Interesting week for mobile. Google buys Motorola Mobility, hp abandons webOS devices, and only six months after promised, Symbian Anna (aka PR2.0) is released. It's best feature? New icons. No, really.
What's in it? Lots. Let’s break down the main changes section-by-section. There are the new icons, of course, but there’s a whole lot more under the hood.
The reason Nokia gave for not drastically overhauling the look and feel of Symbian in S^3 was maintaining a "familiar look and feel". Yet their most important change in their first major update... new icons. So long, recognition. They didn't even put the new Nokia Pure font on there.
Anyway. let's update my N8. Turns out, the update is not available over the air in the UK. One of the two distinctly different ways to invoke a software update on the N8 says there is nothing available, the other says I have to use Nokia Ovi Suite on the PC to update. Well, I don't run primarily run a PC, so I dig out a Windows laptop, install Ovi Suite, back up my phone, and... am offered three games, and no system update.
"Server is probably overloaded", the Internet says.
So next morning, I try again. Lo and behold, the system update awaits! Four small steps to follow. But I can't pass step 2 without a SIM card installed. I dredge out my NZ PAYG SIM (which appears to have expired, possibly taking my very old and very awesome phone number with it). However, apparently even a useless SIM is SIM enough for Nokia. Authenticate, back up (again), only to be told at step 3 that there is no update available.
Then, if I unplug the phone and plug it back in again, Ovi Suite tells me there are 9 updates, including applications, but the update screen says "Select the applications you want to install" and then offers nothing to choose from, and no active buttons except "Later".
Later, indeed. I had high enough hopes for this platform that I went to work for the Symbian Foundation, but with the lack of control we had over the platform, I'm not going to be pouring out any 40s in its memory any time soon.
I should point out that I'm not even using this phone any more: thanks to the generous Eiren O'Keeffe I'm currently borrowing an HTC Mozart, running Windows Phone 7. In general, and in comparison to the N8, it is fantastic.1 Data works reliably, mail works (without requiring a regular reboot), I can have both my calendars, etc, etc. I can't imagine how long it would take to get to this point with Symbian.
I still think it's too early to call if Nokia made the right choice with WP7. Symbian was obviously not going to get to Mango-good by November. The N9 looks nice, but it's running the abandoned half of Maemo, not the "Intel collaboration" half of MeeGo. Android was out. My friend Nez called it months ago: WP7 is OK. OK enough to sell Nokia phones when other manufacturers have the same software? We shall see. I have not been a fan of Nokia's industrial design of late, but I really do miss offline maps.
So far, the downsides for me of WP7 are the aforementioned maps, a weird bug where it wouldn't let me hang up once, and a lack of "official" apps. There is a free BBC News app in the Marketplace, with "This is a 3rd party application in no way associated with the BBC" on the front screen, but no actual BBC app. The Twitter app is passable, and apparently much improved in Mango.2 It's still hard to find third-party apps that are anywhere near as good as what you get on iOS, and especially hard to judge that from the Marketplace app on the phone.
There is an stolen-firmware update to WP7 Mango but I'm laying off installing it, expecting the official update will probably be out within a month. I somewhat expected it to beat Symbian Anna out.
Further RAGE: creating a cisco.com ID requires a "9-50 character username" (one character longer than my first and last name concatenated) and a password with a maximum of 15 characters (counting out my regular password, "correct horse battery staple".)3
They also can't get their story half straight:
On the form: Must be 8 or more characters and contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters (A-Z or a-z) and at least 1 number (0-9).
After submitting: Invalid Password. Password is case sensitive with length between 5 and 15 characters. Password cannot be the same as the user name.
And then it didn't like my phone number.
And then the captcha, which had not changed all the way through, changed.
And then it mentioned, for the first time, a field I hadn't updated.
And then, after EVERYTHING WAS FINALLY ACCEPTABLE, "Your session is no longer active".
It disturbs me a little that I have very little positive comment to make about all this technology at the moment. Perhaps I should have used 'curmudgeon' as my Cisco username. That's over 9 characters.
This last one actually started out as a positive story, but quickly soured: I found that with Miray HDClone, you can take a Windows machine running on Amazon EC2 with an instance-store (S3) root, clone the disk to an EBS volume, and then attach that EBS volume to a new machine. Voilà, one persistent machine!
After applying 2 years worth of Windows updates, and for the first time ever, I actually found and cleaned malicious software with the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool. Unfortunately for recovery purposes, getting "the Windows CD" on EC2 seemed a little harder than it should be - even a couple of ISOs I threw up there were not recognised. Unable to guarantee the system was in a good state, I advised the machine needed to be rebuilt from scratch, which of course requires the owner to audit all the software that was installed on it over the last 2 years. They will have fun with that!
- Except for the squareness of everything. Round those rectangles and I would be a happy camper. ↩
- I sometimes felt the Gravity fanboy-ism on Symbian. However, Gravity has had to reinvent the entire platform to become half decent, and suffers from decisions made in less connected times - I still have to wait to "Go online" before I can use the app. Sorry Ole, but I'd rather use an OK app on a good platform than a great app on a burning platform. ↩
- I had to look that up - it obviously wasn't as memorable as the list of 10 objects I was asked to remember in first-year psych, which are still burned into my head. ↩