Throwback gadget: Nokia N950

Nokia N950 origins

The Nokia N950 was designed at a weird time. Nokia’s position as the premier smartphone maker was under siege from Android and iPhone after seeing off the Palm OS and numerous iterations of Windows Phone. Nokia had missed the boat on devices with capacitive touch displays. It was using a smartphone operating system that was starting to show its age, a bit like PalmOS did previously. Like Palm, Nokia wasted far too much time coming up with its next generation OS, which gave Google and Apple the opportunity gap that they needed.

Part of the problem was that Nokia was wrong for the right reasons:

  • Different consumers do need different types of phones, which is why HMD have managed to resurrect modern versions of classic Nokia feature phone designs
  • Phones are better if they can be operated one-handed. Whereas Google and Apple busied themselves designing computers that happened to be phones
  • Phones needed to be made down to a cost. So the handsets were different on the outside but had common ‘guts’, which meant that premium products could  be underpowered

Nokia had their own answer to Android and iOS in MeeGo which grew out of work that Intel and Nokia had separately done on mobile Linux. Nokia was partnering with Intel partly because it believed that Intel was the future of mobile.

The Nokia N950 was a development handset showcasing this operating system in action. It was similar and related to the N9.

The N9 was released in a limited amount of markets were it was successful. However the N9 success story was overshadowed by the larger business problems Nokia faced in its transition from Symbian and feature phones to Windows Phone.

There were an estimated 5,000 Nokia N950 handsets made in total, which went to the Nokia global developer community. Technically there are loaned devices rather than given to developers. They occasionally appear on eBay going for 1,000GBP+

Up close with the Nokia N950

At first glance the Nokia N950 looked like a chimera of the N9 and the N8 with a slide out keyboard riffing on the Communicator form factor that Nokia pioneered.

It makes sense to list the differences with the N9 first of all:

  • The Nokia N950 had a TFT LCD screen roughly the same size as a Nokia E90 Communicator, but with a higher resolution. The N9 had an AMOLED screen which is slightly smaller and has a slightly higher resolution
  • The N9 was made from the same machined polycarbonate body that then made its appearance on Nokia Lumia models. The Nokia N950 has a case made from a mix of machined and stamped aluminium parts and came only in black (though I have seen pictures of un-anodised devices as well. These were probably pre-production prototypes)
  • They had different camera modules that performed broadly the same
  • The Nokia N950 had a pop under keyboard similar to  the N8 and E7. More on that a bit later on
  • The Nokia N950 had 8.5GB of usable storage compared to up to 64GB of memory in the N9
  • The N9 has a slightly larger battery than the N950, but the difference wouldn’t have been noticeable due to the difference in screen technology

What you end up with is a phone that still looks modern (partly due to its anodised black case making the screen edge harder to spot.

Nokia N950

The device is slow compared to modern devices but is speedy for its time. The device flipped from landscape to portrait mode, but this wasn’t perfectly implemented.

Nokia N950

It had a pop under keyboard which allows the device to have a really shallow design in comparison to Communicator devices. However it does leave the screen exposed to damage. The past decade of Gorilla Glass™ screens on iPhones and Android handsets proves that the Corning wonder material is not invulnerable.

Nokia N950

The problem with the design means that you end up with a shallow area for the keyboard. The Nokia N950 like the E7 and N8 don’t have as full a featured keyboard as the Communicator devices.

10 - E90 keyboard

Here’s a keyboard from the E90 by comparison. When you were using the Nokia N950 you end up with a virtual keyboard on the screen  providing the tab,  ctrl, esc and alt keys, as well as very commonly used symbols.  Which begs the question of how useful the keyboard would really be for developers?

Compared to the modern iPhone, the N950 meets the goal of a mobile computing device much better. You can write longer emails and documents on the keyboard than the iPhone. The camera is adequate for most people’s needs and it shows in some respects how little the smartphone concept has moved on over the past seven years.

Could the Nokia N950 been the future?

Historically Nokia’s Symbian phones had been built on TI’s OMAP processors; but these didn’t have a roadmap for 4G wireless. Nokia had two choices bet on Qualcomm or Intel. Qualcomm had come out on top in IP related disputes, which probably made Intel seem more attractive. Intel was also championing WiMax as a 4G standard.

WiMax had limited adoption at best, Nokia was on the wrong side of networking standards and eventually was forced to use Qualcomm processors in Windows Phone reference designs.

`Nokia could have gone to Snapdragon processors but its joint relationship with Intel on the software side of things would have been tainted. There is also no guarantee that Qualcomm would have been a helpful partner given the history between the two companies and that both Android and iOS devices used Qualcomm products.

Secondly, Nokia bet all the marketing budget on the Lumia device launch which left nothing for the MeeGo devices.

Finally, Nokia would not have been able to get out of the legal contract that they had with Microsoft. The only way MeeGo would have stood a chance is if the Nokia board had not approved Stephen Elop’s proposal to go with Windows, rival schemes to go with Android and bet on the home team.

  • At the time the internal Nokia option would have looked high risk. Board members would have been familiar with historic project problems on Meamo and then MeeGo
  • Secondly Nokia had a history of buying in new generation operating systems. It licensed GEOS  for the Nokia Communicator 9000 and 9110. It licensed and then bought into Psion’s OS business unit, which became Symbian
  • Nokia’s feature phones ran on homegrown technology built on Intelligent System Architecture (ISA), also called the Nokia Operating System (NOS)
More information

TIMELINE: Qualcomm vs Nokia patents battle | Reuters
Qualcomm loses GSM patent fight with Nokia in German court | Ars Technica
Why Qualcomm Folded to Nokia | Bloomberg BusinessWeek (paywall)
The ‘I Wish I Had Known This’ List about 101 Things Wrong With Windows Phone Smartphones Like Nokia Lumia | Communities Dominate Brands
How Many Lumia Sales? As Nokia (and Microsoft) ashamed to reveal number, lets count – and compare to N9 MeeGo sales | Communities Dominate Brands
Nokia N8 review | GSMArena

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Who is winning more Chinese Consumers in 2018? – Global site – Kantar Worldpanel – top line is that western FMCG brands are growing China market share at a slower rate than their Chinese competitors. Any of them that banging on about strategic market long term have another think coming. Expect these Chinese brands to go after emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Africa later on

Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the Collapse of the Tech Mythology – The Atlantic – opportunity for public affairs and public relations industries

Chart: Is TV’s Reign Nearing Its End? | Statista – the conclusion on this is a bit off base. What is TV? Is it the TV set, is it broadcast infrastructure or is it passive content consumption. IPTV is an extension of TV rather than something new. Is there really that much difference between Amazon Prime and cable TV or nowTV. Is Netflix that much different to HBO? Broadcast networks (terrestrial and satellite) cover more of the population in most western countries than mobile networks, or wired broadband. The technology moves a lot slower which makes have a TV that will last a decade or more an attractive proposition. By comparison my parents have an iPad that is six years old and Apple no longer supports

Cognitive Training Does Not Enhance General Cognition: Trends in Cognitive Sciences – bang goes a parents excuse for more gaming

Two great articles on the Dolce & Gabbana Chinese adverts and how it all blew up

LinkedIn cuts off email address exports with new privacy setting | TechCrunch

Oprah time: Economics – The User’s Guide: A Pelican Introduction by Ha-Joon Chang

Economics – The User’s Guide: A Pelican Introduction by Ha-Joon Chang is a great reader for the average person on economics. If I had this during my first economics modules at college, it would have been really useful.

As an engaged member of the electorate it would allow you to for example critique Brexiters vision of Britain as a free market utopia a la Singapore just off the coast of continental Europe.

Singapore isn’t actually a free market utopia. The government houses almost 90 per cent of the population through the HDB (Housing Development Board). State-owned businesses are responsible for roughly 25% of gross national product. It is easy to set up a business there; but they have a very one dimensional view of Singapore’s success if they consider it to be a free market utopia.

Chang critiques the major economic theories and pulls no punches on any of them. It is a level of frankness that members of the public don’t normally get from experts in the media. How scientific are economic numbers?

What does deindustrialisation even mean from an economists perspective? Without spoiling the book for you, it doesn’t mean Stoke-on-Trent or Scunthorpe’s vision of post industrial dystopia. Instead it would be more honest to call it servicisation. An analogy would be if you look at industrialisation took workers away from the land, but agriculture continued on.

The move to service economy has issues with productivity that Chang covers eloquently.

Economics – The User’s Guide is a powerful book that calls BS on ideas like the happiness index and neoclassical economics.

Economics the users guide

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Apple reportedly resumes iPhone X production to recover from dismal sales | The Next Web – this would affect margins so its a complex algebraic problem and then there is the question about differentiation between XS and X models. Worthwhile probably looking at an SE model to the 8 and 8 plus due to many people being wedded to the home button and better battery life

Designing for Gen Z: How to connect with the next generation of influencers | Netimperative – latest digital marketing news – reminds me a lot of stuff that was written about gen-y at the beginning

Mark Ritson: The threat of direct-to-consumer disruption is overblown | Marketing Week the likes of private label at Ocado and Amazon pose a bigger threat

Mark Ritson: Don’t just look at the long term, look at the long, long term | Marketing Week – so much here. Ritson is right, but so many agendas against this:

  • The disruption trope beloved of management consultants and management boards
  • Digital assets tend not to be as memorable because they are focused no short term effectiveness and that’s where sexy is in marketing. But digital was used to support the Old Spice man and Cadburys gorilla ads for instance when it has been done
  • Senior marketers tend to not last long in a role, so there are perverse incentives to think purely about short term gains

Korea’s Wireless Carriers Rev Up their War against Apple’s Promotions Policy with Threats of Legal Action and more – Patently Apple – this is kicking off as Samsung is bleeding, Korea doesn’t have an effective way to go after Huawei and other Chinese vendors eroding its business

A Chinese Research Firm Turns the Tables on Apple Claiming that iPhones Appeal to China’s ‘Invisible Poor’ not Middle Class – Patently Apple – interesting reading. This is more subtle than the data appears. Apple seems to have much more of a secondary market for its refurbed / secondhand handsets that is skewing the data. You have to wonder about the motives of the research company. Apple gets this due to desirability perception compared to a Huawei, HTC or Samsung

Not So Big in Japan: Apple Cuts Price of iPhone XR to Boost Sales – WSJ – Major wireless carriers in Japan plan to cut iPhone XR prices as early as next week, people with direct knowledge of the plan said, without giving details of the extent of the cut. Japan is one of the most lucrative markets for Apple, which has a dominant 46.7% share of the smartphone market, according to a survey conducted by MMD Labo from July 31 to Aug. 1.

The XR is available in Apple stores in Japan from about $750, but carriers’ pricing is more opaque as phones are bundled with data plans. (paywall)

Elliot Schrage on Definers | Facebook Newsroom – not exactly the smoking gun for the New York Times article, but also shows how public affairs is well out of step with societal norms

What Chinese women want from men nowadays | HKEJ Insight – when I was in college, and I wanted to be a journalist or writer. [In those days], we could easily attract girls if we could write a poem or play guitar. But now the world has changed. Girls want something else. Women change the way men look at this world.

Bringing the Android kernel back to the mainline [LWN.net] – this is explains why Google had been looking at Fuschia for a long time rather than following with updating Android radically

Know Your Chinese Social Media – The New York Times – (paywall) goes beyond the big platforms to cover some of the emerging ones that I don’t know well

How China Walled Off the Internet – The New York Times – DNS poisoning (paywall)

Valve discontinues the Steam Link, the best wireless HDMI gadget ever made – The Verge – interesting how PC gamers rejected the device

If you want to understand Silicon Valley, watch Silicon Valley | Bill Gates – Bill Gates on why he likes Silicon Valley

Nine of every 10 Silicon Valley jobs pays less than in 1997 – big technology companies like Google and Facebook are so dominant in their respective markets that they have been able to direct a larger share of revenues to investors and some top employees.

At the same time, the region’s increasing cost of living is leading to some of the highest poverty rates in the country, he said. Adjusted for living costs, California has the second-highest poverty rate in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Shortlist axe proves how hostile the men’s mag market is today – but all hope is not lost | The Drum – With the male market being so fragmented, it’s difficult to connect with men in the same way as Stylist has created a connection with a young, professional female audience. Shortlist may have had compelling, world-class editorial, but it didn’t connect as a brand in the same way Stylist does

Instagram kills off fake followers, threatens accounts that keep using apps to get them | TechCrunch – well that’s a lot of influencers dead in the water right there

Dolce & Gabbana’s New Ad Campaign Sparks Uproar in China | Jing Daily – ok. So the model meets western rather than Chinese beauty norms, don’t get me wrong she is very pretty but she isn’t the kind of face you’d see as a famous actress. Look at Fan Bingbing, Angelababy or Zhang Ziyi. Beautification photo apps tend to make the eyes wider and almond shaped, the skin uniformly pale and smooth. The face shape more heart-shaped. So that’s one aspect of ignorance that builds up a picture of ‘racism’.

Showing Chinese people how to use chopsticks overshot the cross cultural humour D&G were looking for. In this particular case the outrage. It was a hackneyed attempt to copy the kind of physical humour popular on Chinese social media channels. The dialogue is full of double entrendres making is excruciating to sit through. Think dialogue from a Carry On film ‘Ewww errr matron what a big thermometer you have’ with Benny Hill style physical comedy.

Finally nationalism and the constant viewpoint that foreign brands are just itching to insult the Motherland and; or the Party which are largely one and the same.These nationalists jump the Great Firewall and attack western social profiles like what happened to Mercedes.  Interesting that western social platforms don’t bother blocking or filtering these mainland groups at all. Many use a Facebook group as a rallying point which I expect happened here. Western brands should be demanding more from Zuckerberg and Co.

What’s interesting is that the advert hasn’t been carved up from a feminist perspective; helpless squirming, awkwardly giggling embarrassed woman has #metoo moment with douche bag commentator.

Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms by US Senator Mark R Warner – requiring bots / bot ran accounts to be clearly labeled as such. Making tech companies liable for defamation under state tort laws, building wider media literacy, GDPR type legislation. Audit of algorithms by government, requiring data portability between services (PDF)

RIP Apple networking, Time Capsule and AirPort no longer available from Apple – 9to5Mac – 9to5mac.com – interesting comments from Apple customers, particularly with providing an alternative to Google networking products and the Apple’s permission to play in the smart home space with no networking product in place

Digitisation is key to upgrading Asia’s fashion factories. Just do it responsibly, says Fung Group’s director of sustainability | Apparel Industry Interview | just-style – a fiend of mine has a family firm in Sri Lanka where they automated things like embroidery well over a decade ago. It is the more manual tasks that when digitised will cause most social disturbance – an example of this would be Frontline Clothing’s innovative process in distressing denim using lasers; which had previously been a manual process

A Japanese detergent maker’s first steps towards personalisation | Analysis | Campaign Asia – personalised fragrances

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

Things that made my day this week:

Yohji Yamamoto at the Oxford Union

More awesome than your Apple Watch – This Casio G-Shock Watch Transforms into Optimus Prime – Technabob

To coincide with the re-issue of Miles Davis – Rubberbrand EP – Amerigo Gazaway has done a remix and a mix of Miles Davis back catalogue.

Kemo the Blaxican – Something about love. Kemo was in Delinquent Habits and has since put out quality albums under his own name whilst touring with his old colleagues.

A very complete archive of radio transmissions from the Apollo 11 mission: Apollo 11 : NASA : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive