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Inconsistent Networking in Nokia Phones

Luca reminded me today that I like to push the limits of my devices. I push my phones to their breaking point. My phone bounces between GPRS and WiFi multiple times a day, sometimes connected via both. Between that, Bluetooth, and Podcasts, yes, I can easily run my phone battery down in a day, sometimes less.

But today, I’ve been a bit frustrated with my Nokia phones. The issue I am about to write about is something I’ve run into in various Nokia Series 60 devices, particularly on the N and E series phones. It involves that thing that makes the phone more than just the phone–the networking stack, and how applications use it. The applications I will refer to will be only applications that are included as part of a factory default configuration, i.e. no third-party apps.

I have possessed or currently possess the following devices: E62, E70,  N73, N93, N80i. While they are all series 60 Third Edition, they all seem to handle networking just a little differently. The E series phones all support something called “Access Point” groups. This allows you to group together one or more access methods, be it GPRS or WiFi access points. You can then tell an application to use the Access Point group as a default method and it will try all available methods. The N series phones don’t support this insanely useful thing. Furthermore, not all of the built-in apps support Access Point groups at all.

And it gets better. Some built-in applications allow you to specify the ever-popular “Always Ask” access point by default. In absence of Access Point groups, this is my next-best choice. At home, or in a few places that I know that have open WiFi, I want to use WiFi. Otherwise, I want to use the pokey Cingular GPRS/EDGE network. Some applications, most notably LifeBlog, don’t give you the “Always Ask” choice. Every time I switch locations, I have to remember to go into LifeBlog and change the default access point back. GPRS/EDGE is flaky at my house.

One application in particular, the RSS Reader, doesn’t give you the ability to specify an access point at all! I discovered, through trial and error, that it uses the default access point defined for the Web browser. If that is set to “Always Ask,” it will use whatever access point was selected before you selected “Always Ask.” Really strange.

This one just seems dumb to me. Let’s say I’m running the email application and I am connected via WiFi to my home access point. I then want to go to the Web browser to look up something. Why in the hell does it ask me what access point I want to use when *I already have a network connection open? *It could do something like “Hey, I see you’re already connected to WiFi. Should I use that connection or a different one?” There is a usage case for having both a WiFi and a GPRS connection open: if you want to access your GSM provider’s homepage, which is usually only accessible via GPRS. But that’s probably an exception rather than the rule.

But the past several days, I’ve noticed even bigger problems–specifically on the Nokia N80i. The general networking stack seems to “lock up” for no discernible reason. GPRS and WiFi both “go south.” If I go into the Connection Manager to try and kill the active connection, the phone gets “really slow” and becomes generally non-responsive and I have to power-cycle. Sometimes, I have to pull the battery out of the phone because the power switch doesn’t work. I can’t even begin to tell you how irritating it is to have to do that.

In short, I see a lack of consistency between the various Nokia Series 60 Third Edition phones in terms of networking features, a lack of consistency for support of these features with built-in applications, and overall better handling of networking in general. And, of course, just overall stability with the networking in the N80i.

#Cybersecurity Evangelist, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.