Since my last post about Gaming/Apps on the Nokia N8, several cool apps have been released and software updates pushed out to existing apps. This post will talk about the new & improved Ovi Maps available now, some apps I recommend (and like) for the N8, and a bone to pick with topApps on the Nokia N8.
- Ovi Maps
- Skype for Symbian
- WordPress for Symbian
- SoundHound for Symbian
- Loop App
- Fixing topApps and the Ovi Store
In my earlier posts, I recognized that the N8 isn’t perfect, but thankfully, Nokia is starting to take the first steps towards making the Nokia N8 a solid phone that I will be able to recommend without hesitation. I’ve touted the fact that Ovi Maps comes with free turn-by-turn navigation. However, for people totally new to the Symbian environment, using Ovi Maps can be quite frustrating especially if you need to “set it and forget it”. Well, with the latest update to the Ovi Maps (Nok Nok TV has a list of major changes) application (current version is v.3.06 10wk46b01), Nokia has improved the usability of Ovi Maps and here are some changes I’ve noticed:
- Ovi Maps Dashboard: The icons appears to have been given a fresh coat of paint Here’s what the current dashboard looks like:
- Driving/Walking to Places: From the Ovi Maps dashboard, you have 2 ways to start navigating:
- Hit the “Search” button: From the “Search” screen, the portrait keyboard is brought up immediately and saves you another keystroke. For me, one of the better changes is that the font size on the Search/Categories screen has been increased. This was huge for me because most times I use Ovi Maps are when I are *already* in the car. My patience level for painstakingly entering my destination into Ovi Maps application is drastically lower so anything (in this case, it’s the larger font size) that reduces the user error is great in my book. Here’s what that screen looks like:
- Hit the “Drive” button: This has been changed to make navigation much easier. To reiterate, I just want to get up and go. Ovi Maps *finally* makes that easier than it has ever been on Ovi Maps. Here’s what the screen looks like now:
- Map Interaction: Zooming in on maps with Ovi Maps is also easier and much improved. The previous version was choppy and I was also slightly leery of interacting with the maps. However, I’ve been very impressed with this latest iteration of “Pinch to zoom” on Ovi Maps. Here’s a short video showing how seamless zooming is on Ovi Maps:
Short and sweet:Great app to have available for Symbian ^3 along with the other slew of VOIP apps like Fring, Nimbuzz available on the Ovi Store.
With regards to new & notable apps available for the Nokia N8, here’s one that should excite any heavy VOIP users: Skype is now available for Symbian^3! If you visit http://skype.com/m, your device will be detected and if supported, offer you a download link to the .sisx file. See the image below:
Short and sweet: I am not really into mobile blogging as I’m almost always with my notebook everywhere I am. However, in a pinch, this is an excellent utility and deserves an install anyway. It works for the WordPress.com site as well as self-hosted WordPress installations. I hope to see a generic blogging client in the Ovi Store soon as (if you haven’t noticed) Habari powers this blog.
When I heard of this, I attempted to download and install approximately 6 times … and failed. I gave up for awhile and decided to install the app once more. This time, it worked but I encountered some easily surmountable issues. Not letting those stop me, I simply restarted the app and I was back in business! To create a post in the WordPress for Symbian app is pretty easy and I’m glad Nokia’s taking the initiative to assist developers in creating useful apps like these.
Short and sweet: I wouldn’t call this a “must-have” app, but interestingly enough, I purchased it for my previous Android phone and now, purchased again for my Nokia N8. 🙂
Thankfully, the User Interface isn’t different from how it was on Android. The premise is simple: you’re somewhere and hear a tune you can’t place. Fire up SoundHound and it should spit out the song’s name and details on who sang it, etc. It’s pretty cool and you need an internet connection for it to work.
Short and sweet: The Loop app is a free and *Really* fun application for making music. Absolutely get this if you want to spend hours creating serious or silly music hooks and amuse yourself by how ‘gangsta’ you sound. Someone made this little sample. Please be gentle. 😛
I was initially skeptical about how usable this app would be, but I was really blown away by how much detail the Nokia team put into this app. It comes with 9 pre-installed tracks (that are actually quite good): Detroit, DnB, Dubstep, French Electro, Fun, HipHop, Old School Hip Hop, Poodlism and Reggaeton. You can visit LoopApp.net to get user-contributed tracks too. You’ll have to download the Loop app to sample these tracks. 🙂 With the Loop app, you can add a ‘base’ (colored yellow) which would be any of the 9 tracks or one you create yourself!. Then, you have about 3 more layers of music/sounds/beats to add before you get greeted with the “tracks are filled up” message. From there, it’s easy to “merge” and add more music layers! Just go give it a shot, will ya? It’s free. While you’re at it, check out this pretty creative video/ad shot on the Nokia N8 and music provided by the Loop App! 🙂
- One of the things I have to commend Nokia for doing is starting topApps which is another application that came preinstalled on the N8. It’s sort of like the Ovi Store, but for recommendations by Ovi Store staff. From the official description,
topApps is a free application for use on Nokia touch-enabled devices (running S60 5th Edition), that features a homescreen widget for devices like the Nokia N97, and loads of details about content in Ovi Store that is referenced in ways that encourage exploration and discovery.
This is great, but I sorta wish I didn’t have yet another obstacle between finding great apps to use. If the Featured, Reviewed or Staff Picks apps features are incorporated into the Ovi Store app, I would be one happy camper because that removes another hurdle towards easy app acquisition. Right now, items showcased on topApps are limited to a certain number and aren’t directly downloadable. The featured/reviewed apps are simply linked to their Ovi Store pages and then (if you’re like me), you still have to read reviews before OK-ing a download or purchase! However, I suspect that this merger would probably require a complete redesign of the current Ovi Store layout as you’ll see in the images below:
- Another annoyance with the topApps application is the fact that everytime the application is started, it dutifully always requests access to user data and network connectivity, but only for that session. I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the app so I don’t think I’m doing it wrong. This means everytime, I have to press “yes” twice (once to allow access to user data and the second time to allow the app to connect to the internet). Here’s the video proof that I’m not crazy :):
- Also, it appears that topApps is not a native N8 app because it constantly asks me for permissions to access the internet. Again, this is one of those areas where Nokia could have removed 2 more obstacles to viewing and eventually buying/downloading apps!
- I vented about not being able to buy apps with my credit card while my ATT SIM card’s in the phone. In an online conversation with someone knowledgeable, I learned that ATT mandated that user accounts should be billed for app purchases on the Ovi store. I am skeptical that there isn’t any hidden fee to this, but I guess I’ll find out when my cellphone bill arrives. I would have some good grounds to argue on especially as (a) I don’t have a data plan (b) ATT effectively makes apps purchases a needlessly arduous/painful experience.