Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on BlackBerry 8800, and Nokia N95

Stefan at Ogle Earth has a great post about his experiences in Whale Valley in Egypt with his Nokia N95, which was very interesting both from a technology and a more general perspective. The Nokia N95 is one of the main alternatives to the BlackBerry 8800, as a smart phone with built in GPS. He talks about several applications which I would like but haven't seen yet on the BlackBerry, as discussed in my previous post on this topic. One is Mobile GMaps, and the associated GMap-Track, which lets you track your location in near real time and upload it to a web site and display it on top of Google Maps. I downloaded this application, and while the mapping application ran, sadly it didn't recognize the internal GPS on my BlackBerry 8800, so I couldn't get at the cool features I was after. MGMaps uses a technology called Navizon for the positioning, which says it supports positioning using either GPS or triangulation of cellular and/or WiFi signals - but when I tried to configure this to use GPS, it wanted me to pair with an external GPS receiver, so no luck. It couldn't work out a position based on phone signals either - I'm in Calgary at the moment, am not sure if this is dependent on where in the world you are, I will try it when I get back to Denver. Hopefully Navizon and/or MGMaps will add GPS support for the BlackBerry soon.

Stefan also talks about an application called ShoZu (at shozu.com), which lets you directly upload photos from the your cell phone (the Nokia N95 has a 5 megapixel camera, which is another advantage over the BlackBerry 8800, which has no camera) to flickr and other sites - and on phones with a GPS, it will geocode the photo so it can be displayed in the right location on a map. I have been talking about this possibility for a while, it's great to see that it is a reality now. As this type of technology becomes more universally available over the next few years, it will have great application in various ways - such as leveraging "the power of crowds" to get a near real time view of the aftermath of a natural or man-made emergency, which could be incredibly useful to emergency responders or utility repair crews.

Finally, I'll just mention a couple more differences between the Nokia N95 and the BlackBerry 8800 - I was just comparing notes with Ed Parsons after our panel at the GeoTec conference today, he has the former and I have the latter. In addition to the features I already mentioned (camera and software), the Nokia supports WiFi connections, which the BlackBerry doesn't. Strengths of the BlackBerry are that it has a QWERTY keyboard, whereas the Nokia just has a regular phone keypad, so you need to use SMS-style text entry, so this is a plus for the BlackBerry if you want to do a lot of email or other typing. And of course the BlackBerry has its usual email, contacts and calendar software which are all very good. Ed said that he thinks that the nicest implementation of Google Maps Mobile currently is on the BlackBerry. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I am very impressed with the TeleNav navigation software which is available on the BlackBerry (it is supported on other platforms too, but from a quick Google search I couldn't find confirmation that it is available on the N95, so it may not be yet - but I'm not sure on that). The Nokia is quite a bit more expensive than the BlackBerry, in the US at least - currently around $800 on Amazon for an unlocked phone, while they currently have the BlackBerry on special offer for $99 with a service plan commitment (so not an apples to apples comparison, but nevertheless quite a difference). I paid $299 (with a service plan) for my BlackBerry recently, too bad :( !! The BlackBerry is slimmer than the Nokia but a little wider.

So there are pros and cons to both, but the Nokia certainly has some nice additional features, with the camera, WiFi and some extra software capabilities (at the moment).

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