The latest attempt to take the crown comes from No.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As the anticipation mounts for Israel's first
"kosher," official iPhone experience, attention has turned to the slew
of "iPhone killers" that have avalanched at us this summer. It seems
that every big cellphone maker has gotten on the
and, of course, each company is touting their product's superiority.
On paper, many of these devices really are better
than the iPhone, feature for feature. The Samsung Omnia II/Jet (S8000)
has a faster processor and a better screen than the iPhone, and the
Sony Ericsson C905 has a better (far better) camera than the iPhone
could even dream of (ditto the LG Arena). And then there is the Palm
Pre, in a class by itself and the first of the new generation of
"killer" devices that are trying to wrest the title of coolest phone
The latest attempt to take the crown comes from Nokia
recently released the N97 and its somewhat older little brother, the
5800 XpressMusic, which I recently acquired.
There's a lot to be said for the Nokia phones (which I will say below).
But before I am accused of shilling for the
Finns, let me say it clearly: The N97 (which I spent some time with)
and the 5800XM (which I use) are not iPhone killers, simply because
they are not iPhones. The two cameras, the video recording capacity,
the mini flip-out keyboard (on the N97), the extreme memory capacity on
the N97 (32 GB built in, expandable to 48 GB) and so on, will never be
enough, simply because they're not made by Apple.
Why? Can a brand name really trump features to such an extent?
The only thing I can think of is that the 1984 Apple commercial
introducing the Macintosh - with the jogger smashing the "Big Brother"
screen controlling all the automatons - has really sunk deep into the
Western psyche, forever branding Apple as the counterculture,
rebellious upstart that always knows better than its "elders." As the
owner of no fewer than five Macs (two Macbooks, two Mac Minis and an
iMac), I'm just as susceptible to this mind-melding. (Note that I
didn't say the Macs weren't better than anything anyone else is
offering, but as a "Machead" I am very familiar with this mind-set. Is
a $1,600 Macbook Air really so much better than a $400 netbook?)
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The only devices I see as having a chance of
really "killing" the iPhone are perhaps the phones built on Google's
Android, because Google has that cool counterrevolutionary cachet as
But I digress. As much as I and you would like a "real" iPhone,
we don't want to shell out the huge sums they can be expected to cost
here in Israel. (Even if they are offered at a subsidized price, you
are going to end up paying a goodly - perhaps a princely - sum.)
With the arrival and the clamoring for the iPhone, however,
prices on other wannabe killers have dropped somewhat (the N97 is too
new, but a number of other touchscreen, etc., devices were on sale at
Orange when I paid them a recent visit). They may not be iPhone
"killers," but they are good enough to compete in the same space,
allowing them to maybe beat up and "injure" the iPhone, at least on
Always on the lookout for a bargain (or, always cheaping out,
depending on how you look at it), I picked up a Nokia 5800XM at Orange
recently for NIS 499, far less than the $299 I was prepared to spend on
an unlocked version of the phone at Amazon. According to Nokia, some
seven million of the things have been shipped since it was introduced
in late 2008, so I guess I was in good company.
I mentioned earlier that "perceived coolness" is one of the
major reasons for the iPhone's success, but there is also one thing the
iPhone has over any other device sold by any other manufacturer: the
iPhone Appstore and the iTunes store for iPhones. Having perfected the
touchscreen/accelerometer, etc., device first, Apple was able to get
many developers to write applications for the iPhone; there are
currently more than 65,000 applications in the App Store's bevy. By
now, every phone maker has an app store for its platform, but according
to this handy chart (http://tinyurl.com/l3kekv), the Apple version has
far more - far, far more - applications than any other version.
If the App Store is the real secret behind the iPhone's
continued appeal, despite the its relative feature deprivation compared
to the other "killers," both Google and Nokia intend to remedy that
The Android Market (as the store is called) already has
thousands of apps, and Nokia just recently opened its app store, Nokia
Ovi (which is supposed to mean "door" in Finnish). The applications in
the store are specifically for Nokia's higher-end N-series and
touchscreen phones, with the major in-app development and sales to come
as Nokia moves more N97s.
Fortunately for me, the N97 and the 5800XM share operating
systems (Symbian OS 9.4 + S60 platform 5th Edition), so the majority of
the upcoming N97 apps will work on the 5800XM as well.
Browsing the Ovi store, I came across a couple of great titles.
JoikuSpot is a nice Symbian app that lets you share your phone's 3G
connection as a modem for a laptop when you're away from a wifi
Even though the official Nokia Internet radio application for
the N97/5800XM is still under development, I found a great application
called Tunin.FM, which lists hundreds of stations that can be accessed
with my phone, including some of my favorites. And then there's Fring,
the be-all communication program that lets you use Skype (including
Skypeout), Twitter, Facebook, MSN Messenger, ICQ and a slew of others.
And, of course, there's the built-in GPS location finder, voice-driven
driving directions (in Hebrew or English), etc.
My favorite app, though, is one of the few I actually opened up
my wallet to purchase. Called Myphone, it lets you turn your Symbian
device into an "iPhone," at least in look and feel. From the "slide to
unlock" to the little iPhone-like icons for your favorite applications,
Myphone (from a site with the unlikely name MMMOOO.com), is enough
iPhone for me - considering the 5800XM didn't cost me the thousands a
"real" iPhone would!
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