This post was inspired by the dropping of Symbian & Meego support for Nokia City Lens and is mostly a collection of my thoughts regarding the Beta services provided by Nokia, it might seem like random ramblings, but I promise you there’s a point to all this buried somewhere (if you look deep enough).
Nokia Beta Labs has always been a mystical place for Nokia users, especially those who were there by Nokia’s side during the early days of S^3 (and before). Beta labs has some of the greatest minds I’ve ever seen working behind the scenes; think of them as unsung heroes if you will. Almost every single app you see carrying a Nokia branding (on Symbian devices) has at some stage run through the mill of Beta Labs, Nokia Maps (the new client), Nokia Transport, Nokia Store…… Yet the number of apps that never make it out the other side of the factory are quite a large number (especially when said apps aren’t deemed failures, but in fact are loved and embraced by the community).
First off a small refresher course at some of the greater Beta labs apps that are stuck in this “Limbo land” of Forever-a-beta
- The first that comes to mind is Nokia pulse, I’m honestly surprised at how few people know that this client exists; Nokia Pulse is a beautiful app (fully functional) that provides private chat-rooms to interact with friends and family, allowing you to share message, photos, locations and much more. I personally only heard about the app back at MWC; but since then I’ve joined multiple groups that keeps me in touch with other “phone geeks”; and it would be a great solution for my family as well; if only they weren’t all iPhone users (although there is a web client available).Nokia Pulse was first released to the Beta world in “ 26-10-2011″ almost a year ago now; and true it has had some decent upgrades and fixes but the time has long passed for this app to graduate. The app on Meego & WP runs quite smoothly and has enough features baked into it to warrant coming pre-installed on future devices. In fact if Nokia pulse was marketed properly it could’ve blown iMessage out of the water, all it needed was proper integration within the SMS feed, but even without that Pulse is a stellar app. The ability to share photos locations and much more with groups of people no matter what platform they use is indeed something to be proud of along with the integration of Nokia’s already amazing maps clients give it an edge above the rest. Instead one of the latest updates to Nokia Pulse on WP changed its name to Nokia Pulse Beta- seemingly condemning it to Forever-Beta-Land. (It’s worth noting that the new rumored “rooms” feature in WP8 seems to be an exact replica of the basis of Nokia pulse…)
- Second up we have the ever-so-famous Nokia Bubbles, which was a great hit upon initial release; and though it hit some snags on the road (due to some issues with QT and the horribly stupid “Smart Installer”) it was pulled from the Beta world, only to be introduced once again a couple months later, and for some reason pulled back once again; the current status of Nokia bubbles is “archived- Trial ended, installer no longer available”. It truly is a wonder why this app was forsaken, not even placed in “forever beta mode” but completely scrapped, even if the app was a complete failure (which it wasn’t) the sheer amount of positive feedback from trialists should have been enough to call for a 3rd or even 4th try at breathing life into those bubbles. In something that is almost a rarity well over 500 people rated/reviewed the app giving it a 5 star over-all rating; that is something to be proud of.
Since Nokia apparently gave up on this glorious idea of an app; Android users (and developers) openly rushed to copy it (Gizmodo even openly pleaded for it to be stoled/ripped-off by others); google went as far as patenting Nokia’s own idea; and I’ve seen it in action on the Galaxy nexus and other android devices (although I’m not sure if that’s a custom ROM or a Android Feature). Overall Nokia bubbles was just another app that was condemned to never see the light of a marketplace, and was poached by others to be hailed as a savior… great going.
- Next up is the Redesigned Symbian Nokia Store QML Client- without going into too much detail I think it’s safe to say that the normal non QML store is a nightmare; to anyone who is not using the new version for the love of all that is holy please download the QML Client (thank you). The QML Client was pushed out almost a year ago (one year and 3 days to be exact) and has amassed over 66-thousand trialists. Honestly I’m not sure if the version being shipped with newer phones is the QML client or not (since it still claims to be in Beta mode) but if not I (politely) demand this graduate and be pushed out immediately.
- Nokia Bots is another great example of Nokia’s ingenuity, Bots were a set of widgets that “learned” as you went along; watching your habits and gathering data about your lifestyle. The point was that the Bot would soon begin to understand when you want you phone silent (during your school schedule for example) and would automatically silence itself, then switch back to general profile once you were home (using GPS location and routine as a guide). the contact Bot had a widget that watched who you called the most and served them up instantly on your home-screen for easy access, battery bot reminded you to charge your phone if it expected a long day of usage ahead of itself. All in all Bots where geniuses, but haven’t been touched since April of 2011(Pre-Anna), giving up on such a promising app makes me want to cry.
- Swype keyboard for Symbian- Unknown to many there are actually two version of Swype; the lousy version available in the Symbian store; which doesn’t even support Split Screen input (taking us back to pre-Anna days), and the second version in the Beta labs which offers split screen input. That difference alone makes or breaks an app; and currently in my books the Store version of Swype is Broken. Seeing as the latest update to Swype was 07-11-2011 (well over a year ago) I think it’s safe to assume that no drastic updates will be made any time soon. So why not go ahead and push it out to the public rather than keeping it on your shelf?
The list goes on and on, but I’m tired and I think 5 examples is enough to get my point across, Nokia have AMAZING ideas, and they usually work out quite well; but they also seem to lose interest quickly like a child distracted by a new toy. I know a lot of these apps were affected by the transition to WP and burial of Symbian, but as I pointed out many of these require as little work as hitting “Publish to Store”. And if these apps truly aren’t ready, and the people with the Symbian and Meego know-how are no longer on board Nokia, why not give them another shot at life with WP?
I have nothing but the utmost respect for the minds behind these Beta trials, but it still hurts to see all this potential uncapitalized on. We are witnessing the birth of a new Nokia, one that ‘s trying to shed off the skin of the older slower dinosaur that was so close to extinction, but I pray that the things that made us love the old dinosaur aren’t shed along with the skin, and for me one of these factors is Nokia’s creativity which almost always stemmed from Beta Labs.