Designing mobile presence: The Nokia N75 and the web

I don’t use my cell phone for voice nearly as much as I use it for internet access. About a year ago I was ready to update my then two year old Samsung cell phone for many reasons; one was because it couldn’t run java applications. After working at Vulcan on the FlipStart for a year, I’d knew it was possible to access real time traffic and bus information, view rss feeds, gmail and and google maps, or run an app called Widsets (basically widgets for a mobile device), but you needed a phone capable of java. I also wanted a robust browser and was not impressed with what I’d demo’d on the Blackberry, the Trio and other cellular devices.

Sometime last year Nokia’s Symbian 60 (mobile OS) came out with a cool new browser that received rave reviews for it’s ability to display full size websites that could be selectively zoomed. I had fond memories of the Nokia UI from my first cell phone many moons ago and had read enough to believe they had the best UI currently available. I really hated the Samsung UI and hadn’t seen anything better on other brands of phones. Unfortunately, none of the US providers were offering S60 devices at that time and didn’t feel comfortable buying an unlocked phone that wasn’t supported through a carrier. So I waited. I’m good at that.

In January the iPhone buzz began. Apple was redefining the user interface for a mobile device. The product was stunning. So although I was still waiting for a US carrier to offer a S60 device, I briefly considered buying an iPhone six monthes hence. The thing is, I never buy the first generation of anything – especially something as revolutionary as the iPhone. I’d much rather let the early adaptors blow the big bucks on the first gen device while I wait for the bugs to get fixed and the price to come down.

Finally word came down in April that Cingular the new AT&T was offering the Nokia N75. This was precisely the phone I wanted. And since Cingular had a five year lock on the iPhone, I could rationalize the two year contract, as I can switch to the iPhone next year. So I bought the N75 for a sweet $150 from Wirefly.com

I’m now three weeks into my experience with the phone. And although I do think the UI is far superior to my three year old Samsung, I’m sadly not blown away. I’ll provide one example for this post with more observations to follow.

It took me DAYS to locate the S60 browser.

Cingular places MEdia Net, their internet portal, on the top level screen via a softkey. The UI for their service is – well – uninspired and clunky, with a design that looks straight out of 2002 (and that’s generous.) Their goal, one assumes, is to keep you in a walled garden of content — not really let you explore the wild world of the web where their chances of monetization are greatly reduced.

So where was the GOOD browser – the one that would burst me free of mobile web constraints? Nokia has about 12 categories in their top level menu. One is called “Games and Apps”, and that’s where Gmail landed when I downloaded it so you might think it would live in there. Nope. I finally stumbled across a link called “Web” in a folder called “Tools” There’s nothing to suggest this web link is any different from the Cingular MEdia Net link as the icon is exactly the same, so imagine my surprise when it indeed launched a new browser with the S60 zoom capabilities. Days after desiring and searching for this well touted feature, I’d finally FOUND it.

What’s wrong with this picture? The primary driver for my purchase took my hours to find. And I WANTED to find it. The user guide didn’t tell me where to find it. An hour’s worth of research online didn’t tell me where to find it. Cingular’s website didn’t tell me where to find it. I had to stumble across it and take a stab after having already taken many other stumbling stabs that hadn’t found a target. This experience did nothing to enamour me to either the new AT&T (there, I said it) or Nokia. While I would love to build some brand loyalty to a manufactor and/or a carrier, it hasn’t happened yet.

More observations to come.

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11 Comments

  1. ryanah624 said,

    June 13, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Just a bit you might want to know (and obviously are beginning to figure out)…

    AT&T Mobility / Cingular Wireless is moving to a very streamlined operating system like Verizon has been using for years. It sucks, but, one thing they did not do is completely cripple the N75. I have had an N75 for a few days now and ran into the same problem you did. What you need to remember is that this is Symbian… therefore, it is 100% customizable to your tastes. Not only can you change the background/theme, but you can build your own themes or rewrite menus. Look around on google…. hey, even Nokia’s Forums have downloads to do all of that and the majority of it is free & the same stuff they use in house. Play with it a bit & trust me, its not as bad as you may think.

  2. Rich said,

    June 18, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Thank you so much. I bought this phone for the S60 capabilities and was floored by how poor AT&T’s MediaNET was. Like you say, a sterilized version of the Web. Thank you so much for helping me find this. Cheers.

  3. seacat said,

    June 21, 2007 at 10:23 am

    this is a great user-generated content post–if you don’t mind, i may well use it to illustrate the enormous amount of information available to companies if they are looking for it. this kind of feedback is worth a million…literally.

  4. June 21, 2007 at 11:23 am

    […] a blog with intelligent, useful feedback on a recently purchased Nokia N75–I wonder if Nokia is listening.  The post received two comments back with agreement on the […]

  5. Argueta said,

    June 25, 2007 at 8:06 am

    I got the N 75 for it robust MP3 player capabity, As I travel a lot, Carring only one gadget would make it easier for me. However, I just found out that there is no airplane mode in this phone!!!. They recomend to turn the phone off. That said, I will not be able to use it as MP3 player while flying!!!

    Please tel me that I am wrong!!!!

  6. shae said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    YES! you are wrong! lol 😉 use the phone in offline mode ( press the power button once and select the profile offline, in the opposite sense, to return to service, change back to another profile it will ask to change phone to access network say yes. )

  7. substrata said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Delighted to hear there is indeed an “airplane” mode. Checking the owner’s manual, I see no mention of an “offline” mode under music — or anywhere else in the manual. Being that “offline” appears below the fold of the screen, it would take an intrepid user to a) scroll down and find the term “offline” and b) recognize this term to mean “airplane mode.” So again, great product, not so great UI. Ah well. The iPhone sold 700k the first weekend…. better user interfaces are on the way!

  8. sasa said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    is there a way to increase the font size on the N75?

  9. substrata said,

    July 7, 2007 at 6:50 am

    A bit of research says no, not through the N75’s software or firmware. I have found a website offering a download-able app to increase font size; sounds like it might be a little buggy on the N75 though, so proceed carefully.
    http://shop.psiloc.com/en/Application,262290,Psiloc+Font+Magnifier

  10. Adam said,

    August 7, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I picked this phone up a few days ago, and the day after I got it I unlocked it, debranded it, and I’m now using the phone as Nokia intended it. Big improvement!

  11. wilfredo said,

    August 10, 2008 at 10:05 am

    nokia n75 font size ???????


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