The nPhone

The was launched two months ago, and on that very same date (to considerable curiosity from my readership), I got myself :

And yes, it’s a Nokia 6120 Classic, and today I’m making available my notes on it, a working plugin, and a working profile, both of them completely unofficial and unsupported.

They are attached to this page (check the bottom table) and are the result of an evening’s tinkering with what is, as far as I’m concerned, the best all-around device is likely to ship all year.

It has been commercially available in for a couple of weeks now, but I only managed to spot one in FNAC last weekend – where it was being sold for Eur. 279 (inc. VAT) – which means that about it (to a point, of course).

Then again, I don’t exactly go around looking at phone shop displays, so it might have popped up earlier. All I do know is that they are sure to go for considerably less with a contract, but you get an amazingly good deal even if you want to pay the full price.

And yes, it is better than the from my standpoint. For starters, it has HSDPA support, which means I can use it as a high-speed data modem wherever I happen to be, download podcasts over the air, you name it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. What made me switch (even if temporarily) from the Pearl? There were, as usual, five main things:

1. I realized that I didn’t need e-mail on the go

At least not all the time, and certainly not regarding being able to reply to it on the go.

I have a perfectly good laptop, plus all my corporate affairs are dealt with via , so I have ready access to my usual environment from any machine I work on.

And, if you think things through, you realize that the added value of being able to reply to e-mail on a handheld is pretty much nil, since composing the best possible reply requires time, a decent keyboard, and (this is the deal breaker for smartphones) ready access to a lot more information than just that single message.

Although the still reigns supreme in terms of e-mail handling and the consummate ease of dialing up anybody on my address book or on the globe-spanning corporate directory, I realized that there was little to gain from composing quick, short replies in a pinch – you’re not really solving any issues by doing that.

Getting things done is usually best accomplished by calling people a lot more and writing more thorough replies. Unless, of course, you’re in the middle of a product launch, or traveling a lot – both likely reasons for my eventually going back to a Pearl some day (but not just yet).

And, as you might expect, what I really needed was an easy way to sync the phone to my calendar, which this phone happens to be able to do – even if with some caveats, which are likely to disappear if decides to update its software to support this model.

If you really want to know, it does support @IMAP@ IDLE properly, as well as standard SSL and StartTLS. You can also add your own certificates to it.

2. Design and Form Factor

The 6120’s casing is slim, discreet, refreshingly unobtrusive. It understates the device’s power and flexibility, and is a very welcome change from usual (and often irritating) penchant for “original” (if downright ugly) design.

As a result, the device feels right. It’s well-balanced, solid, can live in my pocket alongside my keys, etc. It’s roughly 1cm narrower (and shorter) than an (if you care about that – I tend to like my phones small).

And, like the Pearl, it has a standard mini- plug. seems to be dumping that in favor of yet another semi-proprietary sub-mini design in newer models – which, incidentally, is an incredibly asinine move – but it is a godsend for me, even if it doesn’t charge the phone.

3. The WebKit Browser

is (short of the ), the best built-in mobile browser of any current handset, and the 6120’s implementation is fast and can handle pretty much any thrown at it (expect more news on that soon, as I’m slowly porting my front-end to do mobile Ajax).

I can also run 4 alongside it, but that’s besides the point – I can surf to any web page at HSDPA speeds with the 6120’s built-in browser, and use its RSS reader to keep track of podcasts – which I download on the go to the SD card.

And, unlike the N95, the device can actually render the pages speedily (almost as fast as an E90).

4. Native (and ) Applications

In the universe, there is no faffing about with HTML to build pseudo-applications, no need to hack things to pieces to get your code in, and you can actually get an SDK for it (which was, like, kind of the whole point behind Symbian). In short, you’re dealing with a mainstream environment and not a niche-within-a-niche thing.

So there are oodles of native applications that run just fine on the device. Sure, you can geek out and install on it (which I have, with predictably nil results as far as real life usage is concerned), but that’s beside the point here.

Anyone who gets one of these will have no shortage of software to run on it (and, of course, a bazillion games), and you’ll notice that there is a lot of choice – for instance, I was able to find three clients, there is a native Jaiku client, plenty of mobile blogging approaches, etc.

5. Maps

This was one of the deal clinchers for me. Although the 6120 does not have a built-in GPS, I find that there is hardly any point in having one on a phone anyway – they’re useful, sure, but never for driving, and mostly as gimmicks.

But my point here is that the Maps application knocks the spots off (and Maps) in terms of content. I used it on an E90 for a good while, and I think I’m hooked on it.

Whereas can’t find most street names and has zero points of interest for , Maps lead me to coffee shops, restaurants, pharmacies, hotels, you name it – its POI data is pretty good in terms of updates and accuracy, and the UI easily beats on this phone.

And the difference where it regards map and POI data is not just relative to – I was also able to find a couple of addresses in London, a restaurant in Milan, etc., none of which had any knowledge of. Oh, and knows we use the metric system – persists in reporting distances in miles.

Plus you can easily share landmark data with other people using phones – just send the landmark over as an MMS, and anyone with the app can get there.

But… Isn’t It Crufty?

Yes, it’s far from perfect – after all, still on their phones. But as far as devices go it is simple, solid, and reliable (it may well be the only mobile phone I’ve used in the last few months that I couldn’t get to crash inside of an hour).

And, in the end, its openness compensates – for instance, I was able to for characters and tie it to and after only a few hours (all told), I can transfer anything I want over and , etc.

That, I think, is the lesson needs to learn. The is brilliantly designed, has a supremely satisfactory user experience, but it feels, in a way, like the smartphone segment’s “Rain Man”:IMDB:tt0095953 – wondrous storage, polished performance, but low social skills and the inability to do simple things that most people take for granted.

And guess what – the 6120 does cut and paste…