Symbian problems and changes

Nokia, once a world leader, is losing popularity to rising stars like Google Android and Apple iOS. Android phones are selling more than Symbian phones. Google activates 300,000 phones every day and Nokia Symbian phones somewhat less. What has happened to the old clear smartphone OS leader Symbian.

Why Symbian failed: developers, developers, developers article tells that the reasons why Apple succeeded in creating a smartphone market have now become conventional wisdom. iPhone was designed to be a mobile computer first, not a phone. Same applies to Android phones.

There’s also a similar agreement on the reasons why Nokia missed out. Nokia’s design philosophy was that smartphones were phones first, not computers. Nokia is has been very reliant on Symbian, but had neglected to develop and polish the user interface over the years.

One reason for problems could have been in the software architecture. The basic Symbian OS was pretty well optimized to run on even pretty low power CPUs (uses less processing power than Linux or iOS for the same tasks), but to accomplish this Symbian went its own way with just about everything. And these new ways were so damned hard to learn, most people just didn’t bother. The sluggish performance you see on your Nokia phone today is claimed to be a direct result of developers doing things in non optimal way.

Your platform can be as clever as you like, but until it’s so intuitive that developers take to it like a duck to water, the cleverness will all lie unused, gathering dust. As you know in real life a lot of real production code is bashed together by short-term contractors and people new to a platform.

Many mobile phone manufacturers that ealier used Symbian are leaving the boat, and Nokia seems to be the only one player left on the boat. Nokia is reducing hundreds of people in Finland on Symbian smartphone development. Nokia announced 1,800 job cuts worldwide in October.

Nokia is closing Symbian Foundation and taking the development to it’s own hands. This sounds pretty much like the end of the open source Symbian era. Symbian Developer web site is closing on December 17th. So if you want something from this what seems to be a slowly sinking boat you have only few days to get that…


Symbian’s future is now reliant on the success of the Symbian^3 platform. The N8 handset is the first Symbian^3 phone, catching headlines.


  1. Varistor says:

    Although you’v point so many disadvantages of Nokia’s Symbian, I still like to use Nokia for its high quality.

  2. Hid Kit says:

    It is not the Symbian that make Nokia be the most popular mobilephone, but its high quality. I like use Nokia, too.

  3. DJ Manchester says:

    IPhone all day long.. Nokia is so out of date now and complicated

  4. Tomi says:

    Symbian is no longer the most-shipped mobile platform, with Android finally knocking Nokia’s OS out of the number one position. Manufacturers shipped 32.9 million Android devices in Q4 of last year, compared to 31 million Symbian devices.


  5. Tomi says:

    Nokia’s ‘Burning Platforms’ memo warns of cheapies threat

    Elop points out that Nokia lacks competitiveness not just in vital high margin smartphone space – a story that’s been told several hundred thousand times in the past few years – but in the low-cost emerging markets, too. Here Nokia is under threat from low-cost Chinese manufacturers such as ZTE.

    Elop describes three threats Nokia faces: Symbian and Meego platforms are inadequate to compete in the high margin smartphone space, he says, bluntly. Nokia is under threat from Samsung in developed ‘home’ markets such as Europe. And it’s under great pressure from low cost Asian newcomers in India and China.

    Every manufacturer faces similar problems when a market becomes a commodity game: the low-cost manufacturers ultimately win. So manufacturers must seek to add value. Nokia chose the wrong strategy for this.

  6. Tomi says:

    Read the full Elop’s memo at

    Comments on Symbian from it:

    At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.

    At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, “the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.” They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

  7. Tom says:

    Symbian source has been difficult to access after open Symbian Foundation guided the practice was discontinued in November last year.

    Nokia has released a Symbian OS source code , but this time less open license. Code review requires free registration and use of the terms of the approval.

  8. Tomi says:

    A new report from digital research specialists ComScore has revealed that in the last quarter, Google’s Android platform overtook Apple’s iOS software to become the second most popular smartphone operating system in the EU as both platforms continued to eat away at Symbian’s share, despite the fact it still powered one in every three smartphones bought during that period.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Symbian Now Officially No Longer Under The Wing Of Nokia, 2,300 Jobs Go

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia is the developer told the meeting in Mexico, the company plans to make the Symbian 3 handsets, at least two updates, identified by the code names are Carla and Donna.

    Carla can expect at least the end of next year or the beginning of 2013.

    Donna-back version is intended for multi-core processors enabled devices.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia retires the Symbian brand

    Nokia is ditching its Symbian brand altogether and is renaming its latest version of the Symbian mobile operating system as Nokia Belle.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Symbian is still top mobile OS – finished 2011 with resurgence
    Posted in Main on December 29th, 2011 by Pingdom

    Would it surprise you to know that Symbian finished 2011 stronger than it started the year?

    Symbian started and finished 2011 as the undisputed king of mobile OSs. Going from 30.25% in January to 33.59% in December, Symbian made a resurgence in the last two months of the year.

    Despite great 2011, Symbian’s future is uncertain

    It remains to be seen what developments will happen in 2012 but it seems certain that the competition will only increase.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Symbian is now in ‘maintenance mode’, and Belle FP2 was its last ever update, Nokia Developer support is telling devs.

    This is hardly a surprise, but official confirmation of any kind has been elusive.

    The OS made its debut in a commercially available product in 1997, giving it a 15-year run on the market, and it has since powered more than 400 million devices, at a rough estimate


  14. tomi says:

    Nokia’s 808 PureView Officially the End of the Symbian Line

    “Symbian is now officially dead, Nokia confirmed”

  15. tomi says:

    Nokia Confirms The PureView Was Officially The Last Symbian Phone

    Symbian is now officially dead, Nokia confirmed today. In the company’s earnings announcement that came out a little while ago, Nokia confirmed that the 808 PureView, released last year, was the very last device that the company would make on the Symbian platform: “During our transition to Windows Phone through 2012, we continued to ship devices based on Symbian,” the company wrote. “The Nokia 808 PureView, a device which showcases our imaging capabilities and which came to market in mid-2012, was the last Symbian device from Nokia.”

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ‘Android before Android’: The long, strange history of Symbian and why it matters for Nokia’s future

    Summary: When Nokia decided to ditch Symbian back in 2011, it effectively signed the OS’ death warrant. Is history now poised to repeat itself as Nokia squares up to Android in emerging markets?

    It may be sliding into obscurity today, but Symbian was for many years in the mid-to-late 2000s a huge success. For most of the last decade, Symbian shifted millions of units (and still does, even now).

    And while discussions over Nokia’s OS strategy tend to focus on Lumia shipments, it’s easy to forget how big, and innovative, Symbian once was.

    Back in mid-2007, Nokia and Symbian were on top – Symbian had 65 percent of the smartphone market, while one in every two phones sold worldwide carried the Nokia logo. The pairing was a European success story

    Symbian was arguably the inventor of the smartphone category.

    Today, Android has around three-quarters of the smartphone market, but many of the characteristics that helped make it successful were used by Symbian years before.

    Symbian also spotted the importance of touch and large-screen devices, supporting UIs just for such handsets – Series 90 and UIQ for touch (albeit stylus rather than multitouch based), and Series 80 for big-screen handsets. It even picked up on the web browsing trend early, making a WebKit based browser available from 2006 (WebKit is today used by the likes of Apple, as well as Android).

    It also used the open source development model that underpins Android

    It was a move that made a lot of sense, but one which failed to pay off.

    But despite having ideas that were ahead of its time, Symbian failed to benefit from the first mover advantage of any of them.

    You don’t use phones to sell ecosystems, you use ecosystems to sell phones. Symbian had always embraced and encouraged third-party developers

    However, “as it turns out, after-market software sales for Symbian smartphones remained low”

    What aided Apple and hobbled Symbian was the same phenomenon: the app store. Apple made it easier for consumers to buy apps by opening a single storefront, a feat Symbian never managed, although Nokia did open the Ovi store in 2009 to sell Symbian apps – notably behind Apple’s iOS, Android and RIM’s BlackBerry OS, which got their app stores in 2008.

    Nigel Clifford, head of Symbian from 2005 to 2008 and now CEO of Procserve, described the lack of a single Symbian app store as one of Symbian’s “fatal fragmentations”. “It was offputting to anyone without the resources to create one of their own – and they are expensive things to develop and maintain,” he said.

    there were four different UIs that ran on top of the Symbian OS builds: S60, S80, S90 and UIQ.

    “Unfortunately there were three things that really held Symbian back – one, having to charge a licence fee (which we eventually solved); two, not having a unified and complete UI developed with the OS; and three, the fragmented app/ecosystem community,” said Clifford.

    “Symbian ran out of steam – it ran out of development potential, particularly as it was geared at that higher end of devices. Symbian was becoming an unmanageable bit of software. It represented challenges in how you could change the user experience.”

    “Symbian was limited by its legacy code and its installed based to meet the challenge of more modern APIs and better development tools provided by Apple and Google, which both started with a clean slate.”

    When Nokia announced in 2011 that it was ditching Symbian as its primary smartphone platform in favour of Windows Phone, it effectively signalled that the end was nigh for the OS.

    Nokia said it would wind down its use of Symbian, and later that year announced that Accenture was to take over development work and support for the OS.

    That outsourcing deal will close in 2016, and is unlikely to be renewed.


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