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10 Best Nokia Beta Labs Apps

While Nokia’s Ovi Store still has a ways to go to even consider competing with Apple’s App Store (although recently-revealed plans for a complete revamp in spring 2010 sound exciting) the Finns are busy beavering away in-house at bringing some interesting applications to Nokia users.

In a show of openness that other manufacturers could learn from, Nokia sticks all its work in progress apps up for free public consumption – and comment – on its Beta Labs site.

These are split into two categories, Beta Applications (serious stuff on a fast track to graduate to a commercial Nokia offering in the Ovi Store) and Experimental Applications (research prototypes, side projects and “wacky ideas” that may not end up a commercial option).

Here we take a look at ten of the best, offering a snapshot of what the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer is up to on the apps front – an interesting exercise, whether you consider the work to be innovative, or lagging behind third-party developers currently working in the same arena.

1. Nokia Photo Browser

Category: Experimental
Works with: S60 5th Edition
Said to be an easier and more fun interface for photo browsing on a Nokia touchscreen phone, this app presents thumbnail pics in a more dynamic and 3D view than the ordinary gallery. Features include press and hold to get a magnifying glass option that looks like a big bubble, while face detection functionality lets a user browse pics from face to face.

2. Mobile Codes

Category: Experimental
Works with: Nokia N82, N93, N93i, N95, N95 8GB, E66, E71, E90 or 6220 Classic N78, 6210 Navigator, N96 and 6220 Classic, N80, others via mobile browser add-on
The mobile codes app lets a user create QR codes that others can then “read” via their phone’s camera that could, once deciphered, reveal a website, social networking pages, phone number or a message. The beauty of a QR code is that it’s indecipherable to the human eye, but add cameraphone tech and you’ve got your very own secret visual language.

3. Wellness Diary

Category: Experimental
Works with: S60 3rd Edition, S60 2nd Edition
Wellness Diary helps users monitor and track a range of everyday well-being parameters, including weight, eating habits, exercise and blood pressure. Using the mobile platform for such data offers privacy and immediacy, as well as the option to have it on hand to share with a physician or a personal trainer at a moment’s notice.

4. Nokia Braille Reader

Category: Experimental
Works with: S60 5th Edition
As an attempt to enable the blind or visually impaired to read text messages on their mobile phone, it’s a fairly simple concept. Using the haptic feedback built in to Nokia touchscreen devices, the app displays each letter in Braille on the screen, giving a sharp pulse when a dot is raised and a soft one when it’s not, which should enable the user to decode the message letter by letter.

5. Mobile Web Server

Category: Experimental
Works with: S60 3rd Edition
Nokia’s Mobile Web Server makes a user’s device accessible on the internet. It means users can access phone features and data via a browser with the option to share content through a personalized mobsite. There are also extensions, including a Group Calendar Widget, the My Mobile Site Widgets that lets a user control some phone functions via a PC and Live Status which plays nice with Facebook ().

6. Nokia Kamppi Trial

Category: Experimental
Works with: Nokia S60 devices equipped with WLAN
The Kamppi project is Nokia’s attempt at indoor GPS, currently being trialed at the Kamppi Shopping Center in Helsinki, Finland. On Nokia S60 handsets within the mall, users can see indoor maps and relevant info, such as current retail offers, as well as share their location via an auto-generated SMS, in addition to getting the ability to view friends on a map.

7. Nokia Step Counter

Category: Experimental
Works with: N95, N95 8GB, N82, N93i, 6210, N79, N85, N96
Using the phone’s accelerometer, as the name would suggest, the Nokia Step Counter counts steps, calculates the distance a user has covered and energy expended. It keeps summaries so users can compare different days (”Boy, was I motoring on Wednesday!”) and it will work in a pocket or bag so users don’t have to clip their phones to their belt. Thank goodness.

8. Nokia Point and Find

Category: Beta
Works with: Most S60 devices
Nokia’s stab at an augmented reality browser for the S60 platform. By pointing the phone’s camera at objects, such as a movie poster, relevant info will be displayed on the screen including location-based results, so in the instance of the movie poster, the nearest theaters showing the film. It also offers bar code reading with a comparison shopping service tied in.

9. Nokia Magnifier

Category: Experimental
Works with: N96, N95, N95 8GB, N82, N73, E90, E71, E66
As with similar offerings on the market (which makes this app’s “Experimental” status a little mysterious) the Magnifier uses the existing camera functionality on a Nokia S60 phone to help with reading the small print. With a built-in stabilizer, users can also snap a picture of the enhanced image for later reference.

10. Nokia Easy Meet

Category: Experimental
Works with: Browsers such as S60, Opera (), Firefox (), Safari ()
Easy Meet is a web-based mobile collaboration service which lets users use their phone and/or PC to create, conduct, and participate in meetings with colleagues or friends, sharing content including slides, images, files (via Nokia’s Ovi Files service) in real-time with conference chat abilities.

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