Category Archives: nokia

Improving Audio in Nokia N95 Videos – External Microphone

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Following my experience at CTIA Wireless 2008 with streaming video from a Nokia N95, I’ve sought a solution to adding an external microphone. The N95 has an input that is designed for making phone calls and adding a headset for this same purpose. It includes noise-cancelling automatic gain adjustment to make phone calls using the phone’s built-in microphone appropriately loud or soft depending upon the speaker’s voice level. The noise-canceling properties of automatic gain adjustment built into the N95’s microphone improves audio quality for phone calls by separating the speaker from the background noise which is problematic when that background noise is, in fact – not noise – but an interview subject.

Mark Squires of Nokia’s Social Media group tried to arrange a discussion for me with someone from the company’s accessories group, but I was scheduled too heavily with interviews to meet him inside the convention center. I shared with Ray Haddow who manages Blogger Outreach with the Social Media Communications group the solution developed for Reuters and their MoJo reporter’s kit, and asked if other adapters might be available.


Both Mark and Ray transformed the discussions and information from our emails into internal discussions about how Nokia might provide a solution. Afterall, the N95 as a “multimedia computer” is enjoying a symbiotic demand relationship with mobile video streaming services. All social media is creating a strata of use cases: from those who create V.I.T.A.L (video, images, text, audio & links) media for a few freinds, to those eager to add video to their toolbox for personal brand and even those who are using the N95 to report for MSM publications and networks like Shelby Highsmith for MTV Choose or Lose.

MTV’s Choose or Lose production is one example of how the combination of the N95’s 5MB video camera, and mobile streaming video services like Qik are being used to report in near-real-time on the events of the 2008 Presidential Election. Michael Scogin talked about the production and MTV’s citizen journalists during my interview with him at CTIA.

After CTIA, I connected with Michael Fortson of Qik via Twitter. We talked by phone and Twitter about the problem and need for a solution as so many of these high value on-the-spot videos were devalued by the unacceptable lack of audible audio. You can degrade the quality of the image and still have a compelling video, if the audio is excellent. The reverse is not true.

Michael pointed me to Jim Long, self-described new media guy trapped in an old media body. Jim uses an N95 to record images and videos from his vantage point of literally behind the camera. He is an NBC cameraman assigned to Washington, DC. Jim found this experiment by Steve Garfield using the N95 bundled external microphone.


And next he sent along a link to this experiment by Bloggerman. I received a pointer to this video from a few people.


And then others who have a stake in finding a solution to improving the quality of real time video through better audio also joined the conversation taking place openly on Twitter. Kartin Verclas from MobileActive and Shelby Highsmith one MTV’s citizen journalists. We all discussed the service offerings for live mobile video, the shortfall of the N95’s audio and potential solutions.

Shelby Highsmith recommended using a BT headset as a microphone, and made a video to demonstrate how the BT headset would function in a high noise environment like technology conferences, bars or restaurants. Meanwhile, I made a trip to Radio Shack and purchased two adapters for the experiment suggested by Bloggerman using the TV cable. Bloggerman stated the red cable plug must be used as it delivered the audio from among the three RCA plug set color coded red, white and yellow. But that didn’t work.

The results from my attempt to connect the N95 TV cable set to a female-to-female RCA to RCA adapter, the second adapter a male-t0-female RCA to mini 8″ connector and finally plugging in the mini 8″ microphone cable allows the use of an external mic with the N95 proved successful after, in his own experiment Shelby Highsmith chronicled in images and video the right combo. He discovered that the yellow cable connector was the correct connector, rather than the red one recommended by Bloggerman.

Important Note about the microphone you choose: it must either be a battery-powered condenser microphone or a dynamic microphone. Dynamic mics don’t require a power source, whereas condensers do and the Nokia input port does not supply power to the microphone. If a condenser is used it must be battery-powered.

I’ve tested this solution with a battery-powered Edirol C15 condenser mic and the results are promising. The real test is in the field with an interview subject. My field tests will begin next week featuring some live streaming from the polls in North Carolina’s Democratic Primary Election. Tune in to or watch my Twitter stream at for notification of when I’m live.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion and the many experiments to narrow down the possibilities. I hope everyone who is creating mobile video streams using the N95 will find this solution helpful and we all can continue to move the production quality forward.

Nokia Debuts Conversations with the Blogosphere

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Nokia Conversations goes live April 21st, 2008, led by Nokia’s social media expert, Charlie Schick. As a member of the newly minted Social Media Communications group inside Nokia, Charlie has built what he refers to as a “mud hut,” and which he plans to transform into a blogosphere palace.Mark Squires describes the project briefly in my video interview with him at CTIA.

Many people will recall Charlie from his early work with Nokia’s first blogger outreach project promoting the use of Lifeblog. But for those who don’t remember. Lifeblog was a three-way (mobile, PC, Typepad blog) syncing application built in partnership with Six Apart allowing Typepad users to post images, photos, videos and text directly from their Nokia devices. That was over 3 years ago, and many of us have had the privilege of sharing conversations with Charlie since those early days in 2005.

Nokia Conversations highlights the developments inside the world’s largest device manufacturer, and new entrant into mobile content and services that the 60,000 employee company represents. Some of those 60K employees are also introduced along with their accomplishments and new products. Comments are welcomed, and engagement with the blogosphere has already begun as you’ll see. Welcome Nokia and we look forward to the “conversations.”

Congratulations to Charlie and his team for a job well done. If this is the “mud hut,” I can’t wait to witness the path of construction to the palace.

Nokia Conversations Blog

Mark Squires of Nokia at CTIA 2008, Sans Streaming

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A version of the interview with Mark Squires, Head of Social Media Communications at Nokia. This video was also captured using an N95 8GB, but minus live streaming. It was recorded directly to the device and as is probably obvious wasn’t on a tripod. Tripods are hugely helpful in these type of recording environments. Everyone’s hand does shake at least a little.The audio codecs used by streaming services come into question when viewing the local recording as the sound is much improved. So is the solution is likely an external mic AND a better audio codec on the streaming service.If you listen closely you’ll notice that we have a scoop on Nokia’s internal blogging effort going live. Tough to prove it as it’s not public, but 800+ internal blogs is quite the undertaking. Now, I wonder about Nokia Twitter which would likely deliver the internal news service in a more efficient manner for everyone at the company.

Orange rewrites the Nokia Narrative over Music Service

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The Independent reported that Orange is at odds with Nokia over its new music service which is scheduled for launch today.  The paper claims to have “seen” a memo from Orange to Nokia that threatens to derange an 8GB device to be debuted today. Orange insists that if Nokia doesn’t agree to a trial measuring the performance of Nokia’s music service against Orange’s own music service their handset business will go elsewhere.  The operator set a deadline of 31 August for Nokia’s reply.

The memo said: “We are still to see a working demo of the music store; we would expect a significant level of customer confusion and increased calls to customer services as a result of housing both players on a device and our data tariffs would be negatively impacted as they were not designed to deal with such large individual music files. In short, if this was an Orange service, we would definitely not launch yet to protect our customer experience.”

As Nokia prepares to launch an iTunes competitor today, Orange wants to ensure that their handset provider doesn’t cannibalize the operator’s revenue from its own music service.  One has to wonder if the “trial” will infact result in the trottling of Nokia’s service to ensure a better subscriber experience for Orange.  So, perhaps when it comes to Nokia’s internal narrative, We have 800 million customers outside the US and only 4 customers inside the US, Orange seems to be rewriting that statement.   The network owner is still in charge regardless of what Nokia think.

Live Blogging Nokia Launch, Go Play Event

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I’m live blogging Nokia’s Launch Event, Go Play over at Mobile Messaging 2.0 (MM2). The press conference this morning is already available. There will be more during the entertainment panel shortly.

Nokia, Go Play – part 1, OPK, CEO

Nokia, Go Play – part2, Xpress Music

Nokia, Go Play – part 3, Ovi

Nokia, Go Play – part 4, Q&A

Staying up late, so you don’t have to. The Entertainment Panel begins in about 30 mins, so check MM2 for more updates.

Nokia votes “No Confidence” in their US marketing team

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Nokia launched the newest edition to it’s N Series lineup, the N95, for European 3G networks last year. A non 3G device also called the N95 was available in the US and much tauted during theiPhone launch as an answer to Apple’s ground breaking mobile device. Many Nokia fanboys and fangirls explained how the N95 was superior including it’s 3G speed. And similar statements were made by Nokian’s themselves. The truth is that the N95 as presented in the US also worked on the slower Edge data network. Now, the FCC has approved a variant of Nokia’s N95 which will work on ATT’s US 3G HSDPA network with a clever new name, N95-3. The launch party is set, but there will be no lines of eager enthusiasts as was witnessed with the iPhone, because the launch of this new US market device will occur in London.

It’s unclear why Nokia would not launch this device from a US city. They have Flagship stores in New York and Chicago where a launch event could be staged. Apparently, they feel that a launch in London will receive more attention. For that to be true, Nokia must also believe that their US marketing team (they do have one right?) isn’t up to the job. Ouch! Of course, Nokia doesn’t have much success to point to in the US market as they’ve missed every major trend for handsets here. Nokia has the growing reputation of not listening to the market, but who can argue with their 35% global market share?

History of Nokia Failures in the US Market

Clamshell Design

It has been very clear since the mid 1990s with the popularity of the Motorola StarTac that US consumers are in love with the clamshell form factor. I owned one. And who didn’t recognize the StarTac influence on Motorola’s more recent phenom phone, the Razr. Nokia’s response to the StarTac was belligerent with their CEO proclaiming that the candy bar form was superior and Nokia would never make clamshells. Their response to the Razr on the other hand was the N76. It comes very late as the Razr craze has ended and somehow Nokia known for utilitarian design managed to make a Razr look clunky.

Motorola StarTacMotorola Razr Nokia N73 mobile phone

QWERTY Keyboard

Another trend in the US market has been the desire for QWERTY thumb keyboards used to compose email, and driven in large part by the success of Blackberry. Nokia avoided QWERTY in favor of the phone dialpad keys despite the success of Blackberry and Treo which dominated the early US smartphone market. Only recently has Nokia acquiesced on this feature with the E62, a stripped down version of the E61i.

3G on US Frequencies

Nokia’s N95 debuted in Europe early 2007, and it looks as though they plan to make the US holiday season with a US 3G HSPDA model of the N95. The issue here is that 3G frequencies in the US and Europe are different. In Europe, 3G operates at 2100 MHz and in the US the frequenices are (ATT) 1900, 950 and (T-mobile) 1700 MHz. So a 3G phone isn’t a 3G phone everywhere. The fact that the promise of WCDMA was suppose to be global interoperability apparently died a cruel death on the sword of competitive advantage. But that’s a story for another time. The bottom line is that Nokia releases phones on European frequencies about a year before they appear in the US market.

Incoming CEO OPK declarations

Despite Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo’s declarations during his initial press conferences in 2006, as the new CEO of Nokia, results haven’t demonstrated Nokia’s focus on the US market. In fact, Nokia handset sales in North America from Q1 2006 to Q1 2007 fell by 50%. This also the period during which Nokia exited it’s CDMA handset business.

CDMA Devices

One reality of the US market is the coexistence of two network technologies, GSM and CDMA. CDMA networks used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint were the first to market with 3G speed and services. Nokia has an institutional dysfunction with the implications of serving CDMA carriers. First, their abhorrence with customizing devices per operator requirements, and second, their long-standing licensing war with Qualcomm. This dysfunction caused Nokia to exit the partnership they built with Sharp to deliver CDMA devices for the US

Some have suggested that Nokia’s abandoning the higher margin US CDMA market for low margin entry handsets in India and China was a serious miscalculation. But as I’ve said, the dysfunction on this point is institutional. A member of S60’s marketing team explained about two weeks ago that the narrative inside Nokia for the US market goes something like this: We have 800 million customers outside the US and only 4 customers inside the US.

Obviously, this isn’t a true statement. There are many European Nokia devices that are imported to the US, along with newly enabled direct sales, new channels forming like, and of course, the 4 referenced by the narrative, the US wireless carriers. However, trapped inside their narrative, Nokia does not appear able to evaluate the US market objectively. Perhaps Nokia should just fold up tents and exit.

iPhone Launch

The iPhone is listed as a Nokia failure in the US market, because given the long advance notice and the media buildup to Apple’s iPhone launch, Nokia marketing in the US fell flat. There was no competitive response that has registered here from the company. The best competitive response has come from the Nokia enthusiast blogosphere. Even the blogosphere missed the mark.

A feature by feature comparison of the N95 to the iPhone is nonsense. There was much made of the iPhone’s lack of 3G support which – I love irony – is astonishing given the US version of the N95 was also not 3G. And contrary to many reports from Europe, the US has a number of 3G devices. It’s just that they aren’t made by Nokia.

Given all these failures in the US market, and the focus of Nokia on the N95 as their competitive response to the iPhone, why isn’t the US 3G HSDPA version launched from a US city?

Apparently, Nokia has scheduled it’s annual Launch Event, and it’s in London on August 29th. The Launch website is intentionally cryptic and game like – hint, hint. So whether it’s convenience or tradition or short-sightedness, check the tubes in two days for the story on what Nokia reveals. Even, a simul-launch, events in both London and New York, would have been a good idea. Nokia does have a US marketing team, don’t they? It’s truly difficult to tell.