Why I Have Refused To Jump Off Symbian

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The primary reason why users are jumping off the ‘burning platform’ – i.e. Symbian-powered devices – is the unintuitive interface.

Compared to the other modern Operating Systems (OS), the Symbian User Experience (UX) is not as exciting and productive. Symbian lacks very little apart from this. Symbian is resource efficient, does multitasking well, and generally gets the job done.

Note that this un-intuitiveness obtains mainly on pre-Belle Symbian versions – Editor

I have often contended that no matter how wonderful an OS Interface is, or how much capable it is out-of-the-box, there will always be some lapses. This is where third-party applications fill the gap.

Hauling a smartphone around without making full use of the power of third-party applications is like permanently driving a V8-powered special Utility Vehicle (SUV) at a maximum of 40Km/hour on macadamized expressway. Hardly what it is built to handle!

Occasionally, I have been tempted to purchase a device powered by iOS/Android (Fruit & Robot). After all, variety is the spice of life. But that temptation is usually momentary. I end up asking myself, What UX can Fruit & Robot furnish that my Symbian-powered touchscreen device can not?

I am still struggling to discover this. Conversely, are there certain functionality available on Symbian that the Fruit & Robot lack? I know of a few.

I employ mercenaries (third party apps) to supercharge my aged Symbian-powered (s60 version 5th) Nokia 5800. Using these, I have not been able to justify being unfaithful to Symbian.

There are activities that we performance frequently on our devices. These activities should be accessible from ANY application. I attempt to highlight a few elegant applications that I employ on my Nokia 5800 to enhance my user experience, and mimic the Fruit & Robot OSes. This is not exhaustive.

With ‘DzSoft SettingBar’ installed, I can drag down from the top of the display. A screen pops up, allowing the following activities:
– Tweak profile settings
activate silent and Offline mode,
– Turn bluetooth setting,
– Directly adjust screen brightness,
– Engage WLAN,
– juggle the music controls
– show the current time and battery status.

Settings Bar
Settings Bar

More interestingly, I am able to specify a maximum of five (5) applications/functions which can be invoked at any time – from any screen.

On my device, I have set those 5 slots to :
– ‘Home Screen’,
– ‘Settings’,
– ‘Messages’,
– ‘Contacts’
– ‘PhoneRotate’ (allows changing the phone screen orientation – at any point – without turning on the orientation sensor, which wastes battery power)

Of course, you are probably thinking: Just five application slots? That is not adequate! Enter ‘SmartPhoneWare Instant Menu’.

Instant Menu
Instant Menu

The applications I have assigned to ‘InstantMenu’ are the following: MsDict Viewer – (multi_dictionary application from MobiSystems Inc).

Kylom Project (outline application).

EpocWare ‘Handy Calendar’ (Appointments, reminders, etc).

Sticky Notes – ubiquitous electronics stick-it notes.

To further embellish instantaneous accessibility to my phone applications, I make use of JBak TaskMan.

Jbak Taskmanager
Jbak Taskmanager

The last software that I utilize is Usanov-Kornilov Nikolay’s QuickLaunch. This application allows you to specify five (5) application icons that popup on your touchscreen – in the usually anytime, anywhere fashion.

The apps I have assigned to QuickLaunch are:

– UC Mobile Browser (surprised?)
– LonelyCatGames X-plorer
– Opera Mini – better known than ‘money’!
– Quick Office – a versatile office application

We often need to (un)lock our device several times during the day. I have avoided using any of the physical keys on my Nokia 5800 – they will eventually fail. I prefer instead to use software solutions.

The camera, powerOff, (Un)Lock, Call (Green), Terminate (Red) and Menu (white) buttons have been permanently on holidays on my device. I do not use them (does that remind you of the buttonless Nokia N9?).

The ‘dzSoft DzLock’ application provides a variety of methods to (un)lock my phone. Swipe, double tap proximity sensor, cover the sensor for 3 seconds – are examples. You can (un)lock anytime, from

I urge people who spend good money on smartphones to get good Return On their Investment (ROI) by making use of software that brings out the power of their device.

Are you really making use of that smartphone?

So, you know why Symbian has me by the Jugular, and I am not complaining !

If you think I am ‘missing something’, please elaborate!


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  1. Splendid!
    This beautifully written and very enlightening article could only have been written by non other than the die hard Symbian guru himself. When I saw the topic on my email inbox, I smiled and the name EyeBeeKay popped up in my mind.

    Symbian OS still remains the primary sounding board on which all other OSs are primed. The only problem is that most of us jumped platform too early for us to appreciate the beauty of Symbian in Anna and belle. However, it will always be on record that most if not all of us using smartphones in this country had our infant nuture in Symbian.

    Great, solid, and enduring OS unfortunately slated for the slaughter slab by the very company that brought it to fame.

  2. Kudos, EyeBeeKay. I’m amazed at the functionality you’re managed to get out of your 5800XM.

    I’m interested in getting that dzSoft DzLock app. I have this fear of my hardware keys on my N8 dying on me. Could you post a link?

  3. Very interesting read. You can tempt the devil himself with your articulation, but then let the truth be told. I love history but prefer the present and looking forward expectantly to the future.

    Symbian is for history, a very interesting history. The history that brings a feeling of nostalgia. Kudos to you for having the ingenuity to find great amusement in history and even the guts to live in it.

    I am still struggling to discover this. Conversely, are there certain functionality available on Symbian that the Fruit& Robot lack? I know of a few.

    Probably for effect than a statement of fact. You failed to mention any of those functions.

  4. Better and like, does those two words mean the same to you?

    Meanwhile they are very debatable. There are far more things that you know Android does better than Symbian. You mentioned a few here.

  5. i guess this article implies we all have to be a geek to be able to ‘create’ UX which is otherwise out-of-the-box on iOS and android..95percent of the ppl using mobiles wouldnt wana bother their head with all this apps and thats why symbian is dead (sorry half-dead) today!

  6. A great article, Ibukun. I always felt that deep down Symbian had what it took to remain relevant. I also knew that the OS was robust. Yes, it was the first. And most of us Geeks had it as our first smartphone platform. SymbiAn Anna is sweet. However, apart from a few of us who have vowed to use Symbian until its life ebbs away from Nokia, I doubt many people would continue to embrace Symbian!

    With articles like this, I feel like ranting on how ridiculous it is that Elop should throw the baby along with the bath water. And why maybe Nokia is going the wrong direction for abandoning Symbian. But it is noted that with users like Ibukun, Symbian will definitely going down in a blaze of Glory.

    And despite that, Ibukun has relentlessly showed beyond any measure of doubt that Symbian could really hold its own among other “modern” OSes despite all their internal & extraneous factors coupled together to see it fall.

  7. BTW Ibukun Olaoye, well written Mac’ Broda. The passion for your 5800 is strong. You are indeed a Symbian Veteran and you’re making maximal use of your device. For a moment, I was swayed to dust up my 5230 again! But I’d stick with my E6!


  8. Nice article, but I’m asking myself how many regular users would have been able to dig up all those apps and even find how to sign them?

    Me being more techy than the average guy, have NEVER found self-signing of apps appealing.

    This is part of what i was saying: Nokia should stop producing these outdated S60 3rd and 5th Edition devices when something better is available.

    All the UI issues mentioned in this article have been solved in Nokia Belle. EyeBeekay, go buy a Belle device jooo and stop being so miserly.

    In my opinion, Nokia Belle is top notch and holds its own against iOS and Android in the UI stakes. I still have an Anna device and I’m looking forward to getting Belle on it in February 2012.

    I do not recommend that anyone jump off Symbian now. Simply get the newer devices for the best of functionality and usability in one package.

    PS: There have been leaked info about a Nokia N8 successor coming next year. If it is a significant upgrade to the N8, you can be sure that I am getting one, of course!

  9. EyeBeekay, go buy a Belle device jooo and stop being so miserly .

    ROTFL !

    Like Maradona, i am doing what I love doing squeezing every ounce of functionality out if my device)- while i save myself done cash.

    I am already pregnant withi ideas. I do not need to get any other .’Belle’, thank you!

    i guess this article implies we all have to be a geek to be able to ‘create’ UX which is otherwise out-of-the-boxon iOS and android..

    @Shayman, geeky or not, any true smartphone user needs good software to make optimal use of their device. Even on the Fruit & Robit!

    So, dear brother, that is a MOOT point.

    How about buying a dvd_player that has all the films slaveralready built in? Or purchase a PlayStation with all the titles already in_box?
    Your choice!

  10. (
    There are far more things that you know Android does better than Symbian. You mentioned a few here.
    @Harry, we have had lots of debate on the Symbian & Android supremacy in the past.

    Why would you-on the basis of a MERE slickier Android interface- get on board an OS That guzzles data, is relatively battery inefficient, and needs a degree in Physics to simple things like transferring files seamlessly across devices? and is more susceptible to malware?

    More so when there are apps to achieve all the UX effect of the Robot & Fruit?

    People were asked to name a single thing That Android does-That Symbian can not (whether natively, or not). Nobody could!

  11. Dude, you don’t have to get your 5800 running on steroids (like Maradona) just to be able to compete with other phones that do these stuffs naturally …lol On my N8 running Nokia Belle I just have to swipe left or right to any one of the 6 home screens to access up (24 x 6) 144 apps, swipe down to access connections, bluetooth, notifications and others . I love how you’v pimped your phone though and your Dexter esque article .

  12. @TelNeting, Good observation.

    But ask yourself, does your Noka N8 cost the same as, say, a Nokia 5230?

    The heavier an OS (with in_built functionalities), the greater the power requirement (more powerful processor), the shorter the battery life, the more RAM required (booting up would require more elbow room). All these impact the final production cost. There is no magic about that! (It is the same reason I do not subscribe to the idea of phasing out the Symbian 60 3rd / 5th Edition phones, as suggested by Mr. Mobility)

    No Operating System (OS) can be 100% functional. The thirdparty apps partially exist to address those niggles. If the Robot OS (Android) was perfect, it would not need an app like ‘File Expert’. iOS (Fruit OS) would not need a degree in NeuroSurgery to transfer Media across devices.

    I was asking my Nephew what his BlackBerry could do – that my Symbian 60 3rd Ed could not. Why waste money? He mentioned things that I countered effectively. He then said his blackberry could lock once he puts it in its pouch – or even, his pocket.

    I knew there must be an equivalent Symbian app to do that. I Googled, and found Apps like SBSH PocketLock and others that make use of the proximity sensor / accelerometer achieve things. Some phones natively allow you change the track of songs playing by shaking the phone. Some allow you (un)lock your phone by shaking in a particular way. It is all a matter of ‘software_over_hardware’. Software that may be OS_baked, or thirdparty.

    An app like SPB Mobile Shell (which exists for practically all the mobile platforms) practically transforms the UX (User eXperience).

    Would I invest time to know that a SPB Mobile Shell 3D application would give me an iOS_like experience, for a miniscule fraction of the cost of getting an iPhone? Absolutely!

    Would I invest a little time to make my old Nokia 5800 serve me a little longer –and save some cash, or take the EasyWay route and get a device with a flashier onboard OS? You be the judge of that!
    My point – if you tell me your OS does this, and does that. Good- convenience.

    I then ask myself, are there apps that can do that? It is the Information Age. Unless you are lazy, checking for an application that does what you need done – is not rocket science.

    But then, for some lazy people, they’d rather pay somebody to do (or a device that does) practically everything for them.

    By all means, go ahead – pay for convenience – if you can afford it and/or are so inclined.

    Shell out N90,000 on a device where you can achieve similar results with a N23,000 device (with some Googling for adequate software). It is your choice!

    iPhone tried to change the perception of a SmartPhone to that of a consumer electronics. Insulate the user as much as possible from the dirty details. That is fine.

    It is for the same reason some people prefer an ECVT AutoDrive vehicles to a Manual GearBox. One is not necessarily superior to the other..

  13. @Eye.bee.kay

    Why would you – on the basis of a MERE slickier Android interface – get on board an OS That guzzles data, is relatively battery inefficient, and needs a degree in Physics to simple things like transferring files seamlessly across devices? and is more susceptible to malware?

    I guess you’re mixing things here or you have no knowledge of what you are talking about. This is Android OS not iOS, BB or Windows Phone 7 we are talking about.

    Transfering files between devices in Android through Bluetooth, USB or even WiFi is the easiest there is in any mobile platform and that includes your Symbian.

    People were asked to name a single thing That Android does-That Symbian can not ( whether natively , or not ). Nobody could!

    You mentioned one on the above discussion, but now you have to win by all means. Enjoy yourself. My concern is this:

    I am still struggling to discover this. Conversely, are there certain functionality available on Symbian that the Fruit & Robot lack ? I know of a few.

    You have not mentioned that functionality available in Symbian that Android lacks NOT Symbian does better

    When it comes to who wins in doing things better, we can ask the market.

  14. Transfering files between devices in Android through Bluetooth, USB or even WiFi is the easiest there is in any mobile platform and that includes your Symbian.

    EASIEST? Really? Now, That sent me into a paroxysm of apoplectic / uproarious laughter.

    Must remember to send that you’re statement to ‘Hammer House Of Humour’!

    I mentioned three critical things, you inadequately respond to one, and you think you are done? Okay i!

    This is not about winning.it is about facts!

    When it comes to who wins in doing things better, we can ask the market.

    Really? The fact that most humans are lemmings make their behaviour correct-in your books?

    Some of us had a minority views on the last Presidential election. The majority had their say, had their way and carried the day.

    In hindsight, were they correct? Go figure.

    The majority is NOT always right.Not by a long shot!

  15. Do I need to debate over things that are well documented? Android is already a winner so I do not need to try and make its faults more palatable than they are. Symbian has lost, so you may try to help it win back followers.

    All in all, you have only tried to make your Symbian device come close to UX available to Android out of the box. This is what ordinary people cannot do on their own, the reason why Symbian is for geeks than the normal people.

  16. SUBMARINE tactics effectively deployed here! a medal for you.
    Mr Ibukun stay on your gps cordinates.you being drawn in enemy waters.
    people should not equate lack of lack of info access to not being geeky, and vice versa.
    excellent article!

  17. Ibukun, thanks for the piece.

    I recently announced I was divorcing Symbian and moving on to sleekier OS. So I thought. I got rid of my NokiaE7 and I’ve been using Samsung Galaxy Gio with Android 2.3. What has been my experience?

    Good, bad and ugly.

    Good – I can explore and download apps I have grown to love and use for work like; Evernote, Springpad, Bufferapp, NewsRob Greader and more. Some of ’em are availble on Symbian, but are more beautiful on Android. The Facebook and Twitter app for Android are exceptional.

    Bad and Ugly – Battery power sucks big time. I am used to living apps running in the background, but was told in eats my battery. I can put up with the data gozzling, but the battery suckkkkks!

    Email was difficult to set up for me. It kept telling me my username and password are wrong. I still prefer email on my Nokia E7 Symbian Anna phone.

    I am beginning to think I can’t do without a Symbian power device. I may have to see if there would be an N8 successor running Belle. Belle is sweet!

    And yes, Ibukun should upgrade his Symbian :-D. He won’t have to bother about many of those unassigned apps.

    I should do a review to highlight things Androids do so well and things Symbian does better for ‘me.’

  18. @Jesse Oguntimehin

    Email was difficult to set up for me . It kept telling me my username and password are wrong . I still prefer email on my Nokia E7 Symbian Anna phone.

    Try K9 mail. It should solve your problems. I guess the problem is that your Google log in ID is different from your email ID.

  19. this argument btw symbian and android again. they both have their pros and cons. but the more desired platform is evident in sales figures. that is a fact. I have been on android for like 2years now. I only have two issues, guzzling data and battery efficiency.

    Every other thing is far better than on the nokias and sonyericssons I used earlier. the issues are in fact been improved up on. my sgs2 is much more battery efficient than its predecessor, the sgs2. also, ICS will help to better manage and reduce the data guzzling problem too.

    I have never experienced the email set up problem Jesse had. my office exchange, yahoomail, Hotmail and Gmail sync easily.

    eyebeekay also mentioned file transfer difficulty on android. I think sharing files is easiest on android.

  20. My response to all this wouldn’t fit into the comments section, so I wrote a post here

    Here’s an excerpt:

    The average motorist never has to retrofit their vehicle with with turbo chargers or nitro-boosters. Not doing these has absolutely no effect on the vehicle’s ability to deliver on it’s fundamental purpose, which is to be driven with the reasonable level of ease that is to be expected of a new car. Third party apps are definitely important, they greatly extend a device’s capabilities. But their absence should not handicap a device to the point where cosmetic user interface adjustments become absolutely necessary. Why mobile phone should need third party apps to achieve basic UX objectives, like accessible homescreen functions or intuitive menus is beyond me.

    Read the remainder of the post for context.

  21. To put things in proper perspective, I need to state that the original title of the post “Why I have Refused To Jump Off Symbian” was “How Symbian Refuses To Let Me Jump Off”. Mr. Mobility was the one who changed that title without getting my consent o! He can attest to this.

    Taking a look at my original title should shift some perceptions!

    You will also see that one of my closing statements was, ‘Now you see why Symbian has me by the Jugular – and I am not complaining”

    I was merely saying that I have no justification for smashing my ancient Nokia 5800 against the wall – yet. It does EVERYTHING I need it to do – at a fraction of the cost if a Nokia Belle device.

    I would love ANYBODY to show me one thing that a Nokia Belle device does – that a 40_fied Nokia 3250 does not / can not – DO! I am not talking of NFC or other hardware limitations here.

    I admit that the average user does not have the skills / time necessary to customize the UX the way a geek could. However, you do not have to be a Mechanic to get the best utilitarian value out of your automobile. Your skilled Mechanical can offer you advice if your objective is to turn that ordinary car into a Formular One RaceCar. Or, you can just buy that Formular One RaceCar directly. Your choice!

    If what you desire in your device is prosaic performance, this is also your choice. If you require great performance at a fraction of the cost, supercharge that lackluster device with great app. If you have the skill set / time to do it – great. If you lack it – well, we can not be JackOf AllTrades, can we?

    I am not proposing that everybody get a degree in Computer Science to obtain the best value out of their device. No! I am merely trying to drive home the point – forcefully – how unwise it may be to shell out big bucks MERELY because of a seamless outOfTheBox ‘User Experience’.

    If you would buy a N40,000 tokunboh Laptop @ Computer Village, then gladly pay an ‘Otigba Engineer’ to advise you and install useful software onto that laptop, what makes the situation different from the case of a smartphone?
    Would someone explain to me – in clear times – why I would spend N60K to obtain a Nokia Belle when I can get a Nokia 5230 for N23,000 and get similar (same?) functionality – using the appropriate software?
    Something mystifies me. People commend the copious availability of software titles for Fruit & Robot – and in the same breadth, see everything wrong with taking maximum advantage of same to address any shortcomings on their platform of choice – shortcomings that can include UX deficiencies.
    No OS UX is perfect. There is always room for improvement. That is why you have an app like SPB Mobile Shell 3d for (available for almost all mobile OS Platforms). That software has garnered accolades everywhere.

    The array of software available on an OS platform is key. Symbian (even the elderlyS60 third edition) has more apps for most things you can think of! And I daresay – for those you cannot. And people should not place so much emphasis on the modernity of the available software. You have CorelDraw 12 in the desktop PC world. But – unless you are a real ‘Pro’ you have probably not exhausted the feature set of Version 6.
    Lots of software exist outside the Official AppStore for years before they get onboard (if they ever do). Putting a figure to how many Symbian apps exist would be impossible.

    At the end of the day, different strokes for different folks!

  22. @Eyebeekay

    The title change does make a difference, it indicates a highly personal context, which is fair enough. Like you say, different strokes.

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