As an industry watcher, the world of smartphones has never been more competitive or better value. It's also duller than ditchwater. And, apparently, growth has now stopped and sales are in decline... With IFA 2016 just over in Germany, where yet another batch of almost identical 5" touch slabs were announced, I'm tempted to suggest that now really is the time to look for character in our smartphones. Where are the USPs? Are they now relegated to older, almost retro, devices, while new products fall over themselves to stay anonymous?
Recent Features - Series 90
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!
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.
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.
Walking almost hand in hand with the age of Symbian (roughly 2000 to 2012), the term 'Nokia Communicator' is still a term that commands a degree of respect from many tech fans. But what did Nokia mean by this, which devices down the years have deserved the term, which was the last of the breed, and is the 'Communicator' now dead in the water?
The period 2001 to 2011 should be celebrated, it's the decade when the humble 'mobile phone' become more, so much more. And it's worth noting Nokia's part in this transformation, with five things listed here that the company absolutely nailed in the fight to give us more and more powerful phones. But I also can't let such a retrospective go by without a similar attempt to identify the five biggest mistakes that Nokia made, leading to its somewhat troubled existence in the smartphone world of 2012.
Whether you call it fragmentation or choice, having multiple versions of an operating system across a product line probably does more harm than good. While the issue rarely affects the average user, power users/developers/reviewers are all well aware of how fatiguing it can be to track a platform in parallel. Symbian is no stranger to this type of multiplicity either, and here we review the history of all its various guises over the years.
I have a new party trick and you won't be surprised it involves my smartphone. And a kitchen knife. All of which has got me musing about the nature (and role) of touchscreens on handheld devices through the years. Expectations and roles sure have changed. Though it's tempting to say that there's nowhere else for the touchscreen to go. The rest is surely up to the programmers behind the glass?