Guest writer Sabby Jolly takes us on a decade-long tour of the glory and the pain of Symbian software and hardware. 2002 to 2012, all in the one feature, almost 4000 words and a (seeming) lifetime of experience. Save this for a coffee break and then nod along with Sabby....
Recent Features - Series 60
Regular listeners to the 361 Degrees podcast will have heard many times of Rafe's legendary 'six year rule', when referring to smartphone platforms and ecosystems. With Blackberry seemingly imploding before our eyes, with Nokia having been snapped up recently by Microsoft and with Symbian increasingly being forgotten in the marketplace, I thought it worth both expanding on Rafe's rule of thumb and also charting it graphically. A mosquito lives for a week, a hamster for a year or two, smartphone operating systems about six or seven years, and (happily) human beings about 70 to 80 years. Life and death, all in 1000 words? It can only be an All About (sites) editorial....
You may remember that I featured the Top 10 Most Beautiful Symbian phones a while back? This is the exact opposite, a condemnation celebration of the very worst in cosmetics, practicality and pocketability... This is Symbian wierd, or at least as weird as phones linked by a common software platform can get. From the freak show below, see how many of the phones you owned - a prize (or at least major sympathies) if you owned the lot!
With Symbian firmly in its twilight years but still very much alive, I'd like to gather a little data, for all our interest, on the generations of Symbian-powered hardware still in active use. It's unlikely that everyone reading this owns a Nokia 808 PureView, but just how far back do you all go? Are there still readers actively using a d-pad driven Nokia N95? Any Nokia E90 users still? See below and add your tuppence worth! [UPDATED]
It's all very well looking at flagship devices, the household names that always get the glory - but what about the rest? The unsung hero devices that didn't cost the earth, that never claimed to lead the field and yet which provided the maximum functionality and reliability with a minimum of fuss. Here then are my top 10 smartphones that punched above their weight over the last decade in the Symbian world.
"Not another article singing the praises of the Nokia 808 PureView?", I hear you cry. Well, yes, but a thought occurred to me as I rooted through my growing Symbian hardware archive, looking for something specific. For the last ten years, every Symbian user/fan has had to compromise, to a greater or lesser degree, in choosing a device. With the Nokia 808, I contend, this landmark (and last) Symbian-powered phone also represented the end of having to compromise. At all.
The feel of cold hard metal in your hand - there's nothing like it. The quality, the sense of something very special. I reviewed the Apple iPhone 5 recently and declared it as much an item of jewellery as a phone, which got me thinking. Which Symbian-powered phones from the last decade have impressed as being utter triumphs of fashion over functionality? Not necessarily metal (though that plays a part), but smartphones which have looked a million dollars and not really lived up to the valuation. Here's my top 10. Or should that be bottom 10? I guess it depends on your priorities!
File this under 'middle of the night musings', but it's a question I often ask myself. 'How far could I go back in Symbian history and still have a device which filled all my needs today in 2012?' After all, there are some functions which (e.g.) the 2007 Nokia N82 does a heck of a lot better than 90% of today's oh-so-droppable, oh-so-expensive touch-slab smartphones, albeit with a less obviously pleasing UI. But how far could I go back? At what point does the antiquity of the hardware and software get in the way?
I've been over Nokia's greatest mistakes before, but there's another elephant in the room that needs addressing. It was a hot topic of debate back in the early days of Symbian and the ramifications of what was decided then worked themselves out in the following twelve or so years. Branding. I contend that Symbian as an OS has always been fighting a massive rearguard action - if the name itself had been allowed as much prominence as Android and iOS and Windows Phone have now, I suspect that Symbian's trajectory might have risen a lot higher and extended further.
I didn't have to think too hard about how to apostrophise the headline - after all, Nokia was using the term smartphone for its Symbian-powered devices a full five years before Apple and Android came along and the American tech press decided that the word needed reimagining. However, both approaches - which I've commented on before - are valid, and I thought it worth assessing where we've got to as we head towards the end of 2012. Was Nokia's definition right all along? Or is a modern 'smartphone' much smarter after all? I look at the two ultimate exponents of the two definitions, the Nokia 808 PureView and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.