Getting started: Nokia N97

My Samsung BlackJack II with Windows Mobile 6 finally got to me.  I have never hated an electronic device the way I hate this phone.  But before I digress into a rant I’ll just say this: never buy a phone with Windows on it.  Windows mobile has all of the features of Windows 95 with the stability of Windows ME.  Towards the end of it’s miserable life my BlackJack would just turn off for no reason other than that it knew how worthless it was and was tired of leading such a pointless existence.  Better yet, AT&T sold me this phone and provided me with absolutely no support … thanks guys.

But the good news:  I replaced it with an UNLOCKED Nokia N97.  In comparison, this phone is heaven on earth.  I’ve managed to play around with most of the features that I consider essential:  music player, web browser, Wifi.  The pundits have given this phone some really rough reviews so I’ve gotta post some positive stuff since my experience has generally been good.  Here goes:

First things first is updating the firmware.  Nokia has fixed a bunch of bugs related to the interface so having the latest software is a must.  I was able to download v12.2.0.024 through the “SW update” application with no problem.  The interface was much more responsive after the update.  Initially it was super slow to respond to the change between portrait and landscape layout when rotated so the update is a must.  No doubt there are other important fixes but this seemed like the most visible to me.

After the update I grabbed the USB cable that came in the box and plugged it into my laptop (running Debian Lenny).  It “just worked”, detected without any issues and mounted it like a mass storage device.  From there copying songs was just drag and drop.

The amount of storage on this phone is huge: 32G built in.  So not only is the music player good, it can hold more than enough music.  I was kinda let down though when I realized that the music player doesn’t grab album cover art off the web.  This makes sense if you’re trying to minimize network traffic and since data plans are still super expensive it’s probably the right thing to do.  If you’ve got cover art saved in the directory with an album the player recognizes it no problem though so I guess this gripe is really just cosmetic.

So next was browsing the web.  The browser is pretty smooth and the flash player on it works great with YouTube.  No complaints here.  There’s even a feed reader that you can populate right from the browser.  Just pull up the menu on the right side of the browser, tap the icon that looks like three horizontal bars (the significance of which I still don’t get) then tap “Subsc. feeds” and you’re good.  The feed reader is simple enough but for whatever reason the menus don’t hide themselves like they do in the web browser.  This cuts out at least 1/4 of the screen real estate and for feeds with images this can make them pretty much unreadable till you open them up in the browser.

Eventually I got sick of waiting for the 3G connection to load pages with big graphics so I brought up the Wifi control panel.  Managing connections on this phone is a little awkward so if things don’t work right the first time and you have to go mess around with setting you’ll have a hard time finding the right place without hitting the manual.  Lucky you can get it off the Nokia site.

The Wifi connection is automatically set to be preferred over the 3G so my phone switched to the Wifi as soon as I activated it.  I tried to hit the web but it was super slow at first, then I started to get an error message: “Web: No Gateway Reply” … Very descriptive so I knew what to do right away … troll the interwebs for a few hours trying to find forum / mailing list post documenting a solution.

Seems like this error message basically describes any and all problems with a data connection on this phone.  I even found a page dedicated to trouble shooting this error but mostly their suggestions were focused on fixing bad configurations on home routers.  Eventually I started playing around with the configuration settings on the phone manually and got it to work.  I’ll post the work around tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll even figure out how to take screen shots.