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Top Nokia N90 tips

This page is for anyone thinking of migrating to the Nokia N90 with a view to using it as their main smartphone, camera/camcorder and entertainment device.

And see also my short ebook, Smartphones for Beginners, most of which applies equally to the N90.

Nokia N90

The N90 has lots to recommend it, from professional camera and optics to the best Series 60 2nd Edition version, from the flexible form factor and lots and lots of RAM to stereo music output.

  1. Open up your device
    By default, the N90 and other modern Series 60 smartphones come 'locked down' in terms of the applications they'll accept, installing only those that have large companies behind them, able to afford the expensive 'signing' process. But there are hundreds of other great applications, many of them free, that are 'unsigned'. Don't worry about this (see my malware article to put your mind at rest). Just go to 'Tools | Manager | Options | Settings' and turn 'Software installation' "On". You can now install any compatible program without being blocked by spurious security warnings!
  2. Bluetooth keyboardTreat Yourself
    If you're in any way serious about using a Nokia N90 (or any other Symbian smartphone) as a business and productivity tool, treat yourself to a Bluetooth keyboard. The ThinkOutside one works a treat with the built-in Bluetooth keyboard driver and will see you typing at up to 60 words per minute on your smartphone. Go on, you know you want to...
  3. Grabbing a card too
    When selecting an expansion card (MMC Mobile, a.k.a. DV RS-MMC), go for one that's personally recommended to you, as some makes aren't fast enough to handle the N90's video recording. In particular, stay away from Kingston's 1GB card. Many people prefer to stick to a 512MB card, to make sure it's fast enough.
  4. N90 closed cameraTwo cameras in one
    Don't forget the external display can also be used as a camera viewfinder without having to open up the clamshell! Simply twist the camera module and the outside LED display will jump into action. You can use the usual shutter button to take still pictures. When focussing, note that the image is not properly in focus until the on-screen 'frame' turns green.
  5. Replacing your camcorder
    Under good light conditions and for some subjects, the N90 can replace your video camcorder - see my AllAboutSymbian camcorder tips page for how to get the most from it.
  6. The latest and best
    Make sure you keep up to date with PC Suite. Yes, there's a version on the CD that came with your smartphone, but Nokia are fixing bugs and adding bits and pieces all the time. Most useful is the way you can explore your smartphone's folders (including your text Inbox) from within Windows Explorer. Very cool. Keep an eye on the PC Suite home page and stay current!
  7. Pump up the brightness
    Make sure you increase the screen from the default brightness to its maximum. Yes, there's a tiny hit on the time between battery recharges, but in the meantime you'll see some glorious colours. Go to 'Tools | Settings | Phone | Display | Brightness' and adjust away. Of course, for night-time use, your smartphone can double as an emergency torch or, if you're actually reading from the screen, you can use the same setting to turn the brightness right down to save being dazzled.
  8. Active StandbyThe ones you love the most (1)
    With the Nokia N90, there's an 'active' standby screen. Don't just take the shortcuts given, I'm sure you have ideas of your own as to your most used applications. You can change any of the five shortcuts in the rather-hidden-away 'Tools | Settings | Phone | Standby mode | Active standby apps' (Phew, you really have to get to know the settings hierarchy on these devices!)
  9. Pump up the brightness (2)
    Another good way to increase the visibility of many screen elements in S60 is to tinker with the 'theme' being used. If, like me, you're not that fond of novelty backdrops that just detract from the clarity of the text and graphic elements from the programs themselves, then download and install this simple white theme (for more themes, if you are into novelties, see Symbian Themes).
  10. Ignore those 'Exit' buttons!
    Because the N90 has lots of execution memory (i.e. RAM), you can still have most of your Series 60 apps running at the same time, which means no delays while applications are launched. The trick is to ignore those 'Exit' buttons. When you need to switch to a different application, press the Menu ('Applications') button and select it from there, leaving the current app running. Or use the tip below to switch between running programs directly.
    [Caveat: watch out for intensive apps like navigation programs, games or music players, which can eventually drain your battery if left running all the time. For these, you definitely should press Exit!]
  11. Hangup = Exit
    Don't keep switching back to the Standby screen using the Hangup (red dial) button. This was OK on previous versions of Series 60, but it closes the current application on the N90 - in other words, it acts as 'Exit'. If you want to keep the current program running in the background, press Menu/Apps instead, twice if you want to get to the active standby screen.
  12. FExplorerMust-have managers
    The two utilities every computer user needs are a system task manager (i.e. what's running) and a file manager. The first is easy: just press and hold the 'Menu/Applications' button (for more control, grab DevMan). For a file manager, run, don't walk, and download FExplorer. Yes, there's a basic file manager built into the N90, but FExplorer lets you get into all the nooks and crannies that Nokia would rather you didn't investigate, as well as adding some extra useful functions!
  13. Share your photos
    Never mind the Kodak Online (or similar) services usually bundled with your smartphone, why not share your photos with others for free? Apart from GPRS transmission charges, you can moblog very easily from a Symbian OS smartphone. Read on for details.
  14. Speed launching applications
    On any Menu (applications) screen, you can press any of the numeric keys to instantly launch the application or shortcut in the corresponding position on the first 3 by 3 icon grid displayed. For example, pressing '7' actions whatever's in the bottom left grid slot.
  15. The mobile Web (1)
    The web browser built into Series 60 is very competent at handling simple HTML sites and you can keep your GPRS bill way down by restricting yourself to mobile-friendly pages. Start your browsing journey at the 3-Lib web guide and all should go well.
  16. The mobile Web (2)
    For maximum access to even full, bloated sites, give Opera Mini a whirl. It's a free proxy-based browser that strips out all the stuff you really don't need.
  17. The mobile Web (3)
    Nokia N90 owners are entitled to a free copy of the excellent Opera Mobile web browser. If you want to tackle mid-bandwidth sites with maximum readability, make sure you grab your own copy.
  18. N90 menu screenThe ones you love the most (2)
    If you get fed up scrolling down the Menu screen lookng for your favourite applications again, why not shuffle things round so that the apps you use the most are clustered right at the top? Highlight an icon and use 'Move', and you'll find you can re-insert it anywhere in the list. If you have lots of favourites, make the most of the folder system (e.g. 'Games') and then put these folders near the top of the list, for speedy access.
  19. Music all day long
    With a suitably large memory card, why not double your music and make the switch from MP3 to Ogg Vorbis format music? 16 hours of stereo music on one 512MB DV RS-MMC (MMC Mobile) card? More details on getting the music on...
  20. Faster numbers
    Whether it's entering a PIN number into a security app or entering a phone number, it's a right pain to have to multi-tap each number key to get past the assigned letters and onto the numbers. Much easier is to hold down a number key for half a second or so - you'll find the right number is entered directly.
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