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I'm a nerd, but I Have a Cheap Phone

I just got a new phone be­cause my old one dis­ap­peared. I got a Sam­sung Star, which is not a smart­phone, but what they call a fea­ture­phone, which seems to mean "it does a lot of things but is cheap, can on­ly be cod­ed in Ja­va and does­n't run an­droid".

Here's some of the fea­tures of this baby:

  • Touch­screen, 400x240

  • Fake GPS (gives you a 400 me­ters ra­dius of your lo­­ca­­tion. Good enough for me in the city)

  • We­bkit-based brows­er that works sur­pris­ing­­ly well (it comes with the LGPL as a doc­u­­ment and you can't delete it :-)

  • Ac­celerom­e­ter

  • FM ra­­dio

  • A 2GB mi­cro-SD card

  • 3.2MP cam­era (takes video at 320x240).

The cam­era can take de­cent pho­tos in good con­di­tion­s:


And it even has some "ad­vanced" fea­tures (by which I mean: things my cheap ded­i­cat­ed cam­era does­n't do), like smile shut­ter and panoram­ic shot­s:


Oth­er that that... well, it's a phone, what can I say. It was "cheap­", which means "it costs more than I want to pay for it, but less than the al­ter­na­tives".

So, how am I tak­ing ad­van­tage of it...

First: I have not had a de­cent pock­et-­sized ebook read­er since my last Clie died. So, I looked for soft­ware to do that.

It turns out that the world of Mi­dlet­s, as fea­ture phone apps are of­ten called, is aweird place, where things are quite hard to find for the unini­ti­at­ed.

There is a sort of "app shop" at http://get­jar.­com but it's by no means com­pre­hen­sive, and of­ten things are quite hard to find.

Af­ter lots of look­ing, I found a good (I may even say very good) pro­gram called Fo­liant. Here's their home page, rus­sian on­ly ... it's weird, my favourite Palm ebook read­er, Palm Fic­tion al­so has a rus­sian-on­ly site!

Of course, the fonts sucked (way too large) but it turns out you can con­vert TTF fonts us­ing this tool so I am now back to the love­ly Droid Sans I am used to.

An­oth­er nice thing about the new phone is that it can ac­tu­al­ly play me­dia (yes, my pre­vi­ous phone was so crap­py it did­n't even play mp3). But... not ev­ery kind of me­di­a. For au­dio, just use mp3. For video... it's a bit more com­pli­cat­ed.

Here's the short ver­sion:

  1. Con­vert us­ing Hand­Brake, ffm­peg MP4 video, AAC au­­dio.

  2. Al­ways use the .m­p4 ex­ten­­sion, the phone is not smart enough to know what a .m4v is.

  3. Don't make the video larg­er than 320x240.

Num­ber 3 is a prob­lem. For ex­am­ple, you may have a video in a wide screen for­mat, like 640x272, which is a 2.35:1 ra­tio.

The ob­vi­ous thing is to cap the width to 320, and that would give you a 320x136 video.

Well, that's wrong. What you should do is find the right height, keep­ing as­pect ra­tio, for a 400px width. In this case, that would be a 400x170.

But you can't use a 400x170 video! which is why you will use 320x170, and on play­back tell the phone to stretch it and ig­nore as­pect ra­tio. And voila, 400x170 and the cor­rect as­pect ra­tio.

The dif­fer­ence? 320x130 has on­ly 41600 pix­el­s, while 320*170 has 54400, which means you get a 30% bet­ter pic­ture.

Yes, it's tiny (3 inch­es) but it looks pret­ty sharp, and de­pend­ing on the kind of ma­te­ri­al you are watch­ing, it work­s.

UP­DATE: Fo­liant is bet­ter than I thought, once you get the Sam­sung-spe­cif­ic ver­sion. It's fullscreen (no sil­ly soft but­ton­s) and the screen ro­tates au­to­mat­i­cal­ly us­ing the ac­celerom­e­ter. It's a plea­sure to use, and the UI is very nice.

Mauro / 2010-08-23 19:34:

Hace "poco" tiempo, compre un nokia e63 liberado a un precio bastante bajo (con linea/contrato/etc sale mas barato aun), el telefono en si no es la gran maravilla y esta lejos de serlo, pero se puede programar en Python.
Para tenerlo en cuenta :-)

Roberto Alsina / 2010-08-23 19:46:

No veo nada symbian barato en mercadolibre... a menos que este sea de verdad:

Pero sospecho que no lo es... Bah, si lo es me quiero morir porque está barato en serio para lo que es :-D

Mauro / 2010-08-24 23:07:

Ese n97 de mlibre debe ser el chino que venden en dealextreme :-p

Roberto Alsina / 2010-08-25 00:13:

Me parece que sí, porque el tipo a todo dice que si... jack de 3.5mm? Si, Symbian ^5? mas vale! Cámara de 12MP?????? No le creo ni un poquito. Aparte Nokia nunca hizo telefonos con dos SIM :-)

Pepemuleiro / 2010-08-24 19:05:

'Barato' sería cuanto?

Roberto Alsina / 2010-08-24 19:11:

600 y algo, pero como es corporativo recupero el 37% de iva y una parte se descuenta de ganancias asi que... ponele $350 "de verdad"

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