Sunday, September 03, 2006

Two More Mediocre 770 Applications

It's been over two months since I posted an entry. That last one was about the 770 (specifically its official software upgrade). I'm starting to post again with another article about two 770 applications, the Gizmo Project and the Nokia Media Streamer.

The Gizmo Project

The Gizmo Project is available for installation on the 770 by following a link off of the desktop's web links (right under the link for AccuWeather). Installation is simple and clean, with no problems. Operation, though, leaves something to be desired. I won't post pictures, since you can see all the eye candy you want on the Gizmo website. I will admit it looks pretty. It's just a shame that, combined with the 770, it doesn't operate as well as it looks.

The two biggest problems are its interface and its operation. The interface, while pretty, is jumbled and out-of-order. After autologin, you're presented with a home page that includes, among other things, information identifying your account and how much money you have left to make calls. This is all well and good, but you have to horizontally scroll tabs across the left-side top of the application to get to the dialpad (fifth tab to the right). From there it's fairly easy to call a number. If you don't do that then you have the little text box on the upper right and the regular soft keyboard to enter a number. Why isn't the keypad the second or third tab after login? Why not a button with a keypad icon on the right front that immediately moves to the keypad? There are other issues with regards to the placement of tabs and information under them, but the overall feel of the interface is clunky and inefficient. It will never take the place of a plain old cell phone's keypad for ease of dialing.

In operation, it does indeed make outbound voice calls. I was able to call my house phone (a land line), and both my wife's and my own cell phone. I made two of the calls at my home, where the background is nice and quiet. This is significant as I'll show later. It was during these dialing experiments that I found that the 770 does indeed have a built-in microphone. It's the tiny unmarked hole next to the power connector on the bottom edge of the device. This means that if you're looking down at the screen, the microphone is pointing at your chest. This placement is also significant.

When I made my two house-to-house experimental calls (with me at one end of the house and my wife at the other with the doors closed), my wife said that my voice was clear and understandable. Her's was as well. I then drove down to a local Paneras. Paneras have free wi-fi access. Once I'd re-connected back to the web, I called my wife again on her cell phone. That's when we both discovered the limitation of the 770 as a cell phone. With all the background noise in the restaurant, it was nearly impossible for my wife to hear me, although I did still hear her. I did everything but shout, moving the 770 around to the point where I was nearly talking into the edge of the 770 (and looking like a dork in the process). After repeatedly hearing her ask me to repeat what I was saying, I finally closed the call and the 770. When I got home I removed Gizmo.

Nokia should not consider the 770 + Gizmo software as an adequate replacement for its line of very serviceable cell phones. The limitation is more in the base 770 platform than in the Gizmo software.

Nokia Media Streamer

Today, just before writing this, I checked to see if there were any new applications to install via the application manager. There was an entry for mediastreamer (Media Streamer). Naively believing that anything showing up via the application manager was OK to install, I installed it. After all, regular Linux distributions (Suse and Fedora come to mind) operate this way. Big Mistake #1.

After installing it I fired it up (it created a new submenu, 'Extras', and its link appeared inside that submenu). Big Mistake #2.

Pretty eye-candy took over the desktop, but there was nothing there to work with. So I tried to see if there was any installed help. There was none. Finally, in annoyance, I tried to close the application by clicking on the applications menu exit. Big Mistake #3.

The flawed exit caused Media Streamer to clear all text on the screen, leaving behind its background. It would not close completely, and required me to turn off the 770. When I turned it back on again it was gone. I uninstalled Media Streamer.

Conclusions

With the notable exception of some core applications and Maemo Blocks (a Tetris rip-off), there really isn't a single quality application available for the 770, not even Gizmo. The only application I use now with any regularity is the Opera browser. I use Opera to read my Google mail, read Google news, The Inquirer, Slashdot, OSNews, CNN, and various other sites. In fact Google news and BBC News Front Page have essentially replaced the now-flawed RSS feed reader. I can't think of any other application outside of Opera that I run on the 770. That seems appropriate since the 770 is pitched as a web tablet. But what an expensive way to just surf the web.

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