The other day, I took out my Nokia N82 smartphone (phones that combine cellular, PDA and media functions) while grocery shopping and the slippery thing squirted out of my hand and onto the ceramic tile floor of Harris Teeter, scattering in pieces. I reassembled it, but there was a big ding in the keyboard plate. Worse, while I could call out fine, incoming calls worked only about half the time. I'd been holding out for one of the new Nokia models due out later this year (N85, N96), but it was time for another new mobile phone. The higher end Nokia phones have a great camera (5 megapixels) and media features (including an FM radio), so I decided to go with the N95 pictured here. It has very similar in features to the N82 but has a different form factor, a much better keypad, and the back is coated so it isn't so darn slippery.
I got a late start with my weekend bike riding on Sunday and NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday was already over on WAMU. So as I often did with the N82 when WAMU's schedule and my life don't coincide, I transported myself to the Pacific Time zone to listen to Northwest Public Radio, where I worked until early March. This I did by simply pointing the browser to its Real stream and pedaled away. Works just fine, although with T-Mobile's non-3G service there is a bit of buffering while in motion. Note to self: switch to the competition's HSDPA service.
So while I was pedaling, I was thinking about all the ways I use this phone as a radio and "radio surrogate." Here's my list in declining order of frequency that I use them:
- [5-6 times per day] The @nprnews feed on Twitter. If you're not familiar with Twitter, it permits users to follow each other's exploits, those exploits being limited to what you can say in 140 characters. My postings there are few, but there are as of this writing 208 people following (subscribing to) them. Some media organizations and bloggers are using Twitter to let people know when a new story is posted elsewhere. NPR has @nprnews, which comes to my cell phone, and a few others, which I read online. Since you can embed a link (usually in condensed form using tinyurl.com) in the "tweet" (post), you can follow the link to the online version of the story if you're interested. One that came tonight reads, nprnews: Calif. Regulators Ban Cell Phone Use By Train Operators http://tinyurl.com/4ro76d. Several public radio stations also have Twitter feeds that let followers know of news stories as they're posted to the web.
- [1-2 times per day] Nokia's built-in FM radio for WAMU. Although the Nokia has usable speakers, you still have to plug in the headset because it's the antenna. There is a fairly comprehensive and accurate directory of stations. I use this less often than with the Twitter feed, but for more hours -- while in the gym or walking to/from work.
- [3-4 times per week] Listen to Northwest Public Radio's Real streams as described in the second paragraph above. I even listened to it from Iceland in June. Caution, though -- I've found several station Real streams that don't work on my phone, probably due to streaming rates that are too fast. Check out publicradiofan.com for links to just about every public radio station in the world, including feeds.
- [2-3 times per week] NPR's mobile web site, m.npr.org or mobile.npr.org or npr.mobi. It's just a sparsely formatted version of npr.org featuring selected offerings. Also lets you get local news from several partnering member stations. Several public radio stations stations have mobile sites also, including my old one, mobile.nwpr.org. I just bookmark this in the phone's web browser (same as with NWPR's Real streams). My NPR phone, a BlackBerry, also has a downloadable shortcut to this (also available for the iPhone) where you can just click an icon and up comes the mobile site. Even has a link to a number you can call to listen to hourly news updates.
- [1-2 times per week] I just visit NPR.org and look for a story that I missed but heard about. Since it's got text versions, one can get the story that way.
- [once a month] I subscribe to a few podcasts, but listen only occasionally to them on the phone. I also have them on my iPod, and listen there more often in heavy travel months.
- [once a month or less] Public radio RSS feeds on Bloglines mobile (or your favorite feed reader). Before March, when I had a life, this was a weekly source of audio, but I've been slacking on my feed reading. Radio RSS feeds often provide both text and audio versions of a story. NPR maintains a large list of NPR news, program, topic and member station feeds. I also use Google Reader on both the Nokia and the BlackBerry.
Nokia uses the Symbian S60 operating system, so these things all work on its N series phones. Windows Mobile smartphones also carry some or all of these features (many don't have the FM radio -- too bad) but access streams through Windows Media. Some BlackBerries (not mine) support streaming media also.
It's great to have this media companion along and providing worldwide access to public radio. Good listening! --Dennis