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Nokia's big gamble

Disclaimer: I currently own a Nokia phone, a basic pay-as-you-go handset from 7-11. And I like it. It came free after purchasing $100 in minutes and I pay $50 every three to four months or so for around 200 minutes of talk time.

Disclaimer: I currently own a Nokia phone, a basic pay-as-you-go handset from 7-11. And I like it. It came free after purchasing $100 in minutes and I pay $50 every three to four months or so for around 200 minutes of talk time. It takes an hour to charge and because I don't use it much I only have to charge it every 10 days to two weeks. If I ever lose it (and I lose or break everything eventually) I won't shed any tears.

Can you say the same about your iPhone? (I can't say the same thing about my $350 iPod Touch, which was dropped in the snow on the weekend and is currently not working. And yes, I've tried the rice trick.)

Still, there's no denying that Nokia's star has fallen pretty far. Once upon a time the Finnish telecom was THE default phone brand. But the company somehow missed the entire smart phone revolution, continuing to crank out phones in an era where most people think of touch screens, accelerometers, web browsing, ebooks, games, multimedia, apps and email.

Nokia is looking to get back into the game in a big way, and last week announced plans to partner with Microsoft to launch a line of smart phones that use the Windows Phone 7 platform.

That should have been good news, but Nokia's shares actually dropped after the announcement. Whether that's a rejection of Nokia's business plans or of Windows Phone 7 is fair to debate, but most analysts were kind enough to note that Nokia was already heading for history's dustbin before the announcement and that an alliance with Microsoft could ultimately save the company - if the new phones are any good.

Maybe I'm an optimist, but I had a chance a few weeks ago to play with a phone running Windows Phone 7 and it was pretty slick - I liked the look and feel, it was easy to get around, multi-tasking was easy and the integration with Zune, Xbox Live and Microsoft Office was first-rate. It was no iPhone 4, but it was a better overall experience than I've seen so far on an Android phone.

There's a tendency in the tech world to write companies off, and it's never fair or accurate. For example, Palm didn't disappear and the platform looks stronger than ever with HP announcing new phones, tablets and an upgrade to WebOS 3.0. Research In Motion was also written off, but while the company is losing market share they're still doing pretty well and getting into the tablet market as well. Microsoft was read its funeral rites after Vista came out but with Windows 7 the company is making a comeback and stealing back market share, while the Xbox 360 is doing very well (especially with Kinect) and is the platform most companies want to develop games for in the current generation - yes, Nintendo sold a lot more Wiis, but Wii owners aren't buying many games that don't have Mario or on the cover.

Nokia may survive, and even thrive in the marketplace as a result of this decision. After all, iPhone isn't perfect (writer ducks, braces for angry emails), and Microsoft does have something like 90 per cent market share in the PC and laptop market, and people like their phones to work with their computers, and vice versa.

As long as they keep cranking out cheap phones I'll be happy.


Bubble-free protector screens

Just days before I dropped the family iPod Touch in the snow (see above) my wife bought a pack of three screen protectors. The previous screen was becoming unusable and in the week since we removed the old protector we managed to put a bunch of really fine scratches on the supposedly scratchproof glass.

I used alcohol and a lint-free cloth to scrub the screen and acted quickly, yet somehow three grains of dust got between the screens and screen protector to create fine bubbles. I lifted the protector to scratch one grain away, and when I laid it flat again another five grains snuck in. Frustrated, I ripped the protector off and threw it out.

My wife took the iPod to the store to ask the clerk's help in putting it on, and it came back with another half-dozen bubbles.

Frustrated? Very. To me, putting on a screen protector is one of those things that should be easy but is unnecessarily hard.

Turns out I was just using the wrong method.

There are a couple of systems I found online, but the best is to spray a small amount of soapy water onto the screen before applying the protector. You can slide it around until it's in the right place, then squeegee the excess water out. The final result is perfectly placed and bubble-free, although you can't use it until it dries in 12 to 24 hours.

The other method - which is not as good but faster - is to clean the face of your device and apply the screen by folding it in half lengthwise. You place the middle of the protector over the middle of your screen and release it slowly to fill both sides.

If there's a bubble or two then use a piece of clear tape to pull back the screen protector, and another piece of tape to remove the lint/dust/dirt from the cover.

One problem solved. Drying out our wet iPod is problem number two.