World’s most widely used operating system, till date, Symbian evolved from EPOC, a 22 years old term, and is now being planned to put into dead pool, for good.
Back in time, Psion developed a family of graphical operating systems for portable devices by the name of EPOC back in late 1980’s. EPOC name was derived from epoch meaning ‘The beginning of a distinctive period in the history of someone or something’ or the beginning of an era.
The EPOC32 a 32bit graphical multitasking OS developed by Psion in 1997 under the codename ‘Protea’ resulted in the formation of Symbian Limited in June 1998 together with Nokia, Ericsson & Motorola. Consequently the OS EPOC was renamed to Symbian Operating System.
In 2000 Ericsson released the first ever Symbian handset the R380, a touchscreen phone, based on Symbian OS 5.1.
The R380 user interface (Source: Sony Ericsson)
And form here the new era began, with multiple revisions for Symbian.
Symbian OS 6.0 also called ER6 (EPOC Release 6, previous release was 5) was released in 2001.
EPOC32 supported the development of separate Graphical User Interface (GUI’s) & the same functionality was ported to Symbian, this resulted in three major User Interfaces being developed; S60 by Nokia, UIQ by Motorola & Sony Ericsson & MOAP(S) by NTT DoCoMo.
From this version on users had the ability to install applications on their phones. The first phone to ship with the S60 UI & Symbian OS 6.1 was the Nokia 7650; it was the first 2.5G phone and had a camera & light sensor.
Some of the features of Symbian OS 6 included Bluetooth, IrDA & External memory support, XHTML, MMS, Java MIDP 1.0, SMTP, IMAP4, and POP3 capabilities.
Symbian OS 7.0 was released in 2003; it added support for Java MIDP 2.0. Besides that the ability to have multiple simultaneous network connections was added (browsing & emailing at the same time) & the ability to select a network connection based on quality of service.
Multimedia performance was also improved with support for multi-threaded media applications e.g. Games, Media Players.
Around 1.18 million Symbian phones were shipped in Q1 2003 compared to 2 million shipped in 2002 as a whole.
Nokia’s user interface S60 2nd Edition and 2nd Edition feature pack 1 (FP1) were based on this version.
Symbian OS 8.0 was released in 2004. At that time phones normally had two processors/chips, one to handle the communications and the other to handle the operating system and user data or had two operating systems, one for the radio part and the other handled user’s data.
Symbian 8.0 was capable of handling both by itself.
This helped reduce the cost of Symbian handsets & made it the first major Mobile phone OS to boast this capability.
Other improvements included enhanced multimedia capabilities, better Java support, OpenGL ES & SDIO (meaning SD memory expansion & support for technologies like DVB-H & fingerprint recognition).
Nokia’s first N-Series phone the N90 is based on version 8.1. S60 2nd Edition FP2 and FP3 were based on version 8.0 & 8.1.
Symbian OS 9.1 was release in early 2005 but version 9.0 was not intended for general public.
In version 9.1 and consequent upgrades more security features were added. Other enhancements include HSDPA and built-in WiFi & Bluetooth 2.0 support, ability to receive IP calls over WiFi.
Version 9.4 added significant performance improvements.
S60 3rd Edition was based on 9.1, 3rd Edition FP1 on 9.2 & FP2 on 9.3. S60 5th Edition or Symbian^1 (S^1) is based on version 9.4.
Symbian OS 9.5 is the latest version of the Symbian operating system series, announced March 2007. It requires 20-30% fewer RAM & reduced startup time for OS & applications.
Some more facts:
- The Symbian^3 (S^3) user interface was announced in February 2010.
- The Symbian Platform was created with code contributed by Symbian Ltd. (the makers of Symbian OS), Nokia (it’s S60 UI), NTT DoCoMo & Sony Ericsson.
- In 2008 Nokia bought Symbian Ltd. becoming the major contributor of code to the Symbian Platform.
- The Symbian Foundation was launched in April 2009 with the objective to make Symbian open source.
- In November 2010 Nokia took responsibility of the Symbian platform as the Foundation announced that it will just be a licensing body with no role in the development activities.
With the launch of Nokia X7 and E6 came the new version of the Symbian called Anna.
According to vision mobile approx. 446 million Symbian OS phones have been shipped as of H2 2010. The future of the OS that lived with us all these years & powered the best media phones of its time is unknown as Nokia has decided to partner with Microsoft to use Windows as base OS for its smartphones.