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Away with the Nokia 6630

(or how I got on using a modern Series 60 smartphone as my only electronic device during seven days in the 'wilderness')

OK, so it was a bit of a risk. Setting off for a week's camping holiday in the wilds with only my new Nokia 6630 (Symbian smartphone) to do everything. And I mean everything. PDA, email, web (news, weather), satellite navigation, camera, MP3 player, video player. Oh, and I used it as a phone/SMS device each day as well. And for playing games (well, this was a holiday, after all). No backup devices, no other gadgets whatsoever, this tiny device had to do the lot. When I think of the paraphernalia I used to take with me...!

The risks

The risks were twofold. Firstly that the 6630 would break down in some way. I wasn't too worried on this score, since the one piece design and my (hopefully careful) handling should keep it going. Though I did write down on a piece of paper the basic reference and booking numbers needed for the things we were doing, just in case.

Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, was the risk that the single Series 60 device wouldn't do everything I needed it to. After all, I used to bring along a Psion palmtop with full keyboard, an Olympus 35mm camera and a Sony CD player, so the standard was pretty high. For the purposes of the experiment, I'd left my previously all-conquering Nokia 9500 at home. Gulp. At least the 6630 was going to take much higher quality holiday photos.

Qualified HIT

Connecting to a keyboardSo, 7 days later, how did I get on? Well, I didn't miss the qwerty keyboard too much. Much of this article was written on the 6630, though I used my Bluetooth keyboard for most of it, a system which works really well for when you know you need to do some serious typing.

With keyboard

I certainly didn't miss not having a traditional standalone camera, as having a Megapixel camera inside your phone, always at the ready, meant that I was always able to snap 'the moment', in high quality JPG that would stand up well to printing out for the family album. Music was slightly more of a problem, due to the currently limited capacity of DV RS-MMC cards. Once I'd taken away 128MB for TomTom MOBILE 5 and another 100MB for games and assorted videos, 256MB was only really enough for about 8 CDs worth, even using the super-efficient OggPlay. Still, they kept me entertained well enough, though I'll be putting a different 8 CD selection on as soon as I get a spare moment back home.


TomTom MOBILE 5, with its Bluetooth GPS, was a real boon, getting me from specific UK postcodes and addresses with no dramas, and twice saving me a lot of time by routing me around town centre roadworks. Only once did it get confused, due to a small error in the underlying TeleAtlas mapping data. The only thing to watch for was that it takes 6MB of RAM, which means that most other apps have to be closed first, on the 6630 at least.

Email. Me? A workaholic?

Checking email is really the basis for me making a big deal out of taking a smartphone or palmtop on holiday with me, Not that I'm a workaholic, but being able to respond to anything really urgent at the start and end of each day actually makes me much more relaxed and confident that I'm not missing anything vital. Series 60's Messaging application is still a slightly basic email client, but the 'look at headers and then grab the ones you want' system works supremely well on a tiny smartphone. Being able to dash off even a one line reply, saying "Yes, see xxxxx" or "Thanks. I'm on holiday for the next four days, but I'll see to it when I get back" can make all the difference between someone thinking that you've gone away for good or that you're not interested in them, and a happy customer who knows that you respond quickly and that you're not ignoring them.

Getting connected Viewing headers

Typing one or two line replies on a typical T9 keypad does involve a slight learning curve, but it's one well worth climbing. Sussing out how to help T9 learn the names of those you write about, plus any special jargon, and working out how to put in punctuation quickly, makes all the difference. With a little practice, it's quite practical to get up to 20 words per minute, which is double what you might get from scribbling gestures on a Palm or Pocket PC, although less than you'd expect from a Nokia 9500.

Viewing an email Decoded attachments

Useful applications

What about my other most used applications? The built-in Notes was my staple for jotting down ideas before I forgot them and for writing articles (like this one) - once home, these were all synced happily across to Outlook, of course.

Also built-in is 'Memory card', useful because it has a 'backup' function, backing up all my new notes to card in the unlikely event that the 6630 dies a death before I get back to my PC.

The freeware jmIrc did the job for occasional chats in #mobitopia and Web (Opera) was useful for checking the latest headlines over on AllAboutSymbian and in the world at large.

On the games front, I spent most of my time trying to break par in Golf Pro Contest. Fore! Oh, and trying to beat my wife at Yahtzee.

A success!

The experiment was a big success and the Nokia 6630 has now become my PDA/smartphone of choice. Like every other device, it has its foibles, but the current marque of Series 60 v2 smartphones with stereo sound are now ready for real world use as an all-in-one everything replacement 8-)

Steve Litchfield
August 2005