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Why this Symbian user is looking at Android for his future

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ajack
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PostPosted: Wednesday, 01.Sep.2010 08:07    Post subject: Why this Symbian user is looking at Android for his future   Reply with quote   

Hi all,

I posted this in my Facebook Notes and thought I'd share my thought with you guys. Feel free to tell me what you think...

--------------

This is my personal opinion about the smartphone market from a person who has been a Ericsson / Sony Ericsson user for the last 14 years of which the last 10 years, was a smartphone user (R380s in 2000).

Since the P800 came out in 2002, I was excited about Symbian as it was a platform that was developed with a smartphone in mind and had reasonable battery life unlike it's competitors (Windows CE) and had a proper interface since the UIQ2 platform was stylus driven unlike Nokia's S60 which used the keypad for all navigation. That is why you'll find UIQ could support foreign languages (especially non-Romanised inputs) better than the S60 ever could (Nokia tried a few interfaces times and ended up using UIQ2 for the Chinese markets).

I was also involved in developing SMan for the UIQ2 platform (worked with Droll aka Yip Je Sum) and continuously updated SMan until Sony Ericsson adopted UIQ3 when they introduced the M600. Working on the UIQ2 platform was very rewarding. We could use any libraries we wanted and put the features into SMan and simply release it for everyone and anyone to use. When UIQ3 was introduced, Symbian decided that all applications using more than graphics, sound and input had to be signed. SMan being a system utility was severely limited because a lot of the libraries it needed to used needed the application to be signed before it could be installed.

When UIQ3 came out, I noticed a sharp drop in the already small spool of UIQ developers and strongly believe the Symbian signed programme to be the main culprit. This, along with the fact that only much later was a complete, free SDK made available to the homebrew and freeware community to use for their productions.

When Nokia decided to buy up all the Symbian shareholders, the deathly fate of UIQ was already sealed. Nokia having championed the S60 platform naturally wanted to maintain compatibility when SF^1 (and future products) came out and the investment Sony Ericsson and Motorola had in UIQ simply went up in smokes.

During the Symbian buyout by Nokia, Apple with their iPhone and Google's Android started to appear in the market. Having no legacy ecosystems and having "learnt from other people's mistakes". These platforms started to attack the smartphone markets, little by little, and ever growing in market share.

Microsoft, wanting to dominate the smartphone market the same way they did the desktop have tried time and time again, rebranding their mobile Windows from Windows CE, to Pocket PC with minimal success; and now as Windows Mobile 7 which has yet to be launched.

MeeGo has a different problem. It is a complete and fantastic phone but is currently only produced by Nokia and there is only one model at this time (N900).

Sony Ericsson, with the demise of the UIQ platform, decided to use Nokia's S60 platform starting with the Satio (and Vivaz/Vivaz Pro) and somewhere in that time decided to abandon Symbian altogether to focus on Android. Nokia, being the proud owner of the Symbian OS (though they did make it open source, they still control which direction Symbian takes in the future) has also decided to focus on MeeGo making Symbian the neglected child of Nokia.

With the onslaught of iOS (Apple) and Android (Google); and the rather weak Pocket PC (Microsoft), Symbian releases SF^1 which is the first platform from the now open sourced, Symbian Foundation. SF^1 will constantly be updated and evolving to SF^2 and SF^3 (current roadmap, with 6 month update cycles) and each promising to be backward compatible starting with S60v5 (the platform just before SF^1).

Sony Ericsson has also been slow or poor in supporting the phones they’ve already released. The whole UIQ3 platform support ended with many bugs documented by users to the extent that users had to petition Sony Ericsson to release one final update (after they stopped support) with a list of problems which they consider major “show stoppers”. Also, the S60v5 platform adopted by Sony Ericsson in their implementation is full of bugs. Yet, to date has only seen 2 firmware updates for Satio and one for the Vivaz. The constant replies users hear from Sony Ericsson when complaining is "Operators have informed us that they are happy with current firmware" or something to that effect. Shouldn’t user experience be more important than operators?

It scares me that Sony Ericsson does not bother to update their existing smartphones whenever bugs are found or reported and they do not bother to update their products when major upgrades are available. Even with the Android platform, Sony Ericsson is the last to upgrade the OS in their products and usually only after complains from users. With other manufacturers constantly upgrading their smartphones OSes, mostly within a month or two of availability of the new OS, Sony Ericsson seems to do it half heartedly. What more can we expect from other platforms like Symbian or PocketPC? In Symbian's case, they should have unlocked the UIQ3 platforms so others can modify and release newer builds, mods and ports for the platform since this is already being done with Windows and Android.

With the S60v5 platform (Satio, Vivaz), all Sony Ericsson needs to do is (for now), simply sign the QT runtime libraries Nokia released for that platform and to my understanding, these users can then run SF^1 (and SF^2 and SF^3) software. Even then, they should upgrade their users smartphones whenever SF (Symbian Foundation) gets upgraded (like their Android platform, since both platforms are free and open sourced).

The early-2000 "look and feel" of the current SF interface makes this platform even less attractive to users who are constantly seeing iPhone and Android advertisements. Even though Symbian is still the largest user base of all smartphones in the market, tech journals always talk and compare iOS and Android only.

I love the UIQ3 platform so much, I've purchased a few Sony Ericsson P1i units as backup should my existing P1i die on me. That said, I will next switch to the Android platform and it saddens me to say that I am not looking at Sony Ericsson anymore for my future mobile needs.

Do tell me what you think about my article and if there are any errors in them. There, I feel better now.
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ph
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PostPosted: Wednesday, 01.Sep.2010 14:06    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Interesting read...

Well, from my viewpoint I do confirm that the most interesting times I have ever had with smartphones was the time of P910 and P1i. Compared to actually all the other phones. The second thing I was most exited about (sorry Ajack Wink ), was launch of Gdesk app.

What is happening today - the commercial projects like Android and iOS are going into heavy positive turnover, and projects that you described are either completely dead or are in total strategic confusion IMHO.


Last edited by ph on Wednesday, 01.Sep.2010 21:11; edited 1 time in total
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Michal Jerz
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PostPosted: Wednesday, 01.Sep.2010 19:51    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

ajack,

That UIQ3 is dead and that S60 is hopeless is not a big news Wink

However, with Maemo/Meego it is (at least partially) different. Yes, the N900 is the only Maemo phone at the moment, but pictures of the N9 have already leaked, and they are true. Intel is working on their own Meego handset, too. So in Q4 2010 or Q1 2011 things will look different.

Regarding the arguments you rised, Maemo/Meego is as open as UIQ2, with no restrictions, no certifications, etc. For a developer it is a really great platform.

And because Meego is a joint effort of Nokia and Intel, chances are that Nokia will not be able to scr*w it up. I mean they may scr*w up with their handset and support for it, but not with the whole platform that's also owned and controlled by Intel.

I've seen Intel putting lots of effort into the Meego platform, both for tablets and smartphones. And that's a good sign that things with Meego will go the right way. Even if you get disappointed with Nokia's Meego-based devices or support for them, you'll be able to switch to Intel's Meego smartphone, within the same platform... So it's pretty much like Android in this regard.
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krischik
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PostPosted: Sunday, 19.Sep.2010 12:02    Post subject: Re: Why this Symbian user is looking at Android for his futu   Reply with quote   

ajack wrote:
That said, I will next switch to the Android platform and it saddens me to say that I am not looking at Sony Ericsson anymore for my future mobile needs.


Well, Ajack, that took you long. I had the very same toughs as you have six month ago. But I did not buy a backup P1i - I bought a Nexus-One and never looked back.

The Nexus-One is a great phone, get's all the update and is absolutely super for developers.

Installing the tool chain only takes a 10th of the time you need to install a Symbian tool chain. Better documentation. Nice API. You can self sign your applications.

And last not least: I sell in one day more Android apps then I sell (the same) Symbian Apps in a month. And that is sell not give away gratis.

And since you are into system (as opposed to application) programming: There is a C/C++ tool chain kit as well.

Martin

PS: The Nexus-Oen is is still sold to developers Wink.
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 09:46    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

The Qt based "Direct UI" plans for Symbian^4 and MeeGo will probably also go a long way making it mostly irrelevant for most normal users whether the underlying OS is Symbian or Linux (MeeGo). That is, if they when they're ready, look and feel more or less the same, and are also more or less the same for the regular app developer.
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krischik
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 11:15    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

N/A wrote:
mostly irrelevant for most normal users whether the underlying OS is Symbian or Linux (MeeGo).


It will be relevant for the User if the Appl the want or need is not available for there device.

And it is also not irrelevant for the developer either. Yes he/she might be able to share a lot if not all of the code but still:


  • Compile the application twice.
  • Link the application twice
  • Test the application twice.
  • Upload the application twice to the (Ovi-)Store.


Still a lot of extra work so don't expect all the Qt software being available for both operating systems. Especial not the gratis software. Why would a developer go through all that trouble without being paid for the effort?
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BentL
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 16:07    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

The Nokia Qt SDK 1.0.1 will take care of a lot of details with compiling/linking/packaging of the same application for several Qt based platforms. In future versions, this will probably also include uploading the application in its different versions to Ovi Store.

--
Bent Laursen
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 18:50    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

krischik wrote:
Yes he/she might be able to share a lot if not all of the code but still:




Compile the application twice.

Link the application twice

Test the application twice.

Upload the application twice to the (Ovi-)Store.



Still a lot of extra work so don't expect all the Qt software being available for both operating systems.


No offense, but if you think 3 of those 4 points are even remotely an issue, you're clearly not a developer. Toolchains can easily handle compiling and linking (which are technically distinct steps, but are almost always done at the same time), and in the future could even handle update uploads. While the initial submission would need to be done twice, it's quite feasible for nokia to simply make it a joint submission process, and you simply add different versions for each OS, as a single submission.

The only valid point you raise is testing. But using a proper test harness (which last I checked Qt supports quite well) alleviates this immensely. Assuming, of course, you are decent at writing test cases. Testing is by far the least glamorous, but most important part of development. Also the part that is almost always ignored.

And given how robust the Qt toolkit is, the only parts that might result in disparate behavior are application specific code that makes no use of the Qt framework. Most of which can be avoided, with the exception of niche code -- numerical routines, special handling functions, etc. Qt offers control flow constructs, object serialization, string processing functions, etc. Basically many of the places where you might want specialized code, Qt offers a platform agnostic option which you can use.
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krischik
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 19:21    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

@BentL, dmcgrath: what you say is all very well for developers who are payed for there work. If you pay me I create the nifties build systems and most extensive test harnesses you can imagine.

But a working eco system these days need a good balance between payed and gratis software.

So tell my: why should a developer working gratis put the extra effort in to support a device he/she does not even own?
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PostPosted: Monday, 20.Sep.2010 22:14    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Well, as someone who writes code on a regular basis, for free, I can tell you I spend the most time on test cases. I have contributions in both Boost and MPI. Both are open source, both are free. Both are deployed on a LOT of platforms I neither own nor will ever touch.

Properly written code, with proper test cases, will just work. Free or paid, it's how I write code.

And, the build system already exists. Any developer worth anything is using one already, be it make, qmake, VS, xcode, whatever. And in all of these cases, a new target is a click or a file edit away. The same is true of most test harnesses. If you're using one, it's easy to add new tests/platforms to it.

If you aren't using either a build system or a test harness, you're likely just a hobby developer, and you really will only release on devices you own. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. But many of the devs who write gratis software also write pay software, and tend to use the same environment to write both types of software.

It's all just about habits and motivations. When I teach people C++ (for the past 5 years at university level), I attempt to instill good habits, foremost among them is proper testing. A lot of other instructors at other institutions do the same thing. It's that important. Otherwise, how do you even know if your code does what you think it does?
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PostPosted: Tuesday, 21.Sep.2010 08:52    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

@dmcgrath: That's just what I said.

But lets have an example instead of theorising possibilities.

Recently it came to my attention that my Android Apps won't properly work with QVGA screens. I could have fixed it but I decided that there are more exiting things to do (and program) then spending hours fine tuning the display and testing in the (slow as molasses) emulator for a probably tiny customer group.

So I went for:

Code:

  <supports-screens
    …
    android:smallScreens="false"
  ></supports-screens>


So am I now an unprofessional or evil developer because I decided not to supply a specific customer group?

Martin

If you are interested in what am I actually developing in my spare time:

http://my.opera.com/HP-45
http://my.opera.com/fx-602p
http://my.opera.com/fx-603p
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PostPosted: Sunday, 03.Oct.2010 07:56    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

@Ajack,

I do feel your pain, especially you're well versed in the ins and outs of the UIQ ..

Am still watching this forum from time to time, but currently am very busy with work and no change in mobile phone yet.

Still have my m600 and my last acquisition: TyTn II. Am thinking of passing on my m600 while it still works well so that it can be useful for someone, but I also want that someone really care and appreciate it like I do. Daily I don't actively using it, so I'm afraid it might collect dust in my drawer .. Confused
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ajack
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PostPosted: Wednesday, 13.Oct.2010 08:25    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

@all:

After all than ranting... Droll convinced me on the power of the Nokia N900... After much thought on this (a whole 10 minutes), I decided that the Android was incomplete and went for a full linux (debian) setup. I'll still come here once in a while (the UIQ3 section) but you'll most probably find me in the Maemo section of this site.

See you guys there (or not!)... Wink
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Michal Jerz
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PostPosted: Wednesday, 13.Oct.2010 12:16    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

ajack,

Good decision! I'm sure you won't regret it. Maemo is a great OS and the N900 is a very good device, and with some small tweaks like Swappolube and a bit of overclocking it gets nearly perfect.
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ajack
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PostPosted: Friday, 29.Oct.2010 05:03    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

@Michal: I totally agree! Smile
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