Using the N97′s Compass

IMG_2630It’s funny how some gadgets are not so intuitive to use that one needs to find help. Fortunately Google comes to the rescue. It’s the Nokia N97′s digital compass that I did not know how to use. I would have expected to run an app, and the compass would just work. Like, for example, how Nokia Maps would read the compass information to automatically orientate the map display according to where the phone was facing.

But alas Nokia Maps did not do that. I was thinking if my N97′s digital compass might be broken. I learnt, through a search on Google, that the N97′s digital compass needed calibration. Yes, that’s right, the N97′s digital compass needs calibration. How primitive that sounds. Then upon further searching, I found that this is about the same situation with the iPhone 3G S’ digital compass too, although it didn’t quite seem nearly as bad as the N97′s in terms of the complaints I’m reading from the web.

The sad thing is that the digital compass isn’t exactly very easy to calibrate. Here’s someone’s video of how it’s done. It wouldn’t be so bad if you only had to do this once ever, or even if it was merely once in a long while. But it appears that you need calibration just about every time you run Nokia Maps.

Nokia’s own calibration guide also suggest the weird figure-of-eight motion, although the explanation simply says to rotate the phone through all axes. I’ve found other rotation methods that work just as well, so if you find other more comfortable ways to rotate all the axes, you can go with that and not necessarily follow the motions depicted by Nokia’s documentation.