GPS devices are getting smaller, and over the next couple of years more and more mobile phones will come equipped with chips that communicate with satellites in space, providing pinpoint data about your location, in theory at least. In fact, mobile market leader Nokia expects to ship 35 million GPS-phones in 2008.
I have been using a few GPS devices recently and they work well in their own ways, a Nokia N95 which can add geo-data to the pictures it takes; a Nokia N810 which can tell me where I am and for an extra €99 will show me the way to where I want to get to; a Windows Mobile PDA, the Acer C530 which comes with GPS and Co-Pilot software which tells me where I am and how to get to my destination.
A week or so back I managed to get my hands on a Nokia N810 as part of our MoLeNET project, one of many mobile devices we have got to support the project. These devices are for two main reasons, firstly from a learner support perspective, if they have them, how do they work and how does our mobile content play on them? Secondly to evaluate them from a college perspective so that if and when we get more mobile devices for our learners we can go with a device we have used, checked and know works. We can also use that information to advise and recommend devices to learners.
So what do I think of the Nokia n810?
So far I have been quite impressed with the Nokia N810, it is a neat smart device, which works as you expect it to work.
Browsing is good, as are other internet applications. It either uses wi-fi or you use a Bluetooth connection to your phone and use your phone’s 3G data connection. Thing to remember is that it is not a phone!
I found the keyboard though small, much easier and better than any mobile phone keypad for typing in text and the predictive text entry means you can go quite fast.
Haven’t yet tried video on the device as in an actual video file, tried it with an online video, BBC’s iPlayer, and the Flash video playback was very poor, jerky and unwatchable. I am guessing that is a similar reason why Apple have not implemented Flash on the iPhone and the iPod touch – though I have also heard it was more down to PDF reading and implementation!
Battery life is good and much better than a lot of UMPCs out there, so it has that going for it.
The Register has a really detailed and good review of the Nokia n810 on their website.
Nokia’s approach for the N810 is pretty simple: phone screens are too small for decent web browsing, so surely a separate portable device that has a bigger screen and Wi-Fi connectivity is needed for serious portable web access.
Taken at face value, Nokia’s N810 not a bad box of tricks. For surfing the web, email and as an internet communication device it is a handy little gadget, while the operating system is easy to use, feature rich and robust. The relative abundance of software is another plus. But that lack of a SIM slot does niggle just a bit.
I believe that the Nokia n810 is a great portable internet device for learning and I really like it.
I don’t believe it is suitable as a device to give to learners, for two main reasons, number one it is expensive for what it does, two, it is too “delicate” and “stylish” and I don’t think it is robust enough to be given out to students in the way that a PSP or even an iPod touch could be given out.
As part of our Glossy Project (part of the MoLeNET programme) we are looking at the differences between learners using their own devices and the college providing devices.
One particular lecturer was interested in using PDAs with GPS capability. After difficulties in finding a suitable product, in the end I went for a “cheap and cheerful” product, the Acer C530, this is a Windows Mobile device with GPS capabilty built in (through a large external aerial).
Summary of features
64MB SDRAM / 128MB ROM
2.8 inch, TFT-LCD Touchscreen display with 320 x 240 QVGA resolution
108 x 58 x 16.8 mm / 122g
Bluetooth® 1.2 / Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
Integrated SiRF Star III LP GPS receiver
CoPilot 6 Navigation Software with Full Maps of UK, Ireland & Western Europe
Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system
Full MS Office Mobile Suite
Includes Window mount, AC & car charger, case
EU map coverage: including UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Benelux, Italy, Scandinavia (up to 100% coverage), Spain and Portugal, Russia (detailed coverage in Moscow and St. Petersburg).
The key thing with this device is that it has a rather small screen for what is quite a bulky device.
I was impressed it came with Pocket TV which is a much better application for playing back video than the included Mobile Windows Media Player which comes as standard with Windows Mobile.
So far all I have really done with the device is charge it up (well once I remembered to put the battery in it).
I have not yet managed to get the GPS working, but I know that is because I am indoors and GPS can be so flaky when you are indoors. In a previous life I had a TomTom GPS unit I used with my Sony Ericsson P910i phone and that never worked until I took it outdoors.
It’s raining, so I am not going outside.
The problem with GPS is that it kills the battery fast, so it’s nice to see that the box comes with an included car charger (not that our learners will be using that) but also that it can be charged via USB.
As for expandability it comes with a SD card slot which means at least I am not going to need to find another different memory card format as I seem to be having to do with phones.
Alas it doesn’t have sound recording capability which would have been nice, but then at the price it was much cheaper than more powerful PDA GPS options, currently £176 at Amazon which includes VAT.
I have always been intrigued by the Nokia N series as a potential platform for mobile learning. So much so that I had in fact placed an order for the N800 on Friday.
Of course on Friday, Nokia announce the new Nokia N810, luckily for me the order hadn’t been processed so I was able to change it to the N810.
The N810 is as you might guess is an improvement on the older N800. Key improvements are a full QWERTY keyboard, a faster processor and GPS.
For me this makes the N810 a real device for mobile learning. For connectivity you either use a wifi connection or a bluetooth connection to your phone, so mobile browsing is possible, especially if you have a 3G phone. You can also play movie, audio and look at photos.
Is it an iPod touch, no, but the phone connectivity does give it an advantage over Apples’ innovative iPod.
The Playstation Portable (PSP) is as you may guess from the name usually used for playing games. However it has other tricks up its sleeve including so I read the possibility of GPS.
The PSP as well as playing games can play audio, show pictures and play video. It also has wireless capability and a somewhat simplistic but usable browser.
I have seen the PSP camera which allows you to take video and photographs, but was interested to read about the GPS capability.
The ability to use GPS on your PSP opens up a range of learning scenarios involving maps, GPS and images.
Despite not having a stylus input and text entry is not easy, I still feel that the PSP has real potential as a device for mobile learning. There is nothing to stop a learner using other tools such as pen and paper in conjunction with a PSP as part of their learning activity.
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