Symbian was ditched – for good reason

| April 13, 2011 | 128 Replies

I know this post is going to lead to a lot of derision from readers but to be perfectly honest, brutal honesty is necessary from time to time. Yesterday, Nokia announced their update to Symbian, named Anna which brought to the platform a number of key improvements including a new browser, updated homescreen animations, the long-awaited portrait QWERTY keyboard and few under-the-hood touches such as Qt 4.7 and Qt mobility 1.1 API’s in addition to  updated Ovi Maps and Ovi Store applications. The general response to the update is positive with many users speaking out about their anticipation for the impending update.

As for myself,I find myself wondering how and why it has taken so long to implement what appear to be painfully simple updates. Symbian^3 was first shown as far back as April of 2010 and only now, April of 2011 are we getting a decent time-frame for the first major update to the platform. While the Anna update is significant in and of itself, comparing the rate of development of the platform to its competitors like Android or even Windows Phone 7 yields a startlingly different perspective.

In less than a year, Android went from version 2.1 to version 2.3 with a whole raft of changes and additions including better VPN, updated file systems, support for multiple cores, tons of UI refinements, integrated tethering, better bluetooth support AND a tablet compatible version of the OS!!!

Windows Phone 7 similarly has gone from being an iOS 2.0 esque knock-off to possessing features that even the staunchest Symbian fans can appreciate. Copy and Paste functionality (which is better than Symbian^3), multi-tasking,  socket support for apps like Skype, Kik Messenger et al , custom ringtones, better push notifications, access to camera hardware and contacts, ability to encode and decode captured video streams on the fly and tons of other features in addition to ~1500 new API’s for developers to use. It’s even more sad to see that in some of these features being introduced, that the implementation is tons better than that in Symbian.


Let’s take multitasking for example, in Windows Phone 7 applications are more or less frozen CPU-wise when not in the foreground. However, a chosen percentage of CPU time is allocated to checking whether or not the multitasking “agents” have met certain criteria for the activation of the background application. As opposed to limiting the ability to run in the background completely to a chosen set of API’s, developers can choose to monitor certain conditions on a chosen, timely fashion and based on these conditions, activate the background application. This prevents system bog-down or loss of responsiveness of the foreground application while still “running” the background application.

Coupled with the push notification system, the idea is to minimize resource (battery in particular) usage while simultaneously maintaining functionality and the user doesn’t see an interruption in their workflows.

In the video below, which is an interview with Joe Belfiore, we see him talking about a number of updates to the platform in addition to examples of how multi-tasking and inter-application communication and device integration have come along since Microsoft’s first release.

I won’t go into much detail as to the content of the video (Silverlight is required) but suffice to say that if the level of progress, attention to detail, fluidity of user interaction and intuitiveness don’t appeal to you in some way, then you’re either jaded or need to get your head examined.

This is not at all to say that Windows Phone 7 is perfect. It is far from; live-tiles and notifications could sure use a LOT of work, while the browser still doesn’t support embedded Flash or Silverlight video (I’m unsure of IE9’s support of HTML5 video), there’s no user accessible file system, MicroSD card storage is flakey etc, etc. But if the rate of development of WP7 we’ve seen in the last 6 months alone, development reminiscent of  Android’s early days, are anything to go by I’m rather glad that Nokia chose this route as opposed to their painfully slow development trend with Symbian.

PS. All of these “updates” to Windows Phone 7 will be available to devs by next Month with the end-users getting these updates later in the summer.

Via Read Write Web, WP Central, Channel9, MIX2011


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Category: Nokia

About the Author ()

So you've read something I've written. yay!! As you already know, my name is Andre and I'm currently a student based in Atlanta. Much like Jay, I pretty much blog here in my free time. Follow me on twitter @andre1989 or contact me directly at Andre(at)mynokiablog(dot)com. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.
  • Lizzie

    I have got the Nokia N8 i got it mainly for the camera as i love taking photographs but have always had mainly Nokias and always been more than happy with each phone i have had but it just really annoys me that all the apps you can get free for Android and not for Symbian OS when the Nokia is 1 of the dearer phones out at the moment no video messaging for skype 🙁 which I thought would be a must have with the nokia N8 Ovi store free stuff mainly is rubbish cheap and useless so dont even bother downloading it.Ah well i suppose we cant have every thing that we want …..Sorry but yes why cant we have best of both worlds we pay enough for 1 the mobile and 2 the contract

  • ahsan

    So is this now ? 😉

  • Galaktus

    Nokia with symbian is good but nokia with wp? Just wait n see…

  • jonnyjl

    For me, it isn’t about Symbian or Maemo/Meego.

    It’s about Qt. It’s about their lack of follow through of their vision(s).

    It’s about Nokia’s non-nonchalance about making drastic, ecosystem altering decisions, while out-right lying about up to the point of the announcement.

    I mean, how hard was Elop even advancing Qt as an unifying aspect of their platform ecosystem.

    Going WP and not guaranteeing Qt a place/chance was the proverbial last straw.

    It showed Nokia didn’t respect its consumers, its fans, or its developers.

    My next phone will not be a Nokia. I may come back to them, but this time they have to prove themselves instead of us hoping they will carry through with their vision.

  • Simon

    I can’t wait.

    I think MS will get in support for most if not all of what Nokia offers currently/hardware-wise. It’s really important that they make the transition with the offline maps solution from the word go – put Nokia hardware aside, this is one of the most distinguishing features of Nokia/Symbian for me. I think multitasking is already on the way, C&P has to make it, I see skype ‘already’ has their app coming, I really hope the Symbian video playback support & HDMI-out is maintained (and improved, divx) and that USB OTG should be there too. What else? A bit of user control how the interface looks, 3rd party apps for whatever iOS/Android offers, otherwise how can MS do any worse..

  • deep space bar

    more excuses just to push the shitty WP7 on nokia

  • 2 points here.

    1) You have a point with Android, not not WP7. “Mango” was planned and announced a year ago and it adds copy and paste functionality and fake multi-tasking. IT IS A YEAR for a normal sized WP7 upgrade.

    2)No one argued that Symbian should be replaced, but the plan to do that was MeeGo, which was looking at the same time-line as WP7 is now. (~End of year for both, not counting the vanilla WP7 releases). Even if abandoning MeeGo was neccessary WebOS would have been a better decision in every way(Ovi compliments better, still use QT, etc), and it would have been beneficial to HP so they would have signed, it was a biased decision to go with WP7 that was NOT the best for Shareholders or Customers ONLY GOOD FOR MICROSOFT!

    • suri

      Ummm, you have your facts wrong. The Copy paste update is known as No-Do and is already currently rolling out. The mango update does not only include “fake multitasking”, it has a whole bunch of other improvements. Maybe you need to have a look at another post on THIS VERY website >>

    • kevin

      +1 -Your points are pretty obvious from an unbiased perspective. This article talks about features that WP7 doesn’t have, they are planned. Also the planned features only attempt to put it on par with last years tech and it won’t even be here till god knows when. Imagine how solid IOS and Android will be in a year.
      – Great point about WebOS too, everyone talks about Android and Nokia but WebOS makes a lot of sense too. Both Android and WebOS make wayyyy more sense than WP7. Nokia has basically decided they will use Symbian for entry level phones, WP7 for smartphones and Meego for tablets? Does that really seem to make sense considering WP7 is not compatible with the other 2. If they went with android they could be using the same OS on all 3 types of devices, doesn’t that make sense? Even WebOS has a tablet strategy and it looks solid.

      It is extremely obvious that Elop is acting in Microsoft’s best interest and NOT Nokia’s. Why wouldn’t Nokia just make an Android phone and a WP7 phone like all the other OEMs? I’ve never really heard a good answer to that question.

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  • Symbian_ist

    I will not spend any money on “paranoid” or “Windows Immobile” phones or whatever theose deviced are named. Full Stop.
    There are plenty of small shops that sell unlocked Nokia E71s in the United Kingdom, so it is not something that matters one jot of difference to me that Nokia chose not to offer new Symbian models. It is their loss, not mine.

  • Symbian_ist

    Sorry for misspelling, first sentence in my post should read as it follows:

    I will not spend any money on “paranoid” or “Windows Immobile” phones or whatever those devices are called.

  • Francis

    I will NEVER buy nokia phones again. They are bloody loosers. They ditched symbian users like we were some piece of shit.