Mobile Internet without holding a PDA Brick to your ear

For a (semi) Techie, I’m not that much into gadgets. Until now , there are only three that I’d class as ‘must haves’.

  • Vodafone Broadband internet card – it means I can get the Internet on the train. Living in Drogheda with a lot of clients in Dublin, this means about 10 hours extra a week when I’m now connected.
  • Hard Disk TV recorder – most of the good shows are on after 10pm. I’m up early most mornings and that is way past my bedtime.
  • A Phil and Ted. You either know what this is , or you don’t , but if you have one you’ll swear by it.

Nokia 770
Now I’m going to add a fourth : the Nokia 770 , bought solely on Damien’s recommendation. It’s not a phone , more of a big screen that you can add your existing phone (it connects pretty automatically via bluetooth, and will use any available wireless network). It solves the problem of using internet on your mobile ; before you had to choose between a normal-ish phone with a tiny internet screen, or a large screen but having to hold a brick to your ear to make calls. It’s almost small – about the size of 2 decks of playing cards.

I was getting a bit worried before it arrived as Elly has one and is cursing it, but it solves two problems for me:

  1. If on the train / other location, and can’t use my laptop (e.g. I didn’t get a seat and I’m standing up), then I can still get (fairly decent) access to email and other online services (Google Maps, bookmarks, LinkedIn Social Networking being the ones I’ve tried so far).
  2. When I couldn’t be bothered getting out the laptop (e.g. 5 minutes before a meeting), it’s useful for a quick check.

So, it’s not perfect , but it does the job that I want it to do ; for a little over 100 Euro – Bargain. Yes , it could be quicker, but it does a fairly good job of showing most websites (including this blog, the main site and the wiki). It’s a pity it doesn’t have flash, nor play the BBC internet radio , but I’m sure I can get downloads for it. It does do GoogleTalk for free Voip calls and have other internet radio stations. And , if you’re bored you can use it as an MP3 player. Battery life (4hrs) isn’t great, but (a) the charger is very very light and (b) if I need internet that much I’ll use the laptop.

An added bonus is that I’ve been looking around for a simple ‘Contacts Management’ solution. The 770 has one built in , with more that you can download /access online. Not holding my breath that it will solve this problem as well for me (would never have considered a PDA before), but icing on the cake if it does.

As a personal quirk , I like the fact that it’s an open platform (it’s Linux based). What it means for normal people is that there are plenty of 3rd party downloads if there (I’ve added a PDA and a console to monitor web servers) without having to pay through the nose. While I’ve dabbled with development for mobile devices, that wasn’t the main reason for buying this thing.

It will be interesting to see how Conor, Niall , Walter and Gordon are getting on with theirs. And to answer Michele’s question, the email client is ok , but I’ll end up usign Gmail (they’re hosting Firstpartners email , no synch issues.)

Update: Ken also has a review, with real life pictures (give a better flavour of the size of the thing, even though the screen is much sharper in real-life.


  1. How did you get google maps to work? Won’t load for me, says that the browser is not compatible. It’s one site that I really want to get to on the 770.

    Other thing I’m seeing, but not hearing reports from elsewhere is that my 770 is crashing at least once a day and applications are crashing several times a day. Are other people seeing this or did I just get a duff unit?

  2. Elly,

    I haven’t used it in too much detail yet (I’m trying to get something completely unrelated working) so I’m still in the ‘Honeymoon’ period.

    – The Google maps thing was a quick check of the site, so I could be wrong. Maybe I’m getting old , but I thought there was a plain HTML version of it?

    – I’ve seen the browser crash once in the brief period that I’ve used it. Not so worried (yet) as I think there is a software upgrade out there( )

    Also found some related blogs and an open community site that I thought I had bookmarked (but didn’t). Should be able to get it via one of the above links.


  3. Thanks for the detailed look Paul. I’ve never been in such a “will I won’t I” dither about a gadget before. But when Conor said it didn’t do ‘full’ gmail or greader I thought that was it, not good enough for me. But if gmaps is working then perhaps there’s hope?

  4. James,

    If Google Maps is a *must have* for you, I’d grab a loan of one (did anybody else in Limerick buy one) and check it out before buying. My quick look was ok , but Elly had problems so maybe that’s more the norm.

    So far, I’ve been impressed, but I bought it for specific / limited reasons. If you’re hoping for more you might be disappointed 😦

    At the price (100 quid) you’re a lot more forgiving than if you have paid the initial retail (about 400 Euro or so)/


  5. James, the HTML version of gmail is fine and just as easy to use as the full interface and seems to have just as much capability. Same goes for mobile version of Greader – you can navigate using your tags and it shows 9 items per screen, marking all as read only marks those items. I’m quite happy with those two apps – just bugs me that online vids won’t play…

  6. James,

    Just caught the full ‘gmail’ or ‘greader’ comment – both work fine (and I have tested those in more detail). Do you know what Conor was referring to ?

    There’s also inbuilt mail and RSS should you desire.


  7. Paul, when you get a chance will you post the link you used for google maps in the comments? I’ve tried the mobile version and the full version and neither will display, would like to see how you did it…

  8. Hmmm, now I’m confused… lol.

    On Twitter [] Conor said: “So far not good with N770 Ajax. GMail only in HTML mode. GCal says sod off and so does GReader.”

    Any you appear to have had the same experience Elly?

    Yet you appear to have no problem using the *full* (AJAXy) versions Paul? So perhaps you’ve both got two different version of the browser?

    This in an invaluable discussion for me and a purchase hinges it. Thank you both.

  9. James, dunno how paul is seeing the full versions, Conor & I originally thought the Gmail & Greader sites were completely unusable but then discovered the mobile/HTML versions and are happy with those…

    Paul, neither of those links work for me…

  10. James,

    The work fine for Gmail is I have all the functionality , but the html and *not* the Ajax version … which is good enough for me but might annoy other people.

    Haven’t checked GCal – I’d be interested to see you how you get on with it (see my comment about PDA functionality). Ideally I could dowload a PDA program (instead of website) and have that synch automatically – iceing on cake stuff.

    If having *all* of these working (including ajax), then you’re probably better off going for the N800 – gives details of a Mozilla port to it (should get around the limitations that we’re running into above). Probably gives you a better element of ‘future proofing’

    Not sure how much the N800 costs, but unlikely to be as cheap 😦


  11. @Elly – Linux Tech support guys are great. Every home should have one πŸ™‚

    @James – Tech Hack to you wanting *full* browser access. Use the VNC viewer to connect to your PC / Mac at home, then get the full power (not just Google apps) out of that.

    It’s probably worth looking around the Maemo site – there are other projects that should give you what you want. Some are good , some not see for yourself πŸ™‚

  12. Ah! Penny drops.. lol… sorry for the confusion. I should have defined what I meant by *full* functionality. Anyway, thank you both for that, it’s very useful info.

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