I have been using two Symbian Anna phones (or Symbian 3 PR 2.0, as this software release used to be called) for one week (Nokia E6) and about three weeks (Nokia X7). At first I have to say it’s a good update for Symbian making the UI faster, more responsive and visually more finished with nicer icons. However, at point it’s still too little and too late considering the competition from Apple iOS 4.x and 5.x and Google Android 2.2 and newer ones.
The web browser is a bit faster and loads sites quicker than the original one, but rendering sites is still more sluggish than in Android or iOS. Especially when Flash is used, navigating regular sites is often frustrating. But as Safari in iOS does not even support Flash, I also tried Symbian Anna’s browser without Flash. Even then iOS Safari is clearly faster and smoother. One nice browser improvement in Symbian Anna is that you can assign tapping the right bottom corner of the touch screen to go directly back to the previous page. The default setting is still to open the preview window of previously browsed pages.
There are many other small enhancements too, such as the new virtual QWERTY keyboard when keeping the device is portrait mode. Those keys are very tiny, but sometimes this is the quickest way to write short messages, at least better than the ITU number key layout only.
In many applications and menus I start getting an impression that not everything is to blame at Symbian, when Nokia’s smartphones are lagging or not taking commands. Could it be that the bottleneck is actually having an underpowered CPU and GPU (graphics chip), not to mention too small amount of RAM memory? I’m just pondering this, because I’m not an expert in mobile chipsets.
The second Symbian Anna phone Nokia E6 is a very different case than X7. E6 has such a small screen and there’s a physical, albeit very small thumb-QWERTY keyboard that touch screen is more like a bonus, not a compulsory or even the primary way to interact with the device.
For current Symbian 3 users with Nokia C6-01, C7, E7 or N8, I’d say Symbian Anna is a needed update for all the Symbian 3 users, and will keep many of us with our Symbian smartphone for as long as there are new applications and games coming and support from new services.
Unfortunately this update is coming so late. It’s outrageous that I’ve had Nokia N8 now for over eight months, I’m still waiting for a software update that should make it work as a finished product. Last year Nokia executives were promising Nokia N8 will end talks about Nokia’s ability to make good software when it’s shipping. Many people have given up and changed to an Android smartphone or iPhone.
Many anticipated enhancements, such as tabbed browsing and more varied home screen widgets (different sizes) don’t come with this updates, but instead now we hear rumours about Symbian Belle, as reported by for example My Nokia Blog.
My love and hate relationship
For someone like, kind of an smartphone geek who has used Symbian since it’s Series 60 launch back in summer 2002, Symbian is still more familiar than Apple iOS which I find too limited, just a bunch of icons of apps, games and bookmarks, no active widgets etc. Windows Phone is very limited without multi-tasking and many popular apps, of which Spotify is the most important one for me.
I don’t believe Nokia will win any new Symbian users from Android, Blackberry, iOS or Windows Phone with Symbian Anna, but this can help them keep their current customers. Even though the operating system is inferior to competition in many ways, Nokia also has the best hardware in several areas too; N8 with an excellent camera and E7 with an excellent keyboard (the best one I’ve used in any smartphone). The build quality and materials are good in these high-end models too.
Of course, I’m sympathetic to Nokia’s Symbian developers and support people. It can’t be motivating to fix and improve the platform, when they have told it does not any future.
Initially I was planning to add lots of screenshots of Symbian 3 and Anna, but I noticed there already are lots of Symbian Anna reviews with screenshots. For example, check out the review at PhoneArena.com for comments and images.