Nokia readies for smartphone battle with Symbian 3

Mobile phone maker Nokia today launched four devices based on its new Symbian 3 operating system that it hopes will capture 50 million customers and allow Nokia to recapture the high ground in the competitive smartphone market

Mobile phone maker Nokia today launched four devices based on its new Symbian 3 operating system that it hopes will capture 50 million customers and allow Nokia to recapture the high ground in the competitive smartphone market.

However, Nokia executives ruled out an announcement on its new high-end operating system, MeeGo, saying that would come later in the year.

The four devices included the business-oriented Microsoft-supporting E7, a follow-up to the Nokia 9000 Communicator, the C6 and C7, social network-friendly phones, and the N8, a 12 megapixel cameraphone with Carl Zeiss optics and high definition video capability. All would be available before year-end.

High-end devices

Introducing the devices, Niklas Savander, Nokia's EVP for markets, said the company would continue to make a range of high-end devices because people had different needs. A single device that relied on software for its fitness for purpose would lead to compromises elsewhere in the device, he said.

"We won't apologise for not being Apple, or Google or Samsung," he said, referring to Nokia's three biggest competitors in recent years.

He said in the past quarter Nokia had sold more than 260,000 devices a day, more than Apple and Android, the operating system sponsored by Google, combined.

More than 1.3 billion people now used a Nokia device daily, he said, and Symbian still held more than 40% of the smartphone market.

More than 100 mobile network operators had signed up to sell the N8, he said. This was partly due to much improved Ovi Maps locality-aware services now free on Nokia devices.

Users could download maps for 78 countries in 46 languages. City maps had details of pedestrian-only routes, trams and other public transport, while street maps knew speed limits, the location of speed cameras, filling stations and the like, he said.

In addition, the software was optimised for mobile, so that users did not need to stay connected to the network to follow the map, thus saving on connection time and cost.

"By 2013 800 million people will be using GPS-enabled devices and related services," he said, adding that Ovi Maps, not Google, was now the most popular map application on mobiles.

SDK revamp

Purnima Kochikar, Nokia's vice-president for software developer relations, said the company had revamped its software development kits (SDKs) to make it easier for developers to write applications for Nokia devices as well as web-enabled devices.

The Qt SDK for native Nokia devices was more efficient, cutting the number of lines of code to be slashed 70%, she said. In addition, it made it easier to port apps to other Nokia devices.

The SDK for System 40, Nokia's most widely-used operating system, now supported touch, allowing an upgrade path for users. Kochikar said there were 175 million Symbian devices in the market plus 45 million with touch. Given Nokia's plan to sell another 50 million touch-enabled devices in short order, "this will take us to the next billion users," Kochikar said.

A new web developers' kit and a new browser supported HTML, CSS and other internet standards that allowed it to render web pages in full, without having to adapt the code for a mobile device, she said.

She said Nokia aimed to support applications that people would use daily, rather than download once. She cited examples where unemployed Chinese workers used an app to search for jobs, and another that allowed African mothers to check whether the drugs they were about to give their child were counterfeit or past their sell-by date.

Kochikar said the revamped Ovi Store, which distributes Nokia apps, now supported payments both by credit card and by operator billing. Two out of three people who downloaded apps preferred to pay through their network operator, she said.

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