September 26, 2007

Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone?

Filed under: musings, open, phone — wseltzer @ 6:16 pm

Right in the middle of my New York Times today (yes, I still read it, and on paper) are two full-page color ads for Nokia’s N95, with the taglines “Comes with unlimited potential. We believe the smartest devices should keep getting smarter. That’s why we’ve left the Nokia Nseries open to enhancement, experimentation, and evolution. Open to anything.” url nseries.com/open (warning, flash-heavy)

I love it. Just the stance toward user innovation I’d like to see more companies adopt. They’ve borrowed a few pages right out of von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation, mashed up with Benkler’s Wealth of Networks and Zittrain’s Generativity.

This contrasts, of course, with the advertised nature of the iPhone, locked to Apple’s apps and carrier. But we’ve also seen that within weeks of the iPhone’s launch, hackers have opened it, unlocked it, and built scores of apps.

So I wonder, how does the level of independent development on the N95, and Symbian, which powers it, compare with that on the iPhone? The N95 retails for $749 in the U.S., limiting the community likely to embrace it. Apple’s price drop brought the iPhone to $400; would it have engendered the same creativity if left at $600? Does Apple’s “cool” factor do more to bring in the hackers than Nokia’s; are touch gestures more of a draw than built-in GPS?

Or am I just seeing one side of the U.S.- Europe cellphone divide, and do Symbian developers prevail abroad where they’ve had more access to unlocked phones and fewer lock-subsidies to compete with?

12 Comments »

  1. Even though there are numerous applications for the iPhone, including Devicescape’s own auto-login application for accessing Wi-Fi hotspots, the lack of an approved installation process and real developer program does leave third party developers wondering when Apple will pull the rug out from under them.

    Remember too that the N95 is only one of dozens of phones sharing the Nokia S60 platform, so there are plenty of apps out there that were developed for other Nokia models, but which will install and run perfectly on the N95. And their developers can be pretty sure of that without even trying it because the Symbian platform is open. Even better, there is a download option right on the phone for getting new applications that have been tested by Nokia. Or software developers can put links on their web pages, send links via SMS or even deliver the installation package via MMS. And the developer program ensures that applications are safe by requiring them to be tested and signed if they need to use privileged system resources.

    Comment by John — September 26, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  2. Well, there’s certainly no licensing information that I can find on that page… would be good to pinpoint more technical information as to if it’s API-open or totally muck-withable. (BTW, Hi!)

    Comment by joe — September 26, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

  3. [...] Right in the middle of my New York Times today (yes, I still read it, and on paper) are two full-page color ads for Nokia’s N95, with the taglines “Comes with unlimited potential. We believe the smartest devices should keep getting … Read More [...]

    Pingback by Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone? | TheNokiaPhoneBlog.info — September 26, 2007 @ 11:35 pm

  4. If you’re readers would like to see the two ads (maybe you missed one?) here is a link: http://www.intomobile.com/2007/09/26/pictures-nokia-rolls-out-a-2-page-advertisement-in-the-new-york-times.html

    Comment by Stefan Constantinescu — September 27, 2007 @ 1:03 am

  5. [...] Seltzer asks, Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone? Regardless of the answer, I’m wondering if there’s an objective way to score [...]

    Pingback by The Linux Index » How about an Index of Openness? — September 29, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  6. [...] Seltzer asks, Which is more open: the Nokia N95 or the iPhone? Regardless of the answer, I’m wondering if there’s an objective way to score [...]

    Pingback by iLinux.mobi » How about an Index of Openness? — October 1, 2007 @ 2:38 am

  7. As several people have noted, I’m not asking the question “which is open source”? Clearly, the Nokia (and OpenMoko) are more modification-friendly by design. I’m asking instead how other factors, such as the popularity of the device (its virtual network of potential hackers), affect the value users can add to it.

    Of course Apple seems determined to show us the deeper value of Freedom-with-a-capital-F by squelching the third-party networks at will, So another factor in “openness” and user-generated value is the ability of one party to cut off their development.

    Comment by wseltzer — October 1, 2007 @ 10:07 am

  8. John’s right, not only is the N95 open, but it still runs the same programs that I used to run on my Nokia 3650. I’ve had several Symbian phones and they are currently the best mobile network platform.

    Not only can you get precompiled programs for Symbian, but Nokia also worked to release Python for Symbian as well so you can expand the functionality of your handheld with your own scripts.

    The iPhone is interesting as a early beta Apple product, but its no where near the level of Symbian is at today. As long as Apple keeps pissing off their development community and scaring their users away from third party apps Symbian won’t have any problem staying on top.

    Comment by Matt — October 1, 2007 @ 10:18 am

  9. This is moronic to compare them in terms of “openness”
    Of course the Nokia is more open…… i haven’t EVER owned a phone that would come even close to the iphone in terms of restrictive behavior and functional limitations ….. Bluetooth should be completely open for file transfer/modem use, wifi should be able to also do iphone-iphone transfers … 3rd party apps are a must
    An un-subsidised iphone is just stupidly overpriced

    Comment by Jamie — October 1, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  10. I guess what I’m asking is “what makes an open platform open?” Obviously, it’s more than a license… it’s things like being able to upload arbitrary scripts, having certain kinds of functionality be exposed to user tinkering, etc. If someone has outlined that somewhere, I’d appreciate a pointer.

    Comment by joe — October 1, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  11. Which is more open: the …Symbian or the iPhone?

    From my European/Switzerland point of view, I think that there no comparaison possible, definitely Symbian is more open, not only to the developper, but to the mind as well. Even if Apple finnally decided (under the pressure of the communauty) to open the iPhone to external programs in fews months, the mentality of Apple, is always “to close”: market, developpment, communication…This company have always given priority to the PR…

    Even if we cannot denie that the sceen and the ergonomics of the iPhone are a real innovation, we can still pointed on the fact that the sevices offered by the iPhone are not yet at the same level of the most of the Symbian compatible phones. For instance in Europe we have 3G (UMTS with HSDPA, and HSUPA is comming) which is allowing to be connected to the Internet with a aceptable bandwith. iPhone do not include 3G… Some of the other problems :
    -No GPS (which is a real potential, not only for looking for localisation, but for getting information according to the localisation)
    -No way to change the battery when empty
    -no way to change the sceen when damaged
    -no call management, sms management, as symbian is doing it
    etc…

    But one of the indirect problem with the Apple iPhone’ strategy is that all the customer of the telco companies which have this exclusive agreement are going to pay for it. I’t naive to beleive the the operators are not going to charge their customers for the price they have to pay to Apple to be able to sell the iPhone ;-)

    Comment by stephane koch — October 19, 2007 @ 4:16 am

  12. The Nokia 95 does a better job, no doubt about it.

    Comment by iPhone Info — December 25, 2007 @ 8:16 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress