Conversation Beta: Nokia is finally integrating threaded messaging into S60

Nokia Beta Labs, the domain of former bass player for Children of Bodom, Tommi Vilkamo, has served up an application that the S60 community has been looking forward to for quite a long time. Palm Treo users, iPhone owners and more recently people using Windows Mobile devices have already had the pleasure of experiencing threaded text messaging. What is that you might say? If you have ever used GMail or any Instant Messaging client than you know what it is: a method of displaying messages, both incoming and outgoing, in a manner that lets you have a conversation more efficiently. Today Conversation was released, but before we check it out let us see how other devices are doing it.

Here is what that interface looks like on the Palm Treo:

palm-treo680-25.jpg

palm-treo680-26.jpg

Here is what the interface on the iPhone looks like:

iphonesms1.jpg

iphonesms2.jpg

And finally here is one of the more recent applications on Windows Mobile called Textr that enables threaded SMS:

textr1.jpg

textr2.jpg

Let us take a look at what Nokia has brewing in their Beta Labs:

s60conversation1.jpg

s60conversation2.jpg

The similarities are obvious at first, but their are quite a number of little things that need to be improved upon. First of all notice the screen resolution, 240 x 320; how is it that Windows Mobile is displaying more information using the same amount of pixels? Textr shows me my last 6 messages versus 4 for S60 Conversations. Textr also shows me my last message and time stamp versus just the number of messages in Conversation.

Look at the last screenshot, the one where I type “Test again, shoot me …”

Conversation scrolls the message across the screen if it doesn’t fit, very annoying. I actually said “Test again, shoot me another message.” If the iPhone, Palm and Windows Mobile OS can show me my complete message, why can’t Conversation?

Another thing to highlight in the last screen shot, notice how difficult it is to tell which messages were mine versus from R200? Notice that the message appears on top of the time stamp and the time stamp shows the day, month and year regardless if I need this information or not?

Now look at the second iPhone image, see how there is only one line of text at the bottom? When your cursor becomes active in that field then it expands to reveal a full keyboard like so:

iphone-sms3.jpg

This makes that huge screen useful, more data displayed = better user experience. In Conversation, Palm and Textr you always have that text entry box on the bottom eating up precious screen real estate. Please fix that.

My last gripe is how you access Conversations, but it is something that S60 can not fix right now. In order to get to Conversations you either have to open up the application manually or go into your contact book and move one tab over. Conversations has not replaced the inbox, but Textr on Windows Mobile replaced the built in Windows Mobile inbox so I’m confused as to why S60 is not as flexible.

It has potential, it really does, but I’m expecting innovation on top of just copying the best pieces of the three platforms outlines above. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Let me do more than just send a text message. By this I mean if I’m having a conversation with R200 and he gives me valuable information about an upcoming party in a week then let me use his text message as an entry in my calender. With a minimal number of clicks I should take his text message, click options, add to calender and select a date.
  • Copy this interface for the built in email client.
  • Give me the ability to search my conversations.

What do you guys think? Leave all of your feedback on Tommi’s blog so that the developers working on this application get your feedback!

  • R2

    nice review! :)

  • Alexandr3

    Stefan i think you spotted it right. The app is a good step imho, but it lacks the UI flexibility WM and speccially iPhone has.

    Everything in the S60 has to obey to the UI rules.

    -You can’t change the fontsize freely.
    -The screen always has to show certain lines, no matter the resolution and dimension of your screen

    And this app acts like it. It respects the rules.. :(

    Unfortunately S60 still uses the same closed and controlled UI they had 5 years ago with the 7650. Very small changes. I know nokia like to keep it simple and “traditional”, but the competition is going forward and nokia isn’t.

    We had a glimpse of a new UI when the N81 was presented, but it still feels very uptight…

    I for one wouldn’t want a S60 UI Touch Screen phone. Just because it’s TS?? TS is much more than touching in the glass..

    I know you are a UI-care guy (i read your comments about blackberry fonts etc) and that this is probably a concern for you too. At least i hope because your voice is heard!:)

  • Topy

    Agree with above poster.

    -Waiting eagerly for my N81-

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