I know this seemed kind of late, but I just thought of writing a more in-depth review about the Symbian Belle on Nokia N8-00. As mentioned on our previous article, the update was made available to select Nokia handsets since February.
It is only recently that I had a chance to do this (not so many units to review), so I decided to go through with the update and might as well write something about it. This may also serve as a reference for Symbian Belle, especially after Nokia announced that their next flagship device, the Nokia PureView 808, will (unfortunately) run on Symbian.
The update was done through Nokia Suite and whole process only took under 30 minutes to be done with (minus the download time). After setting up the system time and date and logging in to my OVI account, we are greeted with the revamped home screen.
The first noticeable change is the addition of HTC like digital clock widget (big nod to HTC) which also doubles as a clock settings shortcut. Next is the smaller icon with an even smaller label. Down below is three static icons for app drawer, dialer and home screen options.
The Android-inspired pull down Notification bar display your unread messages, missed calls or connectivity status. It also houses 4 shortcuts (Mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Silent) or should I say switches to easily turn it on/off.
The three additional home screens to house Belle’s resizable widgets are also some of the new features of this upgraded UI. Speaking of UI, multi-tasking and switching to different home screen is smoother and snappier as compared to Anna. Another thing I noticed is that the Widgets and icons are no longer restricted to preset horizontal locations so you can move them to any part of your home screen.
The lock screen also got a minor facelift as it now show notifications. Accessing those notifications through the lock screen could have been a welcome addition, but it’s still missing.
One thing that I was really looking forward to be upgraded was the keyboard UI. I had the same hope when I first upgraded the N8-00 from its stock OS to Anna. But to no avail. It’s the same case for Belle. For someone that has fat finger like mine, it can really be a challenge to type with the current keyboard, especially on QWERTY portrait mode.
Even in landscape mode, I still find myself missing a key or two using this keyboard, but it is more comfortable than in portrait.
By now I have given all hope in this area. I just convinced myself that the small screen of the N8 is just not design for comfortable typing with fat fingers that I have. Good thing is that there are other keyboard options that users can use in situations like this.
It was mentioned that there are productivity software that comes with the Symbian Belle update,. But it is nowhere to be found on my phone. My guess is that the update varies from region to region. Therefore I am bit excited for the Microsoft Office Mobile on this device. As I mentioned on my previous post, handsets that didnâ€™t come pre-installed with Symbian Belle, like the N8-00, still have to wait for a little while for this productive feature. I hope that this compensate for the lack of those added apps that shouldâ€™ve been included with Belle.
With all the hype over Android and iOS, device manufacturers like Nokia (before partnering with Microsoft) and RIM have been pushed to the sidelines because their OS could not cope with the consumer’s current demands. However I have high respect for Symbian for having improved so much over the years that it now has some of the features that Android and iOS started. With regards to apps, the Ovi Store needs a lot of catching up to do now that the devs are flocking to other platforms. In terms of usability, Belle is very capable, but it’s more like an old-timer trying to adapt the styles of a younger generation. It’s starting to lose its identity in a sense. Overall, Symbian Belle has nothing groundbreaking to offer. Nokia is expecting Windows Phone OS to do that for them. But like a common beauty, Belle is one piece of OS that can still be admired.
Author’s Note: This article was meant to inform and not compare Symbian to any other smartphone OS.