Is Symbian any good?

Is Symbian any good?

Summary: This is beginning to look a lot like they want to make a better buggy whip when the market is already buying cars. Why is even looking at Symbian not a waste of my time?

TOPICS: Browser, Telcos

Nokia Symbian smart phone, from CNETIn all the talk about Nokia acquiring Symbian, setting up a foundation to support it and scouring the world for sales, one key question remains unanswered.

Is the software any good?

Symbian is a Real Time Operating System for managing telephone functions. It is just a little smarter than a toaster. The phone's functions are not integrated and the data applications are on the level of tweets.

But that is not the market. That is not what people want. People want an Internet terminal they can hold in their hands, one capable of easily handling basic Internet functions. Like e-mail, and browsing, and organizing real file downloads.

Every day its virtual monopoly remains on such devices, Apple gains share, and that share gains legs. Not just in terms of long-term contracts, but in terms of trained users.

I am now starting to see iPhones behind the counters at my YMCA, held by people whose salaries can't be very high. That means the device has already moved into the sweet spot of the mass market, the heart of the s-curve.

Can Symbian deal with that threat? Because from the point of view of pure functionality, the Android can. LiMo can. The Blackberry can. Even Windows Mobile can. Whether they will is another question.

Symbian can't.

I don't think we have time to "train" this toaster into being a Real Boy. I don't think Nokia had the money to do that, either, which is why they threw it into this open source foundation.

This is beginning to look a lot like they want to make a better buggy whip when the market is already buying cars. Why is even looking at Symbian not a waste of my time?

And don't tell me it's because they're the leader in buggy whips.

UPDATE: The ferocity of my words seem to have offended some commenters, and I apologize for that. Proof would come in Symbian users taking the kinds of great heaping gobs of bandwidth consumed by iPhone users.

My apologies to all who were offended, but the editors are worried that the intensity dial on your side may be turned a bit high, so if we could stick to cases rather than my face or personality the fine folks at CBS Interactive would appreciate it.

A second story on Symbian can be found here.

Topics: Browser, Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • If symbian was no good

    then Nokia wouldn't have ruled the smartphones market for that long and the N95 wouldn't have sold over 15 millions of units despite its excessive price.
    The current significant decrease of Nokia market share is mainly due to their wish to use the N95 technology,as proven by the numerous N95 clones from the N82 to the N96, as a cash cow for too long.
    Though the lack of any serious competitor worldwide was a good reason enough for such policy.
    However now it is time for them to wake up and the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music is already a good sign that they have taken the right direction.
    • Missing the point

      Before the automobile came out, the top of the line horse-drawn coach maker ruled the roost. Ten years later, they no longer existed.
      • I don't think so

        Besides a more advanced U.I which make the tool significantly more responsive than Nokia smartphones, iPhone OS X is far to be significantly more advanced than Symbian in any other way.
        To the contrary Symbian seems overall more advanced than IPhone OS X in terms of capabilities and flexibility.
        Moreover, Symbian developpers didn't stand still and have been continuously improving Symbian,which by the way had solid fundations,way more solid than Windows mobile or even Palm OS,since it exists.
        The emerging of the iPhone has just sped up a bit the evolution of Symbian U.I and forced Nokia to stop doing stupid things like not putting enough RAM in their Smartphones.
        This said, this doesn't mean that Symbian shouldn't be significantly improved but it is far to be a dead end solution.
        The current limitations of Nokia smartphones come more from greedy oriented decisions( like using QVGA screen for years,not wanting to use more powerful CPU,etc...) from Nokia regarding their hardware than from true limitations from Symbian.
      • RE: Is Symbian any good?

        then Nokia wouldn't have ruled the <a href=" ">JN0-332 exam</a> smartphones market for that long and the N95 wouldn't have sold over 15 millions of units despite its excessive price.
        The current significant <a href=" ">70-511 exam</a> decrease of Nokia market share is mainly due to their wish to use <a href="">650-177 exam</a> the N95 technology,as proven by the numerous N95 clones from the N82 to the N96, as a cash cow for too long.
  • Flamebait or Ignorance?

    I thought I would read a proper analysis when I opened the article. Instead there was just a series of insults directed at Symbian.

    I am surprised at the quality of your journalism. Even Roughlydrafted does a better job than this (and that is a very low level to sink to).
    • Shooting the messenger

      is an old logical fallacy. Like all fallacies, it usually means you don't have a valid point to make.
  • Dana, you have NOT done your homework. Grade: F


    Addendum: Your article is 'careless'. Do you care?
  • What do you say, girl ?!

    I guess in general I would have a problem accepting any claim as serious what it comes from a dude named Dana. Sorry dude, in my side of the world that is laughable. And so is your claim that Symbian is as intelligent as a toaster. A claim for which you bring no proof, no argument.

    So, DANA, you don't seem to be old enough to have the excuse of being senile. Why then are you confusing the lack of application level wow (when compared to iPhone, since there would be nothing on Android to be even at the same level with Symbian) with your claim about the underlying OS. An OS that is dominating the market and has proven that can scale to countless device form factors and configurations, for various price ranges and from various manufacturers, even with options with regards to the UI and application frameworks. What does your beloved Android have on it? Aside from being made by Google (your new god?) and being open source (an idea you seem to like only when YOUR product is open sourced, not when OTHERS are doing the same)! Have you written any line of code for Symbian? Do you know/understand a tiny bit about its design?

    At the end, DANA, you may not like it but you have to live with it. Meanwhile play with your G1 but make sure not to type "reboot". Retard!

    (Dude, I'm joking. I'm really sorry for your parent's choice of name. Are you still thinking of shooting them?)
    Anonymous Benefactor
    • Good to see Symbian fans in the house

      I have yet to see a Symbian phone that could handle
      large files, or would attract mass downloads. From any

      Why is that? Is it because all the manufacturers are
      keeping the cool stuff about Symbian under wraps? Or
      is because the software lacks capability?

      I'd like some facts on this, not just flames. Although
      flames are fine, too.
      • Define large files...

        ..since Symella and SymTorrent handle these fine.

        And then there's N-Gage of course. Oh and Download!. And Flickr. And...

        You get the point.
        Sleeper Service
      • Let's see your homework

        Dana, let's see your homework:

        Name the mobile OS that can handle (an allows)
        background running 3rd party processes:

        Name the mobile OS that allows you to install any
        application you have as long as you ensure the quality
        (regardless of how "silly" it might be):

        Name the mobile OS that had first a webkit based

        Name the mobile OS browser that can play YouTube
        videos directly in the web page:

        Name the mobile OS that had first Touch UI:

        Name the mobile OS/phone that is fully usable with one
        hand (like a phone is suposed to be used):

        Name the mobile OS which had first video telephony

        Name the mobile OS with more runtimes supported:

        Name the mobile OS that rules the market (50% share):

        Name the mobile OS that is addopted by a big
        manufacturer (and not only by companies in China):

        Name the mobile OS with support for virtualy all
        multimedia formats (from Real media to DivX):

        Name the first mobile OS with WLAN support and direct
        podcast download:

        Name the mobile OS that first run a web server
        (Apache) on the device and served pages from it:

        Name the mobile OS that's not chargin you for updates:

        Name the mobile OS that was powering devices in 2000,
        with the limited hardwere resources existing at that

        Name the most secure (some say too secure) mobile OS:

        Name the mobile OS that first supported sensors:

        (should I continue?)

        P.S. To be noted that you are the one that needs to
        provide explanations for the insult in the article.
        Don't expect the readers to do the homework for you.
        Anonymous Benefactor
        • What does this rant mean?

          Name this, name that...

          It's like saying

          Name the first assembly line vehicle.

          Name the first car that employees could afford.

          Name the first car that got up to 21 MPG.

          Name the car that had 15 million units sold.

          Using that logic, the Model T would be the greatest car ever, and Ford the best company in the world.
          • Re: What does this rant mean?

            This does not intend to prove that "Model T" is the
            greatest car ever. It only demands that "Model T" is
            treated as a car and not as a toaster. Or if somebody
            believes otherwise it demands to show some arguments.


            So, Dana! Are you ready to present some real arguments
            or will you concede and publish an apology?
            Anonymous Benefactor
  • greeting from haider - u know nothing abt symbian

    iphone sucks...symbian rocks..the way it handles msgs,calls and keeps on getting good and better it 6600,6630 ,n73 or n95 each of them was a unique handset of their time...and even the cheapest nokia phones still have voice recog for people like u and the current symbians can read msgs 4 u

    didnt u have n95 8gb pic for the post???
    • iPhone vs. Symbian

      The average iPhone user takes 500 times the monthly
      bandwidth of the average Symbian user. Networks notice
      that. This is why they are so desperate for an
      alternative, something that will stimulate similar
      demands for data.

      I have yet to see a Symbian phone that does that. Even
      the n95. It's just a phone. A smart phone, but a

      An iPhone is not a phone. It's a handheld Internet
      terminal, designed for broadband applications. It uses
      the Internet as it is, and doesn't require said
      Internet to be dumbed down to SMS messages.
      • Take another look at that N95

        Dana, while it's true that iPhone users in North America consume more data and apps than the average S60 user, I suggest that that has more to do with Apple's clever business models (and the AppStore) than the underlying phone software.
        Take another look at that N95, or perhaps a Nokia E71 or 5800. They all have a full Web browser built on WebKit (same as in the iPhone), run applications written in lots of languages including Java and even Python, support a native Web Runtime that runs desktop-style widgets (it's based on Apple Dashboard).
        Oh yes, they all also record and playback video, and of course let you upload photos and videos on the fly to YouTube or whatever service you want.

        Dumbed down? Please.
        -Oren Levine (from the Nokia S60 team)
      • "It uses the Internet as it is" ... no, it does not!

        The pages in the browser are scaled down so they fit
        with original layout in the screen. To read the page
        you have to zoom in, which then makes only a narrow
        part of the page visible. End result? Same as on S60
        3rd Edition WebKit based browser, only on Symbian
        we're not pretending to be what you're not.
        Anonymous Benefactor
  • RE: Is Symbian any good?

    I recommend you read about Symbian OS before blabbing a lot of ignorant nonsense. Check out for a good place to start.
    Anonymous Benefactor
  • RE: Is Symbian any good?

    You know the difference between your opinion and fact is that when you state a fact it is usually true (about 100% of the time, hence fact). I think you ought not spread your own opinion around and discredit a useful and very popular software based on what you think, after all who are you to judge? Have you examined why you say its no good? No you have not. Your story is based on your own bias because you more than likely think that touch screens are nice. My friend has an iPhone, another has an LG touch screen and I have a n95. My n95 has a 5mp camera (iPhone does not), tons of applications (LG nor iPhone have that), my n95 has Garmin software (arguably the best navigation software around) (LG nor iPhone have that), and on top of that it has symbian and symbian does a FLAWLESS job of managing all of these functions. A toaster cant do that. I really dont know how this garbage can be posted on a site like, it really discredits zdnet....
    • Big camera?

      Is the Garmin application running directly off
      Symbian? Such phones have never been sold in the U.S.

      Having a camera is no big deal.

      I have to wait 30 seconds for my own Symbian phone to
      boot up. I wait less for a Linux Netbook.

      Why is that? Must be because the manufacturers are
      just keeping the poor software down for their own