Lifeblog – Review and Thoughts

I’ve been lucky enough to have taken part in a Lifeblog trail for Nokia in the UK over the past few weeks.

We were given a lovely new Nokia 6630 phone (that unfortunately we have to return at the end of the trial), equipped with Lifeblog and just asked to evaluate it.

Here are my thoughts, experiences and opinions on using Lifeblog.

Well firstly Lifeblog is really two pieces of software. One part runs on your series 60 based smartphone and the other runs on a fairly high spec PC running Windows. The phone stores your messages, photos, videos, etc until you can sync up with a PC to download them. I’ll cover each part separately, then as a whole.

The phone based software is excellent. All content appears in Lifeblog automatically. So I now no longer have to open various different applications to see different content. Lifeblog captures SMS and MMS messages both sent and received. It also captures any photos or videos I take. Content is kept in order, so I can cycle through by day and see all my data in order. This is great at keeping messages in context.

Best of all is the ability to post to a blog directly from the phone handset. Because Lifeblog is so well linked into the way the phone works, it means I can quickly select the content I want to blog about, and get it up on my site very rapidly. Behind the scenes, Lifeblog uses a flavour of the Atom protocol to communicate with the blog. Six Apart‘s Typepad service is supported by default, but other services are coming on stream now with a Lifeblog plugin available for Moveable Type, and a gateway into Flickr. I was even able to link Lifeblog into my own homebrew Perl based blogging system. Going over my website, you’ll probably see the posts I’ve sent via Lifeblog as I include a little strapline at the bottom of each entry highlighting the fact.

From a social point of view, as I always have my phone with me, I can blog wherever and whenever I like. It’s great that the high end Nokia phones have megapixel cameras as the images are so sharp. Lifeblog does shrink the image when posting to the web, but that’s just great, it saves me money in data charges. It’s amazing to be able just point the phone at something, and know it’ll be online a minute a later. I’ve been showing off this ability to the guys at work to much excitement.

Now for the PC side of Lifeblog…

Unfortunately this is where I’ve been having some problems. The concept is great, but its current incarnation still needs a bit of work done on it. For example, it won’t run on my 1ghz laptop. It keeps asking to update DirectX, even though I’m on the latest version. This is a shame as it’s my main machine. However, it will run on my office desktop machine, so I can share my experiences of that.

The PC version of Lifeblog takes over the whole screen when linked in. Microsoft Windows disappears and Lifeblog takes over.

The screen looks beautiful, and has the same timeline experience as the mobile version, though it contains everything that was ever in your handset. It’s great being able to scan back and see old message and photos being kept in order. There is also the ability to post to a blog from here as well, though I’ve not actually tried that, being such a fan of posting from the handset.

It’s easy to sync between the PC and the mobile phone. It just uses Nokia’s existing PC Suite software to connect up and from there it’s just an option on the menu to copy everything across. Very simple. During data transfer, Lifeblog show’s you the content coming across in real time on the screen.

Now for the overall take on Lifeblog.

I think it’s bloody brilliant. Nokia’s concept of a Digital Shoebox works really well. It’s a place to keep all that content that may otherwise be lost or backed up in various places all together. As the mobile phone takes a central role in modern lifestyles, the ability to automatically use it as a multimedia diary is very powerful.

The downside is the software needs a powerful PC to run on. This will probably be addressed as the software matures and older computers are replaced. The other side is the cost. I’ve been lucky at being able to use a full version as part of the trial instead of having to pay for it. The price point is a little too high I’d say at present, but a reduction here would really boost uptake.

There is a free version of Lifeblog available from Nokia that can store up to 200 items. If you have a compatible phone, I’d really urge anyone to give it a try. Beware though, it can be addictive 🙂

This review was based on Lifeblog 1.5.