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The Truth About Nokia VoIP

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Ah, it was supposed to be the day to recover from the throbbing pain in my head, lying around and generally doing nothing. For some odd reason, I powered up my Macbook Pro, and discovered this Nokia Gizmo Project meme.

The not-exactly accurate nature of all the talk, much like iSkoot (not Skype) on Symbian phones is what prompted me to give up the lazy Monday.

There is a lot of talk about Nokia putting my favorite, The Gizmo Project, on their WiFi-enabled mobile phones. Unfortunately, it is a gross exaggeration.

The Gizmo Project, a VoIP service from Michael Robertson’s SIPphone, currently works on one Nokia phone – the Nokia N80ie. (ie=Internet Edition.) That’s it – one phone that costs a whopping $499, and is currently not sold by any U.S. carrier. You have to buy it directly from Nokia.

The only other device manufactured by Nokia that supports Gizmo Project is the Nokia 770 Tablet. I admit, the service works flawlessly on both devices. I often use it to call India to save on international long distance calls, which are exorbitantly priced by Cingular, my GSM carrier of choice.

Two devices don’t make a Nokia Mobile VoIP revolution. Moreover, there are nearly half a dozen Nokia phones with WiFi and VoIP capabilities, but they don’t do Gizmo VoIP.

I wonder why Nokia has chosen to work with Gizmo Project, when most of Nokia’s devices come bundled with their own VoIP application. I think its because those VoIP capabilities are as useless as the built-in IM client Nokia bundles with most of its phones. (Some folks tell me that there are NAT issues that cause problems.)

To makethe Nokia VoIP app work with any other VoIP service, say Broadvoice, is so frustrating that it could soon have you reaching for those leftover holiday wines. (I tried it with an Asterisk-based service a friend rigged up for us, without success!) What is even more confounding is that Nokia is making VoIP work on an N Series device, targeting consumers.

VoIP should be a top priority on their E-Series smart phones: these devices are targeted at the business user, have WiFi, and are VoIP capable. Business users make a lot of calls, and could actually be the ones who could use the money savings offered by a Gizmo.

Since E Series phones (hypothetically) use the same Symbian S60 operating system, you would think it would be relatively easy to port Gizmo onto these devices. Unfortunately, that is not the case, because each phone model has its own set of quirks and settings. This indeed is the Achilles heel of mobile VoIP, and we are a long way from solving these problems.

Also see: Truphone, E-Series’ best friend.

25 Responses to “The Truth About Nokia VoIP”

  1. Amit Narula

    Hey, calling from India using nokia & gizmo is not free.
    But there is an alternate solution, which is nearly free.

    Parents in india can also buy Nokia N series (eg. N91)
    Download Fring s/w on it
    Fring is free VOIP. It just needs a GPRS connection,
    They can activate Mobile office GPRS Data Connection (Eg On Airtel)
    which cost Rs 350/mnth in maharastra.

    So i can say it is just free.

  2. Hey Om,
    I was thinking to BUY Nokia N80ie and Gizmo account. However, I was wondering how much did it cost you to call India using Gizmo project?? Is there any way that my parents can call me for free from India?

  3. Hi…

    Unfortunatelly I do not have success to use my E70 with Voipbuster , so I would ask Rudy De Waele if he can publish your SIP settings to help me (and others with same problem).

    And Mark MacLeod, I am agree with u that this 3 companies have good SIP services that working with ESeries (I use Challenger Mobile too), but remember Challenger Mobile do not be able to make calls to all other kinds of phones (landlines, GSM numbers etc), so you have to have a SIP number to receive or make a call.

  4. I think this article is very inaccurate. So you use Gizmo and it doesn’t work with E-series so you bitch. There are atleast 3 VOIP providers that cater to Nokia E-series and N080ie that do not even need NAT traversal or 3.x of the firmware. Tell Gizmo to get there act sorted!

    1.Challenger mobile
    2.Truphone (works with USA SIM’s too)

  5. Om,

    If you want a true mobile VoIP revolution, check out Voxlib. No client needed, which means any mobile device can use it, not just select smartphones.

    The current trial product runs on Skype only, but there is a much bigger story.

  6. Om,

    The love-hate relationship phone makers such as Nokia have with the carriers is a well-established fact. In the US, around 90-95% of the handset distribution market is controlled by the carriers (last time I looked), and the last thing carriers want is you calling using your data plan instead of their high voice rates.

    On the other hand, non-native applications tend to cause problems such as spontaneously or being inadvertently closed (hit the red hangup key…) which limits their usefulness. The triumph of the mobile phone is in part due to its relative robustness and hassle-free operation. If I have to keep glancing at my phone to check if the data connection has dropped, or the application closed, I will end up not using it at all.

    Nokia has a strict policy on release of certain APIs that make or break these types of applications, I know for example that Truphone chased them for a number of months for such a critical API.

    The bottom line is that carriers have a strong influence on what phones are manufactured, the ROKR case being a good example.


  7. Om, I see your point now, thanks for the reply. But it’s not only about the PR, I wrote my personal opinion and experience, no doubt I’m a Nokia fan of course :-) I believe they’re doing great stuff currently.

    Maybe over here in Europe we have a different view/experience with Nokia then you guys there in US (I haven’t seen too many Nokia users while I was in SV recently). On the mobile music side: I had an iPod before and was a fan, since it broke I bought an N91, now I’m definately not waiting anymore on Apple’s iPhone.

    Hope you make it to 3GSM in Barcelona so we can discuss our views more in detail over a cerveza :-)

  8. Rudy, I did not say you were exaggerating – I just think the hype of mobile voip coming out of Nokia is pretty high, much like their mobile music spin. Much as I like Nokia, sometimes it is just way too much “PR” which is why I wrote this piece.

  9. Okay guys i tried the upgrade, and all sort of tricks that are mentioned pretty much everywhere on the web – nothing. Nada.

    So that precisely is the point – upgrade firmware – how many average mobile customers are going to do that. i tried the SIP phone instructions, and what not … this is precisely the problem. People are writing about N80ie because how easy it is to set up the accounts etc.

    Nokia has a long way to go before this Mobile VoIP.

    Fring is great – but only if you have decent connectivity. Anyway Like Truphone, Fring is a non-Nokia solution.

  10. Hi Om,

    I wrote the Nokia-Gizmo article at Read/WriteWeb. First, I didn’t ment to trouble your recovery day, but these things happen when powering up a laptop on a holiday of course.

    Reading your post, I thought your ‘not-exactly accurate nature of all the talk’ and ‘gross exaggeration’ was a bit exaggerated from your side to be honest.

    You’re right the N80i is not available yet in US but I’m talking about my European experience, I’ll try to indcate that better next time.

    When writing about a new service, I always test it myself, that’s what I did trying out the Gizmo Project on the N80i, no more no less. I cannot see any exaggeration in my post re-reading it.

    With my article I just wanted to point out that Nokia is doing GREAT work opening up possibilities for the users, creating MORE options for the users to connect, it’s true there’s still a lot of experiment but due to these experiments and tests they move on with innovation. That’s what’s it’s all about, no?

    I definately expect more movement from Nokia in this area this year – including targetting these services to business users in US also.


  11. Dear Om Malik, your article is pretty inaccurate.

    The Nokia E-series works great with Gizmo/SIPPhone as soon as you update to a firmware version with STUN support (3.x.x for E61).

    The Gizmo “client” for N80 just auto configures the settings of the same built-in VoIP stack. The reason it claims to only support this model is that this model has STUN support in stack out-of-the-box.

  12. you are wrong in saying only one nokia (N80) is voip enabled phone.Check out this company .Were you can already download voip client that talks to skype clients ,for nokia phones.Presently 7 Nokia S60 phones are supported .Couple of the phones are being sold in US also through operators.
    I agree that Voip client in mobile has not penetrated to the extent required but the reason for it are many including operators reluctance and also due to limited availablity of programable phones .Infact today Nokias S60 phones are only true open platform phones with considerable volumes.But unfortunately in US S60 market share is very low which leads to posting like yours.

  13. jdbradford

    Whilst it won’t run on e-series as yet try the following voip solution – works on both google talk and skype (and skype out) – on symbian handsets. Works like a charm … on both gprs and 3g!! FRING (ahhhhh)

  14. jdbradford

    Whilst it won’t run on e-series as yet try the following voip solution – works on both google talk and skype (and skype out) – on symbian handsets. Works like a charm … on both gprs and 3g!!

  15. Mr Malik, you have a few things really mixed up in your head.

    The N80 runs the same VoIP application that the E-series Nokia phones run. It does NOT run the Gizmo application created for the N80. The “Gizmo executable” on the N80 Internet Edition phone is simply a SCRIPT that automatically creates a gizmo account in the phone’s Nokia-branded VoIP software stack.

    The E60, E61 and E70 run the SAME VoIP stack as the N80 Internet Edition.

    The reason that so far very few could run Gizmo and other SIP services on their E-series phones was because Nokia had not implemented STUN support yet. Now, in the 3.x firmware version for the E61, STUN works and therefore a whole bunch of free SIP providers now work, including Gizmo, FWD, VoipBuster etc.

    Please note that the E60 and E70 have not a firmware upgrade to 3.x as of yet, and so their VoIP is limited to servers that exist in the user’s side of the firewall, e.g. inside a corporation, and not the free SIP services found in the internet. When these phones are upgraded too (if Nokia releases firmware upgrades for them too), they will support Gizmo et all, as well, because they will too have STUN support in them.

    If you like the E61, which currently it can be found for $370, buy it, upgrade its firmware to 3.x using Nokia’s official NSU application, and voila! Gizmo and all other VoIP SIP services will now WORK.

  16. i recommend to wait for 3-4 month; samsung launching their “i600” that have win mobile 5 + wifi + 3G then you can run skype or other voip services all the other mobile companies will probably do the same…

  17. Om, wouldn’t it just be easier to keep a 770 with you and use that? The biggest utility for me in having a mobile is that I can use the phone to make intl calls wherever I am, not just in a wifi area. From that perspective, something like jajah or MINO wireless is far more useful.