Apple’s iPhone, and other subsequent touch-screen clones, have been hogging much of the high-end smartphone spotlight ever since the iPhone’s initial launch - and even more so after the recent media-hyped iPhone 3G release. And with little to no response from Nokia (by way of a competing piece of hardware), it would appear our Finnish friends have been hiding in the wings while the show goes on.
[Note: At the time of this writing, two new Nokia smartphones are set to be announced this coming Monday (August 18th): the N79 and N85 - both phones being touted as possibilities by the mobile community.
In late 2007, information regarding Nokia’s ongoing touchscreen development emerged from the horse’s mouth in the form of a marketing video shown at a London Expo. Later, filed patent information (and images) demonstrating a “Haptikos Tactile Touchscreen” leaked its way onto many websites virtually confirming Nokia’s intentions to develop not only a touchscreen device, but one that would sort of “touch” you back.
And if that wasn’t enough of a smoking gun, Nokia has $trategically placed a mystery touchscreen device (Nokia Tube?) in the hands of our universally loved, James Bond-esque vigilante superhero in the recent blockbuster, “Dark Knight”.
But while the ordinary citizens of Gotham wait for Nokia’s next jaw-dropper to emerge, third-party application development continues to flourish for our current (and much loved) N and E series Symbian S60 devices.
UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY NOKIA WON’T NAME ITS PHONES
Below is a “Top 10″ (alphabetical) list of some of the recent (and possibly not so recent) Symbian standouts that you may not have known existed.
Top 10 Symbian S60 Applications:
1. Fring. Fancy making free VOIP calls? Fring offers this in spades, and users can use their Edge, 3G, or WI-FI connections to make this happen. It also enables you to access & interact with your social networks on-the-go, and chat live with all your buddies on Skype, MSN, Google Talk, ICQ, SIP, Twitter, Yahoo!, AIM or even Fring’s own chat network using your handset’s Internet connection rather than costly cellular airtime minutes. Depending on your connection, the quality can be downright superb using the service, and the cross-app functionality really makes things simple when dealing with the multitude of accounts for which we tend to sign up.
2. Google’s New Search Client. Not to be confused with a simple Google Search link in your mobile browser, this Google app places a shortcut to a Google search box on the Idle screen (unfortunately only for devices with either a ‘Ctrl’ or ‘pencil/edit’ key), but is also accessible via the usual application launcher on all devices. Typing in a query to the search box and pressing search opens up Web and takes you to the results page for that Google query in one go:
Announcement of the Google Search integration into Nokia’s line of N- and E- series devices came way of Google’s MobileBlog, and has been met with much applause given the improved speed and ease-of-use this application offers. And the best part about this app is that you no longer have to authorize multiple approvals to grant access to your phone’s media connection. It just works, as it should. Simply great.
3. Gypsii. With GyPSii you can record photos and video places and upload them to the Web with GPS position and description attached. You can also search for nearby Places other GyPSii users have created, see where your friends are on a map (not as creepy as it seems), and send them Places you have created and discovered. Then later at home or the office, you can hop over to the GyPSii website and see where your friends are and what they are doing. GyPSii has many other features, such as being able to auto-publish to your Facebook or MySpace page from the GyPSii mobile software, commenting on, rating and sharing places you have found, and finding friends in your town or city. And if spying on your mate is your cup of tea, check out this YouTube video - featured here is a couple of college girls who are showing off Gypsii’s darker potential.
4. Interactive Voice Call Master. This is one of those head-spinning apps that you attempt to describe to your friends, only to first be faced with disbelief; then later get asked to provide a pen, paper and the download URL.
First and foremost: IVCM enables your smartphone to transform into a full-featured IVR call-managing system. What does this mean? Essentially it gives your Nokia handset the power to act as a configurable corporate call manager, routing incoming calls to a recorded menu that you can customize with your own voice.
It can even divert calls to pre-programed numbers using your phone’s three-way calling service:
“Press one to leave me a message”, “Press two to be transfered to my office line”, “Press three to reach me in an emergency” “Press four…”
Other features include an in-phone answering machine, “visual” voice mail, fully customizable black/white lists, private number rejection, call forwarding and more — definitely a well thought out and feature-rich application that places it at the top of the heap, all platforms considered.
5. Joiku. JoikuSpot, developed by Joikusoft, is a secure and award-winning mobile software solution that turns mobile phones instantly to WLAN (Wi-Fi) HotSpots. It connect your laptops, iPods, EeePCs and internet tablets to the Internet easily and securely using your mobile phone’s 3G internet connection. You will carry the Internet in your pocket, and you will always have a secured personal WLAN (Wi-Fi) HotSpot on-the-go! Multiple devices can connect in parallel and seamlessly share the same 3G internet connection (i.e. if you bring a date to Starbucks, you can both Google search on your respective laptops). Joiku offers both a “light” version as well as a “Premium package - the latter offers more support for a wider range of Internet protocols, VPN functionality, e-mail support and more.
6. Nokia E-mail Service. Nokia’s much-anticipated e-mail integrations service is currently available in beta form via Nokia Beta Labs. Essentially, the application aims to simplify e-mail management, supporting a wide range of the most popular email services such as GMail, Yahoo! Mail and “thousands of personal email accounts offered by other ISPs.” Interestingly enough, both corporate email as well as MSN Hotmail are not listed, but there are plans to include those sometime down the road. Nokia Email is currently compatible with a wide range of handsets. And don’t sweat file attachments - the service is able to handle all that and more. Sweet.
7. Nokia Podcasting. Not familiar with podcasting? Nokia has a quick-start guide here; this will walk you through the basics and get you up and running. Nokia Podcasting is optimized for the Nokia Nseries devices with WLAN capabilities but can also be used on other Nokia devices. Check out the complete list of the compatible devices. It even imports OPML files (demonstrated here) which makes it easy to load up your favorite podcasts in only a few steps, with no hassling with your phone’s keypad. Become Howard Stern on your N95.
8. Qik. From the FAQ on their website, “Qik is a little piece of software that enables you to stream videos directly from your phone to the Web. Use it to stream engaging videos to your friends in Facebook, Twitter, etc. or as your camcorder to capture entertaining and special moments.”
Yes, Qik allows you to share live streaming video directly from your mobile phone. It integrates seamlessly with most popular micro-blogs such as Twitter, Pownce, and even YouTube. You really want to use a WI-FI connection to get decent streaming, but reports point out that it isn’t a necessity. Best part: your contacts won’t miss out on that once-in-a-lifetime Sasquatch sighting. Head over to their website and check out the featured live video stream compiled from the web of Qik subscribers.
9. Skyfire. For those who have been waiting with bated breath, the awesome Skyfire mobile web browser is now available for S60 devices. Like Opera Mini and Deepfish, Skyfire renders server-side along with Flash and also packs support for Quicktime. During the course of Skyfire’s development, we’ve been promised the world in the way of improved and unrestricted mobile web surfing - “a PC-like browsing experience”.
I was lucky enough to be on the short list for Skyfire Symbian beta testing, and I must report that it’s quite a bold and exciting experience. Pages load in their entirety (flash videos included) and feature every nuance the web developer had in mind when sculpting the code.
My test phone had only an Edge connection (which leaves much to be desired in the land of feature-rich multimedia), but the browser performed admirably despite the connectivity limitation. It was great to see flash handled natively. Check out some of the videos of people giving it a run-through.
10. Widsets. With WidSets you can get your favorite web content straight to your mobile phone. Find news and information, stay in touch with email and blogs, play games, share pictures and more. WidSets uses mini-applications called widgets to push updates from your favorite sites directly to your phone.
In practice, the app proves highly useful - especially its push e-mail widget that provides audio notification within seconds of receiving an e-mail (requires Widsets to remain active and connected). Other personal favorites are the near real-time stock tickers, the Google Caldnear widget (providing instant updates on your phone the minute they are posted), and the various RSS news widgets. There are many Widsets games as well.
On the phone, the virtual desktop acts as the entry point to all widgets. The Flickr widgets displays recently uploaded images categorized under a specified tag. Within the RSS based widgets you see a list of news headlines, and clicking any one of these takes you through to the full RSS item where both the headline and the description are shown.
It’s just a matter of downlading the individual widsets that make up your kaleidoscope of interests, then the tree building begins. Left and right real-time scrolling provides navigation between the installed widsets units.
Widsets modular design allows an unlimited number of widget combinations, all dependent on your phone’s hardware capabilities.
So there we are, 10 great applications to rev-up your Symbian device and put a little more horsepower under your faceplate. The wide Symbian user base has spawned some huge leaps in what has become expected in a smartphone device. Nokia smartphone users rejoice.