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 How to: Power up a Nokia E61i to (near) Nseries status

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PostSubject: How to: Power up a Nokia E61i to (near) Nseries status   Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:27 pm

Ah yes. The dichotomy before me is the one that's plagued S60
smartphone seekers for the last 2 years: Nokia Nseries or Eseries. 


As we discussed in the last two
AllAboutSymbian Insights, the artificial division into devices aimed at
business people and others aimed at general consumers can be more than
a little irritating. There are the subtle UI changes, there are
software exclusivity factors (items usually, but not always, limited in
favour of Nseries) and of course there's the hardware itself.


The Eseries is rightly renowned for fabulous build quality (I'm
purposely ignoring some of the teething troubles seen by the complex
E90 clamshell here), with largely metal construction and robustness at
every turn. I'm going to be concentrating here on the Nokia E61i, a
single piece qwerty-keyboarded communicator, reviewed here on All About Symbian:


Nokia E61i


With the largely metal body, large 2.8" screen (only rivalled
recently on the Nseries by the N95 8GB) and full qwerty thumb keyboard,
the E61i should have been just about the perfect smartphone for an
awful lot of people. The Eseries has sold well, but only to around 20%
that of the Nseries. What are the main limitations to the E61i and how
far can tweaks and extra software take it to an Nseries level of
functionality? Bringing its hardware with it, can software bridge the
perceived gaps?


The Basics


Running S60 3rd Edition, all the core S60 components are here:
Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Web, Messaging, Converter, Zip manager, and
so on. Some applications are in fact enhanced over the Nseries software
package, with Messaging gaining an active standby screen plugin, and
with Quickoffice being the editing version by default, so you can do
basic edits without having to pay a little extra.


The fact that this is S60 3rd Edition without the 'Feature Pack 1',
as seen on most recent Nseries devices and the newer E90 and E51,
doesn't make that much difference in practice, although I suspect
there's a slight speed penalty and the likes of the N80 and E61/E61i
aren't noted for being speed demons in the first place. Still, by using
the Symbian/S60 multitasking properly, speed should rarely be an issue.


Pimping the E61i


  • Making more of the limited RAM.
    After booting, an E61i should have around 24MB of RAM free. While not
    exactly abundant, this is still fine for almost everything you'll want
    to do on a smartphone, provided you don't let anything unnecessary
    auto-start. If something's loaded in RAM then you want it to be
    something you asked for an use all the time. You might want to avoid
    Java-hosted apps like GMail: not only do they take an eternity for the
    Java runtime to load (10s or so), they also use 10MB or so of RAM on
    their own. With GMail, incidentally, you're better off setting up your
    built-in Messaging to use Google's new IMAP4 servers.
  • Make the most of the limited processor power.
    The E61i is optimised for battery life. Which it has in spades. But in
    order to minimise delays while applications are started, keep all your
    most used apps running in RAM by using the Menu/S60 key to switch away
    to something else rather than hitting 'Exit' all the time. This is
    especially important if you used to be in the habit of turning your
    smartphone off at night - DON'T DO IT. Symbian OS and S60 have around
    100 background processes that need starting when you power up, with
    more that gradually load as you use the device. If you want a
    responsive E61i then keep Symbian OS ticking away, with all the little
    bits it needs and don't keep powering the hardware off!
  • Web is a potential problem, with
    no WAP capability, meaning that many mobile sites will need accessing
    in the seperate (pre-FP1) Services browser. Still, it's only a minor
    inconvenience and you'll probably find that the free Opera Mini 4
    works better still for general browsing, especially on the landscape
    screen of the E61i - make sure you install this (though see the caveat
    above about Java-based apps - close Opera Mini after use!).


  • Screenshot



     
  • Steer clear of push email, at
    least until you've got a feel for your E61i's normal performance and
    battery life. Then you can introduce 'push' if you really, really want
    to (e.g. Mail 4 Exchange, Visto) and monitor the (usually pretty heavy)
    impact. If you want most of the benefits of push without the hassle or
    processor hit, just set Messaging to auto-retrieve emails in the
    background (every 30 minutes, between the hours you specify). 
  • Make sure you avail yourself of all the useful
    Nokia freebies in your E61i's Download! catalog: Active Notes,
    Mobipocket Reader and Pocket Express, each of which is covered
    elsewhere on AllAboutSymbian.

Closing the Nseries gap


  • One speciality of most Nseries smartphones is their cameras.
    How can the humble E61i compete with the5 megapixel monster in the
    Nokia N95, for example? In theory, it can't, but it's worth noting that
    even the N95 has trouble producing decent results in low light
    conditions - the physical size of the camera sensor is the limitation
    here, not the optics, resolution or focussing mechanism. In good
    daylight, there's no reason not to produce print-ready snaps with the 2
    megapixel camera in the E61i.

    The other major selling point of
    the cameras in the likes of the N95 and N82 are the autofocus, which
    basically means the ability to focus on close-up items, for 'arty'
    shots. I know it's a bit of a kludge, but there are after-market
    'professional' macro lenses that would give you some degree of close-up photography - just make sure there's plenty of light (yet again).
  • Video recording is also heavily
    light-related. Put simply, shoot video with the E61i's camera in sgood
    natural  light, with subjects that don't move (or get panned around)
    very much and the 352 by 288 pixel videos will be worth watching. As
    with stills, be very careful not to jog the phone too much.
  • Now to music. First thing's
    first, you'll need a set of Pop-port stereo headphones, or at least a
    Pop-port to 3.5mm adapter, both of which can be found at your Nokia
    shop or on eBay.
    Next, you'll need a way of playing your music collection, which I'm
    assuming is currently stored on your PC's hard disk. The chances are
    that your tracks are in MP3 or AAC format (in which case, the built-in
    Eseries Music Player will do the job nicely), in OGG format (in which
    case the free OggPlay
    is perfect) or WMA format (I'm assuming that you turned off the 'copy
    protection' flag when you used Media Player to rip your CDs in the
    first place. This is a DRM-free tutorial!)
    This last is the most problematic, seemingly needing a lot more processor power. Alon's MP3 Dictaphone
    claims to play WMA music files but in practice they overwhelm the
    software and hardware. Can anyone help me with a workable way to play
    WMA on the E61/E61i?
  • All Nseries (and some Eseries) smartphones have a built-in FM radio.
    Which is great for emergencies but reception is often appalling. And in
    any case, the E61i doesn't have one. But turn instead to Nokia's Internet Radio
    (with access to hundreds of worldwide radio stations ), ostensibly only
    for its Nseries but which works fine (pick the N73 version, for
    example) apart from the screen function keys being switched from
    left-right to up-down, and the occasional brief pause while music is
    buffered up. You'll get used to it...
  • Screenshot
  • Podcasting is now built into the
    likes of the N95 8GB and N82, but this too is available for older
    devices for free. You'll find it in Download!, under 'Internet' (or here
    online). With the E61i's Wi-Fi, it's easy to get this set up to grab
    yourself interesting podcasts at the start of the day or overnight,
    ready for your day's travelling.
  • The Nseries have Video centre, a way of trying to pull together video streams from round the world. But, to be honest, it's just as easy to install emTube
    on your E61i and have access to the whole of YouTube at full QVGA
    resolution. Note that the device is a little underpowered in this
    department - some YouTube videos with higher bitrates won't play
    smoothly at the same time as you're actually downloading them, so in
    these cases you'll need to wait until they're fully downloaded before
    hitting 'Play'. Oh, and a tip - '1' toggles full-screen in emTube on
    the E61i. (Mobitubia might be an option in future, but it's currently a
    bit too slow on the E61i)

  • Screenshot

  • Nokia Maps and navigation is
    another Nseries staple and is another app that came just too late for
    the E61i's construction. But yet again, you can download it for free here, using it standalone, with maps coming over the air, or with Map Loader
    (to save on data costs) or even with a small Bluetooth external GPS,
    perhaps upgrading to the full Navigation pay-as-you-go product,
    recommended. Either way, you can do everything an N95 or N82 can do in
    this regard, with maps shown on the lovely large 2.8" display.
  • Screenshot
  • Still with a pocket-sized Bluetooth GPS in tow, Nokia Sports Tracker lets you do all the fancy stats and logging functions first seen on the Nokia 5500 but now appearing on the GPS-equipped Nseries.
  • Screenshot

  • Quite a few of the extras mentioned in the
    context of recent Nseries smartphones are also available for the Nokia
    Eseries as well. For example, the Gizmo VoIP client is free and in Download! (under 'Internet'). Though you'll want to try Fring as well, also free and with greater IM support, including AIM and Skype.
  • Screenshot

Almost an Nseries, then?


Well, not really. But I hope that I've shown that you can go a long
way towards combining the best of both worlds in the great Nokia S60
dichotomy. And, with the number of items that are free above, hopefully
saved you some money in the process - you may not actually need a new smartphone. That'll keep your wallet plump and please your partner!


Steve Litchfield,  AllAboutSymbian, 4th Feb 2008


Nokia E61i


 


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