TV Out on the Nokia N95 - Part 1: Will the smartphone eat the PC?
today are incredibly sophisticated, and can do most of the things that
desktop PCs can, albeit a bit more slowly. The most common functions
such as word processing, web browsing, instant messaging, email,
spreadsheets, photo editing, video editing and multimedia playback are
all available to owners of S60 (and other) smartphones, thanks to the
processing powerhouse that resides in even the cheapest models.
partly driven by the launch of the iPhone, there's been a lot of talk
about user interfaces. Some commentators have gone so far as to say
that people actually buy phones purely for the interface, as if menu
layouts alone can solve every possible problem a user might have. This
writer respectfully suggests that the real problem most people have
with using smartphones as computers lies elsewhere. Here's why:
Physically small screen, physically small buttons.
popular model of smartphone. It has dual processors, a high quality
screen, a multitasking operating system and a "full blown" web browser.
But you try suggesting to the average computer user that they switch to
a smartphone, and you'll get an earful about how tiny the letters on
the screen are and how awkward the keypad is for typing essays,
reports, emails etc. It would be the same response for any model of
smartphone, no matter how well designed it was.
interface isn't the problem, the physical size of the device is, and
there's absolutely nothing that anyone can do about this.
Or is there...?
Turning the N95 into a desktop computer
first thing to deal with is the small keypad. Some devices have tried
to solve this by building in tiny QWERTY keyboards of various sizes, or
by using various predictive methods to guess at what you're trying to
type. However, when it comes down to it, you simply cannot beat the
speed and comfort of using a physically large keyboard:
phone's soft keys are mapped to the two blue curved keys, the direction
pad is mapped to the arrow keys, and the pad's selection button is
mapped to the blue dot.
improvement, but it's still not enough. The screen is too small,
especially for people who have poor eyesight. Yes, you might be able to
zoom in on some phones, but zooming in restricts your view of the
overall document and makes editing or viewing even harder. The only
real solution is to attach some sort of large screen to the phone,
which allows anyone to read even the smallest font size properly:
that the keyboard is wireless and controls all the functions of the
phone, and the phone outputs its screen to the display. The phone's
only function now is as a processing device, the user doesn't have to
touch it or even see it in order to access all of its functions.
keyboard can be used anywhere within a 10 metre radius of the phone,
so, for example, you could type an email, or browse the web, or play a
game, or edit a word document, without leaving the sofa.
Setting up the TV Out connection on the Nokia N95
the Nokia N95 and Nokia N93/N93i plug into the composite connections of
a television set. Almost all modern TVs have composite inputs, usually
three pins that are yellow, white and red, although some older
televisions may only have a SCART socket or (if they're VERY old) even
just an aerial socket. SCART-only TVs can be used with composite plugs
by buying an adaptor, which costs about 10 euros and can be found in
any major electrical shop or ordered online (see the photo below).
phone's TV Out can be set to automatically activate when you connect to
a television, but the first time you use it you may have to activate it
manually. On the N95 this can be found in Menu > Tools > Settings
> General > Enhancement > TV-Out. When you click on the
option, set it to default so that it activates automatically in future.
You can alter the settings by selecting Open, which lets you
adjust the phone to suit the television you're using. TV Out supports
PAL and NTSC televisions, and will also work on HDTVs in standard
definition mode (the TV in this article's photos is an HDTV). The
settings' Screen Size option (which stretches or squishes the phone's
output) is a bit redundant on modern widescreen TVs, because they
usually automatically switch to normal mode when receiving normal size
video. It's only to be used if your widescreen TV stretches all video
that it receives. There's also a Flicker Filter if you find that the
image on your TV suffers from, well, flickering.
connected the phone and set it up correctly, you may also have to set
your television to display the correct video source. This should be in
one of the menus as AV (on most sets), as seen in the example below.
your television has SCART but doesn't have composite inputs, you can
buy a very cheap composite-to-SCART adaptor from any major electrical
These settings should work on most televisions, including widescreen ones.
The AV option will display the connected phone's TV Out.
the N95 or N93/N93i with a computer monitor is more difficult, because
most monitors don't have any kind of television inputs. You can buy a
composite-to-VGA or SCART-to-VGA adaptor box, but they cost quite a lot
(50 to 100 euros) and are quite hard to find in shops. Note that
television-to-VGA adaptors should not be confused with much cheaper
VGA-to-television adaptors: it's very easy to send VGA signals into a
television (indeed most modern TVs have a VGA input socket), but much
harder to send television signals into a computer monitor.
The N95: What (desktop) computing has become?
article is the first in a series which will look in detail at how
various different S60 applications function through TV Out, but for the
moment here are some general impressions. The N95 as it stands
obviously isn't good enough to fully replace a desktop or laptop PC,
but perhaps that's missing the point. People buy a smartphone so they
have computing power with you wherever they are, not because they want
to depose their PC.
The classic away-from-home use often given
for TV Out is still the best one: you're in a hotel room or at a
relative's place and have no access to a computer, but still want to
browse the web or write an email or play a game. Almost everyone in the
rich world has a television set, and almost all rich world hotel rooms
do too, so the TV Out effectively means the average N95 owner can use
any home or building they visit as an internet cafe. The N95's support
for 3G and 3.5G (HSDPA) internet speeds makes such a comparison even
In short, TV Out on phones may do to internet cafes
what mobile phones did to public phone boxes: make them unused and
Will the phone eat the PC?
if you're not away from home? Will there come a time when you literally
don't buy a PC because you already have one built into your phone?
Perhaps, and sooner than you might think.
The main thing you
find yourself wishing for when using the N95 TV Out is that it had a
higher resolution. Not necessarily a much higher one, but just enough
so that you don't have to scroll sideways on websites, for example.
Phones with TV Out ought to be outputting a higher resolution than they
use on-screen, or simply increasing the definition of their own
screens, as QVGA still looks a bit clunky on a large screen.
Devices like the Nokia N800
already have enough resolution (800x400) to fully display a website
without sideways scrolling, and interestingly enough that's almost
exactly the resolution of a Standard Definition widescreen television.
If phones started outputting even more detail, at HDTV resolutions,
then they would be operating at exactly the same resolution as a PC,
bringing them even closer to replacing the home computer.
second thing you miss on TV Out through the N95 is a pointing device,
it's just not as nice to steer a pointer round the screen with arrow
keys or a direction pad. The easiest and most portable solution would
perhaps be a touchscreen, which you might eventually learn to use
without actually looking down at the phone, just as people don't look
down at their mouse pad. Alternatively, support for bluetooth mice
would be very welcome, and would make it much easier to sell the
concept of the smartphone as a home computer substitute.
phone did both of these things, outputted a VGA-resolution image and
had some kind of pointing device, then it would raise questions about
why people need a physically large computer at all.
users just have a PC for browsing, email, music storage and word
processing, and from a raw computing point of view smartphones are now
powerful enough to replace such a casual-use PC. The real barriers to
stop that happening have been hardware ones: the lack of a monitor,
lack of mass storage, lack of keyboard and lack of a mouse. However,
with the rise of TV Out, high capacity memory cards, touchscreens and
wireless keyboards, all of those barriers are fast disappearing. When a
smartphone becomes good enough for most casual PC users' purposes, will
casual PC users want a standalone PC at all?
Wouldn't it be
easier to just plug your phone into any TV in the world that happens to
be nearby, and surf the web while lounging on the sofa? Wouldn't it be
convenient to be able to take your PC with you anywhere, and access its
functions anywhere, even on the move?
As with all convergence,
separate devices will always be better, cheaper and more reliable. But
if people prefer converged devices, and if those devices do a good
enough job, then people may start to use them instead of separates.
Cameraphones have sidelined separate cameras (despite never catching up
with separate cameras technologically), and perhaps one day smartphones
will sideline separate computers in exactly the same way.
Krisse , 1st August 2007