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Why my next smartphone will probably be running Android – confessions of a Nokia fanboy

April 2, 2010

It’s no secret I am a huge fan of Nokia phones. Every mobile I’ve ever owned has been a Nokia, for over a decade no other manufacturer has come close when I’ve looked for my next phone.

A couple of years ago I got a Nokia 770 internet tablet and really started to get into mobile computing. My upgrade to the n810 was great and just further cemented my addiction to having some serious computing power with me wherever I went.
Most recently Nokia release the N900 which changed direction a little from the Maemo devices before it. Being a smartphone, it is smaller than the internet tablets and seeks to be the ‘all-in-one’ device. To allow you to leave behind the laptop, tablet, mp3 player, camera etc and just carry one device. A phone which does it all.

To be honest I was a little unconvinced, when I first bought a tablet it was cheap (who can resist a touch screen computer for £75!), when I got the n810 it was in stiff competition with a netbook. I was balancing more power over truely mobile. With the n900 I wasn’t sure that something small enough to be a phone could meet my needs for mobile computing.

But with the N900 they have convinced me. This is the one device I need, it is with me everywhere, it is always on line. It’s a camera when I need one, a gps device in the car, my music player, I write this blog from it, read the news, download and listen to podcasts, the list goes on and on and on.


But…

Because of this success Nokia have opened my eyes to the world of smartphones, and there is serious competition.
As a long time linux zealot, I would not consider another Microsoft OS on anything I own, so windows mobile is out.

I also can’t bring myself to buy into the locked down eco-system of the iP* selection. They look great, work great, and hold not inconsiderable appeal, but they don’t play well with others, and Apple want to control what you do and how you do it. I understand their reasons for doing so, but I like enough freedom to get myself into trouble.

Which brings me to Android.

No it’s not as open as Maemo. Yes I’m restricted in quite what I can implement on the device, and in what language. But I think a little control on a smartphone is probably a good thing. Some reuqirements that force apps to be good citezens when an actual phone call needs to happen and resources must be diverted seems like a sensible architecture. My N900 can really struggle to bring up the phone ‘app’ when someone calls me, if I’m busy in half a dozen running apps. I’d actually rather have more structure and requirements on me as an app developer, if the benefit is knowing the app will play nice with everything else that needs to happen on a phone.

But none of this is why I really think I’ll be switching.

It all boils down to business models, and what the implications of those business models are for me.


You see, Nokia make money when I buy their phones. But that’s all. Sure ovi store is theoretically coming and they will take a slice, but right now they have little incentive to improve my experience on this device. They have made their money, their only motivation from now is to convince me to buy the next device.

Apple makes money when I buy the device, and when I buy apps & music for it. So iTunes gets massively updated. It’s apparently a great app, and of course it is. This is how Apple continue to make money from you, it is in their interests for you to want to use it, to find it intuitive and easy.
But at some point, they are ultimately in the hardware business. They need you to buy the next device, they lock you in to their eco-system to make it harder for you to switch away on your next purchase.


Google don’t need to make money selling phones. The money they make from you buying a Nexus one is insignificant compared to the money they make from you *using* that phone to access their services. This is why lots of people sell android phones, Google care that you use android, not that you buy hardware. This is because Google make money through advertising. The smarter they can do that, the happier everyone is, you get relevant adds, advertisers get more bang for the buck. The fact is, companies pay google lots of money to show you adds whilst you use their service. It is in googles interest for you to *want* to use their phones, and so they have cool and interesting technology in them. The more you use it, the more you wind up using their services, the more other people pay them.

Basically advertisers are paying google to keep their customers happy with interesting toys and technologies, whilst also showing them ads for stuff they probably actually want. And as a geek, I crave the cool cutting edge tech. I want to play with google goggles, and voice to text input, and layar augmented reality browsing etc etc. At the moment it doesn’t seem like Nokia can compete with that. Which is a shame because the n900 hardware really is awesome.

So the main thing I’m waiting for this year is news of the nexus two. Unless much changes in the next few months, that will probably be my next device. (Sorry Nokia)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. LanceWex permalink
    April 2, 2010 5:07 pm

    I stopped reading when you said that the N900 struggles to open the phone application if you are running many programs. So what you are saying is that you need a nanny. You say you want more structure as a developer, but your example is as a user. My laptop can not efficiently run all my programs at the same time, why expect my phone to? I am realistic, and will close applications as I don’t need them. I prefer to decide these things. But to each his own.

    • danielwould permalink*
      April 2, 2010 5:39 pm

      i didn’t make it clear, my problem is if someone unexpectedly calls me. obviously if I want to make a call, I close apps as necessary (now edited to make that more clear). as a developer I would like the opportunity not to contribue to the problem. and I don’t mean *all* my apps, but if I’m in the middle of a couple of things it can struggle to launch the phone.

  2. Woody permalink
    April 2, 2010 6:08 pm

    The phone-delay thing happens in Android too if you have a lot going on. It’s not a purely function of the OS, it’s a function of the hardware and usage more than anything. Personally, I added a startup script that re-nices the phone app priority up to -18 (almost max), which helps keep it high priority. I’m also looking at writing an app that marks the phone/dbus app pages as non-swapable, so it’s always in ram and ready to go.

    Android phones (and indeed most smart phones) have this issue. The difference is, with the N900 I can take steps to fix this, where others think they know what’s best and put up road blocks to prevent my changing things.

    My next phone may or may not be a Nokia, since I base my purchases on what my best option is when it comes time to get a new one. It just happens that my last one was a Nokia (6230), but before that was an Ericson, and before that a Motorola. That’s how I decided on the N900, and how I’ll decide the next device I get in 4 to 6 years when this one is extremely out of date or fails.

    • danielwould permalink*
      April 2, 2010 6:22 pm

      fair point, the process management is something I have only read about in android, so am quite sure the theor and the practice are different.. to be honest the main thrust of my prediction is that I understand why it’s in googles interests to give me toys to play with,

  3. April 2, 2010 10:33 pm

    @Woody, would you like to publish your startup script somewhere?

  4. April 2, 2010 10:50 pm

    (first: not native english speaker, so please excuse me if I have errors)

    I’m on the opposite transition: I was an Android fan, and then I decided to switch to Maemo. Here is why:
    Android has so many great apps to play with, and everything feels so well integrated. I use almost every service from Google, and with Android most of them were available at my hand. The OS is very touch and single hand friendly, so it is an easy to use device (my old Windows Mobile phones were exactly the opposite), and that’s very important on a device you use all the time.
    It is a great smartphone OS.
    But…
    Playing with Goggles or augmented reality browsers was very fun at first, but then you stop using them, you don’t need them all the time. And that happened with many of the great apps I had: they where very, very fun for a few days, and then I stopped using them.
    At the same time, other apps that could be great to have on my hand, because I needed them all the time, didn’t exist on Android. I think that’s because I’m a software developer, and I need apps that most of the people don’t need. Common people are not interested on having Vim on their phones, they think Vim is a cleaning product. They don’t want to have a svn/git/hg client, or wireshark, or Python.
    I tried to run a full Debian under my Android to be able to use that apps, but it struggle, wasn’t usable.

    I simply needed more power, and less toys.
    I realized that I was asking my phone to be a computer. Android is a great smart*phone* OS, not a smart*computer* OS.
    That’s why I switched to Maemo.
    But I don’t think Maemo is “better” than Android. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend Maemo to most of my friends (non-geeks). But Maemo is better suited for my needs.

    You should decide based on your needs too.

  5. April 3, 2010 8:10 am

    I was a proud early adopter of the N900. I can say that I don’t believe Finnish society has the aggressive nature that is essentially the essence & backbone of American culture. Updates cannot come at the speed nor consistency of large American companies. South Korean companies like Samsung and Taiwanese companies like HTC are kicking it into high gear-sacrificing innovative design for rapid advancement of technology. Canadians keep pumping out boring, outdated Blackberries and might eventually become more relevant (but I doubt will be able to keep pace fast enough).
    Nokia will never make anything as beautiful as the 8800 series modern with touch, an amazing form factor like the 6260/N93 with touch, or even something as stable & well rounded as an N95 with a modern operating system. Instead they will keep trying to stay in the game with high megapixel, overdesigned yet unfinished, high end devices while mass chruning out crap phones for the 3rd world to stay afloat financially. They will continue to stay out of one of the highest cell phone penetrated countries in the world (the US) and will never make devices that can support more than 1 set of European 1 set of American frequency bands.
    5 of 6 in my immediate family stopped upgrading to newer Nokias as they have since 2000; one by one they all bought iPhones (as nearly half of my friends did as well). They all pay nearly double for service because of US exclusivity contracts, but were willing to switch carrier and shell out more $ without hesitation. Ask any of them if they will ever change to anything other than an iPhone ever again in the future. Then ask them if any would ever consider buying a Nokia device ever again and they will laugh.
    They will forego options they have used for nearly a decade (like bluetooth file transfers or being able to save any file to any folder on the system architecture) for stability. They know that even though Android will be constantly updated across various hardware platforms, the huge popularity of iApple will all but guarantee tremendous, continued support & wide range upgrades to features.
    No desktops or main screens look as cool as Meego/Maemo or WebOS, but maybe Android 3.0 will be closer one day?
    Nokia cannot ensure enough stability before releasing a product, cannot provide the popularity and interest for developers, cannot push updates out fast enough (or regularly before completely abandoning a model), cannot keep up with cutting edge hardware (processors, screens, etc.), nor innovate the way they once did when they ruled the market.
    I’m afraid that I have to agree with the author completely on every point made in this article. This N900 will most likely be my 6th and final Nokia. Unless the management can be shaken up hard, I can only sit around and wish for the company to return to its former glory. But as the saying goes, “you can wish in one hand and sh*t in the other and see which gets filled first”. (By which time I’ll probably be using a jailbroken iPhone with a front-facing camera or super techie and masculine looking Android device).
    Nokia, you will be missed…

  6. Kyllikki Varvisaari permalink
    April 4, 2010 8:37 pm

    Dear Jeromeo,
    don’t forget that there about 6 billion people on Earth who either don’t want or either cannot afford Apple or Google device. Nokia is there in order to serve needs of these people. What Nokia probably is good for in the future, is to bring smartphones available for these 6 billion other than who “if they will ever change to anything other than an iPhone ever again in the future”. That will likely to take place parallel with developments of Maemo/MeeGo super-highend devices, which will kick Iphone ass big time. In many aspects.

  7. April 5, 2010 12:13 am

    C’mon Kylikikykiky, are you trying to say that only 8% of the global population will be able to afford an iPhone or Android device (around $250 US and less of which nearly every carrier in the world will subsidize for those who need extended payments) for the forseeable future? Ridiculous. Remember that every 6 months about 10 new Android devices are released and every year the iPhone gets updated-making every previous model drop in price month after month. And those older devices will still continue to receive updates, unlike Nokia who discontinues a specific model completely and stops offering general firmware updates to an individual product at about 2 years after it’s initial release. [I've read on many blogs that people believe] developing nations should be ever so thankful that Nokia is offering the same 12 key, 256 color sh*t phones that they’ve been churning out since 2002 and revel in their self-centered benevolence by giving the 3rd world products that developed nations havent used in nearly a decade? I find it so sad that Nokia used to be the pinnacle of innovation and is now proud to make monochrome garbage for the impoverished. They used to offer a wide range of devices. Advanced luxury for those who could save up, marvels for the techies, virtually disposable candybars for the poor, and constant innovation to all. I feel so strongly because I am so disappointed in how horribly Nokia has slacked off for nearly 6 years. Everything they will ever do from now on will be a never ending game of catch-up. It’ all because their culture doesn’t have the cut-throat nature that American corporations have.
    I can only hope that Meego will help them attain their former glory. I would LOVE to see that, but I will not hold my breath. I hope for their sake they kick ass because I do think they have genuinely altruistic goals for ‘connecting people’ around the globe while making money in the process, where Apple will make a product that is so amazingly intuitive that they expect you to hand over your savings while kissing their feet to stroke their ego for their hard work. Google just wants all eyes to be channelled through their products to dominate the advertising market. Asian manufacturers simply want to reach higher numbers in sales, profits, market shares, and company rankings-nothing more than numbers.
    I find it sad that not everyone should expext technology to evolve exponentially. I had my very first smartphone in 2003 and I’ve realised that No One (rich or poor) should just sit around and accept a feature phone in the year 2010. All should demand convergence! No more digital camreas, laptops, watches, phones, netbooks, desktops, eReeders, mp3 players, MIDs, but instead ONE multipurpose device. And please don’t argue that not everyone needs a camera or one person might not want to use a music player-making dozens of mediocre devices instead of one usefull to all device is unintelligent and wasteful with the the earth’s natural resourses (more factories, more production lines, more electricity, more product ehich will never be recycled).

  8. naivsupr permalink
    April 12, 2010 10:56 pm

    just to bring some gas into this (like that was missing):)
    op could’ve said:
    “But with the Symbian based E71 they have convinced me. This is the one device I need, it is with me everywhere, it is always on line. It’s a camera when I need one, a gps device in the car, my music player, I write this blog from it, read the news, download and listen to podcasts, the list goes on and on and on.”
    sorry for cursing in the church :)
    my point? after seeing the latest developement neither android(java but not java) nor iphone is for me.
    nokia was taking control over symbian but missed the developers carrot: the store-stuff that actually worked for everyone and their dog, the one stop shop for additional content. i’m not sure if ovi is too little too late but 90% of the s60 users out there doesn’t know what type of power they got on their hands anyway. apps? anyone? but then they get to see some ibeer or ifart on a friends super advanced device without buttons and are conviced that they need some ibeer too.
    i’ve yet to see an iphone/android that doesn’t disconnect the running phone session when the network switches between gprs/edge/2,5G/3G in the bacground. hardware or software? i don’t know but disable 3G on those devices and everything is much better. lets not forget that we are discussing phones here. until voip rules, we still need some core services, like gsm/cdma.
    apps?
    in my symbian days (e71,e61,p800) i never missed the store, google gave me every app i wanted, just a search or two away but these were extra steps, meaning the masses was left out of the loop.

    btw: witter is working again now, thanks for updating the code more often than your blog :)
    (written on maemo/n900)

  9. n97andE72 permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:05 am

    well, i am a power user, and i have an n97, and an E72, and they are every thing i need. A great cam, gps , email, screen, keyboard, and playing games from now and then (polarbit one’s are great)
    actually i dont need anymore apps! I can just go to my opera browser and search for everything.
    I got a chance to play with an iphone for a couple of weeks, its nice to play with in the first 3-4 days, afterwards i felt kinda stupid. I had to jailbreak the phone for the simplest functions. So i got rid of it.
    I think the iphone is a phone for children.
    I prefer symbian and nokia devices, well see wt nokia and intel hold for us in the future with meego.
    For now im waiting for the n8’s camera.

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