In the past two months, I have been invited to a couple of events under the sponsorship with Nokia Singapore via Text100 Singapore, starting from my first trip to the Nokia Developer Summit 2009 in Monte Carlo. Following on, I went to the launch of the Nokia N97 in Kuala Lumpur. In the process, it opened up new business opportunities like arranging entrepreneurs from my existing portfolio to see what can be developed for Ovi Store, funding new applications relating to the Ovi Store and also consumer interactions with the people from Nokia. Recently, I received a gift from Nokia during a meeting with their corporate communications team three weeks back and it’s the Nokia N97 with full disclosure. So, I have finally unboxed the phone yesterday (given that I have been moving around China for the past two weeks and have a proper 3G plan one day before I start traveling) before the Nokia Ovi Store bloggers’ gathering in Ben & Jerry’s @ Cathay. Here are some of the initial impressions and some things I discover about the Nokia N97 while learning about applications on different mobile phone vendors and operating systems.
The Consumer Perspective
I have actually seen a Nokia N97 prototype during the Nokia Developer Summit 2009 in Monte Carlo. The engineer gave a demo with the prototype and here are some differences which I observe from finally looking at my own Nokia N97 (a black one):
- Keyboard and TouchScreen: There are more keys added to the keyboard. One of the them is the blue arrow key to the right which allows the user to easily input numbers. It is easy for me to adjust to the keyboard when I first use the phone as compared to iPhone which I still find that I need time to get used to the multi-touch interface. It does help if you want to twitter quickly with a keyboard. The touchscreen works alright except that you have to leave your finger a bit longer to maintain the kinetic scrolling.
- Dashboard: Since the first time I looked at the Nokia N97, I thought the dashboard provided the user an easier way to navigate between apps. Of course, the dashboard also give some preview content of the apps which one uses in the mobile device.
- Social Networking Apps: Exploring the apps that is already pre-loaded to the phone, there are social networking applications in N97 which are not found in the iPhone, namely Hi5 and Friendster which are dominant in Thailand and Philippines. I have logged in with my accounts on all three social networks including Facebook (which is also preloaded). The loading time for these apps are about the same as compared to her smartphone competitors.
- Display of Apps on Nokia N97: Compare to iPhone, the display of the apps on Nokia N97 still requires a lot of improvement. It will take time for Nokia to continue to innovate on the interface. I have to be charitable that the apps on the Ovi Store does not support just the N97 but the older phones in the Nokia portfolio.
- What did I download and learn from the Ovi Store gathering?: During the Ovi Store Gathering in Ben & Jerry’s, we are given a SIM card and download some apps to our own choosing. We were told that the top app for download is the alarm clock, something which we all need. There is one application which I definitely need: gravity (the twitter client). The other app I have downloaded is the game “Tetris” by Electronics Arts, which turned out to be a hitter among the users for the night. The user interface for the Tetris game is actually very intuitive and fun for people who are traveling or moving between places.
The Investor & Entrepreneur/Developer Perspective
Here is something I have learned from the Ovi Store bloggers event. if you are a developer or entrepreneur who are working in mobile applications space, you might want to invest some effort to develop or port your applications in the Ovi Store. One of the highest downloaded applications in Ovi Store is Gravity, the twitter client, which costs about S$14.95. Using iPhone Apps store as a comparison, there are numerous free Twitter applications which have a lot of users downloading it, e.g. TweetDeck and Twitterific but none of them have presence in the Ovi Store. Creating or porting existing mobile apps in an alternative space (other than the iTunes Apps Store) allows the entrepreneurs and developers to gain greater market access.
From an investor, it reduces the risk if an entrepreneur tells me that developing just an iPhone app can also be extended to other platforms for market access. Sometimes, creating an app which everyone needs is more valuable than creating one that seeks to create demand from the consumers.