Nokia has definitely done some strange and bad things their phone’s operating systems lately. But just when you thought Qt is dead on smartphones, it turns out, it’s not. And neither is Symbian. Almost. Maybe. Kind of.
So I find myself needing a new phone. My old flip phone was acting up … even more than usual for it, and it was always a bit peculiar. It was cheap though, so no surprises there. But for someone who actually thinks about security, what was I to do? I don’t particularly trust Apple, as their phones have been pwned to own and their security and privacy questionable at the best of times. Even worse though would be Android, which has become a laughing stock when it comes to security. There’s Microsoft … but frankly I’ve never really trusted Microsoft. Not since I found their XP firewall was allowing traffic while it asked you if you wanted to block some application for suspicious behavior or not. (And frankly, does anyone really take Microsoft seriously for security? Recent studies of which security is the best for PCs leave Microsoft’s Windows AV and firewall products at the bottom of the lists.)
Gee, if only there were some other smartphone OS than iOS, Android, or Windows Phone. And as a tinker-monkey and Qt programmer, one with Qt support would be even better.
And that’s where I found it. Being punished over in the darkest corner, facing the wall because she’s a bad bad girl, was Nokia’s little ____ stepchild. No, not even that one. Or that one. The other one. Symbian.
Only Nokia won’t even call her Symbian anymore. First Nokia renamed Symbian^3 as Symbian Anna. But then Nokia went one step further and renamed the next version Nokia Belle. No more Symbian even in name!
And likely due to their deal with
the devil Microsoft phones running Symbian … I mean Nokia Belle now make up the Nokia cheap seats, relegated to the unimportant “feature phone” lines now that Windows is here to (allegedly) save Nokia’s smartphone lines.
The only problem is, Belle is a lot smarter than people give her credit for. Symbian always was underrated.
This is how I ended up finding a nice little deal on a shiny new Nokia C6-01. At virtually the same price point as my crappy old flip phone, I picked up a Belle of a deal. 3G and GSM both, 802.11b/g/n wifi for free home internet, GPS, FM radio (strangely, FM radio and not internet radio is a feature of utmost importance to me), 8MP camera with a dual LED flash that actually works, MP3 music player, Microsoft Office Mobile, and yes, even your favorite games like Angry Birds … this little gem basically has it all. Even the option for up to a 32GB memory card like any modern cellphone. (Which, of course, I upgraded mine to.) It’s slimmer than my old flip phone. (Though thanks to the glass screen, a bit heavier.)
It’s everything I need my present phone to be.
(At least for now. Once an x86-based phone running a full version of Windows and a 5” or so 1080P screen comes out, I’ll call that my “laptop” replacement and retire my Viliv S5 and my shiny new Nokia C6-01 to get whatever that phone will be.)
True, the C6-01 came installed with Symbian Anna. And she was nice. But once I upgraded her to Belle, that’s when I fell in love. It sounds goofy, but an amazing six homescreens! With the widgets and shortcuts in place, believe it or not, I already have turned on all six. One for phone, one for music, one for device on/off switches, settings, and handy apps, one for “socialization” (which I don’t actually use yet), one for taking notes, and one for games and goofy apps like timers and flashlights.
Are there any downsides to a Nokia Belle phone? Well, sure. First, they’re never going to be the absolute best hardware. Not because they couldn’t be, but because Nokia is now putting Windows Phone first, and I’m sure Microsoft is paying them for that consideration. As “feature phones” you’ll never find Symbian … err … Nokia Belle on a truly awesome phone. But Belle is so good, she doesn’t even remotely need a quadcore processor anyway. Android lag? Not on Symbian!
Second, obviously, there won’t be as many apps. This doesn’t even remotely worry me any because I don’t give a fig about apps, but you might care. Obviously if Angry Birds can be ported to Symbian, the platform can’t be all that bad. It’s just a matter of convincing the third party developer to bother. It can be done. Just will they? You can always ask. And there certainly are apps on Symbian.
Third, and maybe I’m crazy on this one, but Symbian Anna had a better screen saver than Nokia Belle. And weirder than that is Nokia Belle doesn’t even come with Anna’s screensaver. Eh? Obviously Nokia has the sourcecode for it. In fact I’d be surprised if Anna’s screensaver binary wouldn’t run on Belle. This may very well be my first project, to get the Anna screensaver back on my phone. Or maybe to make one of my own.
Anyway, for my needs, this Nokia C6-01 does everything I need and then some. It’s exactly what I needed to replace my old phone. I can set it up to completely avoid downloading anything over the cell network. I can set it up to continue connecting over GSM. And yet, if I decide I want to “upgrade” to a modern phone + data plan, I can. Easily. The hardware is all there and the software is a simple change in settings to switch. So as far as phone features go, it’s all the phone I wanted and I’m not forced into it being more than I want. Plus I have my FM radio. I have an MP3 player. I even have “apps” to goof around with. The touchscreen is nice and modern and very sensitive. (Sometimes almost to a fault.) The phone is darned good. And the battery life is hard to beat at 408 hours of standby (on GSM), 50 hours of music play time, and even a whopping 11.5 hours (again, on GSM) of talk time. It’s a phone that you don’t need to constantly keep plugged in. (On 3G you can pretty much cut those times in half. Another reason to not upgrade.)
And as far as Nokia Belle goes, as far as I’m concerned Google and Apple can go glut themselves. Symbian’s quality and user experience I found it easier to use and more flexible than iOS 6, Android 4, and even Windows Phone 7. And as a software developer, it’s hard to overlook the lure of developing my own apps for my phone using Qt. (Quite possibly the basis of Qt in Symbian now is why it’s so easy to use.)
The Nokia C6-01 is the bee’s knees. For not being a “smartphone”, it’s smarter and friendlier than most every phone out there, and at a price that can’t be beat.
There’s a lot that we can beat Nokia up for. And now it looks like there’s one thing more: their reluctance to stick to Symbian. There’s absolutely no reason why this OS should be relegated to the bargain bin of feature phones. Nokia really should have stuck to its guns. Instead, Nokia just announced that
Symbian Nokia Belle is the end of the line for Symbian. There’ll be one more big patch-o-rama, and then that’s that. No C or D versions, as were originally slated. Just like Qt, Nokia is washing its hands of Symbian. It’s no surprise. What we can hope for though is that Symbian will become open source. There it might finally have a chance of competing with Android and iOS in the market. From a manufacturer’s perspective. From a usability and security perspective, Symbian has already won in my opinion.