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Summary:

Nokia, long a proponent of VoIP and WiFi on its handsets seems to be turning its back on VoIP on its consumer N-Series devices. Is the company buckling under pressure from cellphone companies? Continue Reading

Nokia, the leading handset maker, has been a favorite of ours for two reasons –- it ruthlessly promoted and added Wi-Fi connectivity to its handsets and added VoIP functionality to its devices.

Carriers did not view these technology developments too kindly since it prevented them from extorting exorbitant amounts of cash for costly long distance connections, leading to the rise of mobile-VoIP players such as Truphone, Fring and Gizmo Project.

But now the Finnish giant seems to have developed cold feet, and some of its new handsets, such as the new N78, are not VoIP compatible anymore. Many of these new phones are not on the list of Nokia’s VoIP compatible handsets. It is not clear how the older phones are going to be impacted. A reader tipped us off about this apparent change in the latest N-series phones.

…the N78 (and also to affect the forthcoming N96) which is that Nokia has very quietly and seemingly sneakily redacted their built-in VoIP / SIP implementation in all phones that come with Symbian Series 60 3rd generation Feature Pack 2 (otherwise abbreviated as S60 3.2).

I have a N78 lying around so I decided to test it myself. And lo-and-behold none of the VoIP services I am accustomed to using worked. Truphone and Gizmo are two services I typically use and neither of them work.

Ditto for Fring, a VoIP-IM service as well. However, all three worked on the Nokia E71 smart phone. When I asked Nokia if this was true, the company sent me this response, which pretty much admits that is the case, though it didn’t say why.

Nokia Nseries is committed VoIP services as part of its offering. That is why we have included SIP stack and improved the developer VoIP offering in S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 by enhancing the VoIP APIs to improve the call quality, as an example.

A Nokia VoIP client is not included with the Nokia N78 and the Nokia N96 and VoIP solutions based on this particular client such as Gizmo will not work. However, Forum Nokia will cooperate with third-party developers to support them in porting their applications from S60 3.0/3.1 releases to S60 3.2. One example is Fring, whose popular application will be offered via Nokia’s Download! service for the Nokia N96.

Truphone isn’t waiting around for Nokia to do something. A company spokesman told us: “From Truphone’s perspective Nokia has removed the VoIP client from all the N-Series phones for the planned future. We are putting in a replacement client functionality so that existing customers are not orphaned.”

The theory is that Nokia isn’t mucking with E-series devices because they are more enterprise focused. Since VoWLAN is more popular with the corporations, Nokia can’t afford to remove the VoIP functionality. It is one feature that makes the phones more competitive with say Blackberry.

On the consumer front, however, voice-over-WiFi has become a thorn in the side of carriers, as exemplified by actions of carriers such as T-Mobile against VoWiFi-startups such as Truphone. Furthermore, the emergence of 3G has made it easier to route calls over the 3G network.

Funnily enough, the decision to back away from built-in VoIP comes at a time when fixed mobile convergence is finally beginning to gain traction, especially in Europe and Asia. In the U.S., Nokia launched a handset that works with T-Mobile’s Hotspot@Home service.

Nokia has to be taking a lot of heat from carriers over making VoIP easy on its devices. Whichever way you look at it, I think it is a bone-headed move by the company, which should be trying to out-innovate its competitors and be more open in terms of its features.

The decision also brings into question company’s new mantra of being open and open-source friendly. Being open isn’t about releasing some software in open source, but it is about having an open mind. Shutting down a much loved VoIP feature isn’t exactly the right move.

As our reader very aptly wrote:

….does this move by Nokia really appear to be the type of move that is indicative of a culture shift towards open source per the Symbian Foundation? Google is already culturally rooted in open source (its entire infrastructure runs on Linux clusters). I am not so confident about Nokia’s ability to shift to open source…

  1. OM, you seems to be running of of topics. No N7x series phone have VoIP. You better research next time.

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  2. Very interesting. WM6 will gain from this move.

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  3. @ANup Sinha

    Actually if you read the story it clearly states that this impacts even the N96 phones and if you are upgrading to the latest software on N Series phones. moreover, in case you missed the headline, it says new nokia n-series phones.

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  4. Recently we decided to move away from Symbian/Nokia development to Android as Nokia is restricting functionality with every New SDK. While other platform iPhone/Android are giving more and more APIs to developers Nokia is taking away API from public SDK/plugins.

    Already symbian sign sucks the developers and Now functionality is reduced too. They deprecate/restric API without providing any equivalent in new SDKs. If you make an investment you expect your appliction to be run on as many devices as possible with same platform. But that is not the story with symbian/Nokia.

    Can you belive that in their latest SDK you can not invoke native phone dialer to simplay dial a call. you need to write complete phone dialer code yourself or go through API partner program, which itself sucks because you need to purchase a Technical Support Request and Nokia team will evaluate if they need to give API to you and if yes follow another process to get API and after following all processes you might get API that is not guaraneteed to be compatible with all devices on same SDK version.

    I like symbian platform because of their strong client server architecture that I couldn’t find in other platforms (other platform only have some stupid work arounds). Because of their bureaucracy we were so frustrated that we finally gave up and moved to Android.

    Nokia/Symbian really needs a wakeup call. Looks like they are so far away from market reality. If they do not care about developers they will suffer and see results very soon. They should learn from MS. Windows is not a good OS, everyone knows but I still use it because there are several utilities I use everyday not available on Mac. MS realized this fact and they opened their platform to play around (not open source – but access to APIs). Although it is misused by some virus makers but still it has largest market capture just because it provides tool/API that developers really need.

    I think I wrote enough infrustration. Sorry if it is too long

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  5. =====
    “Being open isn’t about releasing some software in open source, but it is about having an open mind. Shutting down a much loved VoIP feature isn’t exactly the right move.”
    =====

    Absolutely True. Biggest Problem with Nokia is their closed mindset. With every new firmware they are reducing the feature/functionality. There are more application available on previous firmwares. Open is not not open source but open mindset open API open platform

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  6. Om – I attended http://startupsaturday.in where TringMe folks demonstrated their latest unreleased mobilevoip. It even works on old phones like n70 which does not have Nokia voip stack. You may check it out with them.

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  7. From the statement returned by Nokia they say they are removing the client but not the stack. How is this ‘turning their back’ on VOIP?

    There is nothing stopping 3rd party developers developing their own VOIP client and they go on to say that they already have one significant 3rd party developer in this area on board and that through their forum they are happy to engage with others.

    So the other 3rd party developers you mention will have to redevelop their applications – if it leads to better voice quality as Nokia claim then surely that is a good thing?

    The title of this article was nothing more than sensationalism – something I’ve come to expect from this particular blog but the blatant lack of balance in the article including an attempt to twist the meaning of Nokia’s statement to suit the article title is pathetic.

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  8. From the statement returned by Nokia they say they are removing the client but not the stack. How is this ‘turning their back’ on VOIP? This move could just as easily be seen as Nokia opening up the VOIP client development area.

    To say “.. the new N78, are not VoIP compatible anymore” is utterly untrue. If the stack is there they are still VOIP compatible.

    There is nothing stopping 3rd party developers developing their own VOIP client on this VOIP stack and they go on to say that they already have one significant 3rd party developer in this area on board and that through their forum they are happy to engage with others.

    So the other 3rd party developers you mention will have to redevelop their applications – if it leads to better voice quality as Nokia claim then surely that is a good thing? Do you know if this is not the case and if so, how?

    The title of this article was nothing more than sensationalism – something I’ve come to expect from this particular blog but the blatant lack of balance in the article including an attempt to twist the meaning of Nokia’s statement to suit the article title comes across at best as ignorance of the VOIP implmentation in Nokia phones or at worst, nothing more than desperation for clicks.

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  9. [...] connections, leading to the rise of mobile-VoIP players such as Truphone, Fring and Gizmo Project. Source Share and [...]

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