Opera Mobile has a turbo mode which makes it behave like Opera Mini. The main advantage of turbo mode is that it saves a lot of data traffic, which could make a big difference on your phone bill if you're roaming abroad and pay by the megabyte. It looks like Opera Mini in just about everything else too. Same user interface with tabbed browsing, Opera Link to synchronise your bookmarks and speed dials with other Opera browsers (like Opera Mini) on all your phones, and the same annoying "are you sure" confirmation screen when you want to close the program.
• Opera Mobile
Skyfire is not a good mobile browser (slow, eats lots of data, only works in North America and Western Europe), but it does let you watch Flash and QuickTime movies, and because of its american proxy server it allowed those outside Germany, England, and the USA to listen to last.fm without having to buy a subscription.
But hurry, because Skyfire is going to ditch Symbian. Skyfire's site only lets you download the iPhone and Android versions, and they announced that the proxy-based Symbian version 1.0 will stop working at the end of the year. The latest Symbian version of Skyfire is 1.5, but all the signs indicate that this version will die together with version 1.0.
Skyfire for Symbian is no longer available from Skyfire's own website, and they've pulled out of the Ovi store too. You can still get Skyfire 1.5 from Mobile Castle:
Skyfire 1.5 at Mobile Castle (you'll need to create a free account, or use BugMeNot) UPDATE: Mobile Castle is dead. And so is Symbian.
Update: Skyfire is really dead now. No version of Skyfire connects on my Nokia. They promised to kill it and they killed it.
Now that Skyfire for Symbian is about to die, it might be a good idea to give Bolt a shot.
Symbian web browser Bolt does tabbed browsing, has a good user interface, and it does a good job at conserving page layout (except for sites with frames). Bolt plays YouTube and other Flash video, but Skyfire does it better.
There's no predictive text input, so entering URLs can be a bit unpleasant.
Bolt is made in mobile Java. The official site only gives you a .jad file, and wants you to download the corresponding .jar file from your phone for an on-the-fly install. Of course you can also open the .jad file in a text editor to look up the URL for the .jar file if you want to look inside the file before installing it on your phone.
If Bolt doesn't play sound on your phone, switch to a profile with warning tones on and try again. Yep, that sucks, but it's a disadvantage common to mobile Java programs.
Bolt UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Bolt at GetJar UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
VoIP, chat, and twitter program Nimbuzz connects to SIP (the standard VoIP protocol), GoogleTalk, Jabber, MSN (Windows Live), Yahoo, AIM, Twitter, Gadu-Gadu, Facebook, MySpace, orkut, and Hyves.
It used to connect with ICQ too, but not anymore. After having to remove Skype from their program they had to do the same with ICQ.
The reason: money.
ICQ wanted Nimbuzz to pay for everyone who chats over their network with Nimbuzz. Obviously that's not gonna happen for a free program. Nobody pays to chat, so there's no way for Nimbuzz to recoup the money.
No more Skype in Nimbuzz and fring is a big loss. Having ICQ removed from Nimbuzz is no big deal because there are plenty of other instant messaging networks left. But let's hope that GoogleTalk and MSN don't follow the bad examples set by Skype and ICQ, because then the end of multi-network chat programs is nearby.
ICQ doesn't seem to work anymore with Palringo either. Fring still has ICQ. But who knows for how long?
Friday, 5 November 2010
VoIP, chat, and twitter program Nimbuzz connects to SIP, GoogleTalk, Jabber, MSN (Windows Live), Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, orkut, and Hyves.
Nimbuzz has a well designed user interface, and that interface got better. The latest version of Nimbuzz lets you hide unused tabs. For example, you can get rid of the Twitter tab if you don't tweet. You can also remove the new "recent calls" tab, but I'm gonna keep that one.
Other new eye candy: chat interface with avatars and without, three views for the contacts list (avatars, no avatars, avatars for highlighted contact only), and if you send pictures to your friends you'll see a preview image in the chat screen.
More good news: the old limit of 400 Facebook contacts has gone. If Nimbuzz only could get Skype back into the program...
I downloaded Nimbuzz 3.0 and installed it on top of the old version. Unfortunately Nimbuzz forgot my settings. It remembered my network accounts and VoIP provider (because this is stored on Nimbuzz's server), but it reset my preferred VoIP provider from SIP to NimbuzzOut, which is a shameless way to plug their own calling plan. It also changed my notification sounds to default and reactivated all the vibration alerts that I switched off. So remember to go through the settings screens when you update your old version of Nimbuzz.
• fring (the main competitor of Nimbuzz)
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Unofficial english translations of the latest edition of chinese Symbian web browser UC Browser were already available on most mobile phone software forums, but now you can get UC Browser version 7.4 straight from the makers.
UC Browser is similar to Opera Mini. It routes sites through a proxy server to speed up surfing and reduce the data traffic consumed by your phone. Web pages can be displayed like in a desktop browser, which means lots of scrolling and zooming in and out on small phone screens. You can choose adaptive view instead. This resizes images and reflows text to fit the width of your screen, which eliminates the need for horizontal scrolling. Adaptive view in UC Browser 7.4 is much better than in older versions, especially for sites with extensive formatting and other eye candy. You can also activate page segmentation, which splits large pages into smaller ones for faster loading and easier browsing.
UC Browser has a download manager, makes it really easy to copy text and images, and deleting your browsing history and cookies requires less clicks than in other Symbian web browsers.
The "my shortcuts" screen of UC Browser looks like a mix of Opera Mini's speed dial page and a bookmarks menu. Unfortunately it is filled with links to sites chosen by the makers of UC Browser and you can't remove the clutter. Do these sites pay UC Browser to get themselves advertised this way? The shortcuts screen would be way better if it would mix speed dials with your own bookmarks folders.
• UC Browser
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Youlu Address Book is more than an address book. It's also an SMS program, call recorder, and "vibrate on answer" application. A name like "Youlu Contacts" would fit this versatile program much better.
If you trust Youlu's server with your private data it can backup your contacts, messages, and calender to its server. This not only gets your phone book back when your phone gets lost or broken, but it's also useful for synchronising your data between phones. But even without Youlu's online backup there are still plenty of reasons to use this very useful program.
Youlu Adress Book does the things you expect from an address book (make phone calls, edit your contacts, send SMSs). The latest version reads the contacts on your SIM card too, and it lets you edit the pictures associated with your contacts. Youlu lets you tie ringtones to contacts if they're stored in the standard sounds folders on your phone. It doesn't see sound files in other folders, which is great if you want to set a ringtone without having to scroll through the thousands of MP3s that you may have stored in your music folder.
The SMS tab shows your messages as threaded conversations. The latest version of Youlu sees all your messages, even if you move them into custom folders. Even better, Youlu lets you choose whether you want to group conversations by contact or by folder. And unlike some other SMS programs, messages that you send with Youlu appear in the built-in SMS application of your phone too.
Some minor things to fix:
The phone book manager doesn't have all the fields from Symbian's built-in address book. Anniversaries, SIP (VoIP) numbers, and notes are among the missing entries.
The FreeCallSprite-like "vibrate on answer" function didn't work when I tried it.
The call recorder works if you activate it with the central navigation button, but the "record with camera button" option made Youlu crash on my phone.
Hitting the red hangup button sends the program to the background instead of closing it, and when Youlu runs in the background it won't show up in the task manager when you long-press the menu key. Exiting the program still requires a trip to the menu in the settings tab. Maybe a future version of Youlu can let us configure the behaviour of the red button and make the program appear the task manager when sent to the background?
If Youlu fixes the few remaining issues it will be very tempting to ditch my phone's built-in phone book and SMS client and use Youlu instead. Especially if it gets an offline backup function to store contacts, messages, and calender entries in a file on my own memory card and computer instead of on Youlu's server.
Youlu UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Last time I checked, the official site still offered version 1.0.1 of the program. But version 1.0.2 (which is much better) is available on Ziddu:
Youlu 1.0.2 (english version) on Ziddu UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Monday, 1 November 2010
Symbian may have gone open source, but it is a commercial operating system for commercial phones from commercial companies who use it to make as much money as possible. That's why Symbian Signed protects the interests of Big Business at the expense of the small independent programmers who have to pay to get their programs signed even if they want to give them away for free.
Symbian being commercial is no problem as long as you can choose to pay for it if you want instead of being forced to hand over your money. If you prefer the products of the competition, you shouldn't have to pay a single penny to Symbian.
But now I have to pay for Symbian whether I use it or not. Because the makers of Symbian held out their greedy hands and pocketed €22000000 of my tax money from the European Union to increase the profits of Nokia.
If the shameless beggars from Symbian would have had balls they'd have refused this tax handout. They wouldn't even have applied for the money to begin with.
What's next? Will this get just as ugly as the Boeing vs. Airbus subsidy war? Are Android and Apple going to grab a cut from the Stimulus Program? Will RIM lobby to get their Blackberries subsidised by the government? Will we have to pay a Windows Mobile Tax because Bill Gates is short on cash? Funding phone operating systems with public money is plain wrong!
Shame on you, $ymbian. I want my money back!
UPDATE: The 22 million is split by the taxpayers and the members of the Symbian Foundation, so we only got scammed for eleven million. And now Symbian has the nerve to defend their actions on their blog and tell us they only stole half. Maybe I should start robbing people on the street and see if I can get away with it if I only take half their cash?
• Symbian bragging about their robbery
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Opera Mini is an excellent web browser for Symbian, mainly because of its tabbed browsing and its proxy server that compresses data to reduce data traffic and increase speed.
The bad news: Opera Mini was coded in Java. This made things easier for the developers, because they could make a "one size fits all" installer that works on every phone that supports mobile Java. But this made the program start and run as slow as quicksand, and spit out an endless stream of security warnings and repeated requests for permission to go online.
The good news: we no longer have to suffer the limitations of mobile Java when we use Opera Mini, because now there is a real Symbian version of the program.
The new Opera Mini for Symbian loads much faster than the old Java application. Gone are the security warnings (Do you really want your web browser to go online? Duh!). Also gone are the repeated requests to define an access point because Opera forgot your choice of five seconds ago. Too bad that it can only remember a single access point instead of an access point group, a.k.a. as "destination" in Symbianspeak. But even so, one stored access point is better than nothing.
Scrolling through websites is a lot faster than it used to be, your cursor runs way smoother than back in the Java days, and your phone's predictive text input now works in Opera Mini too.
More good stuff: the hidden settings page of the old Java version also works in the new Symbian version of Opera Mini.
But there's still plenty of room for improvement. For example, the menu could use an overhaul and tabbed browsing could be made a lot easier.
Just about every Symbian program launches a standard cascading menu layout when you hit the left softkey. But Opera Mini has a horizontal menu bar near the top of your screen. This menu bar comes with shortcuts to the home screen, back/forward/reload buttons, an exit key, and a dropdown menu to go to your bookmarks and settings etc. This may work on a computer screen with a mouse, but it gets annoying real quick when you have to use the four-way navigation button on the keypad of a non-touchscreen phone.
Opera Mini 5 comes with tabbed browsing, but changing tabs requires a trip to the menu, because in normal page view the cursor gets stuck just below the tab bar. The cursor should go all the way up to the tab bar. If UC Browser can do it, Opera Mini can do it too. And don't tell me that I can toggle tabs in Opera Mini with a keypad combo; memorizing keyboard shortcuts has been obsolete since the death of WP5.1 and MS-DOS.
If you want to delete your cookies, clear your browsing history, erase stored passwords, or clean up other privacy liabilities you'll have to take a trip to the bowels of the settings menu. Message to Opera: the privacy options of a web browser should be clearly visibly and easy to get into. There's simply no excuse for burying the privacy tools in a hard-to-reach location. Opera Mini runs on mobile phones, remember? Those little pocketable things that are lost and stolen and abused wholesale.
One final bit of nitpicking: when you close Opera Mini it offends you with an annoying "are you sure?" dialog box. There's no way to switch this "feature" off. The red hangup key is no help either, because this only sends Opera Mini to the background. Opera, do you really think my fingers are so fat that I keep hitting the exit button by accident? The exit confirmation screen belongs in a museum, not in the latest version of Opera Mini!
Tailoring Opera Mini for Symbian is a good start. Let's hope that the other issues will be fixed in the second Symbian version.
• Opera Mini
• Opera Mini hidden settings
UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, story Dennis Bournique at WapReview posted this great review of the new Symbian Opera Mini: wapreview.com/blog/?p=8127
Two blogs know more than one, and ten blogs are even better. For a one-stop method to get the best out of 10 Symbian blogs check out this all-in-one feed:
• Ten Symbian blogs collected by Symbian Underground
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Symbian music player TTPod plays mp3, ogg, aac, mp4, m4a, wma, mid, and amr files. It has a sleep timer and an alarm clock with custom snooze time. There's a mini player for your active standby screen, but you can't control TTPod from the active standby screen like you can control your phone's built-in music player. TTPod shows album art. It can display lyrics too, but only from separate lyrics files. It won't show lyrics embedded inside an mp3 file.
TTPod can sort your music by file name and by mp3 tags, and can edit tags too. It can also browse songs in folders, which many versions of the default player won't do unless you use a workaround.
TTPod is frequently updated and is probably the best free music player for Symbian, with more functions than commercial programs like PowerMP3.
TTPod is made in China. The official website is in chinese, and so is the program itself. Fortunately there are many unofficial english translations available.
UPDATE: Symbian is dead, and so are most sites that host Symbian apps. The links below no longer work
TTPod (official site, chinese)
TTPod v3.80 Beta (english version) at Mobile Castle
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
UC Browser (the former UCWEB) is a Symbian web browser on par with Opera Mini. UC Browser offers tabbed browsing, a choice between a direct web connection and a proxy to reduce data traffic (which may help reduce data roaming charges), download manager, content folding against horizontal scrolling, page segmentation for faster access to big web pages, and many more useful options.
UC Browser is updated often. The test versions are released in chinese, but unofficial english translations always appear rapidly. Check the links below for the latest test version of UC Browser 7.4.
• UC Browser
UC Browser 7.4 build 10101818 (unofficial english translation) at Mobile Castle UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Monday, 25 October 2010
Many years ago, chat networks like MSN tried to stop multi-network instant messenger Trillian from including their network into its "one app to bind them all" program. But not anymore, because they learned that people are connected to multiple networks and they don't want to run a separate program for each of them. You wouldn't want to run separate web browsers for .com and .net domains either, would you?
What goes for computers also goes for mobile phones. Multi-network clients fring and Nimbuzz combine a bunch of instant messaging networks, VoIP using the widely used SIP standard, and Skype as well.
But not anymore. Skyped turned back the clock and blocked fring (or fring ditched Skype, check the mudslinging on the fring forum), and Nimbuzz announced that they'll have to dump Skype at the end of this month. Not because they want to, but because Skype told them to.
Nimbuzz connects to VoIP using SIP, GoogleTalk, Jabber, MSN (Windows Live), Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, Twitter, Gadu-Gadu, Facebook, MySpace, orkut, and Hyves. It does Twitter too.
Fring has VoIP (SIP), GoogleTalk, MSN (Windows Live), ICQ, Yahoo, AIM, Twitter, and social networking sites like Facebook and orkut. Fring is also a GMail notifier, last.fm radio player, Facebook tool, Twitter application, and it includes Wi-Fi hotspot finder WeFi.
Skype's own Symbian application pales in comparison. It does Skype and nothing else. So if you want to be connected to all your chat and VoIP networks you'll have to run two programs, which takes an extra bite out of your battery life. Yes, that sucks.
My advice: boycott Skype until they accept that multi-network programs are the way to go and being anal retentive is just plain stupid. Don't pay Skype a single penny until they grow up.
• Skype for Symbian
Friday, 22 October 2010
Youlu Address Book is a phone book, SMS program, call recorder, and "vibrate on answer" application. It can also backup your contacts, messages, and calender to its server, which may help synchronising them with other phones.
Youlu's contacts manager lets you edit your address book, make calls, and send SMSs. It also displays the call and message history of your contacts, which the built-in contacts application does not. Selecting the message history takes you to a threaded conversation view similar to programs like Smser and Free-iSMS.
Youlu won't let you set or change the picture associated with a contact, but it lets you edit its ringtone. It only sees the ringtones in your phones' default sound folders, which is a good thing if the all-seeing built-in contacts application chokes on the thousand mp3 files that you stored in a folder full of music on your memory card.
The SMS tab shows threaded conversations, but it only sees the messages in your in- and out folders. Anything in your custom folders stays hidden for Youlu. On the bright side, this speeds up the program if you keep the number of messages in the in- and outfolders reasonably low.
Youlu can backup and sync your contacts, messages, and calendar with its own web server if you trust them with your private data like your phone number, contacts list, messages, etc. Even if you don't, Youlu is useful without connecting to their servers.
Unfortunately Youlu is far from finished. Its call recorder didn't work on my phones. Neither did the "vibrate when outgoing call is connected" option, which is supposed to work like FreeCallSprite. Maybe it will work in the next version of the program?
One annoying feature of Youlu is that the red hangup button doesn't close the program. It only hides it, even for the task manager that pops up if you long-press the menu key. You can shut Youlu down from the menu, but only in the settings tab, and then you still have to click yes on a confirmation screen which serves no useful purpose at all.
But this is only version 1.0.0. If they can fix the broken parts Youlu may become a very useful program. Youlu Addres Book is much more than an address book, so maybe Youlu Contacts would be a better name for the program?
Youlu (official site) UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Youlu 1.0.0 (english translation) at mobile9 UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Youlu 1.0.0 (english version) at MobiCreed UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
UPDATE: Call recording appears to be fixed in Youlu 1.0.1. Warning: installing the new Youlu on top of the old version changes all the settings back to default, so you'll need to configure them again after updating the program.
Youlu 1.0.1 (english version) at GizmoGates UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
If your phone complains about certificate errors, you'll need to sign Youlu at Open Signed Online or with your own certificate, or you can hack your phone and install Youlu without signing.
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Ovi Maps is a great navigation program if you don't want to rack up expensive data roaming bills, because Nokia's voice navigation app lets you store all maps on your phone, unlike competing programs like Google Maps which require a live data connection all the time.
The stripped version of Ovi Maps (without guides and voice navigation) is free. Voice navigation and guides are free on all new Nokia phones, and on a few older Nokias (free on Nokia 5800 XM, 6710, 6730, C5, C6, E5, E52, E55, E66, E71, E72, N8, N86, N97 (mini), and X6 as of October 3, 2010). Older Nokias don't get voice navigation for free because Nokia wants you to ditch your old phone and buy a new Nokia. But at 10 euros a year for older phones a license for Ovi Maps is not that expensive. According to Nokia, the 10 euro fee is for covering the costs of giving you a license (read: you pay 10 euros so Nokia can process your €10 payment). You can save Nokia and yourself the €10 processing cost by using one of the unofficial free versions of the program instead.
Map coverage is not as good as for Google Maps, but Ovi Maps works well in Europe, the USA, and Japan, and it's usable in the major cities of India unless you're looking for the Taj Mahal. There are many spots of terra incognito in the rest of the world. The city and country travel guides in Ovi Maps are so incomplete that they border on being useless, even though they come from companies like Michelin and Lonely Planet. On the bright side, you can use your own voice for voice navigation if you're willing to spend time on recording the instructions, and recently Nokia added cell tower triangulation for faster positioning.
Unfortunately Nokia made downloading maps impossible for Linux and Mac users and anyone else who can't install Ovi Suite or Maps Updater on a PC with Windows, .NET, and a set of rather heavy system requirements (try it on a netbook if you're of the masochistic type). That's where the Nokia Map Loader Alternative proves its usefulness. It points to the map files on Nokia's own server. With the Nokia Map Loader Alternative you can download Nokia's maps with any web browser on any operating system. You can even use a browser on your phone, so you can preload maps without having to touch a computer at all.
The Nokia Map Loader Alternative is updated with maps for the latest version of Ovi Maps 3.x. The most recent map version is 00_02_41_123 (this is the version of the map data, not of the program itself). Of course you can also download maps for older versions of Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps, including Nokia Maps 2.0 if your phone won't run Ovi Maps 3.
Load maps on your phone without Nokia Maps Updater:
• Nokia Map Loader and Nokia Maps Updater Alternative
The following links may be useful for you:
Ovi Maps 3 doesn't work on older Symbian phones. Check the Ovi Maps site to see if your phone will run Ovi Maps 3. If it doesn't, try Nokia Maps 2.0 instead.
• Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps Updater from nokia.com
• archived copy of
Nokia Maps 2.0 (with free voice navigation) on Mobile Castle UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
If you want to download Ovi Maps without Ovi Suite:
Ovi Maps v3.03.246 at GizmoGates UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Ovi Maps 3.04 10wk17 b07 at Ziddu (modified to install on your memory card, useful if you're short on internal phone memory) UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Nokia Ovi Maps v.3.04.278 at Ziddu (signed, so you don't have to hunt for certificates or hack your phone) UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Ovi Maps Beta v3.06(78) at GizmoGates (beta test version, only for very new Nokias) UPDATE: This link is dead. And so is Symbian.
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Nav4All was a mobile Java application for mobile phones that used the maps from Navteq. But not anymore. Nokia bought Navteq, used its maps in Ovi Maps, gave it away for free, and it seems that they didn't want to license the maps to competitor Nav4All anymore, or at least not for a price that made it worthwhile to compete.
But it's no big loss, because Nav4All wasn't a very good program anyway.
Some alternatives for Nav4All:
• Ovi Maps
• Google Maps
• Mobile GMaps and Locify