Yomi’s recent article, Why I May Stick with Symbian to the Very End, is one that has generated a lot of interest. One particular comment that drew accolades was the comment by bigbrovar. The comment in question provided some insightful walk down memory lane, and commenters have requested that it be published as a rejoinder. Here it is, unedited, apart from introducing paragraphs to make it more readable –
I was just having this conversation with a friend the other day. I was telling him how Symbian is the best smartphone OS there is. When it comes to a small memory footprint, advanced multitasking, small data footprint, and extended battery Life. Symbian was developed in the early 90s when memory were very expensive,mobile cpus, and battery where very expensive and when the smartphone segment still a niche for few phone geeks, definitely not as mainstream as we have it today. Hence a lot of optimizations were factor into the OS with this constraint put into consideration. This long term legacy of symbian proved to be a double edge sword, there were both its strongest points and also its weakest.
I have been using a symbian phone since 2004 around when the Nokia 3650 came out. It was the successor to the 7650 device. I remembered being blown away by the share possibility and the fact that there was an app for everything from extending the physical limitation of the device (installing an app that allowed the phone do video recording, and even play mp3 files) to Mosquito repellent apps. It was a wonder device which I used as an ebook reader, dictionary, bible, call and voice recorder, the list was just endless. I went on to use numerous symbian devices many of them adding superlatives to my 3650 experience, better camera, faster cpu, more memory etc. But symbian had a limitation. It was developed in an age when internet was not mainstream and it struggled to embrace the new Technology.
Email experience on symbian was nothing to write home about, then u had to rely on apps like profimail for a decent email experience. same thing with the browser. opera came to the rescue.
As time went on and the trend started to shift. Symbian was developed when its core users were geeks and was in essence designed with them in mind. The UI was very clucky and u always need a manual (or an experience user) around to help u understand some aspect of the os. I remembered struggling with how to get the wireless settings to go through a proxy (connecting to wireless is always a pain on symbian – don’t know if this has changed with S^3 though)after struggling I swallowed my pride and turned to google, even then it still took me a while to figure it out.
So while the legacy of symbian allowed for an OS with a very small memory footprint, capable of advanced multitasking, and gentle on battery life. It did prevent it from embracing relatively new trends (which were non existent or were not mainstream in the formative years of symbian) like Internet, social media, touch based interactions etc
The iPhone came and changed the game, android followed and further raised the bar, sure this OS Lack some of the strong points of symbian for the obvious reason that they were developed with the situ on ground in consideration, memory is much cheaper, Internet is mainstream, social media is the norm, and touch interaction is the trend. It was easy for this OS because they were not held back by any legacy old ways.
Going forward the future of computing is mobile, and in that future I do not see a place for symbian. I for one the app development ecosystem makes it a pain to develop for The UI is very clunky and dated. Some of this problems could have been fixed by Qt/QML and a New UI based on them. But Nokia never had the patience or confidence to see this through. As it is now. Symbian is dead. Its was my first ever computing device. And As I move to android (which am not really a fan of) I know that nothing would ever give me the thrill I felt when I had my first symbian device.