Many of the “older” smartphones available on the market, such as the Nokia 6600 released in 2003, were based on the Symbian operating system. This was a time long before Google, Apple, and Microsoft had a foothold in the smartphone market and didn’t express much, if any, interest in doing so. However, the introduction of these well-known names in technology meant Symbian was forced to adapt to the changing market. However, much of this adaptation has forced Symbian to be on a decline and it could even be described as on the verge of extinction.
What went wrong?
Short History of Symbian
The history of Symbian dates back to the 1980s. It is based on EPOC by Psion and first came to critical acclaim in 1998 when it became the operating system of choice for Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia mobile phones.
Various forks of the operating system were released to meet the demands of specific phones and their users, which include S60 and UIQ.
The user interface of Symbian remained relatively consistent throughout its development cycle; adding more advanced features as time went on, but still keeping to its simple and intuitive menu-driven navigation system by using the keypad (and later touch screen).
Internet browsers were available as of Symbian 3 and it was the first platform to offer Internet connectivity on a mobile phone. However, this ease of use and connectivity led to several concerns from users regarding their safety.
Major Flaws of Symbian
Symbian’s major flaw was its exposure to security threats.
These were largely user-driven as the user was required to authorize files to install and usually had warnings that the file shouldn’t be trusted. However, inexperienced phone users would ignore these cues (or not read them at all) and this gave rise to the original “cell phone viruses” like Cabir, which is perhaps the most well-known worm to affect the Symbian operating system through Bluetooth.
Operating system fragmentation was also a concern for Symbian users as applications developed for one specific version of Symbian were not compatible on other versions of Symbian. This often drove users to install missing packages from other versions to get their application to work, but usually created system instability.
On February 11, 2011 the first of the final blows to Symbian was dealt.
Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft to adopt the Windows Phone platform for smartphones, which would reduce the number of Symbian devices over the next two years. Symbian developers were quick to drop the operating system, too.
Research just four months later suggested that nearly 40% of Symbian developers were going to abandon the platform and upgrade their skills to suit a more modern platform like Android.
The final blow was dealt on April 5, 2011 when Symbian was reduced to a small group of partners in Japan and Nokia closed sourced formerly open source data.
Symbian does remain alive to date, but only in the form of software support. Nokia outsourced this to Accenture, who will provide Symbian-based support for Nokia devices until 2016.
After this, it seems likely that Nokia will officially abandon the operating system and close the door altogether.