iPhone-envy: Nokia unveils S60 touch interface

iPhone-envy: Nokia unviels S60 touch interfaceA recent report on U.S. sales of Apple’s iPhone claimed that the biggest losers have been Palm, T-Mobile and Motorola.

According to the NPD Group’s research, initial iPhone buyers were ten times more likely to have previously owned a Palm Treo, three times more likely to have owned a T-Mobile Sidekick, with many iPhone purchases also replacing a Motorola Q. In contrast, RIM’s Blackberry appears to have dodged Apple’s bullet, with the iPhone’s lack of corporate email support being cited as one possible reason.

Nokia also went largely unscathed, perhaps because the Scandinavian company doesn’t have the same presence in the U.S. as in other parts of the world.

However, not one to rest on its laurels, and with the iPhone set to launch in Europe next month, Nokia today unveiled the next version of the Symbian-based mobile operating system, S60, which will offer the option of an iPhone-like touch-screen user interface, and includes support for Flash video. S60 currently powers mobile devices from LG Electronics, Lenovo, Samsung, and Nokia themselves — including the company’s showcase N95.

Despite paying homage to the iPhone, the new enhanced S60 sports a few innovations of its own.

Top of the list is tactile feedback.

S60 touch user interface comes with support for tactile feedback, which means that there is a physical pulse and feedback when the user taps on the screen. This provides better awareness of the device’s response improving the user experience.

The lack of tactile feedback on the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard has come in for much criticism. While physical keys will always provide a better, and arguably, more accurate typing experience, by providing a tactile feedback mechanism on a touch-screen, S60 might go someway to address this shortcoming.

The second area where S60 trumps the iPhone — on paper at least, since new S60 devices won’t debut till next year — is through the inclusion of Flash Lite 3, which supports Flash video. Nokia claims that this means that future devices will be able to access online video on sites such as YouTube, without the need for on-the-fly or pre-transcoding. In contrast, the iPhone doesn’t currently support Flash video, with some reports claiming that doing so would be too much of a power drain on the device. Instead, Apple has partnered with Google to create a special, but limited, version of YouTube that employs the H.264 codec optimized for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

6 Responses to “iPhone-envy: Nokia unveils S60 touch interface”

  1. Abhishek says:

    Steve,

    I was excited half way through the video where they talked about touch sensitive UI, one handed operation and tactile feedback.

    However when they pulled out the stylus, it totally bummed me out. After all the pitch of importance of touch and fancy graphics of people touching all sorts of things, they pull out a stylus?? Who cares about stylus’s anymore? They got to get rid of that.

    Also I have seen tactile feedback in the past. The technology is good, but quite frankly it comes down to how Nokia implements it. If they just throw that in as just a feature, it wont do much good.

    Abhishek

  2. Steve O'Hear (editor) says:

    @Abhishek

    I agree, the stylus is out! However, S60 is just a software platform, and the new touch UI is designed to offer the option of a traditional stylus approach or iPhone-like finger input. Obviously, the two require a different approach, with the latter needing big chunky on-screen buttons etc.

  3. Raver says:

    @ Everyone Above

    I agree about the stylus thing for sure 100% of the way!
    The S60 looks very promising but something I noticed in the video and you guys are both saying that it is a NEW Touch UI when it’s not. iPhone was the first “”MOBILE”" MULTI-Touch Interface to come on the US market. Nokia has to make somthing so its customers and stock-holders feel like they’re getting something for their money and that’s the only reason they will never beat the iPhone. The only reason they realeased it is because they have to compete and by the time this comes out Apple will have iPhone V2. It is sooo pointless for companies to compete with the iPhone by just throwing something with Multi-Touch that won’t come out for another year. IF you’re in motorolla and you’re reading this, then tell youreselves to stop trying to come out with something for competetion and start making something that should take at least a year to make and at least should be out 2 months after you announce it. Make it litterally “KILL iPhone.” But if you can’t do that, then good luck :)

  4. Abhishek says:

    @Raver,

    I agree that no one is pushing the limit. It seems as if Apple has set the bar for everyone else. Quite frankly everyone is simply trying to reach up to the bar. So far I havent seen anyone get up their too. I cover some of these in my post from late August.

    http://abhishek.tiwari.com/2007/08/31/iphone-imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery/

    I agree that any iPhone killer will need to go above and beyond the iPhone itself. Having said that it is going to be very very difficult to better the iPhone, even if price wasnt a barrier.

  5. David Mackey says:

    I’ve been very impressed with the innovation I’ve been reading about over at Nokia. I am sure Apple is watching them.

  6. sonybuff says:

    Stylus is very GOOD – how can you sketch or make a signature with your digit, hugh?
    A hefty Hard Drive (not a silly 8 GB), 5 MP vid cam + front webcam + on the market a.s.a.p. and they have a winner. If they can shoehorn GPS – so much the better. G/GSM Quad Band and above all UNLOCKED (accepting any sim card from any carrier) and bye bye iPhone…