As of today, I will no longer be updating Symbian-Guru.com, and will be purchasing an Android-powered smartphone – my new Nexus One should arrive tomorrow. I’ve been a Nokia fanboy since 1999, and a Symbian fanboy since I got my Nokia 6620 in summer of 2004. Since then, I’ve personally owned 10+ different Symbian-powered smartphones, and have reviewed nearly every Symbian-powered smartphone that’s been released in the past 3 years or so. I’ve tried to use all of Nokia’s various products and services to the best of my ability, and I just can’t do it anymore.
I can’t continue to support a manufacturer who puts out such craptastic ‘flagships’ as the N97, and who expects me to use services that even most of Nokia’s own employees don’t use. I also can’t continue to support a mobile operating system platform that continually buries itself into oblivion by focusing on ‘openness’ while keeping a blind eye towards the obvious improvements that other open platforms have had for several iterations.
When I received my HTC Eris, I was 100% convinced that using Android would ruin Symbian for me. Ironically, the Eris showed me the ugly side of Android – the side that reveals itself on crappy processors paired with piss-poor amounts of RAM. In fact, it was the Nokia N97 – the company’s last real “flagship” Symbian device – that has completely and utterly killed Symbian for me. The Nokia N97, when announced, was supposed to be the epitome of Nokia’s high-end smartphone offerings. Nokia is the largest cellphone manufacturer in the world, with the largest worldwide marketshare on the planet. The Nseries was originally conceived to be the company’s top-notch smartphones – the best of the best, if you will. The N9x devices have always been the best of the Nseries, as well – the cream of the crop of the best of the best, and yet the N97 is quite possibly one of the most embarrassing devices ever to come out of the Finnish monster.
You may be saying, ‘well, sure, but the N8 is set to come out any month now, shouldn’t you give it a fighting chance?’ Yes, of course I *should*, but I won’t. When the Nokia N8 was first announced, I was dead convinced I would purchase one out of my own pocket. I started putting money aside, ready to even pre-order the N8 as soon as I could. However, the more I use the Nokia N97 as my primary device, the less I’ve been convinced that the N8 is going to be better. Time and time again, Nokia’s high-end smartphones have arrived with pathetic processors, stingy amounts of RAM, and small batteries – why should I put up another $500 of my own money ‘just to see’?
(image credit: The Nokia Blog)
If you recall, when the Nokia N97 was announced, we all drooled over it endlessly. We marveled at its features, its monstrous internal storage, sliding hinge assembly, 1500mAh battery, and more. We waited a disturbing 6 months for it to actually be available…only to actually get it. The launch firmware on the Nokia N97 was so bad, I sincerely hope that whoever gave it the A-OK to be released has been fired from Nokia. It took them another 6 months just to release a firmware that wasn’t rubbish, and now, the ‘flagship’ languishes behind other devices, frustrating owners like myself more and more each day.
Despite getting one that was manufactured much later than the initial batch, my Nokia N97 had the famed camera slider issue, where the ‘protective’ lens cover was actually damaging the lens it was designed to protect, flooding photos with the dual-LED flash and making them useless. The GPS, once strong, now loses signal every 10-15 seconds, making the free voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation offered by Ovi Maps a complete waste (not to mention the POI database in my area is abysmal). Don’t bother filling that 32GB of internal storage with music – it’ll bog the phone down so much you won’t be able to use it for a thing.
The pissant processor in the N97 is another aspect that completely kills the device. The phone is hardly able to keep up with the operating system’s multitasking capabilities, frequently running out of RAM and slowing to a crawl. Worse, the C: storage – where you install 3rd party applications and where the majority of Nokia’s own products install themselves – is so small it’s ridiculous. After installing Nokia Messaging for Email (which should have been pre-installed in such a flagship device), Ovi Maps’ latest update, and Ovi Contacts, I’m left with less than 10MB free. To add insult to injury, this 10MB tends to disappear on its own – I’m down to 2MB after being at 10MB a week or two ago. The only way to recover it is to hard-reset the phone, which I’ve done several times, and then painstakingly re-installing all your stuff. It still takes me close to an hour, and I would consider myself a pro.
After this experience with the Nokia N97, there’s simply no way I trust them to not screw up with the N8 – not enough for me to fork over $500 of my own money, at least. Sure, the N8 looks good on paper and in the first reviews – but then again, so did the N97, as I recall.
Symbian Foundation is also a factor in my decision to dump it all and go Android. Like Android, Symbian Foundation prides itself on being open and free – loudly and oftentimes obnoxiously boasting about how its source code is free for all – despite no one really caring about this, at least in my circle. The platform still languishes behind Android in simple features – being able to replace various pieces of the OS at the users’ whim, native threaded SMS/MMS, integrated IM, and a usable app marketplace, among others.
What’s worse is that developers of popular online services are completely ignoring Symbian, putting it further and further behind the other platforms. To date, there is still not an official client for Dropbox, Pandora, Last.FM (don’t get me wrong, Mobbler is one of the reasons I’ve stuck with Symbian, but it’s still not official), Foursquare, Twitter, and a host of others. Yes, there are solutions to this on Symbian, but nearly every other platform has an *official* client from these popular services – showing that the developers see those platforms as something their users would actually be using.
To be truthful, I’m also exhausted with trying to be a Nokia/Symbian fan in the U.S. There is absolutely zero marketing effort from either company in this market, and it’s not for lack of opportunities. For the past 2 years, the season finale of American Idol has been held at Nokia Live theatre in Los Angeles, California. I watched both finales, and did not *once* see a Nokia logo anywhere on the screen through the shows. In fact, the only mention of Nokia, at all, was when they said the name of the venue. No banners hanging anywhere, no ad space during commercials for the latest Nokia device from the U.S. carriers, nothing. It’s pathetic. While European carriers stumble over themselves to carry the latest Nokia devices, American carriers tend to pick up the lame-duck and low-end versions of Nokia’s phones. This is improving, but at a snail’s pace. Both Symbian and Nokia are dying brands in the U.S., if not already dead, and I’m sick and tired of banging the gong alone.
Most of my friends and family now carry Android-powered devices. My dad traded in his Nokia 6126 for a Motorola Backflip, and my mom, who previously used my N95-3 and 5800 XpressMusic, did as well. My little brother just picked up an HTC Hero, and my wife, who has carried the N81 8GB, N96, and E71, is now eyeing the HTC EVO 4G. As mentioned earlier, I’ve already sold off my N97 and ordered a Nexus One from Google.
The Nexus One has the fastest mobile processor available today, a whopping 512MB of RAM, and is consistently being updated to the latest version of the Android operating system. Its hardware also conforms to the requirements put in place for Android v3.0, surprisingly.
And so, after 3 years and 8 months, Symbian-Guru.com is officially done. Thanks to Nokia’s consistently piss-poor hardware choices and Symbian’s lack of ability to even remotely compete in terms of features, abilities, and overall experience, I’ve lost my passion for both. As mentioned, the site will remain, but it will not be updated any longer. To all of you whom I’ve met – both online and offline – it’s been easily the best 3 years and 8 months of my life. I’ll still be online in the usual places, and will still be actively blogging about mobile/tech/Internet at my personal site, http://www.RickyCadden.com. Of course I’ll still keep my eye on Nokia. If they can put out 2 flagship devices in a row that don’t completely suck, I may even give them another chance. I won’t hold my breath.
To Nokia, you guys are losing. Hard. Wake the hell up. Doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve been a huge Nokia fan since my 2nd cellphone, and I just can’t do it any longer. You guys aren’t competing like you once were, and everyone but you seems to see that. You used to build the world’s best smartphones, the world’s best cameras, the world’s best GPS units – you’ve lost pretty much all of that, and with nothing to show for it. You unveiled your Ovi vision over 2 years ago – I was there. Today, it’s still a complete mess. I have to log in every single time I visit the site – regardless of how many times I check the ‘remember me’ box. I spent 6 months (and about 3 hours at Nokia World 2009) trying to find someone to help me with Ovi Contacts on the web – no one knew who to point me to. You spent millions of dollars purchasing your Ovi pieces – Ovi Files, Ovi Share, and a host of other little companies – are you proud of what you ‘built’ with them? Most of your own employees (that I’ve talked to) don’t even use them, so why should I?
To Symbian, if you’d stop shouting about being open, you’d see that you’re losing too. Consumers are leaving and developers are staying away. Frankly, I think Symbian is better off than Nokia at this point. I’ll give you a hint: the first step is to consolidate. Your top three manufacturer partners (Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson) all have their own app stores – that’s three times the work for your developers to get their apps to consumers. Second, you guys need to find someone else to build your platform’s flagship devices – Nokia is actively and consistently blowing it for you. Nokia’s lost a few folks to HTC – see if you can get them to build you a platform flagship. The best operating system in the world can still be crippled by crappy hardware.
This was not an easy decision to make. To be honest, I’ve wanted to write this post for the past several months – I’ve had numerous conversations with Dotsisx about this, and we both kept saying ‘let’s give them some time, surely Nokia/Symbian is going to improve.’ Guess what – they didn’t, and it’s just….sad. Like watching your favorite sports team lose game after game after game. Eventually, even the most die-hard sports fans have to find a new team.
I do want to say, however, that Nokia is not without the talent to do some awesome things – nearly every single Nokian that I’ve met personally – save for a few – are the friendliest, nicest folks; eager to listen to (and better understand) feedback on any product at any time. Some of this feedback is immediately reinvested in future products, which is awesome. As I’ve attended Nokia World three times, every time has been awesome and reassuring to see the Nokians who are actually doing things and who get just as frustrated as I have with various things. Unfortunately, this awesome talent seems to be wasted somehow. I sincerely hope that the upper brass at Nokia starts listening to the folks who are putting in extra time and effort – these folks know what’s going on, and like I did originally, simply want to see Nokia succeed.
When I told Dotsisx that I had finally made the decision and started writing the post, she confessed that she was at the same point that I was, and put together her part. We’ll both be leaving the site, but she has her own reasons:
Well, what can I say after this articulate tirade from Ricky? How much can I add when The Symbian Guru himself gives up on Symbian, just like when a few days ago, a company called SymbianGuru (without the dash) started releasing software for Android. It should be a sign, nah, it should be a freaking glowing DANGER light if someone cares to notice.
Although my experience has been different from Ricky’s in some areas (I have a Nokia N97 Mini and don’t suffer the internal memory issues he has, I also live in Lebanon where Nokia is huge and does a lot of campaigns and marketing), Ricky sums up a lot of my frustrations with Nokia and Symbian right now. Much like him, I have been a fan and a power user from the moment I bought my Nokia 3250 XpressMusic 4 years ago. Since then, I’ve owned and trialed more Symbian/Nokia devices than I care to remember, but for posterity’s sake here’s the list: C5, E52, E55, E61i, E66, E71, E72, E75, E90, N81 8GB, N82, N85, N86 8MP, N93i, N95, N95 8GB, N96, N97, N97 Mini, X6, 5530 XM, 5730 XM, 5800 XM, 6210 Navigator, 6700 Slide, 6710 Navigator, 6720 Classic, and Sony Ericsson Satio. Woosh! I’ve evangelized Symbian and smartphones when people didn’t know what those weird words meant, I’ve shown friends around me how to use every single feature in their phone and I’ve convinced many colleagues in the Pharmacy and Medical field that they don’t need a PDA or a Windows Mobile to access relevant medical information, they can do it right from their Nokia with several applications especially MobiReader and its collection of medical eBooks.
Unfortunately, times have changed. The E71 is and will always be the absolute best phone I ever used and one that symbolizes the epitome of mobile technology for me. Since its release though, it has been a steady decline, and although I currently own and use a Nokia N97 Mini daily, I’m annoyed by many aspects of it, not the least of which is how Nokia’s own applications lag painfully on this rehash of a flagship that was supposed to fix some of the original N97′s shortcomings. Take Nokia Messaging for Email, IM or Social Networks. The UI is ugly, the features have been evolving at a snail’s pace, and I’m pretty convinced the team tests those apps on different hardware with 1GHz processors because no one in their right mind would release apps like that, not beta, not alpha, not even pre-alpha. I swear I could get a VISA, buy an airplane ticket, travel to Texas and talk to Ricky in person before Nokia Messaging for IM loads and opens a conversation with him on my N97 Mini. Another pet peeve I have is with the nonavailability of official Dropbox, IMDB, Facebook, Paypal, Ebay, Read It Later, … applications on Symbian. But honestly, how can you blame outside developers when Nokia themselves can’t seem to pull through a decent application?
This is nothing though compared to the absolute lack of any medical application on Symbian^1. There’s none. None whatsoever. Not decent, not half bad, not totally bad. NONE. Absolutely Zero. Zilch. Niente. How silly is that, when the Apple App Store has a complete category dedicated to Medical software?! On my E71, I used to use Skyscape apps as well as MobiReader for my 200$ bought medical ebooks. Now I no longer have those: Skyscape never ported their apps from S60 3rd to Symbian^1, and MobiReader went into oblivion. The one reason I fell in love with Symbian/Nokia in the first place is now the reason I hate it passionately. Ironic, isn’t it? Some pundits will argue that there’s a bookmark for that. I’m sorry, when I need my info instantly and my mobile connection is slow and costs a ton, there’s no bookmark for that, “there’s an app for that”. As it goes, I have been carrying an iPod Touch daily and am bedazzled by the amount of amazing quality and quantity of freeware medical software for it, let alone paid applications. The fact that huge companies like Epocrates, Lexi-Comp, Medscape, Vidal chose to ignore the Symbian platform speaks a ton about how bad things are for the ecosystem.
What good does it do me, as a user, if you have 40 or 50 or 60 % marketshare when you fail to gain any developer traction? There’s Qt, widgets, Python, an SDK, Java, d’oh. But where are the medical applications? Where are thespecialty apps that I once wrote about on S60 3rd but were never ported to Symbian^1? Where are the games that make me pop my eyes in awe? The N8 will get Angry Birds. Big whoop. It took me all of 2 days to finish all levels of Angry Birds on my iPod Touch and you know what? When I was done, I moved on to the next game. Could I say the same about the N8?
When I think back to 3 or 4 years ago, when the iPhone and Android were first launched, I remember how they were a joke for many Symbian users. But look at them now! Look how much has evolved and grown in those two, software and feature-wise as well as ecosystem-wise. Four years ago, I had a long list of arguments to use when friends told me they’re getting an iPhone. But year after year, that list grew smaller. Now I just stand there and nod, knowing that there’s nothing I can argue with. The mobile space has seen a mind-blowing acceleration, hugely thanks to the iPhone, and meanwhile, Symbian and Nokia have stayed the same. I have now come to expect that whatever feature is still missing from Android/iOS will probably be added soon in a future firmware update. I wish I could have the same faith and certainty about Symbian.
I’m pretty sure these words will surprise if not astonish many of you who know how much of a Symbian faithful I am. Right now, I honestly don’t know where I stand exactly in regards to Symbian. The fact that I’m doubting my position is reason enough for me to stop writing here. I can’t evangelize a platform when I’m no longer 100% convinced myself: that would be hypocrisy and I’m not a hypocrite. (This is *precisely* my position, too – Ricky)
As I repeated many times, I love my iPod Touch but I’ll probably never buy an iPhone. There’s just so many hoops I have to go through to make it work like I want it to, thanks to Apple’s closed walled garden approach, and that’s not something I’m willing to go through with my main phone. I don’t like the touchscreen-only form factor and I’m not wow’ed by the eye candy of the OS either, but I can definitely see the appeal of iOS thanks to that ever-growing App Store. So for now, I am locked to Symbian for a couple more years mainly thanks to the lack of any decent mobile data service in Lebanon and Symbian giving me full control over data consumption, but my heart is no longer in it. I am currently actively seeking and drooling over any Android device, and I know that despite the data consumption issue, if I get an Android with a slide-out qwerty, it’ll be the end of Symbian and Nokia for me.
On a personal level, now, it’s time to move on. Those who have followed me on Twitter know that I have been actively seeking a location to open my own pharmacy. I finally found it. I’m moving from being an employee to becoming my own boss with my own little business. I’ve also gone back to writing. I used to be an amateur English/French writer/poet before I started blogging and I miss it a lot. I’ve recently taken back my (virtual) pen and will see if I decide to start self-publishing some of my work. I guess God closes a door and opens a window. Those are two amazingly big windows!
But this isn’t a farewell. You know me, you know I’ll always be passionate about mobile and tech. It’s not as much as I’m quitting Symbian, it’s more like I’m quitting being a Symbian advocate, and exclusively a Symbian fan. If you need your Dotsisx fix, I’ll still be around on Twitter as @khouryrt, on FoneArena where I’ve been contributing galleries, reviews and opinions for the past year and a half and where I’ll continue writing whatever floats my boat, be it Symbian, iOS or Android, on NokiaLB which tackles Nokia news (not just Symbian, ie let’s cross our fingers for Meego) with a slight twist on Lebanon and the MiddleEast, as well as my personal DotsisxBlog. I hope to see you there.
I just went back and re-read the title of this post “Symbian-Guru Is Over”. It saddens me that we have come to this, but Ricky and I have been discussing it for a long time, yet we never got past the “we should close it” talking stage, always digging in and finding a reason to keep the passion flowing. It’s staggering that we now finally decided to sit down and write our final post. It had to be done and although it was hard at first, I’ve now come to terms with the decision. I was a Symbian-Guru reader and fan long before I became a writer here, 2 and a half years ago. I love the community, I love how strongly opinionated you, our readers, are, how many times you’ve set my facts straight or argued with my point of view. I love the people I got to meet through Symbian-Guru, be it passionate Symbian fans, other bloggers, or Nokia employees, I cherish the moments and opportunities that have risen since I joined the site and the tons of things I learned that can’t be put on paper and that are related to Symbian but that stretch well beyond Symbian. It’s time to close this chapter and hand the torch to all the new and passionate bloggers out there who still love Symbian and Nokia dearly.
We both also want to thank the various contributors to the site over the years – Wampyre, who has stuck with us the longest, but also PseudoFinn, Ollywompus, SchawlaF, and yes, even Gorilla. We couldn’t have done it without ya’ll.