Symbian logo
Company / developer Accenture on behalf of Nokia [1]
Programmed in C++[2]
OS family Embedded operating system
Working state Active (Receiving updates until at least 2016) [1]
Source model Proprietary[3]
Initial release 1997 as EPOC32 [4]
Latest stable release Symbian Belle (next release cycle of Symbian^3) / September 2011; 61 days ago (2011-09)
Marketing target Smartphones
Supported platforms ARM, x86[5]
Kernel type Microkernel
Default user interface Avkon [6]
License Proprietary
Official website

Symbian is a mobile operating system (OS) and computing platform designed for smartphones and currently maintained by Accenture.[7] The Symbian platform is the successor to Symbian OS and Nokia Series 60; unlike Symbian OS, which needed an additional user interface system, Symbian includes a user interface component based on S60 5th Edition. The latest version, Symbian^3, was officially released in Q4 2010, first used in the Nokia N8. In May 2011 an update, Symbian Anna, was officially announced, followed by Symbian Belle in August 2011.[8][9]

Symbian OS was originally developed by Symbian Ltd.[10] It is a descendant of Psion's EPOC and runs exclusively on ARM processors, although an unreleased x86 port existed.

Some estimates indicate that the cumulative number of mobile devices shipped with the Symbian OS up to the end of Q2 2010 is 385 million.[11]

By April 5, 2011, Nokia released Symbian under a new license and converted to a proprietary shared-source model as opposed to an open source project.[3]

On February 11, 2011, Nokia announced that it would migrate away from Symbian to Windows Phone 7.[12] In June 22, 2011 Nokia has made an agreement with Accenture as an outsourcing program. Accenture will provide Symbian based software development and support services to Nokia through 2016 and about 2,800 Nokia employees will be Accenture employees at early October 2011.[13] The transfer was completed on September 30, 2011. [7]



The Symbian platform was created by merging and integrating software assets contributed by Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Sony Ericsson and Symbian Ltd., including Symbian OS assets at its core, the S60 platform, and parts of the UIQ and MOAP(S) user interfaces.

In December 2008, Nokia bought Symbian Ltd., the company behind Symbian OS; consequently, Nokia became the major contributor to Symbian's code, since it then possessed the development resources for both the Symbian OS core and the user interface. Since then Nokia has been maintaining its own code repository for the platform development, regularly releasing its development to the public repository.[14] Symbian was intended to be developed by a community led by the Symbian Foundation, which was first announced in June 2008 and which officially launched in April 2009. Its objective was to publish the source code for the entire Symbian platform under the OSI- and FSF-approved Eclipse Public License (EPL). The code was published under EPL on 4 February 2010; Symbian Foundation reported this event to be the largest codebase transitioned to Open Source in history.[15][16]

However, some important components within Symbian OS were licensed from third parties, which prevented the foundation from publishing the full source under EPL immediately; instead much of the source was published under a more restrictive Symbian Foundation License (SFL) and access to the full source code was limited to member companies only, although membership was open to any organisation.[17]

In November 2010, the Symbian Foundation announced that due to a lack of support from funding members, it would transition to a licensing-only organisation; Nokia announced it would take over the stewardship of the Symbian platform. Symbian Foundation will remain the trademark holder and licensing entity and will only have non-executive directors involved.

On February 11, 2011, Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft which would see it adopt Windows Phone 7 for smartphones, reducing the number of devices running Symbian over the coming two years.[12] As a consequence, the use of the Symbian platform for building mobile applications dropped rapidly. A June 2011 research indicated that over 39% of mobile developers using Symbian at the time of publication, were planning to abandon the platform.[18]

By April 5, 2011, Nokia ceased to open source any portion of the Symbian software and reduced its collaboration to a small group of pre-selected partners in Japan.[3] Source code released under the EPL remains available in third party repositories.[19][20]

Version history

The Nokia N8 smartphone is the first device to run on the Symbian^3 mobile operating system.

Symbian releases are styled Symbian^1, Symbian^2 etc. (vocalised as "Symbian one", "Symbian two").

Symbian^1, being the first release, forms the basis for the platform. It incorporates Symbian OS and S60 5th Edition (which is built on Symbian OS 9.4) and thus it was not made available in open source.[21]

Symbian^2 was the first royalty-free version of Symbian.[22] While portions of Symbian^2 are EPL licensed, most of the source code is under the proprietary SFL license and available only to members of the Symbian Foundation. On June 1, 2010, a number of Japanese companies including DoCoMo and Sharp announced smartphones using Symbian^2.[23]

Symbian^3 was announced on 15 February 2010.[24] It was designed to be a more ‘next generation’ smartphone platform. The Symbian^3 release introduced new features like a new 2D and 3D graphics architecture, UI improvements, and support for external displays via HDMI.[25][26] It has single tap menus and up to three customizable homescreens. The Symbian^3 SDK (Software Development Kit) was released September 2010.[27]

Eleven smartphones with the Symbian^3 operating system (or its updated Anna and Belle variants) have been released so far; the Nokia N8, Nokia C6-01, Nokia E7-00, Nokia C7-00, Nokia E6, Nokia X7, Nokia 500, Nokia 600, Nokia 603, Nokia 700, and Nokia 701.[28][29][9]

Symbian^4 was expected to be released in the first half of 2011. However, Nokia announced in October 2010 that Symbian^4 will not ship in a separate release. Instead, many of the UI enhancements planned for Symbian^4 will be released as updates to Symbian^3.[30]

Symbian Anna is an update to Symbian^3, released by Nokia in April 2011 as part of the launch of the X7 and E6 smartphones.[29] Symbian Anna includes such improvements as a new browser, a virtual keyboard in portrait orientation, new icons and real-time homescreen scrolling.[8] On August 18, 2011, Nokia made the Symbian Anna update available for owners of the N8, E7, C7 and C6-01 models as a software update (via OTA update and the Nokia Software Updater/Nokia Ovi Suite PC applications). [31]

Symbian Belle is an update to Symbian Anna. In the summer of 2011 videos showing an early leaked version of Belle running on a Nokia N8 were published on YouTube. On August 24, 2011, Nokia announced Belle officially for four new smartphones, the Nokia 600, Nokia 603, Nokia 700, and Nokia 701. They also announced that Belle would be coming to all existing Symbian^3 devices in the fourth quarter of 2011. Symbian Belle adds to the Anna improvements with a pull-down status/notification bar, deeper near field communication integration, free-form re-sizable homescreen widgets, and six homescreens instead of the previous three. [32]


User interface

Symbian has had a native graphics toolkit since its inception, known as AVKON (formerly known as Series 60). S60 was designed to be manipulated by a keyboard-like interface metaphor, such as the ~15-key augmented telephone keypad, or the mini-QWERTY keyboards. AVKON-based software is binary-compatible with Symbian versions up to and including Symbian^3.

Symbian^3 includes the Qt framework, which is now the recommended user interface toolkit for new applications. Qt can also be installed on older Symbian devices.

Symbian^4 was planned to introduce a new GUI library framework specifically designed for a touch-based interface, known as "UI Extensions for Mobile" or UIEMO (internal project name "Orbit"), which was built on top of Qt; a preview was released in January 2010, however in October 2010 Nokia announced that Orbit/UIEMO has been cancelled.

Nokia currently recommends that developers use Qt Quick with QML, the new high-level GUI and scripting framework for creating visually rich touchscreen interfaces that allows development for both Symbian and MeeGo; it will be delivered to existing Symbian^3 devices as a Qt update. When more applications gradually feature a user interface reworked in Qt, the legacy S60 framework (AVKON) will be deprecated and no longer included with new devices at some point, thus breaking binary compatibility with older S60 applications.[30][33]


Symbian^3 and earlier have a native WebKit based browser; indeed, Symbian was the first mobile platform to make use of WebKit (in June 2005).[34] Some older Symbian models have Opera Mobile as their default browser.

Nokia released a new browser with the release of Symbian Anna with improved speed and a improved user interface.[35]

Application development

From 2010, Symbian switched to using standard C++ with Qt as the SDK, which can be used with either Qt Creator or Carbide. Qt supports the older Symbian S60 3rd and 5th editions, as well as the new Symbian platform. It also supports Maemo and MeeGo, Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.[36][37]

Alternative application development can be done using Python (see Python for S60), Adobe Flash or Java ME.

Symbian OS previously used a Symbian specific C++ version along with Carbide.c++ integrated development environment (IDE) as the native application development environment.

Web Runtime (WRT) is a portable application framework that allows creating widgets on the S60 Platform; it is an extension to the S60 WebKit based browser that allows launching multiple browser instances as separate JavaScript applications.[38][39]

Application development


As of 2010, the SDK for Symbian is standard C++, using Qt. It can be used with either Qt Creator, or Carbide (the older IDE previously used for Symbian development).[36][40] A phone simulator allows testing of Qt apps. Apps compiled for the simulator are compiled to native code for the development platform, rather than having to be emulated.[41] Application development can either use C++ or QML.

Symbian C++

It is also possible to develop using Symbian C++, although it is not a standard implementation. Before the release of the Qt SDK, this was the standard development environment. There were multiple platforms based on Symbian OS that provided software development kit (SDKs) for application developers wishing to target Symbian OS devices, the main ones being UIQ and S60. Individual phone products, or families, often had SDKs or SDK extensions downloadable from the maker's website too.

The SDKs contain documentation, the header files and library files needed to build Symbian OS software, and a Windows-based emulator ("WINS"). Up until Symbian OS version 8, the SDKs also included a version of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) compiler (a cross-compiler) needed to build software to work on the device.

Symbian OS 9 and the Symbian platform use a new application binary interface (ABI) and needed a different compiler. A choice of compilers is available including a newer version of GCC (see external links below).

Unfortunately, Symbian C++ programming has a steep learning curve, as Symbian C++ requires the use of special techniques such as descriptors, active objects and the cleanup stack. This can make even relatively simple programs harder to implement than in other environments. Moreover, it was questionable whether these techniques, such as the memory management paradigm, were actually beneficial. It is possible that the techniques, developed for the much more restricted mobile hardware of the 1990s, simply caused unnecessary complexity in source code because programmers are needed to concentrate on low-level routines instead of more application-specific features. As of 2010, these issues are no longer the case when using standard C++, with the Qt SDK.

Symbian C++ programming is commonly done with an integrated development environment (IDE). For earlier versions of Symbian OS, the commercial IDE CodeWarrior for Symbian OS was favoured. The CodeWarrior tools were replaced during 2006 by Carbide.c++, an Eclipse-based IDE developed by Nokia. Carbide.c++ is offered in four different versions: Express, Developer, Professional, and OEM, with increasing levels of capability. Fully featured software can be created and released with the Express edition, which is free. Features such as UI design, crash debugging etc. are available in the other, charged-for, editions. Microsoft Visual Studio 2003 and 2005 are also supported via the Carbide.vs plugin.

Other languages

Symbian devices can also be programmed using Python, Java ME, Flash Lite, Ruby, .NET, Web Runtime (WRT) Widgets and Standard C/C++.[42]

Visual Basic programmers can use NS Basic to develop apps for S60 3rd Edition and UIQ 3 devices.

In the past, Visual Basic, Visual Basic .NET, and C# development for Symbian were possible through AppForge Crossfire, a plugin for Microsoft Visual Studio. On 13 March 2007 AppForge ceased operations; Oracle purchased the intellectual property, but announced that they did not plan to sell or provide support for former AppForge products. Net60, a .NET compact framework for Symbian, which is developed by redFIVElabs, is sold as a commercial product. With Net60, VB.NET and C# (and other) source code is compiled into an intermediate language (IL) which is executed within the Symbian OS using a just-in-time compiler. (As of 18/1/10 RedFiveLabs has ceased development of Net60 with this announcement on their landing page: ”At this stage we are pursuing some options to sell the IP so that Net60 may continue to have a future”.)

There is also a version of a Borland IDE for Symbian OS. Symbian OS development is also possible on Linux and Mac OS X using tools and methods developed by the community, partly enabled by Symbian releasing the source code for key tools. A plugin that allows development of Symbian OS applications in Apple's Xcode IDE for Mac OS X was available.[43]

Java ME applications for Symbian OS are developed using standard techniques and tools such as the Sun Java Wireless Toolkit (formerly the J2ME Wireless Toolkit). They are packaged as JAR (and possibly JAD) files. Both CLDC and CDC applications can be created with NetBeans. Other tools include SuperWaba, which can be used to build Symbian 7.0 and 7.0s programs using Java.

Nokia S60 phones can also run Python scripts when the interpreter Python for S60 is installed, with a custom made API that allows for Bluetooth support and such. There is also an interactive console to allow the user to write python scripts directly from the phone.


Once developed, Symbian applications need to find a route to customers' mobile phones. They are packaged in SIS files which may be installed over-the-air, via PC connect, Bluetooth or on a memory card. An alternative is to partner with a phone manufacturer and have the software included on the phone itself. Applications must be Symbian Signed for Symbian OS 9.x in order to make use of certain capabilities (system capabilities, restricted capabilities and device manufacturer capabilities).[44] Applications can now be signed for free.[45]


Technology domains and packages

Symbian's design is subdivided into technology domains,[46] each of which comprises a number of software packages.[47] Each technology domain has its own roadmap, and the Symbian Foundation has a team of technology managers who manage these technology domain roadmaps.

Every package is allocated to exactly one technology domain, based on the general functional area to which the package contributes and by which it may be influenced. By grouping related packages by themes, the Symbian Foundation hopes to encourage a strong community to form around them and to generate discussion and review.

The Symbian System Model[48] illustrates the scope of each of the technology domains across the platform packages.

Packages are owned and maintained by a package owner, a named individual from an organization member of the Symbian Foundation, who accepts code contributions from the wider Symbian community and is responsible for package.

Symbian kernel

The Symbian kernel (EKA2) supports sufficiently fast real-time response to build a single-core phone around it—that is, a phone in which a single processor core executes both the user applications and the signalling stack.[49] The real-time kernel has a microkernel architecture containing only the minimum, most basic primitives and functionality, for maximum robustness, availability and responsiveness. It has been termed a nanokernel, because it needs an extended kernel to implement any other abstractions. It contains a scheduler, memory management and device drivers, with networking, telephony and file system support services in the OS Services Layer or the Base Services Layer. The inclusion of device drivers means the kernel is not a true microkernel.


Symbian features pre-emptive multitasking and memory protection, like other operating systems (especially those created for use on desktop computers). EPOC's approach to multitasking was inspired by VMS and is based on asynchronous server-based events.

Symbian OS was created with three systems design principles in mind:

  1. the integrity and security of user data is paramount
  2. user time must not be wasted
  3. all resources are scarce

To best follow these principles, Symbian uses a microkernel, has a request-and-callback approach to services, and maintains separation between user interface and engine. The OS is optimised for low-power battery-based devices and for ROM-based systems (e.g. features like XIP and re-entrancy in shared libraries). Applications, and the OS itself, follow an object-oriented design: Model-view-controller (MVC).

Later OS iterations diluted this approach in response to market demands, notably with the introduction of a real-time kernel and a platform security model in versions 8 and 9.

There is a strong emphasis on conserving resources which is exemplified by Symbian-specific programming idioms like descriptors and a cleanup stack. Similar methods exist to conserve disk space, though disks on Symbian devices are usually flash memory. Further, all Symbian programming is event-based, and the central processing unit (CPU) is switched into a low power mode when applications are not directly dealing with an event. This is done via a programming idiom called active objects. Similarly the Symbian approach to threads and processes is driven by reducing overheads.

Operating system

The All over Model contains the following layers, from top to bottom:

  • UI Framework Layer
  • Application Services Layer
    • Java ME
  • OS Services Layer
    • generic OS services
    • communications services
    • multimedia and graphics services
    • connectivity services
  • Base Services Layer
  • Kernel Services & Hardware Interface Layer

The Base Services Layer is the lowest level reachable by user-side operations; it includes the File Server and User Library, a Plug-In Framework which manages all plug-ins, Store, Central Repository, DBMS and cryptographic services. It also includes the Text Window Server and the Text Shell: the two basic services from which a completely functional port can be created without the need for any higher layer services.

Symbian has a microkernel architecture, which means that the minimum necessary is within the kernel to maximise robustness, availability and responsiveness. It contains a scheduler, memory management and device drivers, but other services like networking, telephony and filesystem support are placed in the OS Services Layer or the Base Services Layer. The inclusion of device drivers means the kernel is not a true microkernel. The EKA2 real-time kernel, which has been termed a nanokernel, contains only the most basic primitives and requires an extended kernel to implement any other abstractions.

Symbian is designed to emphasise compatibility with other devices, especially removable media file systems. Early development of EPOC led to adopting FAT as the internal file system, and this remains, but an object-oriented persistence model was placed over the underlying FAT to provide a POSIX-style interface and a streaming model. The internal data formats rely on using the same APIs that create the data to run all file manipulations. This has resulted in data-dependence and associated difficulties with changes and data migration.

There is a large networking and communication subsystem, which has three main servers called: ETEL (EPOC telephony), ESOCK (EPOC sockets) and C32 (responsible for serial communication). Each of these has a plug-in scheme. For example, ESOCK allows different ".PRT" protocol modules to implement various networking protocol schemes. The subsystem also contains code that supports short-range communication links, such as Bluetooth, IrDA and USB.

There is also a large volume of user interface (UI) Code. Only the base classes and substructure were contained in Symbian OS, while most of the actual user interfaces were maintained by third parties. This is no longer the case. The three major UIs — S60, UIQ and MOAP — were contributed to Symbian in 2009. Symbian also contains graphics, text layout and font rendering libraries.

All native Symbian C++ applications are built up from three framework classes defined by the application architecture: an application class, a document class and an application user interface class. These classes create the fundamental application behaviour. The remaining needed functions, the application view, data model and data interface, are created independently and interact solely through their APIs with the other classes.

Many other things do not yet fit into this model — for example, SyncML, Java ME providing another set of APIs on top of most of the OS and multimedia. Many of these are frameworks, and vendors are expected to supply plug-ins to these frameworks from third parties (for example, Helix Player for multimedia codecs). This has the advantage that the APIs to such areas of functionality are the same on many phone models, and that vendors get a lot of flexibility. But it means that phone vendors needed to do a great deal of integration work to make a Symbian OS phone.

Symbian includes a reference user-interface called "TechView." It provides a basis for starting customisation and is the environment in which much Symbian test and example code runs. It is very similar to the user interface from the Psion Series 5 personal organiser and is not used for any production phone user interface.

Devices and feature comparison

On 16 November 2006, the 100 millionth smartphone running the OS was shipped.[50] As of 21 July 2009, more than 250 million devices running Symbian OS had been shipped.[51]

  • The Nokia S60 interface is used in various phones, the first being the Nokia 7650. The Nokia N-Gage and Nokia N-Gage QD gaming/smartphone combos are also S60 platform devices. It was also used on other manufacturers' phones such as the Siemens SX1 and Samsung SGH-Z600. Recently, more advanced devices using S60 include the Nokia 6xxx, the Nseries (except Nokia N8xx and N9xx), the Eseries and some models of the Nokia XpressMusic mobiles.
  • Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Sony Ericsson and Sharp developed phones for NTT DoCoMo in Japan, using an interface developed specifically for DoCoMo's FOMA "Freedom of Mobile Access" network brand. This UI platform is called MOAP "Mobile Oriented Applications Platform" and is based on the UI from earlier Fujitsu FOMA models. The user cannot install new C++ applications.

User interfaces that run on or are based on Symbian OS include:

  • S60, formerly Series 60, used by Nokia and others
  • Series 80, previously used by Nokia
  • Series 90, previously used by Nokia
  • UIQ, previously used by Sony-Ericsson
  • MOAP, Mobile Oriented Applications Platform, used by NTT DoCoMo's FOMA service

Versions that are actively marketed as of September 2011 are Symbian^3 (and its updated Symbian Anna and Symbian Belle variants), Symbian^2, Symbian^1 (previously known as Series 60 5th Edition), and Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2. For features of older versions, see history of Symbian. Note that the operating system supporting a certain feature does not imply that all devices running on it have that feature available, especially if it involves expensive hardware, such as HDMI output.

Feature Symbian^3/Anna/Belle Symbian^2 Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 Series 80
Year released 2010 (Symbian^3), 2011 (Symbian Anna, Belle) 2008 2008
Company Symbian Foundation Symbian Foundation Symbian Foundation Symbian Foundation
Symbian OS version 9.5 (Symbian^3) 9.4 9.3
Series 60 version 5.2 (Symbian^3)[52] 5th Edition 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 N/A
Touch input support Yes Yes No No
Multi touch input support Yes No No No
Number of customizable home screens Three (Five on Nokia E6, six on Symbian Belle) One One One
Wi-Fi version support B, G, N B, G B, G B, G
USB on the go support Yes No No
DVB-H support Yes, with extra headset[53] Yes, with extra headset Yes, with extra headset
Short range FM transmitter support Yes Yes Yes No
FM radio support Yes Yes Yes No
Feature Symbian^3/Anna/Belle Symbian^2 Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 Series 80
Adobe Flash support Yes, Flash Lite version 4.0 Yes, Flash Lite version 3.1 Yes, Flash Lite version 3.1 No
Microsoft Silverlight support Yes[54] No
OpenGL ES support Yes, version 2.0 No
SQLite support Yes Yes Yes[55]
CPU architecture support ARM ARM ARM ARM
Programmed in C++
License Eclipse Public License;
Since March 31, 2011: Nokia Symbian License 1.0
Public issues list No more
Package manager see .sis see .sis see .sis see .sis
Non English languages support Yes Yes Yes Yes
Underlining spell checker Yes No No
Keeps state on shutdown or crash No No No No
Internal search Yes Yes Yes Yes
Proxy server Yes Yes Yes Yes
On-device encryption Yes, Eseries devices, e.g., E7 Yes, present in no device Yes, Eseries devices
Cut, copy, and paste support Yes Yes Yes Yes
Undo No No No Yes
Default Web Browser for S60, WebKit engine version 7.2, engine version 525 (Symbian^3);[56] version 7.3, engine version 533.4 (Symbian Anna) version 7.1.4, engine version 525; version 7.3, engine version 533.4 (for 9 selected units after firmware updates released in summer 2011) engine version 413 (Nokia N79) N/A
third-party software store Ovi store Ovi store Ovi store
Email sync protocol support POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP
Feature Symbian^3/Anna/Belle Symbian^2 Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 Series 80
Push alerts Yes Yes
Voice recognition Yes Yes Yes
Tethering USB, Bluetooth; mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, with third-party software USB, Bluetooth; mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, with third-party software USB, Bluetooth; mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, with third-party software USB, Bluetooth;
Text, document support Microsoft Office Mobile, PDF, djvu Microsoft Office Mobile, PDF Microsoft Office Mobile, PDF Microsoft Office Mobile, PDF
Audio playback All All All wav, mp3
Video playback H.263, H.264, WMV, MPEG4, MPEG4@ HD 720p 25–30 frame/s, MKV, DivX, XviD H.263, H.264, WMV, MPEG4 H.263, H.264, WMV, MPEG4 proprietary
Turn-by-turn GPS third-party software, free global Nokia Ovi Maps, works offline third-party software, free global Nokia Ovi Maps, works offline third-party software, free global Nokia Ovi Maps, works offline third-party software
Video out Nokia AV, PAL, NTSC, HDMI Nokia AV, PAL, NTSC Nokia AV, PAL, NTSC No
Multitasking Yes Yes Yes Yes
Desktop interactive widgets Yes Yes No
Integrated hardware keyboard Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth keyboard Yes Yes Yes
Video conference front video camera Yes Yes Yes
Can share data via Bluetooth with all devices Yes Yes Yes Yes
Skype, third-party software Yes[57] Yes[57] Yes[57]
Facebook IM chat Yes Yes
Secure Shell (SSH) Yes, third-party software Yes, third-party software Yes, third-party software
OpenVPN No, Nokia VPN can be used No, Nokia VPN can be used No, Nokia VPN can be used Yes, third-party software
Remote frame buffer  ?
Screenshot Yes, third-party software[58] Yes, third-party software[58] Yes, third-party software[58] Yes
GPU accelerated GUI Yes No
Official SDK platform(s) Cross-platform, Windows (preferred is Qt), Carbide.c++, Java ME, Web Runtime (WRT), Flash lite, Python for Symbian Cross-platform, Windows (preferred is Qt), Carbide.c++, Java ME, Web Runtime (WRT), Flash lite, Python for Symbian Cross-platform, Windows (preferred is Qt), Carbide.c++, Java ME, Web Runtime (WRT), Flash lite, Python for Symbian Cross-platform, Windows (preferred is Qt), Carbide.c++, Java ME, third-party software (OPL)
Feature Symbian^3/Anna/Belle Symbian^2 Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 Series 80
First device(s) Nokia N8 (Symbian^3), Nokia X7, Nokia E6 (Anna), Nokia 603, Nokia 700, Nokia 701 (Belle) Nokia 5800 (October 2, 2008) Nokia N96, Nokia N78, Nokia 6210 Navigator and Nokia 6220 Classic (February 11, 2008) Nokia 9210
Devices Nokia N8, Nokia C6-01, Nokia C7-00, Nokia E7-00, Nokia E6, Nokia X7, Nokia 500, Nokia 603, Nokia 700, Nokia 701 NTT DoCoMo: F-06B*,[59] F-07B*,[59] F-08B*,[59] SH-07B†,[59] F-10B,[60] Raku-Raku Phone 7,[60] F-01C*,[61] F-02C*,[61] F-03C*,[61] F-04C*,[61] F-05C*,[61] SH-01C†,[61] SH-02C†,[61] SH-04C†,[61] SH-05C†,[61] SH-06C†,[61] Touch Wood SH-08C†[61] Nokia 5228, Nokia 5230, Nokia 5233, Nokia 5235, Nokia 5250, Nokia 5530 XpressMusic, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition, Nokia C5-03, Nokia C6-00, Nokia N97, Nokia N97 mini, Nokia X6, Samsung i8910 Omnia HD,[62] Sony Ericsson Satio, Sony Ericsson Vivaz, Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro Nokia 5320 XpressMusic, Nokia 5630 XpressMusic, Nokia 5730 XpressMusic, Nokia 6210 Navigator, Nokia 6220 Classic, Nokia 6650 fold, Nokia 6710 Navigator, Nokia 6720 Classic, Nokia 6730 Classic, Nokia 6760 Slide, Nokia 6790 Surge, Nokia E5-00, Nokia E52, Nokia E55, Nokia E71, Nokia E72, Nokia E75, Nokia N78, Nokia N79, Nokia N85, Nokia N86 8MP, Nokia N96, Nokia X5, Samsung GT-i8510 (INNOV8), Samsung GT-I7110, Samsung SGH-L870, Nokia C5-00 Nokia 9210, Nokia 9300, Nokia 9300i, Nokia 9500
Feature Symbian^3/Anna/Belle Symbian^2 Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 Series 80

* manufactured by Fujitsu
† manufactured by Sharp

Market share and competition

In the number of "smart mobile device" sales, Symbian devices were the market leaders for 2010. Statistics showed that Symbian devices formed a 37.6% share of smart mobile devices sold, with Android having 22.7%, RIM having 16%, and Apple having 15.7% (via iOS).[63]

Prior reports on device shipments as published in February 2010 showed that the Symbian devices formed a 47.2% share of the smart mobile devices shipped in 2009, with RIM having 20.8%, Apple having 15.1% (via iOS), Microsoft having 8.8% (via Windows CE and Windows Mobile) and Android having 4.7%.[64] Other competitors include webOS, Qualcomm's BREW, SavaJe, Linux and MontaVista Software.

Although Symbian's share of the global smartphone market dropped from 52.4% in 2008 to 47.2% in 2009, shipments of Symbian devices grew 4.8%, from 74.9 million units to 78.5 million units.[64] From Q2 2009 to Q2 2010, shipments of Symbian devices grew 41.5%, by 8.0 million units, from 19,178,910 units to 27,129,340; compared to an increase of 9.6 million units for Android, 3.3 million units for RIM, and 3.2 million units for Apple.[65]

Despite this growth in shipment numbers, Symbian has lost a considerable amount of market share in recent years. It has fallen from holding as much as 73% of the smartphone market during 2006[66] to accounting for 22.1% of the market in the second quarter of 2011.[67] Over the course of 2009–2011, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, and Sony Ericsson announced their withdrawal from Symbian in favour of alternative platforms including Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows Phone, and Samsung's bada.[68][69][70][71]


The users of Symbian in the countries with non-Latin alphabets (such as Russia, Ukraine and others) have been criticizing the complicated method of language switching for many years. For example, if a user wants to type a Latin letter, he must call the menu, click the languages item, choose the English language between many other languages by arrow keys and then press the 'OK' button. After typing the Latin letter, the user must repeat that procedure to return to his native keyboard. This method slows down the typing significantly. In touch-phones and QWERTY phones the procedure is slightly different but remains time-consuming. All other mobile operating systems as well as Nokia's S40 phones enable switching between two initially selected languages by one click or by one gesture. Finns do not need this feature because the Finnish alphabet is based on the Latin script.

Early versions of the firmware for the original Nokia N97, running on Symbian^1/Series 60 5th Edition have been heavily criticized.

In November 2010, Smartphone blog All About Symbian criticized the performance of Symbian's default web browser and recommended the alternative browser Opera Mobile.[72] Nokia's Senior Vice President Jo Harlow promised an updated browser in the first quarter of 2011.[73]


Symbian OS was subject to a variety of viruses, the best known of which is Cabir. Usually these send themselves from phone to phone by Bluetooth. So far, none have taken advantage of any flaws in Symbian OS – instead, they have all asked the user whether they would like to install the software, with somewhat prominent warnings that it can't be trusted.

However, with a view that the average mobile phone user shouldn't have to worry about security, Symbian OS 9.x adopted a UNIX-style capability model (permissions per process, not per object). Installed software is theoretically unable to do damaging things (such as costing the user money by sending network data) without being digitally signed – thus making it traceable. Commercial developers who can afford the cost can apply to have their software signed via the Symbian Signed program. Developers also have the option of self-signing their programs. However, the set of available features does not include access to Bluetooth, IrDA, GSM CellID, voice calls, GPS and few others. Some operators have opted to disable all certificates other than the Symbian Signed certificates.

Some other hostile programs are listed below, but all of them still require the input of the user to run.

  • Drever.A is a malicious SIS file trojan that attempts to disable the automatic startup from Simworks and Kaspersky Symbian Anti-Virus applications.
  • Locknut.B is a malicious SIS file trojan that pretends to be a patch for Symbian S60 mobile phones. When installed, it drops a binary that will crash a critical system service component. This will prevent any application from being launched in the phone.
  • Mabir.A is basically Cabir with added MMS functionality. The two are written by the same author, and the code shares many similarities. It spreads using Bluetooth via the same routine as early variants of Cabir. As Mabir.A activates it will search for the first phone it finds, and starts sending copies of itself to that phone.
  • Fontal.A is an SIS file trojan that installs a corrupted file which causes the phone to fail at reboot. If the user tries to reboot the infected phone, it will be permanently stick on the reboot, and cannot be used without disinfection – that is, the use of the reformat key combination which causes the phone to lose all data. Being a trojan, Frontal cannot spread by itself – the most likely way for the user to get infected would be to acquire the file from untrusted sources, and then install it to the phone, inadvertently or otherwise.

A new form of malware threat to Symbian OS in form of 'cooked firmware' was recently demonstrated at the International Malware Conference, MalCon, December 2010, by Indian hacker Atul Alex.[74][75]

Bypassing platform security

Symbian OS 9.x devices can be hacked to remove the platform security introduced in OS 9.1 onwards, allowing users to execute unsigned code.[76] This allows altering system files, and access to previously locked areas of the OS. The hack was criticised by Nokia for potentially increasing the threat posed by mobile viruses as unsigned code can be executed.[77]

See also




  • See category:Symbian software (still very incomplete)


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External links

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