Like Research in Motion, Nokia is playing catch-up, software-wise, to the iPhone OS and Android, which is funny in a cruel way because both Nokia and RIM have a far larger market share than both of them. Nokia has put out a preview video of their upcoming N8 smartphone, which runs the latest Symbian version, Symbian^3. Nokia, like RIM, has got work to do.
Like the BlackBerry OS 6.0 video we talked about earlier this week, the Nokia video shows off both new hardware as well as new software. Symbian^3 is supposed to be the much-needed overhaul of the platform which brings it in line with the competition, but judging by this demonstration, Nokia, too, has a lot of work to do.
Contrary to the BlackBerry OS, I actually have a lot of experience with Symbian. I have a Nokia E71 smartphone running Symbian, and hardware-wise, it definitely ranks among the best phones I’ve ever had. It’s well-built, sturdy, and its QWERTY keyboard eats software-based touchscreen keyboards for breakfast. As much as I like my iPhone, typing on it is an exercise in frustration compared to typing on the E71.
Software-wise, things weren’t as positive. While the phone multitasked just fine, without it affecting battery life in any meaningful way, the interface was horrible. It was unintuitive, slow, unresponsive, and generally confusing. The included applications for email and browsing were pretty much unusable.
I don’t really get the feeling that what I’m seeing here in the N8/Symbian^3 video is going to change my mind. The interface still seems to have performance issues, and it still looks remarkably disorganised and inconsistent. Knowing Nokia, the N8 hardware is probably top-of-the-line, but software wise, it dun’ look so good.
Nokia will have to come up with something better than this to prove Symbian’s still got life in her. Of course, the usual disclaimer applies: I haven’t actually used Symbian^3, so takes these comments with salt. Lots of it.
It’s not supposed to be the iPhone kick butt version of Symbian, it’s supposed to be an interim upgrade before the new Qt 4.6 stuff is all put together for Symbian^4.
Same thing with Maemo 5, it was step 4 of 5 for their complete solution.
At least that’s what I’ve been reading lately due to becoming a Nokia customer with my N900.
Maemo 6 went by the wayside due to the whole Intel / Nokia merge of Moblin / Maemo into MeeGo.
But yes, as far as Symbian goes, 3 was supposed to be a minor upgrade before they move everything over to Symbian^4.
It’s kind of unfortunate that they’re doing this, since hardware wise, both the N900 and the N8 are fantastic.
So Symbian^3 has new Qt, just not a new interface, Symbian^4 will have a new interface, and with the new version of Qt, applications should be perfectly portable between Windows, Mac, Linux, Symbian, and Maemo / MeeGo.
Hope that clears up why the N8 isn’t as happy and shiny as the iPhone OS.
But as a side note, it’s had Multitasking for a LONG time, in fact the ‘multitasking’ that iPhone will have soon is almost 100% a copy of the Symbian version. At least as far as what others have said.