S60 Wishlist: The Future Beckons!

Series 60

S60 the smart-phone user interface, we have all used it; sometimes we loved it and other times it let us down. But, the true fact is that S60 which sits atop the Symbian operating system is one of the most powerful and user friendly user interfaces available for any smart-phone. The other interfaces like UIQ and Windows Mobile cater to PDAs rather smartphones. PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) are devices with which are data-centered and have telephony as an add-on while smartphones are more telephony-centered with data related features being add-ons. While S60 has a lot of strong points it also has a few shortcomings compared to other interfaces as well as what a smart-phone user wants. This article by Jamal Abid wants to establish a basic wish list for the features that we the S60 users want to included in the next S60 releases by manufacturers world-wide.

This wish list is based on S60 version 3 Feature Pack 1 runing on an N95. Feature Pack 2 may be out soon, I do know for sure that full screen caller photo is going to be there so I’m not ranting about it. So let’s begin:

Call From Anywhere: There are inconsistencies in the S60 interface that you may not be able to just press the green button and call the selected number. The detailed log (where calls, Bluetooth transfers, messages, etc. are chronologically listed) is an example. When I scroll to a call and press the green button nothing happens and there is no choice to ‘call’ in the options menu either. Very bad!

Calls!

(Great, now how do i call her?)

The phone should know that when something that looks vaguely like a phone number is selected and the green button is pressed, the user wants to call that number. To call that number I had to exit out of the detailed log, open the log where the call was (for example, the missed calls log), scroll to the number and press the green call button. It might be sufficient for a phone, but not for a smart-phone. It has to be kept in mind that the phone already knows things that resemble phone numbers because there is a find phone numbers option in the messaging application. How about using that to check if the selection in any application is a phone number and automatically binding the green key to calling that number? Maybe we could even expand it to include contact name selection but that’s a little far off for now.

All Fields Contact Searching: When I type something into the search field in the contacts application, it should search all of the fields, even the custom ones like “company”, etc. I have two guys in my contact list with the exact same name. One is my friend and the other is a big guy at a big company.

Contacts!

(Choices, Choices..)

I do not want to dial the other when I have something to say to one of them. Keeping this in mind, I added the company name to the contacts field. Now when I search for the name, they both come up but when I search for the company, nothing comes up. What’s the use of the field then? The phone should search for the specified term in all fields and give the names the most priority, then company, then address, etc. That would be the best utilization for a smart-phone.

Ubiquitous Selection: One of the greatest features of S60 compared to other devices is the ability to select and then cut, copy, and paste text. It is hampered somewhat by only being able to do it in ‘writeable’ areas.

Selection!

(Awesome, but how am I suppossed to copy this to my appointments?)

A great upgrade would be to make any field selectable using the pen key and after a tap of the pen key the message body in the inbox magically becomes selectable and you can copy and paste all you want. This would be valid for any applications that support this feature. This would boost the productivity of the phone by a lot!

Collapsible Inboxes: The should have separate inboxes for different types of messages, like SMS, MMS, email, Bluetooth transfers, Infrared transfers, etc. They should be collapsible so that scrolling around them is easy. The collapsing should be exactly like it is in the search application with the name of the entity searched and the number of results found.

Inbox!

(Imagine a similar Universal Inbox!)

This would be great and we could even rename the inboxes and even make virtual boxes which index the contents in other inboxes. Like we could create an inbox of mp3 files which takes the mp3 files from other boxes and provides them in one location. The possibilities are endless and the smart-phone will get real smart! Symbian-Guru has similar thoughts on indexing.

Informative Pop-Ups: We’ve all seen it; 1 message received. We have a relatively huge, high resolution screen and the popup takes a fourth of it just to say that! The rest of the area is for us to see and admire the pretty colors of our theme. This is not good from a usability standpoint, S60 programmers, please utilize that space and tell us who sent us that message. Won’t it be better to say, “Message received from John Doe” or “3 Messages received from Joe, The Boss and Jane”? This way you could know which message to read. You could revert to the old system if there are more characters in the names than can be displayed.

Pop Up

(Ok, So was that the Boss or a Bored Friend?)

I envy my friend with the I-mate who doesn’t even need to do anything to read his message, when his message is received it is displayed there on the screen for him to read, he just picks up his phone, reads it and puts it back down. The message can be dismissed later at his convenience. While this may conflict with the S60 user interface standards, just having the name of the sender and a preview would work wonders. Maybe even this could be made a configurable part of the active desktop, received text messages can just show up in the unoccupied space below today’s calendar entries or the WLAN scanning entry if the phone has Wi-Fi.

Non-Disappearing Themes: When installing multiple themes on recent S60 devices there is a tendency for the themes to disappear from everywhere on the phone while they are still installed!

Themes

(Where’s my Mustang Theme?)

The only option is to remove them using some techniques which a normal smart-phone user must not be required to do. It is a big issue and needs to be resolved before adding the next layer of flashy features (the new multimedia menu, I’m looking at you).

Stability: We know that the more features you have, the more there is a chance of something going wrong. But spontaneous reboots and applications crashing the whole system and requiring the battery to be taken out is something that has to be fixed quickly if S60 wants to go truly mainstream. We all have had lots of difference experiences so I won’t write much about it. But, I would say that while it is much more stable than Windows Mobile, it’s still not stable.

Flip Screen Button: In my N95 when I slide open the media keys and close the slider, the phone is still in landscape mode, useful but mostly annoying and tedious. I have to open the number keys to get my portrait screen back and then close the slider. How about having a flip screen button to put the screen into landscape mode when the slider is not opened and just returning to portrait mode when the media keys are closed? It annoys me and first time users no end. It also puts unnecessary wear on the slider. Want to make it landscape? Open the slider. Want to make it portrait again? Close it and open the other and close it again. God help the slider mechanism! Maybe you could even put that orientation sensor reserved for the camera application to good use.

Consistent Volume Rocker: In the portrait mode the volume rocker has the increase volume, zoom in, etc. function for higher key and the opposite function for the lower key. Likewise, in the landscape mode the ‘increase’ function is for the right key and the ‘decrease’ one for the left. Most of the applications I tried the keys in have it correct for the portrait mode but for the landscape mode it’s very inconsistent. Some applications get it right but others like RealPlayer and Gallery get it wrong with the keys having their functions swapped in landscape mode. RealPlayer keeps the same key functions in the landscape mode as the portrait mode which are not valid anymore. But for Gallery it’s even worse! The keys in the portrait mode follow the landscape convention! In portrait mode you have to press down on the volume keys to zoom in and up to zoom out. It is excusable for the third party applications but I’m talking about Nokia supplied applications on my N95! Not good at all!

Ringer Volume Changing: Other lesser able phones are able to change the ringer volume just by using the volume rocker at the desktop but in the smartphones we can’t. Since when did having a smart-phone mean compromising on features rather than having more?

Slimmer Title Bar: The title bar that is visible in all the opened applications is huge but serves no real purpose! The only place where it is very useful is the desktop. Have you seen the menu in recent S60 devices? The title bar is a small bar like it should be and the menu shows a neat row of big friendly icons with big text and looks great especially on the N95.

Screen Utilisation

(Great Screen Utilization!)

Now launch any application. You will see a huge title bar with a huge icon of the application that you already launched and a lot of screen space wasted and the application trying to fit a lot of things into the reduced screen space.

Title Bar
(If the title was any smaller, I wouldn’t have noticed that I was in Messaging!!)

I say that the title bar should always be as small as it is in the menu or maybe close to that. We don’t buy high resolution screens to show background colors on a small, but sizeable, part of them.

The Multimedia Menu: In my opinion, it is a complete waste of time, it takes too long to boot up and takes up so much RAM that some of the heavy applications and even some very light ones like the clock, completely hang the phone when launched from the multimedia menu. Compared to the older menu it’s much worse, dangerous even!

Multi Media Menu

(Pretty! But sort of useless…)

I have seen the N95 8GB menu and it allows applications to put up functions to the user without launching them. This is great as in the future I may be able to set up a quick alarm with about a half of the steps and while waiting much less. I want manufacturers to utilize this to the maximum.

Faster Gallery: The gallery is a great application and it is quite flashy too but with lots of photos it bogs down real quick. Please redesign the gallery to be flashy and quick. We might even be willing to give up on the flashy part.

Gallery!

(The Great Group Photo is here there, SOMEWHERE!)

It’s adequate right now and seems to be better on phones with more RAM but S60 is not for pure flash, we have other user interfaces for that. The strength of S60 is its flexibility, power and its excellent user interface. Let’s not forget that.

Sleep: Sleep would be a good function to have in smartphones, when I choose the sleep option (which should be the default instead of the power off option) the phone should compress anything in its RAM and just keep powering the RAM and turn everything else off. The phone is almost off, draining a little of the battery but all your applications are open and even unsaved work is not lost. The biggest advantage would be instant turning on of the device. Press the power button and the device turns everything on and decompresses the memory! When you need to turn it off for an hour or two and need instant access afterwards, you would love this feature. Maybe even have a setting that turns completely off when a certain percentage of the battery is left. This option may even be presented to the user to pick the battery percentage or time at his discretion. We smart-phone users love having more options not less.

More Customization: Have you ever used a Windows Mobile device? The options for ringtones are simply amazing. There’s one for a missed call and another for an incoming Bluetooth file and yet another for a voice call, etc. I want S60 devices to match or maybe surpass that.

Customisation

(Where do I go to change the ringtone for the Bluetooth file received from a paired device without confirmation?)

Individual ringtones for infrared transfer, ringtone for first snooze alarm, ringtone for second snooze alarm and so on would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you liked the list. I’m sure you will agree with most of the points and well, for the points I missed or you disagree with, there’s the comment section below! S60 also has opened a wishlist section which you may want to look up.

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38 thoughts on “S60 Wishlist: The Future Beckons!”

  1. I also would like to filter what directories should and should not be scanned by the gallery. The icons from rout66 keep showing in the gallery 😦

  2. Thanks for the article. A few comments:
    First, I’d say that if I could pick one S60 addition to make it would be the ability to copy text from anywhere, especially webpages. How am I supposed to use GPS to find that address in my email if I can’t copy it? Second, I don’t fully agree with the idea that you should be able to search inside any field of the address book because I think it would return too many results and require more characters in the search field, and hence more time. Third, I too would like more information in the pop-ups, such as for text messages, but I would like to be able to control how much information is displayed. I can envision an uncomfortable situation in which I had my phone on a table at a bar while talking to someone and a rather personal text message from an ex pops up on the screen for all to see; I’d prefer privacy over convenience in this case. Finally, I think one feature that every S60 user wants to see is a better clock with adjustable snooze times (maybe this is already available in the latest revisions). Thanks again for a comprehensive article.

  3. Want to add:

    1. Re-send option in messaging (for us who have unstable networks)

    2. Insert contact number to messages (an alternative way to send contact details n can still use the same message for writing. Simple phone like 6230 n other similar model able to do it)

    3. FP1 UI is almost instant, really good, would love to see it even better (opening contact w/ 21 field considered instant, not w/ e61i takes quite a while)

    4. Would love to see more nokia built-in application use numeric shortcut.

    5. Would love to see the web app able to play flash content

    6. “Mark As read” option available in sms/mms

  4. I think its because its a little bit complicated to implement.

    I have dabbled in programming in the past and I know sleep mode is a nightmare….

    -Jamal

  5. I think Sleep is a really bad name for such a feature, it actually should be called ‘hibernate’. In the above linked MSDN article, device in sleep can receive calls and all the applications are running. In sleep mode I proposed, the phone is OFF, the Applications are suspended in RAM(this is the tricky part) so that the phone can be started up quickly next time. I also wish I had this feature when I need to turn off the phone during an exam or something and it takes time to boot up If an application crashes and I need to restart it, I turn it off. If I need to turn it off for more than a week or something… I turn it off. For other things there’s always Sleep [;)]

  6. I think this is really good. I agree with the most part and would only mildly disagree with my new message showing a preview of my message due to privacy reasons incase someone else ends up reading my message.

    One other thing I would like to point out is the “Missed Call Notification” option for all new Series 60 and 40 phones. I use an E50 and a 9300i at the moment, just love the fact that my E50 has the missed call notification alerts me that I have a new message, missed call or new email etc which is simply amazing in my opinion.

    As far as I know, I dont think this option is available in the E90 which is a business phone and my opinion it should be present, keeping in mind that business people dont wanna miss calls and the missed call notification would be an added boon.

    I would really like to see this feature by default in NSeries, ESeries and more classier new series 40 phones from Nokia.

  7. I agree with u on many of those point. Truly s60, is a gr8 platform ,to users and also 4 developers. One thing .i personaly feel abou noki-s60 and symbian os is, how gud nokia has moulded the ui framework to bring out the best a symbian os has to offer..bt stil there are many many features which are absent in s60phones , like the alaram features, i have been using nokia mobiles from sometime nw, bt alarm function what we have on other s40phones is amazing [compared to s60] i am talking from usability perspective.and am in favour of s4o, it has matchured from being simple interface to a rich user experience interface. If u look at s4o 5th edition, its very hard to distingusih s4o home sceen from s60 active stand by screen. I have even talkd about s40 capale of out performing s60 in my blog http://brainchunk.blogspot.com.
    And yes symbian fans want more and more in there smarthones and I feel more inbuilt features rather than “go and download from here” gimmicks 🙂

  8. [b]There’s one for a missed call and another for an incoming Bluetooth file and yet another for a voice call, etc.[/b]

    Wov, i did not know that a phone can recognize that a specific call is going to be a missed call!! LOL

  9. Alsiladka, 🙂 lol..

    I quite agree with all of you about the privacy taking precedence over convenience in the message preview..

    Sanjeev, i’m not sure but i think the e90 has all those indicators.. After all its also s60 v3.. Fp1 too..

    Copying from webpages is also a definate must have.

    I would really like a sleep mode in the music player though. I’ve fallen off to sleep with the music running and then missing the alarm due to battery drain! 😉

    The resend option is also nice. Inspite of a stable network here, i still want it! Its so convenient!

    One more thing, after i play the music from the recently added playlist once on the next run its empty.. Only a refresh gets it back.. I’d like this fixed. Hope someone is listening! 🙂

  10. Hi..

    I would like to comment you about ur topic on “Smaller title bar”. If S60 Title Bar were to be made any smaller than it is (i.e like the windows mobile type, simply just one straight line on top of the screen to display information such as time, battery, volume, signal, etc, on every application that you opened) that we would lose the colorful, vibrant and interesting design of S60 devices.

    I bought S60 devices not only because they are a real sophisticated, simple and interesting devices, but also because they look much more vibrant and colorful when compared to other OS, expecially Windows Mobile.

    If people at Symbian were to make the title bar smaller, it would make the device look dull just like Windows Mobile. I am not saying anything bad about Windows Mobile, it is a great Operating System, but it just looked Dull to me. No fancy icons like S60 devices. Also, Nokia would lose market shares on teenagers who looked to buy phones with nice and graphically exciting type of interface, instead of the office and business suited interface of Windows Mobile devices.

    I hope that you could get my point. THX..

  11. “If S60 Title Bar were to be made any smaller than it is that we would lose the colorful, vibrant and interesting design of S60 devices.”

    ???

    It’s a stupid waste of space, makes phone much less useful. If you want colorful, vibrant and interesting why not by a painting??

    Oh and PLEASE Nokia make the font sensible size – another stupid waste of space. Old Palm and Psion gave you much greater information than stupid Nokia S60 Notepad! A silly toy.

  12. Check out the Now Playing screen YahonMaizosz, I think you might agree that it looks more colourful due to the album art even though it uses a slim title bar.

    And as for privacy, our calendar entries are already there on the deekstop, I don’t expect my messages to be more personal than my calendar entries 🙂

  13. It is interesting to see that UIQ has most of these as you wished 😉 The bad thing is that UIQ has changed in version 3 towards S60 for some reason, and towards worse, IMHO. they maybe try to imitate the market leader but in doing so are weakening their UI design. hopefully they will rethink this in the next versions.

  14. Paulo, I complete agree with you about the notepad. Its been the same since the 7650 days! We can’t give titles to notes and that makes it took really messy.. A while earlier when the wallet application was bundled on phones like the 6681 and even 6600 i think; for the secret notes it had the provision of giving a title to each note. Why take that away nokia? I don’t care about the app but still lets move forward! N it had a limit to the text each note could have, lets chuck that too. Plus a read only and edit option will be good. This’ll make for easier scrolling with large notes. N a save as .txt option would be great too! What say?

  15. Arif, I personally like it this way. But yes the problem with ringtones showing up too is there. However i simple change their attribute to hidden when i don’t want them to show up on the playlist! Or using ybrowser put them in a new folder under the System folder! 😉

  16. Yahon, vibrance is an important point you make.. But can’t it be made up for by the background? The teens today really believe in multitasking and getting the most outta the minimum and that i think takes precedence. It does for me at least, although i’m not a teen anymore! N what’ll pull the teens to s60 is the music, internet and gaming capabilities, all of which nokia is emphasizing on. This one time they’ve played their cards right! 😉

  17. Good point Vaibhav and thank you for a great list!

    One more:

    When I install Opera and go to a link from Messaging – guess what opens? Nokia Browser every time.

    There is no way to change it – force you to use Services or Nokia Browser. Worse than Microsoft :-((

  18. Yeah thats bad for non FP1 devices. On my N95 there’s just one browser and thats my primary one too. So it aint really a problem for me.

    But yes, in your case copying and pasting the URL in Opera everytime must be annoying.

    However Y-Tasks from http://www.drjukka.com might be able to help. Try chnging the default file type option from there!

  19. The main thing I want (and I am surprised that no-one has ever suggested this) is true predictive text. On a WM device you can configure it to pop up a list possible matches to the letters that you have so far entered. So for example if you type in “rem” it might pop up “remember”, “remove”, and “remorse”. You can then select the one you want and it saves you typing in the rest of the text. A big saving especially on a non-qwerty device. Nokia are you listening?

  20. One thing i find really silly is that if I get a missed call, and if i accidentially hit exit on the alert popup displayed on the standby screen, there is no icon that stays to show I have a missed call (like the one for unread message). But if I go to the menu screen, I get a missed call icon in the top right corner. Why exclude this icon from the standby screen?

  21. For me, the need for refresh the music library really SUCKS.
    Must be IPOD like : u transfer the music, and it´s ready to listen.

  22. I would love to be able to copy and paste easily. I hate when someone asks me to text them someone’s contact info and I have to find their names in the contact directory, copy it and then paste it. My 6170 would just let me always insert contact’s number. Is there nothing like that with Symbian?

  23. I would like an option to skip the daily alarm for a several times, or a adjustable date to start te dialy alarm (again). Quite usefull when you have a day off, but have to wake up the next morning again to go to work…

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