Once a year, Nokia hosts a 2 day conference to demo to the world what's in store from Nokia for the next 12 months. This year, Nokia World takes/took place in Barcelona this Tuesday and Wednesday. I haven't been there in person, but Nokia and WomWorld have made sure that those not on site could also watch the keynote speeches and product introductions via the web. Well done, Nokia, not a single glitch, no capacity issues, the live-streams performed flawlessly at 800 kbit/s.
You've probably already heard or seen about the new Nokia N97 introduced there so I'll just link to the keynote video where Anssi Vanjoki introduced it and a link to YouTube with first impressions of the look and feel as well as how the OS looks like and behaves for a general overview. Very insightful and I guess that's going to be my next device, if I can wait until it is released. Forecast 2H09. A long wait…
Here are the bits an pieces of hardware and software enhancements that I think will make a difference:
- Form factor: I like the idea of a small QWERTY keyboard hiding under the screen as well as the 3.5" 16:9 touch sensitive display. Thinner than my current N95 and not as wide as the iPhone makes it perfect from a handling point for both one hand and two hand operation. It's still more of a bar than a PDA shape.
- I expect it will still work with my Bluetooth keyboard for real fast typing which now gives three input methods, i.e. touchscreen, mini keyboard, and full bluetooth keyboard. The right input method for every location.
- 5 megapixel camera and flash. O.k. nothing really new here, the N95 has got that, too for two years now but it's still miles ahead of the 'toy cameras', as Anssi calls them, in competing products.
- A-GPS and electronic compass. While A-GPS gives you the location it can't tell the phone in which direction the user is looking while he stands still. That's an issue for street navigation, especially when you've marked the place you want to go beforehand, leave the metro station for example, your location is shown on the map but you have no idea in which direction to walk at first. It happens to me often enough. The compass should help with that. I'd be interested how that compass works from a practical point of view. Does anyone know?
- Also, the compass will be great to get more information about things you see together with Nokia maps. Though I think not yet in the product, Nokia is thinking in the right direction here, to send the location and orientation to a sever in the network, which then return information about what you are seeing like Wikipedia entries, map overlays, etc. So far I always assumed that such services would require the user to take a picture of what he sees which is uploaded to a server and then analyzed. With A-GPS and compass, things are much simpler, no need to analyze a picture.
- Nokia Maps enhancements: Quite a lot of announcements of what will happen here over the next year. Route overview for navigation will be included, something I am really missing today, terrain mode looks very nice, and 3D representation of sights. Also, Nokia has promised to include user generated content in Nokia maps, something I've been waiting every since I first used GPS and Nokia maps. Also, they are planning to include the location of other users in Nokia Maps so you can see where your friends are, if they wish so. And finally, synchronization between Maps on Ovi and Maps on the phone for planing trips on the PC and then downloading locations etc. you have marked to the phone automatically.
- Active idle screen enhancements: Widgets on the idle screen, customizable by the user to see his latest e-mails, what's going on on facebook, weather forecast, RSS stream, contacts, meetings, etc.
Nothing announced today is a revolution, but, I think these things are a powerful evolution over the current already great N-series devices and will definitely keep the competition going in the smartphone sector. Now, Nokia, let's just get this device and the new software out there as soon as possible. I can hardly wait.