If you are one of the lucky few to have the new Symbian Anna on your Symbian^3 phones get ready to wave it goodbye. Today Nokia officially announced Belle, the next version of the Symbian OS today. Nokia also announced three new phones that will come with Belle and will be available "this quarter", or sometime in the next six weeks.
Belle will also be delivered to the existing Symbian^3 devices (N8, E6, E7, C6-01, C7 and X7)) but that update won't begin rolling out until sometime in the fourth quarter. If this update is typical that means that it will be well into 2012 before all eligible devices get the new OS.
Anna brought us a new browser and email client and made the Symbian UI much more responsive. Belle is the long awaited Symbian user interface overhaul (see the UI walk through video above. Belle highlights include:
- Free-form, resizable, live widgets: there are now five sizes of widgets. The inflexible four item shortcut or launcher widget is gone. Each application can have its own launcher widget just like in Android or iOS.
- More homescreens: Belle has five, up from three in previous versions.
- Improved status bar: Like Android, the top status bar now displays notification icons for new emails, messages, calendar alarms, missed calls, etc.. The status bar stays visible in applications so you never miss an important alert.
- Notifications Drawer: Dragging down on the status bar opens a notifications drawer with details about current notifications. Tapping a notification in the drawer opens the corresponding app if applicable.
- Lock screen enhancements: the Belle lock screen will indicate missed calls, messages in your inbox and more. Plus you can add a coloured wallpaper to the lock screen.
- New bundled Microsoft apps: including Lync (business IM, Microsoft Communicator's successor), Sharepoint, OneNote, Exchange ActiveSync and PowerPoint Broadcaster.
- Enhanced NFC support: Tap to share pictures, pair with Bluetooth accessories, and check-in.
- Visual multitasking: The task switcher now shows larger live images of running apps.
The new phones all have EdoF cameras and hardware performance enhancements, they are the:
- Nokia 701 - (center, above) which looks like an upgraded C7 with a new 3.5" IPS LCD ClearBlack display wiyh GorillaGlass which Nokia says is the brightest screen of any smartphone. Like the C7 it has an 8MP camera. Suggested retail price is €290 ($418).
- Nokia 700 - (right, above) The smallest and lightest of the three phones, the 700 has a 3.2" ClearBlack AMOLED Gorilla Glass screen and a 5 MP camera. It's Nokia's thinest and most eco-friendly smartphone. Suggested retail price is €270 ($389).
- Nokia 601 - (left, above) This affordable phone also has a 3.2" screen and 5 MP camera. However the 601's screen uses traditional LCD TFT technology rather than the ClearBlack AMOLED of the 700. The 601 emphases music with the loudest speaker of any Nokia smartphone and a built in FM antenna (no need to plug in headphones) It will sell for €180 ($260).
The most interesting thing about these new phones is that they appear (at least on paper) to be the fastest Symbian devices ever. All three feature a new 1 Ghz processor (up from 680 Mhz), faster (HSDPA Cat 10 - up to 14.4 MBps,) 3G radio, a graphics processor that's up to four times faster than the one in previous Symbian^3 phones and 512MB of RAM, twice as much as any other previous Symbian phone.
I'm glad to see Nokia continuing to pump out enhancements to the Symbian OS even though they have announced that it is at EOL with no new devices after 2012. After waiting an eternity for Anna (and I'm still waiting for it on my US version N8) it's exciting to think that Nokia plans to roll out Belle in a much more timely fashion. I'm particularly looking forward to the new notifications system. It appears to be very similar to the way notifications work in Android and that's a good thing. Putting a visibile indicator of all notifications in a status bar that isn't hidden by application windows is Android's best UI innovation. There's nothing wrong with copying the best.