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How touching! This phone kicks back!

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TOUCH OR TAP: Nokia’s 5800 XPress Music phone offers multiple ways to enter text or browse the web.
TOUCH OR TAP: Nokia’s 5800 XPress Music phone offers multiple ways to enter text or browse the web.

Anand Parthasarathy

Nokia’s new phone responds to every keystroke

Cost of phone would be around Rs. 20,000

It offers virtual touch keyboard

LONDON: Just over a year ago the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones — Nokia — showcased some new technologies in the pipeline during a media event in Singapore. Among the ‘cool tools’ their scientists were working on was ‘haptics’ technology — it derives from the Greek word for “science of touch” and means when you hit a key you get a feedback in your finger a sensation that the key is responding.

Last week Nokia unveiled its first touch sensitive handset — and arguably the world’s first mobile phone with a truly tactile keyboard. There are other firsts that the 5800 XPress Music phone brings: a 3.2 inch diagonal screen that has one of the sharpest pictures to be seen on a hand phone a 3.2 megapixel camera that uses professional Carl Zeiss optics and is good enough to shoot professional video clips for Web use a web browser that supports the Flash format used by most Internet pages to display video... other things we have come to expect from a smart phone are there — like a satellite-based maps tool. And like that classic Tata Steel advertisement perhaps they should have said “We also make phone calls.”

Icing on the cake

But all this is merely icing on the cake: the 5800 is first and foremost a good quality music player optimised for downloading music with ease and sharing it with others. Like Google’s recent web browser that features the last few web pages one has visited, the new Nokia phone brings up the owner’s four favourite contacts with a single touch — complete with a recent history of messages exchanged. This is not a phone for social loners! But if you are a gregarious guy (or gal!) the 5800 will kick-start your social contacts in a way I have seen no other phone do with canny and intuitive controls.

What it perhaps lacks — and what one might expect from a new smart phone built for the broadband or ‘3G’ era — is a physical qwerty keyboard. Instead it offers a virtual touch keyboard as well as a stylus for those whose chubby fingers make it difficult to jab closely packed keys no matter how ‘haptic’ they are.

In India by 2008

When the phone is offered in India towards year-end it might cost around Rs. 20,000. But Nokia is hoping telecom providers will slash this price drastically while bundling it with their services. On their part they have bundled it (in the markets where they are launching this week) with a canny service called “Nokia Comes With Music” free unlimited downloads from Nokia’s online music store for one year and you get to keep all you download after that.

First phone

In Europe this means a repertoire of millions of music tracks — and the company should do no less in large phone markets like India. But will they also sign on Indian music publishers? Seems logical but remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: other smart phones will come and new technologies will be offered but the Nokia 5800 will be remembered as the first phone which made it unnecessary to buy songs any more.


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