Unsurprisingly, the end of Symbian as a viable smartphone platform just got even closer, with Microsoft (Symbian's new owners after the Nokia Devices buy-out) shutting down all the servers handling Over The Air and Nokia Suite firmware updates. In theory this will happen at the end of this year, but some readers are reporting that it's all shut down already. Not that any of this will stop real Symbian hard core users, mind you, since the Delight custom firmware images are still available, as are SIS installation files for many third party applications. But, bit by bit, it's getting harder and harder to stay on Symbian without an excessive amount of work.
Recent News - Hardware
Billed as a Christmas present to the Symbian community, the Delight Custom Firmware (CFW) team has published v1.5 of its eponymous and rather excellent custom firmware - there's nothing critical that forces anyone happy with Delight v1.4 to update, but completists and enthusiasts (like me) will want to anyway! Screenshot proof, notes, quotes and links below.
Today, at MWC, Nokia announced the Nokia X range of affordable smartphones, running on a customised version of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) software. The devices, the Nokia X, X+, and XL, are aimed primarily at "growth economies" and are compatible with generic Android apps, but also run a range of Nokia and Microsoft apps and services.
This is a Delight custom firmware release that many have been asking for - the Nokia 701. This device didn't get released as widely as the Nokia 808 but has many positive attributes, as listed here in my comparison with the Nokia N8. And 701 owners on AAS have been (literally) crying out for the Delight custom firmware to take them away from Nokia's ceased firmware track and onto something more dynamic and with far more benefits. Step in the Delight team with some welcome news.
Since Delight custom firmwares came onto the Symbian scene, the most asked question of all was: when will this come to the Nokia E7 Communicator? With its full width fold out QWERTY keyboard, the E7 remains somewhat unique in the smartphone world, yet it has been held back by lack of updates from Nokia. With the arrival of Delight CFW v1.0 for the E7, the device just got itself a new lease of life.
We're now firmly into 2014, Nokia is never going to issue another firmware for devices like the classic N8 - and probably never even another SW_update patch. So there's nothing to lose and everything to gain by experimenting with custom firmware. This is the first time my much beloved N8 has veered off the 'stock Nokia' trail, but it's already enjoying the extra space and extra speed of a great CFW.
You may remember that I'd been experimenting with Delight custom firmware on the likes of the Nokia C7? Well, the next big version of the Delight firmwares is out, simultaneously for the Nokia 808, N8 and C7, see the links below. I installed it on the Nokia 808 PureView and have been impressed so far.
At an event in New Delhi, Nokia unveiled the Asha 501, the first of its next generation of Asha smartphones, powered by the new Nokia Asha platform. Priced at £63 ($99 / €75) before taxes and subsidies, the device is intended to provide a low cost smartphone option in Nokia's product portfolio, positioned between the Lumia range of Windows Phone devices and the Series 40 range of feature phone devices.
Ah yes, Symbian, the platform that just won't die. Rolling out today are a big set of 'New homescreen widgets' for the Nokia 808 PureView and other Symbian Belle Feature Pack 1 and FP2 smartphones (i.e. the late 2011 and 2012 devices). The new platform widgets include a release version of the (previously beta) Webview, a new form of contact shortcut, a stopwatch, a front-camera 'Mirror' utility, and 'Toggle Flashlight'. More below.
File this one under 'rumour', but sources inside the industry have informed us of a planned next generation QWERTY communicator running Symbian but with current specifications. Filling in a gap in the market, this would be a very welcome addition to the smartphone pantheon, as well as continuing Symbian's rich heritage. Rumoured specs include 32GB of internal storage, and a 4.3" AMOLED screen with inductive stylus.
After the general release of Belle Refresh firmware for most of the Symbian^3/Anna generation of smartphones, firmware v111.140.0058 has started to roll out for the Nokia E6 too. Part of the delay was because this device is different in that it has a slightly higher resolution screen, with 4:3 aspect ratio, though there's probably an element of real world testing going on before Belle Refresh hits the rest of the world's E6 product codes.
Available now for my Nokia N8 (screenshots below) and E7 Communicator, and rolling out around the world for various other product codes over the next few weeks, is Belle Refresh, characterised by firmware version 111.40.xxx. The main improvements for this Symbian release are more widgets, a Music player refresh, plus updates to other core components, including Web and Qt, and fixes for various issues, including the longstanding Flash video playback problem.
AAS special correspondent Ow Kah Leong takes a very first look at the retail Nokia 808 PureView, with photos and some impressions. The 808 is now on sale in his home country of Singapore, so we pressed him into service! This is just initial coverage, to whet your appetite, there will be more from him and from the regular team in due course when review units arrive.
Today at Mobile World Congress 2012, Nokia announced its new Symbian (Belle, Feature Pack 1) flagship, the 4"-CBD-screened 808 PureView, the "first smartphone to feature Nokia PureView imaging technologies" (implying future use of the system on other devices, possibly on Symbian, possibly on Windows Phone). The headline feature is the 41 megapixel oversampling system implemented on a huge 1/1.2" sensor, enabling standard resolution photos to be produced yet with dramatic zooming (24-74mm) available without loss of detail, and with lower digital noise. Zooming is also available without loss of detail, in video mode. Up to 38 megapixel images can be taken at full resolution. Read on for much more.
We thought that the somewhat underpowered Nokia 500 wouldn't get the Belle OS update for some weeks or even months, but it seems that Belle's rolling out for this device from today, possibly even giving the phone a new burst of performance. Some details and quotes from Nokia below.