Monday, 18 January 2010

Nokia 5800 Firmware v40

Kinetic scrolling! Qwerty auto-rotation! Performance boosts! New home screen!

Finally, firmware version 40 arrived for the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. And there's a good reason to dig up the good old annoyances and bugs list and give it an overhaul. Do check it out :)

The following is a short review of added/fixed functionality on the Nokia 5800 as well as some things that Nokia managed to fuck up with the new firmware.


Kinetic scrolling. Without doubt the most anticipated feature on the 5800, which only had a tiny scroll bar that was hardly usable because of the phone's edges.
* The good? It's fast, and it works virtually everywhere, even in the soft key menus.
* The bad? It doesn't work in the main (Symbian) or applications menu, or in notifications with scroll bars. I don't understand why though. It also breaks some applications that don't expect their content to scroll.
* The ugly? Well, they left the old scroll bar in, needlessly taking up space, which could be better used for check boxes, for more efficient selecting/marking of multiple items in a list. Now, you still need to use the menu. Also, it works in many cases where no scrolling is needed (because every item is visible, e.g. where you select the items you wish to see on the home screen).

New 5530-style home screen. Also something many people were dying for. Especially the ones that actually use their phone to call and text and check up on their friends. I'm not that kind of person :) I personally lament the bad and the ugly as described below, and stick to the shortcut view (even though only four shortcuts are available).
* The good? Now you can control your music from the home screen _and_ see your contacts _and_ have more than four (scroll horizontally) _and_ still have shortcuts to your favourite apps.
* The bad? The "contact screen" has no calendar view. But I guess it's either time management or friends, right? Still only four possibly shortcuts to apps. The music widget crashes easily (if you press forward when only playing one song, for instance).
* The ugly? The contact and music widgets appear on an ugly grey background (should be transparent) and the contacts font is jagged. On the bottom of the screen, two soft key-style buttons appear for contacts and the dialler. But they also look plain ugly and break the phone's style. Solution? Get a non-default theme. For instance on this dailymobile thread.

Keyboard rotation. Whenever you turn the phone in landscape mode, you will switch to full qwerty/azerty/qwertz/whatever-layout. Back in portrait mode, the T9-style keyboard will be available. Sheer logic, but it took Nokia over a year to implement.
* The good? It's fast, intuitive and works flawlessly.
* The bad or ugly? None. Although I can still moan about some more general issues with text input on the Nokia 5800.

New Real Player version. They do not mention what actually changed in this Real Player version, but I noticed a few things: The screen does no longer go black when you're streaming audio and lock the phone. It used to make the controls unavailable (the only way to summon them back, was to use the remote control).
* The good? Probably bug and stability fixes.
* The bad? It's still shit. Pauses streaming audio when no longer foregrounded (and there's no decent alternative to listen to audio streams like internet radio). No equaliser, or any of the functionality the music player offers.
* The ugly? Should be integrated in one media player, really.

New alarm and incoming call screens when the screen is locked. When your phone is on standby, it will now display a gorgeous screen when the alarm is triggered or when you have a call. It neatly states what's going on and gives two options: For alarm: snooze (slide to the left) or stop alarm (slide to the right), for incoming calls: answer (slide to the left) or unlock the phone to do something else (slide to the right).
* The good? No more accidental muting alarms/picking up calls with your thigh when the phone is in your pocket. The sliding works very well, too. And it looks very slick!
* The ugly? Style-break with the rest of the phone. As in: the rest of the phone should look like this.

New Upgrade SW application. The "Update applications" apps has been renamed, got a few buttons extra and looks slightly slicker.
* The good? Well. Nothing big really. I guess it's slightly more user-friendly.
* The bad? Still no manual update of the repositories possible. It updates only once every 24 hours, no matter how often you start and shut down the application.

Other features. Nokia obviously tweaked around a bit with other stuff. Most of it will go undiscovered because they're changes under the hood. Whatever I find, I will list here.
* Ovi Contacts pre-installed. I personally don't care too much for this, but if it does not hit performance, why not.
* Faster. Yes, again the phone seems to be faster and more responsive.
* Better touch screen sensitivity. This may be imaginary.
* More stable. This I've just read somewhere. I guess that with better memory usage (probably tweaks for better responsiveness), less crashes occur. Although the Ovi store already crashed on me in the first 2 minutes.
* Switch Phone is now under settings. True, it was a bit hard to find.
* Some new icons here and there. Waste of time.
* When typing full-size qwerty, the pop-up letters indicating which character you hit, have become slightly bigger. Waw.
* The "system tray" (right upper corner) menu now highlights where you tap. Still looks a bit silly with those red underlined links to for instance bluetooth or wifi connection. There's no need to use hyperlink-style buttons here.
* Download! application made way for the Ovi store. Ovi Store integration is still sad though: From the Symbian menu, there is still the soft menu option to "Download applications" which takes you to the bookmark section of the web browser, which has a bookmark to "download applications", which then sends you to the web version of Ovi Store, which then opens the Ovi Store app (which really is a web app). Go figure.

Overall impression of this firmware update? I never thought using the good, the bad and the ugly could be such a help in describing both functionality and usability problems with hardware. :) So with the help of this trinity, I present my final impression:
* The good? A lot of usable improvements made working with this phone easier, faster and more fun and give it a chance of surviving another year in smartphone land. Furthermore, Nokia is showing its customers that it cares, which most definitely is a good way to bind customers to your company.
* The bad? Some things feel like they're never going to change. Every time a firmware update is done, I need to hard reset the phone (several times even) because one feature or the other will have magically disappeared. This time, I haven't managed to get my e-mail widget back on the shortcuts home screen. And I'm not alone. Still no internet radio player (how long can it take them to convert the s60v3 one to touch?)
* The ugly? Actually, this is a bad too, but it dwells in the realms of usability and style. I feel like a guinea pig. Every firmware update for this phone works as a test case for one new feature or the other, seeing how people will receive this or that. But it is never consistently implemented (neither looks nor functionality) and it never gives us what we all want (even though a loud opinion exists on blogs and sites all over the net). Secondly but relatedly, the phone feels pieced together but lacks an overall usable interface still.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Clear story, I'm looking forward to install the V40.
JW

TiGeR said...

Hey,
very interesting Post ! A pretty spefcific review covering all the "great new enchanchments"..
Anyways just to comment on your statement regarding the lack of decent streaming apps, the you most probably never tried the (oer-hollandse ;) ) tunin.fm app !
Even though they don't officially support the 5800XM (any touchscreen S60 5th edition device for that matter) it does work with the exception of the volume-keys... And I can assure you once you tried their quality you won't go back (especially to real Player :P)...

sander said...

thank you :) i am aware of tunin.fm's existence and it does its job pretty well. however, it lacks an extensive channel list, which is why i'd prefer nokia's internet radio. A belgian expat living in Berlin, i specifically miss the belgian and german radio stations. :) also, it's not designed for touchscreens and hence it looks a bit uncool. But surely it's better than nothing. I dug it up and installed it again to my newly formatted phone.

Sander

sk-ap said...

Hey, unfortunately the update for the German version isn't out now :-/

But somethings completely different: check this out:
Ovi Maps navigation [1] is now FREE , anyway if walking or driving.
[1] http://maps.nokia.com/explore-services/ovi-maps

sk-ap

Anonymous said...

For the ugly 5530 style, download a 5530 font, with opacity: http://forum.dailymobile.se/index.php/topic,16447.0.html

sander said...

Thanks for the tips. I'm sure to write an article about the new Ovi Maps soon.

As for the v40 firmware, change your Device Code to something else (e.g. Scandinavian) with the Nemesis Service Software. After that, you will get the v40 using the Nokia Software Updater (so far, Ovi Suite and Over-the-Air don't work).

S