History of Symbian and its Flight to Dead Pool

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.

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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 Screenshot of Nokia 7650Graphical 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.

Nokia 6600, S60 2nd EditionSymbian 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 Nokia N70 ME, S60 - 2nd Edition FP3system 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.

5800 XM, S60 - 5th Edition

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.
  • Symbian Anna - Home ScreenThe 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.

Symbian Anna

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.


  • Symbian powered mobile phones are only useful for specific trade of professionals who know how to use it effectively for most of people the concept of Symbian Mobile Platform is still very much new and sounds innovative

  • I am using since the launched Nokia 3210 then I start changing my phone as nokia is launching new cellphones to market my first symbian set was Nokia 6600 that was amazing operating systme designed running multiple application and development of applications was unbeatable gradually the Symbian OS was getting better and I have used 9 symbian phone Nokia was my passion but its over now because at the time nokia need to made some revolutionary measure for to develop a new interface as advanced users of nokia has been shifted to Android, iOS, etc. Nokia has lost the major share of advanced user but parallel they got new user as youngster and trend followers.

  • they issued an statement that they will support symbian till 2014 because of its large use base. and also pc world reported that may be nokia is already planning an exit for its microsoft partnership.

  • the main reason for losing share was that nokia didn’t developed symbian rapidly as other companies did. if you see symbian ver 8.1 and 9.1 you will barely notice some ui changes or anything else despite some improvements and functions. when symbian Anna was released every website stated that this is the update we were waiting for and symbian is now on its track again. I wish nokia will not abandon symbian.

  • Many of us does not know all mobile function. if we does not know what the function do then how we can use it. These are the problem of symbian phones. vendor must creates some awareness about how function would operate so they can remain in market or else they will die due to there own wait………

  • Welcome Android, bye bye slow buggy symbian a lot of symbian apps are not free.

    • symbian is not slow and not even buggy. have u used new symbian^3 devices ? i think no.

      • Shahid Saleem

        Well hah of course if you put fast CPU in new phone software will be faster.

        • but symbian is not a resource hunger as of android. it can do all of its work, play and records hd videos, you can connect it to your lcd, can play hd games. what else do you want ? and remember its processor is just 680 mhz with 256 mb ram. just imagine how fast it will be when it will run on 1ghz or 1ghz dual core processor which nokia will use in 3rd quarter of this year. and also you can do true multi tasking.

          • Shahid Saleem

            So can dos but i prefer windows.

            • Rameez Kakakhel

              Ohoh! Symbian vs Android is like DOS vs Windows? Symbian has more features built-in than Android just lacks an intuitive UI. So by your comparison DOS has more features than Windows & just lacks that fancy GUI.
              Are you OK Bro? What have you been smoking? Ghar mein tho sab khairyat hai na? :p
              .
              .
              I would have accepted your argument if you had said “I prefer aesthetics over performance”.

              • Shahid Saleem

                I meant Performance, not features. He wrote “resource hunger”, read above?? dos uses fewer resources than Windows, which means programs that run on dos will have access to more resources than if they ran on windows. Of course, programs have to do more of their own management, which windows gives for free.

                Better OS comparison, compare plan 9 vs windows. Sure, plan 9 runs way better on fewer resources, but who has apps for it? And is it user friendly like windows? No one can say that.

                It’s a stupid comparison, runs faster on slower hardware. In the long run, Symbian is as dead as dos is.

                • Rameez Kakakhel

                  @Bilal: Lolz! :P
                  .
                  @Shahid:
                  “I meant Performance, not features. He wrote “resource hunger”, read above?? dos uses fewer resources than Windows, which means programs that run on dos will have access to more resources than if they ran on windows.”
                  .
                  IF its just about performance than why are you preferring Windows over DOS. When according to you DOS offers better performance?? (“So can dos but i prefer windows.”)
                  Assuming your previous comparison (‘So can dos but i prefer windows’): Symbian = DOS & Android = Windows. Than:
                  “Symbian uses fewer resources by itself means more resources for programs than compared to Android.” Means they will run faster on Symbian. If it’s just about performance as you said above that it is, than Symbian wins and you still prefer a low performing OS. Do you work for Google?
                  .
                  Assuming Symbian != DOS & Android != Windows. Than:
                  Than the issue is dead as the main point we are discussing right here is your comparison of Symbian with DOS.
                  .
                  .
                  “Better OS comparison, compare plan 9 vs windows. Sure, plan 9 runs way better on fewer resources, but who has apps for it? And is it user friendly like windows? No one can say that.”
                  .
                  Aaahhh! Typical, typical, typical… So now it’s about Apps and GUI. When a few lines above you said you meant performance and not features. Typical to change the point when there is no counter argument.
                  .
                  “It’s a stupid comparison, runs faster on slower hardware.”
                  Yes, you proved it with your points…
                  .
                  “In the long run, Symbian is as dead as dos is.”
                  .
                  Yes, if you consider an OS dead if it is not used in Smartphones.
                  Than again it will be remembered by its 440 Million+ users worldwide and people like you who argue on a point and than call it stupid themselves. Have a nice time…

                  • Shahid Saleem

                    — IF its just about performance than why are you preferring Windows over DOS.

                    For the same reason I program in Ruby instead of FORTRAN. Again, above poster brought up performance (read him again – cpu and speed and ram) and I am pointing out that its NOT JUST ABOUT PERFORMANCE. No one cares if your car can go 42378443789423 km/hour if it only has 2 gallon petrol tank.

                    — When a few lines above you said you meant performance and not features.

                    Read again. Never started said anything about performance, I REPLIED mentioning perforamnce. I Quote what he said

                    — symbian is not slow and not even buggy. have u used new symbian^3 devices

                    He say symbian is not slow, and then mention symbian^3 devices. Are symbian^3 devices NEW or OLD? Are they faster than symbian 9 devices? Most people have symbian 9 (or older). Telling people to upgrade to get good performance…well. Like I says, he brought up perforamnce.

                    — Than again it will be remembered by its 440 Million+ users worldwide and people like you who argue on a point and than call it stupid themselves.

                    Old systems don’t always die…don’t you know how many people in INDUSTRIAL and FACTORY sectors still use FoxPro and DOS and handwritten assembly for SCADA control?

                    Old systems fade away slowly, and that is symbian’s fate.

                    Really can you JUSTIFY spending Rs 40k on a new Symbian device today? Sure you can definately justify it for an Rs 15k phone or less, but WILL YOU SPEND Rs 40k WITHOUT HESITATION on Symbian?

                    In a year or two, that Rs 40k limit will come down to Rs 30k or less.

                    • Rameez Kakakhel

                      Q: IF its just about performance than why are you preferring Windows over DOS.
                      Ans: For the same reason I program in Ruby instead of FORTRAN.
                      .
                      Q: Bhai Sahab Aap ko Aam (Mango) pasand hai ya Kaila (Banana)?
                      Ans: Ji mein tho Achar Goosth baray shauq se khata hon…
                      .
                      .
                      .
                      – I meant Performance, not features.
                      .
                      – He wrote “resource hunger”, read above?? dos uses fewer resources than Windows, which means programs that run on dos will have access to more resources than if they ran on windows.
                      .
                      – Again, above poster brought up performance (read him again – cpu and speed and ram) and I am pointing out that its NOT JUST ABOUT PERFORMANCE.
                      .
                      – Read again. Never started said anything about performance, I REPLIED mentioning perforamnce. I Quote what he said
                      .
                      – Telling people to upgrade to get good performance…well. Like I says, he brought up perforamnce.
                      .
                      .
                      .
                      Aik purana shayed 8th-9th k zamany ka shair yaad agaya is se:
                      ~ Khama Angusht-ba-Dandan k use Kya Likhye,
                      ~ Natqa Sir-ba-Gareban k use kya Kahye.
                      .
                      MEANS:
                      .
                      Mera Qalam danton mein ungli dabaye baita hai k use likhon tho kya likhon? Meri zuban (bolnay ki qoowat) apne gareban mein jank rahi hai k use kahon tho kya kahon?
                      .
                      Halank k yeh likka gaya tha k mehboob (jo k bari unique shay hai :p) us ki tareef mein kahon aur likkon kya. Par mein yahan dosra matlab lon ga and I will say:
                      Jo upar hai us k baad mein tumhen kahoon tho kya kahoon? Aur likkhon tho kya likhhon? :p

              • hahahaha nice one rameez.

  • Hamayun Khan

    Well If any one of u is companies news freak then u must remember that when launching N900 Nokia said that afterward meego will be our official smartphone operating system but then n900 was super flop. Now a days meego is known as maemo operating system.

    I think its now the end of symbian as what else could they introduce and they were stuck in it and that is now the effect symbian is loosing market share.

    • symbian is loosing market share because nokia didn’t developed it rapidly as Google and Apple did. Now they are putting symbian on its track with Anna update. And everyone loved its ui.

      • Hamayun Khan

        Well i’m not used to with anna Lets cc

  • salman

    symbian is a very good os. i heavly rely on emails and internet on mobile and my 1st choice is symbian. easy ,fast, reliable and with nokia it comes with excellent battery backup.

    symbian is going nowhere. only high end nokia smart phones will use windows instead of android.

    • yes ur right. they will just use symbian for mid range and high end and windows phone for just high end.

  • android would be preferred ……..