Is Symbian a bad OS?

I’ve been debating posting this article since I first read it this morning. My main issue is that the author has yet to say one negative thing about the company he loves: Apple. He has a lot to say about everyone else, a whole lot, but I’ve yet to see him critique the company that wins his heart. To me, that shows blind faith. Especially since he is defending a phone that doesn’t even exist yet.

I’m the polar opposite of this guy. I realize that there are a lot of people saying good things about Nokia. Why should I join that party? I like pointing out defects because I think that’s the only way a company can grow. I love Nokia, but at the same time I greatly enjoy exposing what companies like Apple, Sony, Motorola, HTC, etc. are doing well. It is beneficial to keep a watchful eye on the competition, and a critical eye on yourself when looking in the mirror.

Without further hesitation, here is the introduction of his piece:

Responding to Origins: Why the iPhone is ARM, and isn’t Symbian,
sources from Sweden and Finland offer a revealing look inside Symbian
development and how the OS is regarded at Nokia, and what that means
for development on the iPhone.

One developer writes, “In most regards, Symbian’s reputation as a modern, robust, stable and advanced OS for smartphones is not well deserved. Sure, Symbian works, it has a very long feature list, and it’s probably even the best smartphone OS available today.  But it’s mostly because the competition is pathetic than anything else.

“I have a done several Symbian projects and have a thorough knowledge and low-level understanding of Symbian. And I just hate it. It’s a very bad and uninspiring OS even from a programmers point of view.”

Nokia’s POS/OS

Sources close to Nokia say that Symbian is secretly regarded inside the company–even among high level senior executives–as a "peace-of-shit-OS," explaining that “Finnish people usually have a very coarse language.”

A Symbian developer explains, “Nokia is more or less stuck with Symbian since it doesn’t have the competence nor the time to make a new OS from the ground up. Its only alternative, in practice, is to go Linux, which it is of course experimenting with, but it’s still not an easy path to go.

Read the rest at: Roughly Drafted

There is certainly going to be a little regret in me after I hit the publish button. The only reason I’m doing it is because I know several Symbian developers read this blog, and I would like to hear their opinion.

The "sources" that Roughly Drafted talks about don’t have a name.

Roland says he is waiting on Nokia’s response to this article. To be frank with you Roland, I think Nokia isn’t even going to blink at something that yet another Apple zealot has to say about a phone that hasn’t shipped, all the while insulting every other platform on the market right now.

  • ragz

    dude ur totally rt….. i mean yeah NOKIA isnt perfect but nothing ever is, u learn frm ur mistakes & u improve on ur innovations, thts how it works & Nokia has done tht time & time again esp with the new Nseries, i hate apple nuts, i mean cmon, be resonable, like u said, for all their ranting they’ve just got blind faith which seems to justify them but we all know better… & dont get me started on the iphone or the blame game…… sheesh, must be anything for a buck….

  • Tommi Vilkamo

    So the point was that developing native applications on top of Symbian is difficult? Well, I don’t want to comment on that, but with Symbian/S60, at least you *can* build those applications in the first place 🙂

  • romeo26

    this is a poor excuse of an article…used to bash on one of the top mobile phone makers. first of all the ipda isnt even ready yet, common it was underglass at CES, while the n95 the day it was announced they had working displays of it at open studio! that may say something! he thinks that the osx on the ipda is soo good just cuse its made from a computer company! plus i dont get that whole singed app section, i think no matter what happens s60 will have way more apps than osx.

    sent him an email!!

  • Ricky Cadden

    The question that begs to be asked, though, is who matters more, developers or consumers? Sure, it may be difficult and nasty for a developer to make a Symbian app, but when presented with the 4-5 smartphone OS on the market right now (Symbian, WinMo, Palm, Blackberry, Linux), which would the general consumer prefer?

    I think that’s the true debate. I’ve never had a Palm device, nor a Blackberry. I have owned three WinMo phones (and a few PDAs) in my life, both touchscreen and non-touchscreen, and I personally found it dang near unusable as a phone. I’d take Symbian over anything else, and I’ve converted several of my friends over, as well. Most came from a RAZR or something similar, and when given the Symbian phone, were in disbelief that they could do so much, and so easily, with little coaching/help from me.

  • Mosotho


    I have not bothered to read the article, I love my E61, sure it has flaws, but then so does my Jack Russell. For me, the upside is the potential, there is very little opportunity to work the mobile platform where I live, but my phone is useful to me in amazing ways. I have owned a Treo, its not even close. I hate the number of click throughs to get to some apps, but I marvel at what Nokia have been able to put in such a small device, my SO’s N80 seems to be a device from another planet. I have suggestion on improvements for both, but they offer so much already. My suggestions, until they are fleshed out are just that my own private wishlist. My suggestion is, instead of complaining, focus on what you want improved, articulate clearly and it will be improved. Just my tuppence.

  • Roland Tanglao

    You are absolutely right Stefan; I don’t *really* expect Nokia to respond to criticism from anonymous sources and I love Roughly Drafted’s stuff but he doesn’t criticize Apple at all. For the record I like Apple and Nokia’s stuff but neither are perfect and like you I critize things in the hope they get better.

  • Stefan Constantinescu

    My sarcasm meter was probably broken when I read your article, but it is nice to know you have an open mind and accept that nothing will ever be perfect.

    I especially want to thank you for giving Steven that N73, his review is great!

  • JC

    Thanks to RCadden for pointing this out to me… Just my .02 on the article. I’m going to paste in what I wrote on another forum earlier… again, just my opinions.

    First of all, the author is an out and out Apple apologist. However, that doesn’t mean all of what he said is wrong.

    After 9 years of coding, I’ve installed more IDEs than I can remember. Some have sucked, some have been great. But after 2 evenings of fiddling with the Nokia S60 IDEs and emulators, I just gave up. I have never, ever come across a more poorly documented and badly supported development environment than that which is offered by Nokia. And that includes some of the most bizarre freeware and open source IDEs… even they’re better than what Nokia offers.

    There’s just not enough support, and the tool just suck, when it comes to coding on S60. The gap between what the Windows phones offer, and what Nokia offers on S60 is closing way too fast.

    For me, Nokia is too busy trying to hit homeruns, and not busy enough taking care of the fundamentals. I imagine that most Nokia meetings are a giant wankfest where terms like ‘Signed Applications’, ‘CSS Compliant Browser based on Safari’, and ‘Online Music Store’ are tossed about… but the fundamentals are being ignored.

    Give me an example you say… Surely. How could Nokia foist the Messaging application on phones like the E61/2. Surely for a phone released in 2006 they’d realize that people are going to want to save unknown attachments to those SD cards for apps that the phone won’t handle but a laptop will. Surely they’d make it easier to handle multiple accounts. Surely… you jest. They did not. Instead they spent how many hours and how much money working on online music stores (which will irritate carriers) and on an absolutely useless webbrowser (because everyone wants to scroll in 4 directions on a sub 3″ screen.


    I say all this as a S60 user. I’ve had multiple S60 phones. I don’t want to give them up, but unless the management at Nokia collectively pull their craniums out of their rectums, I think the future of S60 is dim.

  • Dimilaz

    apple generation seems to me very ignorant, but I think if they write about nokia and sysmbian that is because they are jealous.

  • Brendan

    This statement is very revealing : “Nokia is more or less stuck with Symbian since it doesn’t have the competence nor the time to make a new OS from the ground up.”

    Why do they complain about the ‘poor’ quality of Symbian and then admit straight away that they don’t have the competence to create their own OS? And why is is that they “don’t have the time” when a small(ish) company like Symbian can write and maintain the most feature rich smartphone OS available.

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