Symbian Anna - usability-focussed software update

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Nokia today announced the forthcoming availability of Symbian Anna, a software upgrade for all Symbian^3 devices. The update is focused around three key objectives: delivering improved usability, enhancing enterprise functionality and improving developer productivity. The update underlines the importance of, and Nokia's ongoing commitment to, Symbian. Symbian Anna will ship with new devices later this quarter and be available to all existing Symbian^3 devices in a similar time frame.

Symbian Anna is effectively equivalent to PR 2.0, but does contain some elements (e.g. icon set) which were not originally envisioned for this. Nokia has already indicated that there will be future updates for Symbian. While no additional information was given, it is safe to assume more information on Symbian Bertie, Beatrice or Blondie will arrive later in the year. This would be equivalent to a PR 3.0 release. 

Nokia has chosen to move away from the firmware version number and PR scheme naming in public communications. Software updates are being given a nickname to allow for clearer communication, but it also reflects an increase in the significance and cadence of software updates.

Split screen and qwertyWhat's in Symbian Anna?

  • New fresh icons, delivered as part of a new theme. The icons are derived from the existing icongraphy, but with rounded edges, giving a more contemporary look and feel.
  • Improved text input usability through the introduction of a portrait QWERTY keyboard and widespread use of split screen input. Split screen overlays text entry input boxes on existing screen elements and works in both portrait and landscape orientations. For example, in Maps a search can be entered and auto-completed results seen as you enter text. Similarly in Messaging, when you reply to a message in Conversations view you can see previous messages in the thread. 
  • Updated Web application with a more intuitive user interface and faster performance. This includes a standard location for the address bar at the top of the page (with improved auto-complete, which benefits from the new split screen text entry), visual back button accessible at all times (bottom left), and a redesigned and more responsive quick menu access floating button (bottom right). Performance of page rendering has been improved with an updated version of WebKit and improved scrolling and page navigation performance. The Web application continues to be based on the Symbian WebKit code base. A QtWebKit-based browser is likely to be one of the components delivered in the next software update.
  • Ovi Maps 3.6, which is already available for existing devices (it recently graduated from Beta Labs). The major features in this version are improved search, public transport overlays to map view and the ability to download country maps on the device.
  • Improved enterprise and security features. This includes the provision of six new security policies (for Microsoft Exchange), including enablers for the capability to turn encryption on remotely from Exchange device management tools. The update also includes Microsoft Communicator Mobile for corporate IM and presence (currently available via Ovi Store for selected devices).
  • The latest version of Qt (4.7.3) and Qt Mobility (1.1.2), to improve developer productivity. This includes support for Qt Quick and a significant number of API improvements.

Symbian Anna roll out

The Nokia E6 and X7 will ship with the Symbian Anna update out of the box later this quarter. 

The Nokia Astound, the US version of the Nokia C7-00, has the majority of the software updates from Symbian Anna, with the exception of the new icon set. It will receive the remaining updates in due course.

New shipments of the Nokia N8, C7, C6-01 and E7 devices will come with Symbian Anna as standard in firmware later this quarter or next quarter. Depending on lead times and levels of retail inventory, the exact timing of this switchover will vary significantly from market to market.

Existing Symbian^3 devices (N8, C7, C6-01, E7) will receive the Symbian Anna update through a software update in Q2. Nokia would not give an exact timing for the update, but we would suggest a starting point some time in May for commencement of the update delivery process. The timing for the update will again vary from device to device and market to market. The roll out of the update will be done in stages, with different devices and different markets receiving the update in a staggered fashion.

In general, within a given model, SIM-free devices will be the first to receive the update. Operators may require additional checks and certification to be carried out, adding additional time to the delivery date. Nokia's broad intention is that all Symbian^3 devices should have received the update by this summer. This does represent a delay over previous commitments to PR 2.0. However, Symbian Anna does include some components not originally intended for PR 2.0 and Nokia noted that it wanted to focus on delivering a stable and competitive update.

We'll continue to update this story as we receieve additional information.

(Image and video credit: Nokia Conversations)