Returning to Ovi Maps, Nokia dropped a bit of a bombshell on the satnav industry the other day by announcing that it would be making its satnav service free for all. Currently, only ten Nokia smartphones, including the N97 Mini, can download the full program from here and use it for nowt. Apparently, the original N97 will get full Ovi maps support in March.
On the road with the new, free Ovi Maps satnav
There are 2D and 3D map options available, as well as satellite photo and terrain views, a dashboard with speed and distance info and you can choose from a variety of voices and languages – for some reason the 'surfer dude' voice tickled us. Ovi Maps carries some basic traffic updates and addresses of local businesses, but there's also a wide range of short and snappy descriptions from the free Lonely Planet and Michelin Guides.
It may not be as full-featured as the best dedicated satnavs from TomTom or Wayfinder, but it's certainly good enough, with plenty of potential to make you think twice about shelling out for a dedicated system. After all, it can be used off-line so you don’t get data charges if using it abroad and European customers will get maps for the whole of Europe. Aptly, the territory maps supplied vary depending on where you live.
The web browser is functional, but would have benefited greatly from a more intuitive zoom function. To quick zoom you can double tap the screen, but anything more subtle involves accessing the menu then controlling an onscreen zoom bar. Web pages are generally rendered well though, and it supports Flash video.
The decent-sized screen offers 640 x 360 pixels and over 16 million colours, so it’s nice and crisp for watching movies, although DivX or XviD videos are unsupported. Nokia’s ever-expanding Ovi service has video downloads, though the line-up isn’t exactly must-see just yet.
Ovi Maps options
The music player is straightforward with its functional interface and support for MP3, WMA and all the usual AAC flavours. What impresses though is the sound. The graphic equaliser boasts all of five presets, which looks disappointing until you realise you can tweak each of them using a proper eight-band graphic equaliser and save the settings, so you get just the sound you want.
Next page: Sample Shots
Has your brother ever updated the phone? Nokia released two firmware updates (11.0.021 then 12.2.024) wayyy back in july+august which killed most of the stability and glitching bugs, then the 20.2.019 firmware in october which polished the device off a bit and added extra functionality (and is essentially same firmware the n97 mini has used from release) - With this latest firmware your brother shouldn't really be having any sizeable problems, unless he has a fubar unit.
Those are not proper tethering, they are kludges which require clients on the connected device. To tether on Android properly, you need to jailbreak it.
Shame, on S60, you can buy Joikuspot for about 15EUR, and have full standards-based wifi/bluetooth tethering, and work with *any* OS, including certain esoteric embedded things which will maintain a wifi link/have a wireless supplicant, but upon which you can't install client software.
Hell, pay a fortune, and even the iPhone tethers. Android does not, and that just seems like a let down for something which was hyped as more "open". Yeah, I know it used to work, and Google pulled the function at the behest of a telco in the USA, but that matters not a damn to the rest of the work that it affects.
So, meantime, it's a shame, an unjailbroken ANdroid phone does not tether. You can run some slightly marginal kludges on a client machine to get some form of connectivity- but that's not only a pain in the rear, but of very limited use. Having to maintain a zillion different forms of connectivity with defferent OSsen is also more work than it's worth doing. If I boot between MacOS and Linux, I'd rather not have to start up VPN clients and various other crap to get my phone to nearly do something that it's supposed to do anyway.
Ten years ago called, they want their mobile platform back.
The keyboard is the deciding factor
I have the N97 mini, and basically it's as this review says - fundamentally great phone but using it can be a little awkward due to touch screen and OS. But I still like it for the simple reason that the keyboard makes typing a much more productive affair. Not only is it faster (because you make fewer mistakes) but you can you see the full screen while you type.
So that's the bottom line. Why would you want to buy one? Well, hi-res screen, voice navigation and hi-res camera are all nice to have, but not deal makers. But if you send a lot of emails, comment on blogs, or write on twitter whatever - anything involving text input - then the slider format of the N97 suddenly makes it a very attractive option.
Tethering an Android device to Linux
...is fairly straight forward without rooting the device.
There's at least 2 apps I know of - one of which I've used successfully and only requires openVPN on the linux machine - try googling "tethering android linux".
No, don't mind one bit..
The reason is simply that if I am going to spend a chunk of change on a smartphone, I'd want one that tethers with my Linux-based netbook sensibly. The proper Android tethering app needs a rooted phone. It's a bit of an unreasonable obsession of mine. Right now, I have a PAYG candybar, and one of those Mifi thingies for tethering (which works nicely), but there's always scope to reduce clutter.
It's a shame, as Android seems pretty impressive, having messed with G1, HTC Hero and such (looking forward to seeing a Nexus One, also).
Anyway, a fair question.