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Last Monday marked the first time I spent less than 24 hours in a foreign country that isn’t a flight transit. I left KL on the 3:40pm flight to attend Showcase Nokia 2009 event at Singapore, and took the 6:45am flight back home the very next morning. In all I spent about 14 hours in the city state but it was fantastic.

The only regret I have was not being able to spend more time with the fantastic hospitality offered at Mandarin Oriental Hotel. That luxurious king size bed with the most comfortable mattress, the excellent city view (free upgrade to deluxe or something), and that bathtub.

Oh well, lets get back on topic lest I digress.

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
Showcase Nokia 2009, Singapore

The event was held at Zirca, Clark Quay, a more fashionable part of town when it comes to night life. As the name suggest, Showcase Nokia is traditionally an event where Nokia showcases their upcoming products and services. Even amidst the currently gloomy global economy situation, the company did not fail to impress with their upcoming product planned for release later this year.

Chris Carr of Nokia
Chris Carr, VP Sales, SEAP Nokia

Chris Carr, the VP of Sales from Nokia delivered the announcements of new products and services with a somewhat lengthy but very informative presentation.

Instead of merely flooding the market with more and more handsets of different configurations and ever increasing capabilities. Nokia seems to be taking a slightly different approach by offering services that works in conjunction with the devices. A very good blue ocean strategy if you ask me.

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
Mobile Messaging for the Masses, mobile IM, and Ovi Store

Nokia target in the near future is email for the masses. Most of us was thinking why would Nokia start concentrating email while almost everyone who is reading this already has several email accounts.

Well, apparently we aren’t exactly the core target. Mobile phone penetration is much higher than computer/internet penetration and that is where a lot of people could be getting their very first email account. If it works out well, a lot of people are going to have an Ovi email address soon. (over 100,000 new sign ups in beta test alone)

At the same time, Nokia is also working to bring other mail services on their devices. Personally I am already using Mail for Exchange and loving it, give me the ability to log into multiple email accounts in one interface and I’ll be a very happy person. I can’t wait for that.

The other messenger centric announcement was the ability to log into multiple IM accounts with a single device. Something meebo and ebuddy is already doing, but I am hoping Nokia would do a better job in merging the different protocols together.

Another service announcement from the company is the Ovi store. Something that is long overdue if you compare to Apple and it’s iTune store, but it is finally here nonetheless. The store will incorporate some social networking elements in it, this could be interesting.

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
Nokia E55, N86, and 7610 Nagivator

Of course, a showcase Nokia is never complete without the announcement of handsets, and this time around we have quite a few offerings.

On the business front there is the E55 and E75. There’s the N86 as the latest addition to the impressive N series product line. The 6710 Navigator for the road warriors. The 6710 Navigator with the slightly curved profile as if the second coming of the old banana phone that so many adored. There are also 3 other classics – 6700, 6303, and 2700 to complete the range.

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
these models are too tall!

Nokia N86:
The N86 is a successor to N85, but to me, not a very pure successor to my trusted N82, which is still the only offering from Nokia with a Xenon flash. The reason given by the head of marketing, Bambos Kaisharis was that the dual LED flash in the N86 are strong enough for normal photography and yet still be able to operate while shooting video. Something out of  Xenon flash’s capability.

N86 comes with a whopping 8 megapixel camera with variable aperture (a first in mobile phone, but unfortunately we aren’t allowed to adjust the aperture manually) and up to 1/1000s shutter speed. Together with the 8gb internal memory and OLED display, it certainly look pretty impressive, but I’ll have to test out the production version when it comes out before (maybe) relegating my N82 to second place as the best camera phone.

Nokia 6710 Navigator:
The Nokia 6710 Navigator is the first phone that comes bundled with ‘drive and walk’ navigation software that works with Nokia maps. Previous navigator (and N series) phones are bundled with Maps but you have to purchase the navigator add-on separately. I wonder why it took Nokia so long to do this, shouldn’t it be obvious from the get go that navigation software is essential for GPS?

The ‘drive’ capability is limited to the home country while the ‘walk’ works everywhere in the world. The capabilities come with the device and does not have an expiry date. Too bad they don’t offer the option to buy a one time license for the ‘drive and walk’ navigation software to be installed in other Nokia phones.

Nokia 6720 Classic:
Don’t let the “classic” in 6720 fool you into thinking that this is a low end device. It comes with 5 megapixel camera, GPS, and that slightly curved side profile for better fit to your face. I think the curve is a little too minor to actually offer any significance, but it sure looks nice.

To me, the most important feature in 6720 Classic is the active noise canceling and it’s huge battery that allows up to 20 days standby time. I would love to see active noise canceling technology in future XpressMusic range too.

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
The Nokia E75 looks like a winner to me

Nokia E75:
The most promising device of the evening must be the E75. This baby offers traditional alphanumeric keypad as well as a slide out qwerty in a normal phone size that does not make you look like you’re talking to a water bottle (E90, anyone?).

The phone also comes with 3.2 megapixel camera, GPS, and a 4gb memory card, which is sufficient as a business oriented phone. I can’t wait to play with the production model that should arrive within Q1 this year.

Nokia E55:
The E55 looks like an improved version of E51 and with similar size and a mini qwerty keypad that supports predictive text. Standby time is a whopping 28 days (GSM). Again, GPS and a 3.2 mpegapixel camera are included. This is the smallest E series phone

Showcase Nokia 2009 in Singapore
myself and Vlasta Berka, GM Nokia Malaysia

As for the 3 classic phones, they are just devices to cover the lower end of the market, I shall not bore you with the details.

Overall the event was pretty interesting, we even had a Q&A session with 3 experts from Nokia (Sirpa Ikola, Raj Sambwani, and Vincent Julien), each of them in charged of a different category (navigation, software, connect). We talked about how data charges remain an obstacle to wider adoption of mobile phone as a data accessing device and cleared up many questions we had.

Overall it was a pretty interesting and certainly informative event. I’d like to thank Hazel from Nokia and David from text100 for the invitation.

I’m heading to Bangkok tomorrow, this time on a personal chillax trip with Mell. Can’t wait!

Thanks to David Lian, I’ve got myself a review unit of the highly anticipated Nokia XpressMusic 5800 phone for a couple weeks to play with. The phone has been returned since and I am currently suffering withdrawal symptoms. I constantly try to touch icons on my N82 and try to move the screens around to scroll web pages.. ahh.

However, I shall not digress, here is my take on the XpressMusic 5800.

Nokia XpressMusic 5800
full screen qwerty keyboard & hand writing recognition

Size and Form Factor:
First off, I really like the fact that the phone is only as big as the N82 and weigh pretty much the same. Most other touch screen phones such as the various Windows Mobile devices are generally much larger and wider, and thus not terribly usable especially when you try to operate it with only one hand. The 5800 fits nicely in the pocket and snugs into my palm comfortably.

On the side of the phone you find 2 volume buttons, a slider for lock/unlock, and a dedicated camera button. A power button can be found on top of the device, and just underneath the screen exists the call button in green, menu button in white, and the hang up button in red. I find the semi-minimalistic approach pretty nifty when it comes to answering calls and adjusting volumes (especially when you are playing music and browsing web pages, not needing to flip applications back and forth is really useful)

Nokia XpressMusic 5800
mini qwerty, simulated keypad, XpressMusic player

As a Media Device:
XpressMusic phones, as the name suggests, is aim at music lovers. In this regard, the 5800 does not disappoint. The device is bundled with an 8gb microSD card, stereo headphones, and very impressive external speakers that can fill up a small room pretty good.

The 640×360 resolution screen (qHD – quarter HD) is a godsend for browsing webpages. If you compare that to the N82’s 240×320 display, it fits exactly 3 times as much information on the screen. Double tap on the screen when viewing a webpage will zoom it to “very large” size, double tap again to restore back to original resolution, very useful. You can also zoom the display of a webpage in and out by percentage.

The 3.2 megapixel camera though, is rather noisy at low light condition and the pictures are miles away from the capability of my trusted N82. Put in the 5MP camera and xenon flash and the phone would be unstoppable.

Input Methods:
As some of you might have already known, the 5800 employs resistive touchscreen technology (instead of capacitive such as the iPhone). The benefit of this technology is that a stylus (and indeed provided), finger, or even nails, can be used. Skin contact is not necessary.

There are actually four different ways to input text. There is the full screen qwerty keyboard, best operate with both thumbs; the mini qwerty that is usually tapped with stylus; the simulated keypad option with T9 support; and handwriting recognition that supports both English and Chinese input. No fancy two finger gestures to zoom in and out of a webpage, but your China-imported girlfriend with nail extension can compose an SMS to you.

Personally I find myself reverting back to the simulated keypad with T9 a lot. As you touch the screen, a very subtle vibration gives you an affirmation of your action. A nice touch.

Overall:
I think Nokia has done it right with their first touch-enabled phone, the UI is rather polished for a review/prototype unit. There is almost no learning curve for Symbian S60 users, everything is pretty intuitive and straight forward, and it is an improvement in many aspects except for the lackluster camera performance.

There are several missing features on my wish list, such as a speed dial screen with more than just 4 numbers and tabbed browsing. I trust that some of these things will be corrected in future firmware releases.

Anyway, I captured a short video of the phone with my N82. Single take and unedited.

By the way, the XpressMusic 5800 is going to be launched on the evening of 9.01.09 at Pavilion. This is going to be a public event with live performances, games with prizes to win, and as David promised, lots of fun. I’m going to be there, are you?

I was at the Nokia N96 race last Saturday, a race which Cheesie and I didn’t win due to my sprained ankle and her general lack of walking speed. It was a good and fun event by Nokia, but the best thing I got from there was this little experiment thingy taught by Eevon (one of David Lian‘s slaves) of Text100.

Palm & Finger experiement
Eevon demonstrating the palm & finger experiement

  • Put your palm together like the picture on the left
  • with your other hand, touch your finger together with another person’s finger as the picture on the right demonstrates
  • move your fingers (thumb & forefinger) up and down the fingers being touched
  • what do you feel?

Try it with your friend, and tell me if you feel weird and freaky!

Others
   
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I went to Singapore for a couple days, my first time there in the last 13 years. A short trip for an interesting event, a competition organized by Brand’s that we eventually came up first… running up (which involved only two teams.)

Details of the trip shall come soon, but first, I want to also make you envy by showing you this little toy David sent me a day prior to the Singapore trip for review. A Nokia XpressMusic 5800!

Nokia XpressMusic 5800
Nokia XpressMusic 5800

The phone actually exceed my expectations, very polished touch enabled user interface. Still a few bugs to iron out prior to the full release I bet. Full review on this blog soon, stay tuned.

Singapore MRT station
Singapore MRT

Singapore MRT is a lot busier than I remember, and commuters don’t seem to line up nor actually let passengers get down first prior to barging into the train. I thought that was a little surprising.

Brand's Blogger's Challenge
Brand’s bloggeer’s challenge

The Malaysian team did not win (sorry folks!), but Red Diva, KK, Suanie, Sultan Muzaffar, and I did try our best. It was a pretty close call. More on the event on this blog soon.

Brewerks at Singapore, a micro brewery
Brewerks at Singapore

Suan brought me to Brewerks, a microbrewery along the Singapore river. Good beer, good company, but my alcohol tolerance is still tragically low.

along Singapore River
this reminds me of the Rainbow bridge in Tokyo

The scenery at Clark Quay at night is very nice. The photo above is what you can see from Brewerks. Strangely there are quite a few people jogging along the riverside at 9pm, and they’re almost all whites. We’re still deciding if they were exercising or showing off.

along Singapore River
Singapore River at night

The river cruise looks like something I might want to try in my future visit, Sheryl and I had a pretty good riverboat tour back when we were in Chicago a number of years ago when we were both very much together in the States.

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m going to be at the most eagerly waited Nuffnang + Nokia’s Silent Halloween Party this side South East Asia.

This party’s going to be pretty interesting I believe, with everyone dancing silly with their earphones on whilst the club is in music-less. It’s going to be like watching MTV in mute (careful not to mispronounce it as nude). I even bought a pretty awesome noise canceling headphones for this. Best!

Happy Halloween
No, I’m not going to go as this, it’ll be a surprise!

Nokia is sponsoring the event, which means there are phones to be given out! If my luck is as good as the Pajama Party earlier this year.. Can’t wait!

Just a few hours to go before the party starts, I’ll see you guys at Borneo Baruk Club!