Android pretends to have full multitasking

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Nokia 808 PureView

This article is not about Android OS actually, but Android is now the dominant smartphone platform just as Symbian used to be for 10 full years. As such, there is no better way to drive the point of this article home than to use Android as a comparison. This article is actually about multitasking on Symbian OS.


I know that Android fan boys do not like to hear it said, but what’s true is true and there’s nothing to be done about it. I have moved on from Symbian OS, but over at All About Symbian, Steve Litchfield is still rocking a Nokia 808 PureView. He has an article on 10 reasons why he is still on the Nokia 808 and Symbian in June 2013. It is interesting read and evokes nostalgia for those of us who were on the scene during much of Symbian’s reign. For those of you who weren’t, just enjoy or rant. Not that it matters what you do, actually. Here is the point though: What impressed on me most in that article was Steve’s account of Symbian’s multitasking prowess, especially when held up against what obtains on Android. Here is what he had to say:

Yes, Android pretends to have full multitasking, but why is it that, half the time I go back to apps which were running only an hour ago, they take a few seconds to reload? In contrast, the multitasking on Symbian is so complete that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve left an app running by accident in the background, started a couple of weeks ago, discovering it in the multitasking carousel and tapping on it, to find it comes up instantly and is still in the exact same screen/state as when I last used it. iOS and Windows Phone try to mimic this sort of multitasking with a system of freezing apps and reawakening them later, but Symbian still rules here, and by some way.

Having used the Nokia 808 extensively myself, as well as numerous other Symbian flagships before it, I remember too well how apps stay running for weeks on Symbian. But even on Android’s most capable champions, including HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy Note II, apps shut down so often that it makes multitasking on Symbian look like make believe. Don’t forget that those Symbian flagships had measly processing power and RAM in comparison to the Android flagships that we are talking about today, and yet pulled off amazing multitasking performance.


Symbian is history for me and for many others, but what a rich heritage it has. I am still on the lookout for the smartphone platform that will replicate Symbian’s amazing multitasking abilities. For now, that platform is not Android, and it isn’t Windows Phone. Who will bell the cat? BlackBerry? Firefox? Sailfish? Ubuntu? I don’t know and I don’t care. Someone just needs to do it.


  1. Symbian was a very powerful OS. I think what did it in was that it was not built for touch. But power management, data management. It rocks!

  2. I disagree. The limited ram on symbian phones made it impossible for one to run too many apps without the phone restarting.

  3. /// I am still on the lookout
    for the smartphone platform that will replicate
    Symbian’s amazing multitasking abilities. For now,
    that platform is not Android, and it isn’t Windows
    Phone. Who will bell the cat? BlackBerry? Firefox?
    Sailfish? Ubuntu? I don’t know and I don’t care.
    Someone just needs to do it. ///

    multitasking is.mot.important all that.much on Android.

    with gazillions of Elixir 2, 1Tap QuickBar, Swapps, GloveBox, etc, who needs multitasking?

    they all allow near instantaneous access to your apps.

    Download managers handle background downloads brilliantly.

    what else?

  4. @ Eyebeekay “they all allow near instantaneous access to your apps”
    Well then, Symbian offers instantaneous access to all open apps.

    In terms of multitasking in the 6 smartphone OSes that I’ve used: Symbian >> Meego >> Android >> Blackberry (OS 5-7) >> Windows Phone 8 >> Bada.

    And the main problem with Blackberry’s multitasking was the limited amount of RAM, else it would be better than Android.

  5. Why don’t we stop all these whinings. Symbian is good at multitasking and those elements that lend it the power for multitasking as the same reasons it cannot compete in the modern mobile computing today. It is difficult doing so well what these other mobile platforms are doing well without suffering from resource management because it takes a lot of resources to get these things going.

    By the way, I think Eye.Bee.Kay said it all. Please use Android the way it is designed and stop whining. Android is designed that the system can make decision of multitasking based on some algorithms and resources available to the system and if you don’t want apps shutting down on you, then use apps like Elixir2 and Smart Taskbar to open new application without minimizing your present application, that way Android won’t shut your open application down.

    apps like WhatsApp, dialer and the system messages app are never shut down in the background showing that there is a rule, so please understand and use Android like Android instead of trying to use it like Symbian and hoping it would work in like manner or better still, stick with Symbian if so convinced that no other operating can do as well. Easy enough and better than whining.

  6. The truth is we are trying to use Symbian’s approach to multitasking to actually define multitasking and that is wrong. Android is very capable of multitasking, but the designers tried to eliminate those annoying warnings one would get when running out of resources on Symbian by making the decision of what to close in the background based on some considerations and I like it that way than constantly being prompted. That’s just me and I do admit that this could be a bad this in some scenarios but that doesn’t necessarily make Symbian better at multitasking.

    If you prefer multitasking the way it was implemented on Symbian, then use Symbian phones but it is wrong trying to give the impression that other devices are not implementing multitasking or not doing it well because they are not following Symbian’s approach. Symbian’s approach is just one way of going about it.

  7. I’d have to go with harry on this one don’t use symbian multitasking as the highest bar for other oses each os has its own way of multitasking

  8. Symbian is actually the highest when it comes to multitasking on mobile, and that’s a fact, like the article says, other oses pretend to have multitasking. Symbians’ multitasking compares to what obtains on the pc.

  9. here we go again…andriod fanboys…but am surprised eyebeekay that has used symbian for years should know better. so i need apps to help me multiask? hmmmm. ..i rest my case!

  10. Unless I’m a caveman, why would I want apps to run for weeks in the background? …especially if its not an essential app like whatsapp? I think it’s ridiculous. Symbian cannot withstand the demands of a modern app, it can’t just deliver so much computing power. The problem is that Nokia never really evolve the OS to meet contemporary challenges. Many people don’t care if an app has to load again as long as the phone delivers. So if you think people will still stick to Symbian just because it can preserve an open app for weeks, pls think again.

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