvement.

Feature Pack 2 mainly brings changes to the aesthetics of the OS and not so much on the functionality. The only major functionality change is the portrait QWERTY keyboard that has been almost completely replaced. I say almost because in full screen edit mode, for example, the old QWERTY shows it's ugly head once again.

A new button has been added to the homescreen toolbar, and that is the search key, which is a shortcut to the search app. No biggie there.

The context menus now appear all centered and that is a good thing since you no longer have to chase the context menu around the screen. This change also brings consistency across the OS. The apps menu has also been refined and now looks more like the menu Qt apps have, with the first and last menu elements having rounded corners.

As with any device, there are some pros and some cons. Here they are in my opinion.


- Mind blowing 41MP camera
- Xenon flash
- Amazing camera app - very customisable helps you make the most out of the amazing camera sensor
- Speed is better than ever
- Good battery life for a smartphone
- Lock/unlock knob is very useful
- The curved glass display is a real treat
- ClearBlack display has really deep blacks


- Symbian is dead a.k.a. In maintenance mode
- Web browser still not as fluid as should be with heavy pages
- nHD resolution it's kind of stretched on the 4 inch display
- Poor choice of apps compared with rival app stores
- Way too thick by today's standards
- Lack of a power button makes accidental shutdown a real problem until you get used to how it works


For Symbian fans this is the phone of their dreams with a decently sized display, a fast processor, amazing camera and superb build quality. The price however, will be a setback for those of you who are not crazy about having a phone that can shoot photos better than a digicam, but the 701 will provide the same user experience considering the similar specs.

All in all the 808 is a competitive smartphone. The only glitch that I can complain about is the web browsing experience that is not on par with today's top shelf smartphones. The web experience is the fastest Symbian has ever seen, but compared to Windows Phone or Android it's in the mid-range. It's not a showstopper like it was on first generation Symbian devices. It seems that Nokia had managed to finally find a hardware combination that brings Symbian into the present of smartphone OS's. Too bad this is the end if the line for Symbian.
The Nokia 808 is proof of what Symbian could have been and but never got the chance to become until it was to late. It's ironic that Nokia manged to bring Symbian to a competitive level two years after it practically buried it. It's Nokia's latest, last and greatest Symbian. It's Symbian's greatest device and death sentence all in one.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why not releasing WP 7.8 in 2012 would be a huge mistake

Seeing the new features that WP 8 had brought left WP 7 device owners' mouths watering. Releasing the WP 7.8 update in 2013 would be an immense mistake. Here's why. Imagine yourself buying a brand new Nokia 900. A few short months after, you find out your brand new phone just became a legacy device. You inherently build up some frustration. Microsoft then promises to launch this update for old phones that will bring some if the features from WP 8. You're still uneasy, but you start thinking it's better than no update at all right? So Microsoft launches WP 8 and you're waiting eagerly for your promised update. You would expect it to come shortly after the WP 8 launch right? Wrong. The update is nowhere to be found and Microsoft issues no official statement about it. The question Microsoft has to as themselves is this: will existing customers wait for the update to arrive in 2013 or will they take advantage of the holidays offers and get a new device? And if they do get s new device, will it be a WP device? At this point cheap WP 7 devices cannot compete with cheap Android devices. And I bet that the people who decide to get a new device won't buy one powered by an OS from the same company that left them on the dust and got them to change their phones in the first place right? It's logic. Plain and simple. So the problem is simple. Release the update and you keep you users happy, and even get new ones for both cheap and expensive devices. Don't and you'll see users flea to other platforms and be sure those deserters are never coming back.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nokia Xpress browser for Lumia phones

Well folks, you know that cool thing Opera Mini does when it compresses web pages to save you data consumption? You know that the same tech is used by Nokia with the Asha browser? Well, Lumia users you're in for a treat.

Nokia has just added a new cool app called Nokia Xpress to Beta labs. This app is a web browser that uses Nokia's cloud to compress web pages and images to save you buck on data costs. Besides being a full fledged browser, Nokia Xpress adds a few more goodies like tabbed browsing, most visited pages and a magazine view for your favorite blogs.

Nokia Xpress also gives you the ability to see how much data it has consumed and you can set the downloaded image quality. The app is still in beta so it misses some features like the ability to specify if you want to see the mobile version of a website or the desktop version, or the ability to use the IE10 user agent, but those will most likely be added in the near future.

Have to say that this was one app that the Windows Phone ecosystem really needed. I'm not sure if the app is available for other Windows Phones but what I can say is that the entire Lumia line is supported.

Anyway, here's the official video presentation.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

4th and mayor Foursquare client for Windows Phone

Foursquare is a service that I started using recently and I have no experience with it whatsoever. This is the best case of user friendliness testing that money can buy: first look. I first took a look at the official Foursquare application and to be honest I wasn't able to check in anywhere because I simply had no check in button. After digging around the app i finally found the way to check in, but it's not as straightforward as i would have liked it to be. So I searched for a third party Foursquare client. That is how I found 4th and mayor.

And the first thing I noticed about it was the check in button, right there in front of me, where it was supposed to be. 4th and mayor basically offers the same info as the official Foursquare app laid out in a more user friendly way, a way that got through to me from the first look I gave this app.

The first screen you are greeted with is the Friends view. Here you can see what your friends have been up to, the places they last checked into.
Second is the explore view. Here's where you can search for specific places like trending, shops, food or even do custom term searches. This view is your gateway to surroundings. If you're in a foreign city, this view can help you find a little bit of fun around you.
Third view is lists. You can create your own lists or check out other lists made public by other people. Again, if you're in a foreign city it will be useful to see a list of the coolest places around or must see places.
4th and mayor has good integration with Bing maps and shows you your own location, or the location of any of the places you want to check out. These locations you can open in the Maps app and directions to that place are immediately at your disposal.

The live tiles are also a strong point. You can pin locations, a time to get all your notifications or a check on now tile that's gonna show you all the locations nearby and allow you to quickly check in to any of them.

4th and mayor is not only an app that helps you check in on Foursquare, but helps you discover new places. It's more like a travel guide, and can be used as such when you find yourself in a city you're not familiar with. The application features go deeper than what I've wrote about, so you should watch the video at the bottom of the post for a video tour of the app.

Blending Foursquare services with an intuitive user interface and a great maps integration is in my opinion what makes 4th and mayor the best Foursquare application for Windows Phone. The app is free and ad-free.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brink for Windows Phone review- Tweeting

So one day I was bored with the official Twitter client and with Seesmic too and decided to check out what new Twitter clients I could find on the Marketplace. I came across Brink. It was way down in my search results for... wait for it... tweet. Yep, that's right. It wasn't even in the search results for Twitter. Now wonder I haven't seen it before. I was a bit skeptical but the screenshots convinced to try it out. As it turns out, it's my new favourite Twitter client.

First of all, I have to say that it's just beautiful. The Twitter clients that support customizations usually have a dark and a light theme to choose from. Not Brink. You can theme it with backgrounds and fonts, you can have multiple accounts, and you can even add a tile to post updates from the start screen with one tap.

Another thing I absolutely love about it is the Activity view. With Seesmic I used to have a section for mentions and one for retweets which I had to go back and forth through. This Activity view shows both mentions and retweets and I like it. Maybe it's just me, but the way I need to use Twitter, Brink is what I need.

Oh, did I mention it's free AND ad-free? I would actually pay for this app(if MS would hurry up to add support for payment from Romania that is).

One more thing I like about Brink the attention to detail. Those little things that just tick all the boxes. One example retweet style. You can choose from quote, append and pre-pend and you can use which one you like best. Some features you only get with paid clients are support for both Instapaper and Pocket(read it later), support for Bitly and for Flickr.

Another thing that I love about it is the way they do lists. Most clients, official one included, just show you the members of Twitter your lists in their lists views. Brink shows you their tweets.

The only two features I would like to see, and I was assured by the developer of the app that they are well underway, are toast and live tile notifications. Once those arrive, I will no longer have a reason to keep the official Twitter client installed on my phone.

Anyways, here's a video tour of the app. Go on, download it yourself, it's definitely worth it.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

13 must have free apps for Nokia Lumia

After a few months of using Windows Phone I thought of compiling a list of apps that I can't live without on my Lumia 800. Since Microsoft doesn't support apps purchase in Romania, I had to live with free apps. Here are a few that I use on daily basis.


Cross platform note taking is a must have for pretty much everyone. You want your notes at home on your computer, you want them on you table, and you want them on your phone. Evernote does it on all platforms. It has clients for all mobile platforms, for desktop computers and a web version in case you need to access you notes from a web browser. It supports rich text notes with images and everything.


Unlike Evernote, Fastnote offers you simple text notes, a very easy and beautiful user interface and the ability to backup your notes to SkyDrive. The icing on the cake is the ability to add reminders for your notes, and that makes it a must have for your Lumia phone.


We all know how well supported messaging is on Windows Phone, but for those of you who use Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger, Windows Phone can't serve your needs by default. If chatting on multiple platforms is your thing, then Nimbuzz is the app for you. Nimbuzz supports Google Talk, Yahoo, Facebook and many more networks under one roof, and it does it really well. It even has a background agent so you can receive notifications even when the app is closed. Only downside is that you need a Nimbuzz account. But there's a bright side too. Once you've set up your Nimbuzz account you never have to manually login to your networks again.


Windows Phone has brilliant support for Twitter and Facebook built in, but if you're a social networks freak with multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, then Windows Phone can't help you there. That's where Seesmic comes in handy. You can add as many Twitter and Facebook accounts as you like, as well as Sales force accounts. For each account you can pin a plenitude of tiles to your start screen. These tiles include Mentions, Messages, Retweets, and the live tile will show you how many new items you have for each of the aforementioned categories. It doesn't have toast notifications yet, but the app is evolving at a fast pace and it's only a matter of time before they add toasts too.


If you like to mess around with photos and create some really unique ones, then you need to know that SophieCam has a lot of great effects you can add to your photos. You can make your photo look old or dirty or anyway you want it. It also has options to share you photos to Facebook and Flickr. It's a must have if you like to play with your photos.

Creative studio

Sticking to imaging, I couldn't leave out Creative Studio. Developed by Nokia you can't even imagine how many things you can do with your photos. Besides the adjustments you can apply to your photos, you can also add various effects. Another cool thing Creative Studio can do is face warps. Just point your camera at your friend and you'll get a photo that you'll laugh at for a long while.

Aviary photo editor

With SophieCam and Creative Studio can have a lot of fun, but when it comes down to business you have Aviary. It's not an official Aviary client, but one built on top of the Aviary API, so you get the same quality adjustments and effects you get from the original thing. This is the app to have for serious photo editing on your Lumia.


I love watching YouTube on my phone, but for Windows Phone there is no official app yet aside from the website shortcut you get in the Marketplace. Metrotube is the best you can get for Windows Phone and even if YouTube would launch an official app, I doubt it would have all the features built into Metrotube. Metrotube was also recommended by the Nokia official blog as the app to have for watching YouTube.


If you need music videos, then VEVO is the app to get. The app streams videos for a huge base of artists with great quality. It's basically all you need to music videos. You may ask yourselves "why do I need VEVO when I have Metrotube?". The answer is simple: VEVO only shows you music video, so yo get no distractions when you search for an artist unlike YouTube's search that can bring up a lot of not interesting results. And the advantages don't stop there. Some music videos have advertising on YouTube which means you can't watch them on mobile. With VEVO that problem does not exist.


Full length movies are hard to come by on YouTube. You search for them and can't find a decent quality one even after a deep search. Crackle comes in to save the day. Full length movies and TV shows are now at your fingertips. The only downside is that you have to manually search for them because there's no search function in Crackle. That's a small downside considering that you can watch good quality full movies on your phone.


The Bing search integrated in Windows Phone is good, but no search on the planet is as good as Google's. The official Google search app makes searching easy. If you're wondering why you should use an app instead of searching on the website, then the answer is voice search. The Google app voice search is much better than the Windows Phone voice search. It recognizes words even if you don't pronounce them correctly. With Bing is mostly hit and miss, but Google is spot on.


Many people have documents stored in their Google Drive, and while MS Office is a better suite for such purposes, it's a really tedious job to move all your stuff to SkyDrive. GDocs is an app that accesses your Google Drive docs easily and you can even edit them in plain text mode. All in all a must have app if you rely a lot on Google Drive.


One big missing feature from Windows Phone since it's early days has been smart dial. RapDialer does exactly that: smart dial and fast T9 contact search. The only thing missing from RapDialer is the ability to show missed calls on the live tile. This is a must have app if you talk to a lot of people all the time and don't want to have all their contacts pinned as a live tile.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

eBuddy XMS for Windows Phone review

eBuddy is well known to Symbian users as a instant messenger that could connect to lots of instant messaging services, but the XMS version reviewed here is different.

If you're into chatting a lot and you don't want to pay a lot on text messages, or you don't want to chat on social networks then here's a service for you. The eBuddy XMS messenger works like an SMS service, but uses your data connection instead of your precious and expensive SMSs.

eBuddy is available for all platforms, WP, Symbian, iOS, Android and BlackBerry, so you don't have to worry if a version is available for your friends. Everyone can join the party and text for free(if you have a data plan that is).

First of all you need to enter your phone number and you'll receive an activation SMS. After entering the code in the application you can start using the application. eBuddy can scan your phonebook and your Facebook account and show you in your list of contacts all your friends that are registered with eBuddy.

Basically, if you have a data connection you don't have to pay for text messages anymore. eBuddy XMS is available for all platforms invoicing Symbian, but it looks like the feature set is not the same on all platforms. I'll explain what that means in a sec.

eBuddy supports groups, which means you can add your friends in a group and text to ask of them at once. It seems though that some versions of eBuddy XMS do not support the group feature but I'm not sure which one do and which don't. The WP version and the Symbian version do support it as you're about to see in the video at the end of this post.

Update:I've been informed by the developers of eBuddy XMS that the latest versions supports groups on all platforms. At the time when this part of the review was written, the persons I was trying to add to a group may have used an older version which did not support groups.

Even if the app is not started you will still receive toast notifications thanks to the background agent that eBuddy implements. However, you have to keep in mind that on WP the background agents stop working if you enter battery saving mode, so if you're low on battery you may not be able to receive messages unless you've got the app open. This is a WP restriction, not a bug in eBuddy.

Check out the video below for a demo of eBuddy XMS.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 - First Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia

Yesterday Nokia kicked off Nokia World with a joint conference alongside Microsoft. It was Jo Harlow with the first big announcement, the Lumia 920. Then it was Kevin Shields that announced the Lumia 820.

The Lumia 920 is, as Nokia calls it, a PureView device, but not the PureView you were expecting. It has no pixel oversampling, it has no 40+MP camera, but instead it is the first device to sport significant improvements in low-light and stabilization technology. Nokia developed a 8.7MP camera for the Lumia 920 that has hardware optical stabilization called OIS(Optical Image Stabilization) and an f/2.0 lens aperture. The large aperture allows more light to be capture by the backside illuminated camera sensor, about 10 times more light than any other competing smartphone. The Lumia 920 uses a floating lens guided by a gyroscope and moves the camera lens assembly to compensate for hand movements during snapping shots or filming video. The 920 uses a stunning 2000mAh battery, that should allow it to have an average battery life way above any other competing smartphone.

The 920 has a 4.5 inch display IPS LCD, with HD+ resolution (1280x768). The display is curved, like the Lumia 800's, and uses Nokia's PureMotion technology which renders everything on the screen at 60 frames per second. Another novelty for the Lumia line is the wireless charging. Nokia presented a variety of charging pads where you can just put your Lumia and it will start charging.

Another first for Nokia and the Lumia line was the super sensitive touchscreen of the Lumia 920. As Kevin Shields demoed on stage, the Lumia 920 can be operated with gloves on. It's a first for Nokia and it's capacitive touchscreens.

The storage capacity of the Lumia 920 is 1GB of ROM and 32GB of storage, with no expansion micro-SD slot.

Additional colors have been added to the Lumia line adding up to a total of 7 colors. The new colors are Yellow, Lipstick Red and Slate Grey.

The 920 can record video FullHD(1920x1080) and has a secondary camera that can record HD vide0 (1280x720).

Both devices use a 1.5GHz dual core Krait Snapdragon S4 CPU aided by an Adreno 225 GPU.

The Lumia 820 has an 8MP camera and an OLED 4.3 inch display. The secondary camera of the 820 can only record VGA resolution video. The 820 has only 8GB of mass memory, but it also offers and expansion micro-SD slot capable of up to 32GB cards. The battery capacity is 1650mAh but considering the smaller display, it shouldn't be a problem.

Both devices use LED flash light, but as Damian Dinning say last week, there have been major improvements in the LED flash department in the past months and the new generation of LED flash from Nokia closes the gap with the Xenon flash.

I for one can't wait to get my hands on one of these babies and see what it can do.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nokia Belle Refresh - What happens after the dust settles

The first impression Belle Refresh left me was a big disappointment. And in some aspects it is. This is supposed to be the last big update for the N8 generation so I was expecting more. And by more I mean more FP2 features. But it didn't happen. Now that I got over that initial WTF moment it's time to take a look under the hood to see what are the performance improvements that arrives with this new update.

First of all let's tackle the browser. Updated to version 8.3 the browser brings some subtle but worth noting user interface updates. Besides the back and forward buttons we have the windows and a favorites buttons that make your life a bit easier when navigating the web. The favorites button opens up a three tabs panel with most visited, bookmarks and history. It's good thing that all bookmarks and favorites are in the same place. The usual web browser menu, a reminiscence of S60v5, is now gone and you can do basically the same operations as before from the context menu.
Another improvement, and this is a big one, is the browser rendering speed. It's a big improvement over the old version with zooming in and out being now way smoother than before. You can even zoom in and out as the page loads and it works pretty well. Unlike before when you used to get lots of lag even after the page was fully loaded, now you won't see anymore if those lags. So, the updated browser gets a big thumbs up. If you compare this version to the S60v5, you can't tell the current one is an evolution of that old version.

Between all the clock widgets that were included in this update, there are others that were really needed and welcomed by us all. The first is the Data Counter widget that comes with a small app too and tells you how much mobile data you've consumed. You just need to set your monthly limit and the day your limit gets reset. You can also choose to disable the mobile data when the limit is hit to avoid extra costs.

The second much needed widget is Mail,New arrival. This one can replace the big old half homescreen mail widget with a shortcut that shows you a badge notification when you have new mail. I would have liked to see the new mail notification in the system pull-down area and on the lockscreen, just like the notifications for new messages and missed calls. It's not very ergonomic to unlock you phone whenever you want to check if you have new mail.

The third widget that is worth mentioning is the Contacts widget that can now show a group on the homescreen and not just your favorite contacts. In the old Belle if you would have added the Contacts, favorites to your homescreen three times, you would have got the same contacts in all widgets. Now, if you define 3 different groups you can have three different widgets, one for each group. A big improvement over the old approach.

Also, worth mentioning are the toggle widgets fro 3G, Mobile Data, Offline mode and Silent mode.

Belle Refresh also includes the latest QT version, 4.8. The new version seems to have boosted the speed of the apps written in this language. Apps seem to scroll smoother and the touch input has been optimized for swiping gestures. Without needing to update the existing apps they run smoother and accidental scrolling when you intended to swipe happens a lot less now.

But the Belle Refresh update didn't just improve things, it also broke some apps. That was expected from third party apps that had compatibility issues, but I wasn't expecting that to happen to the Microsoft Office suite. The new update rendered OneNote useless. Synchronization was gone and I wasn't able to login to my account again for one simple reason: I could not type in my username and password. When I touched the input fields the keyboard did not pop up. Maybe a hard reset will fix it, but at the moment I am don't want to lose all my user data because of this issue. Maybe Microsoft will issue an update, but it's unbelievable that Nokia's new best buddy didn't do it's homework to properly test the office suite with the latest Belle update.

Even though not all expectations were met with this new update, it's clearly an improvement over the original Belle, but I hope this is not the end of the line as far as updates are concerned for the first generation of Symbian^3 devices.