Symbian Calls Up Incremental OS Upgrade

By James Alan Miller

July 13, 2006

Aims to make smartphone platform more attractive to mainstream with new technology -- including Wi-Fi.

Symbian introduced an incremental update to its eponymous smartphone platform today, that nonetheless promises some significant enhancements over the previous edition. Most importantly, version 9.3 delivers native support for Wi-Fi, push-to-talk, USB 2.0 on-the-go, and FOTA (Firmware Over The Air); all previously added to Symbian handsets by licensees. By putting these technologies right into the OS, Symbian is presumably making devices built on the platform more stable.

There's also native unlicensed mobile access (UMA) integration to better enable Wi-Fi-enabled phones to automatically switch between unlicensed 802.11 spectrum and licensed cellular networks when making and receiving phone calls. HSPDA (high-speed downlink packet access) support means the platform will be ready for the next generation 3G (some say 3.5G) networks starting to roll out now.

In order to make the OS more attractive to the mainstream, Symbian says performance and start-up times for phones and key applications have been improved as well. The upgrade is also fully backward compatible with earlier editions in the v.9 family. So software that runs on earlier Symbian smartphones will also work on upcoming 9.3 models too.

To aid developers, Symbian has added awareness for the Eclipse/CDT IDE framework and Nokia's Carbide.c++ Development Tools. It also offers a fully searchable on-line edition of the Symbian OS Library including a significant amount of new content.

The new platform supports the Freescale Reference design announced with Nokia at 3GSM earlier this year, for cheaper and faster-to-market 3G Symbian smartphones using the S60 interface. Unlike Windows Mobile or the Palm OS, Symbian doesn't ship with a UI and must rely on third-party interfaces like S60.

Manufacturers who build Symbian-based handsets add this second interface layer-usually Nokia's S60 interface, but sometimes UIQ-to provide some of their smartphones functionality, look, and feel. So in essence, to use a housing metaphor, Symbian is the foundation, plumbing, and electrical system; the interface is the furnishings and appliances; and the hardware is the frame upon which the smartphone is built.

Phones running on Symbian OS v.9.3 are in development, with smartphone launches by licensees anticipated for next year.

Approximately 35 million Symbian handsets shipped last year, over 100 handset built on the platform have made it to market, and, according to Canalys, Symbian accounts for 74 percent of smartphone shipments worldwide.

Story courtesy of PDAStreet.

Originally published on .

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