Top 30 freeware for Symbian smartphones

Published by at

Kicking off 2012 in a positive way, and heavily updated from the original feature, I've compiled a latest 'top 30 freeware' for all Symbian^3 smartphones. Excluding games, which tend to be a very personal taste (though there are some great free games too, if you look around). Hopefully this article is a great reference to point new Symbian users to, with everything from small utilities to major applications. And free, free, free.... Right, on with the roll call!

Do also please note that although the '30' are in rough order (with '1' the best), the exact ordering is very subjective and I'm sure you'd arrange them differently. So take the numbering with a pinch of salt!

1. Swype

Sworn by lots of people and sworn at by lots of others, Swype is very much an acquired taste - it's a complete keyboard replacement for Symbian that works by looking at the way you trace your fingers around the various keys rather than just by taps alone. It's an intriguing and clever system though does mean a lot of finger exercise and isn't ideal for all. Still, free and worth a try, if only because it might be the single biggest upgrade you ever give your device!


Get it from the Nokia Store.

2. Opera Mini 6

We've featured Opera Mini many times on All About Symbian, of course. It's a completely proxy-based web browser, which means that all the HTML, images and scripting from your chosen web site are collected by Opera's servers, rendered completely, rationalised to strip out everything you don't need, and then mightily compressed to save download times, arriving  in the form of pseudo-code understood by the Opera Mini client. The end result is a very fast web experience, even on the most bloated sites.

After a multitude of Java-based versions, version 6.5 is a native Symbian application, meaning that the app starts faster, runs faster and text input can be slicker. There's even now multi-touch zoom and the browsing experience is excellent.

Opera Mini 6 Screenshot

Get Opera Mini 6.5 for Symbian from in Web on your device.


Originally commercial software, with a small amount of channels thrown in for free, this is now freeware, under new management, and well worth grabbing. About a hundred channels of live TV, of international flavour, all available on demand on your phone? Sounds too good to be true? Not really - and quality's usually acceptable too. The channels can be somewhat niche, but then that adds a certain charm too  - especially at this price point!


Get SPV TV from here.

4. TwimGo

It's not quite Gravity, but it's not far off, and for free. TwimGo presents a polished (light or) dark kinetic interface, with all the usual Twitter streams, filters and options, including an unusual landscape view showing tweets in tabular form, as shown here. The only disappointments are a slightly small font and no way to enlarge it, plus no way to share photos. Still, highly recommended.

Get it from the Nokia Store.

5. Sports Tracker

A feature of the Symbian world over the last four years, this GPS-logging utility-on-steroids is now back firmly in the hands of its creators and tied to a superb online portal for uploading your runs, walks and cycle rides. Add in a heart monitor and some online friends who can be relied on to call you out for slacking and this is your ticket to getting fit - really!

Screenshot Screenshot 

Get it from the Nokia Store.

6. facinate

'facinate' is a next-generation Facebook client and this has to be the easiest way to access the social network on your phone, far smoother and faster than Nokia's built-in Social client. With kinetic scolling everywhere, with media sharing and friend photo browsing, with homescreen notifications and with side-swipe views throughout, this is a must. It's freeware but does have some banner ads inserted here and there.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

7. Nokia Sleeping Screen

Also from Nokia Beta Labs, this takes advantage of the characteristics of OLED screens to provide animated screen saver functions for Symbian^3 phones even when the screen is 'off'. Clever stuff, and the graphic displays in this low power mode are fairly creative. And - show me another manufacturer being as innovative with OLED!

Get it here from the Nokia Store.

8. Nokia Internet Radio

Internet Radio is still an amazing facility to be able to pluck music and spokwn word content out of the 'air' on any phone, subject to your available bandwidth. Nokia's system has a good content directory and a nice system of favourites. This is also ad-supported to a very subtle degree, with ads pointing back to the Nokia Store.

Screenshot  Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.


9. Opera Mobile 11

Made in the image of Opera Mini - or maybe it was the other way around! - Opera Mobile is more traditional as a web browser, in that it interprets web site HTML and scripting in the client itself, but with the added benefits over Nokia's Web of text selection and an up-front multi-tabbed interface. And, with a nod to Opera Mini's compression technology, Opera Mobile has 'Turbo' mode, in which Opera's servers compress some of the original site code and content, squirting it through the air for decompression within Opera Mobile itself.

Significantly, Opera Mobile 11.5 brings multi-touch zoom and faster, slicker rendering and support for the native Symbian text entry methods.


Get Opera Mobile 11(.5) from in Web on your device.

10. Podcatcher

My most used piece of Symbian freeware* and, annoyingly, it shouldn't really have been needed at all. Nokia had a perfectly good Podcasting utility and they neglected it to the point where it's possibly now not retrievable. Ah well. Aside from not having Podcasting's multitasking abilities (Podcatcher updates feeds and downloads podcasts one at a time), this is just as useable day to day.

With great OPML feed importing and exporting, with a mechanism for searching for podcasts online, with good use of album art and with an innovative 'new shows' tab, Podcatcher has its definite 'pros' though and it's the first thing I install on a modern Symbian device.

Screenshot Screenshot

*Get Podcatcher for free from here. (There's also a paid for version in the Nokia Store, if you feel like using this instead and rewarding the developer in a small way - I've already done so a couple of times and would urge you to too, if you have a spare quid etc. See also the developer's own blog where he reports on the success of this 'free vs Store' strategy...)

11. YouTube Downloader

A new application written in Qt, this gives both an efficient window into the YouTube mobile web site and a MP4 streamer and downloader. Resolution goes right up to 1080p, though there's no guarantee that even a Symbian^3 device will be able to play this back smoothly. Rough edges include a clumsy file naming system (see my recent review) and a slightly awkward program structure, but this app can do things many desktop apps can't, so it's hard to be too critical.

Screenshot, YouTube Downloader Screenshot, YouTube Downloader

Download it from the Nokia Store here.

12. TuneWiki

Continuing the Internet Radio theme, TuneWiki offers a lyric-based guide to your music collection and is able to play back Shoutcast Internet radio stations, giving you unlimited streaming content. Performance isn't quite as good under Symbian^3 as Nokia Internet Radio - it plays with high enough quality when in the foreground but it's fair to say that if you switch away and start loading up the processor then the music will stutter a little. Still - you get a lot of app for free, with only unobtrusive banner ads here and there.


Get TuneWiki from the Nokia Store.

13. cuteBox

DropBox is a staple of modern online life for many of us, as a quick way to back up and share content between devices and users. And cuteBox is a quick and smooth client for the service for your Symbian smartphone. Sensibly, it doesn't try and sync everything down all the time, it just gives you access and lets you upload new content.

cuteBox screenshotcuteBox screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.


14. Mobile Documents

This is an alternative email system for Symbian which also supports multiple email accounts and pseudo-push. Most importantly however, it provides a unique and advanced attachment handling system. Recent versions have added pinch-to-zoom and full multi-touch on any image or document, plus homescreen widgets and native Symbian notifications. Highly recommended.

The Mobile Documents viewer

Get it from the Nokia Store.

15. Upcode

One rather strange omission from Symbian in its current incarnation is a barcode or QR code scanner, but this is an easy gap to plug with Upcode. This handles 2D, Bidi and 1D codes and, amazingly, even seems to work acceptably with the EDoF cameras on most current devices, at least if the code is large enough and you stay around 30cm away.


Get it at the Nokia Store.

16. RamInfo

If you've even the slightest interest in the inner workings of your Symbian smartphone, one of the first things you'll seek out will be a way of monitoring how much RAM is currently in use - yes, the OS manages RAM for you, but when it's running low it will at least give you a clue about why something's not working, or why something else keeps getting terminated. RamInfo puts the stat you need up front on your phone's homescreen. Simple, attractive and free.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

17. Socially

Starting life as a 'fill-in' utility for functionality missing from other applications, this has developed into a full Facebook/Twitter/Linked-in/FourSquare client, with extras aplenty, including limited contact and calendar syncing. The homescreen is unashamedly people-centric, the interface is smooth and in many ways rivals the commercial Gravity client. A great choice for anyone who considers themselves a social networking power user.

Socially screenshot Socially screenshot Socially screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

18. Skype

Despite a wealth of competitors and a somewhat murky past, Skype remains the service most people think of in the professional world when they look for VoIP, instant messaging and group conferencing. And its latest version works a treat on the latest Symbian^3 phones, with a better interface than ever, better behaved background operation, lower resource requirements and better voice quality.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from in Web on your device or from the Nokia Store.

19. Wikipedia Reader

There have been several versions of this over the last year or so, but it's coming along nicely and offers a mobile-optimised view into the full Wikipedia content, online. Indispensable for looking up facts, cheating at pub quizzes (not me, guv) and winning arguments down the pub!

Screenshot Screenshot 

Get this from the Nokia Store.

20. X-plore

With a decidedly non-standard interface, X-plore is still mightily functional and is the current file manager of choice on Symbian - it has saved my bacon a number of times when I've had to extract a log file, zap a cache or put a system file back in place. Importantly, although the default fonts used are too small, X-plore is very flexible and you can easily bump up the font and interface element sizes to suit your eyes and fingertip size! 

Although shareware, it only has the one 3-second nag screen and there's no time limit to your trial, so it just squeezes in here.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

21. Orange Wednesdays

Although ostensibly a promotional application for Orange UK's cinema ticket offer system, this is actually a decent way to get listings of all the latest film releases, with synopses and relevant information. There's also a location-based cinema search module, complete with showtimes. Lovely little use of Qt and a must-install.

 Orange Wednesdays screenshot Orange Wednesdays screenshot Orange Wednesdays screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

22. Converter Touch

Like all the other Offscreen Technologies applications, Converter Touch (below, left) is short, sweet and to the point. It's your all-purpose units converter, with a slick type carousel and lovely large buttons for entering numbers. If you only look up units once a week, grab this, to make your life easier!

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

23. Timer Touch

Offscreen again, with an elegant little timer utility (shown above, right), designed for clocking your kids on sports day or handling your own laps of the local track. Tapping the lap button adds a split/lap time to the middle roller and you can drag this down later on to record the times as needed.

Get it from the Nokia Store.

24. Shazam

Shazam is a music recognition utility, with the free version limited to five attempts a month (fine for casual users, I suspect). It works by taking a ten second sample of music and creates an audio fingerprint based on the audio data's spectrogram. This fingerprint is then sent to Shazam's central network across your phone's data connection and at Shazam's end the fingerprint is compared with their massive database of pre-computed audio fingerprints. With surprising success, plus there are extra hooks into YouTube and the Ovi Store, if you fancy trying your luck further afield than a simple identification.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

25. PocketLock

PocketLock is a small utility that locks your phone when inside your pocket or bag, and unlocks it when taken out. It runs in the background and auto-starts with your phone - in theory, it means never having to tug on your keylock button ever again and many people are finding this indispensable!

screenshot screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.

26. Tube Status

A fabulous little resource for anyone within striking distance of the UK capital. In scrolling pages and internal links are the latest details from Transport For London for Tube Status, Departure Boards and Weekend Tube work. Make sure there are no delays on the lines you have in mind.

Screenshot Screenshot

Get it from the Nokia Store.


27. Egg Timer Touch

Simple yet effective, this lovely little 'set it in 2 seconds' timer is perfect for making sure you don't leave the eggs (or pizza or whatever) in too long. Egg Timer Touch is also good for other little timing tasks around the house!


Get it from the Nokia Store.

28. Vlingo

From a simple tap on your homescreen, Vlingo gives you voice recognition and control, from sending emails to web searches to updating your Facebook status. The format of your voice instructions does need a little learning (unlike Apple's Siri), but there's still plenty you can do and fairly smoothly, as long as you have sufficient data bandwidth for sending the voice sample off to Vlingo's servers.

 Screen shot Screen shot Screen shot

Get it from the Nokia Store

29. FourSquare

It's everything you need from a FourSquare client, for checking into known locations and finding friends who might be nearby. You can add 'tips' to places visited and sit back and admire your badges. The application's written in Web runtime, so it's not lightning quick, but it does the job.

Foursquare Foursquare 

Get it from the Nokia Store.

30. Nimbuzz and Fring!

These two fierce rival free VoIP and chat clients deserve a mention here, even though neither have really received any kind of official manufacturer bundling endorsements and thus have remained without any mainstream awareness. Unlike Skype, the biggest player in this field, which withdrew access to its IM services from third party clients last year, rather unfortunately. So we've ended up in a divided VoIP world where there's Skype, Nimbuzz, Fring and many others, including Apple's Facetime. 

Still Fring supports Yahoo!, Windows Live/MSN, AIM, ICQ, GoogleTalk, plus it has video call support, while Nimbuzz does much of the same but adds Facebook, MySpace and Hyve, so there's plenty of inter-service instant messaging for those on a quest.

Nimbuzz Screenshot

You can get Nimbuzz here in the Nokia Store or from in Web. You can get Fring from here in the Nokia Store or from in Web.

Again, I'd like to emphasise that ALL the above are free to download and use. So if you don't fancy trawling the online stores for the best freeware then just bookmark this page and use it as your quick reference when getting a new phone up to speed!

If you're happy to spend a few pounds or Euros, see also my 'top 100 Symbian apps', my 'Curated Symbian App Store, which includes most of the apps above and plenty of others.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 1st January 2012