Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Nokia 808 - reading between the array lines

Nokia seems to have created quite a storm over its new 808 camera. Personally I'm very interested in it because it seems to have kept Symbian as the OS (gosh won't win many friends saying things like that in this iPhone and Win7 phone climate).

But I still happen to think that the OS is overblown and its the functionality of the phone which is paramount.

Anyway, this post has its focus on the Camera in the phone ... DPReview has a quick intro to the phone over here, which I suggest you go and have a look at.

Basically I'm wondering why a 41MegaPixel phone camera would be of interest? Particularly when it normally saves images as something significantly smaller (like 5MP). Heck I already have problems with being able to use my phone to send an MMS to people because the 5MP exceeds the capacity of the automated downscaling. Not to mention the problems I have with family sending me 10MP images in email as attachments (and choking my inbox or them getting bounces).

Anyway the DPReviewpage puts up an image as a sample which is actually quite interesting. Its called "quiet moment" and is (according to the EXIF) taken at 800ISO. I've taken that for examination and (to avoid any copyright annoyance) have added to it below to show where I'm interested in examining.



Firstly, lets get to some basics, Nokia is claiming that the camera is 41Megapixels, which would of course be wild. However its worth reminding that Megapixels and resolution don't just go hand in hand. Its a square relationship.

So this camera produces 41Megapixels, which is 7728 x 5368 pixels. Now the claim is that it
  • produces very clean output when sampled down (using pixel binning)
  • and allows for great lossless digital zoom

So lets look at these one at a time.

What is Pixel binning?

Well essentially when you take a pixel from your image and clump the data from a few adjacent pixels together to make one pixel. Essentially reducing the pixels you have.

Its not quite like simple down sampling because you also use "noise" measurements (how do you measure the signal to noise ratio in a pixel? I'm sure thats a topic all by itself) to make the resulting pixel 'cleaner'.

So for instance in this figure I've tried to represent how each of the grids of 3x3 are 'binned' together to form a "super pixel" from the results of each 3x3 array.

This site has a good definition summary.

Pixel binning refers to the combination of the information of adjacent detectors in a CCD camera sensor to create one single pixel in the recorded image. For instance, a 2 × 2 binning gathers the electrons from a square of four detectors to record them in just one of the image pixels. Thus, the intensity per pixel increases in a factor of (about) four.

So binning down the 41 MP would give us 3864 x 2684; down to about 10MP (or a quarter as you'd expect from a 2x2 array).

10MP is now suddenly not so "jaw dropping" to the average joe.

Now, lets go back to that picture in the sample above and examine it more carefully and reasonably. For starters the image there is only 5MP (2592 x 1944 Pixels [5.04 MPixels]) which means that its been binned down more than just 2 pixels from its native, its more like 3.

Given that one would think that the noise would be quite remarkable, but as you can see in this image below the grain levels there aren't so clean.

we see here from that segment an amount of noise in the areas like hair and skin tones which would take some care in doing advanced image processing noise removal.

So even though we're down sampling and averaging the noise across a grid of 3 x 3 pixels, the pixel binning isn't really making up for the noise.

This (in my view) should hardly come as a surprise because despite all the hollering the sensor is really still quite small.

And its not restricted to this either. Looking at the other section of the image I high lighted we can see some other interesting effects. Actually because BLOGGER shrinks these images to fit the display I suggest you click on it to see it at the "natural" level I'm examining.


This is a 100% sample of the the red channel from that image. Notice the grid forming up around the ear there? Clearly we're seeing artifacting here from the image processing. Certainly its very well controlled, especially in comparison to what you would get with most other phones!

But it simply can't be compared to the results you'd get from a real camera with a bigger sensor such as one of the 4/3 cameras like the Panasonic G series or the Oly Pen cameras.

Makes me wonder what the native 41 MP images would look like. Personally I'd love to see a native 41MP image so I can examine that. I'm sure that would be very informative.

All of this consistent with the sorts of noise that you'd expect to get from a tiny sensor. In fact its about the same as I got on my compact camera back in 2001 ... which was 2/3" (8.8mm x 6.6mm VS this new sensor at 10.6mm x 8mm).

The sensor is apparently a 1/ 1.2" sensor, which places like DPReview now seem to think as being "oversize". Well its sort of tragic that not long ago we all expected cameras to have 2/3 sized sensors and complained when they went down. Essentially you can only call this oversize if you've been ignoring size for the last 10 years and only looking at pixel dimensions ...

So the question which I think needs asking is this: would this camera produce any better image if it was a native 10MP on the same larger chip?

I suspect that the answer is: maybe not

Now, lets have a look at the lossless zoom.

As a concept it sounds attractive, but again there is something less than expected on this. We all know what optical zoom looks like; and we all (mostly) know that digital zoom looks dreadful. But its not only because its loosing pixels that it looks bad. Its because as you enlarge and crop from the sensor (even if you have a magic sensor) you do not get the same look as if you use optical zoom. This is because you do not get the same increasingly shallow depth of field.

Which means that when you use the 808's digital zoom you will also not get the same look as you will with an optical zoom.

But what about magic sensor 'losslessness"

Well that's interesting too as I doubt you are likely to get "lossless" either. As we see above the result of the scale down of that segment from its native 41MP to only 5MP still gave some noise, a less than ideal image. There was noise present still, as well as significant artifacting present. This despite the use of 1:3 pixel binning.

The more you digital zoom, the less binning that can happen and the more noise you'll get. So when zooming you'll only get to keep a crop of the unbinned 41MP, which is why I'd love to see a native image to see what that looks like ... then at 100% we'll see the sort of thing you get.

bottom line
to me is that this camera makes use of a physical approach to noise reduction. The designers hoped that by capturing more pixels to use image processing techniques over it would result in a better image. I am sure that it gives much better 5MP images than does a smaller sensor camera. Perhaps this technique allowed for faster signal processing (an important factor) than applying algorithms over a 5MP capture. Speed is important.

What I'm not sure of is will this technique give better images than a 5MP sensor of the same physical dimensions as this camera?

As always information is missing from these the makers of the gear so these analyses are always done without the benefit of lots of information. Probably Nokia knows the answers to some of these questions, but they're not sharing.

I'll leave you with a final bit of comparison. This image was taken with my small sensor Nokia E72 camera. Both the 808 image sample and this are 5MP.



Here is a 100% crop from that image ...


Its cleaner in noise than that picture above of the woman. While its taken at a bit higher ISO than the image from the 808 was, it certainly doesn't have any of the extra cunning science or engineering in making it better either.

So why couldn't 5MP on a bigger sensor be simply cleaner at higher ISO because its from a bigger sensor? Sure you wouldn't get the zoom, but it remains to be seen how 'clean' that looks.

Be keen to see that...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

coffee cup labels

whatever it is, the snails love it

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cardamom

What is it thats missing from cinnamon rolls that keep them from being great cinnamon rolls?

The answer is fresh ground cardamom

My wife makes the best cinnamon rolls.

E63 vs E71 keyboards

Because people remain interested in some discussion form about buying an E63 new or a used E71 I would put my vote for the E63 here.

Its often pointed out that on specifications both seem identical. You can compare their specs here.

It is often identified in the quick glancing reviews offered on the web that the E71 has in its favor:

  • integrated GPS hardware
  • autofocus camera
  • a metal exterior shell
  • hardware volume keys on the side of the phone (inconvenient for a leftie I might add)
The E63 somehow seems like a cheap alternative to the (now discontinued) E71 which you could pick up if you don't mind the losses.

Firstly the 'metal' of the case of the phone is just a thin coating of metal over plastic. So its still a plastic phone. So only those who are a bit thin on the comprehension would be attracted to that as a 'rugged feature'. So we're down on the list of benefits to the E71.

So aside from the few 'benefits' and the long list of identical aspects to these phones (including CPU, memory and OS) we are down to what's the E63 got that the E71 doesn't.

Well of course there is the 3.5mm audio jack so you can actually listen to music (without buying some sort of adaptor or specialised headphones), and there is the torch (bloody handy thing that).

Yet still IMHO there are some advantages to the E63 in terms of usability (and of course the much lower price new and of course that you can't buy an E71 new anymore either).

If you actually want to use the phone for sending and checking email, then the E63 snots it in for having a better keyboard.


As you can see above the E63 has more useful keys on the board for anyone wanting to type more and navigate around what they've typed.

/ and @ get their own key (rather than sharing one)
( and ) appear on the board (rather than needing to press a symbol key)

= now has a place on the board
Ctl and Chr each have a key rather than them sharing a needing to press Fn to shift between them.

And of course you get a torch on the E63 which the E71 needs you to rummage around and find an app for activating that. This of course can't be tuned to a key which can be used when the phone is locked as can the E63

For instance, if you were writing an email, you could use Ctl X and Ctl V to cut and paste text around.

It would require the dexterity of a Yoga teaching pianist to do that on the E71 where it would be:

  • (on the left hand) Fn (that little arrow thing on the lower left)
  • and (on the right hand) Ctl
  • and then at the same time on the left hand press X

Of course cut and paste in documents is for advanced users, so naturally a phone designed for an on the go communications tool wouldn't need such a thing.

So sure, the E63 needs you to go and buy a GPS as an accessory (and register your maps to gain access to guided navigation) but the benefit is you then don't suck battery out of your phone when navigating (and you can put the GPS in a better spot in the car for reception).

Friday, 17 February 2012

Nokia E63 or E72 maps

People often want this or that phone because its got a bigger screen making it easier for navigation. Well personally if I'm driving I just want the basic facts at a glance. When I look at my speedo I want to see the speed on a dial not as a list of other numbers as on a spread-sheet

So I'm often surprised that people who review phones never point out the most useful screen of the Nokia OVI maps navigation, perhaps most of the reviewers never actually use the phones much or have any technical competence to figure out what it is they don't already know. Seems a bit like asking a Muslim to give me a review of various ham sandwiches if you ask me.

When navigating with my Nokia (well, either of them) I have the choice of 3 screen views, these are:



Normally when I'm driving I want the middle one because I don't want to take my eyes off the road for long and I don't want all the visual clutter of the other streets.


This is the middle one.

So even though the screen is smaller than on my tom tom I can actually see where I'm going by looking at the road and using the phone for directions as to where to turn.

The most important thing is shown (like what sort of turn it is and how far it is.

Backed up by a voice. If I wanted to look at the maps (not while I'm driving, but say when I'm pulled over on the side or walking) then I can do that too.

Clean and simple isn't it.

Why only indigenous peoples

One of the things that bugs me a little is the seemingly unstated premise that only indigenous peoples have any connection to the land. Perhaps this attitude is driven out of the media and the government who (as organizational creatures) seem to derive from the City.

Well as one who comes from a small town, who went to school in the one area, who had strong roots in rural Australia I can say that "its not just the Aboriginal peoples of this land who feel this way". Personally I have a strong connection with the land as well as with the areas in which I grew up in, such as where my school used to be.

I can see why the Aboriginal peoples may think that the 'white Australians' don't care about the land, especially when they see the outcomes we get and when they only meet Government representatives or agro local. But there are plenty of us Australians who were also born here who feel the same way.

It regularly breaks my heart to see paces like the one in this photo turned into wasteland or perhaps worse flooded (for dam construction) for the sake of what is called progress or development.

Personally I can't think of a more perverse word to use for that.

So if you're reading this and you're indigenous then take a moment to reflect on what I've written here and remember that we all live in this land and you can't make assumptions about my beliefs based on my colour or the fact that I look to be similar to those who claim to represent us in what is called Representative Government, thats just prejudice. We all know what sorts of problems that have come from that now don't we

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Nokia E72 vs iPhone4s

Just for completeness, and since one of the fellas here at work has a 4s I thought I'd round out the quick comparison between the Nokia E72 and the iPhones as a camera

First the overviews:

Nokia E72



iPhone 4s


Clearly the cameras both made slightly different exposure decisions. None were adjusted or biased by settings. Personally I think that the Nokia did a better job of getting in the entire scene without blow-outs of the whites. That's just my thoughts though. Also it would seem that the angle of view of the iPhone is a bit wider than that of the Nokia. So this would give the Nokia a slight advantage in needing to squeeze in less image onto the same pixels ...


Now, at 100% pixel view ..

Nokia E72


iPhone 4s


Personally I think that the iPhone is less well sharpened than the Nokia is (and I'm sure both apply some cunning sharpening on the image). I think that if you want a better shot than either of these use a proper camera.

Certainly both are good enough to make the owners of either wonder why they'd take a snapshot camera anywhere anymore.

So there you have it

Sunday, 12 February 2012

afternoon storms

We went up to the valley for a dip into the creek today cos it was hot and still with the sort of blue skies which means its likely to have an afternoon storm

Which we got



On the way home we dropped into the Hinze Dam to see what they've been doing there and I took this shot of back up into the valley where we'd just come from.

Now that I'm home and having a look at the snap from my phone the storm has caught up with us and its here with thunder rolling around in the background.

nice

PS some video

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Nokia E63 vs E72 - a kind of review

I want to like the E72, I really do. I like the look, I like the slimmer feel and reading the specs things like the Camera, faster CPU and faster 3G really looked attractive.

But after using the E63 the 'advance' just isn't an advance. What follows is my thoughts on this, and a kind of review of the E72. This is not something written by the arse licking reviewers who I can only hope were paid to talk up the E72 (because the other alternatives are they're incompetent or blind).

I started out with a regular plain old phone and a PDA (palm OS) which I'd used for some years. I initially began looking for a smartphone in the budget area because I couldn't find a single thing which matched the Diary / ToDo / Memo system on the PDA but wanted more out of my phone (such as better Bluetooth, Email, basic WWW and just to see what's the fuzz)

I picked up an E63 because it was cheap and discovered that I really liked it.

The more I used it the more I discovered that it was a great tool for communications. It was the first phone I owned which allowed me to access Email and do some WWW as well as services like Twitter and Facebook (as well as posts to blogger). I was tempted to try something more powerful and bought an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy GIO) and was so disappointed by many of the missing features and inferior rendering of pages for reading and display of fonts (despite double the screen size) I sold it.

This started me thinking of what might be a little better than my E63?  Reading and research revealed that the E72 was a likely candidate.

After buying the E72 and using it for 6 months I like it, but I found there were just so many features which stood out as inferior on the E72 compared to the E63. I picked up the E63 again and started using it to find that quite a many of the features which added value to me were not as well handled on the E72 (not to meniont that some were just plain missing).

Why is this here?

I guess that partially because I'm conflicted about keeping the "flagship" E72 and partially because I know others make this choice (based on reading forums) and partially because I'm an IT person and find these win / loose issues to be both unnecessary and symptomatic of development today.

The E72 is not a bad phone, it ticks many boxes in the highly desirable categories for a smart phone. I feel that the problem with the phone is that it would appear that it was developed by a committee.  A group of non-communicative pointy haired managers who don't have a clue and think in bullet point objectives rather than holistic views of the phone meeting needs of the buyers.

Tick the boxes

The  phone has GPS (which works nicely), free off-line maps (which means that you can still navigate out where there is no phone signal, something that few seem to be able to grasp the importance of), a great camera with auto-focus (but ho hum video).

What I really like about the E-Series Nokia phones is that they come bundled and integrated to do exactly what I wanted and more. This is in stark contrast to the iPhone which really doesn't make a good phone until after you've started personalizing it with apps. To this point in time I have not really found any apps which I seriously want on my phone that in real use make it more functional for me (save Evernote)

To wit the things I want in my phone are:
  • good phone call quality (shock) [E63 = pass E72 = pass]
  • good texting capablity [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass, but don't expect predictive text]
  • email [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass just]
  • good bluetooth integration (for headset in the car) [both pass flying colours]
  • physical buttons which allow me to operate the phone quickly and effectively without looking at it [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = pass just]
  • good battery life [E63 = 1.5 days solid use E72 = 2.5 days solid use]
  • the ability for the phone to speak out the contents of SMS or Email (essential when you are driving and can't put your glasses on) [E63 = pass flying colours E72 = fail annoyingly]
  • Calendar and Todo [both pass]
  • basic WWW interaction (I use a notebook when I get more serious) [both pass]
  • good camera with AutoFocus to enable me to photograph business cards and documents and read QR codes [E63 = poor E72 = pass  flying colours]
The Nokia E-Series does this for me out of the box like no other phone yet.

Note: if you are the sort of person who has
  • no greater expectation of a phone than to make phone calls
  • like spending money
  • are unable to come to grips with predictive text
  • are technologically out of depth in a puddle
  • really, make no use of email on the phone, but want a phone that says it does email so you can impress your friends that you're not some sort of technology laggard
  • just want a handy camera on your phone
  • never use the phone in any other place other than a quiet car or quiet room or office
then the E72 may well be the better choice for you. If you tick all (or most of) those above bullet points then you won't find it annoying.

Annoying?

Well, stuff like it has a fast internet connection speed but as the browser is crippled by low memory and crashes the phone on any substantial pages (where the speed helps) you just find that its not a phone for internet anyway (in which case the levels of access provided in the E63 are sufficient).

The exception to this is that the E72 makes quite a good tether device for your laptop.

This review is aimed at people who use their phones for (in order of priority)
  1. things to make phone calls with
  2. sending SMS with more than 4 words in them
  3. sending emails (and often edit them, you know cut n paste stuff)
  4. a basic diary
  5. facebook and other social media
  6. checking RSS and some web pages (such as moible pages or low intensity ones like the weather)
  7. listen to music on your phone and online

the quick summary

If you want a great camera and a GPS which has basic telephony, a reasonable 3G data speed but a memory limited browser get the E72. Seriously the smaller your expectation set the less you'll be pissed off with this phone. Definately DO not get this phone after you've had an E71 or E63 ... you'll either want to toss it, you will toss it or you'll be conflicted about it.

The changes to 'look and feel' of the OS (meaning what you muddle around in to get to your apps if you don't have them assigned to a shortcut key or off the home screen) are more about the sort of visual changes you saw when moving from Win2000 to XP but with none of the underlying advantages in that change. So essentially the 'freshen-up' of the look and feel is about putting makeup on. Well it works for the stage and theater too.

Every day I use the E72 I find myself struggling with (against?) its lack of functional predictive text and the munged up methods of the 'new' email client. Seriously that email client is strange. It looks good and seems like it should be better but just can't cope with the real world of usage.

But I want more...

If you want a great value for money phone which brings with it a number of modern features such as
  • email
  • basic www access
  • very useful functions for visually impaired people
  • maps
  • basic camera
  • can tolerate slow 3G data but WiFi is good
and don't want to get shit off with stupid things as mentioned above (and below), then get the E63 and save yourself the hair pulling.

As one who does a lot of texting on my phone I often sit in wonder at the people who can't grasp the benefits of predictive text. On small keyboards (where you can't touch type) you're essentially "all thumbs". So having an assistant built into the phone to help you with things really helps. I don't want to have to press ' for dont and I don't want to have to press shift so that i dont type i when I mean I.

Definitely like the predictive text on the E63 better than that on the E72. The E72 is so bad that its debatable whether it provides much benefits than hassle. Combined with the much slower switching in and out of it makes it even less attractive to use it. The E63 you press Ctl then press space. These do not need to be pressed together, but sequentially. Thus you can switch in and out with one hand. On the E72 not only do you have to press Ctl (and hold it) then press space but it may need at least two goes at it before the E72 gets the point. Same with copy and paste. Far easier on the E63

EMAIL

Then there is email. While it looks more glamorous, it essentialy is slower to use in as many ways as its easier to use. For instance shortcut key forwarding and reply is nice as is its nice grouping of days for when you are handling many days of email on the phone. Also nice is the background sending of sms and emails, saving you waiting around at the screen while you observe its dispatch. But the problem comes with HTML email. Many called for HTML email to be supported, which Nokia addressed in this client. Unfortunately it resulted in very slow load times and made reading the mail quite annoying. The E63 on the other hand had a more steam-driven looking client which essentialy is much faster to use and allow the HTML mails to be loaded as a separate action.

I prefer this for a number of reasons.

1) many times a html mail is simply junk mail. Opening it up in the plain text mode prevents any malicious links from being parser by the HTML parser. So they never know you got the mail and never know that your email is valid (phishing)

2) most people who send me HTML email just fluff up their emails with Bling formatting and fonts and stationary that is normally of zero importance to me and also of zero value to the content, Perhaps its good to entertain the budgie but in many ways I'm a pragmatic person rather than a flowery ornate one. Anyway if there is something critical in there then I can load the email in the HTML reader with a click if I want to.

3) reading longer email is a nicer experience when its in the plain text view. I can move around easier in the page with a single click being down a screen rather than down a line. I tend to read in screens rather than lines.

So when its all said and done the designers of the E72 seemed to act and think as if they were accessing a much larger device than they were. They seemed to act as if they didn't need to make effective use of the resources available and to think efficiently. That was a mistake as the phone does have limited resources (in screen size, processor and memory). Handled effectively they could have really maximized the existing applications and other really leveraged off the outstanding things on the phone (such as the great camera and the high speed connectivity that it has).

Instead through E72 stands out as a failure and a cluster of unrealized opportunity. To this day there is no QWERTY phone on the market which combines all the features of the E72, and sadly there probably never will be

Discussion


In 2011 the GSMArena phone user survey summarised what people in the world do with their phones as:


With the size of the text demonstating the importance of that point. This more or less matches what I do with my phone. So if you're not aligned that way then much of this won't really relate to you.

I would say that the only thing done better on the E72 is
  • the camera (great for its , 
  • the torch light (cameras LED flash)
  • the slim feel
  • 50% better battery life (2 days vs 1.5)
  • notification flashing light
  • built in GPS with orientation and compas
The important thing here is to consider are these features worth the trade off in other functionality lost compared to what the E63 offers.

Physically the phones are quite similar, with the E63 being a bit 'thicker' feeling than the E72. Height, width and weight are almost identical.

I have put together a list of what I find to be the plusses and minuses of these two phones features here. So you can have a gander at that and see what criteria I have evaluated it with and how I've ranked them.

The good points of the E72

Basically I like the great camera on the E72, which is the equal of even the iPhone 4S and easily beats a cheap digicam and inbuilt GPS (both have maps).

Its well made (despite criticisms of the battery hatch which I concur with) and feels nice in the hand. The notification light is excellent, brilliant (literally). Battery life is better

The built in browser has some nice additional features over the E63 (if you're one to remember short cut keys).

The bad points

  • the miserable (nay crap) predictive text (the E63 is a class leader in that area!!),
  • lack of proper IMAP implementation (forcing you to either sign up with Nokia Messaging or do polling email),
  • miserable volume of hands free speaker phone
  • miserable audibility mumbling of the reading of SMS to me (saves me putting my glasses on) {the voice for reading on the E72 is either a joke or an insult}
The entire phone reeks of inconsistency (especially if you have prior experience and expectations. For instance:

Home screen Email notifications keep bloody popping up with (0) {meaning no unread } rather than going away when the mail is read ... even when you 'hide' the notification it bloody well pops back up there again.


Unless of course that Account is on  Nokia Messaging (god I hate those bastards)

Then in the now ruined messaging app where once Emails and SMS and MMS would sit in a unified manner (as it continues to do in the E63) the idiot who developed this munged it up so that read or unread mails are all colour coded yellow ... like what's the bloody point?



The E63 actually only colours the unread messages as Yellow and as soon as you've read it the envelope opens up and the colour changes to white. Its unbelieveable that they chose to tinker with what was working and broke it.

FOOLS

Next the Messaging main window now no longer puts an * on the 'inbox' which has unread messages. So when you go to the Messaging view you will only see this * for the SMS / MMS inbox, not any of the Email inboxes. Again, this was how it was on the E63 - which was both convenient and helpful

FOOLS

Its like noone who worked on this had ever worked on making the most of a user interface ... they were just into making the icons look more colourful and '3D' ish.

Wankers

I could go on and on about inconsistencies in this interface (next cab off the rank would be the Address book which has been crippled, probably followed by the menu system).

So it comes down to the camera faster 3G and faster CPU of the E72 VS the usablity and integrated nature of the E63 - Am I willing to forgoe the usability of the phone as a communications device for the great camera and the inbuilt GPS?

Physical appearance

There's no shortage of pictures of these two phones on the net, so if you're after better examples than this I encourage you to have a google around. But for the purposes of this discussion I thought I'd make this image by putting both phones face down on my flatbed scanner and scanning them.

In this way its pretty clear to everyone that the relative sizes are pretty darn close.


From the above its clear that there is bugger all difference in the phones dimensions (well the E72 is a bit thinner so it slips into your pocket better, but that's also true of how much easier it slips back out when you bend over) they are the same weight.

Personally I prefer the look of the E63 but the thinner physical size of the E72

Keyboards

Anyone who is attracted to these phones probably likes them because they have realy QWERTY keyboards. While similar there is something which comes out with use here, or if you're looking for it and especially if you move from one to the other.

Yes, the keyboards are slightly different sizes.

Perhaps it doesn't leap out at you looking at the images, but when you see that the E72 has that large chrome border left and right of the keyboard and is also starting lower and ending higher up ... you don't see it at first, it becomes obvious when you think about it too.

To make this clearer I used Photoshop to overlay one over the other ... since the scales are the same it was pretty straight forward to do this.



So you can see that not only are each of the keys on the E72 a wee bit smaller, but are of course also closer together.

This may not seem like much, but to put a perspective on this, many people do not like using laptop keyboards which are 95% of the size of a "standard" keyboard. That 5% makes enough difference for anyone who can type that they feel it takes time to get used to it. Those with smaller hands may come to prefer the 95% size (I know I do) ... but on phones like this I don't think anyone has fingers that small ...

So if you are used to typing on the keyboard of the E63 then the E72 feels a wee bit more cramped. Not something you really want when you already have a cramped keyboard, more so when you find that the predicative text on the E72 just plain sucks. This sucks so much clearly it was Nokia's weapon to drive away customers who like using it. I mean its bad. Don't use it.

[edit: over time with the E72 I have come to like its keyboard tactile feel, but prefer the location of buttons from the E63 ... so perhaps that's just a matter of experience]

Then there are other usability issues. For instance, lets take a look at the buttons on the phone above the keyboard.

Premise - seeing with your fingers; AKA Tactile Feel

Many phone users (or infact many users of machines in general) prefer to be able to operate things without actually looking at what they are operating.
  • When playing games do you look at your controls?
  • Do you want to have to look where the gear stick or brake pedals are when you drive your car?
I'm one who likes to be able to pull my phone out and answer it without looking at it like reading a book. This is a thing which makes the E63 distinct (and better) from the E72.

On both phones you have 4 buttons around the outside of the navigation / select button. These are (on the top row) context dependent and are within applications "options" and "exit". The buttons on the lower row are the dedicated (unchanging) phone buttons: "call" and "hangup"

Buttons are handy things, they're designed to be pressed. Even touchscreen phones like the iPhone have some dedicated buttons.



Its good to have a button where you know it should be so that you can use it when you need it without bothering to look for it.

I mean do you look at the pedals in your car when you drive? Do you look at your alarm clock before you hit it into snooze?

So if you intend to use the phone without looking at it (or just use it quickly), then its really helpful to have buttons that you can feel ... know by their shape where you are on the surface.

I'd like to look again more carefully at this section of the E63 and the E73 and express more clearly what I feel after having used both.


E63

The Buttons are raised and tactile. They have good shapes, and are easy to find and feel. As well they are located and separated by zone well.

This makes it easier to use the phone without taking your eye off what you're doing. You can feel exactly where the hangup button is. The answer button may or may not be so significant depending if you've programed the phone to "press any key to answer". You can easily press left and right select and not accidentally press mail or home.

However on the E72 things look different


There is a stylish totally flat brushed alloy surface which has no feel about its surface at all. Sure it contributes to having the phone look , but not to feel. Really you just can't feel them easily at all. It looks rather like a late 1980's Stereo amp in look ... but has no tactile feel.

The really weird thing is, this navigation area takes up more space than on the E63 and in turn eats up into the keyboard size, yet isn't as easy to feel or operate the buttons as it is on the E63.

The layout on the E63 ... give good physical separation to the buttons and gives divides the four pres-sable areas well for fingers to find and press. It has two press-able areas on each side and two in the middle (see the red dots).



The raised areas and shapes of the surrounding buttons both makes it clear where the corners are and also leads the finger to the middle area (which is bounded by the navigation ring). This makes pressing buttons easier and more accurate. Sides = Top and Bottom : Middle Left and Right

Essentially on the E72 the spots you can press are more compressed and complex. On the sides we have three areas (see the orange dots) and while overall there are still 4 press-able areas each side of the navigation button they are physically distinct easily (note how the red dots make this confusion obvious):



Along the side there is 3 places to press without any clear tacticle feeling to guide your finger. I'm often hitting home when trying to hit left select and often hitting email when wanting right select.

Its annoying.  After a couple of months with the phone I can say I'm still hitting the wrong thing unless I'm looking at it - and what is the point of needing to look at it?

Despite this issue high points however do go to the prominence of the "notification light" on the E72, which sticks out like prawns eyes in comparison to that of the E63, which is often also a little distracting because of the reflective coating put on the navigation ring (dunno what moron thought that was a good idea).

Given that the E72 is intended to be a communications tool for those on the go there are just so many little things which make it less of a "hey this is great" user experience in switching from the E63 (which was always at least half the price of) to the E72.

As somone who on the go likes to quickly operate my phone without looking at it I find that the E72 just isn't as good as the E63 ... or infact the E71 which went before it.

So if you're actually a busy person who wants to have a communications tool that does phone calls, sms, mms and email as well as has great predective text. I strongly suggest the E63 is the go.

If your the sort of person for who a phone is a fashion accessory then the E72 is without equal in QWERTY phones. Its just beautifully styled. It even has a nice reflective backing which acts as a mirror to give you something to look at yourself in.

Well, given that Nokia still make and sell the E63 which says lots (as does some web searching over the bugs it had, although mostly sorted out recently).

Especially if you use a bluetooth headset when driving, the tactile feel of the keys on the E63 makes pressing the button for voice dialing (top right) a peach.

If it wasn't for how bloody good the camera was I just don't think I'd keep this phone (the E72). Even given that I'm still considering "why" right now.

Its just that as I have an good example of an E72 (bought second hand) at the moment (and they're discontinued) I just don't want to do anything rash like sell it: only to realise "ohh ... but"

Finally I have a bunch of points clustered together on a Google doc which forms a matrix of the points which are important to me and thus how I can 'logically' rank the two phones.

I worked out what features I liked and wanted to have which were on both phones (or in some cases absent on the E63, such as where the blue graph is at 0) and then ranked them in two stages.

  1. score of 1 - 10 for the success of each feature
  2. weighting of 1 - 5 on the importance of each feature to me
This gave me the following graph. As you can see there are some overlaps and some differences.


This may help you also to determine if your preferences lay in the E63's function set or in the E72.

The devils are in the details as always, so if you are interested in maybe doing this for yourself then tThe spread sheet can be found here.

You may need to have a good and honest think about the relative importances and it may even be that this shifts from time to time.

My weighted scoring method put the E63 at 68% suited to me and the E72 at 63% suited to me. Which is pretty neck and neck. The graph however shows the discrepancy between the features and where strengths and weaknesses of each lie (within the context of my weighting system, YMMV so do your own).

Hope this helps someone.

Rainforest creeks

We went out for put on the scooter today, and headed up so springbrook for a short walk. I really love this area on the edge of the cliffs. I didn't bring a camera with me (aside from the phone) so snapped this to share of one of the little creeks that eventually forms part of one of the water falls.

I sometimes feel that we 'miss out' here in Australia without the historic landscapes and without the snow and seasons which I found in Europe. But then perhaps thats just because I grew up around this and so it feels less special?

Dunno?

PS this was edited and photographed from my E72 even if this PS was added later

Friday, 10 February 2012

texting from touchscreens



Damian I d0 the drive daily. Lately I have been getting a lift, s0 I l00k ar0und a bit m0re. I see every 5th car 0r truck with the driver texting or l00king at their m0Biles. All I can say is ID0IOTS! U als0 c ur every day dick head driver in between th0se.
Drive safe!


hard to find a better example of why I prefer a real tactile keyboard with a backspace.

I wonder if I'm ever going to find myself eating crow over this? Perhaps when glass screens give some feel of the keys...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Nokia E72 vs iPhone4

Yesterday I took a shot of a rainbow and interesting skies. One of my colleagues took a shot too (he has an iPhone 4). He just sent it to me and I was surprised by the comparison. I just assumed that the iPhone 4 would be quite a bit better.

But here is what I got.

iPhone


Nokia



Now, 2 segments at 100%. You'll have to click on them to load 100% as blogger sizes them to fit the page ...

iPhone


Nokia


Phones were just used without any fiddling with settings.

Surprisingly the Nokia has more detail and less noise. I was surprised how well the Nokia E72 did. I just wish I could find ways to undo the stupid shit that Nokia did with some of the software (such as email and eediotic predictive text) on the phone. It would pretty much be a perfect phone

broken rainbow

Leaving work yesterday there was an interesting upper atmospheric effect filtering the sunset. Combined with a rainbow in just the right spot it looked very cool



only had my Nokia with me, so this is the best shot I could get ... but at least I can share that

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Church of Economics

One of the things which differentiates Science from Religion is Belief or Faith. In a religion everyone has to simply 'believe' what they are told, questioning the doctrine is not well regarded.

Science on the other hand is built on questioning. The demands that theory can be demonstrated, and that evidence is key.

I reckon that the prevailing paradigm of "Economics" is more one of belief than one of science.

Today I read that retail sales were the worst since the eighties. Well its interesting to read the fine print on that:

Annual retail sales grew 2.4 per cent in 2011, easing from a 2.5 per cent rise in 2010. Last year’s increase was the weakest since 1984

Ok, so we actually had GROWTH and still this isn't good enough ... WTF?

Physicists are among the types of people who are trained in mathematics while (it would seem) that many Economists are not (I mean look at their graphs for a start, no scales often no axes). Reading the works on this topic by a physics person supports my fundamental view that growth can't go on forever.

He writes some interesting things, much of which is perhaps difficult to grasp if you didn't pay attention at school and can't read a graph (no, its not just a pretty picture) and you don't get what the difference is between Log scales and Linear ones.

So retail depends on "growth", but is this growth linear or log in nature? It would seem that to satisfy the economists it must be logarithmic. That's nigh on impossible. Some quotes from that above article:

Let’s say we lock in today’s 5% growth and make it linear, so that we increase by a fixed absolute amount every year—not by a fixed fraction of that year’s level. We would then double in 20 years, and in a century would be five times bigger (as opposed to 132 times bigger under exponential 5% growth). But after just 20 years, the fractional growth rate is 2.5%, and after a century, it’s 1%. So linear growth starves the economic beast, and would force us to abandon our current debt-based financial system of interest and loans.

Seems rational and easy to grasp. So how would we get a log growth? Well the same author makes good points in discussing what is wrong with the theory of sustained logarithmic growth here.

Looking at the past shows us that for some time (since the Industrial revolution perhaps) we have come to expect that we can always just get more more more. However looking into the past is not really a good way to identify our future.

Moore's law is the classic example. The under educated and mis-informed use it to 'predict' that every year we'll get more from less. Moore himself has identified that this can't go on indefinitely. We are actually starting to see the evidence to support this.

So perhaps we should start looking around for alternative economic approaches?

Look at it another way: Physicists and Engineers are the ones who imagined and designed everything we have which works that man has made. Economists are today the ones telling you that saving money is a bad thing, debt is leaverage and consume more because that's good for everyone.

I know which set of people has made things which seem to work.

I'll leave you with a quote from Moore himself. Perhaps it may give you pause for your religious belief in the "Dogma of Infinite Growth"

On a more sobering note, Moore, who has donated millions to save forests and other nature areas around the world, said that humans are definitely taking a toll on the environment.

"We are the last generation to have any wild places on earth," he said.




Fortunately there is another school of thought emerging in Economics, but that paradigm shift has yet to gain momentum.

Dear Nokia

as a long time Nokia phone user (and IT professional) I would ask you to pull your head out of your arse and go back to doing what you did best.

Making good mobile phones!


Not screwing over your users. The following post is not for the corporate psychopaths (who have led you to ruin) but for the people (hopefully the Finnish people) who still work there and who depend on your success.

Now, don't get the idea that I (and hoards of other people out there who use Nokia phones) don't like you. Just because I'm using some harsh language here should not be interpreted as meaning that. I actually really love my Nokia phone (despite the issues).

Now I know you've been troubled by many issues lately, but I believe you've fallen into bad corporate mistakes. The deepest mistake you seem to have made is to forgo evolution for revolution. Its a snake which will (and as it seems perhaps already) bit you. Get rid of your superfluous middle managers who simply justify their positions and make money off you like parasites. Heck its arguable that almost all of management does this, so perhaps this letter will only serve to have the lower levels say "YESS" and upper management disinterested.

None the less

It is arguable that after 2 years of scattered and disjointed bug fixing that the E-Series of phones (such as the E72, E63 and perhaps the E6) have reached a pinnacle of development as mobile phones. Not tablets, not laptop substitutes, but as communications devices

I know it took you nearly 3 years (and its still not 100% right) but it is so dam close its tantalizing.

So rather than dropping everything you have to enter into the race for the consumer dollar, why not look at the data that research seems to show as important to the vast majority of phone users around the world and offer them tat.

Perhaps you have already got what is a significant portion of the market already captured and you are losing that.

Now stop for a moment and think about this (you idiots); while you may not have a massively increasing share of the market, you have almost total ownership of a very significant portion of the market.

Sometimes chasing the fickle shoal of fish which is the market can lead you astray. You may find that the shoal shifts suddenly and there you are all alone.

broken

The success of the E-Series (despite their flaws) gives you opportunity to consolidate as a company what strengths you have and move into a better position. A position not dictated to by market fashions.

Having a look over on GSMARENA for information I discovered that the Nokia E72 still commands quite a significant amount of the site traffic. This is in itself a significant point. In a world where it seems that iPhone and Android are on everyone's lips, a phone which is now discontinued still retains such interest.

Why is it so?


Well perhaps this can be answered by GSMARENA's mobile phone survey. This picture says a thousand words



Just reflect on that above chart for a moment; it can really help you focus.

I suspect that the direction of mobile phone companies is driven by marketing wankers who focus on what reviewers (who often don't even use the phones for much more than reviewing) say rather than customers.

So, who'd have thought, voice calls, SMS, and email are among the top usages. Strangely on graphs like this one:


using WiFi ranks highly ... well perhaps that's true, but it doesn't take much of a brain to see that using WiFi is not an end in itself.

Its like using the road; you get it just to get to somewhere. So what are the users using WiFi for? I'd put forward that its to get to be able to "send email" and "use social networks"

So lets take an example of stupidity, the E72 was until recently their flagship E-series phone. Aimed at professional users many aspects of its operation are inferior to their cheaper E63. Predictive text for instance: works fantastic on the E63 but on the E72 its less than functional

  • capitalisation non functional; for instance i rather than I
  • words which contain ' do not auto correct; for instance didnt does not become didn't ... id does not correct to I'd
  • right cursor (the d navigation right) on the E72 does not take you to end of suggestion and *remaining in suggestion* (as it does on the E63), instead it selects the word. I often make use of this to complete and add words. Eg Broadband -> type broa -> right arrow now continue b and voila press space and keep working
The predective text on the E63 makes working with the tiny keyboard a breeze and allows you to type much more with less effort. Isn't that how it should be?

In contrast on the E72 I gather dozens of words in my custom dictionary ending in .

stop.
place.
think.

seemingly because the system is too stupid to recognise this isn't a new word but a word ending in punctuation

Sure the E72 has a killer camera, but that should be secondary to the core functions of calls, and messaging.

where to go then?


As much as this is going to hurt, pull your head out of your arrogance and listen to your customers. Regard them as clients, partners and the core of your business.

There is no end of advice on your forums which will suggest things like:
  • email which works (not one dependent on Nokia Messaging to work, at least give us the choice)
  • proper documentation (hell, even online) with no hidden features requiring websites maintained by loyal users to help us out
  • leverage off the support network (which you get for free BTW)
  • more memory (I mean come on, its pathetic on the E72 and yet the thing still works, just give it a few more meg for gods sake)
  • stop trying to be greedy bastards and let developers and the open source community allow you to build a better mousetrap
This last point is one of the things which Nokia users hate about Android or iPhone: they hate that its closed and controlled. Pick up an Android phone and read the terms and conditions you have to accept. These get more scary and draconian as time goes by. (I notice for instance that Google has stopped supporting searching on their mobile non-android calendar systems)

Noone likes this, at best they ignore it because they don't have a choice. Google and Apple get away with it for various reasons, but:
  1. noone likes them for it
  2. there isn't much choice
  3. the herd has them following without thinking
  4. they are big enough in other areas to get away with it
Perhaps only point one above applies to you Nokia.

Customers (no, not Users, you degrade and dismiss us with this corporate psycho-bullshit) and shareholders will vote with their feet (and have you seen your shares prices?) if you treat them like you have.



You can sit there in your board rooms and lament how Apple, Google and Samsung have stolen your market share, but its your arrogance which has ushered us the out the door faster.

Arrogance? Well just turn to your own forums and read how many genuine complaints there are on things like Nokia messaging and the crippling of IMAP to facilitate that (as well as other important points).

I mean really, who wants to sign their usernames and passwords over to you? How much did that nonsence cost you to set up (not to mention how much its cost you in loyalty of user base). How much trust did you loose?

YOU EE-DIOTS

You may think in the short term that you may get control of that, but face facts: you won't. Nokia will die trying to emulate MS or Google or Apple.

You already have class leading hardware (still) and whatever you say about the age and dated-ness of Symbian OS, do your target audience want 'slide and gravity' or do they use their phones for stuff? I mean read that above chart and ask yourself "who really spends time in the OS" vs "who uses the apps".

As time goes by I will add more to this blog about what I think Nokia should do to address problems in their existing line of products.

bottom line


Its not too late to turn things around. If profitablity is important, you already have the formula for producing a popular phone (if sales of E72 and E71 on ebay and E63 are anything to go by). Given that you need to do little (or none) R & D on those blocks of hardware as you have an already developed platform. If sold at the right price point would clean the floor over phones like those Alcatel and other Chinese cheapies.

Market your product better, not just sexier. Currently you ignore less sexy markets such as the slightly older demographic as well as those with vision impairment.

People who are vision impared blind can still use your qwerty keyboards but can't use a touch screen AND you already have a functional voice dialing system ... the list goes on.

I for one value your phones and see potential. A bit of a web search will yield that others see the same, and lament the loss.

So you can either disappear or you can become a strong specialised player in the market professionals choose, pick up where Blackberry failed (and don't forget your E72 already largely did that).

The balls in your court. I for one sincerely hope you have the balls to do it.

If you haven't got a clue where to start, then call me. I'm happy to come back to Finland and I can assure you I won't require as much money as your existing directors probably suck out of you

Friday, 3 February 2012

Good advice from china

My wife bought this blouse from a shop in town today and the label had more than the usual good advice on it.

Not sure if they're saying something about Australians there or what