Ending this series of blogs looking at Mobile operating systems we’re going to take a look at Symbian.  Now we’ve never really seen Symbian in the

rugged PDA

 world but we’ve all probably used it at some time and that’s because its the OS that Nokia based it’s phones on until very recently so it’s worth a shout here.
Nokia actually sold off its Symbian OS division last year (I think it was last year at least!) and went with a Microsoft Windows Phone approach for its smartphones ending the reign of the most used mobile OS ever.  So rather than harp on about the pro’s and cons, in this article I’ll talk about what went wrong?

What did go wrong with Nokia and Symbian OS?

How do you get to pretty much 70%+ of the mobile phone market share and then drop to less than 10% of smart phone market share?  Well this is how, made from fact, opinion and a bit of rumour maybe!

Symbian was difficult to use

Any OS lives and dies on the developers and apps it has and I have personal experience of how difficult the Symbian OS was to use and create solutions for so god knows how hard it was for network operators to customise.  I could bring up so many examples of this that you’d need a shot in th arm to wake up but essentially Symbian was a pig to program so you ended up not using it like you should so anything built on top of it or underneath it was slow, clunky and often not robust.  Let me get this straight though, Symbian was a very good OS, in fact many of its clever features are now found in other smart phone SDK’s but it was just a pain to understand and use.

Add to this the community was small, the general help was poor and Nokia/Symbian themselves fell well short on documentation, examples and community when compared to the Androids, IOS’s and MSDN’s.

User interface was poor

So not only were the phones slow but the interfaces were also poor.  In the smart phone (not rugged PDA) world the interface and how easy a device is to use is critical and Nokia phones just fell way short of the experience you needed.

Symbian assumed that the device was used as a phone first

Whereas Apple and Android assume it’s a mobile computer.  This meant Symbian was great at making and taking calls (whoopee do!) but internet usage and emailing was poor and apps that used data were generally awful to use (where the supplier had actually managed to write one!!).

Nokia could not dictate to the networks how data was priced.

Again straight out of the handbook this one.  Because Nokia saw their devices as phones, they did not command enough control of how network usage would be priced.  I know people who work at network companies and I knew just how pleased they were when the iPhone came out with the all-inclusive iPhone bolt on.  Apple were doing what Nokia could have done 2-3 years before.

Nokia’s products range was awful

Sorry to be so strong but it was.  I remember the days of the 6100, early 1990’s where I could practically still tell you the Nokia range.  However come 2000+ Nokia seemed to bring out pointless phones that were phones or smartphones or something else that made no sense.  They should have stuck to fewer devices and made them wonderful.

So there’s a lesson in how one of the biggest OS players in the mobile market came to its demise.  We’ve seen failures since (HP, Palm, Motorola mobile) proving no-one’s too big too big to fail and we’ll see more.  The key is are the current big players doing enough to survive the next 3 or 4 years and beyond?

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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