I drooled over the OpenMoko Neo1973 recently, but it still has beta hardware, alpha software, and an ever-slipping release date. Meanwhile, my Sony-Ericsson K750i is literally gathering dust inside the screen (the casing must be leaking) and the control stick is jamming. Plus, it's old tech, and I'm a hardware nerd.
Hence the Nokia N95. 5 megapixel camera, 480p video recording, built-in GPS to track my whereabouts, a proper OS, voice recording for memos to Diane, and oodles more. Nokia are advertising it as a computer: "It's what computers have become"... unless by that they mean that computers have become mobile phones.
So I called Orange on 450 to request a PAC code. Their automated menu charged me 25p for the privilege of being told the office was closed for today, so I consulted the excellent saynoto0870.com and located an 0800 number for the porting department: 0800 376 2285. They won't send it out over phone, email, or SMS. Presumably this is because a PAC code is even more security critical than my name, address, account password, PIN, credit card number and credit card security code, all of which they are happy to transmit over the air.
Simultaneously, I ordered the new phone from 3. There is a bug in their order form which prevented me from giving them my previous address, so I gave them my previous-but-one address. The new phone was scheduled to arrive on Thursday 9th August.
I initially started writing this post to show off some of the leet things the N95 can do, but it slowly turned into a diary of the madness that is switching mobile networks and dealing with dodgy hardware. Here we go:
8th August: Not so fast. No followup email from 3, so I give them a ring. After being passed around call centres, they tell me I've passed the credit check but they still need proof of my address. Huh. Nice of them to tell me. A bank statement will suffice apparently, so he gives me a number to fax a copy to. Wait: fax?! Do fax machines still exist? He advises me to go to my nearest 3 store and get them to sort it out. I do. The 3 store says it's all taken care of now.
The guy on the phone told me to wait until 6pm to see if I've received a confirmation of dispatch email, otherwise to phone and arrange a different delivery day. It's up to me to arrange an alternative delivery day if I hear nothing? Shouldn't they at least tell me there's a problem? We'll see.
9th August: Nothing has arrived, in the post or via email. I call them again to enquire. My proof of address has apparently been accepted, and is in the "validation" phase. The guy on the phone said "90% of orders pass through this phase". Er, they do, do they? Is that a good thing? He said there is nothing more for me to do, and that I should wait to receive a dispatch confirmation email. Again, if I've heard nothing by 6pm, I'm to phone back. Why? He already said there's nothing more I can do.
10th August: The phone did arrive! But I was away all weekend, so couldn't collect it until the next Monday.
13th August: It's here! I start playing with the phone. It's quite cool, but a little slow. The video recording is amazing. The Symbian interface is sluggish and all-round pretty nasty, but then I do have extraordinarily high standards after having used super-speedy Ubuntu/KDE apps. The PAC code also arrives from Orange. I decide not to port the number immediately, as I still had a bit of PAYG credit to use up, and I have no confidence Orange will refund it.
A couple of days later I start getting the infamous "SIM card registration failed" message, followed by "Insert SIM card", which renders the phone unusable until a restart. Some forum post suggested the SIM card wasn't seated correctly, and that I should put a thin piece of paper between it and the clamp. No luck. I went into the menus to Settings - Connection - Packet Data and changed "Packet data connection" to "When available" (it was on "When needed"). No change. Can I put up with this?
17th August: Phoned 3 and asked them to port my number, and they told me it would be done on the 24th. WHAT? 7 days?!
19th August: "Insert SIM card" is back, along with a tendency for the N95 to reset itself randomly. I called 3 services, who determined in short order that I should take the handset to the nearest repair centre (Carphone Warehouse) to rule out hardware flaws. He said they will have it back to me within 7-8 hours. Fine. It's not connected to my real number yet anyway.
20th August: Carphone Warehouse looked at it, took the battery and SIM card out, tried another SIM card in the phone for 8 seconds, then declared there was nothing they could do with it. I phone 3 and they agreed to send a courier to collect the phone. He arrived about 4 hours later; not bad. The guy on 333 said they'd have my phone fixed and back to me by Wednesday.
24th August: It's Friday, and no news from 3. Furthermore, my number has now been successfully ported to my new phone! That means I don't have any phone at all now. This is not looking good.
25th August: I phone them up on 0800 3586795 to ask where my phone is, and a guy tells me it's still in the repair place. I tell him I'm going on holiday at the end of next week, and he promises to do his best to get them to ship it back to me by Friday. They'd better.
28th August: They haven't called back, so I call them again. Glasgow tells me the phone has been shipped out "with new internals", and that it'll arrive tomorrow. Yay! I ask for a refund for the missing days, and Customer Services calculate that (20 days without the phone being usable = £13) and give it to me. Pretty good. So assuming the phone arrives tomorrow, the story we have here is a hardware fault (Nokia's fault) that 3 have dealt with more or less admirably. We'll see if it's fixed though.
(I note with interest that when my call to 333 dropped due to the signal fading, he called me back immediately; good service, poor network?).
29th August: The phone arrived early, and it said "Insert SIM card" as soon as it was charged and turned on. Shit. Restarted and it worked for an hour, then reset itself while I was telling the Web browser to use Wifi. And then when connected to the PC in USB data transfer mode. I phone 333, tell them that the problem has returned, and they agree that I need a new SIM card. Unfortunately my old one gets deactivated as soon as the new one is sent out, and there is a 3 working day wait for a new one, and since it's Wednesday and I'm going to Portugal on Saturday morning for 2 weeks, I'm stuck with this buggy phone until I get back. Let's hope I can work around it.
30th August: 3 phone me! It was their engineering department wanting more info on the problem, specifically the 6-char string on the back of the SIM card. I told them I intended to buy a basic PAYG SIM card, so that I could at least use the non-phone parts of the phone while away. They said it would work, but that they didn't know if I'd be able to get a refund. I went to the 3 shop and did so. £10. The phone worked brilliantly all day.
17th September: Back from holiday, I phone and request a new SIM card. They said it would arrive tomorrow.
18th September: It didn't.
19th September: Or today. Hmm. Guess it's still 3 working days after all. Why can't they just say so rather than making hopeless promises?
20th September: Finally! A new SIM card arrives, and it works. Furthermore, I call up 3 and ask them to refund everything I've paid up to this point, except the PAYG card, which I think is reasonable. They do so. I'm happy.
21st September: 24 hours without a problem. The conclusion is now that 3 have a bad batch of SIM cards which are incompatible with the N95, and that if you're getting the "Insert SIM card" message, you need a new one. I can't say this has been the best start to a new phone, but I'm fairly pleased with the way 3 handled it.
So! This N95 then. Is it as great as it was cracked up to be all those months ago? The answer... is yes!
Browsing all the most important websites is easy.
Actually the built-in browser isn't too fluid. I expect Opera would be nicer, if they made a version of Opera for Series 60.
Putty does work though, enabling use of high-end enterprise-level software such as...
... NetHack! Playing it is possible! All letters are typeable on the keypad in old-school 4-taps-on-the-pqrs-key-for-an-s style, and Putty has a menu option for sending Ctrl characters. Other characters, like # and , are available by trawling through the character selector. The only major problem is that you can't see the whole screen at once. Some might call this an intractable problem, but Zen ascensions have been done...
ScummVM has been ported to Series 60, so there are some slightly more user-friendly games out there too:
It's beautiful, with perfectly emulated audio too.
Finally, some other points of interest:
- The N95 generates some of the worst "GSM buzz" I've ever heard. Is this 3G in action? Because it means I can't put the phone anywhere near speakers.
- The slider on my first handset wobbled, even when closed. The second handset is a lot better, but still not perfectly solid.
- The Wi-fi connection is nice, but drops frequently.
- The map application is brilliant. I used it probably 3 dozen times while in Portugal, and even the tiniest, cobblediest roads are marked on and navigated through perfectly.
- Video wobbles as if the sensor is printed on a sheet of thin paper which shakes whenever you pan or move.
- Autofocus sometimes fails persistently on certain scenes; when you don't get the green square, the picture is guaranteed to be rubbish.
- There are too many buttons in too little space around the directional pad. It's too easy to press the wrong one.
- The speakers are excellent.
- 3 have rearranged Settings so that it appears on the top level menu rather than under Tools.
- The default image/video name is DDMMYYYY. This means an image taken 1st January 2007 (01012007.jpg) will be listed before one taken 2nd January 2006 (02012006.jpg) in most directory views. This is wrong. It should be YYYYMMDD.
The next step is to find a neat fold-up bluetooth keyboard, so I can have myself a good ol' outputting-to-the-TV laptop!