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Ten Things that Nokia Did Right in making the 5800 XpressMusic

Having spent an entire feature slamming Touch in general and perhaps the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic in particular, I think it’s only fair to give Nokia some credit and balance the equation with a breakdown of Ten Things that Nokia Did Right in the 5800, things which they didn’t have to do but which impressed me nevertheless. Are these ten plus points below enough to make the 5800 XpressMusic a must-buy? Maybe, maybe not, but their very existence speaks well of Nokia, of the 5800 and of sister devices to follow. Let’s get started.

1. Elegant full-screen use

Harking back yet again to Steve Jobs’ claim at the iPhone’s launch that existing designs used ‘too much plastic’, referring to the waste of frontal area by using a d-pad or qwerty thumb keyboard, it’s clear that, real world misgivings aside, there is a lot to be said for a screen that occupies the maximum possible area, with control elements displayed as needed, according to whether you’re entering text, playing a game, browsing the web or watching a video, etc. The Nokia 5800 is firmly in this camp and pulls off the trick remarkably well, considering that its firmware isn’t very mature yet – it can only improve further in this regard.

nokia 5800 screen

2. Decent battery

With many recent Nokia smartphone designs blighted by an underspecified battery (cough, N82, N95, N96, E75), it’s great to have 1320 mAh under the hood. Admittedly with the display set on maximum brightness and with a lot of video podcast/iPlayer watching [maybe that’s just me!], the battery still isn’t going to last for days, but for average phone/music/text use the 5800 should comfortably last the distance.

nokia 5800 battery image

3. Carl Zeiss lens

Again, a welcome design choice here. For such a ‘budget’ smartphone (it’s not even in the Nseries range), to have decent optics makes a significant difference. Reviews which slam the 5800 XpressMusic as having a ‘weak’ camera haven’t taken the time to understand why shots sometimes go wrong. The problem is that the aperture and sensor sizes are small (probably dictated by the build cost and by the amount of depth allowed in the casing), so photos and videos taken indoors and in the evening are very disappointing, with huge amounts of digital noise. BUT. Take photos and videos outdoors and especially in sunlight, and the 5800’s camera with those Carl Zeiss optics can produce results that rival those from the all conquering N95. See here for proof.

nokia 5800 optics

4. Media key

This feature took a while to grow on me. It’s no secret that I wasn’t fond of the ‘multimedia’ key on the N95, N82 and just about every Nseries phone since – the carousel menu took just too many keypresses to do anything useful and it was always easier to use the standard S60 menu (I see Nokia has started to drop this key from newer models like the N86 8MP, so maybe they’ve finally heeded my words). The 5800 XpressMusic doesn’t have any hardware music controls, so something’s obviously needed though – the touch ‘media’ key fills the function neatly by helping you get quickly to Music player in two taps from anywhere in the 5800’s interface. A long press on the ‘key’ to go straight to Music Player would have been even nicer – maybe in the next firmware, Nokia?

5. Keyguard

Most PDAs since the dawn of time have had an on/off button (though of course off isn’t actually ‘off’), the idea obviously being that you don’t want the screen and keys getting pressed in your pocket. Phones have an equivalent that normally involves a two keypress system (e.g. left function and then *), but the modern trend in Nokia’s most recent devices of having a keyguard ‘toggle’ is much, much easier to use and much easier to remember. Another good design choice on the 5800, Nokia.

6. Haptic feedback

With phones usually sporting a vibrator for alerting you when in ‘silent’ mode, it was natural that this system would be used when touch finally hit phones and Nokia has implemented a generic ‘wobble the phone when a screen tap is registered’ system. It’s not unique to the 5800 XpressMusic but it’s good to see here – on the AAS team, Rafe and I are big fans of it [Ewan’s not so sure and has turned it off!] When typing on the full-screen qwerty keyboard, having mechanical (‘haptic’) feedback is an essential step in making sure that ‘key’ presses are all registered properly. Yes, the 5800 could still do with a truck load of iPhone-style spelling and writing aids, but we’ll again have to leave this one for future firmware…

7. Mature OS and subsystems

Now, don’t confuse this with me saying that “the 5800’s firmware is immature” – it is, very much so, and there are many firmware tweaks and bug-fixes needed before the 5800 can be pronounced to be ‘finished’. However, the fact that it runs S60 5th Edition means that it’s building on every previous version, every previous Feature Pack, every previous codec and library addition. This isn’t immediately apparent until you start comparing a S60 5th Edition phone with something like the Apple iPhone or Palm Pre or the Android-powered G1. In each case, these much newer ‘built recently’ platforms appear to be ‘all there’ (they certainly have lots of eye candy) but when you need something detailed, such as adding a phone number from your call log to a specific field in an existing contact or sending a Note to someone else’s phone using Bluetooth (to pick just two everyday examples that can’t be done on some newer competitors) you’ll find that S60 5th Edition is now very complete indeed. Add in the most up to date audio and video codecs so that almost any file type can be handled and the real time maturity of Symbian OS in handling multiple data connections, applications and interruptions seamlessly, and you end up with a phone with a rock solid base – even if the top soil is still in motion a little(!)
PS. As a postscript to this point, the 5800 has been widely criticised as Nokia simply slapping a touch layer on the existing ‘outdated’ S60 interface. This is, to some extent what Nokia has done (plus a lot more under the hood), but my argument (and theirs) would be that it’s better to leverage and improve a phone interface that’s already in use by well over 200 million users across the world than to throw it all out and start again. In this way, the 5800 XpressMusic feels instantly familiar when in use – it’s no direct iPhone or Palm Pre competitor in the UI stakes, but there’s more to a great PDA or phone than a pretty interface.

8. Wi-Fi, TV-out and GPS

At this price level you really wouldn’t expect Wi-Fi and TV out and GPS, even in 2009 – that’s a lot of power user functions to shoehorn in. All very welcome indeed though – I know I for one couldn’t live without Wi-Fi (video podcast downloading, mainly!) and I’d be extremely loathe to return to the days of the separate Bluetooth GPS. TV out isn’t used that often, but is handy to keep for tech demos and immediate display of your snaps. With the likes of Nokia’s E63 omitting a GPS, ostensibly for cost reasons, it’s good to see that the 5800 XpressMusic’s product manager had his head screwed on straight when working out the spec level that Nokia could afford in their ‘Tube’.

9. Inclusion of an 8GB microSD in the box

With the already generous box bundle (stand, TV out cable, case, etc.) it was another pleasant surprise to see a fullish complement of 8GB of expansion disk space available from the very beginning. Even with my power user needs, I’ve still not filled my 8GB card yet, so many 5800 owners won’t even need to go shopping – ever. Again, kudos to Nokia for going the extra mile.

10. Loud loudspeakers

I’ve already mentioned this in the main review, but the 5800 boasts some very impressive stereo speakers. When listening to podcasts, the 5800’s sound output easily fills the kitchen or wherever I’m toiling, helping to make the chores enjoyable.}

Public Vs Private IP Numbers

Private IP numbers are the source of much confusion for many new networking users. Many home “powerusers” with more than one computer, small offices, and just about any user of a broadband IP connection to the internet like DSL or Cable Modem has probably come face to face with this issue. The whole use of IP numbers is generally hidden from your typical Internet user who uses a modem and PPP software to connect to the internet – they are transparently and dynamically assigned an IP number while they are dialed in by their ISP, and don’t really have to think about it. That is until the user starts to get curious about running a webserver on a machine in their house, or moving up to faster “always on” connections like ISDN, DSL, Cable Modem, or other methods.

Think about what happens when a small city runs out of phone numbers, but can’t split up an area code. Things could get difficult and providing additional phone service as the city expands would be a nightmare. One method of preventing an area from going totally overboard on providing separate phone numbers is to have one or a handfull of numbers used in a shared manner amongst many phone users, like any large office would do. A large company with 250 workers in an office building each with a phone at their desk wouldn’t want to pay the phone company for 250 discreet and separate lines for each desk, nor would the phone company want to give all those numbers to them if they were trying to conserve numbers. Therefore, offices use internal equipment to “share” a smaller number of lines amongst their users, like mabye 20 or so used in rotary. By doing so, each desk can have an inter-office extension number, which is bridged to an outside phone company line when the user picks one up to dial out and one is free at that moment. In this case, any number of offices in the city might have an “extension 123” within their office, but each “extension 123” in these offices would never conflict with each other because they are “behind” the company’s phone equipment which serves up the company’s outside lines to those extensions when needed. The internal office extensions can communicate with each other perfectly fine, but must be connected to an outside line to connect to an extension at the company across the street. 213-555-1200 thru 1210 would be BigCompany, Inc.’s “public” phone lines, and extensions 1 thru 250 would be BigCompany, Inc.’s, “private” phone lines.

IP protocol networks use a system very similar to the above to prevent the world from running out of IP addresses. Even though 0-255.0-255.0-255.0-255 is technically 4,228,250,625 numbers, the useable amount of numbers is much lower due certain types of numbers set aside for special signalling and identification uses and not for typical “device” identification and traffic. Also consider that just about EVERY device that will handle IP traffic must have a unique number, and there are probably just as many routing and switching and serving devices on “the net” as there are actual computers. Add all that up and one can see how the current IP number structure really doesn’t go all that far, and there is a need for computers and devices in certain groups to be able to use “private extensions” that work behind a group’s “public numbers”, just like the large company offices example above.

The organizations that agree on the technical standards behind the IP protocol have issued a standard for “Private IP number blocks”, or numbers that can be used within an enterprise as long as the enterprise has the technical capability to separate those private IP numbers from the rest of the Internet at large, and properly gateway the traffic between the internal stations at the enterprise in question and the public Internet. For Example, when a large company with 200 computers in the office needs to implement IP networking and connectivity both between the computers in the office *AND* supply inbound and outbound connectivity to the Internet from within their office network, that company would avail themselves of a block of IP numbers within the “private” numbers set aside for just that purpose. There is most certainly many other computers somewhere in the world using your IP number if your IP number is one of these private numbers, but both yours and the other private IP numbers in the world are safely operated behind other IP routing equipment which handles all the internal network’s traffic out to and in from the public Internet, just like all the “extension 105” numbers in offices thruought the world are safely operated behind telephone equipment that bridges those extensions in and outbound thru a given office’s public telephone system number.

The private IP addresses that you assign for a private network (inter-office LAN, Internet Service Provider customer bases, campus networks, etc) should fall within the following three blocks of the IP address space: to, which provides a single Class A network of addresses, which would use subnet mask
(theoretically up to 16,777,215 addresses, good for VERY large enterprises like internet service providers or other global deployment) to, which provides 16 contiguous Class B network addresses, which would use subnet mask
(theoretically up to 1,048,576 addresses, good for large enterprises like colleges and governmental organizations) to, which provides up to 2^16 Class C network addresses, which would use subnet mask
(theoretically up to 65,536 addresses, widely used by default in consumer/retail networking equipment)

Explanation of Subnet masks, Network classes, and other technical info is readily available on the internet.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);