Symbian History and Notes

The best miniature computer operating system on the planet

Symbian joint venture PDA and phone designs.

The Symbian joint venture was formed in June 1998 with Psion contributing EPOC, and what was the software division of Psion. Owned by Psion (28.1%), Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia (each with 21%), with Matsushita (Panasonic) taking an 8.8% stake in 1999 (between them this is 85% of the world cellular phone market). Siemens took a 5% stake in 2002. Motorola sold its 19% stake to Psion and Nokia in August 2003, when its 5 year agreement ended.

Develops and markets the Epoc32 mobile computer operating system and applications as the basis for a mass market in mobile communication systems and smart phones. London headquarters, offices in Japan and San Francisco Bay area.

Symbian produced a series of Device Family Reference Designs (DFRD) for Wireless Information devices (WID), such that applications are compatible within a device family, and data is compatible across device families. They also support a mimimum set of features, and industry standards, while allowing licensees to add features to differentiate their designs.

Symbian licencing costs $5 per Smartphone, and $10 per Communicator.

Simple customising involves easy changes such as fonts and colors. More expert customising can add extra application views and features, or use additional external hardware products.

The Symbian Reference Designs

There were three reference designs as at 2001. They each have a fixed screen resolution, but variable colour depth, pixel size, input devices.

The operating system kernel is about 5% of Epoc. The system libraries are maybe 55%. Application engines are 20%, and user interface and application user interface another 20%. The system libraries include TCP/IP, IrDA, databases, appointments, Java, and lots else. As a result, different reference designs only have the 20% of the user interface to potentially alter.

One keyboard based reference design. The Nokia 9210 style device (9290 for USA GSM frequency) is the first one to be announced and was released on 20 June 2001. Psion had a Crystal design of their own under development. Presumably based on the 640x200 display Symbian reference design, although this run into problems in 2001 when the Odin joint project with Motorola was discontinued.
Two designs of quarter VGA (240 x 320) display size pen based communication devices with full screen handwriting recognition plus a virtual keyboard. The Ericsson Communicator shown at CeBIT2000 looks like a Pocket PC, with a phone aerial and a earphone plus microphone on a cord (to be replaced by Bluetooth cordless headset).

Quartz should be position aware so as to make smart time setting changes, and enable location based services. Task oriented, with the filing system hidden from the user. Applications are not closed, but remove themselves. The display is partially obscured by three lines, these being an application picker, a menu bar, and a tool bar and status bar at the bottom.

There were extensive 3rd party references, and emulator screenshots especially of Quartz at

A design purely for mobile smartphones, with talk functions the key. Very unlikely to allow added applications. Several manufacturers thought to be working on these, however even when released it may not be apparent they are Symbian based. I probably won't track these, as they are of little interest to me. Pdanews had a very positive review of the symplicity (only 7 function keys) of the Symbian Pearl device family reference design.

The resolution can vary between 176x208 to 240x320 pixels in 16 bit colour. The platform supports CSM, GPRS and HSCSD, and is expected to have support for Bluetooth, OBEX, serial, TCP/IP and USB. Protocols available expected to be POP3 and IMAP for receiving email, SMTP and MIME, SMS and WAP, and an integrated Contact application as in ER5. There are hints of an application installer (not available on ER5 phones like the R380) and switcher, and photo and camera support. For photos try

Symbian Devices

These are the Symbian devices I knew of at the end of 2003.

BenQ P30
UIQ. Taiwanese manufacturer BenQ, which announced its licensing agreement with Symbian in January 2003, has also been demonstrating an OS 7, UIQ-based device. The triband P30 has a 320 x 208, 65,000 colour touch screen, VGA camera, SD card slot, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. It is expect to ship in Q3 2003. "We chose Symbian because it is more stable and more mature," Jerry Wang, vice president and general manager of sales operations at BenQ told IDG. "Also, there are more applications that run on Symbian... We wanted to be among the first vendors to provide a smartphone."
Ericsson R380
The ER5 based Ericsson R380 phone (available in late 2000) could perhaps be considered the first in this style of device, although since it does not use ER6, it is not really considered to be part of the forthcoming Symbian family. You could not add applications to it.
Fujitsu F2051
Made for NTT DoCoMo for the FOMA service. Symbian 6.1. custom interface. Rotating camera digital zoom. Japan only.
Fujitsu F2012V
Fujitsu has released a second 3G W-CDMA handset Symbian 6.1, supplying the device to NTT DoCoMo for the FOMA service. The F2102V, is a dual camera, dual screen video phone.
Mitsubishi announced a development licence with Symbian in March 2003. At the same time it was showing a 3G phone device at Cebit. It uses Symbian OSv7.0. The handset has integrated WLAN and supports voice-over-IP (VoIP). It has a QVGA colour display, Memory Stick Duo slot, megapixel camcorder and rotating screen. The product is at the concept stage.
Motorola A920
UIQ. Ffor the 3 Network uses Symbian OS 7 and the UIQ interface. It has a touch-screen with stylus navigation, 8MB internal memory, and memory card slot, USB connectivity and an integrated camcorder. Has video conferencing and has the full set of PIM and messaging applications. There is also a music player which supports AU, AMR, MIDI, MP3 and WAV formats. It will be supplied with a desktop PC suite. Modem for internet access. Locked down so that you can't add your own software.
Motorola A925
UIQ. Similar to A920, but for general 3G networks other than 3. Fewer specialised 3 features.
Nokia 9210
Communicator. OS 6. Clamshell opening, full keyboard, 640x240 colour display, not touch screen. Dual band GSM. MMC card.
Nokia 9210i
Improved software, more memory. Flash player, Opera browser.
Nokia 9290
US version of the 9210i. Uses USA GSM frequencies.
Nokia 7650
First Series 60 phone, out in early 2002. This 154 gram phone and VGA camera has phone buttons, a little joystick, a menu key, but no touch screen. The (208x176?) colour display acts as viewfinder for the camera. If you take a snap, the phone invites you to beam it via IrDA or Bluetooth, via email, or via MMS (like SMS but for media). Bluetooth, IrDA. It contains PDA functions, but you'd have to be good at using the phone keys for messages (I'd hate it).
Nokia 3650
Second Series 60. Still and video camcorder. Triband GSM and GPRS. Java. Email and web. Youth market, but probably has more functions that 7650. February 2003
Nokia 3660/3620
Series 60 smartphone. VGA camera for still and camcorder, video player, MMS. 16 bit colour display 176x208 pixels. 130 grams. SMTP, POP3, IMAP4. RealOne player. RealAudio and RealVideo. Bluetooth, IrDA, SyncML. MMC card. 3660 is world GSM. 3620 is USA GSM.
Nokia NGage
Series 60. Dedicated multiplayer games platform that includes a phone. Triband GSM GPRS. Bluetooth, stereo FM radio, MP3. SMTP, POP3, IMAP4, J2ME Java. USB. Browser. 104MHz ARM. 12 bit colour 176x208 display. Released end 2003.
Nokia 6600
Series 60, Series 2. First Nokia to use version 7.0s of the Symbian operating system. A mid-range replacement for the 7650, Nokia's original Symbian OS smartphone. It has a monobloc design, incorporating a VGA digital camcorder with two level zoom, 65,000 colour 176x208 pixel screen and an MMC slot. 6 Mb of internal memory and a 32 Mb MMC card. Java MIDP 2.0 XHTML browser improved PIM applications and a new 'media gallery' for browsing images, videos and other downloads. camcorder QCIF (176 x 144) films with sound and RealPlayer for downloading and streaming, 3GPP-compatible content. SMTP, POP3, IMAP4. Tri-band, supporting both GPRS and HSCSD. Java MIDP 2.0. Replacement for 7650. Nokia planned to ship the device in Q4 2003. Released on time.
Nokia 7700
Nokia Series 90 user interface on Symbian OS 7. Internet and media device. 16 bit colour 640x320 touchscreen display with on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition. Full web browser, music and video playback, VGA camera, FM radio, MMS and SMS, PIM. Triband GSM, GPRS. 64MB memory, expansion slot. Bluetooth. Mid 2004 release.
Psion Odin
The joint Psion and Motorola Quartz design called Odin was cancelled in February 2001, possibly partly following design disagreements. There were unconfirmed hints that possibly Motorola thought they were designing a phone with a few PDA functions and Psion thought they were designing a PDA with some voice functions. There is another unconfirmed Psion Quartz design, and at one stage Psion were reported to be looking for another phone partner.
Samsung SGH-D700
In March 2003 Samsung announced its first Symbian OS 6.1 flip phone handset, the SGH-D700, a clamshell Series 60 device with rotating 640x480 VGA digital camera and camcorder, and 65,000 colour 176x208 pixel screen. It supports RealOne video messaging, voice memo, voice recognition, and MP3 music playback. The tri-band GPRS handset has a wide range of features, including a WAP browser, MMS client, SyncML with vCard and vCal, IrDA and memory card slot. It can also be synchronised with a desktop PC over a USB connection. Email supports SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4. MIDP Java and C++ development. Samsung expects to ship the product commercially in Q3 2003. Released on time.
Sanyo may be working on a Quartz style design.
Sendo X
Multimedia tri-band GSM and GPRS smartphone using OS 6. 176x220 16 bit colour TFT display. VGA still and camcorder with 4x digital zoom. RealOne player and RealVideo. MMS and MMS video. Bluetooth, IrDA and USB. Browser handles HTML 4.2, WAP, frames, XHTML, SSL and WTLS. Six email accounts, SymcML. Document viewers for Word, Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, ZIP, plus others on CD. J2ME Java MIDP. Games. 64MB flash memory, 32MB available to users. Hot swappable MMC or SD cards. Comes with folding keyboard. 120 grams. End of 2003.
Siemens SX1
First Series 60 Symbian phone from a manufacturer other than Nokia. Camera with digital zoom, video player and recorder, 16 bit colour TFT display, FM radio, MP3 player, stereo loudspeaker, triband GSM and GPRS. MIDP 2/0. J2ME Java. Full set of PDA style business applications. 110 grams. Keys are on strips on each side of the screen. End of 2003.
Sony Ericsson P800
UIQ. Sony Ericsson's P800 smartphone has a 208 by 320 4096 colour display, narrower than the Quartz reference model, a digital camera, and uses Symbian OS v7.0. Uses a browser from AU Systems for HTML, cHTML, i-Mode and WAP. Triband GSM and GPRS. 32MB flash memory. Memory Stick Duo. Shipped December 2002, several months late.
Sony Ericsson P900
UIQ. Update of the P800, smaller and faster. Symbian OS 7.0. VGA camera QCIF camcorder. 16 bit colour TFT touchscreen. 48MB flash memory, leaving 16MB for user. memory Stick Duo. MP3 player. Web and WAP browser plus Opera. SMS, MMS, email. GSM and GPRS. Organiser.

Other Symbian Sites

Symbian's own site was

Rafe Blandford's All About ER6 3rd party site The new URL is and the site now gives more extensive coverage of Symbian phone news.

OPL language source code

Symbian's OPL v6.0 and v6.1 are available as open source. This is an interpreted language for organisers. OPL includes the runtime environment for the phone, the translator, tools to run on a PC, comprehensive OPL example, OPX extensions written in C++.

Press Reports

I only collect these to try to get some idea of what is happening with new designs.

Resignations since start of 2001. Bill Templeton, head of market development group, Steve Stenton, smartphone division, Ayah Elmaazi, business analyst, all from marketing and sales department headed by executive vice-president Mark Edwards, a Symbian board member. Thought to be part of a group of 40 senior executives. Thought to have disagreed with Edwards' strategy. Edwards was from Psion, and took the place of Juha Christensen who went to Microsoft in 2000.

Symbian took on about 300 new staff in 2000. Nokia also signed joint venture with Palm in Oct 1999. Motorola and Palm also. Motorola a Psion stopped their joint Odin project in January 2001. Ericsson and Microsoft also doing joint venture.

Simon Goodley in Connected section of on-line UK Daily Telegraph around 8 March 2001.

Nokia said in June 2002 a statement that it expected to be shipping at least 1m Symbian OS handsets per month from Q4 2002. SonyEricsson is planning to release its own Symbian OS smartphone - the P800. Symbian is known to be working on over 20 licensee projects. David Levin, CEO of Symbian, has previously said that Symbian requires the sale of 15m handsets to reach profitability, receiving between $5 and $10 in royalties for each unit.

Symbian's licensees shipped 1.18m handsets in Q1, 2003, up from about 400,000 in Q1 2002.

Psion has re-launched its software business in May 2003 with the announcement of its Transcend e-mail solution. The product provides instant synchronisation of e-mail, calendar and contacts between Microsoft Outlook and a Symbian OS handset.

IDC figures show a 10.7 percent drop in handheld computer shipments worldwide during Q2 2003 compared to the same period in 2002. This contrasts with the 1150 percent rise in smartphone shipments reported by Canalys, highlighting the rate at which the wireless communications device market is outstripping growth in non-connected handheld computers. -> epoc -> miscellaneous -> symbian

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