Nokia 770: Geeks rejoice, consumers should wait

I have had one of the much coveted devices (well, in certain circles), the Nokia 770 internet tablet. It is a small "PDA-like" device with WiFi (wireless internet), bluetooth, touchscreen, etc. You can read more reviews elsewhere. What I will discuss are some of the finer points that have come up while using the device for the past couple of weeks.

Let me preface my comments by saying the Nokia 770 is an awesome device. If you have the means, and the desire to be semi-cutting edge and have an incredibly useful gadget, but don't mind when your browser crashes, get the 770. If you like your gadgets with lots of manuals, and complete and easy to use out of the box, wait until at least rev 2. The comments below are more of a feedback on small nitpicks that I'd like to see addressed in the device in the future.


The device feels good in the hand. At least, if you're right-handed and hold the device in your left-hand. If you're left-handed, things are a little more awkward. (I say a mod to flip the screen around for lefties - but lost it). This would be difficult to easily resolve, as the sidebar of buttons for pressing while using the stylus is a good one, it just doesn't work as well for about 23% of the population (and what seems like a much larger proportion of the geek population). The 770 also feels better with the slide-on cover fully off.

I have a Nokia phone, and so was hopeful that I wouldn't have to carry another charger around with me. Nope, no luck, different plug end. I haven't checked the electrical specs, but I really appreciate it when manufacturers use the same plug in their various devices. To me, it's a sort of brand loyalty when thinking about having to pack my bags and various cables/plugs.

There has been a very good point that the slide-on cover blocks removing the stylus. This is easily remedied, but should have been caught in prototyping fairly apparently.

The Nokia 770 comes with a little stand. This thing is not much more than a couple of interlocked sticks that prop up the device. Granted, nice touch to include a stand, but it could have been a little better by cupping the device (it just kind of props in there) and make the angle adjustable.


This is the first sign that the Nokia 770 isn't ready for the consumer market. The device comes with: News, Mail, Web, Notes, Sketch, 2 games, Music, Video. Now, I know this covers 80% of what 70% of the computer users out there do, but it doesn't fully display the capability of the device, or the 'glam' factor that sells so well. There is the ever-growing application catalog, but the actual links take you to personal developer's sites and often require several dependencies for setting up.

Personally, I'm thrilled. There are very apparent holes in software that are waiting to be filled by developers and power-users. But I don't expect the average consumer to be excited (or even know how to) to troll the web for a calendar, download a .deb package, move it to the card and then install it. These are people that get confused by 1-click ordering on the iTunes store. They are lovable, and great, but just don't expect them to "check their dependencies" (to quote the oft mentioned mac-user repair-all)

Inputting data into the device is relatively painless, if not easy. By default, when you click to enter text into a textbox, a keyboard appears. I've gotten probably up to about 15 wpm or so, but it's very intensive clicking. There is handwriting recognition, but I'm a long-time Palm, and PocketPC block recognition user, and they're great. The Nokia handwriting recognition is very difficult. It tries too hard to attempt to recognize upper- and lower-case, symbols, and numbers all in the same writing area without modes. Use what works, and that's the Block Recognition style.

Even in keyboard mode, the device will by default provide you with "completion" options as you type out a word (the fact that the completion options dynamically take up the 'spacebar' has cause me many a pain). The built-in dictionary is fairly good, multilingual, and learns, but the initial responses to typed in characters is sometimes completely baffling. Take, for example, my attempt to type in "myself", I was presented with the following options:

 my | nachlog-ddu | self | algia

Maybe I didn't learn this in school, but what do mynachlog-ddu or myalgia mean?

Update:I didn't learn it in school, because I didn't go to med school. Myalgia: Pain in a muscle; or pain in multiple muscles.


A couple of miscellaneous items.

  1. You should be able to customize your "widgets" (top), application menu, and your icons on the left-hand side (without resorting to editing text files)
  2. More desktop web shortcuts, and be able to layout the desktop items
  3. Logging application, ala Mac OS X's Console, for us developers when applications crash (which they do)

Note: the Nokia 770 looks great with several of my projects.

Essential resources

If you did get the Nokia 770, the following are what I suggest are the essential modifications and software that you'll want to get in order to start fulling using the device.

Allowing Root

Necessary Applications

  • FBReader - text reader - needs bookmarking and highlighting (or get Plucker)
  • Bluetooth OBEX Stack - allows bluetooth transfer of files with the desktop
  • XTerm - for your terminal interface
  • OpenSSH - allows connecting via a terminal on your desktop
  • Vim - editing files on the Nokia 770

Good Additional Applications

  • LoadApplet - a small widget to show CPU/Memory and take screenshots
  • PyMaemo - python for Maemo
  • ScummVM

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.