Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting Started with Nokia X6

# Tap, tap
Like any other touchscreen phone, on the X6 you basically tap to select something or launch it. The media have made much of the need to sometimes 'double tap', but this is really just a way of saying that, in a list of things (contacts, photos, menu options, etc.), your first tap selects an item and then, once you're sure your tap was accurate and the right item is selected, your second tap will do whatever's needed (depending on which app and screen you're in).

The system is actually all very logical and consistent. You might ask "Why can't every tap count as an action, as on the Apple iPhone?". The answer is that, on the whole, your X6 has an operating system and apps that can do quite a bit more, which is why many functions have to be put on a traditional menu - there simply isn't room on the screen. And, if you watch an iPhone-owning friend when they're trying to do something complicated, they'll be diving into sub-sub-screens and tapping away just as much as you using one of the X6's various application 'Options' menus.

# Wi-FiSet up Wi-Fi!
Even if the thought of computers and networks appalls you, you need to make a little effort and set your X6 up on your home Wi-fi network as soon as possible after buying it. That way, all the apps and media and updates (and fun stuff) can all communicate over Wi-Fi, which is fast and free, rather than over GPRS or 3G data, which is slow and possible expensive (see below). Go into Settings, then Connectivity, then Destinations. Tap on 'Access point' and then 'Wireless LAN' and pick your home network name from the list. Follow any remaining prompts (e.g. to enter your Wi-Fi password) and you're done.

Then, when an application or service wants to go online and asks how it should do so, you'll usually want to tap on 'Internet', which will have your home network name listed underneath. Trust me, these extra taps and setup are well worth it. If you do this at other regular Wi-Fi-equipped places in your life, you'll soon be able to go online quickly and for free anytime you like.

# Entering text
There are two ways of entering text on the X6, according to preference and previous experience. On any of the text entry screens, with the phone in 'portrait' mode (i.e. held like a phone, not a tablet), you should see a virtual T9 keypad. You can turn predictive text on and off in the usual way - by double-tapping the '#' (virtual) key. This should be the fastest way of entering text for you - after all, the virtual keys are far bigger than the physical ones you used to use. Others prefer a virtual qwerty keyboard - just rotate your phone anti-clockwise into 'landscape' mode. Experiment!

# Installing new applications
One of the huge benefits of owning a smartphone rather than a 'feature phone' is that you can now install any of thousands of add-on applications, from social networking to puzzle games to streaming music services. On the X6, it's best to start with the 'Ovi Store' icon. Create yourself an Ovi account if you don't already have one and see what you fancy. If you're overwhelmed by choice, why not start with a browse through the reviews section here on All About Symbian or the equivalent games reviews here on Ovi Gaming?

And it's worth noting that you're not limited just to titles in the store - it's really easy to discover new Symbian applications (often marked as for "S60" or "S60 5th Edition") on the wider Internet and to download and install them directly (or send them to your phone from your desktop using Bluetooth). Just stay away from the darker corners of the web - installing apps from dodgy sites is a sure fire way to risk installing something that can mess your phone up!

# Camera tips
The camera in the X6 isn't top of the line in terms of optics, but Nokia's cameras are still better than most of the competition, and you do get to focus on your subject. Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of what you've got:

* Don't 'zoom in' (i.e. digital zoom) - you're simply throwing away quality. If you need to get closer to your subject then get closer! Or take the shot at full resolution and then crop it later using your desktop's photo software.
* Keep a gentle, but firm touch when shooting photos: hold the device steady in both hands, gently press the shutter key to focus, wait for the green reticule and 'beep', and then smoothly press the shutter key the rest of the way - don't snatch at it. And keep the phone steady for a fraction of a second after taking the shot.
* When shooting video, note that there's no focussing and that the fixed focus point is infinity - in practice this means that any subject closer than a couple of metres will be blurry - so don't get too close!
* For both stills and video, best shoot only in good light; you'll be disappointed by most snaps shot in dim conditions.

# The ones you love the most
With S60 (the interface in your X6), there's plenty of scope for customisation in terms of which application shortcuts are shown and in what order. Unlike on some other smartphones, you get complete control of app icons, including being able to organise them into themed folders. Nokia start you off with some defaults, but it's easy to use 'Options > Organise' to create new folders and move icons around on the main menu, or to use the slightly more hidden away 'Settings > Personal > Home screen > Shortcuts' to change the main four shortcuts shown on your home screen.

# Don't be afraid to Multitask
No, multitasking isn't a new invention, Symbian-powered phones have been doing it for many years. Don't keep switching back to the home screen feature-phone-style by using the Hangup button - this usually closes the current application - in other words, it acts as 'Exit'. If you want to keep the current program running in the background (so you can get back to it quickly without losing your place or interrupting whatever it's doing) then press the central Menu button instead - or press it twice if you want to get right back to the home screen.

# Where your content lives
Like the Apple iPhone, the X6's memory is unexpandable - what you buy is what you get. Depending on which X6 you've bought, you'll have either a 16GB or 32GB 'mass memory' chip inside (designated "disk E") - there's no microSD slot, as on many other Nokia smartphones. You also get about 300MB of memory on your X6's system disk, (designated "disk C").

In terms of where to put everything, you can usually stick to the defaults. Essentially, your day to day content (messages, contacts, etc.) and new applications can happily go on "C" ('Internal'), while you should put your music and video files, both of which can be very large, on "E". Don't worry, you won't have to choose very often - some applications automatically go onto 'C", while most media files (and new maps for Ovi Maps) will get put onto the mass memory by default.

# Locking/unlocking
One point of confusion with Nokia's touchscreen phones is how to use the keylock switch on the right of the phone. This is because this comes on automatically after a timeout - so when the screen's turned off to save power you won't know whether it's just turned off for this reason or turned off because the phone is 'keylocked'. So you flick the keylock toggle, which often as not actually locks the phone (which wasn't locked before) and now you have to flick the switch again, to really unlock it.

If this is something that has been confusing you then here's what to do. Go into 'Settings' and double-tap on 'Phone'. Scroll/drag down and then double-tap again on 'Phone mgmt.' Tap on 'Auto keyguard' and then on 'None'. Then tap on 'OK'. By doing this, you've ensured that the screen and keys will never get locked automatically - so if the screen's not on then it's simply saving power and can be brought to life with a tap or keypress. When you actually want to keylock the X6 (e.g. for putting it in a bag or pocket), flick the switch manually, i.e. under your full control.

# Music and podcasts
With that large mass memory and with the X6's superb speakers and supplied in-ear headphones, you'll be itching to fill it up with music, especially if you've got the Comes with Music (32GB) version. Go right ahead, but note that the latter version currently has speed issues when your music collection gets much above a thousand tracks. Watch out for a fix from Nokia in the near future (see 'Firmware' below) and in the meantime make the most of some of your remaining Gigabytes by filling the remaining space with videos and other media?

Bearing in mind again the audio capabilities and the abundance of memory, can I urge you to try out Nokia's Podcasting utility? Aimed at end users like you, once you've got the hang of it you can set it to grab your favourite podcasts (e.g. the AAS Insight or The Phones Show Chat) automatically each way, so you'll never be without some interesting new listening. Setting up Podcasting with new feeds and for auto-updating is a little beyond 'beginner' status and is covered here.

# Connecting up to your desktop
With a microUSB cable supplied, it's easy to connect your phone to your Windows PC or Apple Mac. Even if you got Ovi Suite on CD in the box, note that this is unlikely to be the latest version. Start by downloading Ovi Suite online if you're a Windows user or the relevant iSync plug-in if you use a Mac. Follow the instructions to sync your X6 to your desktop using either the supplied cable (easiest) or Bluetooth (if your PC has this built-in and you don't mind a little fiddling).

# Don't forget the Media key
With all the focus on the main touchscreen on the Nokia X6, don't forget that little extra touch sensitive area above it. The 'Media key' will pop up shortcuts to Music player and other media-related applications, whatever you happen to be doing on the phone at the time. So, for example, you could have music playing in the background and want to change the track. Just touch the Media key and tap on the Music player icon to bring it back to the foreground. When done changing track, you can switch back to your previous application by pressing and holding the main Menu key or by using the usual Menu or homescreen shortcuts.

# Getting your music and media onto the X6
Windows users will want to use Ovi Suite, mentioned above, to rip music from your CDs and sync both these and any digital downloads with your phone. If you have an established iTunes library then look out DoubleTwist, which will import your iTunes playlists and library and help you transfer content to your device. On the Mac, the best automated solution is to use Nokia's Multimedia transfer.

For both desktop platforms, the all round simplest solution is just to plug in the X6 and choose 'Mass storage' mode, after which your phone's mass memory becomes just another disk on your desktop. Use Windows Explorer or Mac Finder (as appropriate) and drag as many folders of music files as you like to disk "E". The exact folder isn't important, though using the existing 'Sounds' folder would seem sensible, to keep things together. If your new songs don't appear in Music player straight away, choose 'Refresh library' from the library home screen - and then go off and have a cup of tea while the phone indexes everything!

# Firmware, firmware
Smartphones are complex devices at heart and there will always be some bugs or problems, however large or small. Which is why it's vital to stay up to date in terms of firmware, i.e. the software inside your smartphone - Nokia are always at work fixing bugs and periodically releasing new versions of the smartphone's operating system. In the old days, you'd have had to have backed up all your data and jumped through hoops when applying a firmware upgrade, but with the X6 (and other modern Symbian-based phones from Nokia) it's all painless and over the air.

You can check for firmware at any time by entering *#0000# on the virtual dial-pad and choosing 'Check for updates'. If one is available, you can download it in a few seconds and apply it - the whole process shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes and you shouldn't lose any data or apps!

# Preserving battery life
Even with the power improvements in modern smartphones, battery life can be an issue for some people, especially considering the amount of high-tech goodies they've got to power. Here are a few tips to last longer on your daily charge:

* Firstly, make sure you charge the X6 each night, so at least it's starting the day on 'full'
* 12V car adapterIt's fun to surf the mobile Internet and use online services such as email while travelling. But the single biggest power drain on your phone is its 3G data connection - keeping radio connections going with cell towers that are either far away or moving (relative to you!) is a very quick way to hammer your battery. Try to enjoy your X6 offline as much as possible while actually mobile - so games, ebooks, watching videos, listening to music, all of which are less power hungry.
* Watch what applications you leave running in the background (by switching away from them, using the main menu button or red 'Hangup' key) - some games and Java applications are especially processor hungry, even when paused! If things are chugging along in the background, you'll know because the X6 will start to get quite warm to the touch!
* When using the phone as a navigator in car, with display and GPS both active, do yourself a favour and buy a $10 12V adapter/charger, so that instead of draining the battery at a rate of knots you're actually gaining extra charge.
* Experiment with using the display at less than full brightness - those photons have got to come from somewhere!

# Software update
Usually abbreviated to 'Sw update' and found under 'Applications' on your X6's menu, this goes online to check the version numbers of any core Nokia applications that you may have installed and to notify you of new Nokia-official software that you may be interested in. For example, new versions of Nokia Messaging or Ovi Maps.

# Know your tariff
Although your X6 has Wi-Fi (see above), you'll be using 3G (or GPRS) data when not at home or in the office (or in a Wi-Fi café!) Even if you don't intend streaming music all the time or downloading huge files, it's still absolutely vital that you understand how much data is costing you (on pay-as-you-go, usually a fixed cost per day and an 'overage' charge if you exceed a set limit; on contract, usually a set amount of data per month, again with overage charges). Smartphones can be hungry beasts in terms of data - even modest use, with a few non-mobile-optimised web pages, some application installs and a few photo uploads will see you well into the Megabytes. Know your tariff!

# Quicker removal
To remove applications from your phone, the quickest way is to go back into 'Options > Organise' and tap on 'Delete'. Allow a few seconds for the removal to work - some applications may have spread themselves out over many files and it'll take a short time to delete every one of these.

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