Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Updating Nokia N80 firmware and S60 3rd edition memory handling

I have just updated the firmware version of my N80 from 4.0632.0.38 to 5.0719.0.2. It is the biggest version number change I have seen since I own this gadget, and it is the one in which less changes I have experienced (by now).

The only thing I have noticed is some more free megabytes of main memory (3 additional megabytes if I am not wrong), critical for applications like the Nokia S60 Webkit browser in order to avoid its often "Memory Full" error. It is great to have versions of desktop browsers in the mobile so we can try to experience the web as much desktop as possible, but it is true that many pages rich in multimedia (rich in images is enough) cannot be experienced in mobile phones because of their limited memory. This is why I bought Opera Mobile 8.60 and why I also install Opera Mini 3 and Opera Mini 4 beta. The WebKit browser developers should learn from Opera Mobile in what regards to image handling. I am not only talking about rescaling images so they take less memory, but about loading them in memory as I scroll through a web page. Even Opera Mobile might be improved: if there is a page filled with images and I scroll trying to see them all, a mobile phone can run out of memory... why not to keep loaded in memory only images being shown totally or partially in the display? Images previously displayed but not currently being shown might be available in a cache (if the device has additional flash memory available). Different memory handling strategies should be applied to different phone models, of course.

An additional problem comes when we want to have several applications running at the same time (music player , web browser and IM software, for example). If you launch an application starving for memory not available at that very moment, S60 3rd edition will close -with no warning at all- some older apps running (if not all). It is a matter of user experience to know when you can and when you cannot launch an applications, and which combination of apps can coexist without any of them dying.

I do not like this behaviour and would love to let users have more chances to choose what they want. Maybe a default behaviour of not letting a new app to be launched if there is not enough memory available and show a warning would be better. This way it would be me who might close some running applications and then relaunch the one I wanted.

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