- What’s new in the 6th edition
- Interface layout
- Call log
- PC Synchronization
Just like we always do, here is a thing for you to take note of – some features listed in this write-up have much to do with hardware, as well as software. For instance, some phones may not come with an Infrared port or FM-radio module. Bear this in mind, and look for reviews on specific devices. This article is the breakdown of the platform’s functionality, which is composed so as not to go over the same thing again in our reviews.
You can find our in-depth review of the S40’s previous edition here:
|Software features of Nokia S40 5th Edition|
The change log of the 6th edition is pretty lengthy, so in this preface we are going to cover the most vital of them and leave the rest for specific parts of this review. It’s important to emphasize that a number of features have been around since the fifth edition of the platform – for instance, certain views of the phonebook, transition effects and some other bits and pieces that are all attributes of S40 6th edition, in fact, are employed on some other phones too. However it’s only in the 6th edition that they have made it into the platform’s default feature pack.
- Transition effects were the cornerstone of S60 FP2 update and they did a great job adding new flavors to the user interface. So now feature phones can benefit from this feature, as they have added one effect that makes pop-up windows with notifications appear on the screen smoothly. While these special effects are eye-candy, occasionally they seem somewhat sluggish due to the CPU’s insufficient speed;
- Full-fledged support for Flash Lite 3 that allows running games and various animated swf files, including time- and date-conscious wallpapers;
- Support for WiFi that extends beyond VoIP – data connections are now available too
- Enhanced phonebook, revamped email client;
- New browser building upon WebKit open source project;
- Maps application integrated into the platform, although its an older version compared to the app found in S60-powered devices;
- Support for new Java APIs - JSR-179 Location API, JSR-205 – Wireless Messaging API;
- OMA Message 1.3;
- Horizontal scrolling of lists in the user interface;
- Themes now apply to radio application and multimedia player;
- New UI elements – pop-up windows;
Actually, it’d take us much longer than that to list all additions and tweaks introduced with the new edition of the platform, so we are going to stop right here. There are several reasons why the release of the sixth edition is very crucial to the entire world of S40 – first of all, it indicates that all successful ideas of S60 are going to get carried over to the “junior” platform. This way, the sixth edition comes preinstalled with transition effects, an open source browser, Flash Lite, and Maps. Although there is no way these two platforms will merge any time soon – they’ll just get a great deal closer, but that’s about it. In fact, all new features and ideas will be implemented in S60 first and then spread down to S40-based devices. As of today, in terms of features these two platforms are a year away from each other, which isn’t all that much in the context of the mobile phone market.
The handsets based off of the S40 5th edition (just like the S40 3rd edition powered phones) come armed with the capacity to alter the appearance of standby screens. Specifically, you can choose between Active Standby, standard looks with fast access assigned to the navigation key, and the GoTo feature (left soft-key). The wallpaper and font color of the standby screen are also manageable – as a matter of fact, for some high-contrast photos, changing font type is the only way to distinguish the text laid over them. Functions can be bound up with directions of the navigation key in a common fashion; icons may be either visible or hidden (if Active Standby is activated, they are permanently hidden; the upward direction of the navigation key gets disabled.
The Active Standby mode is very similar to the desktop found on smartphones nowadays – while active, the display is divided into several zones (shortcuts toolbar, media player and radio status, date and upcoming events and notes). No doubt, all power users will appreciate this feature, as it allows reading relevant information on the screen outright. You can also arrange the zones on the vertical axis, which adds to the interface’s flexibility.
The main menu can be viewed in one of four ways: list (5 items of the main menu), grid (12 icons), grid with labels (9 icons), and tabs. The first three types are well known for being embedded in the previous models, while the last one is of certain interest to us. The top of the screen holds a toolbar containing menu items and corresponding notes. You can use horizontal directional buttons on the navi-key to move through the menu – the contents of a highlighted item are shown in a vertical pop-up bar. It’s worth noting, that with this lay-out, navigation gets easier, as you see all available menu options. All items on the main menu may be sorted, or arranged however you please.
The sixth edition also sports predictive text input (T9) system. Also you can opt for the Word Suggestion feature, which is pretty much self-explanatory. But what’s really important is that now T9 works in all menus and features throughout the phone. If you need to type in various languages, it is not a big deal, since the handset supports switching languages on the go. The sixth edition also allows copying fragments of text or individual words – it saves all such snippets in the buffer and enables the user to insert them in any application afterwards. For instance we managed to copy text for a text message and paste it into a note on the standby screen.
Themes – using the themes, you can alter not only font color, the icon style of the main menu and wallpapers, but also the background picture of each sub-menu, which is quite interesting. All themes are very well detailed, so that you might even spend some time picking the most fitting option. The sixth edition improves upon the previous version of S40 by extending themes to the player and radio applications, so that now they are parts of one big theme you apply in the settings. But you can also opt to forgo this feature and the player will revert back to its default theme.
Other things of note include increased font size in most modes, so that it reads much better now. This also holds true for the standby screen – that is, now the battery indicator and status icons are almost two times bigger and you no longer need to peer at the display to read them. Comparing two phones that use the same screen resolution, for example QVGA, the one running sixth edition will come out on top, no contest. But as screen resolutions increase the fonts here will become similar to those seen on phones running previous editions of S40.
Up to 1000 names, which is the maximum possible capacity, can be saved in the phone’s memory. The amount of data submitted to entries makes no difference at all – the limit of 1000 contacts can’t possibly go up or down.
Each contact may have up to five assigned phone numbers of the following types: general, mobile, home, office, fax and video – for 3G networks. The first entered number becomes the default one and can be then edited to your liking.
While previous versions of S40 offered the user only a few fields when creating a contact – that is, first name, last name and one number – and the rest could be filled in later on, the sixth edition shows a few more: mobile number, email address and picture selection.
You can bind up any contact with an image or a video clip. Priority-wise, video clips are higher than pictures therefore they will be played back instead of a photo on all occasions (each name can have both a picture and a video clip assigned). When viewing details on a contact, you will see its picture outright, although previously it resided in its own section. In the general list you can have caller IDs and contacts names paired up - in this mode, the thumbnail is smallish and gives a little notion of the actual image. Other view modes are quite common - only names, names with the general number. The general list can display contacts stored on a SIM card and the phone’s internal memory.
On an outgoing call, the image gets reduced to a small thumbnail, whilst on incoming calls, it occupies the entire screen. Contact’s name is displayed next to the number type icon and full phone number.
The 6th edition fully supports contact transfers between internal memory and SIM-cards and vice versa.
You can always change the input language while typing in any menu, this solution is identical to the one applied on Nokia smartphones and is quite handy.
The phone supports Nokia Smart Messaging standard, which allows sending and receiving ring tones and simple black and white pictures from compatible phones. Apart from Nokia phones, this standard is also supported by Samsung, LG and some new Motorola phones. Unfortunately, the company’s policy limits the users, since the alternative standard - EMS, which is more popular nowadays, and allows sending not only melodies and pictures, but formatting text as well, is missing here.
All messages regardless of type (SMS/MMS) are stored in the Inbox folder. Messages themselves are kept in the dynamic memory; this means that at best you will have nearly 500 short messages stored. Resettable message counters (sent and received) are also onboard.
While in standby mode, the phone indicates sender’s name.
Voice Message – an MMS variation, when you record a voice message, lasting up to 3 minutes 6 seconds (maximum duration), and then send outright.
When composing a message the phone number field has text input enabled, so that you have to type in first letters of a contact name and tap the center button to make the handset look for matching entries.
The handset shows off a bundled Email client, capable of handling APOP/POP3/SMTP/IMAP4 protocols. Now there is also a mail wizard that will guide you through all vital settings and parameters in a very unobtrusive way. As for encodings for Russian language, the system features a couple of them, and by default it is the standard Windows 1251. You can also take advantage of personal encoding for any message (UTF8, KOI-8R, Windows 1251), which is very useful, no doubt about that. The client ensures support for any attachment types; on top of that you can browse handset’s storage from within this application.
The platform presents you with three lists – incoming, missed and outgoing calls, with every list having the capacity of 20 entries. On top of that, all these lists feature call date and time, which is pretty convenient. While at the standby screen, press the pick up key for the general call list (although you won’t be able to jump to other logs from there).
The profiles may be activated from this menu or toggled by pressing the On/Off button. Each profile may be activated for a designated period of time and after this, the phone turns back to the default state. Sound alerts may be adjusted for all the events, including calls from group members. You can also easily set whether a contact’s video will work in this profile or not. All in all, the profiles implementation on Nokia’s phones is one of the best on the market to date. The handset houses five pre-installed profiles and two user-adjustable ones; however, each of these profiles can be set up in any desired fashion and even renamed.
You can enable the Flight Mode dialog window on handset’s start up, however by default, this prompt is turned off. In fact, you might never need that, since the profile with exactly the same settings can be found in the list of standard profiles.
You can always opt for a slideshow composed of your own photos, so that they will change each at designated intervals.
Transition effects – a self-explanatory feature that adds animation to pop-up menus and dialog boxes and long lists.
BackUp – this feature allows storing a back-up copy of user data on a remote server, but for this service to work you will need a free subscription to MyNokia (in certain regions, including Russia it’s not available).
Create BackUp – in spite of its resembling title, this feature makes a local back-up copy of your data and moves it to the memory card. You can also select what data you actually want to backup:
- Applications and games.
The downside to this application is that it creates only one archive, meaning that you won’t be able to back up data several times and then use particular system builds for various purposes.
This sub-menu retains all the settings related to Bluetooth, WiFi, packed data (GPRS, EDGE) and data transfer.
Yet, the Bluetooth settings are far more complicated – the handset may be visible for other devices, hidden or available for a designated time span. For connected devices, there is auto-pairing mode, when the handset will keep on trying to establish a connection with another device without notifying you. Coupled devices are now displayed as a separate folder in any menu, which is pretty convenient.
USB connectivity settings have two modes, which are USB Mass Storage (memory card), PC Sync (synchronization with PC), and Print&Media.
Within the Data Transfer menu, you can seamlessly adjust synchronization with PC, remote server (for an ordinary user such feature isn’t of much use). Moreover, this menu holds profile settings for sending the entire contacts list, and organizer entries to another device via Bluetooth.
WiFi connectivity in the sixth edition of S40 may be used both for data sessions and VoIP telephony. In the latter case, however, you will need some settings from your carrier, since this client can’t be configured as you please. Other than that all settings are pretty standard, and it also supports WEP2.
Configuration. From this menu, you are allowed to configure the following programs:
- Multimedia messaging
- Push to Talk
- Instant Messaging
- Access point
At that, it’s important to stress that several applications can be set up in a different way and that’s not prohibited. A good example of that, is the standard Email client, which retains more settings than the Configurations item does. It’s worth repeating that such settings depositary proves to be very fetching.
Calls. All phones employ the Voice Clarity technology that enhances call quality in areas with pure reception – in a way, it’s an equalizer that negates outside noise. You can also enable in-call timer and after-call note on duration.
Software update. This item serves for auto upload of new firmware versions, in other words, it’s what they call “over-the-air update”. You can opt for scheduled check-ups and also choose the service provider (for some it may be different from Nokia).
The folders with various files are stocked here - all of them have titles matching their contents. You can view the folders as a list, list with labels or as icons. Any multimedia file, including video can be viewed in full-screen (landscape) mode. All data received via Bluetooth is stored in the “Received” folder, and in case the phone cannot provide enough memory, gets redirected to the memory card automatically. There are no caps on the size of received file.
All the settings concerning the multimedia front of the sixth edition are stored here. We aren’t going to dwell on the camera module in this article, as it varies on different devices, therefore should you need a more definitive review on the camera – look for the model you need in our Reviews section.
Music player. The player found in the sixth edition copies most features of the one available with 5th edition, but now it comes with support for two codecs: WMA Video 9, WMA Audio 10. The player deals with video content as well as audio files, which brings about a very amusing situation, when by minimizing the player while watching a video, you remove the picture from the display, even though the sound keeps going out from the loudspeaker or earphones like before. It shouldn’t be considered as a mistake made by the programmers, since it looks more like a feature, but I have certain doubts about its usability, and on top of that, other handsets don’t have this kind of background video playback.
Outside the player is the Stereo Widening feature. There seven five-band equalizers with 5 presets (Normal, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical) and two user-manageable setups.
The music library can be categorized with the help of the following filters:
- All tracks – every song stored in the phone.
- Artists – tracks sorted by artist.
- Albums – shows songs depending on album.
- Genres – classic, rock and so on.
- Composers – filters your media content by composers.
- Track lists. Another set of filters, including Favorites (you can throw any track onto this list either while it’s playing or when browsing categories), Most popular and Recent tracks, Recently added and My tracks. A very interesting set of filters that might be quite useful.
Your own playlists may be composed on a PC or on your handset. Unlike the previous edition, with the sixth version you can pick either stand-alone tracks to add them onto your playlist, or entire albums or all tracks by a specific artist, etc, which is obviously really handy.
Music upload – a stand-alone item in the menu, that includes only a link to Nokia’s site for the time being, and once the Nokia Recommendation service gets online, it will lead right into it. Apart from AAC, eAAC, eAAC+ and MP3, Nokia’s player also supports WMA format. You can also beam sound to a wireless Bluetooth-powered headset, or skip forward/backward wirelessly.
Stereo Widening – allows extending the stereo base. The effect is dependant on hardware specifications.
You can submit up to 1000 entries, though the final number strongly depends on the length of each note; automatic cleaning up is onboard (time-wise). Monthly, weekly (with hourly grid) views are available in the Calendar. The handset offers five different event types: meeting, call, birthday, memo, and note. Each event, regardless of its type, can have an alert configured, and be recurrent. While in monthly view, the bottom area features up to three appointments for a selected day.
The new browser builds upon WebKit open source project which is quite popular with other manufacturers and is currently used by Nokia in its S60 devices, and Apple doesn’t shun it either in its fabulous iPhone. This browser supports AJAX, although it view of pretty miniscule displays of feature phones, you won’t be able to enjoy games with it (or your experience will be far from passable). But for other services, this AJAX support, along with Flash, is a saving grace.
Maps are coming to S40 in the same way they are currently available with S60-powered devices, however, they are pretty much pointless on devices with no inbuilt GPS receivers, as we really doubt you will go to all the trouble of connecting an external GPS module. However, solutions carrying a GPS receiver on board can squeeze a lot out of Nokia’s native application, thankfully, its functionality and design are the same as those found in S60. But the maps available in the sixth edition of S40 are more like version one of the S60 maps, even though the latter platform already boasts Maps 2.0
Your handset running on the sixth edition will come with the Nokia PC Suite software kit, which includes a whole range of applications that allow you to synchronize organizer data and phonebook with MS Outlook, Lotus, upload tunes, logos, wallpapers and games.
The sixth edition of S40 improves upon the previous version of the platform on several major accounts, plus it signifies the tendency for convergence between S40 and S60, where the ultimate goal is to unify the user experience. All in all, it’s an extremely strong move that will make some difference down the road. But don’t think that all upcoming phones will run the 6th edition of S40 – some will utilize the previous version too.
As far as the S40 6th edition’s competition goes, not much has changed since it’s still rivaled by Sony Ericsson’s A200. Going for the latter are its ability to multitask and jump between running applications on the fly. Also these two platforms have a lot in common in terms of basic functionality; furthermore, A200 sports transition effects for various menus and the truth is it does a better job on this front. These days neither Sony Ericsson nor Nokia holds the upper hand when it comes to platforms for feature phones; but it seems that despite their identical functionality, S40 6th edition will get ahead of A200 a little, since Nokia laid great foundation for its future platforms with the fifth edition of S40. On top of that, the postponed release of Sony Ericsson’s A300 will allow Nokia to enrich the core functoinality of S40 even further with no tight deadlines to meet. But anyway, as of today S40 6th edition can only be rivaled by A200, but doesn’t look like a clear winner in this competition at that.