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Month: August 2013

Throwback Thursdays: Nokia 9000 Communicator

Throwback Thursdays: Nokia 9000 Communicator

Nokia 9000 Communicator

Last week I showed you what happens when you shrink a laptop too far – and how it doesn’t really work. What happens when you reverse the process though? What happens when you take a phone and make it bigger?

People have always wanted their phones to do more. Make longer calls, receive text messages, emails, even faxes at one point. And what about answering these messages?  We’ve grown accustomed to power users running with QWERTY smartphones, even if they’ve on to slate devices now.  The stereotypical businessman’s image? Briefcase in one hand and BlackBerry Bold in another.

Tracing the QWERTY phone’s roots brings us to the Nokia 9000 Communicator.  At first glance it looks like a normal 90s phone – T9 keypad on the front, small grayscale display above the keypad, and a small antenna nub up top.  Flip the phone on its side, however, and open it up to reveal a full landscape QWERTY keyboard complete with a row of numbers and arrow keys.  The topmost panel also contains a large grayscale display with a pretty high resolution (by 90s standards) of 640 by 200 pixels.

The Nokia 9000 Communicator’s Legacy

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One direct relative of the 9000 was the insanely popular Nokia N97 and it’s smaller sibling, the N97 mini. For all intents and purposes it wasn’t a particularly brilliant device – it ran an already outdated OS on meagre specifications (and that damned resistive touchscreen) but everybody in Malta wanted one.  Hell those things were built like a tank, too.  Sure the device looked beat and had its fair share of wear and tear but it ran almost perfectly.  Kudos to Nokia’s build quality.

The very last device in the Nokia 9000’s bloodline is the gorgeous E7, a phone I myself lusted after for a few months but then lost interest in (Symbian was a dealbreaker for me, even then).

Most companies these days have stopped production of QWERTY devices because the demand just isn’t there.  Virtual multitouch keyboards coupled with increasingly smart autocorrect have killed the need for a hardware keyboard entirely, for better or for worse.  Despite QWERTY’s death the 9000’s core principle of full connectivity lives on today. Speaking personally if you send me an email the chances are that I’ll read it and reply to it from my phone, not my PC.  Same goes for social networking too.

Ultimately the Nokia 9000 Communicator was an impressive device for its time and spawned a niche of devices that at one point dominated the market and have since faded into obscurity.  What’s next?

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Throwback Thursdays: The Sony P Series Laptop

Throwback Thursdays: The Sony P Series Laptop

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This is a notebook that does require some introduction. They didn’t sell very well and in the 4 years since the first model came out I’ve only seen a single one in the wild. The P series was small, tiny even, featuring a wide but short display and not much more than a keyboard. No touchpad, you have to use a trackpoint to make your way around Windows.

It came at an awkward time. Netbooks were all the rage but their lack of power was frustrating to say the least and tablets, while definitely and interesting concept, were still a year away from being commercially viable.  The age of ultra portable notebooks hadn’t dawned yet, either. If you did want something with a moderately sized screen and a full size keyboard your only choice was an “ultraportable” laptop. Sure they were portable but they were expensive, low on power, and short on battery life.

Sony knew all this but pushed forth, building one of the smallest notebooks ever. It makes netbooks look big and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen clutch purses bigger than it. Trust me, this thing was TINY. It looked good though, with lots of colours to choose from and a pretty good display to match. The second generation even had an accelerometer to let you use the notebook vertically and the screen would rotate accordingly. Sweet stuff.

But Was It Any Good?

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Here’s the problem: the thing was expensive. $900 was the original sticker price for the P Series and the 2nd generation brought that down to a slightly more affordable $800. I don’t remember how much it was sold for in Malta but it was I do remember that it was some crazy figure.  This is Malta after all.

Reviewers did praise the keyboard though, which makes sense. They appreciated the trackpoint and it’s high sensitivity too. Paul Miller (The Verge, then at Engadget) said:

 we actually appreciate the subtleties of its movement as compared to a touchpad, since the high resolution screen requires some very specific mousing to be able to work with … If you’re a real ninja, you can actually click with the trackpoint, but it’s a bit sensitive, so we’re still building up to it. (Engadget)

Performance was alright, if one keeps in mind that the device launched with Vista.   The P series would have been much better off sticking to XP. Vista was tough enough on Intel Core processors, let alone a tiny Atom CPU.

The trouble is that there comes a time when small is too small. You couldn’t properly use it on your lap, for instance, or while lying down. I’d imagine using it on a desk would be a little awkward too – it doesn’t have any palm rests at all.

The Legacy of the Sony P Series Laptop

Honestly? There isn’t much of a legacy.  Netbooks have all but died out but in the 3 years of success they had nobody tried to go down Sony’s road and shrink their notebooks down to such an extreme size.  The P series wasn’t all that practical and it was too expensive to ever become anything more than a niche product, a gadget more than a tool.

Tablets may be to blame for its demise.  The Nexus 7, especially the 2013 model, has proven that small tablets are great for both media consumption and production. I’ve worked on full-sized Excel worksheets during Accounts class on my 2012 Nexus 7 and I was keeping up with others just fine. Sure my fingers hurt a little and it was a little cramped, but it wasn’t as bad as one would think.

The P series has fallen into the technological ether where other crazy ideas go when they’ve been forgotten.  This Sony notebook is one of those things we lust after pretty badly but don’t buy, even if we can afford to do so.

That’s it for this week folks. Click through the gallery below for some more images of the Sony P series and do check out last weeks Throwback Thursday if you missed it, the Nokia 3310! Oh, and enjoy Santa Maria!

Images taken from Engadget

BlackBerry 9720 Announced With BB7 In Tow. Wait, what?

BlackBerry 9720 Announced With BB7 In Tow. Wait, what?

BlackBerry 9720

Imagine this: you’re CEO of a company struggling to remain relevant in a cut throat industry dominated by Google, Apple, and Samsung.  You’ve got just one chance left and your latest creation has been pretty well reviewed by the press. You’re making progress, people are waiting for your second wave of devices to ship. What do you do?  You don’t ship a phone with your old OS, that’s what. What are the Canadians thinking?!

Their reasoning isn’t too bad. They want a cheap entry level device to lure young customers into their eco-system and stealing users from Android and iOS. Trouble is that quite a few entry-level Android phones these days have specs that are over and above what the 9720 offers.  Heck they’re much faster too, have better cameras, offer far more apps, and actually belong to the present.  2009 can keep the 9720.

You can’t milk a dead cow

You want to lure budget-minded customers to your ecosystem? Take your best experience and make it cheap.  These days Android OEMs are building ever more powerful “budget” devices with dual core processors and 8MP cameras running a version of Android not more than 2 releases behind. That is how it’s done.

RIM, before renaming itself to BlackBerry, was not just a hardware company but a software company too. Have they lost that?  BlackBerry 10’s current specs are pretty high end, with all 3 devices running on Krait chipsets. So why don’t they just optimise the OS for cheaper, older chipsets? I know it’s not an easy task, but it’s what has to be done.

The company is in serious trouble and it knows it. Windows Phone (by extension Nokia) is gaining ground at an incredible rate, all at BlackBerry’s loss.  Samsung, the biggest phone OEM on the planet, is also getting into the encryption game and competes with BlackBerry not only with messaging services but enterprise security and encryption too.

BlackBerry: kill BlackBerry 7 and forget it ever existed. BB10 is your only hope for salvation and every single thing you do that strays from the vision you outlined with the Z10 is another nail in your coffin.

Throwback Thursdays: The Nokia 3310!

Throwback Thursdays: The Nokia 3310!

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This is, perhaps, the single most recognisable phone to come out in the last decade. Think about it, everyone and their mother can tell what it is, or at least that Nokia made it.  You may not have owned one but the phone’s incredible popularity in the early 00’s means that you’re bound to have seen one  –  or a dozen.

The 3310’s Legacy

The 3310 has single handedly brought Nokia’s legendary build quality to levels of awe usually reserved for Chuck Norris. Heck, it’s the one thing he can’t break!

All kidding aside the 3310 memes helped Nokia stay relevant and at the back of people’s minds even if they were getting ridiculed. Ever heard anyone call the Lumia 920 “flimsy” or “weak”? Doubt it. 999 out of every 1000 Nokia memes out there feature a 3310. Such as….

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Here’s a gallery of memes I found lying around on the interwebs.  The source is found in the caption.  Here’s to being ‘internet famous’.

So it’s famous for being a meme?

There’s more to it than that. The 3310 really is a brick of a phone that’s incredibly hard to kill. For many teens it was their first phone, either buying it new with some funky custom panels or as a hand me down given to them by their parents. I didn’t have one personally, but quite a few members of my family did. Heck, my grandmother still uses hers, even though the battery is no longer measured in terms of weeks but in terms of mere days.

You what this thing had that almost no other phone on the market has today? Genuine Snake. And Space Impact II. Remember Space Impact? That was a hell of a game. Sure the 3310’s controls weren’t the most ergonomic or intuitive but as kids we didn’t really care.  I play Snake every once in a while on my grandmother’s 3310 every once in a while and it’s as frustratingly addictive as the first time I laid eyes on it. Good time, good times.

images courtesy of GSMArena.com

Introducing Throwback Thursday!

Introducing Throwback Thursday!

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Over the years we’ve all had that one device we lusted over and wanted oh so badly – but never bought. Or that one device you miss now that you’ve sold it off or lost it. I really miss the Nexus One I’d sold off to buy my Desire Z. No phone since has felt as special as that, and I know lots of you Nexus One owners out there feel the same way.

This nostalgia, however shallow and materialistic it may be, is important. And that’s why I’m starting Throwback Thursdays.

But What Are Throwback Thursdays?

A weekly feature post about a past device that was important, much loved, revolutionary, or just plain weird.  I celebrate the eccentric, the sensible, the weird, the plain, the beautiful.  Lord knows how many devices have come and gone that made us go WTF yet we still wanted. You’ll be seeing them here.

I’ll take a look at the device itself, its legacy, what made it special, and what people remember about it. Not just phones and tablets you know, but any piece of consumer electronics. The Nokia 3310? Check. The original Playstation? Check? That really tiny Sony notebook, the P series? Check.

Keep an eye on this space, the first post goes up tomorrow at 8AM, and another the week after that, and another a week after that. So on, and so forth. Hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoy writing them.

Wanna see them all in one place? A “Throwback Thursdays” photo album will be going up tomorrow on our Facebook page! A snippet from my post will accompany the photo, of course, and comments will be open!