Motorola & Nokia Summer Kickoff
Jun 29, 2005, 7:00 PM by Eric Lin and Rich Brome
Like reports from both coasts with hand-ons tours of new devices with new user interfaces from both Motorola and Nokia.
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As you would expect from a team like Phone Scoop, we are bicoastal. This means we can easily cover events in California or New York at the drop of a hat. However we've never taken advantage of the fact as much as we did on Monday, when we attended events in San Francisco and New York City simultaneously.
In San Francisco, JavaOne provided a venue for Motorola to launch the E895, and with it their next generation operating system. Nokia was also there showing off a few phones we hadn't seen in person yet like the new 62XX sliders.
Meanwhile, in New York City another event provided an opportunity to spend time with a few other new Nokia handsets, like the Nseries and the 6265 CDMA slider.
Read on for first impressions (and lots of pictures) from both coasts.
The E895 is a refreshing departure from the V-series flip phones. To be honest the curved bottom of the Motorola flip phones that the company considered a trademark of their visual style never impressed us. The more squarish form is made less severe by gently curved corners and a top lid that swoops up towards the hinge. The lines are fairly similar to modern Japanese phones, actually.
The E895 is smaller, and much thinner than expected. Maybe it's the swooping lid, or maybe it's Motorola's recent focus on miniaturization, but the phone doesn't seem as thick as the V5XX or V600. The size and curved edges allow it to sit nicely in your hand, even small hands like ours. However Motorola has satisfied meaty-handed users too, giving the E895 a large keypad with distinct keys. The D-Pad directions felt good too, however the select key felt a bit small. It was still easy to press and separate from the directions, so it wouldn't get pressed accidentally.
The E895 uses a new internal and external display, both of which are much improved. The internal display is QVGA (320x240) but still seems about the size of Motorola's 176x220 LCDs (like that found in the RAZR, for example). Packing more pixels into the same area makes the display exceptionally sharp - similar to QVGA displays in Japanese phones like Sharp or Sanyo uses. Motorola tells us the display is actually quite large - 2.2 inches, however the size of the phone and the sharpness of the display don't make it seem so big. The external display is brighter, higher contrast and has better color than the current models as well.
The E895 will be the first phone to feature Motorola's next generation OS. This is the OS that will eventually be in all of Moto's phones, at least the non-smartphone variety. It is based on Linux and features tight Java integration. Although it runs Linux, this is not necessarily a smartphone nor is it inscrutably geeky. Like TiVo, which is also based on Linux, the power beneath is hidden by a simple, clear menu system.
All opinions and pictures that follow are of an OS still under development by Motorola. Nothing you see here is final. Some aspects of both design and features can and will change before the E895 launches later this year.Home Screen and Menus
The home screen features many of the same elements as the current OS. In fact, it looks almost exactly the same until you get down to the softkeys. Gone are the programmable softkeys and third "menu" button of old. They are now replaced with an "options" key, which brings up a shortcut menu similar to Sony Ericsson's "more" key, and a "main menu" key. (Note, this is not the final font, and main menu will fit inside the right button when the E895 is launched.)
The new options menu contains shortcuts to common tasks hidden in the settings menu as expected, but it also has shortcuts to common application functions (like create new text message) as well. This is especially helpful since Motorola has only allowed shortcuts to applications, not specific menu items, in the past.
It's still too early in the development process for us to form final opinions on the new applications - we couldn't really give them a thorough shakedown. However one thing that was easily spotted was that the new applications have a very Nokia Series 60 look and feel to them. It was most obvious in the contacts and messaging applications, where both the look and the item names were similar.
We got to see a few big improvements to the new applications, and Motorola has told us about even more. The contacts application is finally up to snuff. It has far more fields for information, and is finally searchable beyond the first letter of the entry name. The messaging application follows suit behind Sony Ericsson and Kyocera and makes the five most commonly used numbers available on the SMS address screen.
Also, though it wasn't activated on the phone we tested, there is finally an option to auto-save pictures in the camera application instead of them being deleted unless explicitly saved. Despite this welcome addition, as well as many new options, the camera application still isn't perfect. It only displayed a tiny thumbnail on the picture review screen, negating any advantage offered by the huge display.
Motorola is using Opera 7.0 as their browser in the new OS, at least in the E895. Another HTML capable browser may be chosen later for other handsets. Finally, Motorola has included an OTA (over-the-air) software update option on the phone, something the company has been talking up and it's nice to see them committing to.
Back at JavaOne, Nokia was showing off the new slider lines they announced two weeks ago. Two versions of the 6111 were at the show, one with a white bezel, and one with a black bezel. The models were otherwise identical. The 6111 looks and feels very small - it will slide into pockets with ease. Despite its diminutive size, the 6111 was very easy to use - the slide, the control keys and even the keypad. Although the 6111 still uses Series 40 version 2, it at least has a 128 x 160 display like the 6255i.
Despite the fact that it's a 3G phone, and 3G phones have a reputation for being rather large, Nokia's 6280 is the smallest of the three new 62XX sliders. We were immediately taken with the large, bright screen. It's hard to miss on this slider. The screen's excellent color depth also helps to create a solid first impression. The 6280 has a smooth round form factor that looks unified and polished; it obviously is meant to be the flagship, as well as the basis for the other two sliders. All the edges are nicely rounded and there is no wasted space.
Especially when compared to the 6280, the 6270 just looks cheaper. First, it's visibly larger than the 6280. The bottom, instead of being rounded off in a convex fashion, is concave and protrudes out from the shape, ending with the bottom edge of the keyboard peeking out from beneath the face. This destroy the smooth lines of the 6280. The 6270 also just looks cheaper - maybe it's the matte plastic bezel, maybe it's something else, but it doesn't feel like a top-of-the-line GSM phone.
We were surprised to learn that the 62XX series (or 6111 for that matter) does not have a lens cover for the new 2 Megapixel camera, considering the recent 6680-series smartphones all have sliding lens covers. However since that would only increase the thickness of the phones, which are already thick since they are sliders, it makes sense. We just worry about the lens. The camera software works in landscape format, much like the camera on newer Sony Ericssons, and we were impressed by the interface as well as the quality of the pictures.
Finally, you can see a white screen with some text and icons on the first picture above. That is Nokia's new standby screen for Series 40 version 3. It is not complete yet, which is why it is white. When finished, it will be similar to the home screen on Microsoft Smartphones and Nokia's very newest Series 60 phones, featuring shortcuts to recently used applications as well as line displays for time and date, phone status, new messages and upcoming appointments. The white will be transparent, overlaying the data on the wallpaper, just as on Smartphones.
At the Digital Experience event in New York on Monday, Nokia was showing off their recently-announced Nseries phones. We first covered these phones in our live report from the Nseries launch event.
Even though the current three models are all 3G phones for Europe and Asia, Nokia has various plans to bring each model to the US - in some form - sooner or later.
The first will be the N90, the high-end camera phone with a Carl Zeiss lens. Just as we remembered from our first encounter in Amsterdam, the N90 is huge - one of the largest clamshell phones out there - but it is redeemed by an amazing display, solid build quality, and extensive feature set.
The N90 isn't expected to be officially released by a major carrier here, so there won't be a US-specific version. But the Euro version is compatible with T-Mobile's network, and Nokia will be selling it on its US web site in a month or so.
The N90 is now being shown off in a new color. While the first versions were silver-and-black, the new color is a lighter silver color, with a slight lavender tint.
The N70 will be the next Nseries phone to market. It's pretty much just a re-styled and upgraded version of the 6680, which makes it not very different from the 6682 that will launch soon with Cingular. The N70's 2 megapixel camera is the most obvious improvement over the 6680 series.
Nokia is working on a U.S. version of the N70, though. It could be the first Nseries phone to launch with a major US carrier, although we got the impression the deal wasn't quite sealed yet.
The N91 will be the last of the bunch to hit the market, which isn't too surprising given its advanced features like a hard drive and Wi-Fi. The current prototypes continue to feel very prototype-ish, which is not unusual, but some aspects of the phone - like the sliding keypad cover and tiny keys - feel cheap and uncomfortable, and aren't likely to improve much before release.
Nokia does plan to bring "something like" the N91 to the U.S. early next year, although they continue to be very coy about what specific form such a phone might take.
Monday's event in New York was our first chance to play with the new 6265, a high-end CDMA phone for the U.S. The 6265 is largely similar to the 6270, but CDMA instead of GSM. The key features are impressive, including a great QVGA main display, 2 megapixel camera, and a miniSD memory card slot.
The 6265 we tried felt great, with good ergonomics and solid build quality. It's a good size, and surprisingly light. The hardware seems well-designed, right down to small, thoughtful touches like the sliding cover on the 2.5mm headset jack, and the ridge below the display that doubles as a grip to slide the phone open and an indicator light.
The 6265 is one of several phones that will be the first to use the new, redesigned Series 40 interface for QVGA displays.
Most of the new interface looks promising, although pretty much anything looks good on a QVGA display. The menus all use the same pretty 3D icons as the N90.
The new interface looks like it still needs some tweaking, though. For one, the text in most places is very small, and not adjustable. And in general, it just doesn't have the same "refined" look (yet) that we're used to with a Nokia interface. We look forward to seeing the final version.
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Slider key lock?
My husband needs one hand operation and prefers the flip phone for unlocking and answering ease, but it easily slips from his hand when trying to open it - broke the last one that way. Has to carry in an upper pocket or pants pocket so size is an issue, no space for a case to protect it. In my mind a slider and Nokia brand for reliability in our area (other brands drop calls or go into roaming a lot sooner) may be a win/win.
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E895 surprisingly Nokia-like
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Nothing wrong with GSM, of course, but CDMA is doing just fine.
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N Series coming US! WOot
they look good