May 03, 2009

My 5800 - Top 10 faults

Nokia 5800

Nokia has done a very good job with the hardware requirements of the 5800. As noted in my earlier posts here and here, there are a number of things to love about the phone. But, as with anything else, there are always room for improvement, and here are some key opportunities. You will see that a number of examples are more interface and software related that could be modified in the future with an upgrade, which only speaks to the solidity of its specifications.

  • Video Acceleration: For all its capabilities, the phone definitely misses that zip 'on the toes' feel factor. It is not so much with the running of an application, as it is apparent with any screen changes. It could be games, switching orientation, changing between applications. There is a nasty delay, not bad enough for you to realize upfront, but just enough to slowly eat away at the quality of your interaction with the phone. What makes it worse is that that whole UI seems to be riddled with hacks to compensate, making interacting with the phone a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Cramming in just that additional video acceleration, could have freed up resources just enough to make the phone feel a whole lot zippier.
  • Uncomfortable SIM slot: The Nokia 5800 has a unique SIM slot, that involves a notch that needs to be opened and the card slid in. However, to take an existing SIM out, there is no easy way. The back needs to come off, and the SIM forced out using one's nail or the stylus. For anyone who travels with the phone - it is definitely a major annoyance.
  • Thick-headed approach to text input: This is one of the biggest annoyances with the phone. There are a total of four different means to enter text into the phone - QWERTY (landscape), mini-QWERTY (portrait), T9 predictive and handwriting. And you can choose one and only one - changing orientation does not automatically choose an appropriate keyboard. Which means no matter how you are using the phone, when it comes to entering text, you need to change orientation to the method you had set before, and use the keyboard. Here are some potential alternatives - allow preferences for the portrait mode. Switch to a full QWERTY mode for landscape orientation and the preferred mode for portrait. And here is taking it further, be aware of the stylus being pulled out, and maybe switch to the handwriting mode.
  • Contacts bar: Of the two standby screens, one is a contacts bar. Really useful and comprehensive bringing in calls, SMS and email into one location. But, you can only have four friends. And everyone needs to have a picture. And if they have more than one numbers, hard luck - no way to specify (other than setting a default in contacts) which number you want to reach them at. So if your contact does not answer their mobile, tough luck. To try their apartment number, go rummaging through contacts, just like any other contact - rendering the contacts bar useless.
  • No predictive input for QWERTY: Soft keyboards are inaccurate. The Nokia soft full keyboards do not offer any predictive correction of near miss key strokes. They already have T9, this just has to be a different sort of one to many mapping, and having no support at all is a big miss.
  • Large buttons in landscape mode: The phone interface looks comical in landscape. The entire right side of the screen it taken up by big bulky soft keys, creating space for five buttons when applications typically have need for only two. Taking up twice the space required for buttons in the landscape mode is a egregious waste of the gorgeous screen real estate.
  • Browser: In spite of the intermittent tantrums of the bundled browser (where the program just shuts down in a huff), it does a reasonable job rendering the pages. However, the interface definitely needs a lot of tweaking before it is anywhere close to being done. Here are a few examples, there is a full screen browsing mode with no back button. The browser supports tabbed browsing, but you cannot open a second tab unless the website opens a new window. Copy paste doesn't work on web pages. Try to copy the address of your current page - you wouldn't believe the hacks required. This gives you a flavor of the idiosyncrasies of the browser.
  • Applications: S60 V5 breaks compatibility with S60 V3 which in itself has the FP1 and FP2 variants. What this means is that all applications need to be redone for compatibility, and there just aren't enough applications around the 5800 even 5 months after its launch. Scrounging for new applications seems to be the main activity of the blogger groups built around the phone. Nokia did put out some applications and is working on an app store, but they seriously run the risk of alienating developers for mobile platforms by fragmenting their development platforms this way.
  • Soft key for Menu: Every thing on the Nokia 5800 can be done via the touch-screen, except for one and only one thing. Opening the menu, which for some strange reason can only be accessed by using the white menu key. This wouldn't seem that much of an annoyance till you realize that the screen is designed for single-handed use, till the need to use this button makes it impossible. Not to mention, it fully breaks the UI consistency.
  • Clunky inconsistent UI design: Which brings us to the last point - the overall theme of many of the points above. More examples. Contacts uses a good-idea-in-theory-but-bad-in-practice interface where the buttons change based on your contacts and the previously pressed buttons. Something like the NeverLost interface on Hertz cars. That probably never went through a consistency and usability tollgate. Or consider the interface to add contacts on the contacts bar - looks suspiciously iPhoneque, while nothing else on the phone does. I am sure that never went through a consistency tollgate either. Overall the UI design looks like it has been built by engineers to demonstrate touch on the phone as opposed to a consistent user experience. That probably sums up what I think is the biggest fault with the phone.

There you go! That should serve as a good list for now. On the whole, the phone is not bad. But if this going to be the future of the touch platform for Nokia, then the platform needs a lot of work. And platform is not just on the phone (i.e., the user interface and the touch enabled S60 V5), but also the community and application universe developed around the application. By all accounts, the buzz around the 5800 has been phenomenal. Now the ball is in Nokia's court.


Anonymous said...

there is one more fault, but it's a big one... there is some king of a bug in this and 5530 software causing it to malfunction... meaning dialer & contacts buttons doesn't work anymore and shortcuts bar is invisible... it's described on nokia forum, but there is no fix for it - other than hard reset, which deletes all your data from the phone memory...

Assassin said...

Very good description of the Nokia 5800 Ups & Downs. Thanx very much for posting these 2 posts on your blog. It really helps people looking out to buy this phone just as it helped me. And I've decided to buy it! :D

Anarchius said...

@Anonymous: Yeah, that is an unfortunate side-effect of new technologies (s60 5th ed in this case). Nokia's Ovi service now provides a way to automatically sync your data to the cloud. Maybe that'll help in the future?

@Assassin: Ha - welcome to the club and good luck! If you buy now though, unlike us early adopters, look out for a phone with the v40.x firmware. Has good tweaks like kinetic scrolling.

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