Home     Windows Phone     Nokia Belle     Nokia N8     Asha Series     Phones     Apps     Unboxings

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sooner or Later for Windows Phone - Todos made easy

One of the most complex things that everyone does with their smartphones is personal tasks management. Everyone hates adding todos and organizing them into lists and everything. Windows Phone was designed to simple and minimal, and the app that I'm about to introduce respects that in every way. I almost gave up using Todo list software until I encountered this little app. I was using the built OneNote for the most simple of things. No more. Don't get me wrong, I still use OneNote, but not for such trivial things.

Sooner or later offers you the ability to add todos in a quick and effective manner, into 3 separate categories: Soon, Later and Scheduled. The Soon category also appears on the live tile, should you choose to pin it to the homescren. You can move items between the three categories as well as completing them... or not. Undecided right? Well, Sooner or Later offers you the ability to set your todo as complete or to move it to the "never" list, in case you changed your mind about it.

The adding process is painless and the input needed from the user is minimal, just type your todo text and you're done. You do have the ability to add a more detailed description, and for scheduled todos add a date when they're supposed to expire.

Moving todos and changing their status from complete to never or the other way around is done by simply tapping the todo entry. A menu will appear allowing you to edit, or move the entry to other lists.

You can head over to the Sooner or Later Markeplace page to give it a try.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


HTC did it! The launch of the latest flagship HTC One, brought changes to HTC Romania front page, which is now highlighting the latest addition. The message that HTC wanted to display was "What will inspire you"(Romanian: Ce te va inspira) and on the green button below should have read "Try it! Click here"(Romanian: Incearca-l Click aici). Instead of that the website actually displayed "What will inpire you", but that's not the icing on the cake. The fail can be seen on the green button, which said "Incearca-l Fa". If you translate that from Romanian you'll get "Try it hoe!". The message that was supposed to appear was too long for the green button, so it was trimmed that only this Romanian slang appeared on it. The issue has been corrected after a couple of hours, but still, a fail of this magnitude is worth noting.


Monday, February 18, 2013

SN Upload review - Sharing, sharing, sharing

Social sharing is a big and integral part of Windows Phone, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have it's shortcomings. Photo sharing is one of those shortcomings. It's easy to post a message on all your social networks but when it comes to pictures, you have to manually upload it to each social network at a time. Did you ever wondered what you would do if you had two Twitter or Facebook accounts? Windows Phone only supports one of them. How about posting to your Facebook Page? Windows Phone has no support for that whatsoever.

This is where SN Upload comes to the rescue. The app allows you to choose or take a photo and upload it to all your accounts at once. You can have as many Twitter and Facebook accounts as you want. SN Upload supports Facebook pages too, not to mention Flickr and Dropbox.

For each photo you upload you can select the accounts where that photo should be uploaded to. For capped or slow data connections the app offers the ability to resize the photo before uploading it which improves the upload speed considerably.

SN Upload started as a Twitter and Facebook only uploader, but has evolved the past few months to now include Facebook Pages, Flickr and Dropbox. And it's only at version 1.7(pending approval).

The application is pretty simple to use, has a tabbed interface, just like any other Windows Phone hub. The first panel greets you with a photo slot, a message box and an upload button. The accounts you have selected to upload to, are displayed above the message box. Tapping the accounts label takes you to the accounts panel.

In the accounts panel, you can see all your accounts and select which ones you would like to upload to. Adding another account is just one step away. All you need to do is tap the "…" menu and choose which type of account you want to add. In case your Facebook pages have changed(you became admin to new ones, or removed some page) you can use the same menu and tap the "refresh facebook pages" option to update the pages you administer.

Next comes the settings panel where you can select the dimension you wish to resize your photos to before uploading. Here you have 4 choices Small(640x480), Medium(1024x768), Large (1600x1200) and Original(original file resolution). You should note that if you choose the original resolution it may take some time before SN Upload posts your photos on all your accounts, because the photo in question may be large. If you choose to resize your photos, your uploads will take very little time to complete, because the size of the resized image is around 90% smaller than the original image hence increasing the speed of the upload.

SN Upload can be used by opening the app and selecting a photo from the gallery by tapping on the image slot, or by simply using the Pictures Hub share menu when viewing an image.

The app is available for all Windows Phone with version 7.5 and above. It and has a 3 days trial and can be downloaded from here: SNUpload for Windows Phone.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

RANT: The Above The Fold myth rebunked

Last week I read an article that left me scratching my head in wonder. It made me ask myself existential questions and wonder if I've been living under a rock for the last 32 years.

First of all, what is this above the fold?. Well, it's basically the first thing that you see when you open a website, the index page, the face of the website. The name comes from the printed paper industry and refers to the headlines shown in the first half of the paper cover, the part that is always visible even with the paper folded.

The author implies that it is not necessary to put your most important content and call to action in front of the users, and that users have gotten used to scrolling web pages in the last 20 years. The scrolling part is entirely true. Yes, we have evolved. Yes, we are scrolling. But do we like it? The answer is no. Anyone would rather have the things they are looking for right in front of them. We all want what's easy for us.

No, I'm not lazy if that's what you're asking yourself, I'm practical. I don't want to waste time on a website scrolling and looking for the thing that I need instead of having it in front of my eyes. The author of the above mentioned article wants you to believe that your visitor is smart enough to scroll down and find the product or whatever you're selling by himself, but the truth is, nobody wants to do that. I do it all the time, and I hate it. The author presents a best case scenario, that is likely to happen in 5% of the cases at most. Anyone in their right mind should be looking at the 5% visitors that define the worst case scenario, the scenario when someone opens up your webpage, sees nothing of interest and leaves immediately. If you can convince these 5%, you've got it. The truth is you can't convince these 5% so easily, but you can damn well try. In order to try you need to show those visitors as much as you can in a small window of time and pixel space.

So you're gonna wonder why the hell am I reading this article here, on a technology blog? Well, because it's all about technology.

In my 10 years as a developer and user interface designer I've tried to put the most important features right in front of the users, so they won't have to look hard for them. No too many, but not too few. You have to find the balance. We, the developers, we have issues, problems. People think that we're weird, crazy, geeks. They think we know little about usability, which is false. We work with multiple platforms and encounter countless issues that most people are not aware of, until they encounter such issues. As a developer, I have to think about every potential user of an application that I develop, be it desktop, web or mobile. When developing desktop apps, things are simple. You design the app to look well on the smallest resolution and that's it. But when it comes to web, we have a whole different matter. Not only is a website restricted by the same issues that a desktop app has(resolution), but it's also restricted by the devices it can be seen from. A website can be accessed from mobile phones, from tablets, where screen estate is a premium.

My point is this: how easy is it for a visitor of your website to reach your desired call to action if it's positioned in the second screen of your website? There are three answers here:
1) For desktop browsers: easy enough(by scrolling) but confusing(why wouldn't a main action be in the first page?)
2) For tablets, hard. You first have to zoom in to read the text, and then scroll down to see the action(and we all hate scrolling down on mobile devices don't we?)
3) For mobile phones, hardest. Besides the zooming in for a decent read, you have to scroll endlessly down for the action.

So IMHO, the industry is not trending towards more and more scrolling, but towards an easier to access important information on a small screen. Just take a look at Apple's website. Everything they want to sell is on the top row. The second row of information consists in the latest devices they rolled out, still about sales. They don't even have a second screen to scroll to. Next example is Google's website. First row, is all you can get from Google, while the second row is the actual search. No fuss, no blazing graphics. All you need is simply before your eyes. Next, let's get a negative example, Yahoo. On their website you got links all over the place: left, right, top, bottom, we've even got tabs within tabs. Do I need to tell you that Apple and Google are making billions while Yahoo is drifting?

P.S. I wonder how many more comments are in the quoted article that never saw the light of day.


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.