Being the thoughts and writings of one Gustaf Erikson; father, homeowner, technologist.

This category contains posts on mobile communications, mobile data access, and devices

Wednesday, 2006-03-29

Scummy company.

I’ve been reading a lot about lately. They sound like a scummy company with a litigious bent.

(See Mike’s post for background.)

Sunday, 2005-10-16

Goodbye, N90

I’m returning the Nokia N90 tomorrow. I’ll miss the gorgeous screen but not the hefty size.

Wednesday, 2005-10-12

My first thoughts on the Nokia E-series

Nokia E-series pic

Nokia sprung a surprise on us today with then announcement of the E-series business phones. You can get the skinny on the devices over at Jim’s wiki:

  • Nokia E60: small, full featured S60 phone.
  • Nokia E61: a phone with a full QWERTY keypad and its sights set directly on the BlackBerry
  • Nokia E70: a S60 “wing” phone with the QWERTY keypad deployed on either side of a screen.

All phones share the following features:

  • GSM and UMTS wireless
  • Integrated Wifi
  • Bluetooth and infrared(!)
  • platform-agnostic email push (see Carlo’s thoughts for more)

With a line-up like this, the recently announced Sony-Ericsson P990 suddenly pales. Sure, it too has Wifi and a smartphone operating system, but it’s not part of an integrated business solution that Nokia has built around the E-series. It’s basically a stand-alone device, marketed by a company with a strong consumer focus.

The E-series can be used as VoIP terminals with certain commercial switches — and you can bet that support for open source products like Asterisk will follow. This opens up another line of attack for Nokia trying to gain market share. Think about it: you can have one device that works as a VoIP terminal internally; you can ensure that the mobile worker has access to email and data at decent speeds nearly everywhere; and you can get this product from one company that provides tools to manage the complexity.

Microsoft was supposed to clean BlackBerry’s and Nokia’s clocks with their Exchange server email push component and their plethora of Windows Mobile devices. But these devices are fragmented among almost as many manufacturers, none of which have the clout to make a concerted biz push like Nokia. And as for the server component, we still haven’t seen it where we are (we’re an Exchange shop.)

On a personal note, either the E61 or the E70 can be my dream device. Forget the Communicator; these phones have all I want and more.

So, once again, Nokia has sprung back, keeping everyone off their toes with a really strong product line. I must say I’m surprised at this — I thought Nokia had dropped the ball on corporate messaging and the biz phone market. But this changes everything. It’s up to the competition (I’m looking at you, Microsoft) to up the ante or fold and leave the table.

Tuesday, 2005-10-11

Nokia N90: final impressions

[Note to self: don’t write future reviews as a series of blog posts — gather all this stuff up and present it in a coherent fashion.]

The N90 has a little joystick on the side of the phone. This is primarily used in camera mode to control the flash, exposure etc., but it has some nice uses other than that. If you have a reminder that’s due, the phone will make a sound and show the reminder on the cover screen. You can use the little joystick to stop the tone or “snooze”.

However, this doesn’t work for incoming Bluetooth connections. You have to flip open the phone to accept those.

Speaking of camera modes, there are two. One is the “camphone mode”, with the screen opened in 90+90 degrees. The other is if you flip the camera housing 90 degrees with the phone closed. Then the cover screen becomes a viewfinder, and you can use the external joystick to manipulate your shots.

Update: you can also read SMS text messages on the cover screen. Cool.

Sunday, 2005-10-09

Nokia N90: more impressions

More stuff I’ve discovered about the Nokia N90.

  • No vibrating call alarm. WTF!? This is worse than useless. If you’re working with headphones and you’ve happened to turn the phone upside down, you’ll miss calls, because you won’t see the external screen flashing. Ditto if the phone is in your pocket and you’re listening to some music.

  • The pop-port is on the side of the phone, which means that you can’t have it in a narrow pocket when using the headphones.

  • Image quality is decent, but not great. The pics are better than average for a phone, but they’re still camphone pics.

  • It’s not very clear how to handle video calls. This doesn’t bother me, because it’ll be a cold day in hell before I make a video call.


N90 screenshot: active standby screen

The “active” standby screen. This is the first thing you see. The shortcut icons have tooltips.

N90 screenshot: main menu

The main menu.

N90 screenshot: gallery/images

The images gallery. Pressing the joypad left or right transports you to some undefined place (head and end of image list?). Use the up/down directions.

N90 screenshot: browser with bloglines

The browser, with Bloglines mobile. The hi-res screen really shines here.

6630 screenshot

This is a screenshot from a normal S60, showing the difference in resolutions. The screens are the same physical size.

I tried to capture a screenshot of the phone in camera mode, but apparently the normal keypad buttons are disabled there.

Update: added bullet about video calls, and added a comparative screenshot.

Friday, 2005-10-07

Nokia N90: first impressions

I got the chance to borrow the Nokia N90 for a couple of weeks. As I already have a 3G phone, the 6630, I thought I’d give it a shot.

At first I was put off by the phone’s size, and the fact that none of my settings would be on it. But it turns out that the latest version of Nokia’s PC Suite is actually pretty good. There was no problem syncing two phones at once, so I just loaded my contacts, calender etc. onto the N90 from my PC.

Another “must-have” app is Wireless IRC. I downloaded a trial version (good for 2 weeks) and could start chatting on #mobitopia on the way home from work.

Physically, the phone is pretty big. Even if it’s only a few millimetres bigger than the 6630 when folded, it gives a much more massive impression. Nokia haven’t been able to design a sleek folder model yet.

Despite the size, the new charger cable attachment it very small — so small and thin it looks fragile. Fortunately, there’s an adapter cable for old chargers supplied with the phone.

The memory card slot is hard to use. You can get the card out, but if you don’t have long fingernails it’s very hard to get it in again. A 64M card is included, same as for the 6630.

The screen is very nice, with a much higher resolution than other S60 phones. Unfortunately, my first impression was that the text in Wireless IRC was blurry. This is an artifact of the fact that Wireless IRC is a “legacy” app, and the text is scaled up to prevent unreadably small fonts.

When using the web browser, the screen came into its own. The text size was smaller, but more of it was fitted onto the screen. Using Bloglines was nicer than using the 6630.

The keypad is larger and easier to use than the one on the 6630, which is not surprising as the physical area is nearly twice as large.

This is the first S60 phone I’ve used with the “ready” or “today” screen, and I found it a bit confusing at first. This is the fourth S60 phone I’ve used, so if I found it confusing I hesitate to think of what first time users might think. This said, the today screen provides nice shortcuts to Contact, Calendar, Messaging etc. This is an improvement over earlier interfaces where you had to press the swirl button to get to the menu.

The camera is the showpiece of the phone, with a 2 mpx sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens with autofocus. I liked the fact that it has a flash. I haven’t been able to see how good the photos are outside the phone’s screen yet. See the reviews linked from the page above for the gory details.

When using the camera, you fold out the screen in a 90 + 90 degree configuration. Access to camera controls is via an extra joystick on the side of the phone. There are also 2 softkeys along the top of the screen, or to the left if in shooting mode. Using these was fairly self-explanatory, but not very “intuitive”. Read the fine manual for the details.

When the phone is folded you can swing the camera housing and use the cover screen as a viewfinder. More discrete than unfolding all the bits and pieces in standard mode.

All in all, this isn’t a phone I’d choose if I had to pay for it, and probably not if I got it for free either. The folding design is not something I like in a phone, and I’d rather pay more money for a real camera than one on a phone.


  • Best price in Sweden: 5 725 SEK (via PriceRunner Sweden)
  • Best price in the UK: £502.80 (via PriceRunner UK)

Monday, 2005-10-03

Dream device

A UMTS Nokia Communicator would rock. Imagine being able to SSH into your screen session via 3G!

Ahem… excuse my geekiness.

Update: I should qualify the above, I think. I spend a lot more time online than on the phone with the 6630. A communicator is a qwerty smartphone married to a S40 Nokia phone. This puts the functionality squarely where I want it: data use and text input. And 3G is fast data that could and should be cheap, at least for modest data usage.

SSH means I can access an online Unix server from anywhere, using the apps (emacs mostly) that I want.

Tuesday, 2005-09-27

The great phone conspiracy


Can’t help but think that there’s some conspiracy on the part of phone manufacturers that they keep producing bigger and uglier phones each with a disjoint set of features. I mean why is it that the 8800 has a camera that’s really not up to par with other phones, and doesn’t take memory cards. Yet promotes itself as having music playing capabilities, yet has <40 megs or so of onboard memory?

Every time you find a phone that you like, you find that it’s got some fundamental flaw in its design, that could only have been left out of the feature list out of spite.

So true.

Incidentally, the Sony-Ericsson K750i he picks is a good choice. S-E rule the mid-market between cheap voice-and-text phones and the more expensive smartphones. For many people, those phones hit the spot with a good mix of features (camera, Java support, music playback), small size, and good design.

Friday, 2005-09-23

Crap network

Telia’s UMTS network has become nearly unusable these last few days. I can’t connect to IRC most times, and the web gateway times out a lot. I don’t know if they’re experiencing problems or are having a surge in traffic. I also know it’s no use trying to find info on their site, as it’s really crappy and mostly oriented to suckering people into choosing their service.

This has put a serious crimp on my online lifestyle, but on the other hand, I’m at last making progress with The System of the World.

Update: things seems to have sorted themselves out. Must have been a glitch.

It’s a tribute to what I think of Telia that I immediately suspected that they’d cut internet access (except for HTTP). I wouldn’t put it past them at all. And that raises the question: why am I using a provider that I fear and distrust?

Friday, 2005-09-16

More iPod stuff

I got a pair of Koss Porta-Pro[1] headphones yesterday. They have a great sound, and there’s the additional bonus of not looking like an iClone when walking about.

Also found a quick way to pause the ‘Pod (when answering a call on the phone, for example) — just yank the headphone cord out of the jack, and playback will pause. This is way simpler than unlocking the hold button and then pressing pause.

[1] Koss’ own site is spectacularly user-unfriendly, you have to register to do anything. Use the price comparison sites instead.

Thursday, 2005-09-15

iPod thoughts, plus something about converged devices

Russ slams the iPod nano, and Frank disagrees.

As an iPod owner of just a few days, I can finally buy the hype. The device is cool! I love the storage space — no more fiddling around with 256M when you have 6G. The podcast support rocks. (I’ve started to listen to podcasts too, another thing I’ll have to eat humble pie for…) Having a single device that does one thing well — play audio — is really nice.

Itunes sucks, but that’s another matter…

I’ve been using phones with mp3 players since at least 2001, when I got a Siemens SL45. After that, I’ve used the taco as a music phone. And sure, it works, but it doesn’t work as well as an iPod. And if you factor in the cost of the phone and the likely cost of a memory card that can carry enough songs to be competitive with even a small iPod, you’re looking at serious bucks.

A young person in the EU might have a basic phone for voice and SMS, either one they’ve bought themselves or got as a present. An iPod (or other music player) makes a lot of sense in that it’s something you can wish for as a present or save up to. Asking for a hugely expensive phone is not.

Many people in Sweden get mobiles from work. This is something you need to carry anyway, and often it’s some boring model that doesn’t cost a lot. Getting a dedicated music player for your own money makes a lot of sense then too.

Basically, I see phones and PDAs converging. But there’s still a future for a good music playing device like the iPod.

Monday, 2005-09-05

Series 60 call timer

Some people want to know how long their call has lasted while they are making it. Some have alluded to the lack of such functionality out of the box as “the biggest interface flaw of them all”. (As Jim says in a comment to that post, “If that’s the biggest flaw you can find in the Series 60 interface then I’d say it’s got to be pretty good :-)”.)

It turns out the functionality is included, you just have to turn it on (thanks bob!). Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the Log application:

main menu screenshot

  • Open the “Options” menu (left softkey):

log options menu screenshot

  • Turn on the “Show call duration” option:

call duration option screenshot

  • Done!

Granted, I only know that this works on my 6630, but I’m guessing it’s the same for the 6682.

Updated: you can get screenshots easily with FExplorer.

Friday, 2005-09-02

Apple and the iPhone

Matt pontificates on the rumoured iPhone, and concludes:

To be honest, an N91-like device with the iTunes store hookup would probably slaughter the music/cellphone crossover market.

It would also slaughter Apple’s margins. They would have to pay licensing to Symbian (also true with UIQ3), and maybe Nokia.

Plus, if they go their own way and make a “pure” apple phone, they would have to deal with carriers and regulators too. Apple is too small for this. Even Microsoft only provides software for phones, and lets the companies that actually manufacture the phones take care of the hassle of certifying the devices.

The Microsoft way means lots of confusing brand names for the same phones, and a trickle of licensing to Redmond. But MS is the richest company on the face of the planet. They won’t crush Nokia and Motorola now, rightly seeing that the digital living room is more important at the moment. Those pesky phone companies can be bought or out-competed later.

But Apple doesn’t have those kinds of resources.

Also, consider a key use of an “iPhone” — using the stored music files as ringtones. Do you think any carrier would offer this phone on contract, if it’d mean that everyone that bought it wouldn’t buy expensive ringtones over the air?

(Update: found this piece by Ewan that explains the carrier’s position in better detail than I’ve laid out.)

For this and other reasons, I’m betting we won’t see an iPhone (or a phone with viable iTunes support) any time soon.

Saturday, 2005-08-27

Where’s Charlie?

I ducked into an OnOff store this morning to get some Mini-DV casettes and took a gander at their mobile phone display. Among their Series 60 phones I saw: Nokia 6680, Nokia 6600, Nokia N-gage(!), Siemens SX-1(!!), but not the Nokia 6630 (aka Charlie). Weird.

By the way, the Taco cost 1,495 SEK. I don’t know if that was an unlocked phone though.

Friday, 2005-08-19

Mobile feed reader

Darla reports on the mobile feed reader from MobHappy.

You know what also rocks? Mobile Bloglines. Works like a charm, and keeps your feed reading synced between sessions.

Tuesday, 2005-08-16

N91 lust

I swore I wouldn’t fall into the new-phone-every-year trap, but damn, the Nokia N91 (warning: Flash) rocks!

4 Gb hard drive, UMTS, Series 60… yum!

But it’ll also be a premium-priced device. The fact that I’m still paying Voda and Telia for two S60 devices is a bummer, but on the other hand both the Taco and Charlie are in use — the N-gage as an mp3 player and the 6630 as my main phone. And both were bargains (between 2,000 and 2,500 SEK).

I’ll see if I can wait for the inevitable price drop on the N91. Or if I should sell my soul to work and let them get me one — maybe being woken in the middle of the night when the database goes down is worth it?

Monday, 2005-08-15


Where the hell is my Taco? I’ve looked high and low for it, but it’s gone. And there’s a 256 MMC card in it that I paid good money for, before MMC cards became cheap as dirt.


Update: found it lurking in a jacket pocket.

Sunday, 2005-07-31

Web tablets ahoy!

Russ waxes lyrical about the PSP as a web tablet.

I must say I agree. I played with Niclas’ Flybook yesterday, and it pretty much rocked as a tablet.. But the PSP is smaller, lighter, and has better games. Plus it’s waaay cheaper. I’ll definetely look at one when it’s launched here.

N-gage: dead platform?

Matt describes the woeful state of N-gage gamitude in the US.

I already feel like the only N-Gage user on the Eastern seaboard though.

This is a pity, ‘cause the N-gage (classic, the “taco”) is still a kick-ass phone. I use mine as a mp3-player nowadays, I’m not really into games.

Monday, 2005-07-25

Darla’s new gig

Darla has a new gig: associate editor at PhoneMag. Congrats!

Thursday, 2005-06-02

Morse texter

Russ: morse texter. Old skool.

Tuesday, 2005-04-19

Stockholm traffic cams

I’ve hacked together a list of traffic cams in Stockholm for Christopher Schmidt’s traffic cam app for Series60 Python. I’ll post the link to Matt Croydon’s wiki page as soon as I’ve tested it a bit more.

Until then, the data file can be accessed from

The images are from

The following conventions are used in the tabs:

  • C (Centre) for Innerstaden
  • CS (Centre South) for Södermalm
  • CW (Centre West) for Essingeleden
  • S (South) for Nynäsvägen
  • E (East) for Värmdöleden
  • SW (South West) for E4:an
  • N (North) for E4/E18 Norr

I don’t have any links for cameras in Södra Länken, where I spent 30 minutes in a glacial queue this morning.

Tuesday, 2005-04-05


Matt has released dict2go, a Python for Series 60 app that’s an interface to the dict protocol. This means that you can easily lookup weird words on the hoof.

As usual when reading Patrick O’Brian, I encountered a word I didn’t know — mammothrept. Having some free time, I used dict2go to look it up:

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

mammothrept \mam"mo*thrept\ (m[a^]m"m[-o]*thr[e^]pt), n. [Gr.
   mammo`qreptos; ma`mma grandmother + tre`pein to nourish.]
   A child brought up by its grandmother; a spoiled child. [R.]
   [1913 Webster]
   O, you are a more mammothrept in judgment. --B. Jonson. [1913 Webster]

Truly cool. Thanks, Matt!

Friday, 2005-04-01

Don’t fall for stupid hacks

Take a page from my book and don’t get drawn into “testing” stupid Bluetooth hacks. The only consequence is that your phone will be b0rked for no good reason.

Zainman posted a so-called tip on how to turn off any phone that browsed your phone via Bluetooth. The trick was to name your BT profile "<tab>1<tab>".

He pestered me to try this, and finally I relented. When I changed the name of my 6630 and browsed for it with my N-gage, the BT app crashed. The phone didn’t restart. But when I tried to open the list of BT access points on the N-gage, it crashed again. Obviously the string was cached somewhere and prevented me from browsing for new BT devices.

So now I have a crippled N-Gage. Great. Thanks a fucking bunch, Zainman.

Update: a full reset (key combination *#7370#) fixed this — don’t forget to back up your phone first, this nukes everything.

Saturday, 2005-03-19

CSS media profiles

I’m using a CSS layout with floats (essentially the one described here) which has a number of advantages for me. Chief among these is the fact that I can put all the sidebar content in the physical end of the HTML. This means that if you’re browsing with a text-mode browser such as lynx you get the content first instead of having to scroll down three screens.

However, some mobile browsers are too smart for their own good. They can access CSS stylesheets and use them. In this case, my nice semantically marked up page was all squished up on the screen as the device tried to overlay two divs with negative margins.

Enter CSS Media types. This lets you specify different CSS layouts for different “devices” (screen, print, handheld, aural…). I split my CSS into three parts, common.css, simple.css (the one with the floats) and handheld.css, which is essentially empty right now.

Then I added this to my <head> section:

  <title>The occasional scrivener</title>
  <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />  
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="/common.css" type="text/css">
  <style type="text/css" media="screen">@import "/screen.css";</style>
  <style type="text/css" media="handheld">@import "../../../../gustaf-sub/handheld.css";</style>

Now my pages render nicely (i.e. no CSS at all) in the following phones:

  • Nokia 6630
  • N-gage classic.
  • Sony-Ericsson K700i.
  • Sony-Ericsson P800. Test conducted with the built-in browser, not Opera.

Phones that don’t work include:

  • Motorola A925. I think the browser here is a branded version of Opera.
  • Sanyo 8100.
  • Samsung SPH-A500. Internal browser error.

Thanks to Anthony Eden of dotMP for help researching this.

Update: this wiki discusses designing for mobile devices.

Monday, 2005-01-31

The Transfer application

Several new users of the Charlie aka the Nokia 6630 have mentioned the coolness of the Transfer application. This is a little program (Menu -> Tools on my phone) that is sent via Bluetooth to the phone you want to upgrade from. When it’s installed there, it sends all your information (contacts, calendar details etc) to the new phone. Painless.

The docs say that the 7610 and 6600 are supported, but I had no problems syncing with the N-gage classic.

Of course, you can use a sync with a PIM for this, but Transfer handles pictures too.

I mentioned it in the post linked above, but it’s such a nice feature I felt it should get a bit more attention.

Sunday, 2005-01-16

Haptic and gestural interfaces on mobiles

Tom links to a post by Clive about the gestural interfaces on a new Samsung phone. Clive thinks the proposed inplmementation is pretty stupid, and I can’t really disagree.

Gestural interfaces have been around meme-wise for a long time (in fact, I wrote my thesis based on a proposed interface). You would think that they’d show up more now that mobiles are getting smaller and smaller. But the Samsung is the first mainstream model I’ve seen so far.

In fact, only one haptic interface has made serious inroads: the ubiquitous vibrate function on nearly every modern phone.

We haven’t really reached the point where the smallness of phones requires a radically new interface to exploit all the features within them.

But as Tom notes, existing interfaces can benefit from fresh thinking:

I mean, why do devices with stylus uniformly have interfaces which require you to stab small areas of a small screen with a small pointer? Why not have them use long, sweeping strokes of a stylus, mimicking the way we write with pen and paper?

Nokia Communicator

“Work in progress”.

The 9300 is my new lust-thang, and I know my dad’s interested in upgrading his Psion to a 9500. This is just a place to store random URLs and info for the time being.

Update: Al reports from Malaysia that the 9300 keyboard is very small, the 9500 is more like the Psion. On the other hand, Christian reports that the 9300 is the size of a 6110. Yay!

Frank tells me that the list price for the 9300 is €600.

  • Power Data — flat file database for 9x00 machines
  • Series 80 SSH client
  • Ewan’s 9500 review (first part)

EU carriers, wake up!

Russ is giving a talk at Web 2.0. From his post:

Not only are the numbers there (160 million Americans with mobile phones), but every American carrier has reasonably priced unlimited data plans. […] This gives the U.S. a huge advantage over other markets around the world which continue to charge by the kilobyte.

Right! The Yanks are gonna clean our clocks — again! Just because the carriers are so short-sighted that they can’t see that when it comes to mobile data, cheaper traffic means more traffic! The net is addictive, but right now everyone’s scared of the kB charges.

Make a short-term dent in your revenue, reap the benefits later. Otherwise, the US will OWN the mobile data services space.

Update: Frank agrees.

Some more opinion points:

  • Innovation and Operators
  • DoCoMo works with developers

Pricing opacity is hurting EU mobile data usage

Mobitopia logo

Vodafone’s launch of a consumer 3G service yesterday put the finger on a very real problem: what does this cost?

As Russ found out, it’s not easy to discover how much this will cost the consumer. In my opinion, this fact is a bigger problem than the prices themselves.

As an example, I offer you an anecdote. No hard links or references, because that’s the point.

A while ago, a Swedish newspaper wrote an article saying that if you used your 3G phone as a broadband modem for office work — downloading email, surfing, maybe getting a document or two — your monthly bill would be more than 9,000 SEK (about $1,290).

The point of this is not whether it’s true. My strongest impression of how much mobile data will cost is that it’s obscenely expensive. And I haven’t seen anything from the carriers to dispel this.

If the pricing was up front, and you had a good way to check how much you owed, and felt you could get redress for outrageous bills, the carriers could charge quite a lot but still get customers.

For example, I use’s service. Their portal sucks, but you can buy ringtones for 30 SEK, background pictures for 15 SEK, a location lookup for 2 SEK. The point is, I can make an informed decision whether this is worth it or not. By calling a service number I get an up-to-date status on my account standing, in voice and data. And it’s PAYG, so if I splurge I won’t have to deal with this at the end of the month.

Here’s my modest proposal for Vodafone:

  • Free data traffic, within limits. Maybe you pay extra for this monthly. Flat-rate, essentially.

  • If you want to buy premium content (footie scores, music, whatever) you pay what’s on the screen.

This way, Vodafone will make a fixed amount of money for all data users, as only a small percentage will max out their allotment. And they can make money on premium content and allow others to make money too, thus making the content more appealing.

They’ll also insensibly educate the user base about mobile data. There will be room to experiment, to have fun, and to tell friends about this cool new thing.

If they and other EU carriers don’t do this, however, and continue treating their customers like cattle to be squeezed for every last kB of data, then the US carriers and content providers will eat their lunch.

Update: Russell analyses the Vodafone webcast and leads me to make this amendment:

  • Browsing is free, but only in the Live! area. Wander outside, and you pay GPRS rates per kB.

So it’s a subtle form of lock-in. Maybe aimed primarily at the content vendors, as in “look at all these captive users we have! How much would you pay to market your content to them?”

Thursday, 2005-01-06

Mobile Luddites

Russ slams “mobile Luddites” apropos this Slashdot article.

He’s especially riled by this comment. Read his response for FCC-non-compliant goodness.

I think we can all agree with Russ was that his point was not to denigrate those that need or want “just a phone”, but to point out that the Slashdot crowd should be welcoming advanced phones with open arms.

I’m with Russ here, even if my job isn’t as closely involved with mobile tech as his is. But I’d find it very hard to use a phone lacking Series 60 capabilities for any length of time. In fact, just this morning I dug up the brick from it’s resting place in the cellar do get a nice dose of UIQ.

But I can’t understand the American pining for simple phones. Aren’t there any over there? In Sweden, anyone with a hankering for a simple phone can go to a store and buy a Nokia 3310 with a pre-paid card for around $60.

Phonehouse has a range of pre-paid phones. For example, the Sony-Ericsson T610 (colour screen, camera, polyphonic ringtones) is a mere 999 SEK ($150).

The cost of calls is generally higher with pre-paid cards, but you don’t need a billing relationship with a carrier. Most cards support voice and SMS, but some offer GPRS too.

For an even cheaper deal, you can buy a used phone and a separate pre-paid card. Wham, instant mobile presence.

Can’t you do that in the US?

Another issue reflected in the Slashdot debate and in the comments to Russ’ post is that many advanced phones are hard to use and expensive. This is generally true, but only by buying and using these phones and reporting their faults will there be a chance of improvement.

A part of this attitude towards mobile carriers is that they don’t seem to “get” the Internet. According to Slashdot wisdom, everything from information to bandwidth to servers should be really cheap, if not free. The mobile phone business seems to defy this. Phones are getting more advanced but also more expensive. Calls are not getting cheaper. Customer service is bad.

Rui makes a convincing argument that the mobile communications business is different from the “Internet” business. You can’t just take a phone and plug it in the network. For better or for worse, you need to get it certified and accepted by regulators and carriers. This means that the “Bellheads” (old-style telcos) can perpetuate their knowledge and corporate culture over the “Netheads” (Internet companies).

(Read the classic Wired article Bellhead vs. Netheads for more info on the telco schism.)

Netheads hate this. Witness the interest for “mesh radio” and ubiquitous wi-fi coverage in the US. Well, in Sweden we have that. It’s called 3G and it’s expensive and slow. But I don’t think there’s a better way right now. For what it’s worth, Chris Davies agrees.

Sunday, 2005-01-02

MMS does indeed suck

Frank posts a tale of MMS woe and I can only concur. On New Year’s eve, I received an MMS from my sister and her boyfriend on Teneriffa. But did I get the pic? Nooo, I got a SMS with a link and a password to look at it on the Web.

Both she and I have the same carrier (Telia, spit) and my phone is part of their pathetic attempt at branding. There should be no need for me to fix my settings. Yet for all that, I can’t get a bloody MMS.

Telia tries to promote MMS by offering them for free on weekends. If this is the level of service they provide, even free is not cheap enough.

Thursday, 2024-12-16

Welcome to Charlietopia!

I broke down and got the Charlie, aka the Nokia 6630. I couldn’t stand Russ being the only Mobitopian with one (not counting lots of Finns who have them for evaluation), so I decided to get one too.

Telia has a deal that says you get the phone for free if you pay 100 SEK extra a month for 2 years on a UMTS contract. Telia’s the biggest carrier in Sweden, and have good coverage. The phone retails for 5,200 SEK without a contract.

I wasn’t the only one discovering that this was a pretty good deal, so the phone was a bit hard to get. The nearest store didn’t have it, but mentioned that the Kungsgatan store did. I phoned them and they said they had two left, and no way were they gonna reserve one for me. I decided to go there after work and let fate decide — no phone left, I’d give it a rest.

The store was full of Christmas shoppers (including a guy who bought a Motorola V3 Razr, and then decided not to go with his friends to the movies, instead going home to fondle his new phone…). The middle-aged man in front of me wanted to know more about the Sony-Ericsson Z1010, which is even more sold out than the 6630. My heart nearly stopped when the guy behind the counter hauled out a 6630 box and started hustling “the last one in the store”. Luckily the potential buyer was a die-hard S-E fan and left without it. I pounced on it instead.

I’ll post more soon about it. Until then, I can say that I used the Transfer app to smoothly move my data from the taco to the Charlie. Sweet!

  • Rui’s 6630 resource page

Wednesday, 2024-12-08

iPod a dinosaur?

Jim Hughes asks if the iPod is the new Newton in a speculative piece about the future of the mobile phone as a personalized music player.

Friday, 2024-12-03

Anthony Eden has been working like a dog to get dotMP up and running. Congratulations! Russ weighs in on how cool this is.

Wednesday, 2024-11-03

New Nokias

The release of new Nokia models is a big event over at #mobitopia. Today Nokia announced three new models:

  • The 6020 looks like a common-sense business communications device. “Just a phone.” Runs Series 40.

  • The 7110 is the long-awaited Series 90 phone.

  • The 3230 is an “entry-level” Series 60 phone with megapixel camera.

The 3230 especially looks interesting. As Christian Lindholm notes it has the potential for being the hottest selling smartphone ever.

Tuesday, 2024-11-02

Russ has hacked together with the help of Erik and Matt.

It’s a mobile-ready Olympic news aggregator.

Development time: 1 day. Go Mobitopians!

Thursday, 2024-10-28’s approach to pay-as-you-go

When I bought the Brick I also got a prepaid card. But it’s not really a prepaid card. Most GSM carries here in Sweden sell you a fixed amount of money in a certificate, which you can call for until the amount is finished.

Tre have a two-tiered model. You can buy talk minutes (also valid for video calls), but these will expire in 30 days, unless you buy more minutes. In this, the card is not really a prepaid, but true pay-as-you-go. Instead of getting billed in the future, you pay in advance for the amount you’ll call in a month.

You can also buy traditional prepaid certificates that are only valid for data traffic (SMS, MMS, packet data, and games and ringtones from Tre’s mobile portal). These credits don’t expire.

As I’m only planning to use the Brick for data, this is a great deal. I already have a GSM phone with a subscription, and don’t want to switch numbers. Now I can keep a close eye on my data traffic without paying for calls that I don’t need.

It’ll be interesting to see how many people take advantage of the faster, cheaper data in Tre’s UMTS network and use their new phones exclusively for data.

Enter the brick, the Swedish division of the Hutchinson-Whampoa UMTS consortium, are launching pay-as-you-go cards, and as a promotion I could buy a Motorola A925 + pre-paid card for 750 SEK, which is like, cheap. Especially as they throw in a Bluetooth headset. The fact that you get 2 batteries too is not a plus, it just means that the phone’s battery life is like the half-life of some exotic particle.

Anyway, the phone is now known in the Erikson household as the Brick, because it’s a huge phone, even compared to the none-too-svelte Taco. The difference is no more than a centimetre each way, but that extra centimetre makes the difference between a phone that fits in your pocket and one that threatens to drag your pants down your ankles.

Here’s a picture comparing the two phones:

comparing the Brick and the Taco

But hey! It’s a UIQ phone for about $100, and that’s cool.

Tre don’t have a walled garden in the same way as, you can install apps on the phone and surf around. I grabbed Quirc (found via Ewan’s excellent guide to UIQ freeware) and was soon riding the subway, chatting in #mobitopia with both a S60 device (the Taco) and a UIQ (the Brick). I was in nerd nirvana.

But, there are issues.

Let’s take the pros first:

  • Symbian UIQ.

  • Bluetooth, IR, USB interface.

  • camera (this may not seem like a big deal, but unlike the rest of the human race, I didn’t have a cameraphone).

And then there’s some cons:

  • The pen interface sucks. I agree with Russ, you should be able to use a phone one-handed. And if you think this conflicts with the first item in the pro list, bite me.

  • The handwriting interface is hard for me to use. I’m used to Graffiti on the Palm, and felt that hard to use, but this will take some taking used to. But the predictive feature seems to help.

  • There aren’t as many cool features as on the Sony-Ericsson P{8,9}00, like the jogwheel.

I’ll be spending some more time with phone, strictly for data. I can’t see myself carrying this around as my primary phone. But as a fast data terminal, it has possibilities.

Random tips

  • You change the PIN code in the phone application, not in some central place in the operating system. Maybe pretty simple, but there’s no mention of it in the manual.

  • Generally, the manual from 3 sucks. There’s no mention of the handwriting system, for example.

  • Quirc started crashing randomly, so I emailed the author. He suggested deleting the P-java specific file C:\System\libs\quirc.dll, which seems to have solved the problem.

  • Only for users of’s PAYG card: the tariffs are confusing. This article attempts to explain (in Swedish).

Tuesday, 2024-10-05

Mobile user interface thoughts

Frank and Russell have pointed out some problems with the user interface (UI) on smartphones. Specifically, the Series 60 OS used in most smartphones today.


For the purpose of this post, I define “smartphone” as a mobile phone that has an OS that can accommodate non-trivial extra applications. Examples of smartphones are the Nokia 6600, Siemens SX1 (Series 60), Sony Ericsson P900 (UIQ), Treo 600 (PalmSource), Orange SPV C500 (MS Mobile). “Phone” on this context is a traditional mobile phone. Examples are Sony Ericsson T610, Nokia 6620, Samsung E700.

What does the interface need to handle?

Phones have some core applications. Central ones are making and taking calls, handling addresses, and messaging (SMS, email, IM protocols). Cameras probably also fall into this category. Less central areas are Web browsing, calendars, etc.

Ideally, all phone functions should be accessible using the keypad one-handed. This means using the thumb of one hand. The Sony Ericsson smartphones use a jog wheel under the index finger of the dominant hand (the right one). Relying on this feature for accessing functions excludes all those who prefer to use their left hand.

An alternative to shoe-horning everything into “thumb-mode” is a two-tiered approach. Basic functions are accesses using a keypad, but an auxiliary keypad or stylus+touchscreen combo is used for more advanced features. But where to draw the line between basic and advanced?

I have had the misfortune to configure email on both a recent Sony Ericsson and a Nokia. Tapping in multiple server names without the benefit of copy and paste sucks. A PC-based app would help here. Another solution is a web interface that sends a SMS with the configuration.

But this begs the question: why do I have to do this? Why can’t I buy a phone where the data connections Just Work? Why is MMS and GPRS settings different? Why do I, as a consumer, have to care about whether my phone manufacturer and my service provider has their act together?


Speech recognition holds some promise, but will remain a complement to the keypad.

How about gestural interfaces? I did a bit of research about applications of gestural interfaces in the course of writing my graduate thesis. (For the morbidly interested, you can download it here). An example is scrolling through an image gallery by tilting the phone from side to side. Another is answering a call simply by picking up the phone. My guess is that inertial interfaces will be on par with speech interfaces; a complement to a primary interface which will still be keyboard + screen.

However, the keypad is often woefully underutilised. Usually there’s some buttons that are dedicated to navigation, or a joypad. The large 3x5 grid of numerals are used for inputting numbers and text. How about using the ‘3’ and ‘9’ as PageUp and PageDown buttons when browsing sites?

Who will be the mobile Apple?

Who will usher in the Mac Age for mobile phones? Not Apple, they can’t cover the mobile space (they outsourced the development of the iPod). Maybe Nokia can rise to the challenge. Another contender is Sony Ericsson, with the Japanese half in charge of making lots of tiny devices easy to handle. Another contender is Microsoft, if they’re serious about taking the mobile space to the next level, and not just treat it as an adjunct to the desktop space.

Monday, 2024-09-20

You say “moblog”, I say “mo-blog”

Dave Winer has, in his inimitable way, defined moblogging for the rest of us. Oh, Scoble helped out too.

The definition?

Moblogging is any activity that occurs away from your normal blog-writing place whose purpose is to create content for your blog.


This is a bit too inclusive, if you ask me. For example, this blog is hosted on a server in the States somewhere (even Rafe, the guy generously donating space and server resources, isn’t sure where — ain’t outsourcing great?). I update it via tramp on emacs, running under screen on a machine in the server closet at work. I just fire up Putty at work, or on the Toshiba in the kitchen, or the Thinkpad while waiting for Viking to sleep, or on the Dell upstairs, or my dad’s computer at his place… So I’m basically moblogging all the time according to Winer/Scoble.

FWIW, others agree with me and have drawn the ire of the man himself. He was just being lighthearted, he says now. Just trying to start a discussion.

Far from me to define moblogging, but it seems to me as futile exercise. If I can blog from my mobile phone, I will (and I have); if I can blog from an internet cafe in Katmandu (or Norrtälje), I will; if I am incarcerated with only a i386 running Windows 3.1 and Trumpet Winsock, I’ll blog with that.

In time, the artificial divide between “blogging” and “moblogging” will disappear. Only a few diehards will consider their

desk, fully supported by [their] normal high-speed net connection, laptop, multi-gigabyte external hard disk, second monitor, USB hub, mouse, etc etc.

as a “normal blog-writing place”. For the rest of us, the world will be that place.

Update I headed over to Scoble just to see that the link worked, and it turns out he’s dumped some guy’s feed, because he was fooled by a hoax. Well, so was Rich, and he admits it. Yet he’s “dumped”. Scoble “can’t trust what goes on his blog anymore”.

Wow. Talk about taking lessons from the master. No wonder they’re defining terms for the edification of the rest of us.

Thursday, 2024-09-16

Yet another reason to visit London

The AAS pub meet! Where you can win a brand new, yet-to-be-released Nokia Communicator 9500!!

How the hell can I persuade the company to send me to London on the 4th October? I could plead the sorry state of the London branch’s PCs, but that would mean I would be expected to fix them, and there’s not enough time for that…

Wednesday, 2024-09-15

N-Gage power tips

Steve Litchfield posts some tips for the serious taco user.

Thursday, 2024-08-26

The triumphant return of Sony Ericsson

Mobitopia logo

A few years ago, Ericsson was losing it in the mobile handset space.

The phones it produced were technically excellent, but lacked the styling and ease of use of Nokia’s handsets. Finally Ericsson faced it’s failings and teamed up with Sony to form Sony Ericsson.

One of the first phones was the T68, later upgraded to the T68i. This phone was criticised for being slow, but had excellent Bluetooth support and quickly became a popular business choice. It also had a rudimentary email client.

Early last year, S-E released the T610. This trend-setting cameraphone set the stage for the triumphant return of Sony Ericsson. The combination of camera, large colour screen, snappy styling, email, and polyphonic ringtones made this a very popular phone choice. In Sweden, where I live, it’s not unusual to see 12-year olds with T610s.

The T610 was followed by the Z600, the T630, and now the K700, all upgrading the basic concept. Meanwhile, Nokia has stumbled, arguably missing the cameraphone trend and perhaps pushing the smartphone concept a little too hard.

At my workplace, a medium-sized tech company in Stockholm, the T610 “family” of phones is predominant. As a support engineer, I can attest that it fits our profile very well. The email client especially is appreciated by our sales force. And the ability to sync contacts and calender with MS Outlook is also a plus. Bluetooth support is excellent, and infra-red connectivity is included as a matter of course. The UI is colourful and stylish, although texting and text input is still slow.

For us, and for many other people, the latest S-E phones are “smart enough”. The additional bulk and complexity of Nokia’s Symbian smartphones can’t compete with S-E sleek styling.

Smartphones will remain a niche product for a few more years, but eventually, mid-level phones from S-E and others will gradually approach their functionality from below.

Tuesday, 2024-08-10

Telia’s 3G offer

Telia is offering a 3G deal for businesses. You get a Sony Ericsson Z1010 for 1 SEK (about 10c) if you sign up for a 24 month plan. To sweeten the deal, they offer free data access until the end of the year — to the tune of 500 MB a month. According to the billboards, this is just “data”, but according to the website it’s GPRS data. Maybe it is one and the same, but for me, GPRS goes with GSM, while 3G has another sort of data.

However, it’s beside the point. The point is that the billboards say that these 500 MB are worth 4,000 SEK (about $535). So if you’re hooked with 3G and want to continue your profligate data lifestyle after your free months are up, you can end up with a habit nearly as expensive as illegal drugs.

The interesting thing is the way Telia are pushing this deal. By calling attention to the potentially enormous savings you would make by accepting this offer, they make the deal sound better. But on the other hand, they call attention to the truly bizarre pricing of mobile data at the moment.

Monday, 2024-07-05

Below average

According to Engadget, Sweden has more mobile lines than people.

In our family, we’re five. One is 2 and a half, he hasn’t got a mobile.

Between us, we have eight working phones.

We have four active SIMs, which gives the Erikson-West household a mobile penetration of 80%. Below average for Sweden.

Saturday, 2024-07-03

It’s official, I’m an anti-Microsoft fanatic

Sometimes (not often enough, if you ask me) goes off on a tangent and rants about how the world is unfairly hindering the progress of Microsoft in the handheld market. It’s the only reason I have them in my aggregator.

Of course, I want to share these gems with the gang at #mobitopia, but we don’t want to increase the ranking of these pages — the author (or authors) are not above dirty tricks themselves, so why should they get Google juice from us, the Symbian Mafia?

Enter This works just like, but the generated URLs are … well, evil. This is now the preferred way to link to among the members of the Mafia. What goes around, comes around.

I wasn’t the one who suggested using (I think it was Jim), but I was the first who used it in the channel. Now they’ve noticed, and I’m officially an “anti-Microsoft fanatic”. I’ve kind of had that feeling. It’s nice to get it in writing.

Thursday, 2024-06-17

3G services

In this week’s Ny Teknik, Hans Strandberg wrote an editorial about the need of Sweden’s 3G providers need to look up from building the infrastructure and to start selling/distributing content.

He’s concerned that the enormous amount of money spent on 3G in Sweden will be squandered on providing “3G”: Games, Gambling, and Girls. The first provider who sends video from a local council meeting will get a gold star for “kaxighet” (Swedish for chutzpah).

Is that the future we are facing? “Free enterprise” selling crap, or the “worthies”, Sweden’s politicians and authorities providing dull information?

I don’t think so. On my short ride to work today, on bus and subway, I came up with four possible mobile data services.

Existing communities

In the same paper there was a small article on how Lunarstorm, Sweden’s largest commnunity for young people, has a 3G service. People can chat with their friends, update their profiles, play games… just like on the web. Only now they can do it in the classroom, which will probably lead to 3G phones being banned in schools soon.

Traffic information

Scenario: I ride more or less the same route to work every day. I got SL’s site and set my preferences for that journey. Every weekday between 08:30 and 09:15 I can see any scheduled or unscheduled outages. I can also see when the next bus/subway will arrive, so I can decide whether to run or just take the next one. Same thing for the return trip.

The same principle can be applied to commuters in cars. Video feeds can show congestion, flash messages can warn of big accidents, a reminder can be sent when the roads are icy.


Sveriges Television has a videotext service. Making this service available to 3G handsets is such a no-brainer that I’m suprised no-one’s done it yet. For that added pizazz, a link to a video feed can easily be added.

Location-based games

Another article in Ny Teknik described a virtual treasure hunt in Tokyo, played with GPS-enhanced mobiles. Not really a 3G application, but one that can be enhanced by a video feed showing the target location and if anyone is nearing it.


The thread tying these services together is that they are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They are web services that can be simply adapted to mobile data terminals. No need for gimmicks, just try to deliver information and services that are useful and simple to use.

Monday, 2024-06-14

Charlie is ugly

Mobitopia logo

The Nokia 6630 (aka. “Charlie”) is a UMTS (3G) phone with Series 60. I’ve been holding off switching to 3G from GSM due to the lack of good phones. Series 60 is the operating system used in smartphones such as the Nokia 6600, the Siemens SX1 and the N-gage. There are lots of apps available for this platform, and the integrated planning tools and email reader are good enough for me.

But I won’t buy the 6630. Why? Because it’s ugly.

The 6630 combines the pear-shaped, bottom heavy look of the 3660 with the faux-metal shine of the Siemens ST55, a desperate attempt from Siemens to cash in on the cameraphone trend.

Nokia can do better than this. The 7610 may have an unusable keypad, but it looks good. The original N-gage, aka. the Taco, packs lots of features into a package that can be described as “interesting”, even if it makes the the user look ridiculous.

Let’s hope that Nokia will re-discover its design edge and give a 3G smartphone with looks and content.

Tuesday, 2024-03-23

Microsoft and mobile phones

I think MS is making a strategic mistake in focusing on “corporate” phones. They bet that if you use a MS phone to sync to Exchange at work you’ll do that at home too. The strong focus that Microsoft has on mobile developers is part of this too — it’s going to be easy to create vertical applications and enterprise-specific solutions.

So corporate users of phones will influence other buyers, and MS smartphones will slowly but surely infiltrate the mobile space.

But I’m not sure that the average phone customer has quite the good picture of Microsoft’s products that MS seems to think.

Having a monopoly on desktops doesn’t mean that your users like you. In fact, Microsoft is shielded from normal market pressures in the desktop space.

In the phone space, there is still competition. Nokia has a very strong brand and a product line that spans from simple black-and-white phones to communicators. This is true for Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung too.

Microsoft phones have a minimum spec — there has to be enough oomph in the phone to run Pocket Explorer etc. Soon enough Moore’s Law will ensure that every phone will be able to do just that (but the power supplies may not follow the same development). The question is: do people want a PC in their phone?

I don’t think so.

Monday, 2024-03-15

the phone as a business tool

The taco earned it’s stripes today as a business phone. When I answered a job call at home (for the first, and I hope the last, time), I needed to login to the firewall. No probs, I used the handsfree set. Until Viking decided he wanted to play with that.

Hmm. The taco is impossible to hold between the cheek and the shoulder like a normal phone. But it does have a loudspeaker. Presto, I could check logs, talk, and hang out in IRC at the same time.

The only thing left to use is the games in a boring meeting.

Friday, 2024-02-13

software wishlist

From now on, my Nokia N-Gage will be referred to as the “taco”.

I’ve looked around a bit, and while there is a lot of software available for Series 60 phones, I still miss some simple things.

Most of these things would be easy to do if the following conditions were met:

  1. I would learn Python
  2. Nokia would release Python for Series 60 with hooks for Contacts, Calendar, SIM-card etc.

This is what I would do if that were the case:

  • write a converter for importing/exporting CSV files from the Contacts application
  • the same for the Notes application
  • A SyncML client/server for any platform