I have been losing faith in Symbian step by step, as it has taken such a long time to get the promised updates from Nokia. Symbian Anna came about 11 months after Nokia N8 shipped, and it has not been that huge a step forward in usability anyway. Therefore Nokia 701, the first smartphone running the latest Symbian Belle platform, hasus been a big positive surprise. Compared to Symbian 3 and even Symbian Anna, it is a tremendous leap in usability, performance and overall completion of the platform.
To put it short, Symbian Belle delivers those promises that were given by Nokia’s executives in advance about Symbian 3, and then Symbian Anna which they did not deliver. Symbian Belle is faster, smoother and more finished. On Nokia 701 running Symbian Belle, the UI runs smoother than on my Nokia N8 running Symbian Anna, updated from the original Symbian 3.
There are new features too, such as more flexible and versatile web widgets (like on Android), and a notification bar like you’ve seen on Android too. But it’s not bad thing to copy good ideas. I just wish the next Symbian C… update (whatever it will be called) would copy from Windows Phone 7 the ability to take pictures even though the device is locked with a security code. Apple already copies this to iOS 5.
The basic menu structure in Symbian Belle is still about the same it has been since the first Series 60 build in 2002, but Nokia has made it more simple by taking away subfolders. Now there’s just a long list of icons. I’m not sure if this change is for the better, but at least the UI is more familiar to those who have used Android and iOS.
The big question is can Nokia offer as good Symbian Belle performance on current Symbian 3/Anna devices (Nokia C6, C7, E7, N8 and X7) which have a weeker CPU than the 1 GHz processor on Nokia 701. I still haven’t got the Belle update running on E7 or N8, so I can’t be certain. I have heard some intial comments the performance should be quite ok. I will get back to this when I have Belle running on E7 and N8 later this year or maybe early next year.
The Nokia 701 I got at the office was such an early review sample the virtual QWERTY keyboard does not even have support for Finnish characters (Ä, Ö), so these letters have to be entered by holding down A and O keys. According to Nokia, a localised version will be available later. It’s good to note this when considering buying a smartphone cheaper abroad.