When it comes to Symbian, then more than even the Nokia firmware updates, recently we started waiting for a new version of Gravity for the innovations it brings to Symbian. It never happens that a Gravity feature update arrives and we find ourselves saying … “just that’s?” like case of Nokia firmwares. It always goes huge.
Yes! @Janole has came with another version of Gravity version 1.5 build 6691 with most importantly an Embedded Web Browser and many other new features that I will describe in rest of the post.
While the official change log is expected to come later from @Janole itself (will update the post then), here is what I noticed till now on Symbian^3 (my Nokia N8) and collected info from others about other platforms.
Embedded browser: Though it should be a sad note for Nokia like the way, portrait QWERTY from Gravity been that an app developers needs to work on basics and that even if limited comes out as way better than Nokia. Even if its just a minimalistic, featureless porting of native browser only, it looks way sleeker than original Nokia Browser, which again highlights the fact that its not UX but UI part where Nokia been under-delivering.
As you can see there are almost negligible options to call it a standalone browser, but still its noticeable that how just changing the UI makes things so different on Nokia. This is just a part of original Nokia browser with some lesser weight and it works like a charm to make you browsing more on links now.
The “Gravity browser” shows the loading of the page in percentage rather than showing as size in kb like Nokia browser and in place of showing the connection icon or loading bar, it prefers showing time on top always (check second screenshot). There are advantages and disadvantages of the same approach, but still its pretty sleek and beautiful.
Second thing you can observe is the URL Shortening service that was is.gd in earlier versions, now has changed to j.mp, which is actually a shorter version of bit.ly the leading URL shortener service that has the big name, even if people now started shifting to Goo.gl. You are saving two characters here and people using twitter like service actually know that how much each word counts. +1 for bringing this to Gravity.
Third thing you can notice that this is actually the same Nokia browser means double tapping or pinch to zoom will work like smooth Symbian^3 web browser (screenshot 4). Pinch to zoom is something we still badly miss in Opera mobile or Opera mini, which still keep Nokia web browser experience better than Opera in some parts. Though no options for saving an image like hold the touch to get a menu effect.
While looks are iPhonish in that bottom glassy bar, you can notice back and forward buttons as arrow keys. The “+” sign only brings the menu. NO option for opening any new address (that would have made an alternate use of gravity as a web browser too 😉 )
The back button actually takes you back to Gravity interface means on the screen from where you left it.
By the way, @janole already tweeted that if anyone finds any website that might not be working on new Gravity browser then he/ she can easily connect with janole on twitter about that.
On the negative part
The browser doesn’t support cookies means you can not login into any site as usual login process is based on cookies. No login for Twitter/ Facebook etc, neither you can make a comment with your wordpress login or Open ID on some blog.
I wonder that what happened to the part where we were able to customize the Access point while opening any URL, it has been removed from the new version. Might not be a use case for many, but there might be some geeks around, who still love to use more than one connection and switching among them according to the content.
There are no ways that one might be tweeting while reading some website. Not such a big thing due to Symbian’s multi-tasking (you can always open the link in default browser separately and that can be running in background), but still would be lovely to see what way @janole will take to solve this in next version.
As mentioned in one of the tweet from a user, Gravity browser seems to be running in background rather than being unloaded when get closed. Not an issue for S^3 devices but for S60 V5/3 users it might be crucial to give away any single MB of their precious RAM. @janole already working on it. You can feel the same as when you open another link then you find the last opened link already open there.
Note: Only the touch versions means S60 v5 and S^3 are enjoying the new gravity gravity browser as of now, not the S60 V3 likes, though @janole has promised to add that to S60 v3 version very soon.
Split screen keyboard I am not sure that whether its available for S60 V5 and the Symbian^3 users without last two updates as a few users reported that they are not able to get this, but @janole finally managed to show us that what wonder the split screen input can do with a Nokia.
We are not talking about the new design of keypad that @Janole introduced in last overhaul, but its the native keyboard as you can seen in the screenshot above.
Now, one may ask that why would one be interested in a non-multi-touch Nokia keyboard, when we have the glassy model of Gravity’s own keyboard with multi touch and smoothness. Hmmm… there are reasons.. like there are many people who love T9 and predictive input methods, there are people, who love the auto-suggest feature and some even like the interface too (really?).
You wont get the split screen input in landscape, if you might be using Swype, because swype runs as a separate app and will take upon the whole UI like usual Nokia QWERTY. As you can see, this is exactly the same nature of split screen input as we seen in search widget of Symbian^3 devices.
I even took a sneak into the portrait input options to see if by chance there is a QWERTY option, but sigh….
On the negative part
There is still no control on Gravity keyboard for people, who might not like small buttons (awesome for me though) and happy with T9 only. Its strange to me, but I know some of such people like my good friend @freak4mobiles.
There is still no options for selecting some text, while we can do the same in native Nokia keyboard implementation and this situation gets worse, when we find that there is no older keyboard available for Gravity any more (replaced by split keyboard model and gravity glassy text screen).
Me and some of the other users like Camb078 found Gravity crashed once while working out with options of Nokia Native Keyboard in gravity. Not sure what caused the same neither was able to reproduced the same, but this was strange.
Options screen while checking out Nokia Native QWERTY, seemed based upon old S60 v5 menu system as tapping once or twice didn’t worked out for changing options, but only way happened to be going via option->change. Strange but its happening.
Enhanced Facebook section with conversational view
While the Facebook section was entirely reworked in the last version, it seems that Facebook finally becaming the centre of attraction for @janole now.
We find the messages and comments both in conversational view now like the way, facebook itself got changed recently with new messaging system.
What makes me more happy about new Gravity is the fact that there are finally the reasonable notifications, which were earlier only mentioning the activities, but the latest version brings arrow icons on notification, which meant to express that if we touch any of the notification, then it will take you to whole conversation or activity. This is what notification always were meant to be.
I am not sure that if there were notification about Facebook Messages in the last version, while darkening the facebook/twitter/foursquare when there is an update might have been since earlier. As confirmed by @m_krishna and @freak4mobiles, it certainly seems something new.
On the negative part
When we see a message icon on top of the UI, while browsing twitter updates, then we can’t really tell that the message is for twitter or facebook. Differentiating the icons might have made more sense, isn’t it?
While with the new version, photo browsing experience is bound to get better as this version is caching last five photos/ maps, so re-watching the same pics would be more easier and data friendly, but it doesn’t seem that Facebook section is enjoying any show due to this as there is still no preview mode for images like we have in twitter section. Not sure, the blame is on Facebook’s restricted API or @janole yet to take a deeper look into the same for implementing that.
Facebook section still native as we can’t update our profile pics like we can do in case of twitter profile, we can’t check profile info of others, nor we can browse through photos section of our friends. A proper photo browsing would be a nice addition.
Google reader section also has been updated for the same j.mp URL shortener and same Gravity Browser can be used for opening URLs.
While Images and Foursquare sections still seems to be unchanged, I already voiced my concern once with @janole that somehow the way of attaching an image to a tweet might be confusing for a newbie and should have been an attach button in each tweet to call the images section and then let you choose the image rather than going through images section and then uploading the image first, copying the URL from there and then pasting inside any of your tweet or rather posting tweet from images section itself. What if someone is replying someone and just wishing to add some screenshot as a proof?
The other complaint from otherwise awesome images section is limit on photos. Though its understandable from resources point of view that generating thumbnails take a tool over performance, but still the users wont listen such excuses before mentioning it negatively.
So, this was all about new changes in the latest gravity version that is 1.5 build 6691 now though as usual there been minor bug fixes under the hood that will come into notice when we will see the official change log comes from the man himself.
The official download link goes here (around 1.9 mb), that will apply over all the versions (touch and non-touch) though Gravity browser is specific to S60 v5 and S^3 only. A lighter download link for FP2 version is here (492 kb only).
For people, who might be new to Gravity or looking for more info about overall interface then you must check out the my real big review on Gravity and the review post on last big update that was build 6686.
Did you find anything else that I missed here, do tell me please.