The Media Guru
Feb 7, 2011



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The time has come to give my old phone a well deserved retirement.

A nostalgic review of my previous phone, actually my very first phone. Photos are from the photoblog - Nokia 7610.

 

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It's exactly 6 years since I received this phone as a gift from an uncle. Little did I imagine at that time it would introduce me to a world of new experiences.
(Photo taken 2 weeks after I received it).

Launched in May 2004, the 7610 runs on Symbian S60v2 OS 7.0s. Its internal specs are antiquated compared to today's devices.
123Mhz ARM4T CPU, 7MB RAM, 8MB internal memory. It also came with a 64MB Reduced-Size MMC (RS-MMC), the precursor to the MicroSD. Died after 2 years & replaced with a 256MB card.

The 7610 was a grey market device, bought from Hong Kong or Singapore (around Rs 11k) with no warranty. If it broke or malfunctioned, there was little I could do.
Somehow, after numerous falls & unimaginable torture, the device is still working. External casing aside the body is solid unbreakable plastic. Legendary Nokia build quality. Keeps working, even on the factory firmware.
Yup, at that time, you couldn't update your device over USB, so you had to bring it to a Nokia Care Centre. Which I never did. & I didn't need to do it because there weren't any show-stopping bugs on the 7610.

The OS occupies around 25MB on the ROM. That has always been one of the biggest advantages of Symbian - run efficiently on minimum specs. Includes support for multi-tasking... Proper apps running in the background with an app switcher.

 

The Design

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It's fair to say that Nokia didn't go as crazy as with the 7600. It features the same teardrop shape, with more conventional keypad layout & less curved edges. Now that I realise it, Nokia actually made smartphones fashionable!

 

1MP camera

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The first megapixel (1152 x 864) smartphone. A revolution at a time when most camera phones had VGA resolution. It also supported 10 min video recording (at 176x144) in the popular 3gp format. The photos are shockingly bad compared to modern standards. No settings other than digital zoom & a night mode. But it was an essential feature which helped me out countless times. When I broke my P&S camera, it was this 1MP fixed focus camera which got me out of tight spots. Normal photography isn't its forte, but my word, it was awesome at "photo-scanning" printed text & other documents. Some of my “best” photos…

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RCPL. Overlooking the cemetery & DT projects. 2005.

 

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Calodyne.

 

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Old Post Office, Port Louis.

 

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Valetta lake.

 

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Roof-top. In 2005, I could actually see the sea… (In 2010)

 

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Symbols.

 

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Ganga Talao. 2006 & 2009.

 

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Maheswarnath Mandir. Being painted in 2006.

 

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Pointe aux Biches.

 

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Ferrari 348.

 

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Orange is here. 2008.

 

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Victoria Hospital room. Stayed there for 5 days. Hell.

 

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Audi R8. December 2008.

 

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USB Plasma ball.

 

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UOM kittens. 2009.

 

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Ile aux Cerfs. 2010.

 

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The Port. 2010.

 

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& the rest is history

While uploading these photos, I had an epiphany. However bad these photos may look, they still remain priceless memories. An advice - capture every moment in your life. :)

 

My First Smartphone FEscr(054)

The 7610 introduced me to the world of smartphones. At that time, there were only 2 major smartphone OSes - Windows Mobile & Symbian. Few people acknowledge it, but Nokia actually invented the smartphone for the masses with the 6600 & then expanded it with the 7610, 6670 & 3230. It's another thing that only geeks understood & exploited the full potential of their Symbian phones.

So imagine my absolute delight when on my first day with the 7610, I discovered you can install apps on it! Just like on a computer! & games! Themes! Wallpapers! Custom ringtones!
It was by sheer luck that I discovered multitasking when I pressed the menu button for a longer time than necessary.
Similarly, it was a friend who informed me the purpose of the pencil key - used for marking, selection, copy, cut & paste. Yes, a dedicated copy/paste button.

Here a few of my favourite memories with the 7610.

- Two weeks after I received the 7610, I bricked it. What happened was that I was taking photos using internal memory & it completely filled up, leaving not enough space for the device to boot. After several days of panicking, I discovered that you can hard reset every Symbian phone (Power on while holding on Call+3+*).

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- The Apps Revolution. Before these so-called app stores were born, I was downloading & installing apps & games everyday. At the start, it was from WAP sites & forums. Eventually I discovered where I could get Zero Day releases - on MIRC chat channels. It was #mediaplace channels if I remember well. Releases were mirrored among chat members & all you had to do was download from them. Using commands naturally as there was no GUI. In its heyday (2005-2006), around 60-100 Symbian apps were being released daily. My own apps database is over 1GB (average app size of 1MB).

- Using offline dictionaries (Concise Oxford English, Thesaurus, etc) while everyone else had to lookup in their hardcopies.
- Graphical calculators. :P

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- Gaming. Mostly Java games, arcade-style - Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, Asphalt, Bejeweled, Worms & Brothers-in-Arms (above).

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- Reading eBooks using MobiReader. HP & TLOTR converted to .mbp. Spent 2 days reading HP5 non-stop. Turn off screen backlight & make it reflect the ambient light - it's as good as ebook readers!

- Watching movies & TV shows, including Top Gear. All had to be re-encoded into a lower resolution. Started with 3GP on RealPlayer (no fullscreen). Moved on to DivX with Smartmovie. & finally settled with Xvid (avi) & x264 (mkv) when I discovered CorePlayer. What an app!

- My first smartphone virus. Received over Bluetooth from another infected S60 phone. Fortunately, I did have an antivirus app installed which promptly deleted it. It was harmless anyway because you had walk it through its installation steps.

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- Beyond themes & icons replacement, I also changed the font (ttf converted to gdr), the screensaver & adding quick launch shortcuts to the home screen. A few years back you could also change operator logos...

- Pranking friends by recording their conversations or playing pre-recorded ones in the background.

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- Identifying barcodes & mobile QR codes. At that time, it was nothing more than a gimmick. No actual use.
- Apps like CameraFx allowing special effects (sepia, faux flash, b&w, pop art, kaleidoscopes, etc) & stitching of photos (360 panoramas).
- Installing Python apps. You just needed to install the Python framework & then write & run your own homebrew apps.

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- Bluejacking - copying sms & contacts from other phones. Only worked with a few devices. Other bluetooth hacks - remote controlling my PC, use phone as bluetooth mouse, IMing over bluetooth (to other Symbian devices) & using camera as webcam.

- Long battery life. Only 900mAh, but it could run 2/3 days on heavy usage & up to a week on light usage. Only games used to kill battery life. Otherwise, you could leave apps running in the background without worrying about it draining the battery.

- Music. Using a 3rd party headset connected to the pop-port. Listening to music (with mono hardware limitation) using UltraMP3 to overcome the default 7 bars volume. I always believed in the mobile phone as a converged device & that's why I never owned a music player. I actually skipped the iPod generation.

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- Opera Mini + Dabr = Twitter on the go. Opera Mini has been a godsend for browsing web sites without exploding my data consumption.

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- Free Gprs. Around 8GB downloaded using Cellplus' network in 2007. Figured out a way to tether it to my PC & enjoyed an unlimited connection for the very first time in my life - (I was on dial-up in 2007). & that was around the same time I started blogging. So yeah, the 7610 was directly responsible for me being a blogger today. :)
& it's still helping me today - 90% of all posts on the blog have been typed on the 7610. Including this one.

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You now know why I love Symbian. Its apps, its ease of use, its stability & its efficient use of the battery. The perfect OS built for devices like the 7610.
I find it amusing when people complain that <insert OS or smartphone here> doesn't have a feature I've already used years ago. Symbian was way ahead of its time.

As such, whatever will be replacing my 7610 will have to fulfill all these requirements & improve on many of the available features.

Requirements
- Touchscreen smartphone - at least 3.5" high resolution screen.
- Good build quality & durable. Should handle some abuse, especially in harsh environments.
- Great battery life with removable battery.
- Great browser with flash support (or at least play YouTube videos).
- Ample storage - microSD + internal storage (16/32GB)
- Decent camera. I already have the Nikon L20, so that the least of all my priorities.
Budget - Rs 14,000 ($467)

Basically looking for a mid-end smartphone on a tight budget. Let's look at the contenders, OS-wise.

 

iPhone

Large app ecosystem. Decent hardware (high res screen, good battery life, 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM). Future-proof. Jailbroken apps fixes some of its deficiencies.

Available in only 16/32GB. No microSD. Non-removable battery. Fragile glass construction. Doesn't survive falls. Broken front glass requires complete touchscreen replacement because it's glued together. Cat-&-mouse game between Apple & jailbreakers resulting in updates removing jailbreaks/unlocks.

eBay prices (unlocked):
iPhone 4 16GB - $855
iPhone 4 32GB - $990
iPhone 3GS 32GB - $625

If you account for the Customs VAT, Orange Mauritius actually sells it cheaper, but it's network-locked.
Because of its popularity, the iPhone is way overpriced. The only place where you can get the lowest price is Singapore/Hong Kong - where it's sold for as low as Rs 20k ($667).
Not only it's out of my budget but I don't have any external contacts, so the iPhone is very much out of my reach. Anyway, I wouldn't want one because it's too fragile; will never survive my clumsiness.

 

Android

I have zero experience of using Android & the following points are based on what I've read from reviews.
Large portfolio of devices. From cheap smartphones (320x480 screens) to the superphones (1Ghz+ processors). Most of the 1Ghz devices are future-proof. Large amount of apps. Extensive customization options (keyboard replacement, home screen, etc).

While Android has a plethora of devices, they all have the same drawbacks. Fragmentation. Yes, it does exist if you stick to manufacturer updates. OEMs are methodically slow at pushing the latest Android updates to their devices. Fortunately, there are the vanilla ROMs that you can install…. at the expense of manufacturer customizations (specifically in the camera & music department).
Short battery life due to lack of multitasking optimization. No GPU-accelerated UI (that's why Android needs faster CPUs). 

Despite the wide variety of Android devices, the hardware isn't appealing if you're looking for the perfect converged device. For e.g., there's only one manufacturer that makes decent cameras - SonyEricsson. But given their track record at updating their devices, it's impossible to trust them anymore.

Apart from the Nexus line of devices, it's hard to consider any Android device. The cost, lack of mid-end converged devices & the fact that I've never tried Android means I'm still undecided over this platform.

HTC Desire - $490
HTC Desire HD - $565
HTC Desire Z - $565
Motorola Milestone 2 - $580
Samsung Galaxy S i9000 - $600
Nexus One - $570
Nexus S - $690

 

Windows Phone 7

At this point in time, it’s hard to consider an OS that’s still in its infancy. Yes, it has the most advanced UI but lacks essential features like multitasking, decent browser & microSD card support. Given Microsoft's accelerated development schedule of the OS, I would estimate WP7 to be one year away from having a feature set on par with iOS & Android.
Excluding the games, the apps catalogue isn't very exciting. & the iOS-styled limitations are a step too far for a platform that needs to attract as much users as possible.

HTC HD7 - $520
Samsung Focus - $595
Samsung Omnia 7 - $615

 

Symbian

I know there are tons of devices from the N97 mini, the X6, the E72 to the C5. But after having used Symbian^3, there's no going back. Given that the C6-03, C7 & E7 all have EDoF cameras, there's only one Symbian device that can be considered - the Nokia N8. That would have been my first choice… if I hadn't used & extensively reviewed it. The main limitations are a crap browser, rubbish resolution, lack of apps & a UI that hasn't changed since my 7610. The price is tempting, but the camera alone isn't worth it.

Nokia N8 - $480

 

MeeGo

Yeah, MeeGo OS is just round the corner. The N9 will probably be announced within a week with the rumoured hardware specs as follows: 1.2Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, 1080p-playing GPU, 64GB internal memory & 12MP camera. Clearly into superphone territory, with a price double my budget. I couldn't wait for it...

 

No iPhone, no Android device, no WP7 device & not even a Symbian device. So what did I buy?

The first tablet OS, built for the Internet.
The only touchscreen smartphone with no front buttons.
One of the two smartphones with 32GB internal storage & a microSD slot.
A pure Linux experience that makes Android look like Windows.
The only smartphone with native dual-boot support (with MeeGo 1.1).

 

The Nokia N900

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The ultimate geek phone. & by geek, I don't mean the faux geeks that consider themselves to be one just by jailbreaking devices, taking photos HDR or retweeting hashtags. The Maemo 5 OS on the N900 is a tablet GUI on top of the Linux kernel, giving you total freedom of modification. No unlocking, no jailbreaking & no complex rooting procedures. The N900 has been designed with only one thing in mind - to be completely open.
Here's the analogy with cars... iPhones are BMWs with loads of gizmos available. Android is the Volkswagen group - building everything from Polos, Audis to Lamborghinis. Symbian is like Toyota, great at making good cars but not supercars.
& the N900? The Ariel Atom or an F1 car. Only a few can drive it & they know exactly what an incredible machine it is.
That’s why when I saw it was being sold at $400 on eBay, I didn’t think twice. Even though I’ve never used one before…

Yeah, the first time I held an N900 was when I unboxed it… Unboxing pics & first impressions are in this post on the photoblog.

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Anonymous said...

great choice...has the same...now put android 2.3 on it and yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

carrotmadman6 said...

@Anonymous
Did you install it on microSD?

Any other hacks? :)

Anonymous said...

yeah sd card..dual boot maemo and android...its not 100% perfect but it works..Have a look at

http://nitdroid.com/index.php?title=N900

http://forum.nitdroid.com/index.php?topic=1117.0

Also overclock the sleeping cortex beast inside :)

http://forum.nitdroid.com/index.php?topic=116.0

Best of luck buddy

Anonymous said...

sorry I forgot one link. U can install ubuntu mobile on the n900. I did it but did not like it. Also am not part of the project and porting gingerbread is already time consuming

http://mer-project.blogspot.com/2010/01/dual-booting-mer-on-nokia-n900.html

http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=58083

carrotmadman6 said...

@Anonymous
Thanks! Will try it as soon as I get a new card. For the time being, I'm just toying the apps. :)

Inf said...

"No unlocking, no jailbreaking & no complex rooting procedures."

I wish that statement held for every smartphone out there...

Anonymous said...

Symbian has officially been discontinued, Android and WP7 are the best mobile OS out

OrangeFTL said...

I have a Nexus 1 and have toyed with HTC Desire and I'm looking forward to getting a Dual Core soon - Atrix or a GSM version of the EVO 3G.

Android is the way to go. Symbian is dead Nokia has officially abandoned it. WP7 is still too much in its infancy (Who launches without copy/paste????)
Don't get me started with IOS - I'll just say that Orange is selling past generation iphones that have had their prices slashed into oblivion for outrageous prices and people do not know better.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe I actually read about 2 pages of your blog...your use of your so-called english is frightening.

carrotmadman6 said...

@Anonymous
Thank you for enduring at least those 2 pages (& going to the trouble of commenting!). Give me a heads-up when you're ready to give English tuition!

Mew da Vinci said...

$467 is equal as a nikkon hmmm...
i should think about it harder...
anyway, blog walking, sir..

The Anything Place said...

Whooo, new phones are always great to get

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