When are iTunes and the iPhone going to grow up?

I believe Palm and Windows Mobile devices have had the ability to install applications over bluetooth for at least 10 years, probably longer. My history with S60 is shorter, but there has never been a time when I was unable to install something over basic bluetooth or USB. Apple has severly limited (as in removed) this functionality and as anyone who’s used the iPhone can attest, you can’t use bluetooth access to send and receive files or any data for that matter. Rememeber beaming? Palm invented (in 1992 I believe) that nice feature to make it simple to send your business card to another user … As an interesting footnote in gadget history, the Palm also cost $299 when it was released.

iTunes has a lot going for it. It’s the dominant media management software thanks to the market dominance of the ipod. With the iPhone Apple delivered what is probably the strongest sync solution of any mobile phone. Other’s have similar desktop solutions, but the simplicity with which iTunes is able to handle all your data is stellar.

So what could possibly be changed?

The strength of iTunes desktop sync is actually its biggest weakness. While you can have up to 5 computers authorized to play your media content from the iTunes store, you can only sync your device with a single machine. What’s the point of this silly limit. It’s hardly difficult to move files around via the broader internet if you like and maintaining basic playcounts and similarities within a library are not that hard. Though with iTunes you essentially have to hack the system in order to even manually copy files to a mobile device – forget sync. Media is an easy target as that effects more people and the limit is probably driven out of a paranoid legal department wanting to appease the ignorant MPAA and RIAA.

What I don’t understand though is why other parts of the iTunes sync system are simply blocked because your iPhone is already associated with another computer. I have 5 systems in my iTunes world. There are actually more if you count the additional OS installs I’ve done on the netbook, but regardless I have 5 computers authorized to play content. I’d actually like to sync some data on 3 of the 5 and this is impossible if you play by the rules.

With the current restriction, I am unable to install or backup anything outside of my main desktop, period. In my considerable experience with other mobile platforms (years of Palm and S60 devices) this rule has never applied. Going back to my early palm days I used to use the device as the actual conduit between machines to maintain the same data in multiple (work and personal) systems. With S60 my plan evolved a bit thanks to the evolution of server sync. Today the bulk of my PIM data comes through exchange but with the iPhone I am also syncing personal data through my home config which includes multiple iCal calendars.

You get the point, there’s a mix … There is however no mix of where my device data can reside. Apple has decided that for me based on where I first did my sync. I purchased the iPhone 3G S on my way to work last week and because I wanted to have some media on it for the commute home, I did a sync (and backup) with my work pc. When I later connected the iPhone to my home computer, I received the following warning:

itunes bs

As you can see, you will actually LOSE the data that’s on your device in exchange for the right to sync with another one of YOUR authorized systems. WTF? It’s my data yet I have no control over how I use it? Right … I’m currently beta testing Pocket Universe (as noted in my previous post). The only way to install a beta app is via iTunes … and as you can probably guess at this point ONLY the main iTunes. If you want to install from a different machine, iTunes will actuall ERASE the apps you have on your device in exchange for what’s on the desktop. Um, NO! How about this … since iTunes is the sole conduit for applications do a damn backup and since you know there won’t be any surprises with where things have come from – applications and downloads are even all connected to your apple ID which of course drives the iTunes ecosystem.

I’m used to being in control of my data – how I access it, where I back it up and when and where I want to change it. When is Steve going to allow the iProduct to actually be myProduct?

Access Point Destinations Make it Easy to Get the Best Connection, If You Can Choose One

Nokia has been making some very nice though admittedly subtle updates to the way the S60 functions on the later devices and having used most of them I’ve been taking this for granted.  Starting in Feature Pack 2 (N85, N79) the Network Setting panel received an update which added something called Destinations.  Destinations are a way to group access points like your cellular data and wifi into a group.  This group function is actually an old function that used to exist in early Eseries devices (E61) and was awesome, but never seemed to carry forward to later ones like the E71.  Gotta love the consistency …

5800 - Network Destinations 5800 - Internet Destination

5800 - Network Destinations

Since using the Nokia 5800 I’ve noticed something about how these Destinations now work and it’s a very powerful concept and one that should really be part of all smart devices.  With wifi scanning on (I set mine to a 10 min interval), my phone will automatically switch over to wifi when in range.  The 5800 runs the 5th edition version of S60 which is what the upcoming N97 runs so this will also work there.  Connection switching back to cellular has not been as smooth in my experience, but it does work.  In classic form (and yes that is sarcasm) S60 is not set to use a Destination for all applications.  Instead some applications rely on an Access Point which makes the switching impossible. New apps like the Nokia Messaging service looks to use Default which will drop to Internet (the main Destination) though MailForExchange needs a single Access Point. The browser is happy with a Destination though Gravity (a 3rd party twitter app) wants an Access Point. Google Maps wants an Access Point … you get the idea.

These subtle changes are powerful but frustrating as even Nokia’s core applications cannot take best advantage of the work that’s been done to improve the user experience.  As a non-developer it’s hard to know whether these updates get pushed out in a reasonable way to encourage adoption or whether developers are left to figure it out for themselves just like the user. It’s getting better, but clearly quite a bit of work still lies ahead.

Samsung’s OmniaHD is seriously impressive!

In a word … WOW!

I’ve never seen this touch UI in action and love the widgets and transitions.  Samsung really shows the potential for S60 here given that it’s running on S60 5th edition like the Nokia 5800 and N97 yet with a considerably higher degreee of gloss.  I don’t have any sense of how the battery lasts through all this HD action either, but it’s certainly a gorgeous looking device!

via S60 Blogs

Where are the updates to the S60 Browser?

Every day I read about new services and ways to use the Android and iPhone webkit browsers, yet there’s been no change to make some of these tools work well with the s60 software.  I can’t even open a new tab without a silly bookmark hack, and it seems there’s been little to no change in the S60 browser for a very long time.

By now, I would expect (and I don’t even think it’s that big a deal really) to be able to launch a new tab from within the browser yet there is NO way to do this.  It should be a menu item!  Once you have a few tabs open there is also NO tab management system – they can only be displayed in the order in which they’ve been opened.

I originally blogged about this in the fall of 2007.  Since that time, we’ve seen a number of new devices, a revised OS and yet the browser is still the exact same thing.  I’m sure someone will correct me that the actual version number (undetectable to users) has changed, but there is nothing new here.  I asked about this feature at Nokia World and did not see it in the N97 prototype shared with us over dinner either unfortunately.

My initial hack involves using a start page that forces new windows to spawn (like m.twitter.com) though today I use a homescreen shortcut to a bookmark of about:blank.  If you drop to either your multimedia menu or the homescreen and use that, it will force a new windows to open.

If you are going to talk about the full internet in a pocketable mobile computer, we should also recognize that it’s quite likely you’ll be multitasking across several web sites at once and need a simple (and standard!) way to open a new tab.  Why is the Nokia Internet Tablet the only device that does this?

Nokia extends Exchange Sync across the S60 Range

Nokia has just announced that the free Mail For Exchange (MFE) client is now available across the full range of S60 3rd Edition devices.  This brings enterprise sync to over 80 Million active handsets across 43 different models considerably enhancing the potential scale for enterprise communications.  Mail for Exchange runs over Microsoft’s Active Sync protocol and does not require any IT involvement or installation on the back-end.  If you can access your company’s Exchange server over webmail you’ll be ready to go in a few simple steps.

Setup has been simplified by way of a wizard-like process that asks for a few key bits (username, password , server and domain if required) and then you are good to go.  The last time I configured MFE I had to adjust settings for sync on each of the data areas which while not difficult just takes more time to actually get going.

Mail For Exchange has received a number of updates since I first used it a few years ago and in the current edition, it is quite powerful.  You’ll find that it easily syncs your email, contacts, calendar letting you respond to meeting requests, setting flags for follow-up and and changing your out of the office settings.

You’ll be able to find Mail for Exchange pre-installed onall devices moving forward or if you have a compatible handset, you can download either within your Downloads application or from the Nokia Software for Business site directly.