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EDITIONS
Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
The troubles of taming technology
Pictures taken with Nokia 7650, BBC
Ward's world: Pictures taken with the Nokia 7650

With new technology there is a fine line between the leading edge and the bleeding edge.

And as an owner of a new Nokia 7650 camera phone I have been weaving back and forth across that boundary like a drunken sow.

I decided to replace my old phone because I had finally lost patience with its poor interface and the number of key presses needed to do the simplest things.

By contrast, the Nokia 7650 is a pleasure to use.

Most things can be done, including making and taking calls, using a thumb on the joystick.

Everything else is little more than a single key press away. Even text messages can be written with just your thumb.

The Symbian operating system of the 7650 is behind this. It boots up quickly, only gives you relevant menu choices, lets you tweak and edit many page layouts and is very responsive.

Problems, problems

So much for how it leads. It bleeds, too.

First, the cost. On the network I use, it cost 249.99. It makes sense to buy a GPRS (General Packet Data Services) bundle to swap data back and forth.

Nokia 7650, Nokia
The 7650: Fun and frustration in one package
Data packages vary in price by network but on most it will add a few pounds per month to your bill.

I seem to be using about 400kilobytes of data a week for Wap page browsing and sending e-mails.

On some networks sending an image to another picture phone is charged separately; on others the cost is bundled in.

At the moment, GPRS coverage is patchy and prone to fading. Areas you would expect to have a strong signal do not.

But with a strong signal, Wap becomes useable because the pages load quickly.

Wrong message

But it is when you try to use all the phone's features that the real fun begins.

The 7650 does not come with a data cable to connect it to a PC. So, if you have a lot of contacts to transfer you could spend a lot of time retyping them.

Nokia 3650, Nokia
Nokia has already announced the successor to the 7650
It can swap data via Bluetooth, short-range radio, and Bluetooth dongles that plug in to a USB port are coming down in price. However, some people may balk at buying yet more technology get this gadget working..

It does have an infra-red port so you could beam contacts to it but you will still have to edit them to fit the 7650 format.

But getting e-mail to work on the phone proved the most problematic.

I naively assumed that it would be like setting up e-mail on my PC.

The phone looked like it wanted the same information needed by the mail reader on my home computer.

But the anti-spam measures in the net's mail sending protocols meant initially I could only download e-mail not send it - which kind of defeats the point.

To make matters worse, the phone companies' websites do not yet know that the 7650 exists, which makes it even harder to get advice on how to configure it.

A search of Usenet groups for people with similar problems turned up some information. The solution was to register with my phone operator's e-mail service so it could be sure I was not a spammer.

But getting e-mail working messed up the Wap service. By tweaking more settings and searching online I found I had to set up separate communication profiles on the phone for different services. Now both work fine.

But it has been a chore. In the end, I spent about over six hours getting it all going, and I doubt many other people will persevere as long.

This could be a fatal flaw for phone firms because only when people do start using it will they spend money.

For true mass-market appeal the phone is going to have to work out of the box, and at the moment the bleeding is definitely leading.

See also:

02 Aug 02 | Technology
15 Jul 02 | dot life
25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
03 Sep 02 | Business
21 Sep 02 | Technology
03 Aug 02 | Technology
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