Symbian^3, the latest version of Nokia’s smartphone operating system, was officially completed on June 17th. The next stage before we actually get the phones involves tweaking and testing its settings to make sure it works optimally with the hardware on the forthcoming Nokia N8 and the family of Symbian^3 devices that will follow it. The Symbian Foundation has announced that there are more than 250 new features in this latest release. But which ones are going to make the most difference to you? Read on to find out more.
All the new features are documented at the Forum Nokia Library, but unless you’re technically inclined, it doesn’t make for a light read. We’ve pulled out some of the top-line features here.
Symbian’s graphics have been turbo-charged with a new graphics architecture, incorporating hardware acceleration and faster software. This means that the interface will be quick and responsive, and also incorporates the stylistic flourishes – like kinetic scrolling – that make a big difference when you’re showing your phone to other people. The whole interface is programmable, too, so we can expect a wealth of third-party themes and applications allowing everyone to make their phone unique.
The Symbian^3 UI now scrolls with a swipe, you can pinch to zoom and tap to select. The interface also supports multitouch, which typically means that you can type faster on a virtual keyboard, or perform more complex actions such as holding a virtual ’shift’ key and then typing a letter. It should spell some interesting new options for games developers as well.
If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll already know that Symbian^3 supports output to HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) for showing photos or videos on televisions. If your video is suitably encoded, then you can also takes advantage of Dolby Digital Audio. More modestly, but no less importantly, the music player includes a home page widget for faster control of your current song list. The new Fusion Player replaces the old Media Player and Video Center applications and controls both stored and streaming video.
Symbian has always allowed for true multitasking. In Symbian^3, this gets better than ever. Memory management has been improved to allow more apps to run without running out of space and there is an ‘Alt-Tab’ style task switcher to move between the applications you’ve got open.
Location Location Location
Symbian^3 introduces a host of new technical protocols for making better use of location information. In particular, a service called ‘Here and Now’ offers easy to use web services related to the user’s current location. This could allow the development of advanced applications that will provide information relevant to where you are without you needing to supply extra information.
The Symbian OS has a new networking architecture that “significantly improves data flow performance” and makes it easier for service providers to create networking extras such as firewalls and hotspot login apps. One-Click Connectivity makes selecting and connecting to access points a lot smoother.
Developments for Developers
Symbian^3 comes with Qt installed and will be a standard development environment for Symbian releases going forward. This makes it easier to write apps that will work across all the devices in the family and the smart installer feature will load any necessary libraries onto users’ phones, reducing file sizes and support headaches. In addition, the Symbian Web runtime allows developers to create Web 2.0 style applications that interact with your device’s core functions, such as the camera and address book.