Yours truly, around 25 years ago, I spent three years living full-time in this motorcaravan (really!)
Let's start with Symbian, perhaps akin to motorcaravanning in the modern (2011/2012) smartphone world.
Armed with a pioneering spirit (since 2002, with the Nokia 9210), you can go anywhere you like, with almost no restrictions, you get some great photos along the way in wild and way out places, there are precious few rules and regulations, you're not tied so much to your office and you get to play with some awesome gadgets. Plus, long term motorcaravanning is relatively inexpensive.
Balanced against this, you also have to work quite a bit harder to cook, shop and communicate. Very little is laid on for you, there's little that's 'plumbed in' (so to speak) and some commitment is needed to keep everything going day to day.
In contrast, the Apple iPhone (iOS) and Microsoft Windows Phone worlds are diametrically opposite, corresponding to living in a plush hotel.
Costs are much higher, but you do get spoon-fed meals, with no effort needed beyond strolling down the corridor to the restaurant. Your room is cleaned, you laundry taken care of, there's zero housework needing to be done. There's a wider choice of everything, but it all comes down through the management at the end of the day and you have to play by their rules. Woe betide you if you want to do something that's not allowed though and you're restricted to just the hotel grounds.
Somewhere between the two extremes lies Android, perhaps akin to living in your own house.
You get the freedom to do what you want, when you want, while also having most amenities 'on tap', including plumbing and electricity. Perhaps the best of both worlds? Or the worst of each - lacking the satisfying challenge that camping/motorcaravanning presents while failing to match the luxuriant surroundings of the iOS Grand and the Windows Phone Castle?
It's at this point that the analogy starts to break down a little, but I'd like to return to an important point - one of the reasons many of us like Symbian as an OS (and Nokia as a hardware associate) is that it makes us think. As with camping or caravanning, there's a certain challenge.
One of my favourite activities is setting up a new Symbian phone how I like it. Every app brought up to date and with its shortcut in just the right place, the homescreen with just the right widgets, every setting, every profile just how I like it. All of which most definitely makes me a geek and err… rather sad, but I doubt I'm alone.
In contrast, you can factory reset (for example) an iPhone and a couple of clicks (and an hour of restoring) later, everything's back where you left it. Email and other cloud services just work, there's no research needed, no fiddling with settings… and no satisfaction from figuring anything out. Where's the challenge?
NB. Before the ne'er sayers leap in, I'd like to point out that this is all a tiny bit tongue in cheek. The point is valid though, hopefully. In addition to musings on openness and freedom, there is of course hardware, with some of the hardware on Symbian having more USPs than anything else on the market (e.g. N8 camera, E7 keyboard), and the hardware draws me just as strongly as the now-familiar software.
Comments welcome - does any of this ring true for you?
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 14 Dec 2011