No VoIP In New Nokia N-Series Phones? Is Nokia Turning Its Back on MobileVoIP?

56 Comments

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 [email protected] 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…

56 Comments

Ralf

I had a conversation about this with the German Nokia Support. The guy on the phone admitted, that they removed the client due to pressure from the network carriers, but they obviously didn’t want to make an official statment about this. However, he said that Nokia is listening to their customers – which is a good thing. So I can only urge you guys to sign this petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/s60v5sip/petition.html

Another inquiry at Nokia USA yielded, that Nokia is in fact “planning” to release the SIP client on the N97 in H2/2009. Don’t know why I got 2 crontradicting responses. Either way I think it would be great if we could get as many signatures as possible. Please share the link!

Ward Mundy

It’s product differentiation alright. If memory serves me, Nokia hasn’t shipped a new phone with a SIP stack and SIP client in more than a year. Just when everyone else is starting to think about convergence, wouldn’t you know Nokia would be headed in the opposite direction. Too bad.

JB

Nice work Om, I suggest you read the fine manual to find out that n78 never had a VoIP stack.
It’s called product differentiation, not a new company policy.

Lance

Markus Gobel’s Tech News,

Great observation. You’ve pointed out that newer, lower cost VOIP companies still share resemblences to companies in any competitive market. Chris Anderson’s Wired Article on the road to “free” shows that cheaper, emerging markets still compete for platform and profits, but also for information/data/statistics as externalities.

Chris Barnett

If they remove the VOIP client with firmware updates then I’ll do my best to cause Nokia problems.

WE ARE THE END CUSTOMERS !! NOT the GSM carriers.

If I find that no new N Series phones are providing a voice over IP client, then I won’t buy any of them – period.

saria

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.

Markus Göbel's Tech News Comments

Nokia’s move sucks, although they try to hide it.

Nokia says that it’s no problem that they have removed the native SIP client from their latest handsets, since companies can develop their own VoIP software based on great APIs. But it’s not as easy as Nokia is trying to say: There are hundreds or thousands of companies without an own software for mobile VoIP. They just rely on the SIP standard. In Germany it’s GMX, 1&1, Sipgate and the several Betamax daughters. Together they have millions of customers, I am one of them. These people cannot use VoIP on the new Nokia phones.

I have always ten or more VoIP providers installed on my Nokia E61i’s SIP client. This way I can always use the cheapest route and leverage free on net calls. It would be nasty if had to install ten or more pieces of software for that purpose. So as a VoIP tinkerer I have to stay with the older Nokia devices.

It’s obvious why companies like Fring, Truphone, Gizmo5, Vyke and others are applauding the Nokia move. It ties their customer to them and makes it more difficult to use other companies’ offers. With a native SIP client, which allows to be connected to several different SIP services at the same time, I can be promiscuous. Even the most disruptive mobile VoIP companies prefer to lock me in their walled garden, but I don’t want that.

I still believe that pressure from mobile operators has caused this move of Nokia. HSDPA and HSUPA have brought great bandwith to the latest handsets, enough to use it for Voice over 3G.

Ray Winter

So Nokia have been told in no uncertain terms by the GSM operators that any facilities that allow their clients to bypass them for lower cost calls are forbidden. What a surprise!!!

It is just part of the long process that has been going on by the GSM Operators over the past three years. T-Mobile, Orange and Vodafone have all created wall-gardens that limit unrestricted access to the Web.

If people really want excellent independent, very low cost calls, via a VOIP service Operator and GSM calling on the same Smartphone then visit mazingo.tv. The Smartphone incorporates VCC (Voice Call Continuity) which allows calls to be instantly and seamlessly transferred across IP and GSM Networks. In addition up to 70 VoIP Networks are automatically accessible by the smartphone which should take care of most travellers needs.

In addition to the above, Mazingo’s touch-screen Smartphone delivers, IPTV, MPEG4 Videos, Bluetooth, Web Browser and a host of other functions which make it a fabulous product to use.

Bonnie

“Shiva Babu said: Very interesting. WM6 will gain from this move.”

How’s Windows Mobile going to gain from all this? Microsoft can’t even keep its licensees from removing the otherwise adequate WM6 native client. To date only HP has dared to leave it in in its unloved iPAQ 51x Voice Messenger. There’s your carrier conspiracy.

BTW, Nokia is not doing itself any favours by claiming that 3rd parties can put VoIP back in. While technically true, the result is also technically sub-par. We already saw that with WM5 3rd-party clients, which were plain awkward. Not only was the UI integration poor, but they also sapped the battery in no time.

Jan Berger

Vyke Communications plc (AIM: VYKE) announces today that it has completed alpha testing on its stand alone Symbian VoIP client for Symbian phones. Subsequently the Stand alone mobile VoIP client has moved into a broader BETA test group prior to becoming publicly available later in the year. http://www.Vyke.com users can sign-up for the beta test http://www.vyke.com/contact-us.jsf. A stand alone Mobile VoIP client means that the owner of mobile phones with this operating system can, regardless of their mobile subscription or limitations bestowed upon them by their mobile operator make Voice over Internet calls from their mobile phone.

Earlier this month Vyke released an open beta version of its FreeTxT product, which allows Vyke users with Symbian phones to send free SMS between each other or at a flat fee of $0.06 to any other mobile destination worldwide. FreeTxT fully integrates with the customer’s handset and the users send regular SMS from their phones messaging center, but all messages are routed over GPRS to Vyke where they are sent via Vyke’s extensive SMS gateway solution to the destination mobile, see more at: https://www.vyke.com/freetxt.jsf .

The two products, Stand alone mobile VoIP and FreeTxT is merging into one product that according to plan will be released later this year under the Vyke-Air brand.

Jan C Berger, CMO, commented:
“This beta release demonstrates that Vyke is on track with its product strategy and is continuing to position itself as the world’s leading provider of mobile VoIP and IP messaging solutions. It is important for Vyke to continuously deliver mobile-operator independent solutions to allow our customers to make effortless and cost saving calls from their mobile phones regardless of their subscriptions and/or their whereabouts!”

Colin Pons

I do not see a particular issue with removng the Nokia VoIP client. This good be for all good intentions, such as it is not Nokia’s focus to continuously develop new releases, allowing third parties to develop their own (branded) clients which can differentiate themselves in features and UI, the list could go on.

Assuming Nokia is doing this because of pressures it faces from carriers seems premature. Nokia is the 800-pound gorilla,in large part because people buy Nokia phones instead of buying a postpaid subscription or pre-pay balance. At least, that is the case in Europe and Asia (in many European countries legislation requires that any mobilphone should be able to connect to a mobile network). I am not saying there isn’t any carrier pressure, but there is no proof in this case.

What should be addressed,if anything, what the removal of the VoIP client software means for users. That is something worthwhile to discuss and possibly to blame Nokia for. Not the withdrawal of a piece of client software itself, this actually opens opportunities for 3rd parties instead of closing them.
The other worthwhile topic to discuss is what other comments are refered too; the reduction of functionality with every new SDK version.

Joe Molloy

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.

Joe Molloy

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.

Anil Kumar

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.

Vipin

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“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.”
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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

Rick

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

Om Malik

@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.

Anup Sinha

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

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