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FARNBOROUGH, England – Creating a smartphone for everyone, such as the new Nokia C7, isn’t without its challenges. Sure, it shares much of the same architecture as the new Nokia N8 and incoming Nokia C6-01, but it’s still an individual device in its own right. Consider that it’s being sold through many network operators around the world, that it’ll be used by people from multiple cultures, who speak myriad different languages and you start to get a picture of the complexity involved. We caught up with the man behind the plan, Tim Allen, the product manager responsible for bringing the Nokia C7 to life.

In brief

  • The designers were briefed to create a phone with wide appeal
  • A new method of haptic feedback for increased comfort when texting
  • How the C7’s slimline design came to be

Tim tells us his brief at the beginning was to create a device which would appeal to a wide range of users, most of whom won’t have used a touchscreen device previously.  It needed to feel familiar to those users whilst also meeting their high expectations in terms of features, and at the same time be packaged in a way which would appeal to them. This forced the team to look at a range of innovations to help make the Nokia C7 stand out. It also forced the team to focus on the priorities, and put more effort into the areas they felt mattered most. In some instances, this meant some features were best delivered as downloads from Ovi Store.

Tim always looks at the early product reviews to gauge initial feedback on a new device. No exception with the Nokia C7 as Tim picks up the story

“Some reviewers highlighted the microSD slot and the fact that you could swap the SIM card more easily than you could the memory card. We know that for the vast majority of Nokia C7 users, this wasn’t going to be a problem – they simply wouldn’t be swapping the microSD card. Making it possible to swap the microSD card without removing the battery would have led to a slightly thicker design. For us we were left with a choice – put it where we have (under the SIM, so you need to remove the battery to take it out) or have a device that would be about 0.4mm thicker”. This was one of many choices the team had to make and when you consider the original brief, it’s no surprise they opted for a slimmer device.

Texting is a big part of the Nokia C7 users’ interaction with the device and Tim says it was vital to get texting just right on the Nokia C7 touchscreen. So the project team implemented a new method of haptic feedback, using a linear vibra to offer the feedback instead of using a traditional rotary vibra (the vibra is a mechanical device which causes the vibration you sense from the haptic feedback). This enabled them to better tune the response so it was just right for the volume of texting Tim and his team felt users would be doing. Having played with the device for the past couple of weeks, I was surprised I hadn’t turned the haptics off – something I normally do with a new touchscreen device as I’m not really a fan of that kind of feedback. “It works, then” was TIm’s response.

Bio paint is a relatively new innovation and one the Nokia C7 team were keen to roll with. With the Nokia C7 destined to be a mass market device, the environmental impact of using such paint would be significant. Easier said than done, though. “Colour matching is vital but with different materials, a new type of paint and different suppliers, we spent a lot of time trying to get it just right” Tim explains. Looking at the finish, it’s clear that it was time well spent.

Although the device is now going on sale across the globe, the work doesn’t stop there. The team are already nearing approval stage for the first software update and the second one is already in the works. They are monitoring initial feedback, to ensure that where possible, key features early users may be looking for are part of the road map for software updates. Late in the development process the team weren’t happy with the portrait QWERTY keyboard so it was left out of the final build. Since then though they’ve continued development and although Tim tells us it isn’t quite there yet, it will be very soon. Expect to see it in an upcoming software release.

Tim believes his role is “to represent the consumer” and ensure all the things he believes they will want in a device, appear in a device. Resources are finite though, and deadlines need to be met, which is where tough decisions need to be made. It’s Tim and the team who need to make those calls and he says “it’s a question of finding the sweet spot, not trying to do everything for everybody”. Having played with the C7 for a few weeks now, I’d say he’s pretty much got it right. What do you think? What else would you like to see?

Tim Allen will be responding to comments over the coming days so please field your questions below for Tim to answer.