Monday, September 24, 2007

Nokia E70 for phone n00bs

I just bought the Symbian S60 v3-based Nokia E70 mobile phone based mostly on the glowing recommendation of Maddox. Since this is my first somewhat advanced mobile phone (taking pictures on a phone is still a novelty for me), I've chronicled all of the hoops I needed to jump through here in a E70-for-dummies type guide. In addition to this guide, of course, I would highly suggest browsing the excellent user manual that ships with the phone to navigate using its myriad features.

Phone calls
I got the phone off of for $385. Since it is an unlocked phone, inserting the SIM card from my previous phone (a pretty old-school Nokia ... unsure about the model number) enabled the phone calling features.

Internet Service
I upgraded to the unlimited Internet service from my provider (AT&T) for an additional $20 a month by going into their (pitifully understaffed and crowded) store and asking for it. Selecting the globe icon on the main screen will launch the web browser. The web browser lacks a couple of things that you would expect to find on a regular browser, namely support for animated gifs and flash movies.

Firmware update
Updating the firmware is probably the first thing you should do when you get your hands on the phone, as it will erase all stored data and potentially make previously installed applications unusable. The updates for the US edition are available from Nokia's site here. From reading some message boards, it appears that the main benefits of this update are that applications are faster and less memory-intensive. There have been a lot of reports of the phones bricking (those posts, however, are mostly about a year old), so don't say you haven't been warned! My phone, since I bought it recently, shipped with the newest firmware installed and I did not have to go through this step.

Installing applications
The E70 allows you to install applications on your phone, both from Nokia and from third parties. Once they install, you can find it under Menu->Installations (Menu is the key both in portrait and landscape mode with the blue icon and nothing else on it).

Google Maps
Google provides a Maps application for Symbian-based phones. In the E70's web browser, navigate to and accept the web site's offer to install the application. One of the confusing things about the application is that the labels that tell you how to control Google Maps via the buttons on your phone do not adjust to fit landscape mode. Press the left/bottom selection key for the menu, the middle joystick to zoom in and the top/right selection key to zoom out.

There is a SSH client called Putty for Symbian phones. To install it, you'll need to download the application and then install it via the Nokia PC suite, which makes installation pretty easy (on a Windows PC, that is -- Ubuntu 7.04 didn't recognize the phone as anything: camera, storage, phone, or otherwise). You must enable self-signing applications to install themselves via the directions here. Installing fonts for Putty might also make your experience with it more pleasant -- get them here. Unfortunately, there's often a lot of lag between when you type something and when you see the output. Check out the options menu to send special characters (Esc comes in handy for using vi!).

YouTube has a website for mobile users that your E70 is automatically redirected to when trying to access YouTube. To view videos, you must first set the default access point in Menu->Media->RealPlayer->Options->Settings->Connection->Network to whatever connection you want the video delivered over. Then click away on your favorite video. Or at least your favorite video among those offered -- YouTube only provides a limited subset of all of its videos for viewing on its mobile site ("Only a portion of YouTube videos are available on mobile at this time. We are working hard to bring you more!"). The video quality is pretty good.

Transferring Phone Numbers
AT&T claims that they can transfer your phone numbers if you have all of your phone numbers saved to the phone's SIM card. Apparently they have some device at the AT&T store that does this and they will do it for free. I have a hard timebeliving AT&T (a.k.a. 'Nickel and Dimeing you for Every Minor Service to Protect our Failing Business Model') would offer anything for free, but that's what they claim.

Text Messages
My phone is able to receive text messages but not send them. This is because the phone ships without any message center specified, which means the phone has no idea where to send the messages to get them to their final destination. To change this, go to Menu->Messages->Options->Settings->Text message->Message centers->Message center->Msg. center number and change that number to whatever your message center's number is (reference). Mine was +13123149810. Alternatively, there are services like text140 that allow you to send text messages to a phone from a computer, but it lacks a lot of the convenience of sending a text message from your phone. Using this message will also not charge you for sending text messages (you're just accessing the 'unlimited' Internet, right?).

AT&T Phone Support
This is an arduous process I suspect I'll be going through a few more times, so here's what you need to do to talk to an actual person on AT&T phone support (thePalo Alto store can be reached at (650) 617-8931):
  1. 1 to continue in english
  2. 3 for an existing customer
  3. 2 for all other information
  4. Enter phone number in question
  5. 0 to speak to customer service
  6. 0 (again) to speak to customer service
  7. 2 to not participate in a survey
Incidentally, once you start talking to a person and not a machine, they have been quite helpful. Be prepared to give the last four digits of the social security number on the account if you want to make any changes.

Using WLAN Access Points for Web Access
I've found that using WLAN Access Points is one of the weaker features of the E70. Connections fail for every reason, whether it be the WPA authentication screwing up, the phone dropping connections or just failing to connect to an access point that is literally a foot away. If you can get them to work, however, they're a lot faster than the cellular network. Use Menu->Connect->Conn. Mgr.->Availab. WLAN->Options->Define Access Point to put an access point that your phone can currently see into a permanent list of access points. Use Menu->Tools->Settings->Connection->Access points to access this list and configure the details on each point (encryption, hidden network, SSID, etc.). To select the connection to use upon each launch of Web, select Web->Options->Settings->Access point->Always ask.

The Bluetooth menu can be accessed via Menu->Connect->Bluetooth. To view paired devices, move the joystick to the right.

The resolution on the camera is pretty bad, and the phone doesn't come with a flash, which drastically limits the utility of the camera. Getting photos on and off the phone, however, is pretty easy since you can access the phone file system via Windows Explorer just like any other series of directories.

Gmail and Google Calendar
Both of these Google services provide very convenient mobile web interfaces. Perfect for someone who already has all of their data in El Goog's dirty paws.

Snakes on a phone! Most of the documentation for S60 Python for Nokia phones is on the wiki. To install, follow the instructions here and download the appropriate things from the Sourceforge page. Now you've got a Python interpreter (and more) on your phone... what to do with it? Well, you could install a variety of applications, for one. For help, the Nokia-supported Python forum is the definitive place for answers. There's also an IRC channel, #pys60 on freenode. There's some additional documentation for developers.

Other useful things to know

  • Cut and paste works just like on any other PC: Ctrl+X, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+C
  • Press and hold Menu to get a list of running applications
  • If you're in an app and choose the "Exit" softkey (or use the task-manager shortcut above) that will actually shut down that application, and take you to whatever you were doing before. But if you press the red end (hang-up) key to jump to the home screen, (or switch to another application,) the app stays running in the background.