updated 08:00 am EST, Mon February 15, 2010
Symbian3 to ship with phones by summer
Symbian led off its Mobile World Congress introductions today with the first full appearance of Symbian^3. The newly open-sourced OS has many of the features shown in previews, including multi-touch, single-tap actions where possible, and multiple home screens with widgets. A unique highlight, however, is a visual multitasking system: users can bring up a view of active app windows and choose to switch to or close those apps without leaving the existing view.
The new platform also promises to solve many of the chronic flaws of Symbian, including a much easier Internet access strategy: where the earlier OS would continually prompt the user to choose an Internet access source, Symbian^3 behaves like Android or the iPhone and automatically switches from cellular to available Wi-Fi and back. Better control over memory will also improve performance with multiple running apps, particularly on less powerful phones, and should also avoid some stability problems after prolonged use.
Media is also a focus with a music player that borrows heavily from Apple's Cover Flow on the iPhone as well as an FM radio app that supports purchasing tracks from any supporting music store. For phones that include it, HDMI is an option and can handle as much as 1080p on an external display.
The new OS will be feature complete by the end of March and should reach shipping hardware in the summer. Nokia will likely be the first to use the new platform, although Samsung, Sony Ericsson and a handful of others have also regularly supported Symbian and could use it as well.
Symbian^3 is expected to be critical for Nokia in particular. Its heavy dependence on the aging Symbian S60 is believed to have cost it market share as the iPhone and other newer platforms have lured customers away, particularly in Nokia's once-secure European home market.